#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. 

#WriterSpotlight – “It’s lovely to know that even when I am gone, generations to come can get an insight into my mind.” Tolu Akinyemi

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Hey Sparkle Writers. It is time for one of our favorite segments on the the Sparkle Blog, #WriterSpotlight.  Much more than we could have imagined, this series has helped us gain insights into the life of many amazing writers. Today’s guest is no exception. 

He is an outstanding writer and we are honoured to feature him on this platform. If you do not like poetry, we’d ask that you look for any of Poet Tolu’s poems. You will definitely change your mind. 

Enough of the talking; let’s go straight to his interview. 

Hello Tolu, please introduce yourself to us.
My name is Tolulope Akinyemi, also known as Poet Tolu. I’m a writer and a poet and a few other things. I am a Nigerian who currently lives in the United Kingdom.

We did a little snooping around on your blog and found out that you are a writer, architect, and entrepreneur. Can you please take us through the process, how do you do all these simultaneously?
I write mostly at night and it helps that for some years till now, I’ve learnt to get by on a few hours of sleep daily. It also helps that I’m a single man without family commitments yet. My time is completely mine. I write by night and do the other things by day.

Do you think you were born to be a born writer?
As a kid I really wanted to learn to play the piano, but my parents couldn’t afford to buy one. I would arrange my mum’s cooking pans in a line on the floor, turning them into a kind of ‘percussion piano’ but it obviously wasn’t a real piano. The interest died out eventually, and I didn’t become a piano prodigy that I might have become if we had a piano in my home and I also had an opportunity to learn it. Perhaps people are born with talents, but I think what we call talent is usually opportunity that met interest (voluntary or induced) that became a passion. Growing up, we didn’t have a piano in my home, but we had books, tons of them and I read them all, including the ones in Yoruba, my native language. Did that contribute to me becoming a writer? I think so, and that lends some credence to my earlier hypothesis about opportunity, interest, passion and talent.

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You have written three books, which was the toughest for you to write?
The first one. Not the writing per se, but being new to writing and publishing. There was a slight learning curve with many things I needed to understand.

We know that you write poetry for those who seemingly ‘hate’ poems how well has this worked out?
The amount of positive feedback I get suggests it’s been working out well. Many people avoid the poetry genre not because they don’t enjoy reading but because they find it tedious, obscure and difficult to understand or relate to. Remove that, and they enjoy poetry almost as much as any other genre they love to read.

Did you have to train yourself to write simple yet profound stories or does it come naturally?
In a way, I had to learn to understand my audience and define what my own style would be.

We know you loved reading since secondary school in Akure when you smuggled library books so let’s play a little game;

Enid Blyton or Charles Dickens
Enid Blyton (because of the fond memories from my childhood)

Playing football or reading a novel during the weekends?
Tennis

Fiction or Poetry?
Fiction (interestingly)

How much did reading help shape your love for writing?
A lot. I always say every good writer must first be a good reader. It’s the love of reading that sparks the love for writing. It’s like opening the door before walking through.

What’s your take on the belief that ‘talk is cheap’?
It’s not a belief, I think it’s a fact. We may not be able to say the same for its consequences, but ultimately, speech is free.

Tell us two things social media doesn’t know about Poet Tolu.
I’ll tell you one. I have never tasted alcohol.

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How do you know that a particular story will be a hit or do you just write hoping that somebody will relate to it?
It’s hard to know how well people will accept a writing, but the chances increase with how well you understand your audience and what they love or want.

What do you love most about being an author?
Next to taking ‘selfies’ it’s one of the easiest ways to immortalise oneself. It’s lovely to know that even while you are gone, generations to come can get an insight into one’s mind. There’s also a ‘social prestige’ that comes with being an author. I once went for a medical checkup and the doctor got really excited when she learnt I am an author. She insisted I signed a flyer advertising my book, which I found amusing.

To get Tolu’s books go through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. They are also available in Nigeria through Konga, Jumia, Rovingheights, Okadabook

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 – Eniola Adenijiloves that writing gives her the power to weave beautiful stories

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It’s #WriterSpotlight time! Who is excited because we are. Our guest is the multi-talented Eniola Adeniji. According to her, hardcore dedication, tenacity, persistent and a drive towards success have helped her get to this point. You need to read her story. 

Hello Eniola, please introduce yourself to us.

My name is Eniola Ennmae Adeniji. I am a writer, a content developer, a Marketing Strategy Consultant, a Chef, Fashion Designer, a social entrepreneur and a farmer (Let’s just say I am an Industrialist).

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

I started writing when I was 16, that was 14 years ago. I believe with age comes a different outlook to life, people and things. And of course our experiences along the way and how we’ve been able to navigate through life and it’s numerous circumstances and indeed success, all this have shaped the way I write over the years.

Like you mentioned earlier, you are a writer, coach, marketing strategy consultant, industrialist, agropreneur. How in the world do you manage all these effectively?

I manage them basically by having little to no social life (Chuckles). It’s been a journey of hardcore dedication, tenacity, persistent and a drive towards success

Why did you choose Instagram as your primary platform?

Actually Facebook is my primary platform, I only share some of the things I share on Facebook to Instagram. So you’d find more of my writings on Facebook.

Do you think you were born to be a born writer?

I don’t know if I can say I was born to be a writer, I just know someone took the time to mentor me at the age of 13 by giving me two books a month to read and write my perception of it, and this went on till I was 21. That was the birth of my ability to write really.

What’s your take on the belief that ‘talk is cheap’?

Indeed talk is cheap. I’ve seen quite a number of people who aren’t anything close to what they write. But again, as much as most of what I write were drawn from my daily life experiences, as writers we are also sometimes inspired to write things that does not necessarily mirror who we are, but who we aspire to be. The goal is to keep working towards closing the gap between what you say, what you do and who you are. The goal is to go beyond saying to being.

Tell us two things social media doesn’t know about Eniola?

I am pretty shy outside social media and often avoid the camera. I love Cartoons 

Do you have an author crush?  If yes please tell us who?

Oh yes, quite a lot of them though (Chuckles). But I’d stick with John Grisham

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

Social media has helped my writing career by helping me to first built a platform, then an audience and on the long run referrals.

What do you love most about being a writer?

I love the ability to weave my own stories, which other people can connect with daily.

What is your advice to other writers who want to merge their talent and faith together but don’t know how to start?

Read. Every great writer is first an ardent reader. Find your voice and never do the smoke on screen with it (Own it) if you don’t, chances are you’d find it pretty hard to convince others to. Begin where you are, write your stories and faith, the more you write the better you will become.

What’s your ultimate goal as a writer?

Publish my books and raise a generation of kids who love reading and writing from early ages through my Mae’s Book Club.

 

#WriterSpotlight – ”I have to win the battle against my thoughts and imaginations. The best way I can is to write.” Adewale Olayemi

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Thursdays on The Sparkle Writer’s Hub are for #WriterSpotlight interviews. Who is ready for today’s interview?  

Our guest today is Olayemi, a poet who believes that writers are one of the most blessed people in the world. You’d find out why in his interview with us. 

Hello Olayemi. Please introduce yourself:

I’m Adewale Olayemi Mudashiru, a writer, poet and a budding author. I am also an undergraduate studying Chemical Engineering at University of Ilorin, Nigeria.

When did you start writing?

I started writing before I could give the meaning of writing, before I actually could say “Oh! Okay, so this is what writing is all about.’ At least I can say now, to some extent, that I understand what writing is all about, unlike then when I was so naive as a child. I can remember then I had a small notebook and I would just write randomly in it with a little touch of art, you know all these childish sketches and sort of.

I started writing officially around December 2016, officially in the sense that I had to upload on Instagram and share on other social media accounts. Actually my first write-up to be posted on Instagram was a eulogy. I lost someone so close then I had to share something on my social media accounts, subsequently other write-ups and poems were uploaded.

Can you tell us what inspired you to write?

Source of inspiration? I just write, the inspiration comes. It keeps coming, anywhere, any day, anytime. Sometimes I have to think like the characters I write about or assume to be in such a scenario which will determine the theme of my poem. Other times, the kind of day I had or activities I see during a typical day inspires me. I wrote a poem tagged “The Cry of an African Child” a while ago. I got the inspiration from a documentary I saw about the dilapidated state of IDPs and the ill-treatment of the children of African descent. In a nut shell, I could simply put the “World” at large is my greatest source of inspiration.

You seem to love words so much you even tagged your Instagram page as the ‘city of words’. Why is this?

Like I said earlier, I don’t have any difficulties with writing, words just keep coming. Words are like the blood that flows in my vein, the air I breath. It’s something I could see even in the dark, something I could feel when I am fast asleep. As a matter of fact I could just probably wake from sleep and the next thing I do is to pick up a pen and start writing. I could be in the midst of my friends having a cheerful discussion before I know it, I would drop lines, beautiful lines involuntarily. I feel like “I am a vessel of words; a warrior word is my lethal weapon; I use it to fight against the demons of thought and imagination”.

In your opinion, how can writers make a difference in the society through their skill?

Writers are actually blessed, blessed with the art of words. I personally feel writers are potters. They mould the world into a beautiful shape with their craft. “If you want to change the world, it starts from your room, pick up your pen and write, just write, write what you feel, how you feel, don’t conceal anything, bare it all”. Your words might probably be the drug someone out there needs to get well. The only way writers can make a difference in the society at large is by divulging their thoughts with beautiful words. This could actually quench the fire consuming a fellow out there.

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We know you are working on your first book. Can you give us a brief on what it is about and why readers should anticipate its release?

I actually have a lot in store, I might probably decide to drop a collection of poems, or an inspirational novel. I am yet to decide on which to drop first, but I think I will stick to the novel. I just have to bridge the stress of engineering with that of converting manuscript into printed copy. Whichever way it is going to be, readers should expect greatness and uniqueness. Greatness in the sense that I have actually put in a lot of work; I write with my body and soul, everything. Uniqueness in the sense that I have my style. My style is my style; it is peculiar to me. I just can’t wait to share this greatness with the world.

People write for different reasons, why do you write?

I write because I have to win the battle against my thoughts and imaginations, and the best way I can is to write. It’s overwhelming! I have to free my mind and soul. There is a need to empty the river of thoughts which flows in my mind via my words. I write because I just can’t stop writing.

Can we do something fun? Fiction, non-fiction or poetry?

Anything, in as much as I would be free of a burden, and it will bless the world.

Reading a good book or listening to great music?

I would prefer reading a good book. I read a lot, hardly go a day without reading. “Readers are leaders” they say and I choose to be nothing else but a great leader. There is joy in being intellectually sound. Music is not bad too, but I am not really a lover of music.

Writing or football?

I am actually a bore when it comes to football. I am not a football type. I don’t have a favourite club and if I am right, it’s been about 4 years since I mindfully saw a football match. Writing, I can’t stop!

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

Everything, Sparkle Writer’s Hub makes writing even more interesting and gives the zeal to write more. They make it seem like a surmountable task, which in actual sense it should be. But probably because there is lack of motivation, upcoming writers see it as the otherwise. I have screenshots of your daily quotes in my gallery, I read them to feel delight.

What do you love most about writing?

The ability to touch hearts with the craft of words. 

What’s your advice to upcoming writers who are scared to share their talent with the world?

My advice to upcoming writers who are scared to share their talent with the world is that they should overcome their fear and bless the world with their talent, otherwise the blessings in the world would be less their “untapped talent”

What’s your ultimate goal as a writer?

My ultimate goal is to never stop writing, to improve on myself and to bless the world with my writings.

#WriterSpotlight – “I chose to mend broken hearts and build soul bridges that have been broken back to God.” Itunu Taiwo

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Hey Sparkle Writers! Today’s #WriterSpotlight is absolutely amazing and that’s for lack of a better word. We have a writing powerhouse on The Sparkle Writer’s Hub today. She tells beautiful stories in the most unique and real way. Her name is Itunu Taiwo She’s a writer, blogger and pharmacist.

If you’ve been looking for someone to give you detailed advice on how to grow a blog community Itunu’s interview is exactly what you need.  We don’t want to continue talking just read up. 

Hello Itunu, please introduce yourself.

My name is Itunu Taiwo and I love to see myself as a modern day woman with Christ-fashioned values. I love Jesus and I aspire to be like him every day. I also love ice-cream, vintage and all things cute. During the day, I work as a practicing pharmacist while I love to read and write during my spare time.

We did a little background check so we know you’ve been writing since you were 9. At that what inspired you to start writing?

During my childhood days, I had a best-friend who brought some hand-written stories by her cousin to my house. After reading them, I felt I could try something similar. So I would draw pictures to illustrate my stories as much as I could while structuring white stories I’d gleaned from Enid Blyton. I also loved watching Tales by Moonlight and other shows that aired on TV back then. Before I knew it, the writing thing chose to stay and I discovered I found joy creating new worlds, scenes, characters and bringing my imagination to life.

So do you think you are a born writer?

Haha, I think it’s safe to say I was born a writer.

How has your writing evolved over the years?

Firstly, the more I spend time with God, my writing keeps taking shape. Intimacy with Him blooms into all kinds of expressions and writing is the best way I can express His love. I also observed that the more I read more books, the more my writing evolves.

You’ve grown a community via your blog. Can you give tips to bloggers who are struggling with this?

Patience and consistency are sisters. Over the years I learned this myself while writing. People appreciate consistency especially as a blogger or they’ll think you’re unserious. It’s also good to have a niche that people can use to identify you. My readers associate my blog with the following theme: God, Love and Life.

So whatever I’m providing to my readers, be it in stories or articles, all are centralized around this. You can’t be a jack of all trades. Also, your content must be good and be generous with it too. I realized people were able to trust me enough to buy my stories because they’d read stories from me in the past and they knew what to expect. These days, there are many things vying for people’s attention. So that you don’t get lost in the crowd, ensure you let people know how much they need what you want to give, and they’re willing to pay for it.

 

In your opinion, how can writers make a difference in the society through their skill?

Words are powerful. They can either make or marr a person. Now imagine weaving those words to reach the soul. That’s a powerful weapon if you ask me. I chose to mend broken hearts and build soul bridges that have been broken back to God. I chose to shed light and make people see the light in whatever darkness they may be dwelling in.

It’s left to each and everyone of us what we wish to do with our writing skill. Just remember you’ve got a powerful weapon that must not waste.

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Why do you write?

I write because it’s the perfect way I know how to express myself fully without restriction or inhibition.

Which would you choose;

  • Fiction or non fiction? Fiction
  • Reading a good book or listening to great music? Both!
  • Writing or pharmacy? Writing!

What’s your definition of having a great weekend?

A good book in hand or my tablet, tea or coffee and chocolate cake while I’m wrapped nicely in a warm blanket. A good movie (science fiction or drama) could come later in the evening though.

How has your love for books helped your writing?

The more I read books, the more I tend to pay more attention to vocabulary use, tense structure, body language, character development, benefits of research amongst many interesting things. Reading is very vital for a good writer.

What do you love most about writing?

The ability to create characters and make people fall in love with these imaginary friends of mine. It sounds like a Lego movie I know. And the beauty of this is I can express something vital through each story fascinates me. I don’t think I remain the same after I’m done writing a story.

What’s your advice to upcoming writers who are scared to share their talent with the world?

Just do it anyway! Perfection is a journey and this journey begins with a story. If you don’t begin, you’ll never have a story to tell. That in itself is a story!

What’s your ultimate goal as a writer?

To be a lighthouse with my stories and to take joy in the fact that I lived building God’s name above mine during my time on Earth.

We told you Itunu is awesome! If you would like to purchase any of her books, please click the links below;

#WriterSpotlight – “My book is not the end but the beginning of my journey.” Jolaade Philips

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Hey Sparkle Writers! Can we just say that this possibly is one of the best interviewees we’ve had in a while. Jolaade is deep, real and has so much wisdom to share with other writers in a little less than one year. 

His advice to other writers and the reason why he loves The Sparkle Writers Hub is just beautiful. You should read it! 

Hello Jolaade please introduce yourself

I’m Taiwo Jolaade Philips; Pharmacist by day, writer by night.

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

Well, I started before I started writing. What do I mean by that?

I had a diary when I was younger and I remember I used to write letters to God, it was easy for me to write out my feelings, fears and insecurities. I didn’t know I was writing then.  I just thought I was being normal. Writing isn’t normal, it’s the craziest thing ever! Having to write out your emotions and crazy ideas in a way that the person reading it is drawn to your world and feels almost the way you feel is something that isn’t normal.

I started writing ‘officially ‘September 2016. Officially, because that was when I started making a conscious effort to write, after which I started sharing my works on Instagram.

How rewarding has writing been?

Very much rewarding. Primarily in terms of exposure and also financially. Lol

And writing has been my safe haven. It’s the way I communicate, heal and help.

Do you think you were born to be a writer?

Hmmmm, born to be a writer?  I don’t know.  I was born to reach out to people and writing just happens to be a good channel to do that. But I can’t do without writing.

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You just wrote a book that is on amazon and Okada books. Take us through that journey.

When I started I sincerely didn’t know what I was writing about.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a book because I was scared.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t scared of writing, I was scared of acceptance.  What if nobody likes my writing?  What if someone reads the book and calls it trash? What if I don’t get to help or reach out to anyone anyone with my writing?  I had so many what “ifs”. But I didn’t want uncertainty to be something that would stop me.  I kept saying to myself that “if anything is going to try and stop me from writing, it should be something I can see, something palpable and not what I’m not sure about.”

So I gave it a shot, I started writing out my thoughts. After I wrote the first draft. I was happy and I thought that was the book. Till I read through and found out that I’d only written a quarter of the book because I had so many things to blot out. I was working on two books simultaneously but I had to drop the other for “Eden”.

I thought EDEN was just about me pouring my pains and my thoughts until I started getting feedback from people who read the book and told me how it encouraged them. It taught me one thing: our scars are like sign posts to keep people from going through what we went through to obtain those scars. Even if the pain doesn’t go away, it can still be a miracle for someone else.

I edited the book a lot of times and gave it to a friend who was also a writer to help read through and edit.

Did you ever feel like quitting during the process of writing, if yes how did you handle it?

Oh yes, I sure did. And how did I handle it?  I just wrote about how I felt at that moment and what I was feeling… So I was writing about not wanting to write.  I didn’t stop writing, I still wrote even when I didn’t feel like. The first step to fighting the urge to quit writing is to answer the question of why you feel like quitting. And when you know why, you write about that feeling.

How has the reception for your book been?

It’s been good, especially with the feedback, they’ve been mind blowing. It’s not like I’m a best seller, but there’s a feeling of fulfillment that comes with knowing that what you wrote has impacted someone you might never get to meet. It’s not something that happens to everyone. That feeling is peculiar to writers and speakers.

How much did reading help shape your love for writing?

A whole lot. I read a lot of books and I can’t go through the day without reading something posted by a writer or blogs.

Reading kind of helps you to see how little your world is and how big the whole world is.  It widens your imagination and stretches your creativity. I believe that readers make better writers because they’ve existed in different worlds and have experienced a lot of emotions.

The more I read, the more I wanted and needed to write.

Reading was helping me grow and fix somethings, and I didn’t just want to be helped I also wanted to be the one helping someone and I could only do that by writing.

Tell us two things social media doesn’t know about Jolaade Philips?

  1. My favorite color is Black
  2. I find it hard to write without music.                                                                                   

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

  1. Exposure
  2. Consistency
  3. Social media gave meaning to my writing.                                                                          

What do you love most about being an author?

The fact that people are made better one way or the other by what I’m writing.

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

Amazon via Createspace has made self publishing very easy. It wasn’t something very difficult though.

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How has writing this book changed your life?

Writing EDEN made me realize that every pain I feel in life is not wasted. It taught me to pay attention to tiny details in life. Also, now I know that I can do anything I want to do, if I really want to do it. And this is why EDEN is not the end but the beginning of a journey.

Who are your favorite authors?

Wow! I have about 4

  1. Rupi Kaur
  2. Pierre Jeanty
  3. Tolu Akinyemi
  4. Alicia Cook

What did you love most about writing Eden?

Ermmm.  The sincerity and openness of the book. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sincere about my feelings and emotions the way I was when I was writing Eden. I still find myself reading the book over and over again .

What do you love about The Sparkle Writers Hub?

The way the team is so much interested in helping writers grow and also their Instagram posts (nuggets). They are so encouraging, I have their pictures all over my screenshot folder.

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

Oh!  Great!

When people tell me they love writing but don’t know how to start, this is what I tell them :

To love writing is like having a crush on someone, but never confessing your feelings because you fear rejection.  The truth is, writing is the crush that never says no, all you have to do is just act.  If you love writing so much then you have to prove it by acting out your love and how do you do that? You write!

Writing (or words) embrace the author, that is why people say that the best way to grow in writing is to keep writing because overtime the words become you and you find it hard to break free.

A lot of us don’t write because we fear rejection, but people don’t know that the story you’re trying to tell the world is your story. No one tells it better than you do.  Even if you don’t get validation from your audience, it simply means that they aren’t the right audience, keep writing till you find your audience.

I don’t like Opera, but does that make people who sing Opera terrible? Of course not!  The people who love Opera appreciate Opera.. I’m a wrong audience for Opera.

This how you start writing :

  1. Clear the table
  2. Pick a blank sheet
  3. Get your pen
  4. Write.

 

#WriterSpotlight – From filling the pages of her notebooks to blessing lives with her words this is Omobola Falolu’s story

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Sparkle Writers, are you ready for today’s #WriterSpotlight series?

Omobola Falolu is our guest for today and we love that she ignored all her fears and she is building her writing career. You would love this interview. 

Hello Omobola please introduce yourself

My name is Falolu Omobola Marian, a graduate of biochemistry from Olabisi Onabanjo University Ago-iwoye Ogun State, the first child from the family of seven, an indigene of Ogun State but I reside in Lagos with my parents. I’m self employed.

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

It’s over a year but all along I never saw myself as a writer until late last year and I’ve learnt that what you’re not you’re not! We can’t force some things into being and I’ve learnt never to give up.

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

I can’t remember any for now but I’ve always known that writing isn’t given to all and the power of language goes as far as saving lives

Where do you get inspiration from?

Almost everything inspires me, the things I see, hear, do, people around… But my major source of inspiration is God.

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

Sharing my work on Instagram took a whole lot of courage. I got to a point in my life where I didn’t just want to keep filling the pages of my notebook alone but also bless lives with it. It was at this point I started sharing my write-ups. I had my fears but I wasn’t going to allow it have its way.

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

I would give up fear and procrastination

Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies?

I love singing

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

No, I’ve never been rejected as a writer.

What is your ultimate dream as a writer?

My ultimate dream as a writer is to bless lives, make people understand that there’s more to life than the pain and the terrible experiences they’ve at some point encountered, and that we can only make it together.

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

I became a reader. I never loved reading, somehow books were just boring to me but overtime it changed, I got better at it, gave my heart to it, penned down new words, and consciously checked my dictionary, and Merriam Webster dictionary game has really helped also

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

I would be a doctor, the kind that heals the emotional part of people

#WriterSpotlight – “If you believe that this is what you are meant to do, stay the course.” Vivian Kay

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It’s Thursday and we have another exciting #WriterSpotlight interview for you. Today’s guest is Vivian Kay, author of two books. Apart from the great advice she gives, Vivian let’s us in on some secrets social media doesn’t know about her. You don’t need us to tell you that this is an interview to read!

Hello Vivian, please introduce yourself to us.

Vivian Kay is my pen name. I’m a Christian fiction writer, a mother, wife, and therapist living in Canada. When I’m not writing, I enjoy playing scrabble, dancing and snuggling up with a good book.

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

I started writing at the age of twelve. I now know the type of stories I want to tell. I have also gained confidence in my ability to tell them in a unique voice.

You are a faith writer, how easy is it to write based on this theme?

I think when you’re passionate about what you do, it’s more fun than work. I must say that it’s still hard work. But, as a faith writer, I also see this role as a ministry. I believe that anyone whom God calls to a task, He equips.

How rewarding has writing in this niche been?

Christian fiction is a niche market. Most Nigerian Christians only read non-fiction Christian books. The good thing is that impacting lives for God’s glory matters most to me. I’m happy when readers tell me how my stories have helped them in their faith walk.

Do you think you were born to be a writer?

On some days, I think so. I’ve always been fascinated by words. For some writing is a natural gift and like other gifts, it needs nurturing. That’s where the dedication, perseverance, and willingness to learn from others comes in.

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 You have written two books, which was the toughest for you to write?

I would say Secret Places because of the themes explored in the book. I wasn’t sure how people would respond to a story about Christians who were swapping their spouses.  

 How much did reading help shape your love for writing?

As an early reader, I fell in love with stories and their power to entertain and educate. To be a good writer, you should read across genres. My writing is stronger for it.  

What’s your take on the belief that ‘talk is cheap’?

I have a ‘let’s get things done’ personality so excessive talking about issues without a concrete action plan tires me.

Tell us two things social media doesn’t know about Vivian Kay?

Vivian loves straight forward people. She’s also an aspiring Karaoke queen.

How do you know that a story will be a hit or do you just write hoping that somebody will relate to it?

I just write the stories that come to me.

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

It has helped me connect with readers, other writers and brought professional opportunities my way.

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What do you love most about being an author?

It’s the moment when I hold my books for the first time. I get the “At Last” feeling.

What is your advice to other writers who want to merge their talent and faith together but don’t know how to start?

Pray and ask God for guidance. Some dreams need you to exercise faith. If you believe that this is what you are meant to do, stay the course and enjoy the process. 

Kindly give us information on where readers can get your books.

The purchase links for Secret Places and Knit Together are listed on this page on my author website 

I love to hear from my readers. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any question or comment.

You can connect with Vivian on her social media platforms; FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

 

 

#WriterSpotlight – “You would never improve if you want to stay in your cocoon of safety.” Unyime Ivy King

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We read Unyime Ivy King’s interview and we were blown away by the amount of depth one person can offer. If you are looking to publish a book soon her advice on publishing and distributing your books will come in handy. 

Sparkle Writers, enjoy Unyime’s insightful interview with us.

Hello Unyime please introduce yourself.

I am a passionate God lover and an anointed scribe who sees my writing as an important calling and a ministry which enables me to  function as an influencer and change agent in my society. I am author and publisher, wife of one husband and mother of four. I am a passionate advocate for a return to positive family values using the social media platform actively to express my  passion and beliefs, because I believe that the family is an important unit of society which helps to transmit culture between generations, and that stable societies, emerge from strong, stable and positive family experiences. I do not only write for leisure, I see it as a calling to serve. 

I also am the MD of HTT Communications, a communications/publishing firm and ED Communications at Protection Plus Services Ltd, the parent company which is co-owned by my husband and me. Recently, I unveiled my not for profit organisation- SOW&G (The Save Our Women and Girls Foundation), which is poised to provide mentorship for women and girls, support credible NGOs and train women and girls in the area of skills acquisition. This we had started informally last year, before the inauguration. We were able to train over 110 women in 5 different skills areas, hence empowering them to be economically viable and productive citizens of their society. We are planning a second and third editions of that training. These are my areas of passion. I happen to be a UN Volunteer on the platform of the International Association of World Peace Advocates (IAWPA) and also an ambassador of the Nigerian Army School of Public Relations (NASPRI).

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

I started writing as a young girl in primary school. My siblings and I were exposed to books really early in life and the interest caught on. Sadly enough the many stories I wrote on countless notepad were never published until my novel, Burning Hurt was published first by AuthorHouse UK in 2013 and I published a West African edition in 2014.  

One powerful thing I have learnt is that you get better at writing by writing. You can read others and learn, but your style is unique to you and your writing  voice, if you dare to use it, should be recognizable. It’s a function of consistency and exercise. 

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

I will never forget an incident that happened one holiday when I was a child in the primary school or elementary school as it was called. We had this dear uncle, my father’s older brother (he’s late now), at whose house we spent a lot of time. One day, his oldest son who was studying law at the time, and also happens to be my oldest paternal cousin, asked us all to gather for a mini concert. We had cousins who had come into Calabar from Lagos, including my siblings too. My cousin gave us different writing assignments and he would read each person’s write up out and grade. When he began to read my own, he paused and shook his head, and kept saying, “Unyime Ikpe” (my maiden name) and kept shaking his head, while commending my writing. That is one memory I have kept and cherished long after I have forgotten what topic I wrote about, because it warms my heart, just remembering. 

It sort of opened my eyes to the realization that I could write, and that words have power. I saw the effect of what I’d written on the people gathered there. That spurred me on. 

Where do you get inspiration from?

I get inspired by everything, especially intelligent conversations with others, and the things happening around me in society. Because my interest is more about issues that have to do with family, any family related incident is a trigger for me – family relationship dynamics, relationships generally, family values etc. Any experience or encounter could trigger an urge to write. For instance, a failed relationship story a friend shared with me while I was serving, provided the inspiration for my novel and the other books I’m working on, are motivated by family stories and life issues generally. 

 

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You are the author of ‘Burning hurt’. What inspired you to write this book?

Burning Hurt was inspired by the need to show the cause and effect of sowing wild oats – especially by the men – and also highlight the problems that arise from dysfunctional family relationships. The family is a miniature society and when it malfunctions, society malfunctions too. I wanted the story of Burning Hurt to capture the fact that for every action we take or every choice we make, there is a corresponding consequence or consequences. 

What salient lessons did publishing a book (especially in Nigeria) teach you ?

I learnt that one really has to be prepared to work extra hard because the distribution channels for marketing one’s book are really not there and as an author you need to push your work or nobody will do it for you. 

Putting one’s book in a bookshop does not really work because it’s a very slow process. But you just have to do it for the physical presence. Direct sales is a better method for marketing and of course, leveraging on the free social media platforms as much as possible. 

Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies?

I love to experiment with dishes, watch good movies (I love thrillers and epic movies), travel. 

Some write for fortune, others for fame, why do you write?

I write because I see my writing as a personal ministry to my society. I want to use my words to influence my world positively, one person per time. If in the process of doing that, fame and fortune come, I’d gladly embrace them because I have some understanding that keeps me firmly grounded. I do not get carried away. 

Another lesson is that you have to monitor the whole process 100% if you do not want to see errors that would make your skin crawl. Sometimes you put in your best to push the process, but the final product may end up a disappointment. It’s tedious, really. 

What is your ultimate dream as a writer?

My ultimate dream is to spread the influence of my writing beyond the shores of this country such that my words are not only affecting people in my country, but also reaches across borders to affect someone who needs to read me. I also want to know that at the end of my life, I said all I was supposed to say. 

 

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How has your writing evolved over the years, did you do anything specific to make improvements? 

When I look at some of the things I wrote many years back, which I was praised for, to the things I write now, I realize that I have come a long way. Reading is a childhood love, which I still hold on to, and one way that has helped my writing improve. 

I read good books by established and credible writers especially the works of veterans like Chinua Achebe, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Flora Nwapa and of course contemporary writers like Chimamanda Adichie. I do my best to read articles and on social media follow handles that share things about good writing or what makes a good writer. I use Google well as a study tool too. 

Asides that, I registered for some programs at the School of Media and Communication of the Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, called Media Enterprises (CME) and Advanced Writing and reporting skills (AWARES). Part of the course module involved creative writing and this helped me a lot. I still plan to go back to do more programs that would help with my writing. 

Do you Google yourself? Please tell us why

I do because I want to see what kind of digital prints I have left and also to see what the progress has been over time. I don’t compare myself with anyone because the Bible, which is my manual for life, makes me understand that it’s unwise to do so. Instead I compare myself with my purpose. When I Google me, I can see a trail of what I have done and also see how I can keep getting better at being me. 

What’s your advice to writers who have not shared their work with the world because they are scared of what people will say?

I would repeat the words of a very wise man, who happens to be my husband, “The only way to get out of trouble, is to enter it.” 

I would advise them, “Do not be scared to share because someone out there needs that information you are hoarding.”  You would never improve if you want to stay in your cocoon of safety. Talk to a writer you admire, who is doing what you wish you could and get counsel, get mentorship. Even if they are not within reach, buy their books and read their thoughts, read articles they’ve shared and so on. There’s so much potential in you. Bin the fear and step into the waters with both feet. You will figure a way out if it looks like you are drowning. If you never dare to try, you’d never know how far you can go, or what you are capable of doing.