Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How Writers Write Fiction: A Free Online Course from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program

Ever dreamed of attending a prestigious school of creative writing? Here's your chance.

Starting on 27 September, writers can participate in the latest MOOC offered by the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. The program is titleHow Writers Write Fiction: Talks on Craft and Commitment.

The course will run until 8 November and intends to be an interactive study of the practice of creating writing. Program coordinator will be Christopher Merrill, Director of the International Writing Program. A curated collection of talks created by fifty authors of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and literary translation will be featured. Online discussions, writing assignments and practical workshops will complement the talks.

I think this is a great opportunity for but established an budding writers who want to improve their craft, especially since How Writers Write Fiction: Talks on Craft and Commitment is free and open to all. No need to fear rejection as there are no limits on enrolment numbers.

To participate, sign up via the Writing University site. Or Click on the Writing University site.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

And The Overall Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize is...

...Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. She was announced the winner in Kampala, Uganda, on 13 June, 2014. 

Congratulations Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your short story, Let’s Tell This Story Properly

To read the overall winning story of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize , CLICK HERE. Or go to: http://www.granta.com/New-Writing/Lets-Tell-This-Story-Properly

You can read more about Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi by visiting THE COMMONWEALTH WRITERS' WEBSTIE.

Entries for the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize open on September 15 2014. Deadline for application is 15th November 2014.

Monday, June 16, 2014

And The Latest State Literary Icon Of Ebonyi State Is...

On 29th May 2014, Obinna Udenwe was recognized by the Ebonyi State governor. It was the first time the award of the State Literary Icon was awarded by the government of Ebonyi State to an individual and organization working to promote literature in the State.

He received the award of the State Literary Icon for his body of literary works, and his organization,
Ugreen Foundation clinched the other award for promoting literature and education in the state. Ugreen Foundation has been annual organising creative writing programs that encourage budding writers. The Foundation has also published an anthology of short stories titled Voices From My Clan.

Congratulations Obinna! Here are pictures of the award ceremony.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Calls For Submission: Short Story Day Africa's Terra Incognita

Short Story Day Africa wants short stories of speculative fiction: horror, fantasy, dystopian, sci-fi, alternative history and magical realism all fit the bill. The theme for this year's competition is Terra Cognita.

Word count: 3000* – 5000 words.

The long-listed stories selected by the panel of judges will be collected in an anthology and published individually on Worldreader Mobile to over half a million readers.
Selected stories will be entered in The Caine Prize for African Fiction, hence the lower word limit.
Deadline: 30 June 2014
The shortlist will be announced in September 2014. Winner announced in October 2014.
1st Prize: R2000 cash
(Sponsored by BooksLive)
10 Module Creative Writing Course from All About Writing worth R5000The 2013 Caine Prize Anthology
2nd Prize: R1000 voucher to spend on African fiction at an indie bookshop of your choice
(Sponsored by Louis Greenberg)
The Character Course from All About Writing worth R1500The 2013 Caine Prize Anthology
3rd Prize: R300 voucher to spend on  African fiction at an indie bookshop of your choice
(Sponsored by Paige Nick)
The Power of Writing Course from All About Writing worth R500The 2013 Caine Prize Anthology
The longlist will receive a e-book of the anthology, and a work of African short fiction from
Modjaji Books.

For more information, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Shortlists: Caine Prize and Commonwealth short story prize

This months has seen the announcement of two of the biggest literary prizes in Africa. But this year, Nigeria hasn't been so lucky. We got one spot on the commonwealth shortlist and zero, on the Caine prize shortlist. And our only Nigerian contestant didn't make the semi-finals (regionals). Better luck to Nigeria next year.

Fifteenth Caine Prize shortlist:

Commonwealth Regional Winners
The Regional Winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize were announced on 14 May, 2014. The overall winner will be announced on 13th June.

Africa: Let’s Tell This Story Properly, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Uganda)
Asia: A Day in the Death, Sara Adam Ang (Singapore)
.Canada & Europe: Killing Time, Lucy Caldwell (United Kingdom)
Caribbean: Sending for Chantal, Maggie Harris (Guyana)
Pacific: The Dog and the Sea, Lucy Treloar (Australia)

2014 Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop

Farafina Trust will be holding a creative writing workshop in Lagos,organized by award winning writer and creative director of Farafina Trust, Chimamanda Adichie, from August 5 to August 15 2014.

The workshop is sponsored by Nigerian Breweries Plc. Guest writers, including the Caine Prize-winning Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina will co-teach the workshop alongside Adichie.

The workshop will take the form of a class. Participants will be assigned a wide range of reading exercises, as well as daily writing exercises. The aim of the workshop is to improve the craft of Nigerian writers and to encourage published and unpublished writers by bringing different perspectives to the art of storytelling. Participation is limited only to those who apply and are accepted.

All material must be pasted or written in the body of the e-mail. Please Do NOT include any attachments in your e-mail. Applications with attachments will be automatically disqualified. Deadline for submission is JUNE 30, 2014. Only those accepted to the workshop will be notified by JULY 22, 2014. Accommodation in Lagos will be provided for all accepted applicants who are able to attend for the ten-day duration of the workshop. A literary evening of readings, open to the public, will be held at the end of the workshop on August 15, 2014..

To apply, send an e-mail to udonandu2014@gmail.com

Your e-mail subject should read ‘Workshop Application.’

The body of the e-mail should contain the following:

1. Your Name

2. Your address

3. A few sentences about yourself

4. A writing sample of between 200 and 800 words.

The sample must be either fiction or non-fiction.

Monday, April 21, 2014


I have never been an active collaborative blogger. I wish I’d featured a lot more guest bloggers, wish I’d written more guest posts. But here I am.

For the first time ever, I have allowed Obinna Udenwe talk me into joining a world blog tour. Where my first impulse would have been to simply dismiss it with a harsh remark as ‘I’d rather focus on writing than talk about it,’ I find that I’m embracing the idea of discussing ‘the writing life’, my writing life. And it’s a difficult life.

Seeing as I have a novel coming out in September, 2014, I have to talk, scream, shout. In this era of the internet, it isn’t enough to write a good book and expect it to sell itself.

And so I have gladly hopped aboard the Blog Tour in the hope of creating links between writers and perhaps introducing readers to authors they wouldn’t otherwise come across.

I was asked to take part in ‘The Writing Process ‘Blog Tour by Obinna Udenwe, a novelist and short story writer who has a novel coming out this year. The idea is that all the writers who take part answer the same fourquestions about their work and their writing process. You can read Obinna Udenwe’s answers  here . I have asked Nze Sylva Ifedigbo, Robin Cain and Osemhen Akhibi to grab the baton from me. You can read more about them at the end of this post.
Let the answering begin:

1) What am I working on?

A sequel. Yes. A sequel to the romance novella I completed last year, which is slated to be published by Ankara Press. 

There is no title yet. Just a working title.  Finding Love Again II. Of course, it won’t be called FLA II. That’s why it’s a working title named after the first book. I loved working on the first book, perhaps it’s because it was set in a resort. The Obudu cattle ranch resort. I love this work because its about being a survivor. The heroine, even after being jilted on her wedding day, is able to move on and prove that she can succeed at other ventures. She accepts the things she has no control over and works hard to excel in her endeavours. And the heroine was crazy enough to travel up the plateau in order to find peace and quiet to complete her poetry manuscript, only to find—instead of concentration— the makings of love. Does she fail in her venture? You’d have to read the book to find out. 

The second book—just like the first— is also about the complexities of family relationships, family expectations and how our sense of duty can influence our lives. Only the second book focuses on different characters who struggle to piece what’s left of their failed marriage together because they find they really can’t live without each other, just as much as they can’t live with each other. A dilemma, you know?

The book essentially shows a tough, independent heroine who gets implicated in a white collar theft, loses her job and has to keep her head above water. She also wants to keep HIM out of her head because they can’t be together. A state secret service officer (the hero’s sister) has sworn to make sure of that. But fate keeps getting in the way. 
  • Family versus individual accomplishment. Duties that bind.
  •  Launching new career paths. Making career choices.
In addition to my new novel, I’m promoting (somewhat haphazardly) ‘Finding Love Again’ – I can’t wait for it to be released, so that it can finally reach readers.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I hate that it is difficult to answer this question modestly, but I’ll try. I think my work differs from others of its genre because each writer draws from a unique well of experience, and as such writes from a different place.

My background is both rural and urban. I can seem at once traditional and liberal in my views. My philosophies—which are often reflected in my writings—have changed with time and experience. You know the things life can do to a person’s psyche. However, I have lived in different places, tasted different cultures and traditions, so that I am often a blend of various people. I am interested in roots, because people are often moulded by their roots as well as their beliefs. I am also interested in the effects of ‘the big issues’ on the lives of everyday people. For instance, Finding Love Again involves a half-South African love child (now a millionaire) who leaves Nigeria for South Africa in search of his white mother. He realises that he could not have been able to do this during the apartheid era.

So I write about the influences of fate, freewill, determinism... and how we survive and love in spite of all the challenges life throws at us.

3) Why do I write what I do?
My writing focuses mainly on fulfilment and joy because that’s what I find fascinating. I want to know how people go from surviving to existing to taking control of their lives and living it.

Notice how different people interact with each other, how they chose love interests, who and how they hate, why they act the way they do, and more interestingly, why they make stupid choices on a whim (even when they know it’ll ruin their lives) and then, regret them. These things define us. The things that happen to us, and the things we do of our own freewill; how our lives change, whether we are active or passive.

And of course, family ties. I like the complicated web that family ties spin. And how they oh so affect our life’s choices and our destinies. Families are solid pillars. Sometimes, they’ll bruise you; sometimes, you lean on them for support and other times, you’re just contented with their presence. I love exploring these themes in my novel. As the popular saying goes, no man is an Island.

4) How does your writing process work?
It depends. Sometimes, very rarely, a paragraph or an entire story will drop into my consciousness. Other times I have to plough, think really hard before writing every sentence. Most times, I have to conceive the entire scene in my head before putting pen to paper. This makes me slower because I’m more concerned about structure. How do I tell the story in a way that will be truly unique?

And so I can’t yet be one of those people who can write a novel at speed. Perhaps, I will get there, but for now, I want to make sure that my stories are told creatively, so to speak. 

But I read a lot. I find that my writing goes really well when I’ve read a lot of well-written works.  And so I write most days when I’m not working as a computer repairs woman or spending time on ‘life’. I am happy if I can write a scene a day, irrespective of the length. But I ensure that I read a lot more than I write. At least that format seems to work for now. The truth is I feel incredibly frustrated when my writing isn’t going well. In fact, I plunge into depths of depression. Often, I pick a good book, read and gush over the writer’s skill. Gushing has always been an effective catharsis.
I also do a little planning, but just a little. I find planning a little exhausting, and overdoing it burns off my steam. I am one of those writers who just sit down and write. Often, I have the structure in my head. I find I write more easily if I’ve sketched out most of the scenes in the chapter with their major conflicts.
And so to pass on the baton for ‘The Writing Process’ Blog Tour.: As promised you can read more about them here:
    Robin Cain
    www.robincain.wordpress.com                                                                       Robin began her writing career as a child. Penning plays for neighborhood friends' performances, she was paid in popsicles.  THE SECRET MISS RABBIT KEPT is Robin's second novel. For more information, visit Robin's website www.robincain.com

Sylva Nze Ifedigbo, fiction writer and op-ed columnist is the author of The Funeral Did Not End. He lives in Lagos Nigeria.  


Photo credits: simondenman.com