Thursday, May 21, 2015

16th Caine Prize for African Writing Shortlist has been Announced


The judges have announced the name of all the five writers who have been shortlisted for the 2015 Caine Prize for African Writing.

Congratulations to Segun Afolabi, Elnathan John, Masande Ntshanga, F.T Kola, and Namwali Serpell.

Each shortlisted writer receives £500 and the winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at an award ceremony and dinner at the Weston Library, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, on Monday 6 July.

All five stories are available for download on the Caine Prize Website.
congratulate the other shortlisted writers - Segun Afolabi, F.T. Kola, Masande Ntshanga and Namwali Serpell for also being selected. - See more at: http://www.cassavarepublic.biz/blogs/main/23599937-elnathan-john-shortlisted-for-the-2015-caine-prize#sthash.tEUStJsz.dpuf
congratulate the other shortlisted writers - Segun Afolabi, F.T. Kola, Masande Ntshanga and Namwali Serpell for also being selected. - See more at: http://www.cassavarepublic.biz/blogs/main/23599937-elnathan-john-shortlisted-for-the-2015-caine-prize#sthash.tEUStJsz.dpuf
congratulate the other shortlisted writers - Segun Afolabi, F.T. Kola, Masande Ntshanga and Namwali Serpell for also being selected. - See more at: http://www.cassavarepublic.biz/blogs/main/23599937-elnathan-john-shortlisted-for-the-2015-caine-prize#sthash.tEUStJsz.dpuf
congratulate the other shortlisted writers - Segun Afolabi, F.T. Kola, Masande Ntshanga and Namwali Serpell for also being selected. - See more at: http://www.cassavarepublic.biz/blogs/main/23599937-elnathan-john-shortlisted-for-the-2015-caine-prize#sthash.tEUStJsz.dpuf

An Interview: Ola Awonubi's Priceless Writing Advice!

ON the 15th of December, Ankara Press released six sizzling romance novels. My debut novel, Finding Love Again, was one of them. Ola Awonubi's Love's Persuasion is another beautiful romance in the Ankara Series.

I spoke to Ola Awonubi about her intriguing romance novel and other things.

Ola Awonubi was born in London to Nigerian parents and raised in Nigeria. On returning to England, she went on to spend three years taking intermediate and advanced writing courses at the Centerprise Literature Development project in Hackney before studying for an MA in Creative writing and Imaginative Practice at the University of East London. In 2008 and 2009 respectively, she won two prizes; one for the short story ‘The Pink House’ in the National Words of Colour competition, the other, ‘The Go-Slow Journey’ for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize in the fiction category.



CWN:     Tell us a bit about what inspired you to be a writer?
OA: I have always had a vivid imagination and used to make up stories in my head when I was a kid. I remember being about five years old when I used take my Ladybird and Enid Bryton books and write short stories around them with black characters. I have always loved writing and when I was in secondary school – English literature was my favourite subject and I would end up reading more of the African Writers Series or books from the ‘Pacesetters ‘series than my Biology or Physics books!

CWN:     What inspired you to write this book?
OA: A wide range of themes really. I would say I try to write about Universal themes really things that people anywhere in the world can identify with. Family, love, relationships are a particular interest. Loves Persuasion reminded me of when I was growing up as a teenager in Nigeria and watching how society framed and set the parameter of many women’s lives and I wanted to create a young lady who wanted more than what society dictated she should be content with.

CWN: Are you a full time writer or is writing just one of your hobbies?
OA: I work full time and I write in whatever is left of that time! Writing has gone beyond a hobby for me. I try to write whenever I can.


CWN: Where can your book be purchased?
OA: My book can be purchased on the link below - straight from the Ankara Press website!


CWN: Who are your favourite authors and what book are you reading at the moment
OA: Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, Buchi Emecheta, Doris Lessing, Jane Austen and Francine Rivers.
I am currently reading – The boy next door by Irene Sabatini – it is a coming of age story in post-independence Zimbabwe.


CWN: What did you enjoy most about writing this novel?
OA: Seeing the characters develop and take shape -listen to them in my head and write the words I think they would say.

CWN: What are your current projects, any other book coming soon?
OA: I am currently working on a collection of short stories based on the African experience as well as another romantic novel based in Nigeria. I always look out for short story competitions I can submit my entries to such as Bridport, Mslexia, Short Story prize and the Commonwealth writers prize to mention a few.

Currently working on a world war 2 period romance and would love to write a screenplay one day. I like would like to write a period drama one day – Downtown Abbey and war movies like Atonement are favourites.

CWN:What is your take on the poor reading culture in Nigeria? In your opinion, what do you think can be done to change it?
OA:I remember growing up in Nigeria and books like Pacesetters, Mills and Boons, James Hadley Chase and Danielle Steele were widely read. Libraries were probably better stocked than they are now and if you could afford to buy a new book you got it second-hand or exchanged with friends.

I don’t think there is a poor reading culture – I think that with the emphasis on getting jobs which is quite understandable – reading for pleasure has been relegated and people spend their hard earned money on text books and educational material to better their chances in the over-saturated employment market.

 I don’t think we have lost our love of reading – it is just that people are being more practical.
This is why Ankara needs to be applauded for producing books that can be read on different mediums, cost less than books and open up reading for everyone - stopping it from becoming an elitist preserve.

CWN:  If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? 
OA: Buchi Emecheta.

CWN: Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
OA: ·         Engage the senses six senses when you write. Make the reader smell, taste and see as they  read.
·         A short story is a snapshot so you do not have the luxury to flesh out your characters or settings   like a novel. Get to the point.
·         Don’t add too many characters and the few you have - make memorable.
·         Show and don't tell
·         Make your beginning make me sit up and want to keep on reading.
·         Make your ending make the story linger on in my head. Give it a punch. Think of one of the shortest stories ever told by Hemingway. Baby Shoes Never Worn. Wow. That tells such a story but it does have a beginning, a middle and an end.
·         Use the internet. It is your friend – a great resource and you have the opportunity to showcase yourself to the world.

CWN:  What genre of music and movies is your favourite? And do they inspire your writing.

OA Gospel and R & B. I like Yolanda Adams and Stevie Wonder.

Movies – legal TV dramas and movies, romantic films, old movies – I was watching the Count of Montecristo the other day. I watched The Best Man and Why did I get married by Tyler Perry.  I like movies about life and relationships and I guess that feeds into my writing.


Ola Awonubi's first novel was published by Ankara Press. Love's Persuasion can be found HERE.
Follow Ola Nubi on twitter via @createandwrite.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Love is a Layered Thing: An Interview

"...But experience as taught me that love is quite complicated. It’s a layered thing, hardly in our power to control. And yes, it is mostly about timing. The ‘when factor’ plays a huge role in the success of a romance."

I speak to Ayobami Adebayo about Finding Love Again and writing romance.

You can read the interview on her blog, HERE.

Enjoy reading.

 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Call for Submissions: The Crime Issue (18th Edition)

Saraba Magazine is accepting short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and excerpts which addresse, articulate and problematize crime, lawlessness, even jurisprudence..



 Guidelines:


Send your work in an attachment in any of the three major categories: Fiction, Poetry and Non-Fiction. 
 
Send no more than one work at a time, and wait for our response before you send another.
Fictional works should have a maximum 5,000 words. Writers are allowed to send a maximum of 3 poems. Non-fiction submissions are expect to contain a broad range of new creative writing, including short memoirs, interviews, reviews, creative non-fiction, creative journalism, etc. Word count limit for this is 2,500 words.
 
Submissions are also open to digital art including photographs, illustrations, paintings and so forth. 
 Kindly send in high resolution jpeg files (not larger than 4 MB).
 
Submissions should be accompanied by a bio of not more than 50 words
The new Submission Manager is helpful, cutting out all the email uncertainty.

Deadline: 28th June, 2015
Please read the submission guidelines for more details

The publishers of Saraba say, "Our publications reflect and represent the best of emerging writing mainly from Nigeria, but also from the rest of the African continent. Our goal is to give emerging writers the opportunity of having their works published. “Emerging writers” is defined loosely, to spark useful dialogue—but we are interested in writers whose work show tremendous promise but have hardly been published in a major literary magazine."

And I believe them. So send your work!

New Online Non-Fiction Writing Course

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

Starting on June, writers can participate in the latest Online Non-fiction course offered by the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. The International Writing Program at the University of Iowa is now accepting applications for the new online course, the Nonfiction Writing Seminar 2015.


The course will run from late June to August. This course will center on the study and practice of writing creative nonfiction. It will be taught online by an International Writing Program Distance Learning Instructor with an impressive  publication and teaching record in literary nonfiction. This course will be given in English. Successful applicants will be required to read and write in English. Application materials must be written in English. The course is completely free, but there are only 20 positions, so send your best materials.

11:00 pm CDT (GMT-5:00) on May 29, 2015.

If you're interested in participating in this course, visit the Application Site HERE. Or Click on the Writing University site.

Good luck to you.

Friday, January 23, 2015

BBC RADIO 4 INVITES ENTRIES FOR OPENING LINES

Opening Lines is seeking original short stories which work being read out loud. Click HERE. Pay particular attention to how the story opens and closes, the ending needs to link back to the beginning.

Would you like to have your short story read on BBC Radio 4's Opening Lines? Then here's your chance.

  • Only one story per writer is permitted.
  • Do not re-submit stories that have previously been considered for Opening Lines
  • Stories must be between 1,900 and 2,000 words in length.

HOW TO ENTER

Please complete the Submission Form which can be downloaded here. Then send your story and the completed Submission Form by email to OpeningLines@bbc.co.uk.

Organizers will contact those writers whose stories have been longlisted for the 2015 series by the 15th of May 2015,  

You are advised to Click here to read stories which have featured in recent series, just to get a feel of the preferred stories.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: HALF OF A YELLOW SUN



I have never published a movie review on creativewritingnews before. When I read this one, I knew I had to make an exception. 

Half of a Yellow Sun is a 2013 Nigerian historical drama film directed by Biyi Bandele and based on the Orange-Prize-winning novel, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The film is a love story that follows two sisters who are caught up in the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War.

It stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Onyeka Onwenu, Anika Noni Rose, Genevieve Nnaji, OC Ukeje and John Boyega. The film premiered in the Special Presentation section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.—Wikipedia

Reviewer: C.C. Chuks

Half of a Yellow Sun, a movie set in the 60s—the period before and during the Nigerian Civil War—tells the story of two relationships. Non-identical twin sisters, Olanna and Kainene, are involved with Odenigbo, a university lecturer and Richard, a British writer, respectively. The Biafran forces, mostly of the Igbo tribe, are losing the war to keep their sessation state against the British-supported Nigerian forces. Four main characters: Olanna, Kainene, Odenigbo and Ugwu flee Nsukka, together with fellow Igbos, before it falls to the Nigerian forces. Richard, the fifth main character, a white man, gets caught up in the war because he won't leave without his new found love, Kainene. Olanna and Kainene come from a wealthy family, and have the opportunity to fly out of the country with their parents, but Olanna won't abandon Odenigbo (whom she later marries). Kainene, the more daring of the two, decides to remain in the citadel of the Biafran Republic, the southeast port city of Port Harcourt, and continue to manage their father's businesses, believing Biafra will win the war. Ugwu is Olanna and Odenigbo's help. Nigeria gained her independence from the British Empire in 1960. The Biafran Civil War began in 1960 and ended 1967.

The film opened with twin sisters, Olanna and Kainene, preparing to attend a formal dinner with their parents, as the guests of a high-ranking government official, whom their father, Chief Ozobia, hoped to obtain government contracts from. Unfortunately, the conversation during the dinner failed to sparkle. In the end, so did the film. It failed to capture fully the change in fortunes the main characters underwent: The gradual transition from the life they used to know to a life of privation. Mainly, how an upper-class, well-traveled girl like Olanna paid in blood, sweat and tears for choosing to stay back in the country with the man she loved. In the novel, you felt the toll the war took on Olanna and company—on the people around them—how their standard of living deteriorated until the war was lost and won. No doubt, a screen adaptation showing every scene in the book would have made for a very long film. For instance, the movie did not show young Ugwu’s misadventure while he was a soldier in the Biafran Army, after he was captured and forcefully conscripted.  Neither did it show Olanna and Odenigbo’s anguish of ‘Baby’s’ (later called Chiamaka) deteriorating health. (Baby, by the way, was the child that resulted from Odenigbo’s night of drunkenness and sex with a girl his mother brought from the village.) Yes, the screenwriter had the tough job of deciding on how best to tell the story—where to start, what to include and what to leave out. Sadly, the scriptwriter appeared more interested in covering an expansive storyline within the nearly two hours the movie would last than delivering an entertaining film. The plot moved too quickly; all the scenes seemed to have a time limit, most of them feeling somewhat rushed, like Olanna and Odenigbo's wedding, which was disrupted by an air raid. (In the book, aerial bombardments were a common occurrence, and Odenigbo had devised a ‘fire drill’ in which his family ran into a bunker near their home whenever they heard explosions. The air raid that interrupted their wedding celebrations had caught them while they were far away from their shelter, and so they had been in great danger. The much-abridged movie did not make the viewer appreciate this.) What about the manner in which Kainene found out about Richard’s infidelity—that he had cheated on her with her twin? It turned out to be an anticlimax because the writer—probably, after considering the length of the movie—hastened it, and did not allow the fears over Kainene finding out to build. The result of this stop-and-fast-forward screenplay between fade-ins and fade-outs was a movie that failed to generate any real tension or excitement. If you've read the novel, the movie would feel broken up into a timeline of 'significant' events.

Again, the dialogue throughout the film was less than scintillating (vapid, in fact), and seemed mostly aimed at advancing the plot. Scriptwriters should learn to engage the services of dialogue writers, especially in making dramas, so that they can just focus on the script. A novel is not a play; not all the spoken words can be found between its covers. And so, scriptwriters, when penning dialogues, ought to be creative in putting down things that weren't said in the novel. It’s hard work. To do this well, they would have to understand the characters—deeply. In the opening scene, Kainene asked Olanna, “Would you be spreading your legs for the Right Hon. Minister in exchange for Daddy’s contracts?”, giving the impression that Olanna was a woman of easy virtue—an impression you never got from the book. This was a misinterpretation of a major character. The reason the movie felt rushed could have been because the speeches were curt, straight-to-the point, and, most times, crucial to what happens next in the story, rather than helping the viewer appreciate the characters better.

My advice is, read the novel before watching the movie. The movie depicted a badly-written shortened form of Chimamanda Adichie’s award-winning novel. It failed to capture the pulse of the book or the heroism of Olanna because the screenwriter, like a bad tailor, cut and joined various parts, and in the end, delivered an untidy dress: a sketchy, watered-down story that lacked the poignancy of the novel. The movie tried to give us what the scriptwriter adjudged to be the prime cuts. Frankly, it didn't pull me in; I was always aware I was watching something staged, not something organic. What else did I expect from a plot-driven script (not character-driven one)?

The movie would have been better if it were told through three narrators: Olanna, Richard and Ugwu. It would have had the profundity it lacked, had stronger characters, a sequence of events easier to follow and given the viewer a better appreciation of the people of Nigeria—the three major tribes: the feuding Hausas (in the north) and the Ibos (in the southeast), and the seemingly neutral Yorubas (in the southwest). Using Richard Churchill, a British citizen, as the narrator's voice would have given foreign audiences a better appreciation of Nigeria and the Biafran War. Richard was a writer who, after seeing the suffering of the Ibos, had written to the British Government (which equipped the Nigerian army with weapons) to end their support on compassionate grounds. His narration (even if it was just his) would have been right for the movie. But instead, going by his movie depiction, it was easy to forget he was a writer. As a character, he was nearly a ghost—featureless and uninteresting.

How many, after watching the movie, would know why it was called ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’? Well, let me fill you in. One-half of a yellow sun is the symbol on the Biafran flag. Richard’s narration could have explained this. In the entire film, that flag appeared only in one scene (It should have been more). And would you believe it? The half of a yellow sun symbol on it was not mentioned throughout the movie. Such major oversights were forgivable if you saw the filmmaker the way I did: a person whose main goal was to cross the finish line under two hours. And the screenwriter as someone who may have read the novel but certainly not felt it.

I hope that some time in the future another moviemaker will attempt to do justice to this great literary work. And if successful, such a movie would not be so forgettable.