#WriterSpotlight – “With words you can build, you can give hope, you can ignite and you can destroy too.” Aderonke Moyinlorun

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She may be young but what she has achieved is incredible. Author of eight books, publisher and speaker, Aderonke  Moyinlorun is our guest on today’s #WriterSpotlight. Enjoy. 

Hello Aderonke. Can you please describe yourself in a few words?

My name is Aderonke Moyinlorun. I’m a writer, a publisher and a motivational speaker. I’m also the CEO of Starling Empire which birthed Starling Books and Starling Films.

At what point did you decide you wanted to become an author and why?

I knew I wanted to become an author since I was a child. I started writing short stories and poems when I was eight years old. I would write stories in all my school notebooks and I’d get in trouble with my teachers but it never stopped me. I’ve always known I wanted to write. I was born to do this.

You are a one-time best seller on Amazon. What book achieved this feat and how were you able to achieve this?

Yea, my book ‘When Love Hurts’ was an amazon eBook bestseller. I wish I could tell you exactly how I achieved this, but honestly, it was a bunch of different things that I did. The most important is that the story sold itself. It was my first attempt at romance story and if there’s anything reviewers say about my romance stories, it’s that they are emotionally intense, and heart wrenching. So I think the story sold itself as did every book I wrote after it.

Besides that, I did a lot of marketing. I gave out a lot of free copies. I approached well known book bloggers and asked them to read and review my book. And I did some few paid adverts. I also have the best and most supportive readers. I had a Ronke team on social media which consist of ten of my loyal readers  and their goal was to repost and share everything about the book. In exchange for their support, they are always the first to read my next book.

You have authored eight books! This is no mean feat. How were you able to achieve this?

By being disciplined, dedicated, persistence and patient. And also thanks to the fact that I never run out of stories to write. There’s always a story in my head all the time. But I do a lot of things and run a lot of businesses, I only have little time to write. If not, I would have more books than that.

Let’s talk about getting published. Why did you decide to float your independent publishing company Starling Book?

Honestly, there are more than one reasons why I chose to start Starling Books. First is I believe that my destiny is in my hands. That I can do just about anything if I put my mind to it. That I can be whoever I want to be if I work hard at it. That I can touch the skies if I’m willing to take the leap. More than anything else, this is why I like making things happen for me instead of relying on anybody else or any organisation. 

Second was that I had approached one or two publishing company and they rejected my manuscript because they thought I was too young and I didn’t have a lot of readers yet. They didn’t give me an opportunity, so I created the opportunity for myself. That was how I started Starling Books. I was barely 20 years old when I started.

What difficulties did you face in getting this company to start off and how were you able to overcome them?

I had a lot of difficulties. I was entering an unknown territory. I knew how to write but publishing was a whole different ball game entirely. I made a lot of mistakes. I did a lot of research and I had to learn on the job. One major difficulty that I faced was marketing. I was able to overcome this by always coming up with a new idea to market. And I realized that marketing is a continuous process. You are never done. But really, I’m glad I was able to get better at this publishing thing. 

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There is a common belief that getting a book published is expensive because of the different elements it involves. Is this really the reality?

I would say Yes and No. Maybe in the past, it was expensive. But presently, things keep getting better and I know they will continue to get better. We can publish a book as an e-book and people can read on phones and laptops. Last time I checked it cost zero Naira to publish an e-book, both on Amazon and Okadabooks. And e-book sales are really encouraging.

Getting a book in print used to be very expensive because you are required to have hundreds of thousands of Naira to print one thousand copies. But these days, there are print-on-demand printing companies everywhere. If you need to distribute fifty copies and fifty copies is all you have money to print, you can order the fifty copies. If you have money for another ten copies, you can order again at another time.

So, really, in my opinion, things are getting better. You just have to know where to look and have access to the right information.

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What advice do you have for a writer who really wants to get published but is low on funds?

Start with eBooks. It is completely free to publish an eBook. Don’t stop trying to get your books in print either. Work hard. Save. Approach people for sponsorship if you have to. Contact publishers. Good publishers don’t ask you for money to publish your books. They pay you to publish your books. Just keep trying. It will happen for you.

Can you tell us what you love most about being an author?

What I love most most about being an author is the opportunity to touch people’s lives and make a difference. I’m amazed by the number of people that send me messages everyday about how my books touch them. I find a sense of fulfillment in that.

What is the most important lesson writing has taught you?

Writing has taught me that words are powerful. With words you can build, you can give hope, you can ignite and you can destroy too. So I’m extra careful how I use words.

What do you love about The Sparkle Writer’s Hub?

What I love most about The Sparkle Writer’s Hub is the blog posts, especially posts that revolves around creativity and getting inspiration to keep writing.

Which author (dead or alive) would love to spend a day with if given a chance?

Aderonke Moyinlorun. Yea, I’m full of myself like that. LOL

What advice do you have for people who know that they have a message to share but fear keeps holding them back?

What you are afraid to do is a clear indication of what you need to do. Do it now.

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#WriterSpotlight – “Start where you are, a small focus group, your social media pages, blog etc. Do not let fear hinder you.” Morenike Vincent

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We are extremely honoured to feature the amazing Morenike Vincent on today’s edition of #WriterSpotlight. She’s an accountant, writer and first time author! If you are thinking of publishing your book soon, here’s yet another writer you can learn from. Her tips are so practical. Enjoy! 

Who is Morenike Vincent?

My name is Morenike, I am a lover of God and people, a wife,a sister, daughter, friend. I love to help people to be  awake to the lives they have been called of God to live. I am a Chartered Accountant currently working as an Auditor.

I am the founder of She’s Connected Family Life network, a platform for ladies who desire to establish God’s design for family here on earth, growing together to mirror the phenomenal woman in Proverbs 31.

I have a heart to prepare the next generation for life and living, an evangelist of academic and life excellence, hence the book and platform Academic Excellence.

Since you have a 9-5 and run a ministry, how do you find time to write?

Well for me, writing is not a hobby, it more like I must give expression to what God has put in my heart via writing. Some days words come to my heart and so I just write on my notepad or on my phone. But really and truly, you will create time for what is important to you.

Congratulations on the release of Academic Excellence. Take us through the journey of writing and publishing it.

Thank you. For me it is a huge honor God chose me to bring forth this book through, I was just the vessel. In 2016 May I felt in my heart that I should organise an online seminar for teenagers and young adults so I told my friend Raquel, we designed a flier and shared on social media for 5 days before the event and to my outermost surprise, over 170 teenagers and young adults, Edu consultants participated in the 3 hour WhatsApp seminar on Academic Excellence.  When we were almost done, I told them if they stayed on the group I will share for the next 30days (throughout the month of June) on Academic Excellence. It was a very demanding move for me because I really don’t remember ever doing anything consistently for 2weeks let alone 30days! But by God’s grace I did it. Some days I would be so tired from work and on one day, I didn’t post till a few minutes to midnight. It was truly a stretching experience for me and very fulfilling because the teenagers learnt a lot and were inspired. The daily posting on the WhatsApp group throughout June 2016 formed the core content for the Book.

So from June 2016 to the eventual release of the book May 28 (the anniversary of their first seminar) I updated the content of the days, I reached out to people to share their story, one of which was Bimbo Oyeyi, a lady who I had told in 2010 that I would write a book on academic excellence and share her story.

From editing, to book design, to deciding to self-publish, to printing runs, publicity, for a first time author it was truly an experience, but one I am grateful for and thank God I have a very supportive husband who is my major driver, he kept me on my toes especially with deadlines and milestones.

Since the book was released, what has been the reaction so far?

I am truly thankful as all the teenagers who came for my book launch got the book for free courtesy some generous people. The feedback from people who have read it have been heart-warming and fulfilling. You see my dream is to put the book in the hands of every teenager and young adult in Nigeria because I believe it will help, not just to improve academic performance, but also self-leadership and life in general.

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It took you about eight years to write, what kept the dream going?

GOD! See it was not by my might.  I was a 300 level student in Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and I was in the academic committee for my department fellowship. I used to write articles and counsel my class mates on academic excellence and mindsets toward academics generally. Then one day, as I was writing yet another article, I heard in my heart, “This will form pages of a devotional”. I got two notebooks to get started, but it just did not happen, till today, those two notebooks are still with me, they attest to the faithfulness of God. At every phase in my life, from graduation, to NYSC, to workplace, to marriage, I knew that one day I will write a book on Academic Excellence. Initially the title I had was “Ruling and reigning in the Academic domain”. There were many days I cried, because I felt I had let God down by not writing. But “in the fullness of time” the avenue was open to write and today we have the book. When I think about it all, I still am teary-eyed. It’s more than a book for me, it is a testament of the faithfulness of God. And yes! Your dreams are valid.

What lessons has writing this book taught you?

This experience taught me a number of things, one of which is to lean on God through every twist or turn, so make Him your source. Another is if you demand excellence, you will get it, so do not compromise. Then, deadlines and follow up, this is not a strong area for me, so my husband was so helpful here, helping me realize that once one deadline is not met, it affects other things. I learnt that many people are on the other side of my obedience and so I must be quick to obey God and do so completely. I picked many other life lessons on this journey.

Is there any chance of you leaving accounting to do writing full time?

Well I cannot say for now, as God leads, I follow. For now He’s given me the grace to do both, so why don’t I enjoy it and maximize it.

What do you love most about being a writer?

I usually tell people that I do not consider myself a writer, because it’s not for pleasure. I believe I must write, because God wants to reach people and my writing and speaking give Him expression.

There is this one time I can vividly remember, I wanted to do something, but then felt a block, I tried to fight it, but then I just picked my phone and words began to flow. It was like I felt the words form in my heart and I needed to give expression. So I obeyed, and I sent it out to my contacts on Blackberry Messenger. Immediately I received a message saying, “Oh God, Reni thank you, thank you so much. I so needed that.” For me this is fulfilling.

The book is loaded with special content: study plan, Q/A with a lecturer, academic excellence nuggets, devotional content, academic excellence stories. Why N1, 000? Don’t you plan to profit from its sales?

Yes it’s a loaded book, it’s 150 pages. I see the book as gift to the next generation. I decided to focus on value and not profit. My heart prays that it reaches the hands of the intended users (every teenager and young adult). I also needed to look at my target audience. Why will I write a book that my audience cannot afford to buy? It’s not to make a name as an author, but to impact lives. I believe the book will do that.

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What do you say to parents wondering why they should buy your book for their teenager?

“The greatest impact we can make is to invest in the lives of they to whom we will pass the life baton to. Think posterity.” You will have no regrets getting this book for your teenager. In fact, do not just stop there. Look for more teenagers around you, schools around you and even your Alma Mater, and put this book in the hands of every teenager in your sphere of influence. The book was written from my heart, and will transform your teenager, that I am sure.

What advice do you have for someone who has a story to tell but is afraid to write it in a book?

Well, you really do not need to write a book honestly, if you do not feel in your heart to do so. But by all means, just start. You really do not know how many lives are hinged to yours. One thing I know is God doesn’t waste pain, especially when you commit it all to Him. Start where you are, a small focus group, your social media pages, blog etc. Do not let fear hinder you.

How can readers get copies of this book?

The primary sales point is over my website.

And we deliver nationwide. The book is also available at

We are working to activate other bookstores and contact persons.

The book is also available in E-book version on

We are working on other online platforms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#WriterSpotlight – “I am a silent type, I talk, but not serious talk. My writing speaks for me.” Bankole Wright

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Welcome to another #WriterSpotlight on The Sparkle Writer’s Hub. Bankole Wright is a writer and editor and we are glad to feature him today. We hope you learn a thing or two from his interview. 

Hello Bankole. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

Hello. Ok I am Bankole Wright, a graduate of Lagos State University where I studied English, majored in Literature. I am a writer, a book editor and a growing academic. I have a deep passion for teaching and writing. I love talking literature and creative writing, I love the fact that I create stories, both those that exist and those that don’t.

How did your journey as a writer begin?

Writing started at age 14, then I used to write juvenile love poems which usually ended in dustbins. I wrote songs as well. I just wrote because that was where I found fulfillment and joy. Growing up, I became conscious of my ability to create stories, and the fulfillment I derived from writing. Then I took writing more seriously, I began to write poems for several poetry sites such as Poetrysoup. I also wrote stories and articles at naija stories. I wrote at Pulse Ng where I was a blogger, then I started writing for OYA magazine till now.

What do you love most about writing?

Writing makes me feel like a god, genius and immortal. I am a silent type, I talk oh, but not serious talk, so my writing speaks for me.

In what ways has your writing grown since you stated writing?

For me, my writing  has really improved as a result of the frequent writing engagements I have had over time. They have pushed me to study deeply and I practice all I read to the letter.

Where do you get inspiration from when you want to write a story?

I derive inspiration from everything around me, both tangible and intangible. I observe tinniest details.

There are people who believe that writing can never be financially rewarding. What are your thoughts about this?

(Smiles), concerning finance, writing rewards. You need to create a niche for yourself to the point that you alone will be preferred and patronized. As a writer, if you work hard, you will be richly rewarded.

What lessons have you learnt since you started managing Oya magazine?

Hard Work, oh I have really learnt hard work. Also I learnt commitment and dedication, loyalty and consistency. OYA magazine has really built me and is still building me.

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What is your ultimate dream as a writer?

My ultimate dream as a writer is to be an influential one whose works are reputable and internationally acknowledged.

Do you think you will ever retire from writing?

(laughs). Writing is my life, retiring is like dying.

It’s one thing to write and another to help others edit books, how did you upgrade your skill?

I simply schooled myself in it. I got books on editing, I studied and I practiced and then I started helping friends for free, with time I was getting paid.              

Aside from writing, what are your other hobbies?

Aside writing, I read. I love reading a lot, like a real lot. I read anything and everything. I actually have a boring life to some people, but believe me, this is the life I choose.

Any advice for other writers out there?

Writing isserious business and it is a venture of the intelligent and disciplined. Also, don’t get caught up in trying to impress, just love what you do and do it with excellence.

 

#WriterSpotlight – “I hope that through my work, the world will understand love, practice kindness and experience peace.” Ibe Blessing

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With every writer, there is fresh insight, undiluted truth and wisdom for ages. Blessing’s interview is not any different. This is #WriterSpotlight. Enjoy! 

Hello Blessing, please introduce yourself.

I am Ibe Blessing Chiamaka, a medical student of Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti state. I hail from Imo State.

How long have you been writing for and what have you learnt in these years?

I have always been writing since secondary school days although it was neither consistent nor fantastic. However, I actively picked up writing sometime last year and it peaked during the African Writers’ February steps. Before now, my major excuses for not writing were lack of time and things to write about. So far, I have come to an understanding that I have all the time I need only if I can spend less time on frivolities. Again and more importantly, I have learnt to see everything around me as a potential subject for my write-ups. Indeed, what to write about is everywhere around.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

While growing up, my mom bought us books pertaining to assorted areas of life. As the days rolled by, I discovered that my thoughts and ideologies formed on the basis of things I read about. Those words spurred in me desires, passions and hopes. The power in those words left me with no option than to propel myself towards who and what I  wanted to be.

Where do you get inspiration from?

I really can’t say my inspiration comes from anything specifically because most times any object, person or situation can quicken my emotions and intellect enough to make me write.

You seem to love sharing your work on Instagram, what inspired it?

My love for sharing my work on Instagram started during the February steps organised by African Writers. Prior to that time, I was not active on Instagram since I didn’t take lots of pictures but posting my work on Instagram exposed me to a novel idea of combining pictures with write ups. I loved the creativity and the audience it attracted.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

I am greatly skilled in the act of procrastination and I am abysmally willing to give it up in order to be a better writer.

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Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies?

I enjoy crafts, cooking and reading.

Have you ever been rejected as a writer, if yes please tell us about it.

I  have not experienced much of rejections especially because I’ve not been submitting my write-up for publications but one experience that I can remember happened during my secondary school days. I was selected to participate in an essay competition. Truthfully, I gave my time and energy to writing it. I met several superiors to proofread it, I made corrections over and over again and I was certain to at least come out successful after all I had come out tops in more challenging ones that I least prepared for. But then, not only did I not come out tops, I got a ridiculous score that made me have an utmost dislike for those figures for a while. I could not fathom what mistake(s) I made that warranted such a sad score. I decided never to participate in other competitions and immediately concluded that I wasn’t just good enough for the whole ‘writing thing’. Fortunately, I did not wear the sad demeanour for as long  as I thought I would. The reason is simple. I was stuffed with encouragement from everyone and everything. Every word seemed to replace a unit of sadness with the extra words floating on the new happiness I had acquired.

What is your ultimate dream as a writer?

I hope that through my work, the world will understand love, practice kindness and experience peace.

How has your writing evolved over the years, did you do anything specific to make improvements? If yes, please share with us.

I think my writing has increased in dimensions, originality and creativity because I wrote more often, learnt from works of other writers and availed myself opportunities of joining groups where I could learn more about writing.

Do you Google yourself? Please tell us why?

Yes, I do that sometimes chiefly out of curiosity about what information the world has  about me.

If you could be anything in the world, what would that be?

I honestly would still love to be me.

If you know any writer who you feel should be featured on our #WriterSpotlight segment or you are that writer, please send an email to thesparklewritershub@gmail.com. 

 

 

#WriterSpotlight – “I’m putting in more time and more effort so my work will not be taken for granted.” Igbor Clement

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Welcome to another interview series with The Sparkle Writers Hub. Our guest writer is doing so much with arts and we can’t wait to learn from him. 

Hello Clement. Can you please describe yourself in a few words?

I’m Igbor Clement, popularly known by my stage name Clemency Green and online alias ThatPoetClem. I’m a writer, poet, lyricist, event compere, fashion model and a medical student.

You are a poet and spoken word artist. How did you develop a passion for these two things?

Poetry and spoken word are one and the same. Poetry has a wide variety of forms. Spoken word poetry is simply a kind of poetry that is said out loud. I started writing poetry from my early childhood. I still have poems from my junior secondary school days. I grew up a voracious reader thanks to my parents. My dad has this mighty bookshelf and endless stacks of vintage magazines. My mum teaches literature and I took interest in it as a child (I still read her books). I write prose too. I used to run a number of blogs when I had more time. I still contribute to and serve as an editor for some print and online publications.

I took up spoken word as a profession sometime in 2013. In 2014, I contested in a War Of Words National Poetry Slam and finished 3rd. Since then, I’ve gone on to grace countless stages and feature on several radio and TV shows. I released my “official” debut track this year titled “Scars”, and I’m currently working on my E. P. alongside a poetry chapbook.

It is one thing to write poems, it is another to perform it for others to enjoy. What skills have you learnt because of spoken word?

I agree, writing is one thing and performance is another. However, it starts with the writing. My content has to be very good so I’m constantly editing and re-editing and exploring more and more literary devices. As a performer, I have to bring the words to life before the audience and a lot of work goes into that as well.  I have to rehearse regularly; movement, expressions, voice projection, modulation etc. My meagre background in Theatre helps a lot. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of event hosting and MC-ing and it helps to boost my crowd appeal and confidence.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

My emotions. Anything that can make me feel, can make me write. Since there are countless things I can feel, there’s almost no limit to what I can write about. However, most of the work I share are about things that affect not just me but others as well.

Did you face any challenges in your journey and how were you able to overcome them?

A lot. Combining writing, performing and my other interests with pursuing a Medical Degree hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to learn how to my manage my time very well because sometimes, it’s a luxury.

Challenges like funding. The spoken word “industry” is still growing so artists are not paid much if they are paid at all. And we need the money. Planning shows, attending shows, recording audio, shooting videos and other media takes a lot of money.

Promoting poetry and spoken word has also not been easy but we’ve been pushing, putting the word out there as much as we can.

What do you love most about what you do?

Like I say in one of my pieces, “…the ills that come undone when I drop the mic (pen) and say ‘I’m done'”.

As a creative person, what are some of your frustrations with the way art is viewed in Nigeria?

It’s not encouraged as much as it should. That’s why no one tells their parents they want to be writers, poets or artists. There would be serious worries about your future. Nigerians do not appreciate art and literature as much as they should, especially financially. Also, the government and corporate bodies hardly give support because it’s not popular enough.

Creative people are more often than not taken for granted because people do not understand the amount of time and effort they put in their work. What do you think can be done to change this?

I’m thinking too, what can be done? You can’t take everybody through the creative process to see how hard it is. The work just has to speak for itself. I’m putting in more time and more effort so my work will not be taken for granted. Also, you have to value your art for it to be valued too. A lot has to go into branding and promoting as well.

What is the most important lesson writing has taught you?

Never underestimate the power of words. A writer is a very powerful person and that power should be well utilized. I’ve had feedback and testimonies that I never expected.

What advice do you have for people who know that they have a message to share but fear keeps holding them back?

Inertia. I never understood that term in Basic Physics, but it makes sense now. You just have to start. Anyhow, anywhere, just start. Put that pen to paper, grab your keypads, climb that stage, grab that mic, just start! It keeps getting better after you’ve crossed the Rubicon.

 

If you know any writer who you feel should be featured on our #WriterSpotlight segment or you are that writer, please send an email to thesparklewritershub@gmail.com. 

#WriterSpotlight – Farida Ladipo-Ajayi has loved reading since she was a child, now she is helping other children to love reading too

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Who considers television boring? Farida! As a genuine bookworm Farida would rather get lost in books than watch television. Today, she is living the life of her dreams, working in a bookstore and helping others to love reading. Enjoy our interview with her. 

Hello Farida. Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi. My name is Farida Ladipo-Ajayi. I am married and have 2 boys age 5 and 1 respectively. I am the founder of The Bookworm Café. The Bookworm Café is a children’s reading club that motivates kids to be readers who aspire to change the world because of the impact that books have made in their lives. Our main focus in all our reading clubs is to bring fun and reading together so that children who see reading as boring are inspired to read for pleasure. In addition to our clubs, we run a virtual library where we loan books to kids. We also have an online bookstore where we sell only titles that we pick because of the impact they will make in the children’s lives.

What inspired you to start The Book Worm Café?

I have always loved to read. Growing up, I considered TV boring and would rather get lost in a book. I used to read any and everything at my disposal even my Father’s MBA books. For me, the ideal life was working in a bookstore or library (as seen on TV) where I could read for a living. I knew I wanted to raise my kids to be readers. I bet anyone who loves to read will want to raise kids who read. When I was pregnant with my first child, I researched ways to raise kids who loved to read and consistently everyone said read out loud to your kids. When he was born I started reading to him bit by bit from about 3 months old. This experience was actually like a training. I learnt how to choose books for kids, how to have a book discussion with children in a way that does not make it feel like a quiz, how to read to kids, how to extract fun activities from books and so much more. In  2016 I applied for the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship program and I filled in what was an idea at the time, starting a book club/library for kids. To my surprise, my idea was picked and the mentorship and funding I received from the program led me to bring this idea to life.

Can you take us through some of the things you do at The Bookworm Café?

My typical day is very busy because on a daily basis I get questions from parents and teachers about what kinds of books their kids should be reading and tips for getting kids to read. I find myself hand-picking books for kids. Obviously, this means I need to read a lot for me to able to recommend a book to a child. My typical day also includes developing creative and fun ways to get kids to read in our reading clubs. I come up with activities, themes and book lists that we use in all our reading clubs. Thankfully I have an operations manager who helps me with the administrative side of things and some technical bit as well. She is a blessing.

Why is it important for children to imbibe good reading habits from an early age?

I think it is super important for kids to imbibe good reading habits from an early age because using myself as an example, majority of the things I knew while I was growing up was not taught to me in school. I read far and wide and this helped me to be outstanding academically. Also, a good reading habit takes discipline and that discipline in kids goes a long way in helping them to choose between wrong and right. You find that children who read a lot, because they love to read not because they are forced to read are usually very well behaved and very smart.

With the growth in technology, more kids prefer to play games on iPads and phones than reading books. What do you think can be done to change this?

I will be very honest here. Ipads, games, gadgets and so on tend to be much more appealing to anybody than books. So it’s no surprise that kids find it difficult to choose books over devices and media. It’s difficult to make that choice even for an adult. I always encourage parents to start very early to build a reading culture in their homes. Read to your children from when they are very young, model a good reading life as parents, fill your house with good books and limit the distraction, have set times for reading every day, have gadget-free times, have a corner for books in your car, discuss books with your children. All these help to change this trend towards media and gadgets.

What role do parents play in ensuring that their children love to read?

Parents play a very vital role in ensuring that their children love to read. Parents need to model a healthy reading life for their kids to see. Kids copy their parents a lot, so when your child sees the level of importance you place on books, they are likely to copy that. Parents who buy books for their children not because the school says they should buy books but because they genuinely want to raise kids who read, those parents are showing their children that books are important. Parents who read to their children also show their kids that they think books are important.

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You provide books for parents to either buy or rent. How has this service been received?

When I started, my plan was to run reading clubs and kids would be allowed to borrow books. I  got a lot of requests from parents who wanted to buy instead of rent as their kids loved our books so we included a bookstore into our offering. The renting option was new at the time and our parents received it very well because it saves them thousands of Naira monthly.

What are your future plans for The Bookworm Café?

We have a lot of plans in the pipeline that are just plans for now and nothing concrete but in the next two years we want to start publishing very good homegrown children’s books written by Africans and about Africans. We want to celebrate and encourage our own and bring their work out there especially children writers.

Are there any challenges you faced when you started? How were you able to overcome them?

The Tony Elumelu Foundation program gave me a good start and helped me overcome most of the challenges common to starting up. Our major challenge really has been managing our library offering. We have suffered major losses from that part of the business because sometimes the books are not returned at all or they are returned in very poor condition and we have to dispose them. As much as we did not want to, we have had to introduce a refundable deposit which our members bear for incidents like these.

If you could only make one choice, which book will you choose as the best you have ever read?

Charlotte’s Web by E.B.White anytime any day. It’s a sad book, it made me cry but it also made me laugh the hardest I’ve ever laughed because of a book. Whenever I recommend books for kids from age eight upwards I’m likely to throw in that book because it’s a powerful book that every library should have.

 

If you know any writer who you feel should be featured on our #WriterSpotlight segment or you are that writer, please send an email to thesparklewritershub@gmail.com. 

#WriterSpotlight – Unoma Nwankwor was lured into writing, now she has authored eight books

 

Unoma Nwankwor’s interview is all shades of inspiring we can’t help but share. Despite having a career, running a business and caring for her family, she has been able to write 8 books so far. We don’t know about you but we were definitely eager to know her secret.

Hello Unoma. Can you please describe yourself in a few words?

I pondered this question a few years ago, and I simply describe myself as an imperfect woman after the heart of a perfect God. A daughter, sister, wife, mom, story teller and hope ambassador.

Would you say that you were born to be a writer?

I like to say lured. Let me explain/ I’ve always been a loner, partly because I have only brothers, so I was always to myself and partly because I’m an introvert. So, writing became my thing. I could do whatever I wanted with my pen. However, I dared not let anyone read my writing.  My husband, however, is the one that encouraged me to push past my fear.

So, yeah, maybe it took someone else to see that I was born to do this.

You’ve written a total of 8 books. That’s amazing. How were you able to achieve this?

I guess it’s just one book after the other. But I know that it really is by the grace of God.

I have a very busy life, in addition to writing, I have a family, career and I run a business. Balance for me, therefore, is crucial, practically I do that by planning as much as I can. I have accepted the fact that I can’t be everything at the same time. So, I try to be fully present in whatever I place my focus on at any given time. I also steal pockets of time and I am not afraid to ask for help. Lastly and most importantly, I stay connected in faith because that is the Source of everything. Like Paul said, but by the grace of God, I am what I am.

Which of your books is your best and why?

Ha! That’s like asking which kid I like best. I don’t have a favourite book. I love all my characters/books equally. During the creative process, I immerse myself into them that they become a favourite in the moment. I just can’t choose. If I had to though, I think it would be Ayanti and Mensah from He Changed My Name. But I’m beginning to think Ebele and Kamal will take their place soon.

You share a lot about your faith through your books. Can you tell us why you chose to do this?

I love talking about my faith, it is the pillar of my existence. Empowering and motivating others in hope is my passion. It comes from a personal place for me.

I’m also a sucker for romance. I love the cliché misunderstanding. My favourite channel is Hallmark and I grew up reading Mills & Boons in Nigeria. LOL. Lastly, as you know, I’m Nigerian. Although I was born in the United States of America, I grew up in Nigeria…shout out to Uniport. I love sharing about my homeland and changing the mindset in the diaspora. Therefore, when I got ready to write, I couldn’t write anything that wasn’t me.  Naija. Romance. Faith.

As an author, can you share some of the challenges you’ve faced and how you overcame them?

My greatest challenge was fear. Sometimes it still is to some degree. Right before I release anything, fiction, nonfiction or my podcast, I feel anxiety. I overcome it with this verse my mentor gave me “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Mathew 10:14

Not everyone will like what I put out but those who it’s meant for will love it.

Many writers find it challenging to finish writing a book and get published. What tips do you have for such writers?

I’ve had quite a few people ask me this question and my answer is always the same. One, set achievable goals. The saying is true, habit and discipline does beat talent any day of the week. When I’m in the throes of writing, I set a daily word count. Two, when you start to write a story, do not, I repeat, do not stop and edit. Throw everything in your head unto the page, don’t stop until you get to THE END. Once you get there, you can go back and edit. Stopping to edit will keep you from finishing,

You are in the process of writing your 9th book. What should your readers expect from this book?

Yes, and I’m loving my present couple, especially the hero. My ninth book is Mended with Love and is the final book in the Sons of Ishmael series The Danjuma brothers; Rasheed, Jabir and Kamal came onto the scene in 2015.  They are three brothers abandoned by their father and raised by their mom to become very successful men. You get to meet the women who changed their perception of love. Kamal and Ebele are the stars of this book that will release in October. Each book can be read alone but for the full effect, you’ll want to start from the beginning.

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What is the most important lesson writing has taught you?

Writing and talking about my books has given me an inner strength I never thought I had. Fear kept me locked in place for a long time, once I stepped out in faith, God met me at my point of need and it’s been a liberating experience. I learn more about my abilities and embrace my weaknesses fearlessly each day.

This quote by Laurel Bleadon-Maffei describes the feeling perfectly. It is my go to quote, I have it everywhere, office, notebook, laptop (smile). It says, “I found my heart upon a mountain I did not know I could climb, and I wonder how many other pieces of myself are secreted away in places I judge I cannot go.” Gosh, I love that quote. It is so me. So, me.

What advice do you have for people who know that they have a message to share but fear keeps holding them back?

Fear is a mindset. I can rattle off “5 tips to overcome fear” however none of them would work if you don’t change the way you think. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen?

The fear of not being good enough is what holds most creatives back. Always remember that the “professionals” you see today were once amateurs themselves. Allow them to inspire you but don’t try to be them. God created you uniquely, it is your responsibility to walk into what He created you to be.

Now with that mindset, practice makes perfect. The more you exercise your writing muscle the better you become and greater your confidence. My tip will be to remain true to you and your voice. Trust; there is an audience out there. Your authenticity makes them notice.

 

#WriterSpotlight – Losing her manuscript in the University may have put her off writing for a while but it is safe to say that Amaka Chika Mbonu is back!

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We love it when we read stories like this. You may be wondering what kind of stories we are referring to. Wait till you read today’s interview. Let’s just say that our guest left the writing scene because of a setback but she is back in all her splendour and with a new book. 

If you have left the writing scene because of a negative comment, the loss of your manuscript or another form of disappointment, get ready to be inspired to come back. Enjoy. 

Hello, Amaka. Could you please introduce yourself in a few words?

Amaka Chika-Mbonu is a lover of God, a wife, mother, author, poet counsellor, and motivational speaker. She is also the Managing Editor of her online magazine TemptTations, a magazine for the women you were, the woman you are and the woman you aspire to be.

Would you say that you were born to be a writer?

Yes, I would definitely say that. I have been writing since I was a child. I was a voracious reader, still am, and for as far back as I can remember, I would write short once upon a time stories of my own that my Mum would keep for me. Wish I knew where those were now. I started my first novel when I was in the University, years ago. I had actually gone quite far, unfortunately, that manuscript got lost, and it wasn’t in this day of computers, where you can save files and documents. It was handwritten, so that was it. It actually put me off writing for quite a while.

What ignited your passion for writing and when did you decide to pursue writing fully?

I’m not really sure that I can think of a particular thing that ignited my passion for writing. I just found that I had a way with words, was quite a deep thinker, and God had gifted me to do just that. I have two young adult children, and I decided to pursue it fully after my daughter, who is the last born, went into the university, and her words to me as she left were, “Mumma, you’ve done ‘us’, (her and her brother) all your life, now it’s time to do you.”

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You recently released your book ‘How to get your wife to swing from the chandelier’. Why did you decide to write this?

I decided to write my book, ‘How To Get Your Wife To Swing From The Chandelier In A Red Negligée’ because it’s obvious that many marriages today are in trouble. The rates of divorce, separation, or just merely staying together, not happy together, seem to be at an all time high. Marriage has become more of a fearsome tale than a fairytale. A lot of this (not necessarily all), originates from a place of what I like to call, ‘mixed communication’ because men and women communicate so very differently. My book gives men deep insight into the mind of a woman, and women, a voice to speak their heart to their man, and seeks to lend its voice, to the many voices looking to bridge that communication gap.

The book has a very interesting title. Were you ever scared about how it would be received?

Yes, the title is quite risqué isn’t it? Yes, I was a bit worried about how it would be received. I am a person of faith and a renowned Pastor had said to me, “Amaka, that title, that title.”

Can tell us some of the challenges you faced when writing the book and how you overcame them?

Challenges? Mostly it was just trying to push myself to finish it. Then I guess I could say there was a bit of a challenge with the proofreading and editing process. It’s my first published book, but I’ve found that I tend to write in the same style as I speak, very informal, conversational, slightly tongue-in-cheek. This, I was told might be confusing to someone who doesn’t know me personally, but it’s deliberate because I want my readers to feel like they do know me, that they are with me, and that I am speaking directly to them. I’m pretty sure that by the time I publish the next book, and the next, my readers will get it.

Aside from being an author, you are also a poet. Can you please tell us what you love most about being a poet?

I love the raw emotion that can be expressed so powerfully in a poem. It’s like a small potent fusion of words and imagery that just hits you, and if the poet does it right the reader can, in that instant, feel where the poet was in their mind, emotions, and psyche, at the point they were writing. My poems come from a very deep place and are a constant ongoing project that I keep adding to as my life unfolds. They are so personal, I’m not sure if that anthology will ever see the light of day, but we’ll see.

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There are many writers who would love to become authors but they are scared. What words of encouragement do you have for such writers?

Just keep writing, make sure that you’re are writing about something you are really passionate and knowledgeable about, you yourself will then find that you want the message to be out there, and so will seek ways to publish. As with everything in life writing will require some form of discipline, and as with everything in life, you do it by doing. You just have to begin, and commit to finishing, one word at a time.

Our publishing industry is not where it needs to be yet. In your opinion, what can writers do to overcome the prevailing challenges of getting published?

I am a new author, not sure I am qualified to comment on our publishing industry. To be honest, I didn’t really have a lot of difficulty publishing. I self-published, albeit through a publishing firm that was very supportive of me.

What is more difficult; editing or writing and why?

Each process has its own difficulties, but for me, I”d probably say the editing. Why? Because of the back and forth with the manuscript, and the ‘struggle’ to ‘protect’ the, should I say, style of one’s work vis a vis the ‘suggestions’ of the person editing and proof reading.

In your years as a writer, what has been your greatest achievement?

Hmm “…years as a writer?” “…greatest achievement?” I guess I have been a writer for many years, but a published author for, not that long. So, again, am I qualified to comment? I’ll try. I’m not sure I’ll categorically qualify this as my greatest achievement, but I will class it as an achievement for me, and that is, publishing my book, ‘How To Get Your Wife To Swing From The Chandelier In A Red Negligée’.

What words of advice do you have for writers and those who have a passion for writing?

Write, write, and continue to write.

 

If you know any writer who you feel should be featured on our #WriterSpotlight segment or you are that writer, please send an email to thesparklewritershub@gmail.com. 

 

#WriterSpotlight – “It is not easy to give a story heart but when you do? Slam dunk!” – Abigail Anaba

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Today’s #WriterSpotlight is absolutely off the hook and you have to read it. Our guest is a book evangelist. As the founder of GrillandRead, her goal is to get non-readers and lazy readers to love, buy and read books. 

You’d love this one. 

Hello Abigail. Can you please tell us about yourself in a few words?

My name is Abigail Anaba. I write, I read, I teach.

Would you say you chose writing or writing chose you?

I wish I understood this question. How does an occupation or profession choose someone? I have a mental picture of walking down the street trying to make sense of the chaos around me when from behind a wooden pole jumps profession with a written or verbal proposition. I would very much like to see that happen…to anyone.

At what point did you make the decision to become a writer?

Two decades ago after binging on movies to a state of near delirium, I told myself I could enjoy writing as a job, and I believe I deliberately started to take actions that would bring the dream to fruition.

You are well known as a screen writer. Can you tell us how you honed your skills as a screen writer?

I wrote, read and then wrote some more. I read everything available on the internet to be a good screen writer, I read books on screen writing and I attended workshops on screen writing. Then I wrote some more and made very generous use of my delete button.

In your opinion, what makes a good story or script?

It must have a heart. And by this I mean it must connect emotionally with the reader and if you are fortunate to have good actors interpret the script, then it must connect emotionally with the viewer. I don’t think anyone wants to be a passive consumer of a story. They want to laugh, they want to cry, they want an emotional roller coaster. I certainly do. So each time I read a story I ask, ‘where is the heart?’ To be candid, it is not easy to give a story heart but when you do? Slam dunk!

You published your first book Sector IV in 2015. What made you decide to write this book?

I felt I had a story to tell that had not been told.

Publishing a book in Nigeria seems to be a Herculean task. Can you please tell us some of the challenges you faced and how you were able to overcome them?

Finding people who could key into my vision with the limited resources at my disposal. I am quite fussy about finishing and sometimes I had to just go on the internet and read how stuff is done and then teach someone to do it…plus supervise to ensure it was done correctly. But by far the biggest challenge was the lack of a promotion and distribution structure in the country. I would rather not blow my own trumpet. It took a great deal of talking to for me to talk about things that I do. So that was a major obstacle. As I have come to realize, however, you gotta toot your own horn.

What do you think can be done to move our publishing industry forward?

I know this word has been used a lot, but we definitely need it in the writing and reading business. We need disruptors. People who will come with innovative ideas based on study of the Nigerian market and habits. For instance, over 40 million Nigerians are literate, but I am unsure if any book published for the Nigerian audience had sold 100,000 copies in a year. I have heard ridiculous numbers like 5-10 thousand in some quarters. I think that’s unacceptable.

It is said that Nigerians do not read. Do you believe this?

People say Nigerians don’t read for pleasure and they say this is why books are not sold that much, I disagree. I believe Nigerians will read if you give them a good reason to. We need to begin to tell stories like Nollywood does, and enter the market like Cowbell did. Story type and the pricing dynamics are two reasons Nigerians don’t read Nigerian. There certainly is a thriving second-hand books business where books are much cheaper and more easily accessible. 

In 2016, you started Grill n Read. What informed this decision?

It was my little way of showing that how you present books will affect how people perceive books. I knew there were Nigerians who could afford to buy Nigerian books (even with the crazy prices) but who did not even know the books existed. Grill and Read was created to target non-readers and lazy readers. It is a type of evangelism using food and drink to promote books. Our message is, everyone can be a reader. I will have to mention that a lot of people are put off by the hoity toitiness of writers who have hijacked the reading space and talk about books to the exclusion of readers. The entire intellectualism associated with something that should bring pleasure. It really shouldn’t be that deep. We felt that needed to change.

Since its launch, you have organised several book reading events across Nigeria which were well attended. How were you able to achieve this?

I have the best and most supportive friends. Starting from when this was just an idea up till now. Of course one of our biggest problems has been getting financial support. But thank God for organisations like Hedge&Pembrook  who have supported us from day one. 

I must say, the events have not even been as well attended as I would have wished but I have been told we have done well so far. Of course, we keep looking at what works, what needs to be tweaked and we adjust as we go along. We take feedback seriously and work on it. We have also had uncommon grace of God. 

What should we expect next from Abigail?

My next books. I’m experimenting with a few things and I hope it works :). A new and improved GrillandRead for the 2018 season and in October of this year the GrillandRead Annual Readers’ Award #GaRARA2017. This is one every reader wouldn’t want to miss. 

There are writers who look up to you. What advice do you have for them on their journey to becoming a published author?

Three things: Stay away from social media sycophants. Read until you know what works. Keep improving your use of your language of communication.

#WriterSpotlight – Sholape Abidakun is pursuing her writing dreams one article at a time

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One of the reasons we started our #WriterSpotlight series was to encourage and celebrate writers all over the world. We are always happy when we come across writers with outstanding talent and passion. Today we have Sholape and we had a great time getting to know more about her love for writing. We hope you’d enjoy her interview with us. 

Hello Solape. Can you please describe yourself in a few words?

My name is Sholape Abidakun, @desolape on Instagram. I am a lawyer, aspiring arbitrator and writer.

When did you discover that you had a passion for writing and why did you decide to follow this passion?

I discovered it when I was really young. I would write letters to my mum, giving detailed descriptions of what the house help did, what she wore, my entire day basically.

Can you tell us what you love most about writing?

The ability to put my thoughts and feelings on paper, bringing them to life. I also love that my writing connects with people in different ways and on various levels. It also serves as therapy for me.

Which author (dead or alive) would love to spend a day with if given a chance?

Stephen King (Alive).

Have you ever reached a point where you wanted to give up on writing?

I have never reached that point, and I sincerely hope I never do.

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When you are struggling to find inspiration, can you share some of the things that you do find that inspiration to write?

I usually listen to music, or I just read. I turn to blogs, articles, the Bible (lots of stories there). Sometimes, I discuss with family or friends. I watch people and make-up stories about them in my head. I find inspiration in different ways.

Do you think you will ever retire from writing?

I hope not!

What will you say has been your biggest achievement as a writer so far?

I have never been as committed to writing as I have been this month, so I think my biggest achievement at the moment is staying committed to it.

Where would you like writing to take you in the future?

I want to publish books, hard covers and e-books. I would like to coach budding writers (like myself, at the moment).

What advice do you have for people who want to hone their writing skills and become renowned writers one day?

Be open. Share your work with people who are skilled in writing and listen to their criticisms, if any. Attend writing classes and workshops. Read different forms of literature. Engage in writing competitions or challenges.