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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the most important lesson writing has taught you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Your book will first be judged by its cover, make it awesome!

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No matter how you want to rationalize it, potential readers and the audience at large will judge your book first by its cover before they open it and read the pages.

The cover is what everyone sees first. If we don’t like what we see, there’s no point opening it. We just move on. If you do not take out time to create a striking design alongside your publisher or graphic designer, your book will automatically lose a large percent of its potential readers. 

Our brains are wired to process images faster than words. When we see an image, it makes us feel something. A great cover can help your reader instantly recognize that your book is for them.

Bookshops display books with their covers facing the reader. It’s the first thing a reader sees. It is the reason a customer picks up the book, particularly in a supermarket setting where every book is front facing.

When a reader sees an amateur cover on a book, they will expect the content itself to be amateur. If it looks cheaply produced, then they will expect the inside quality to be cheap also or that there has been little or no editing, proofreading or it contains bad prose. If a reader sees a cover and has that expectation, why should they buy the book? And it’s not just about someone buying a book, but about them investing their time to read it. 

Poor designs on the other hand can be a huge turn off. With millions of books for readers to choose from, the first “sales pitch” is the cover. If it is not striking enough to draw attention, it will be passed over for something more interesting on either side.

Don’t ruin your book’s chances of success. 

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

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

Who is Morenike Vincent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What lessons has writing this book taught you?

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

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

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

What do you love most about being a writer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can readers get copies of this book?

The primary sales point is over my website.

And we deliver nationwide. The book is also available at

We are working to activate other bookstores and contact persons.

The book is also available in E-book version on

We are working on other online platforms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your book cover design will be splendid if you read this!

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Many more writers are considering the idea of documenting their ideas in form of books which is great. The problem, however, is the rise in substandard book cover designs. You do not have to dig a hole in your pocket before you get a design that will make you stand out. 

A poorly-designed cover tells the book reading public that you didn’t care enough about your work to make a good first impression. That’s not the kind of impression you want to give.

Here are a few things to take note of;

Use Eye-Catching Original Design

The last thing you should do is go to the internet and pick get the first picture that looks like what your book talks about. Apart from you running the risk of being sued for piracy you will come off to your readers as lazy and make the cover page look like an afterthought. 

First impression matters. 

Hire the best book designer you can afford. Talk to people who have experience in designing book covers. A general graphic designer won’t know how to place text and photos or illustrations for maximum impact. Make sure the image used conveys the message in the book and while you are at it make sure it is appealing.

Find the right typography

You may not know this but the text used for your book cover also affects the general look and feel. Don’t be quick to use Times New Roman or Arial as your book cover text. 

A designer will experiment with fonts sizes to see what looks right to the wandering eye; more specifically, your target market. You don’t want to use a font and colour that won’t blend in with the background visuals, rendering the title illegible.

The font style you use should be a mix of sharp, professional, and eye-catching styles.

 

 

#Writing Quote – “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper”

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“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper” – E.B White, Author of Stuart Little

The harsh truth is that there will never be “ideal conditions” to write the way you have fantasized about writing. There will always be challenges you have to face. These challenges are what makes your story as a writer interesting.

There will never be perfect conditions for writing that book you have always wanted to write. Ask writers who have successfully published a book. Yeah, we know you want to develop yourself and hone your writing skills so you can put words together perfectly, we know you want to wait till you get that brand new laptop you have been waiting for, we know you want to wait till you own a website before writing. And all of these things are good. However, do not make them your excuses for not writing.

Seriously dear writer, time is ticking. And even if you get all of these things you so crave for, something else will come up and it will be an endless cycle of waiting until you realize that you and time are no longer buddies.

Today’s quote is spot on. Stop waiting for ideal conditions. That is a mirage. Start with what you have right now (yes, even if it is just a pen and a paper); start where you are, and let the words flow out of your heart.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which of your books is your best and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What is the most important lesson writing has taught you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is more difficult; editing or writing and why?

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

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

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

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

Write, write, and continue to write.

 

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

 

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

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

You’d love this one. 

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

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

Would you say you chose writing or writing chose you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What should we expect next from Abigail?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you tell us what you love most about writing?

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

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

Stephen King (Alive).

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

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

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

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

Do you think you will ever retire from writing?

I hope not!

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

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

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

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

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

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

#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.