#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. 

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#AkeFest16: A review of ‘Aya de Yopougon’ screen filming at Ake Festival

Every lover of literature in Nigeria knows that the Ake Festival is currently going on. If you didn’t know, where have you been? 

A lot of awesome activities have taken place since the festival officially kicked off a few days ago and we are so excited to see like minds coming together to celebrate African literature and arts. 

In this new #AkeFest16 series with Titilayo Adeoye, we will bring you highlights from the Ake Festival from Titilayo’s lens. Exciting right?

Today, Titilayo shares a review of the ‘Aya de Yopougon’ screen filming with us. Enjoy! 

Titilayo Adeoye

There is a buzz that comes when you’re in Ake Festival: the feeling that places you in a space, very imaginary, above other writers or literature lovers. That feeling of getting to meet people, taking selfies, eating, talking more and doing other sillies in the ambience of learning and exposure. 

So I was supposed to go see the movie with fellow volunteers, Adedayo, Móje, Stephanie, and Dimeji.  The session was a screening  of Aya, an animated movie/documentary by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie. I was seated with the all eccentric Adedayo who was sharing a drink with me. That boy can disturb for Africa.  He kept passing comments on everything he laid his eyes on.

The movie started with a very funny beer commercial where real people were drinking and all. The hall jeered in response. “What if we are what animations watch in the TV?” Adedayo reacted.

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I am actually leaving an information out.  Monday evening when we were sorting out drinks,  Ngugi Wa Thiong’O came to the Banquet Hall where I had the privilege to take a selfie (I like to feel myself sometimes, I was the only one who had an exclusive selfie with the legend).

While we were in the cinema hall, Ngugi, who Lola Shoneyin addresses as Baba, walked into the hall. News reached us that he ordered for the kind of palm wine that blurred the eyes of the characters of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. He asked to sit at the back and the bottom line is,  for the whopping second time, he was sitting with me!

Now that my important information is out of the way, let’s get back to the review. Aya is a reflection of other things that happen in Africa aside from war and Cote d’Ivoire was the setting. The story was one that showed the lives of different families with different affluence levels and the effect of beer, girls,  work and other factors on their lives and the society at large.

The animations were just apt and awesome.

Guess what?I had a selfie with Marguerite Abouet after the screen play.

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The night folded with the closure of the movie, the waking of a sleeping Adedayo and the rush to get our bags,  camera, volunteer shirt and other things. We walked our tired bodies to the hotel and we anticipate tomorrow’s activities. 

About Titilayo Adeoye

Titilayo Adeoye

Nigerian writer, Titilayo Adeoye is a graduate of Literature in English from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife. Bits of her creative gems have appeared or are forthcoming on African Writer, Kalahari Reviews, Avocet Journal #204 and elsewhere. She edits for Kraft Books, Ibadan, Nigeria.

Are you at the 2016 Ake Festival and you would love to share your experience with us? Send an email to thesparklewritershub@gmail.com. 

Attend this year’s edition of the Raise Your Voice Africa event

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Hey Sparkle Writers, from November 18-19 you will have the opportunity to join more than 600 forward thinking Africans, students, professionals and organizations who are on a journey to radically break the decades of African silence at the Raise Your Voice Africa (RYVA) event.

RYVA is the trans-cultural African event that inspires generations to share their stories boldly in literary spaces.

This year’s conference will focus on celebrating African literature and culture and building networks that empower African literary.

The two-day event will include:

Literary evenings, workshop sessions, theatre/ musical performances a mini- arts/book fair and keynote addresses,a literary evening of book and poem readings, fun one-on-one meeting with RYVA authors, a two-kilometer walk, and lots more.

The venue is HALL DE-Telavee, 60 Iwofe Road Port-Harcourt

We know this event is going to be off the hook and since we know you love African literature like we do, we know you’ll enjoy every bit of the event.

 

Sparkle Writers, this is a fantastic writing opportunity

 

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Etisalat Nigeria has announced for entries in the 2016 edition for Etisalat Prize for Literature and we think you should know about it.

Etisalat has been known to champion the cause for celebrating the richness and strength of African literature. If you know you have what it takes to win this please give it a try.

The Etisalat Prize is about creativity, excellence, empowerment and reward; it is about celebrating African diversity in very innovative ways through various forms of art, literature being one of them.

Only books by new writers published not later than 24 months before submission will qualify for entry. The publishers must be registered publishing houses, must have been incorporated for at least six years  with registered ISBN Number or the equivalent, and they must have published a minimum of six authors.

All entries should be accompanied by seven copies of the book entered along with an acceptance of their publicity terms. A publisher may submit a maximum of three books. The rules and guidelines for entry are available here.

All the best!

The Sparkle Interview – All you need to know about the Writivism Festival

NoViolet Bulawayo - 2014

We’re so excited about today’s Sparkle Interview because we are moving across Africa to the lovely Kampala, Uganda, where the 4th annual Writivism Festival is taking place. The festival is a 7-day event for all writers across the continent. Find out all you need to know about the event in our interview with the Writivism team. 

Hello. Can you please give us a brief insight into what Writivism Literary Initiative is all about?

Writivism was started in 2012, holding the first festival in 2013 to promote contemporary African Literature, support emerging writers and we have been doing this through workshops, mentoring, prizes, publishing, school visits and the festival. This year, we have even added residencies for writers to our set of activities. We are all about contributing to the building of a literary and arts infrastructure that will make it possible for writers and readers to all play their roles much more easily and conveniently.

So what is the Writivism Festival all about?

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The 4th Writivism Festival (scheduled for August 22 – 28, 2016) will exhibit to a Ugandan and African audience new books, in fiction, poetry, drama, photography and non fiction. 12 new titles will be launched and over 25 books will be featured in various ways. There will be readings, performances, panel discussions, a photography exhibition, a stage play, a film screening, school visits, various workshops, among other events around the theme: Restoring Connections. The festival is aimed at bringing to the fore pan African connections across language lines, generations, and art forms. What does Pan Africanism feel in the contemporary time? That will be the mood of the festival.

Who is this event for?

The event is for everybody, really. Literature and art are for everyone to consume (a terrible word to use), to enjoy, to benefit from. We take care, in our programming to ensure that the event speaks with and to various generations, people of various backgrounds, Africans, people interested in African arts, the writers, publishers and other professionals in the industry as well as those who really just want to enjoy stories, whether in print format, or digital, or even in audio forms. We aim at including everyone in the conversations. And we are very careful about the generational and age differences, so we have events specifically for teenagers for example, and for children. And of course those for adults.

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With all you’ve said, why should people attend the event? 

Wonderful question. People should attend because
a) they will have a great time:
b) it is important for them to be part of these conversations:
c) it is a moment for a wide pan African inter-cultural exchange, many new connections to make, new things to learn, and old things to reminisce about:
d) the festival activities are actually free and open for all: among many other reasons like having a chance to attend launches of new books, have copies autographed, listen to authors speak, watch a play, a film, look at beautiful photographs, all compressed into one week. What is there not to like?

What are the other attractions or highlights of the Writivism Festival?

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We will have specific sessions where emerging authors can pitch book / story ideas to a team of literary agents; there will be a panel on the Miles Morland Foundation Scholarships with past laureates there to talk about their experiences. We are working on wonderful and fun-filled awards events for two of our prizes, the Okot P Bitek and Short Story prizes (lots of wine will be on the house and entertainment as we wait to find out who wins) in collaboration with various publishers like Cassava Republic Press, The Mantle and Bahati. We will also have special book readings, and many autographing sessions and key note addresses by top African authors

To make the week-long set of literary and arts events a worthwhile experience for everyone, the Writivism Team have prepared a residential package for attendees. The package includes decent accommodation (within walking distance of the festival venue), airport / bus stop pick-up and drop-off. Attendees will live in the same residences as the festival speakers and will have access to all festival events.

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Early bird bookings are available at USD $500 from May 23 until June 24, 2016. To reserve a spot, send an email to info@writivism.com or visit their website for more details.