#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 – “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 – “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 – “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. 

 

#WriterSpotlight – “Write. Don’t worry about if it will get published or not. Just write.” – Abimbola Dare

 

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For somebody who has been rejected a number of times, today’s guest proves beyond reasonable doubt that rejection is never the end of the road for a writer. Would you believe us if we tell you that she has authored two best selling books and has another two in the works? This is Abimbola’s interview with us. Read and be inspired!

Hello Abimbola please introduce yourself.

Abimbola Dare is first a believer of the Lord Jesus Christ, a writer and an author of four books (two are published and two are in the process of being released). I am also an anointed speaker, a playwright and screenwriter. I am also a mother, a wife to an amazing man and an IT professional. I wear many hats by God’s grace and grateful for them all.

You have been writing for about 11 years, can you tell us one profound lesson these years of experience has taught you:

That you need to always improve on your writing, and constantly churn out material. You cannot afford to be complacent or else you will soon become irrelevant, and that soon affects your skills as a writer. I have also learnt the importance of patience. A good book can take many years to be written and as someone who likes to be engaged with her readers, it is tough to balance the incubation period (when I am writing) with the period when the final product is ready to be published.

Two of your novels have become bestsellers at different points since their release, what do you think is the reason for this?

I am not sure to be honest. I’d like to think that-apart from God’s grace- the themes which I write about (marriage and relationships) resonates with a lot of people. I also try to write stories that are filled with suspense, which generally garners a lot of interest.  I know that a lot of people have recommended my novels to others, so word of mouth advertising has been very beneficial (thank you to all my reader-friends, as I like to call them).

Since you started writing in 2006, how rewarding has the experience been?

It’s been a rewarding, humbling experience to be recognized for my work, to be nominated for awards and to even win a few! My greatest and most rewarding experience was when I got feedback from a reader that one of my books helped save her marriage.  I have received several of such comments from readers, and each time I get such emails/ comments, I get a sense of satisfaction that words cannot fully explain.

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You specialize in fiction writing. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I try to be as original as I can be but at the same time, I have to understand that I write a genre that is not familiar to everyone, and so, I tend to keep my stories simple but filled with enough conflict to keep you wanting more- while still managing to deliver the true message of God’s love.

What’s the best way to market your books?

Word of mouth! It’s been my greatest marketing tool. I also use social media (Facebook, Instagram,and sometimes, paid advertising).

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

Hard to say. Maybe my day job, but I love that too!

Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies?

I love to cook, hang out with my family. I love to eat out (Thai food is my favorite), and just chill out with my friends whenever we can take time out of our busy lives to meet. I have a passion for stage and I am trying to get out more and watch stage plays. I read a lot of books (a mix of Christian fiction and secular fiction).

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

Oh yes! I have been rejected many times. I have sent a number of query letters to agents and gotten a mix of standard rejection letters to more bespoke: ”We like your writing, but your work is not for us” type of letters.

What is your ultimate dream as a writer?

To see my novels on every book shelf in the country and in the world. To know that my novels have saved a life, a home, a destiny. To know that my books have changed lives and altered destinies for the better.

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How long on average does it take you to write a book?

A year.

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

I attend creative writing courses and read a lot of books on the craft. I am currently on a creative writing programme that has taught me how to write short stories and now, I have written three short stories (which was an area I would never have touched in the past!)

What’s your advice to upcoming writers?

  • Write. Just write. Don’t worry about if it will get published or not. Don’t be afraid of what people would say about your work.  Just get up and go. Do it. Do it now.  Start a fiction series on your blog, submit your work to platforms where you can get feedback. If you have been called to write Christian fiction, treat it as just that: a calling – answer it.
  • Read a lot of books. Books are the greatest writing teachers. Utilize them.
  • Engage on a writing course if you can, get feedback (through a critique circle, or through a writing workshop).
  • Find a writing mentor and learn from them.

 

#WriterSpotlight – “To win at writing, you must always believe in yourself. No one started out perfect.” Umari Ayim

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When it comes to writing, Umari is on  a roll. Today she shares with us her story and how she has been able to achieve so much. Enjoy today’s #WriterSpotlght

Hello Umari. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a lawyer and arbitrator by day, and a writer by night. I was born in Cross River state, raised in Niger and Lagos states. I currently live in Abuja where I have just established my law firm, Godel Aten Consultants and Solicitors, a non-litigation commercial law firm. I am an avid reader and spend most of my day scouring the Internet for information. I enjoy long walks in parks and the occasional hang out with my friends.

What inspired your love for writing?

Books. I was encouraged to read by my parents from an early age. Being a quiet shy child, I found it easier to create my own friends and world from the colourful stories of Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Sir H. Rider Haggard and Ken Saro Wiwa. I grew to have an insatiable appetite for books and discovered African and African American writers like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Acheba, Mariama Ba, Peter Abrahams, Camara Laye, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Ayi Kwei Armah among others, while in Secondary School. All these writers, along with poets like J.P Clark and Okot p’Bitek inspired my love for writing.

Since you are a lawyer and an arbitrator, how do you find time to write?

It can be challenging fitting writing into my schedule as a lawyer, but writing has been a part of me for so long that it is hard to escape the urge when it comes. However, I find that the nights offer the silence necessary for my imagination to run wild, making writing easy. Once it is day, I am back to being a lawyer.

You have published seven books, two in print and five e-books. How was the experience?

Rewarding. I learned many things along the way. I have learned that as a writer, you must be open to exploring new ideas and new ways to do things. After my first book Twilight at Teracotta Indigo, I found it troubling that many book readings I had attended to discuss the book had a few young people in attendance. My audience was usually between the age-range of 30 and 60.

I discussed this issue with a close friend and decided that I would go into blogging to connect with younger readers. I put all of my energy into blogging, sharing stories three times a week. I quickly found out that writing for young people came with its own challenges. We are in a jet-age and a time when young people are inundated with information and entertainment from all angles. To keep their attention, I had to be as creative as possible. I changed a lot of things, including my writing style. My dialogues became longer, infused with bits of information culled from the day-to-day drama found on social media. I think I got their attention after that. Now, my audience has more young people than it did when I first started out.

Also, sharing my stories on my blog made it easier to get feedback, praise and criticism alike, which in turn helped my writing.

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Congratulations on your soon to be released book Guardian of the Fall. Tell us about the book and why you decided to write it.

Thank you. Guardian of the Fall is a story that deals with the themes of love, betrayal, change versus tradition, problem of identity, corruption, discrimination and the role of nature in the creation myths of different cultures in the world. The story is set in the city of Lagos, the village of Agbokim in Cross River State and Kenya.

It is centered on the Guardian of the Agbokim Falls, a mysterious spirit that lives in the forest around the Fall, its messenger Erom and Ken, a young engineer from Lagos whose company has been commissioned to build a nature themed resort around the Fall by the state government.

I have always been intrigued with the question why many creation myths are around the phenomena of the physical world which we know as nature. My deep interest in religion and history led me to the conclusion that early man lived in such awe of his natural environment that his idea of the divine was inspired from what he observed around him. This is why gardens, mountains, rivers and the elements always found their way into many creation stories. Guardian of the Fall draws parallels with creation myths around the world, focusing on the Kikuyu creation myth, those of the world’s major religions and that of the Guardian.

Guardian of the Fall also touches on the subject of environmental preservation. The areas of Cross River where the story is set and other Niger Delta states have mangrove forests spanning 36,000 km2. This mangrove concentration is the largest in Africa and the third largest in the world. However, due to the challenges of illegal logging and encroachment, deforestation has continued at alarmingly high rates.In my book, the Guardian is the retributive force against this problem, but it is also a call for the government to put more effort into curbing the activities of loggers in the mangroves.

Lastly, the Guardian with its many forms is also my own way of conceptualizing the protective force that keeps human life in balance. Unlike anything representing the divine in many creation myths, the Guardian is neither male nor female.

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What’s the most important lesson writing has taught you?

It has taught me to be patient, to be open to learning and to believe in myself no matter what.

What answer will you give a budding writer who desperately needs to start making money from writing?

I will say, do your homework properly. Research your audience, know what they like, be determined and be very realistic. You are not going to make millions overnight. Focus on building your brand. Take advantage of social media to give your work visibility. Share your stories with established writers and ask them to share with their followers. Build your own platform and remain dedicated to building a following of loyal readers who will in turn buy your work.

You have recorded a lot of successes since you started writing, what will you say is responsible for this?

I am a very determined person. Once I set my mind on something, I make sure to achieve it. I am also very confident in my abilities and rarely ever allow myself be distracted by people or circumstances.

In five years, where do you see yourself?

I see myself at the top of my writing and legal game. I see myself winning more awards and recognition for my books. I also see myself influencing the lives of young people positively.

What should every budding writer know about the business of writing?

It is one of the most precious gifts given to man with the power to shape thought. To win at writing, you must always believe in yourself. No one started out perfect. It took countless mistakes for many good writers to get where they are today. Be prepared for the rejection. Many publishers will tell you your work is not good enough for them. That is not an indictment of your abilities. It is just life’s way of building you up. Keep working on your craft and it won’t be long until you are reaping the rewards.

 

#WriterSpotlight – Samson Egbums uses his books to solve problems

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Hello Sparkle Writers. We have another young writer on today’s #WriterSpotlight series. He is also an author and a speaker. We absolutely love his fighting spirit and you will see that clearly when he tells us his reply to a critique about his stories.

We love the fact that young people are taking charge of the life and career so fearlessly. Enjoy our interview with Samson.

Please tell us about yourself briefly

Speaker Samson Egbums is a writer and a certified young mentor from the Institute of Mentoring and Career Coaching Nigeria (IMCCN) and the International Association of Professions Career College. I also runs the Speak, Write and Earn Community on Facebookwith 3,300 writers and speakers.

How did you discover writing?

In the early days as a science student, I was often selected to represent my department in essay competitions, because my writing style attracted good marks. From there, I started writing my own story book which ended in the waste bin, because no one was ready to finance the publishing.

As soon as I registered on the social media sites, I saw it as an opportunity to start baring my thoughts daily. I started with short stories.

You have written 5 books and you are only 20 years old. Can you take us through this incredible journey?

I am a very different writer, one who doesn’t just wake up and start writing a book. My books are focused on solving a challenge. As soon as I discover a leakage; I utilize my writing skills to get it plastered. The journey of five books isn’t easy. I had tough times when I had to postpone due to power supply and some other unforeseen occurrences, but I feel fulfilled with what I have achieved today.

Here are the titles of my books; Keep it Simple, keep it Smart (Modus Operandi of successful people), Talent is cheaper than salt, How to be a peak performer in 168 hours, The Self help Guide, The 7 mistakes of the young people

What is the best part of writing a book; the writing process or seeing the finished work?

The best part of writing is seeing your thoughts and ideas packaged into products. For instance, raw rice has little beauty until it is cooked and served.

What’s the one thing that can make you quit writing?

Nothing can make me hang my pen like a retired footballer hangs their boot.

What’s the worst thing anyone has said about your article?

When I started, someone said it to my face that the stories I tell are unreal. I had to read more storytelling books.

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Will you ever retire from writing?

Writing has no retirement age, as long as I live, I will keep writing daily.

What are your thoughts about the reading culture in Nigeria?

In Nigeria, educational books are seen as the only books students should read, which affects how they reason and how creative they are.

Tell us two interesting things social media doesn’t know about you.

Social media doesn’t know I have three siblings and I attended a public primary school.

You are also a speaker. How did you develop this skill?

I developed my speaking skills after I won a championship on public speaking and ever since then, constant practice has kept me floating

If you could meet three Nigerian writers who will they be and why?

I would love to meet Prof. Wole Soyinka, Strive Masiyiwa and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

What do you do in your leisure time?

In my leisure time, I listen to highlife music and play soccer games.

What’s your ultimate dream as writer?

My greatest dream as a writer is to write a book that will stand the test of time, bless lives and be read all over the world.