“Rejection can be life sustaining if you look at it as fuel for the fire” – Bernice L. McFadden


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It’s not every time you get to talk to a writer who has authored nine critically acclaimed books, including SugarThe Warmest DecemberGathering of Waters (one of The New York Times Editors’ Choice Books of 2012), and Glorious, which was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and was a contender for the NAACP Image Award. This writer, Bernice L. McFadden is a three time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of multiple awards from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA). 

Isn’t that AMAZING? 

If you have ever been rejected as a writer, you need to read this interview. Bernice got seventy five rejection letters for one book!

You see why this interview originally published on Writers Write is a must read? Bernice shares her journey as a writer and there is a lot to learn from it.

Before the Book

My home life was very tumultuous. And I spent a lot of time in the library. That was a safe haven for me…I sought refuge in books and in writing…I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was about nine. I would steal my mother’s Jackie Collins books and mimic them. That was kind of like erotica. My mother would read this and be horrified. 

Enter the Agent

When I was about twenty-five I started submitting on a regular basis. I submitted Sugar for over ten years and got over seventy-five rejection letters….I didn’t give up because this was what I really wanted. I sent my first agent a query letter on February 9, Alice Walker’s birthday. A magical day for me…When I got an agent it took him two weeks to get me a two book deal.

Favorite Book You’ve Written

I love them all differently. If I had to pick I would say Sugar because it was my first. The Warmest December is also a favourite because it was about my family…Tony Morrison wrote a blurb for it, so that was a big thrill.

Describe Your Writing Process

I write and research at the same time…I’ll read things I that I find inspiring… I read a lot of poetry. I like lyrical passages. I spend a lot of time walking because a lot of the writing goes on in my head before I put it on paper. Today I walked so far I didn’t know where the hell I was. It’s a lot of research, a lot of reading and a lot of walking.

Knowing When a Novel is Finished

At the begging of my writing process I feel like I have people coming to visit. Like one or two people. When I am really engrossed in the writing my house is full…All I’m doing is recording what I hear. As I get close to the end my house starts to empty out. It feels melancholy and lonely without the character’s voices.

Hardest Sentence, First or Last

…The first sentence. It’s always tough getting started. Even though I’ve been doing this for eighteen years when I sit down to start a new project I’m a novice again. I’m unsure.

Advice for Writers

People feel that rejection is a horrible thing. Rejection can be life sustaining if you look at it as fuel for the fire. You should think, “I’ll show you.” It’s your dream and you should have it. Your time will come…Learn, acquire the skill. Your time will come. 


“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 – “Write everyday of your life.” Ray Bradbury

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“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.” Ray Bradbury

There are three major lessons from this quote and we’d take each lesson one after the other. After this, we hope you will have a kind of blue print for what success as a writer is. 


Every writer has to do ONE major thing to deserve that title, write. If you are wishing you could write, thinking about writing or wondering how to write, you are not a writer. It’s that simple. 


Writers are readers. If you don’t like reading we are sorry to say this but you may not do very well as a writer. Writers read to relax, read to learn, read to get inspired and so many other things. Wondering what can make you a better writer? Reading is one of those things. 

The third point may be the most important because that’s one thing most of us are having issues with. 

Do it everyday!

Before you complain that we are asking for too much, remember that this is for your own good. If you however insist that you can’t do these two things – reading and writing CONSISTENTLY, then maybe writing really isn’t for you. 

Thinking of co-authoring a book? Read this first

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Hello Sparkle Writers! Co-authoring is not something that is very common especially in this part of the world. Many writers are just getting to embrace this profession and we know that soon there will be more books written by co-authors. Writing is fun and can be much better with a partner. However, there are few things you must note. 

Communication is key

It’s important that you communicate with your writing partner.

Even if you have a lot in common, being able to speak honestly and clearly is important when you encounter bumps along the way. You can use a Google doc so that everything is automatically saved. This makes sharing easy and you and your writing partner can edit at the same time.

Your writing will also go more smoothly if you schedule weekly phone calls to go over important thoughts and concerns.

Share a similar vision

During the initial stage of planning, it’s important to clearly define your vision, to make sure both of you are on the same page. You and your partner are different writers and may have different goals for the book. Sort out these differences so you can move on to other things.  

Establish a timeline to complete the project

It’s a good idea to discuss timelines and how you plan to complete the project. This way everyone is on their toes and the book isn’t delayed.

Let go of control

Writing a book with someone means you are not as in control as you may want to be. You’ve got to learn how to let go of control and of course be open to criticism. Your writing partner has a lot to bring to the table just like you do. Make sure you don’t disregard his or her opinion. 

#PickOfTheWeek – Dreams, Love, Poverty and Life. You’ve got to read this


It’s time for our #PickOfTheWeek. This week’s writers are talking dreams, love, poverty and life. They are baring it all. 

The first piece is by @barvemargai and he gives us a sneak and beautiful peek into his dreams. We can only imagine how big his dreams are by reading this. 

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The second piece that sure caught our attention is by Akinrulie Opeyemi. His piece helps us understand that poverty is a problem of the mind. He believes that if we can conquer it in our minds we would have made progress in conquering it physically. 

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Kunle Ibisola was right when he described love in this short and beautiful piece. See it for yourself. 

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Our final selection for the week is by Adewale Olayemi. For some love is a drug that cures pain, for others it is their worst nightmare. Yemi got this right. farmto table (3)


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.


#Grammar Series – The real purpose of commas

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It is Tuesday and grammar time on the Sparkle Writer’s Hub. We are talking about commas. 

Commas are not supposed to be used haphazardly in sentences. There are rules guiding the usage of commas in writing. The whole idea behind rules is to prevent lawlessness and disorder in a society. Quite frankly, the wrong use of commas is equivalent to incoherence in your writing, and incoherence. Look at the following example and see the importance of commas;

Let’s eat Grandpa


Let’s eat, Grandpa

Now you see that commas can change the entire meaning of a sentence. They are that important and we are going to be looking at the rules guiding the use of commas. These rules will, in turn, unveil the real purpose for commas in writing.

1. Use commas between items in a series because they clarify which items are part of the series

Example: I bought a pair of shoes, socks, a bottle of wine, and butter at the super market yesterday.

2. Use commas in form of coordinating conjunctions (such as and or but) that joins two independent clauses together

Example: I went for a walk in the garden, and I was greeted by the sting of a bee.

In the above example, the sentences or clauses, “I went for a walk in the garden” and I was greeted by the sting of a bee can stand or make complete meaning on their own. Therefore, it is appropriate to place a comma before the conjunction “and” joining them together.

3. Use commas to separate direct quotations from the rest of the sentence.

Example: The lecturer says, “I would be your supervisor for the rest of the semester.”

4. Use commas after a parenthesis and not before one.

Example: After the police found Mabel (my sister’s daughter), the fear that held me bound disappeared.

4. Do not use commas with a question mark and an exclamation point that ends a quotation.

Example: “Where is my flower vase?,” I asked in panic.

In the above example, the comma is wrongly positioned. The right sentence should be rendered as, “Where is my flower vase?” I asked in panic.

Example: “Oh my God!,” Rose exclaimed.

The above example would be right if the comma after the exclamation mark was deleted from the entire sentence structure.


You’re not weird…you’re a writer!

Do you ever see writing as a burden? Why couldn’t you have been given any other gift; something simpler perhaps? You see, it’s not as if being a writer is not exciting. It is. It’s just that it comes with certain peculiarities that may make you seem weird among the so called ‘normal’ people.

Here’s what we mean. A typical writer tends to be deep; introspective more often than not. We think a lot and are often stuck in our heads. It’s not that we are anti-social (it can be argued that some of us are), we just tend to reflect a lot. This is what allows our creative juices to flow. How can we come up with those though-provoking articles, if we lack the ability to step back and reflect?

Depending on the social circle, a writer may be perceived as being boring. Can you blame people? When they want to engage in light-headed conversations, the writer wants to go on the deep path. If they are in the mood, they can be the life of the party. If they are not, you might as well have not invited them out because they may just sit still and observe.

The thing is, when a writer does this, he doesn’t consider himself as being anti-social. He’s observing what going on and might as well be formulating the basis for his next though-provoking piece. 

For a writer, inspiration can come from anywhere. While walking down the street or having a conversation with your favourite cab driver. You never know what will cause that light bulb in your head to go on so you have to be open to everything.

Unfortunately, unlike music artists, writers don’t have the privilege of making two-syllable words to become the trend of the day. You know how musicians sing things like ‘doro’, ‘mama eh’ and the like and it’s ok? Well we can’t do that; at least serious writers can’t. We need to engage our readers and even help some escape reality. If you don’t have inspired words, you won’t be able to achieve this.

No one ever understands what you are doing as a writer. Asides from calling you weird, only very few people consider it to be an actual job. The conversation is usually weird;

What do you do?
I’m a writer.
Oh ok. So what do you do to earn money?
*confused look*

Have you ever had this kind of conversation> Many writers have. Again, we don’t blame such people. Being a writer in Nigeria doesn’t pay as much as it does abroad. Saying that you are a writer alone makes you look jobless and will definitely earn you a long speech from parents who are wondering whether this is what they actually sent you to school for. To become a jobless writer. Isn’t that exciting?

Nonetheless, being a writer sis such a priceless gift. Nothing compares to it. If writing is what you are passionate about please, don’t be ashamed of it. People may not understand your gift; that’s not your problem. Just stick to what you do best and you will the reap fruits. The people who look at you funny will be the same people who will want a share of your success when it comes – when your bestseller can be found on bookshelves across the nation. 

Don’t abandon your dream for anybody. It’s never worth it.

Through the Eyes of Lucy: Living With Schizophrenia

By now, you must be particularly familiar with this lecturer-inflicted name of mine; Lucy.

I’d stick by it, for the purpose of this narrative.

I had a dream, last night.

You were weaved into its fabric, it felt like a genuine heart-to-heart connection.

Nah, who are we kidding? We all know the typical constants of my worlds.

It’s sad, but you aren’t a part of them. No, you definitely aren’t.

Spitefully, the Mafia did too. Whilst Collins and I were you know, loving up and stuff, the Mafia had to come boo us.

Urrrgh! I don’t even want to think about it.

So this blessed day, I say my prayers; preparing to head for the classroom.

This week, I am particularly interested, in building my relationships on hearth. ‘Why do you care so much about my actions? Or what I wear, for that matter?’‘No, I’m not listening to you this time.’

I have a presentation to prepare for.

‘Nooooooo!’ I shrieked, then stopped, as if suddenly regaining full consciousness.

‘Open the door, what is wrong?’

Reina was at the door. I hope that huge dude; the neighbor I was just talking to, is not behind her!

I opened the day, my eyes heavy from lack of sleep.

‘Reina, good morning.’

She sized  me  up; giving me her classic worried look.

‘Lucy! You scared the hell out of me. Why did you shout so much?’

‘Errhhmm…it’s nothing, really.’ At this point, I was looking anywhere but into Reina’s eyes.

‘Do we need to see a doctor, dear?’

I laughed uncomfortably.

‘Reina I’m fine; just tired. I need to prepare for the seminar presentation. Would you call me when you’re leaving for lectures?’

‘Of course, Lucy.’

‘But we still need, to talk!’

I stylishly show Reina out, careful not to exceed 15cm beyond my door.

That silly hulk of a neighbor, trying to use magnetic waves to control my thoughts!

I had chosen an orange gown which had black and white polka dots, to his dismay this morning.

For the past 2 weeks, he had literally been picking out clothes for me to wear.

In all fairness, he had a nice sense of style, but still! I get, to choose my own clothes.

It’s not like he talks to me in person, anyway- it’s just via these electromagnetic waves. I’m guessing its because he’s super-sophisticated?

I heard he works at this really big IT firm.

This morning’s instructions were however, a little overboard.

I mean, what happened to gentle romance that grew over time?

He’d literally ordered me to put on a blue pencil skirt,  a white shirt laced with gold around its edges and a black pair of open-toed pump heels.

I’d considered his suggestion.

He’d then asked that I paint my finger and toe nails red.

That, had been his undoing!

I had a seminar to prepare for,and he was asking me to paint my toenails red? A presentation before professors and doctors?

He must, I conclude, be the convener of the Mafia! He whispers, even now that he wants to take out to dinner, this evening.  ‘Errhh…I don’t want to have dinner with you, dear sophisticated Hulk who communicates with me using electromagnetic waves. I don’t!’

It has taken every ounce of willpower that I possess, to consciously put him out of my mind.

All I want, is peace, enough to tidy up my presentation and stop my team-mates from concluding that I’m the fool they always thought I was.

It’s 9:15am.

Gratefully, Mr. Hulk has gone to work, I presume- he has left me alone for about an hour.

I don’t care if he’s tried inviting another lady to dinner already.

Wait, I’m not being insecure, am I? Only being logical, right?

But really, why would he choose me over those fair skinned, pretty girls at his office?

I’m only a fat girl anyway, one whose tummy would definitely protrude through the pencil skirt he bought me. Oh, sorry, he didn’t buy it- only instructed me to wear it.

I take  a sneak peek into our wedding…I can see us together; me in white, he in black; saying our vows as I continuously admire the broadness of his shoulders and the absolute whiteness of his teeth.

I am interrupted by an individual who seems to be clearing the throat.

I look around, startled.

Has Reina come in, unnoticed?

‘Really, Lucy; really?’

I should have known; Collins would be jealous.



Abioye Peju is a final year medical student of Bowen University, with a palpable passion for writing. She is an ardent believer that behind every medical case, is a story itching to be told. She writes at medicology101.blogspot.com