#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.

#WriterSpotlight – “I think it’s important for us as writers to risk ridicule and bring truth to life.” Tolu Oluwaseyi-Daniel

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Hey Sparkle Writers! It’s time for another #WriterSpotlight. Today we have Tolu Oluwaseyi-Daniel, popularly known as L’Queen. She is an author and blogger and she has some great advice for writers who want to publish books and write stories.

We can’t wait for you to dig in!

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

Hi, my name is Tolu Oluwaseyi-Daniel, also known as L’Queen. I’m a purpose driven person who loves to be a source of joy and motivation to others. I am a writer, blogger and public speaker.

At what point did you discover that you had a passion for writing and why did you decide to pursue this passion?

I fully discovered my love for writing in 2012, when I started my blog LQUEENWRITES.COM. Although before then I knew it was something I had a flair for. I’d always been inspired by books, every writer I know is a reader.  Growing up, I was surrounded by books. My parents read a lot so that probably birthed my interest. Somewhere along the line, I knew that someday I would have to share my own stories both fiction and nonfiction.

You recently published your book, ‘On the Ride’. Can you tell us what inspired you to write it?

Growing up, I saw a lot of books that addressed issues regarding living life as an adult but there weren’t so many books that related to our experiences as adolescents and young adults. Issues relating to building confidence, overcoming low self-esteem, mood swings, voicing out about abuse, bullying, the use of social media, grooming, utilizing talents and discovering purpose. Aside from my love for teens, I felt there was a need to put the right words to the shadowy corners in the lives of the younger generation so that definitely inspired me to write, On the Ride.

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We know you shared a lot of your personal experiences in the book. Was it easy for you to do this?

I think the true reason why God allows you go through things and survive them is so that your story can reach out to others and give them hope. It wasn’t easy putting myself out there but it was very important for me to share those experiences to help someone that might be encountering similar challenges.

Why is it important for writers to learn how to be vulnerable when they write?

Vulnerability as a writer is one way to make your readers connect with you. It sparks emotional feelings and gives them a more detailed knowledge of you as a person not just for the words written but because they can relate to your own personal experiences. Writing to me is a generous act so I think it’s more important for us as writers to risk ridicule and bring truth to life.

Let’s talk about publishing. What challenges did you face in writing and getting your book published?

One of the major challenges was finding a good publishing house to work with. I called several publishing houses but when it sounded like I wasn’t getting what I wanted from any of them I became a little frustrated. Fortunately, I found Winepress Publishing and they were just in sync with the ideas I had for the book. They did a good job ensuring that the manuscript was well edited.

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

I think the most important thing is to know that there’s a story you must tell, there’s someone out there that your story is meant to reach out to. There would be days when you don’t feel inspired to write but you have to constantly remind yourself that you have to get it done. Have a total word count in mind, have people you are accountable to, set a deadline and stay focused on the goal.

With the right amount of commitment and motivation, one chapter at a time you’ll see your book finished in no time.

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In what ways has your writing grown and evolved since you started writing?

With each article and short story I have written, my writing has greatly evolved. I have learnt to be more descriptive, my vocabulary has expanded and I have gained a better understanding of my audience.

Where do you want writing to take you in the next five years?

Well, my goal right now is to take more writing courses and develop my writing skills much more. I’d like to write more fiction stories and gain more recognition as a writer.

I’d like to explore the world, meet more people and have more experiences to write about.

Most importantly, I want to be that writer that blesses lives with words.

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

Fear would always keep a person under because it limits their capacity to become more. I would encourage such people to rise above fear to a place of courage. The message is always bigger than the messenger so they need to come out of that place of hiding and unabashedly share their stories with the world.

#WriterSpotlight – “Find your voice, be consistent and stay true to yourself.” DamiLoves

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We have Damilola on today’s #WriterSpotlight. Her description of the difference between inspiration and motivation and the role discipline plays in the life of a writer is insightful and so is the rest of the interview.

Enjoy!

Hello Damilola Can you please describe yourself in a few words?

Damilola is a determined lady trying to live out God’s calling on her life, who endeavours to utilise all opportunities she encounters.

When and how did you discover your love for writing?

I cannot accurately pinpoint where my love for writing grew from, but I can certainly say that it was born alongside my love for reading books and stories. Growing up my father and maternal grandfather always had a book in their hands. They are two of the most intelligent people I know, yet they still wanted to learn and explore more. In reading, I feed my desire to learn more about the enigma that is life, and in writing, I attempt to bring a voice to stories that would have been forgotten.

What is the most important lesson writing has taught you?

Writing has taught me the value of patience. It has shown me the importance of stepping out regardless of the amount of fear and hesitation one may have. The reason for this is that writing is an exercise in editing, but you cannot edit a piece of work if there is no first draft. You must have the boldness to write down the first few words of the first draft, and return to it and work on it until it resembles the finished product you have envisioned. It can be a gruelling process, but the catharsis it produces pays off in the end.

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

I will choose a dead author in the person of Rainer Maria Rilke. I bought the book “Letters to a young poet” as a young teenager, and I find his instructions to Kappus the young poet still resonating with me till today; the letters were written in 1902, but the wisdom is still relevant today.

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

Give up on writing? No, it has become part and parcel of who I am, I even write letters to some of my friends, and I adore love letters. Writing is a way for me to reflect, learn and even pray to God. So, no I have not wanted to give up, but when a project is due, or I am near a deadline, and I don’t have the finished product I envisaged, such moments can be testing.

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

I will acknowledge that there is no real lack of inspiration for a writer as there is a lack of motivation. Life is inspiring; nature, sorrow, joy, pain; there is some inspiration all around us. However, I have found that motivation and discipline are the more significant factors when writing seems to have reached a point of no return.

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 have encountered the sharp sting of having my work rejected, and I acknowledge that a lot of us do work that inadvertently becomes pro-bono. So to change the current narrative, we will need to alter the mindset of those who are in the driving seat. Consumers and publishers alike need to understand the struggle, and sometimes tears that it takes to produce quality content.

You manage a blog, in your own opinion what’s the most important skill a blogger needs to have?

I currently run damiloves, and when I started, it was about my journey, but now it is about the journey of women. I endeavour to encourage women by sharing stories, poems or my thoughts of social events; reaching where we are today has been a lesson in evolution. I will say a passion and a desire to excel will be the main driving force. Find your voice, be consistent and stay true to yourself; your niche may change but don’t attempt to run someone else’s race.

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

I completed a short series last year on my blog “a collection of scars“. It was a collection of fictional monologues by fictional Nigerian women who were carrying some burden or another. I was enamoured by the feedback I received, so many people had such unexpected emotional responses to the stories, their feedback humbled me.

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

I would like my writing to be part of the legacy I leave behind. I want my words to bring joy, comfort and healing even after I depart from this earth.

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

I would say to them just write, start with small steps and whatever you do just write. There is a talent in you that the world is waiting for; in following your dreams, you open the doors for someone else to walk towards the light of their destiny.

 

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 would love my writing to win a space for me in people’s hearts.” Ibukun Tunbi

 

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We absolutely love Ibukun Tunbi’s interview on today’s edition of #WriterSpotlight. She is such an amazing writer and her answers are so real. We love how, after struggling so much with her passion, she is finally doing what she loves which is writing. Be inspired by our interview with Ibukun. 

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

Assertive, strong willed, playful, bold, down to earth and spiritual.

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

At the back of my mind, I always knew I would write, I just never imagined it would become a passion. Growing up, I had this feeling that I would be successful at it and that made me very fearful of trying. Eventually, I found myself caught between this paralyzing fear and thoughts dying to be expressed. One had to give way for the other. On this particular day, I made a decision to get validation from someone that could be gracefully objective. I wrote a story and sent it to my sister anticipating her response. She was so excited and told me to continue with the story. Her feedback made me think, ‘Umm…maybe this could work’ but still I didn’t immediately jump into writing,

I started a blog last year and was still oblivious to the fact that I had a passion for writing. I knew I liked story telling but it seemed too big to touch so I didn’t really embrace the idea.

Eventually, after a few years of trying my hands at this and that, I accepted writing to be my passion. The year after, I was reminded of a scene from the movie Sister Act (II). It was something Whoopi said to Lauren Hill that caused my awakening.  She said to her, ‘If you wake up everyday and all you think about is singing that means you are a singer.’ Applying this to myself, I decided it was time to stop being chased by my passion and chase my passion instead, I was a writer.

 Can you tell us what you love most about writing?

What I love most about writing, specifically storytelling, is the power inherent in creativity. Once one word is written the next obediently follows. The words always find an avenue to come alive and find their place in your story. Characters, scenes, dialogue…all of it, fascinates me as they mix together to create a beautiful piece. Most times, I wonder if I am the one writing or if the story is really telling itself through me. The feeling I get in the mixing and matching process is amazing. What is even more fulfilling is the joy that comes from beholding a finished work. I usually feel I earned myself a reason to sleep afterwards.

 What is the most important thing writing has taught you?

Writing has taught me that you get better with use. In whatever field you are in, I believe this rule applies. Experience really cannot be bought; knowledge can but experience cannot. The more you make use of something the better you are at manoeuvring it.

 At what point did you decide to start your blog and how has the experience been?

My blog was my training ground. It started at a time when I was trying to discover myself. The words in my head kept bouncing around until one day God told me, “Start a blog.” It was very direct. I started to give my excuses, which He sorted out. All that was left was the courage to start and that came along too. I did it afraid. I still do.

It’s been a roller coaster. In the beginning, I got so much support, then it reduced. At a point, I felt drained. I had to stop but a friend encouraged me to continue. Sometimes, I ask myself ‘why am I doing this?’ But somehow, I get encouraged again. I can tell you, as of a few days ago, I was thinking of shutting down the blog, but this has encouraged me to continue.

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

Hands down, C. S. Lewis. I would love to peek into his mind to see how it worked.

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

Not really but I found myself extremely discouraged recently. I submitted a script to this production house but they got back to me saying they couldn’t produce my story. It was my first bold step in putting my work publicly and I was terribly crushed. I felt very powerless to keep trying. It’s a terrible thing to feel like a dream died. So anyway, one of my Spurlies (friends) called me and suggested we attend this program. I was still in a haze so I told her to register on my behalf. Eventually I made it to the event, half interested. When I got in, I met this lady speaking. She mentioned that every year for the past ten years, she has considered giving up but somehow, she has kept going. I was really shocked, especially because the lady is quite successful in her field. This theme was re-occurrent throughout the program. A few other successful speakers mentioned how they kept going despite the temptation to give up. It then dawned on me that everyone was bound to go through this stage of despair and I was in good company. Thus, my resolve to keep moving.

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

Sometimes, I just write anything that comes to my head and try to force the words out. However, in situations like that, I feel like my work doesn’t make a lot of sense. Other times, I change my environment, and I get inspired. This trick doesn’t work too often though. The one that works mostly is spending time with God. After I do, I feel a flow and writing becomes effortless.

I have learnt that my writing flows from some place and so I respect that. Therefore, if there’s still no flow after I have done all that I know to do, I wait until I am stirred, and I always am, then I write.

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

As much as I would like to win Oscars and Nobel Laureates, I especially would love my writing to win a space for me in people’s hearts. The ultimate for me is when my words become a voice. A voice that influences how society is shaped; a voice that creates a worldwide platform where the very hearts of people are touched.

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

You can only run so far. It’s time to stop and embrace your message, your fulfilment is hidden in your fear.

 

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 – “No story is to short to tell, too long to narrate or too irrelevant to be listened to.” Abifola Abraham

 

It’s another Thursday and you know it’s time for our #WriterSpotlight feature! Before we tell you about today’s writer, we want to remind you about our special #WriterSpotlight Anniversary Edition. This evening, we will have an Instagram Live Chat with our Founder where she will give writing advice and solutions to common problems writers face. It starts at 7 pm so don’t miss it. 

Back to today’s feature! It won’t be an exaggeration to call Abifola Abraham a creative genius. He expresses his creativity in poetry and pencil art. We love the fact that he is self-motivated and he is willing to work hard to be successful in his craft. Enjoy his interview with us.

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

Olorunlana Abifola Abraham is my name. I’m 18 years old. I hail from Ondo state Nigeria. I draw and write poems.

Drawing and writing poems. That’s an interesting combination. How did you develop a passion for these two things?

Let me say it has always been in me. All I did was let it out. The passion comes as a result of my hard work and encouragement from people who see my work and appreciate it.

In what ways are art and poetry related?  

Well, I define art as a creative way of expressing one’s self. Poetry exhibits this, likewise drawing. So poetry is just a form of art.

Take us through your journey to getting to where you are today. How did you begin as a pencil artist and as a poet?

Well, that’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it short. It all started when I was little. I was a fan of old British movies, where they’d sing while acting, or sometimes recite rhythmic words while acting. I also loved comic cartoon characters and paint works made by art legends such as Van Gogh, Lionel Da Vinci, and Picasso. I always tried mimicking the actors and actress in those movies I watched. Then I continued until one day my friends saw me in that act and they encouraged me to keep up. As I tried keeping up with the act, I was making caricature comic drawings of my own. Then as I grew older my fascination for comic characters began to fade right from the moment I came across “tag drawing”(a form of drawing in which you use objects to represent or describe a person, society or situation). I kept on making imaginative tag drawings until I came across a pencil portrait work of an Africa girl on the internet. I was amazed. I decided to give it a try and I discovered I had what it takes. Ever since I’ve been making pencil drawings, and I’ve not for once regretted being a pencil artist. On the other hand, I began to write poems the day I was introduced to poetry writing in secondary school. I was 14 and I did literature in secondary school even though I was a science student.  Ever since I’ve been a poet and a pencil artist.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Inspiration is a thing that comes to you anywhere, anytime.  Sometimes I am my own inspiration. Most of my poems are written based on things that have happened to me. So I just tell the story in form of a poem.  Sometimes, I get my inspiration from the society;  what’s going around me. I basically write my poems to express my thoughts in simple words, which of course will be easy for readers to relate with and get absorbed into.

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

Of course I did face some challenges. There was a time I had issues with getting people to read my poems. But thanks to the existence of social media I get to share my poems on Instagram to a wide audience who can read my poems. On the other hand, drawing was more challenging. My parents always believed being a pencil artist was a waste of time and wouldn’t bring reasonable returns. All I did was to raise capital on my own. I denied myself of some things so I could get art materials which are not cheap to purchase and have never been cheap to purchase. It took a while before I could acquire a lot of professional drawing tools. I now have reasonable number of drawing tools.  I kept up with the work until my dad came home one day, saw one of my works and told me to keep the good work up. Today, I fund my own art.

What do you love most about what you do?

What I love most about what I do is that I get to express myself as well the fact that people appreciate my works when they see them.

Has combining art and poetry been profitable for you?

Yes, it has been profitable so far, especially drawing.

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

First of all, most attention is focused on people who have spent decades doing art leaving the young and upcoming ones crawling their way up on their own. Secondly, art in Nigeria is not that well-appreciated. It’s sometimes considered as being cheap. People give you good credit for your works but don’t want to pay to have them.

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?

Well, it happens in almost every occupation. All I think could be done is that one should try to stand out in whatever he or she does. The more the expression of creativity, the more the chances of appreciation.

What is the most important lesson writing has taught you?  

The most important thing I’ve learnt from writing is that, whatever story it is you have in mind, learn to put it down and showcase it to an audience. You never can tell who’s going to learn from it and whose life it is going to change for good. I’ve written a poem which I didn’t consider to have a strong theme but I was surprised when a reader texted me saying he read my poem and his mind was eased. He, in fact, thanked me for it.

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

My advice to those who have something to share yet allow fear to hold them back is, no story is too short to tell, too long to narrate or too irrelevant to be listened to. Do not mind the number of your audience. Not every story is for everyone. Just express yourself to an audience and you’d see your story touching souls and changing lives.

 

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 – “A writer is a prophet sent to minister to the world.” Maryam Afolabi

We love it when we have interviews with writers who remind us how blessed we are to have this skill. Maryam Afolabi is simple yet profound. We love the way she talks about her love for writing and writers. You will love it too. Enjoy our interview with her. 

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

I am a jovial free spirited lady. I love to be around people to share their stories and experience.

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

I’ve always had this passion for reading literary works especially novels since I was young, but I started composing poems when I got to 300 level in college.

Can you tell us what you love most about writing?

 I love the feeling I get when I come back to read some of my works after some time and it made sense.

What is the most important lesson writing has taught you?

Writing has taught me how to lock down my thoughts and experiences in words.

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

I am a fan of many authors but I would really love to meet Tunde Leye and the delectable Chimamanda Adichie.

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

There are times when I get too tired or too busy to write but I’ve never been frustrated to the point of giving up on writing.

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

I find inspiration in many things, from novels, conversations, music, and even from my imaginations. But when I have a theme or topic to write on, it makes it easier for me to focus.

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

My biggest achievement was when my poems and articles were featured in the NYSC magazine.

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

Apart from being a writer, I’m also a reporter so I would like very much to improve my writing and I would love to write and publish books.

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

A writer I believe is a prophet sent to minister to the world, so it’s now left to the individual writer on how they want to utilize their gifts. Therefore writers should be free to express themselves because you can never tell whether what you are withholding is what will change the world for better.

 

 

 

#WriterSpotlight – “Writing challenges me. It makes me ask difficult questions about myself and humanity.” Nike Campbell-Fatoki

If you haven’t read Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon, we wonder where you’ve been and what you have been reading! Ok, we are kidding but the book is such a great read and we are excited to feature the author of this epic collection of short stories on our #WriterSpotlight segment today. There’s a lot we want to say about Nike Campbell-Fatoki, aside from being such huge fans of her work. We love her openness and sincerity in this interview and the candid advice she gives to writers. Bring out your notepads Sparkle Writers. This is one interview that you have to read over and over again and keep taking notes. 

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

Hi.  I’m self-driven, loyal to a fault, and true to myself.

At what point did you discover that you had a passion for writing and why did you decide to pursue this passion?

I became aware of my love for writing at the age of 9/10.  I enjoyed reading and that slowly transitioned into writing. Children’s books written by the likes of Enid Blyton and Buchi Emecheta were the first books I enjoyed reading. I transitioned into Pacesetter series, Mills and Boon, and Sidney Sheldon.  In Secondary School I was introduced to African writers – China Achebe, Wole Soyinka Ayi Kwei Armah to name a few. 

I decided to pursue writing when I discovered my love for historical fiction. I decided to write the story that I had not seen written anywhere and I wanted to birth it. I’ve stayed on this course because writing challenges me.  It makes me ask difficult questions about myself and humanity.  Writing allows me the freedom to mould characters, and create new worlds.   It is liberating.

In what ways has your writing grown and evolved since you started writing?

My first novel – Thread of Gold Beads – was written from a first person point of view (POV).  That was necessary because the story was told from the heroine’s -Amelia’s – experiences. Most writers often find this an easy POV to write, but as my writing evolved, I’ve written from second and third points of views which require seeing things from different angles.  This opens the writer up to many possibilities, makes one more aware, more observant and more empathetic to others’ plights.  I’ve had an opportunity to do this in my short stories – Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon.

You have written two books so far. Can you tell us about the moment when you decided to write your first book? Why did you decide to take that step?

I was working as a financial analyst in the County Government in 2005/2006, had just had my second child and was completely submerged in building a life with my young family and a career, but I still felt something was missing. At this point, I had put aside writing fiction or journaling. I, however, did jump at any activity or opportunity that involved writing – I contributed to my church’s newsletter and was the editor of the monthly newsletter for the finance department where I worked. One day at lunch time, I remembered the story my Grandmother told me when I was about 9/10 years old of her Grandmother’s flight from the war-torn Kingdom of Dahomey.  I searched online for anything that had to do with that era in Republic of Benin and was captivated by the history and culture of that era (1850s – 1890s) and I was most curious as to why a princess of that kingdom fled and how she could possibly have survived. It took me another six years to complete the draft, but I was determined to weave this tale and share with the world.

Getting published is a challenge for many writers. Did you face any challenges getting your books published?

Thread of Gold Beads was self-published.  The challenge was in finding the right editor.  I was fortunate to find a great one by going through some credible channels.  The biggest hurdle as a writer is ensuring that you have a well written and edited manuscript.  

I believe the great reception from Thread of Gold Beads opened up doors for Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon published by Quramo Publishing.

Your book ‘Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon’ has received great reviews since it was released. How does this make you feel?

It feels great.  It’s an affirmation that when you put your heart and soul into something, good things will come. 

Where did you get the inspiration to write the ten stories in ‘Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon’?

Life inspired the stories in Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon.  Many of the stories hit close to home for me and for many that have read it because they are life experiences. The stories cover several societal issues including mental illness, religious fanaticism, and forced marriages. Majority of the stories were told from the villain’s perspective to depict that what we often see is not always the true story.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve made it a point not to be so judgemental.  Everyone has a story and a motive for acting a certain way.  The ten stories are inspired by personal experiences and of those I have observed.

We have many writers coming out to tell the African story from an African point of view. What do you think is responsible for this?

There’s an awakening of who we are, our power as individuals, our collective power as a people and a push back at those who have told our stories and in telling these stories, have told them to suit themselves, their images and their history. It’s long overdue and I am overjoyed.

What are some of the lessons that being an author has taught you?

Consistency is key.  It’s important you don’t take a long-term vacation from writing especially after you just published.  Never lose momentum. Contribute to magazines, review books, stay in that creative environment.  You never know when inspiration will find you. 

Be thorough, your readers are intelligent. 

Feedback is important.  Feedback from readers brought to light themes I subconsciously weaved into the stories. 

Grow a thick skin.  You must be able to handle criticism.

Every experience – the good, the bad and the very embarrassing (I have a few of those) are deserving of their moments. Experience each fully. They will eventually show up in your writing. So soak up every experience, so you can take the reader on that emotional roller coaster ride they will refer to over and over again.

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

What are you really afraid of?  If you are writing for fame, that may elude you, but if you are writing because you feel you have a story to tell that the world has been waiting for – then that passion will overcome the fear.  Let go and 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 – “Writing has taught me that nothing is impossible.” Chioma Anulika

Don’t you just love Thursdays on The Sparkle Writer’s Hub? It’s time for another wonderful #WriterSpotlight feature and today, we have Chioma Anulika Christine. She is a fantastic inspirational blogger who has learnt over the years that with writing, nothing is impossible. You will enjoy her interview with us. 

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

My name is Chioma Anulika Christine. I run an inspirational and lifestyle blog called Anuli’s Blog. I am a writer, a content creator, a closet author, a weirdo and an introvert who finds inspiration in the most abnormal things.

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

I discovered my passion for writing as early as I started writing and reading. Boredom was one thing that made me realise how much I loved writing. My decision to follow this passion was not conscious. Writing made me happy so I continued doing it. Also, my parents and my brother, Joshua, were always pushing me forward. They always reminded me that what I could do was special.

Can you tell us what you love most about writing?

I love how writing gives me the ability to create a new world and be imaginative. I also love the fact that I can pass my message across with my words. Writing has served and is still serving as an escape when I find myself stuck in a place I do not want to be.

Your writing is centred around your faith and inspiring people. Why did you decide to go in this direction?

This was not a conscious decision. My faith is something that I am constantly growing and sharing always made me feel like I was doing good by God and that feeling cannot be traded for anything. I always want to make my writing a reflection of myself and sharing certain situations and phases my life has gone through and how I have been able to get through them makes me feel like I am also helping someone else.

What is the most important lesson writing has taught you?

Writing has taught me that nothing is impossible. Writing has taught me that we do not have to always use our mouth to speak, writing can speak for us.

In what ways have you grown over the years as a writer?

I have grown tremendously with my expression and interaction and being able to channel my thoughts properly before putting them into words. When I was growing into writing, I never put these things into consideration, I just wrote as I pleased. Writing for this long has made me realise the various aspects and just how broad writing is.

You inspire people a lot. Have you ever reached a point where you struggled to find inspiration? How did you handle it?

It feels great to hear that I inspire people. Yes, I have reached several points where I struggled to find inspiration. I just recently went through a phase and it was the most difficult compared to the others. I didn’t feel the happiness I used to and it made me really depressed. It took a while for me to find my way back but God helped me a lot. I had series of quiet time with God and with myself and I remember one thing I always asked God and it was that He should remind me why I loved writing so much and why I derived joy from inspiring people and He helped a lot. I also read a lot because reading has been one major point of inspiration for me.

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

That would be the Inspire Week. The Inspire Week is a 7-day inspirational programme where 7 different statements are being emphasised on to inspire. We just got done with the second inspire week and this one was much bigger than I could have imagined. The first inspire week was a struggle and with help from my friend Dami and my sister, Esther, I could pull through. For the second, I had more company of seven other bloggers (Didi, Dami, Kemi, Feyi, Emeka, Nnamdi and Elizabeth), and they made the journey amazing.

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

I want to be an inspirational figure and one sure way to do that is with my writing. I never want to stop inspiring with my words.

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

Never let the wave of the world or the trend determine your message. A lot of times, we hold back because we fear the world’s reaction to what we preach but mostly, what the world says does not matter. Be real, don’t contradict your message because you fear displeasing people. Not everyone would agree with what you must say but do not let that change your message.

#WriterSpotlight – “Being a writer means that you must continue to reinvent yourself.” Akinola Ajani

It’s Thursday and it’s time for another #WriterSpotlight feature! Today we have Akinola Ajani who is the author of the first Nigerian counter-terrorism novel. How cool is that? What’s more amazing is the fact that his books are sold in popular bookstores across the UK like Waterstones and WH Smith. We don’t know about you but we were definitely eager to find out how he was able to achieve this. He bares it all in his interview with us! 

Hello Akinola, please introduce yourself.

I’m Akinola Ajani, a Nigerian author, freelance writer, and poet, the author of Nigeria’s first counter-terrorism novel Operation Game Change published in March 2014.

When did you start writing and how has your writing evolved over the years?

I started writing when I was eleven years old. Most of the stories were fables told to me by my grandfather who was a master storyteller. I honed my craft over the years, improving my creative imagination and my understanding of the language through constant practice. I started out writing about past events and personal experiences but I’m more of a fiction writer now as I find more fulfillment in exploring the boundless limits of my imagination

How rewarding has writing been for you?

Writing has been quite rewarding, there are lots of opportunities to work as a freelance writer and earn a substantial income. There are domestic and international contests with attractive prizes and strategic publishing with the right marketing angle can yield amazing rewards financially. Being a writer means that you must continue to reinvent yourself, what it means to be a writer today is a lot different from what it meant a decade ago.

Do you think you were born to be a writer?

I would say I was born to be a writer but it’s not that straightforward. Writing is not just a profession, it is a calling. There is a strong bond between myself and my pen, so profound that nothing can get in the way.

Your book ‘Operation Game Change’ is a counter-terrorism novel. Why did you choose to write on this subject?

Operation Game Change is Nigeria’s first counter-terrorism novel and I wrote it at a time when Nigeria was struggling to cope with the scourge of terrorism in the north-east. As a country, we had little experience in dealing with terrorists and we found ourselves in an embarrassing situation with terrorists able to hit targets that were hitherto thought to be secure. We didn’t respond well because we didn’t know how to. Our armed forces are better suited to open warfare against known enemies and terrorism is the direct opposite. Terrorists fare better in urban warfare, small unit tactics and covert operations. I looked at the situation and saw the need to take a page out of the sustained counter-terrorism campaigns carried out by the countries like the United States in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, disaster. The role of technology in fighting corruption cannot be overemphasized as it helps to gather intel and stay one step ahead of the enemy. In Operation Game Change, I proffered solutions to the menace of terrorism and pointed out some of the angles that require more attention as far as Nigeria’s counter-terrorism strategy is concerned

How has the reception for your book been?

The book has been well received in some quarters but domestically, the reception leaves quite a lot to be desired. Operation Game Change was well received in France and the United Kingdom and I have positive feedback from fans in those regions.

How much did reading help shape your love for writing?

Reading has played perhaps the biggest role in my writing career to date. There is a lesson in every story, every writer shares a piece of their soul in their stories and that can open your eyes to better create your own. A book allows you to go into the writer’s mind and marvel at their creativity while picking up bits that can help you write in a different way or improve your understanding of grammar, expand your vocabulary or give you a better picture of certain things that you can call on from your subconscious when you’re writing. I feel compelled to try to write stories as compelling and engaging as some of the books I have read and I’m still trying to outdo some of my role models.

Tell us three ways social media has helped your writing career?

Social media has helped my writing career in a number of ways. It gives me access to platforms where I can meet other writers and form short-term and long-term professional relationships. It also provides avenues to learn more about writing on relevant blogs and websites. It serves as an information hub where I learn about current writing contests, freelance writing opportunities, and publishing packages.

What do you love most about being an author?

Being an author gives me the opportunity to talk about my book and its subject matter on many online and offline platforms. It is a privilege to be regarded as an expert on a particular issue and a lot of people are willing to listen to what I have to say about terrorism in Nigeria and writing in general. It also opens doors to connect with other authors.

How easy was it for you to find a publisher and what was your experience like?

It was quite easy to find a publisher as I belong to an international writing platform that makes it easy to reach publishers. The experience was quite interesting as it opened my eyes to the inner workings of professional publishing. I had a consultant for every aspect of the book from interior design to marketing, cover creation, and final printing.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

My favourite authors are Mario Puzo, Nora Roberts, and Chimamanda Adichie. Mario Puzo’s books depict an intriguing yet undeniably dangerous time in history and his masterful storytelling transforms the Italian mafia from a criminal cartel to a folklore reference point. Nora Roberts writes with the ease of a graceful Olympic swimmer, she maintains the flow from beginning to the end. Chimamanda Adichie’s wit is as impressive as her courage and undeniable fondness for her roots and the stories that make Africa what it truly is.

What has writing taught you?

Writing shows me that I can live twice; in the moment and in retrospect. I can live three, four lives in the same story and end up dead in all of them. It taught me that I can’t control a story entirely without the characters getting in the way. Writing also showed me that words can make you feel things you didn’t even know existed. You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see but you can’t close your heart, your feelings know you better than anything else.

If you could change three things about Nigeria through your pen what would they be?

If I could change three things with my pen in Nigeria, I would say Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, and Corruption.

What do you love about The Sparkle Writers Hub?

The Sparkle Writers Hub is a platform that constantly seeks to improve writers by exposing them to the various aspects of the profession. It brings writers closer to their writing goals and encourages them to keep going despite the odds against them. Its mission is to equip writers as much as possible to enable them to maximise the rewards and opportunities available in the writing profession.

What’s your advice to somebody who loves to write but doesn’t know how to start?

It is important to remember that there will always be better writers out there but nobody else has lived your life and the world deserves to hear your story. Writing requires courage and sometimes, self-doubt is a difficult obstacle to surmount but we’re all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master and that includes you.

Akinola’s book, Operation Game Change, can be purchased from Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, Ebay, Indigo, WH Smith, and Amazon.

 

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 – “Nigerians read, but the writers need to work on getting their art across.” Ijeoma Ucheibe

Hey Sparkle Writers! It’s time for another #WriterSpotlight. Today we have Ijeoma Ucheibe, popularly known as Bagus Mutendi. She is a literary critic and she has some great advice for writers who want to publish books and write stories.

You’ll definitely enjoy this one!

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

Ijeoma was born in Kano. She speaks Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, a smattering of French, German and bad Spanish. She is also a corporate commercial lawyer who writes academic papers from time to time. She also runs a literary blog called Bagus Mutendi where she talks about literature and the arts with a focus on Africa. She’s also the publicist for the hugely popular #BookOnReview show which talks about African Literature and airs on Classic FM 97.3 (a prestigious radio station) every Saturday 9pm. She also talks books on Nigerian Info FM, Lagos on the #TheBookClub with Katherine Obiang (On-Air Personality, Nigerian Info FM/ Actress) and Abigail Anaba (author, Sector IV) on Thursdays 9.30 pm.

You’re known by the name Bagus Mutendi. What does that name mean?

It’s a childhood nickname I grew up with. It’s a mashup of Indonesian & Zimbabwe names and simply means precious warrior.

Have you always known that you will be a literary critic?

It wasn’t so obvious in the very early years, but as I negotiated through puberty, I knew that it would not be enough to just read books. I began to feel that I should have something to say about these books. As you grow older, your opinions about the things you feed your eyes on begin to expand, your tastes evolve, and where you feel something should have been written better, or not written at all, you find it hard keeping that feeling to yourself.

Can you tell us some of the best books you’ve ever read or critiqued?

This is a really difficult situation to be in, I’ll take books over chocolate any day, but since you asked, I’ll say; Dick Francis’ “Shattered”, Noviolet Bulawayo’s “We need New Names”, H. Rider-Haggard’s “King Solomon’s Mines.”

As a blogger who focuses mainly on the literary arts, can you tell us how you started on this journey?

This journey has been in my head for over 5 years but procrastination has always gotten in the way till March 2016 when I decided to get serious about it.

In recent times, we have seen a rise in African authors who are coming up with quality content for the African audience. What will you say is responsible for this development?

Over time, our narratives have evolved. The themes have changed, it’s not just about war and poverty anymore. The stories that millennials have to tell are different from those of older generations, and this helps for diversity in narration. There has been a proliferation in number of writers over the years, and the dense population of creatives in Africa has led to an increase in the quality. With more competition, you have no choice but to churn out a good story if you do not want to get swallowed up.

As a literary critic, what are the things you look out for in a book for it to qualify as a good book in your eyes?

For me, I look at the originality of the theme. Novelty appeals to me, and since I usually find my nose buried in lots and lots of books, the writing should either tackle a new theme, or offer a fresh perspective to an old theme before I can say I’m impressed. Beyond that, I can’t get past the first hint of a cliché. The African continent is overripe with an abundance of narratives, so I don’t see the need to waste my time on over-flogged storylines.

What will you say is the biggest challenge the writers and authors face in the country?

There are a number of prevalent challenges, but for me, the biggest challenge to surmount is locating a vibrant and active target audience. Much is made about the fact that “we don’t read”. In my opinion, Nigerians read, but the writers need to work on getting their art across.

What are some of the pitfalls writers need to avoid on their journey to becoming published?

Writers should eschew shoddy storytelling and editing as much as possible. No publisher wants to have anything to do with a creative who cannot properly put his work together. Again, writers should avoid being unnecessarily selective when it comes to the desired platforms on which they want to be published. Yes, some platforms come with bigger reputations, but what is most important is that your craft is out there.

The state of the publishing industry leaves a lot to be desired and many writers are opting to be self-published. What do you think can be done to change this narrative?

There needs to be a lot more sensitization on the relevance of publishing houses. Then again, publishing houses should make their deals and conditions more flexible. Sure enough, the economy is volatile, but Art should not always be sacrificed on the altar of convenience. It would also be helpful if publishers engage the services of scouts or agents, who would go out there and sniff around for good literature. That way, Talent meets Opportunity, because for the most part, that’s the major drawback; poor marketing!

What advice will you give to any writer who wants to become a bestselling author?

My words are few, but I hope they resonate: Keep pushing, strive to get your voice heard, speak even if no one appears to listen.

Should we expect a book from you in the nearest future?

Well, you never say never. Fingers crossed.

 

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.