Today’s #WriterSpotlight is different. Maybe its because our guest on the series has a way with words that you may not have seen before. He’s witty, direct and will keep you reading this interview till the last sentence.
Enjoy Ifeoluwa’s interview with us.
Hello Ife. Please introduce yourself.
I’m part engineer, part writer, and part editor in ways that don’t always fit. I write short stories, occasional essays, and my journal is filled with criticism that won’t see the light of day. I have too many opinions, but I’ve been told I’m a coward so no one will hear them. I’m an expert daydreamer, professional people-watcher, and my idea of fun is books, Internet and a juiced laptop. I’m largely boring except for when I’m having conversations with friends about subjects I care about, then I’m just a loud mouth who will never keep quiet, which I guess can be interpreted as boring too. I have a spotty memory, not dementia-level spotty, but more like a black Dory with no fins. This question was too open ended so I decided to ramble. Let the reader beware: not all of the above is true.
You write fiction, nonfiction and poetry, which do you enjoy writing most?
I’m not sure enjoyment is a word to ascribe to my writing. Reading is the authentic pleasure and writing is often agonizing, but it sometimes gives way to joy. This happens fewer than I would want it to. The writing that brings me joy is that which almost matches the idea of it I started with in my head, and even sometimes surpass it. Of the three subjects above, I’m definitely most comfortable with non-fiction. Fiction gives me too much grief, and I’m not a poet by any usage of the word. I simply write enjambed lines when the weather is right.
When did you start writing?
I took on writing as a craft with deliberateness in 2013.
You studied Engineering, how did you fall in love with words?
I’ve always been in love with words, even before I studied engineering. It probably has something to do with being a quiet kid who grew up in a house where books were in abundance. They were my primary form of entertainment, so, like most things we love it was a simply a case of choosing the thing that I had proximity to, and pouring my attention to it as much as I could.
You seem to love Zadie Smith a lot, why is this?
The thing that drew me to Zadie, at first, was her ability to capture voices. Her first work that I read was a short story titled ‘Miss Adele amidst the Corsets’ and the voice of the main character in that story was so clear that I went ahead to find everything by her. Now that I’ve read almost everything she has published, I like her more for her brilliance, especially as displayed in her essays. There are a few people who can gut an idea to its very essence like Zadie, and do it while crafting beautiful sentences. She writes with this anxious intelligence that is at once certain of everything and yet despairs about it all. She’s the novelist I want to become if I can finally gather my wits to write something good that is longer than three thousand words.
What’s the worst thing anyone has said about any of your pieces and what was your reaction?
I can’t remember the worst things people have said about any of my work. I’ve sometimes been described as pretentious, but that’s something I gladly own. My pretentions are mine to revel in. I’m harder on myself than anyone can probably ever be, and outside of open condescension, I’m really at home with criticism.
Congratulations on your nomination as Most Creative Writer of The Year at the Oya Awards. How did you feel when you saw that you had been nominated?
A friend sent the information to me and, at first, I was befuddled. I wondered if it was a prank. Then another friend who was also on the list and I talked about it and it had simply became hilarious at that point. I don’t know how they compiled the list, and I guess I should be flattered because there are people on that list who have done tremendous work over the years. But when I look at it now I simply just chuckle at the fact that someone thinks I’m the most at anything. I’m grateful that for the nomination though. I’ve always treasured obscurity, but I’m not so stupid that I won’t realise there’s pleasure in being read and recognised for what I’ve written.
Your articles are on several platforms; how were you able to achieve this?
There’s no deliberateness to my publishing. Like someone likes to tell me, I lack ambition in writing. The truth is that most of the places I really want my work to appear send me rejections—from the kind patronizing notes to the dismissive silent treatment. So, the places where my work has appeared have largely been serendipitous. Many of these things happen by collaborations, by friends asking me to write for their blogs and have given me readership beyond my tiny corner of the Internet.
When you are not writing or listening to music,what are you doing?
Wasting away in Lagos traffic, watching American TV shows, or sleeping.
If you could change one thing in Nigeria through your writing, what would it be and why?
There’s nothing that can be changed through writing that hasn’t been attempted in Nigeria. And while I wish we would remember more as a people, I’m confident, at this point, that our memory isn’t such that can be jolted by the written word.
We know you have learnt so many lessons from your writing journey can you share the most profound lesson with us?
Find brilliant writers your peers aren’t reading. Study their work, then steal from them. Sit back with confident smugness behind your PC as people praise your originality on the Internet. Return to those brilliant writers from time to time to wipe the smugness off your face.
If you had the opportunity to meet one African writer, who would it be and what would you say?
By the time this is published, I would have met all the African writers I love and adore. All I want now is to meet Zadie Smith, George Saunders, Marilynne Robinson, andJunot Diaz.
Complete this statement
One day, my writing will…..be enough