Meet the judges of the 2018 Writivism Short Story and Koffi Addo Prizes

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It’s time of the year again where new winners for The Writivism Literary Initiative prizes will be announced. Ahead of the much anticipated 2018 edition of the event, the Writivism team has announced the six judges for the short story and creative non-fiction prizes.
Are you ready to meet them? 

The Short Story prize panel will be chaired by Shadreck Chikoti, a writer, publisher and representative of the Story Club of Malawi, sponsors of the prize. Others on the Short Story prize panel include Beatrice Lamwaka, an award-winning Ugandan short story writer and Emmanuel Sigauke, a writer, editor, and longstanding member of the Writivism Council of advisors.

Our very own novelist and memoirist, Akwaeke Emezi will chair the Koffi Addo price for creative non-fiction panel. She will be joined by Daniel Kalinaki, a journalist, biographer and CEO of Nation Media Group (Uganda) and Sumayya Lee, a novelist, editor and longstanding member of the Writivism Council of advisors. 

The eight judges for the Writivism Literary Initiative prizes for 2018 represent a diversity of backgrounds and the high standards that the two prizes aspire to. 

You can read the full profiles of all the judges below. 


Shadreck Chikoti is a Malawian writer and social activist. He was listed by CNN as one of seven must-read African authors. He has won numerous literary awards including the 2013 Peer Gynt Literary Award with his futuristic novel, Azotus the kingdom, also shortlisted for Africa Nommo Awards for speculative fiction. He was recently nominated by the Africa39 project as one of the “most promising African writers under 40.” Chikoti’s work has also appeared in several anthologies, including the Caine Prize anthology To See the Mountain and Other Stories (2011), and in All The Good Things Around Us: An Anthology of African Short Stories. He is the director of Pan African Publishers and in 2013 he founded the Story Club, a space for literary enthusiasts. He lives in Malawi with his wife and three children

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Akwaeke Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil writer and video artist based in liminal spaces. Her debut novel Freshwater (Grove Atlantic, 2018) has been listed as a most anticipated book by Esquire, The Rumpus, Elle, Bustle, and Book Riot, among others. Her short story ‘Who Is Like God‘ won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa.

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Daniel Kalinaki, is a Ugandan journalist, editor, trainer and author. He is currently the Nation Media Group Uganda General Manager- Editorial and was previously the Managing Editor – Regional Content at the Nation Media Group in Nairobi, Kenya, and editor the Daily Monitor in Uganda. His most recent book, Kizza Besigye and Uganda’s Unfinished Revolution, was published in November 2014.


Beatrice Lamwaka is the founder and director of Arts Therapy Initiative, a non-profit organisation that provides psychological and emotional support through creative arts therapies. She writes articles, short stories, poetry, and is working on her first adult novel. Her collection of short stories, Butterfly Dreams was launched recently. She is a recipient of 2011 Young Achievers Award. She was shortlisted for the 2015 Morland Writing Scholarship, the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing and was a finalist for the South African PEN/Studzinski Literary Award 2009. The anthology of short stories, Queer Africa: new and collected fiction (2013), which includes her short story, won the 26th Lambda Literary Award for the fiction anthology category in 2014. Her writing has been translated into Spanish, Italian and French.

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Emmanuel Sigauke teaches English at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, California. Educated at Gwavachemai Secondary school in rural Zimbabwe and High Field High school in Harare, studied English at the University of Zimbabwe and California State University, Sacramento. He has been published in poetry and fiction anthologies, and his collection of short stories, Mukoma’s Marriage and other Stories, was a finalist in the 2015 NAMA awards, Zimbabwe. In 2015 he co-edited Roses for Betty and other Stories, published by the Centre for African Cultural Excellence (CACE) and is the sole editor for Sundown, the 2016 Writivism Annual anthology. He has edited various other anthologies, notably the African Roar series. He has been a mentor on the Writivism programme and judge of the short story prize. He is also the founder and editor of Munyori Literary Journal. Emmanuel is the Editorial Liaison at Writivism.

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Sumayya Lee was born in Durban and spent part of her childhood in the UK. She has worked as an Islamic Studies teacher, Montessori Directress and Teacher of English as a Foreign Language. Her debut, The Story of Maha (Kwela, 2007) was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book – Africa and longlisted for the SundayTimes Fiction Award. She judged the 2016 Writivism Prize and is also the Mentoring and Residency Liaison at Writivism.

Please note that the deadline for submissions to the 2018 Writivism Prizes is 31 March, 2018.

About the Writivism Prizes

The annual Writivism Prizes are awarded to unpublished writers living in African countries for original fiction and nonfiction (2500 – 3500 words) and each prize is worth $500 worth. The prizes also comes with a residency opportunity for the winner to edit a manuscript that is then put under consideration for publishing by Black Letter Media.

All shortlisted writers will be invited to the annual Writivism festival in Kampala and their stories will be published by Enkare Review and Munyori Literary Review.


If you want to submit your work, here are a few dates to note;

  • March 31: Deadline for receiving submissions
  • June: Longlists announced

  • July: Shortlists announced

  • August 17 – 19: Winners announced at the annual Writivism Festival

All the best! 


Dear Blogger, in 2018 find your niche

Medieval(5)We are not here to sweet talk you today, we’re giving you undiluted truth, from a heart of love of course.

We hear you are interested in all the topics; lifestyle, health, photography, personal development, fashion and all things in-between.

Well, this is fantastic, if you are blogging for blogging sake. However, if you are interested in monetizing your blog, it would really help if you have a specific niche that can be known for.

Just in case you are wondering why single topics rather than multi-topics are the way to go if you are interested in blogging for business sake, here is why.

It is easier to classify your readership if your blog revolves round a single topic. Think about it for a second. If you are interested in learning how to cook good Nigerian dishes, would you rather subscribe to a blog that has a whole lot of stuff going on, ranging from technology to business to car racing to sewing or you would rather subscribe to a blog that is solely about all things related to Nigerian dishes? Our point exactly.

If you focus on one specific topic and concentrate on acquiring deep knowledge about that one topic, creating original content will not be difficult.

Advertisement and publicity for your blog would be easier as well because your logo would be all about making people see the niche you have carefully carved out for yourself.

You see why we say you need to find your blog niche, asap!

Let us know when you do.

“I admire a writer who has the courage to look social realities in the face.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

You’ve said, “I didn’t choose writing, writing chose me.” How did this happen? How did you discern this calling to become a writer? Would you identify it as a vocation?

I have writer friends with elaborate and exciting stories about how they came to writing, but I just don’t have that. I wrote from when I was six. Even then I knew that this was something that truly mattered to me. When I was ten, though I had a lot of friends, I remember looking forward to when I could go up to my father’s study and be alone and write. It was considered something odd for me to want to do when it was sunny outside. Now, as an adult, I realize it’s what I care about. It gives me a sense that this is what I am meant to be doing.

Would you use the word vocation to talk about that?

I think so. I’ve often said that even if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to be published I would be writing. I love that I am published, and it was a choice that I made to try and get published. But publishing is very different from writing.

Of course one wants to be published. Otherwise I would just write in my diary and put it in a drawer. But publishing is public, which is why I feel a sense of distance from my books after they come out. I get stupidly emotional about my own work when I am with it alone. I don’t show people what I am doing until I am done, until I feel comfortable enough to let it out. The writing part is very private and gives me that marvelous high when it’s going well, but when I finally send something out to my editor, that’s when I have to put on my practical glasses and think about the work in a less intuitive and more pragmatic way. My editor will say, “I don’t think this character would say that.” And I will think, “Well, in my head she did, but all right.”

Initially you wrote poetry and plays, but you seem to have found your voice and your genre in fiction. What is it about fiction in particular that attracts you? Why are you a storyteller?

Why indeed. Because poetry’s too hard to do well. Also, my process isn’t an entirely conscious thing. I just do. But I will say that fiction is true. This is something my friends who write nonfiction and I argue about all the time. I feel that fiction is much more honest than nonfiction. I know from my limited experience in writing nonfiction, particularly memoir, that in the process of writing I am constantly negotiating different levels of self-censorship and self-protection, and protection of people I love, and sometimes protection of people I don’t necessarily care about but I worry that the reader might have biased feelings about. When I write fiction, I don’t think about any of that. Radical honesty is possible in fiction. With fictional characters, I don’t have to think about protecting anybody.



You’ve spoken of the influence on you of Chinua Achebe, the author of Things Fall Apart, who is often called the father of African literature. Purple Hibiscus opens with an echo of that famous novel, and the final story in The Thing Around Your Neck essentially presents an alternative feminist rendition of the final chapter of Things Fall Apart. What is it about Achebe that inspires you? In what ways are you attempting to build on but also to move beyond his example?

I respect and love Chinua Achebe’s work, but I don’t want to be a second Chinua Achebe, or a third. I just want to be Chimamanda Adichie.

Achebe is a man of immense integrity. I believe him. There are some writers whose work you read and you think, “This is a performance. I don’t think you believe this.” And for me, fiction should be truth. There are times when I’ve thought, “I’m going to write this story because I want to show that I can.” But then I’ll think, “No, it’s a lie,” and I won’t, because life is short and I want to do what I care about. Chinua Achebe’s work is full of integrity. He does what he believes in. Growing up an Igbo child, I was fortunate to be educated, but my education didn’t teach me anything about my past. But when I read Things Fall Apart, it became my great-grandfather’s life. It became more than literature for me. It became my story. I am quite protective of Achebe’s novels in a way that I don’t think I am with any other book that I love.

Who else has been important to you? What other books or writers do you love?

I fall in love and out of love quite often. I went through an Edith Wharton phase where I wanted to read everything she’d ever done, and then at some point I thought, if I read one more thing of hers, I will die.

I like Philip Roth quite a bit, much to the annoyance of my feminist friends. I like his technique, and the way he refuses to hide. I admire a writer who has the courage—and it does take courage—to look social realities in the face. It’s easy in the name of fiction to hide behind art, because you’re afraid somebody will say you’re a little too political, or that politics is not the job of fiction. But Roth is fearless, and I respect that.

Is there anyone who stands on the same level as Achebe for you?

No, Chinua Achebe has the misfortune of standing alone. I grew up reading mostly English and Russian novels, and I liked them quite a bit, mostly the English ones, but until Achebe, I hadn’t read a book and felt it was mine. The other book I felt that way about was The African Child, a very slim novel by Camara Laye. I read it when I was in grade five, about the time I first read Things Fall Apart, and I remember there was something magical about it. It was about his childhood in Guinea, and there were things that were quite unfamiliar. There was a level of exoticism in it, but also a level of incredible familiarity. I remember falling in love with the book, with the beautiful melancholy of it. I keep meaning to go back and read it again and see.

You mention that you teach creative writing workshops. What do you tell young, aspiring creative writers?

To read and read and read. I’m a believer in reading, to see the wide range of what’s been written. I’m also a believer in reading what you dislike at least once, just to know. I often say to my students, “I’m going to have you read something I don’t like.” I don’t like cold fiction. I don’t like fiction that is an experiment. I find that often it’s the boys in the class who love the fiction I don’t like. I say to them, “I’ll tell you why I don’t like it. And, then, if you like it, I want you to tell me why.” Most of all I believe in reading for what you can learn in terms of not just craft and technique but worldview. It’s important to think about sentences and how one develops character and all of that, but also to think about what the story is as a big thing. Most of all, we have fun in the workshops. For me, it’s important that we find reasons to laugh. And we mostly do.

#WritingQuote – “Don’t let a single day go by without writing.”


“Don’t let a single day go by without writing. Cause even garbage eventually becomes compost with a little treatment.” Alex Myers, author of The Jump

We love the imagery of agriculture Alex Myers brings into this quote so we get the picture instantly. Compost is basically decayed stuff transforming into fertilizer. Isn’t it awesome that nature teaches writers how to make the most of work they consider to be garbage?

To be honest with you, there is really no such thing as garbage writing. With a little treatment, editing, researching and all the other deliberate efforts that go into bringing beauty out of the ashes of your writing, something awesome can come out of it.

Alex is saying to you today, “DO not let a SINGLE day go by without writing.” Just write something – anything, with the knowledge that even garbage eventually becomes compost with a little treatment.


#WordOfTheDay – Learn what malign means


We see that more people are checking out the WordOfTheDay series! Nice.

Our word for today is ‘malign.’ Who has heard it before? It’s a pretty simple word and is pronounced as /muh-lahyn/.

Malign is both a verb and an adjective. As a verb, it means to speak evil of someone or to defame someone while as an adjective, it means having or showing an evil disposition. 

Here are examples of this word in sentences;

It is wrong for that editor to malign an honorable man.

No one would have thought that the president was a part of that malign conspiracy.

Is there a word you want us to talk about? Drop it in the comment section.






#GrammarSeries – Learn how to use ‘me’ and ‘I’ properly


Welcome to another #GrammarSeries. Get ready to learn something new. Before we go on let’s ask a simple question; “Do you know that there is a way to use the pronouns ‘me’ and ‘I’ correctly in sentences and even speech?”

A lot of people get confused when it comes to using these pronouns appropriately. As a writer, you should not be trapped in a fix simply because of these pronouns.

The first thing you should understand is this: ‘me’ and ‘I’ are both pronouns—personal pronouns. However, they are used to perform different functions in sentences.

Now, in a sentence, you have the subject position and the object position. The subject position is occupied by the doer of the action while the object position is occupied by the receiver of the action. So, in the sentence below:

Tade slapped his sister.

The subject position is occupied by the doer of the action “Tade” while the object position is occupied by the receiver of the action “his sister.”

Now back to the personal pronouns. The personal pronoun ‘I’ occupies the subject position while the personal pronoun ‘me’ occupies the object position. Below are some examples to illustrate this point:

I talked to the butler yesterday (‘I’ is occupying the subject position here and is the doer of the action).

The proprietress handed the report card over to me in the morning (‘me’ is occupying the object position here and is the receiver of the action).

Grace and I went to the supermarket today (‘I’ here is occupying the subject position because ‘I’ is the doer of the action).

He gave the waste bins to Billy and me (‘me’ occupies the object position here because ‘me’ is the receiver of the action).

It really is that simple!

#PickOfTheWeek – On women and imperfections

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It’s another #PickOfTheWeek and we think it’s absolutely beautiful how our  picks are always (well most of the time) in sync. 

Today’s writers are talking about the sacrifices, struggles of women and imperfections. Let us know which one you could relate with. 

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Our first pick is by Gina. We love this because it describes how possible it is to pick up dreams that have long been forgotten and make something out of it. 



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As sad as this is, we know it is true!  Sometimes we try hard to win those battles against ourselves, habits and instead of getting better we usually go back to the same spot where we started off. 


farmto table (3)How many of us look at ourselves and complain about one thing or the other? Almost all of us! But the truth is that despite all our imperfections there’s still so much we have to offer. So much our world needs from us.  Okwuwoga Temitope nailed this one. 



farmto tableMothers are truly precious.  They can give whatever they have just to make sure their children are doing well.  Thank you Kolade for this beautiful post. 

If you are a writer and you post your work on Instagram, don’t forget to forget to tag @thesparklewritershub for a chance to be featured on our Pick of the Week.

Self-publishing tips you need to read


We’d keep saying this, this is the year of making great progress with our writing career and we are here to make that easy for you.

For writers who are considering self publishing in 2018, you will find these tips useful.

Publishing your book can be a daunting task and self publishing even worse. There’s so much to look out for and here are a few you should be mindful of.

Never forget to include your contact information

This is extremely important because it would be totally ridiculous to go through the stress of publishing a book without the author’s contact information. People should be able to find you via your book.

Pay an editor if you have to

Seriously, in as much as you would love to handle everything about your book yourself, it is, nice scratch that, wisdom to pay an editor to avoid those typos that can turn the most patient reader off.

Pay attention to your cover design

If you have no knowledge of books or cover designs, then pay someone to do it for you. Cover designs have a whole lot to do with how your work will be received in the market. Let your design be ah-mazing!

We do hope these tips help you!


Bloggers are amazing; this is proof


We saw this and we were itching to share. If you have ever thought your blogging wasn’t doing anything you should read this.

This is a fascinating aspect of blogging  you may never have thought about before. Do you know that blogging regularly is very beneficial to your health? Well, it is. We found it quite interesting that an activity like blogging would be connected with our health but this is as real as it gets.

Scientists have had an idea about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts, opinions and feelings which is what most people basically blog about. The reason for the crazy popularity of blogging could be as a result of these facts.

As a matter of fact, research has shown that expressive writing produces many psychological benefits such as the following:

  • It improves memory and sleep.
  • It boosts immune cell activity.
  • It reduces viral load in AIDS patients.
  • It speeds healing after surgery.

As if that is not enough, a study in the February issue of the Oncologist (2008) reports that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing before treatment felt markedly better, both physically and mentally, than those patients who were not engaged. This is some amazing discovery.

So, when next you blog, remember that you are engaging yourself in some form of expressive writing and boosting your immune cell activity and maybe that of others. This should motivate you to keep blogging and to keep writing constantly.

This is how Suhaib Mohammed became a millionaire as a freelance writer

This is the year of being intentional about our writing; so how about this insight we found on Bella Naija to get you totally inspired. Not only is the interview inspiring, it provides useful tips for those who are ready to do the work.

Are you ready?

How he started

I remember the day I earned NGN182, 600.00 (or $550) in a single writing project on Upwork.

For many online writers from this country, that’s an unimaginable jackpot. It’s like a young student from a public school vowing to get straight As in their WAEC. You hear it, and you automatically think, “Nonsense.”

If you could make 182, 000 naira in a single writing job, you could build a career from your skills. You could quit your day job today, and eat three protein-rich square meals every day. In fact, you could even start traveling within Nigeria for sightseeing in places like Obudu, Tinapa, and Yankari National Park.

Nobody can earn that much. Nobody. Or can they?

When I called my friend and colleague, Jamila, earlier in January, and told her, “I want to earn 1 million naira this year,” she laughed out loud. An average freelance Nigerian writer like my friend would tell me, “Well, you can make it,” even though deep inside their heart they have some doubt. I myself didn’t believe I could achieve that feat.

But I insisted.