Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Author Speaks with Ola Awonubi

I'm celebrating St Valentine's day on this blog by interviewing Ankara Press authors. This is the second interview in the series. Enjoy!

Ola Nubi is an award-winning writer whose short stories have been featured in Story Time, Siren, Brittle Paper, Naijastories.com and various other publications and anthologies. Ola won first prize in the National Words of Colour competition and Wasafiri’s New Writing Prize for Fiction. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and a novel. Love’s Persuasion is her first journey into the world of romantic fiction

AA: Tell me the story of your journey to publication with Ankara Press.
OA: A writer friend informed me that a publishing house was looking for stories about romances set in Africa. I started work on a manuscript and began the process of mapping out the story and the characters, writing notes and setting it all out, working through several drafts and revising until publication.

AA: You also write fiction that is not in the romantic genre. Was there a difference in the writing process for this novel and other fiction projects you worked on in the past?
OA: If you look at my blog you will see from the kind of short stories I write that Love’s Persuasion is different from my usual stuff but when I was writing this I had to keep remember to show the romance developing and bring it to positive conclusion. I was glad that I also had to address some underlying issues in our society through the very popular medium of romance such as the class issue. The issue of women’s attainment and the issue of marriage at any cost.
The writing process was the same – working on the story and the characters, plot, voice and working with the editor to produce the final draft.

AA: Tell me about your top five all-time favourite romance novels.
OA: Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
The Purple Hibiscus by Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
The Fauna Trilogy by Denise Robbins
The Bride Price by Buchi Emecheta

AA: What is the best advice you’ve ever heard/read about writing?
OA: Engage the senses six senses when you write. Make the reader smell, taste and see as they read.
A short story is a snapshot so you do not have the luxury to flesh out your characters or settings like a novel. Get to the point.
Don’t add too many characters and the few you have - make memorable.
Make your beginning make me sit up and want to keep on reading.

AA: Without the benefit readers have of having access to her thought life, it would be easy to judge Ada’s relationship with Tony as an attempt on her part to climb the ladder without paying her dues. Do you think office romances are really worth the risk?
OA: Ada does make it clear throughout the book that despite her ambition she wants to make it in her profession through her hard work and not because she is dating her boss – this is one of the reasons she tries to fight the attraction initially.  Are offices romances worth the risk – work is meant to be a place where you are focused and not distracted in that vein – it does have its drawbacks but love can find you anywhere and if a person meets the love of their life at work – I wouldn’t say they should throw the chance away because they work in the same office.

AA: Ada and Tony spend some time apart; when they meet later on, the problems that drove them apart don’t carry as much power as they once did. How important do you think timing is in matters of love and romance?
OA: Timing is important in relationships because it allows time for people to evolve and mature and during the years Ada and Tony were apart they both had time to evaluate their lives, the relationship and their feelings for each other.  She needed to find out whether Tony was prepared to stand up for once in his life for what he believed in- for what he felt was worth fighting for.

AA: You are working on a novel, is it a romance?
OA: Yes. I’m about 9000K words at the moment. It’s a romance and that’s all I will say about it at the moment!
Buy Love’s Persuasion here. Follow Ola Nubi on twitter via @createandwrite.

Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2015

Entries are now welcome for the 2015 Wasafiri New Writing Prize. 

Wasafiri is looking for submissions in three categories: Poetry, Fiction and Life Writing.

The competition is open to anyone worldwide who has not published a complete book in their chosen category.

Entries for Fiction and Life Writing should be no longer than 3000 words, and Poetry submissions should comprise of no more than five poems.

Prize for each category: £300 and publication in Wasafiri Magazine.

Deadline: 5pm GMT on Friday 24 July 2015.

Learn more here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Author Speaks with Tobi Adebowale

This is the fifth in a series of interviews featuring the seven OAU alumni who put together Sandstorms in June. You can download the anthology here.

Tobi Adebowale is an aspiring author and lawyer. His short stories were published in a 2014 collection titled ‘Wobbled Words’ edited by ‘Debayo Coker and available at Patabah bookstore. His poems have appeared in different editions of Saraba and he has had opinion articles published in a number of national newspapers and on blogs. He contributed to Sandstorms in June.
AA: What does poetry mean to you? 
TA: Poetry for me is the sum of emotions channelled through words, a sweet way to say a lot to someone without boring them, a gentle caress that often leaves its recipient without a choice but to yield.
AA: What does OAU mean to you? 
TA: OAU is a bed of roses and unlike the popular one people imagine, it actually comes with thorns. The beauty however is in mastering how to leave with the most colourful harvest and least pricking from the thorns. OAU gave me that chance to be me in as many ways as I wanted and I enjoyed every bit of it. That came with some necessary sacrifice of time and convenience but the confidence it produced in one's ability, worth and experience is invaluable.
AA: What inspires you to write poetry?
TA: Life and thoughts about our diverse experiences inspire me. Sometimes, the words form with a deliberate intent to solidify a memory or an imagined event but at other times, they come riding on the waves of a hearty discourse with some friends, God’s wonderful creations blessed with pulchritude and a sense of appreciation for beautiful sentences.
AA: I'm guessing you had Mr Uwazomba for LIT 101. Did you write 'We Had What We Had' then? Or his metaphors stayed with you beyond Part 1?
TA: Yes, Mr Uwasomba's metaphors stayed with me right from the first encounter with him in LIT 101 classes till my final year when I wrote the poem 'We Had What We Had'. Beyond that however, he was readily available throughout my time in OAU when I needed him to speak at a book reading for instance or grade a writing competition I organised. I have fond memories of him.
AA: ‘Sunny Days’ and ‘We Had What We Had’ seem to be personal poems. Did you mine your emotions/experiences for the poems or did you work from fictitious scenarios? 
TA: I mined my experience for ‘Sunny Rain’ and it is indeed a very personal poem. It was the depiction of a real occasion and true emotions. ‘We Had What We Had’ on the other hand was pure fiction, more of an antithetical experiment after writing Sunny Rain.
AA: What are you working on at the moment? 
TA: I am presently working on a novel, hopeful it gestates fully before the 3rd quarter of the year but more immediately I am compiling a number of sonnets for release in a personal chapbook sometime in February. On the side, I maintain a biweekly opinion column with Nigeria's premier blogazine i.e, olisa.tv. I also have a Law/Technology project in the works.
Tobi Adebowale blogs here. You can follow him on twitter via @tobiBowale.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Author Speaks with Amina Thula

I'm celebrating St Valentine's day on this blog by interviewing Ankara Press authors. This is the first interview in the series. Enjoy!

Amina's introduction to romance was the love triangle between comic book characters Archie Andrews, Betty and Veronica, before she graduated to the Sweet valley and Sweet Dreams series in her teens-the start of her love affair with tall and brooding hot, dark dark, handsome strangers. Her first novel with Ankara Press is Elevator Kiss.

AA: How long did it take to write The Elevator Kiss?
AT: In reality a few months but if I were to put together the fragmented hours I used to work on the manuscript (including research and planning) I would estimate 2-3 weeks for the first draft. To get to the final draft probably took 3 months because I would go for weeks without touching the manuscript.

AA: What do you look for in romance novels?
AT: The same thing I look for in real life. I like gentlemanly men with integrity and honour. He must be strong and in control of himself and his world. The main characters must have mutual respect, a strong sense of self and be comfortable and confident about their genders. Their lives must not be boxed in - they must interact with the world. Romance has to contain F&Gs (fun and games), I also like witty dialogue and of course there has to be that wistful fantasy.
AA: You’ve said elsewhere that your characters are inspired by actual people. I’m curious about how you turn these people into characters. Do you go out of your way to disguise them or would they recognise themselves if they read the novel?
AT: (This question made me chuckle) No, I don't disguise them because I don't need to. The characters and events are complete fiction. None of the characters represent or are meant to represent anyone I know.  I used the personalities of real people to help guide and create the characters' personalities, decisions and speeches. For example, Thuli was inspired by a soapie character of the same name that I was upset with at the time so I made her a dislikable character .Yes, I'm one of those. I become very emotionally involved with my soapies. Right now I'm boycotting that soapie because they keep upsetting me. I will only forgive them next month! (LOL).
Sasa was inspired by a South African TV personality who had a reality show. The character has been twisted to suit her role in the book - meaning the TV personality is not necessarily like Sasa. I don't know her personally, she could be the nicest person on the planet but there were certain impressions she gave me on that one, single episode of her show I saw. I took those impressions, darkened and magnified them to make Sasa an antagonist.

AA: What other things inspire your writing?
AT:  Everything. I'm inspired by anything that enters my world whether it is good or bad. I then take that thing and make it into what I want. For example, the elevator kiss between Edward and Sindi came to me one very ordinary day. I had done my laundry and was taking it downstairs. I live on the second floor but I decided to take the elevator. While I was waiting for it I was so deep in thought that when it arrived, I was surprised when I saw my neighbour inside as I was about to step in. For some reason my mind went blank. I just stood there staring at him, dumbfounded and trying to figure out what he was doing there. He smiled and greeted me and my senses came back. As I stepped into the elevator I thought to myself that what had just happened would be a great way for the main characters to meet in a romance and The Elevator Kiss was born.

AA: Sindi and Edward both have to battle the ghosts of past relationships. Do you feel that past relationships ever really go away even when one has moved on?
AT:  I think anything that shakes or touches you to your core can never completely go away. It can stop dominating you and you can reduce it to the point of insignificance but it will linger either as an unhealed scar or a lesson learned. It's like having a physical scar. When scars are fresh they itch and you notice them all the time and so do other people but over time the itching goes away (if you leave it alone and do not touch it - that is if you allow healing to take place) and you stop noticing the scar and so do other people.
Once in a blue moon someone may come along and notice it and ask you about it, reminding you of your injury (that is, someone will hit a soft spot or trigger an emotional response). Depending on how well you healed emotionally, when you recount the story it's told from a place of rationale and not a place of pain (this is true for both a physical injury and an emotional injury).
You know rationally that you felt excruciating pain but you don't really remember the pain and the event is no longer as big as it used to be. If you touch and pick the scar as it is healing (that is, you hold on to the pain, constantly relive the betrayal etc.) you end up delaying the healing and possibly causing more harm by creating an environment for an infection to grow thereby possibly resulting into lifelong damage to you (for example, be bitter for ever). It is up to you to decide whether what happened to you will build you or it will dominate and destroy you. For example, what Mandla has done to Sindi is horrible. It is up to her to decide whether to let it build her by say making her more vigilant and cautious when it comes to trusting people. On the other hand, she can allow the experience to cause to become bitter towards all men. It has happened, it is in the past, she can't change it, it will stay with her but she can make it a lesson that she applies not just to her romantic relationships but to other relationships as well.

AA: The arc of the novel is partially built around a charity event that is being organised for the ‘lost children of Sudan’. I found this sub-plot interesting. How did you manage to fit a dark thread into a romance, given that one usually expects romance to be light-hearted?
AT: There were a few key things I wanted to achieve with The Elevator Kiss one of which is that I did not want it to be a coloured in Mills & Boon novel. I wanted it to be an African romance in the true sense not just in the sense that the main characters are Black. I wanted it to reflect us and how we deal with the challenge of finding love and building relationships in the midst of our environment and against the background of our culture and society.  We cannot run away from Africa’s horrifying recent history as yesterday still affects us today. I do not want us to forget our history or to gloss over it. I strongly believe we can tell our history without it being a sob story and fitting it into a romance shows how resilient we are, how we do not allow our history to hold us back. There's currently a social movement amongst Africans to raise Africa and characters in The Elevator Kiss are part of that movement. They are not self-absorbed and all about the bling life. They care about what is going on around them. They care about their fellow men, see themselves as citizens of the world and practice ubuntu.   

AA: So, what things, if any, do you think make a romance novel distinctly African?
AT: Relationship dynamics and problems are the same regardless of one's race, nationality, ethnicity or religion. The issue may be packaged differently but the underlying factor is the same. The difference largely lies in how one views and deals with the problem because that is determined by one's principles which are influenced by one's society, customs and culture. For example, when an African gets married you are not just marrying the man or the woman you are marrying the family. Therefore it is not easy for an African couple to get rid of meddling family members who treat their home as if they own it. They would most likely suffer through it for thirty years whereas a Western couple would probably cut off the family and not speak to them for thirty years (Good luck pulling that off with an African family! Lol). So, I would say the distinction comes in how the characters view and deal with their relationships within the context of the external environment.

AA: Are you working on a novel right now? Do you write in other genres apart from romance?
AT: Yes, I am. I have about six at various stages with two near completion. I'm sticking to romance for now. This is all new to me and I'm still learning. Once I get comfortable and I’ve firmly established myself, I will want a new challenge and I’ll look for ways to expand myself as a writer but for now I'm happy writing romance.

Buy Amina Thula’s The Elevator Kiss here. Follow her on twitter-
@ MsAminaThula .

Osiwa Poets' Residency

The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) is seeking applications for its Poets’ Residency. 
They want original works from published and unpublished poets that reflect a West African sensibility.
Successful applicants will be invited to partake in a four-day writers’ residency to take place in mid-March in Dakar, Senegal. 
The residency will be led by two professional African poets and culminate in the publishing of a poetry collection.
Any West African poet, of any age, who is residing in Africa is eligible to apply.
Submissions are welcome from published and non-published poets .
All submissions will be considered. 
The deadline for submissions is 23rd February, 2015.
OSIWA does not discriminate based on any status that may be protected by applicable law.

Learn more here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Author Speaks with Tomiwa Ilori

This is the fourth in a series of interviews featuring the seven OAU alumni who put together Sandstorms in June. You can download the anthology here.

Tomiwa Ilori lives in Nigeria, in the midst of wide spectra of experiences. His interests are constantly informed by the dynamism of his society and how this forms the fabric of our continued survival. He is also a firm believer that words can stitch into form, man's humanity.
Tomiwa Ilori

AA: ‎ What does Poetry mean to you?
TI: Poetry? The question will bring us to how what is created defines its creator. It is a huge challenge affording products the chance to define their raw material. Putting what poetry means into words is allowing the child define the father. It is easier when we don't have to use words to ascribe meaning to poetry. But isn't poetry itself a result of defiance to what is? An innate ability to bring to riot, a multitude of emotions in words? Or when words are on a date with chance? Poetry is a contrast in similarities, when words are allowed to regain their full worth. Poetry to me is a politics of reasoning, an insane manipulation of words to confer artistic logic. Poetry is a lot of things that it is not; it is a treasure of what has been found but is yet to be discovered. 

AA: When did you write 'Love'? What inspired it?
TI: The deadline for submission for the chapbook was drawing close and I hadn't been able to come up with any work. Dami Yakubu found it unbelievable but I kept reassuring him and telling him to give me time as the project to me was personal and at the same time overwhelming to grapple with. So, there was this day he prompted me as usual about it and I paused for some seconds and came up with all the three poems within five minutes. It was a cathartic outburst.  "Love" is a result of conversations I had with my close friend, Samsudeen Alabi, a long while ago. It is also a show of personal experiences. 

AA: 'Sin' explores intersections between sex and religion.  Are these subjects that fascinate you especially? 
TI: Yes, but particularly, religion has always been a fascinating subject for me. On whether or not the poem intersects between sex and religion, I wouldn't want to encroach on the reader's right to decide what to feel. The central theme which the poem revolves around is religion. I struggle not to see religion within the context of the society's hypocritical doctrines that turn the idea of sin into something that is class based. I have however stopped struggling to see sin as one of the most potent forces that stretches the fringes of stereotypes and religion as it touches on its sycophancy. 

AA: I'm curious about 'The Pit', I kept trying to figure out the location. Was this also inspired by OAU?
TI: The poem was also inspired by OAU. The location is notorious enough for those in Ife downtown. It is often spoken of in hushed tones and communicated mostly in Yoruba. I thought and wrote out the three poems in sequence. Love, Sin and The Pit are pieces of a big puzzle that has my poetics confirm that a poet is condemned to feel every thing‎.

 AA: What does OAU mean to you? 
TI: OAU is a bag of experiences. It is in the school you discover that life itself is a fleeting poetry from which you can enjoy an expanse of nothing yet a little of everything. 

 AA: What are you working on at the moment?
TI:  I am always working on something. When you have a mind as dry as hay, anything as much as breath torches it at will. 

AA:  ‎Tell me a bit about your favourite poets/poems.
TI: I don't know how to have favourite works of art. Appreciation of an artwork comes with deposit of exposure. I have poets whose lines challenge what I could have written but never did. Maya Angelou writes poetry from the pit of the soul; raw, crude and unbelievable. Alfred Housman writes verses that feed the mind with questions whose answer can only be found when you can live. Dami Ajayi colours life with words even for the blind. Soyinka's wit makes poetry a worthy madness. Tade Ipadeola writes grand poetry for the poet's poet. These are people whose works have left my mind with a thing or two to wonder about. If that is having favourites, I think that's cool for me.

Tomiwa Ilori blogs here when he is not lazy. He tweets on topical issues via @tomiwa_ilori.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

FT/Oppenheimer Emerging Voices Awards

The Awards, which will be decided by a panel of international judges, will reward the most compelling works of fiction, film and art from emerging market countries and will recognise:-   
  • the best creators of published fiction in English or English translation in Africa and the Middle East
  •  the top film-makers in Asia-Pacific 
  •  the most distinguished artists in a variety of media in Latin America or the Caribbean

The Fiction Award will be presented to the author of a published work of fiction in English or published in English translation. The book must be written by a national or passport holder of one of the eligible countries of Africa and the Middle East. The works must be published for the first time between 1 January, 2014 and 30 September 2015.  Submissions are invited from all publishers worldwide. Self-published works will not be accepted for entry.
The winning author will receive an award of $40,000.  
 Learn more about the awards here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Imagine Africa 500 Anthology.

Have you ever wondered what the African continent will be like in five hundred years time? Will this be the most prosperous continent on the earth? Will it be a wasteland? Will there still be humans here? What kind? This is your chance to explore all  that and more in a story.
The Story Club Malawi in partnership with Panafrica Publishers Ltd; An African publisher based in Malawi  is calling for submissions to the anthology IMAGINE AFRICA 500. The competition is open to  writers from all over the African continent and in diaspora. 
To participate, send in your short story, on any theme, about Africa set 500 from now.The  best ten stories will be published in the anthology shortly thereafter. 
 Submission details:
Submission deadline is March 15, 2015 at 12:00 midnight.
 The length of the stories must be between 3000 – 3500 words.
 All submissions must be in English
Stories should be submitted to shadai79@yahoo.com.
Learn more about this opportunity here.