Friday, 13 October 2017

My poetry is a reflection on the intimacy of evil – Ogaga Ifowodo

My poetry is a reflection on the intimacy of evil – Ogaga Ifowodo
Ogaga Ifowodo, (Ph.D) taught poetry at the Texas State University in the US before he took up appointment as the commissioner representing Delta State in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. The renowned poet and author of several poetry collections is shortlisted for the 2017 NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature for his collection, A Good Mourning. He speaks about this book, the prize, his detention by the Abacha government and his foray into politics.

What is the sensation like being on the shortlist of the NLNG Nigeria Literature Prize, especially as the announcement of the winner draws nearer?

That I might be the winner - but is that a feeling or sensation? Just that the wait will soon be over, I suppose.

There were criticisms of the longlist for the 2017 NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature. But the critics have gone silent since the shortlist was announced. Do you think the criticisms were fair to start with?

I never followed the criticisms, which, I understand, were mostly on social media platforms, so I don’t know which might have been valid and which were totally misplaced. At any rate, I’m glad to know that the critics have ceased fire since the shortlist was announced! 

How important is the prize to poets in Nigeria considering how much poetry, as an art, has suffered in the hands of both poets and those who read them?

It is not clear to me how poetry has suffered in the hands of poets themselves, not to mention those who read them, but I’m quite certain that the prize is important to poets as to Nigerian literature in general. Literary prizes are a way of validating writers who, more often than not, labour in obscurity, and sometimes penury. The attention that a prize brings to a writer - and in this instance of the NLNG prize, a poet - becomes by the same token attention to his or her work. And literature, to the extent that it is a socially produced thing and so reflects its society, its world, can be one of the more enduring ways of empowering the poet’s more humane vision of his society. 

Your book, A Good Mourning, plays on an everyday expression but in a wickedly witty manner and the poems in the collection are at once introspective and playful as they tackle serious issues. How hard was it to work this playfulness into the collection?

Considerably hard, because one has to be careful not to let the ludic or playful moments take away from the solemnity of the experiences and thoughts that form the subjects of the poems. In each case, the extent of playfulness was determined by the experience or impulse of the poem in question. I’m afraid this makes it seem very practical, as if one can know, before or even while writing, the precise extent to which humour would be a vehicle of giving fuller expression to the thought or feeling that spawned the poem. I guess the difficulty lies in listening to one’s inner ear and ensuring that any playfulness does not make the poem tone-deaf to its inner or inspiring reality - by which I mean the experience of the poem as grasped and re-presented by the poet. 

What was the inspiration for the collection?

The core poems of the collection are differing instances of my reflections on the intimacy of evil. At the personal level - that is, of the dramatis personae - the title poem, which is about the June 12, 1993 political catastrophe, recalls the tragic drama of betrayal by a friend. I think I more explicitly explore this theme in “A Rwandan Testimony” where a traumatized friend tries to confess to murdering his childhood friend and her two children before an imaginary truth and reconciliation panel but is led to the conclusion that evil or what menaces the world, that which “secretes the slow brooks of bitter blood” resides in an “auxiliary organ hitched to every heart.” This thought began in my mind when I visited the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1999, as a guest of the German PEN Centre to that year’s international PEN Congress in Warsaw. One of the poems in an anthology of poems written by inmates which I bought there expressed the view that if Auschwitz had been in England, there would have been willing English men and women to do the biddings of (the English version of) Hitler. And, of course, there have been many books on the phenomenon of ordinary, supposedly innocent, citizens as collaborators in the evil of pogroms, ethnic cleansing and other horrendous persecutions of stigmatised groups and communities. Usually, it is a friend, a neighbor, a colleague, who betrays him or herself first, and then humanity. Having published my reflections on the Auschwitz visit in the poem “Where is the World’s Most Infamous Plot?” about four years after, I knew that I would return to that troubling question.  In the result, the tragedy of June 12, 1993, provided the unhappy inspiration for the collection.  

In that regards, how important do you think poetry is to the preservation of memory especially of a struggle like June 12, which you touched on in your collection?

Very, very important. Those who cannot remember the past, the philosopher George Santayana, famously warned, are doomed to repeat it. And closer home, we are all familiar with the aphorism on the importance of knowing “where the rain began to beat us.” Poetry as the literary form that exalts the most in mnemonic devices - repetition, rhyme, rhythm, imagery, not to mention economy of words - is for that reason a perfect vehicle for the preservation of memory. 

How much of a validation would winning this prize be for you?

I can’t say. It will no doubt be quite considerable, considering the growing interest it has been generating, many thanks to the prize money! In a different context, in Europe and America, for instance, a prize like the NLNG Nigeria literature prize would instantly catapult its winner to global literary fame. But that is due to a long-established culture of respect for writers, writing and books - in short, for intellectual labour - with institutions dedicated to promoting its value. 

In Nigeria, unfortunately, the cultural infrastructure to optimise the validation conferred by a prize was not only weak to start with, but is now in total shambles. It is going to require even more interventions that go beyond prizes - radical interventions, for instance, in the educational sector, the book publishing industry and in the revaluation of cultural work - to be able to speak of the true extent of validation conferred by a literary prize in Nigeria. 

You have been known as an activist for many years and were at some point detained by the Abacha government. Was prison life important to your writing life? Has it inspired any works from you?

It has. The poems I wrote in prison are part of my second collection, Madiba. Moreover, excerpts from my detention memoirs, more than half complete, have been published - in the seminal anthology Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing, edited by the poet Jack Mapanje; in the New Writing Anthology NW 14, published by Granta in collaboration with the British Council, and on the online platform african-writing.com. It is one of the works-in-progress that I hope to bring to fruition next year.  

We look forward to reading them. What are your thoughts on the state of poetry in Nigeria at present? Do you think the volume of work being produced has the required quality to define a critical period such as this?
I think that poetry is very much alive and well in Nigeria, as well as in any other epoch. It is, of course, the case that the number of books published anywhere and in any genre is never matched by their quality. It is precisely why prizes, among other means, act as literary gate-keepers or arbiters of taste. I liken this to panning for gold: a horde of “miners” and a great deal of dross, but few and far between the lucky instances of gold nuggets!   

Your foray into politics in 2014, aspiring to be a legislator, proved futile. Could you tell us what happened? And from your experience how different would you say poetry and politics are?

Simply, I lost. Because I had no money. When I solicited donations, as little as N10,000, as is done in more respectable climes (though I doubt I can use this word with what happened in the United States of Trump and with Brexit in mind), I was mocked as being unsuitable for the office I sought: “He doesn’t even have a kobo, and he wants to run for the House of Representatives!” What happened was that my opponent, arrested a few days before the primary election by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on suspicions of being a 419 scammer, was released on the very day of the election and escorted by a police convoy into the arena, with him waving triumphantly to the delegates from the back of a pick-up van. 

On the strength of tall promises of personal rewards in cash and kind - and, as I heard, of even flying some delegates to Dubai - he beat me hands down. Only for him to disappear the very next day. Such that the party leaders summoned me back from the United States where I had gone to lick my wounds to return home so I might be substituted for the victorious flagbearer who, curiously, was never seen nor heard from again, until he learnt of efforts to substitute my name for his. Well, that didn’t happen, INEC’s window for substituting candidates having closed by that time. 

As for the difference between poetry and politics? Between night and day, I’d say! Two totally different preoccupations and I don’t think this needs to be explained beyond saying that one is entirely an activity of the mind, practiced most often in the solitude of contemplation, while the other is the most public of human activities, where the mind, or more precisely, mindlessness, of others, determines the outcome. 

Oh, one more thing: you don’t need money to write a poem, while money is just about the only thing you need to have any hope of being taken seriously as a politician. At least, as tends to be the case generally with the brand of electioneering politics we practice in Nigeria. I hope that changes very soon.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Where is Nigerian Literature?


In the autumn of 1986, Nigeria’s Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka (aka Wole Soyinka), became the Nobel Laureate for literature. The Nobel prize- a set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural or scientific advances- is the agreed ultimate in the world of prizes and political as it is perceived to be, it is nevertheless agreed that it is virtually impossible to win it if the contender is not extraordinary in his or her field of endeavour. 

The Nobel Peace prize has been by far the most controversial- its subjective nature makes it possible to manipulate and sometimes, politics rather than achievement takes the upper hand amongst the criteria. Of course the science and social science prize winners are far less visible, and the prizes themselves far less possible to manipulate.

If someone has done groundbreaking work in physics or economics, it is virtually impossible to ignore them. The most glamorous of the Nobel prizes has got to be the literature prize, the one that Soyinka won. Though he was the first African ever to have won the uber prestigious award, the giving of it to him was not without its own controversies. The novelist, biographer, poet and playwright have been said in some quarters to the late father of Nigerian literature Chinua Achebe, whose great first novel Things Fall Apart had catapulted him into permanent greatness and had him rising year after year like a meteor in the space that is the international literary community. Arguments on this went on for years.

Soyinka had opened the door for the rest of Africa including Albert Camus, the journalist and playwright of Algeria; activist Nadine Gordimer of South Africa, her compatriot John Maxwell Coetzee who had also won the prestigious Booker prize; as well as Doris Lessing of Zimbabwe. Out of these, only Nadine Gordimer arguably has boasted as much international clout as Soyinka has, perhaps by virtue of his personality, or perhaps by virtue of his being Nigerian. Soyinka is the one Nigerian who has never sat on the proverbial fence when it comes to national matters. If an African has had such intense influence on the world just for winning a prize, it shows how important the subjects around the prize are to human development. And if science, literature and peace are important subjects to the rest of the world, why are they not to Nigeria? More than two decades after Soyinka won the Nobel prize and Ben Okri’s the Famished Road won the Booker- another very prestigious prize, no other Nigerian has won any major literary prize for their Nigerian writing.

Helon Habila, former Arts Editor for the Vanguard; as well as Chimamanda Adizie who won the ‘junior Booker prize’ and the Orange prize respectively, have moved on from Nigerian affairs, choosing, like Okri, to be Nigerian writers at large. In the midst of the tragedy of the London’s Grenfell tower fire in June 2017, Okri wrote a wildly critically acclaimed poem- Grenfell Tower- which ironically catapulted him back to global literary reckoning. As a British writer. No home based writer is given any recognition, except in literary circles. Not for them, national awards. There was a ray of hope when the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas company, NLNG, installed their mouth watering ‘Nigerian prize’. It was to be expected that others would follow. It did not happen, until Etisalat endowed a less prestigious prize more recently whose scope is not limited to Nigeria.

As the whole world celebrates the new Nobel Literature Laureate and the sale of his books goes through the roof while they have become the topics at top dinner parties in the world’s capitals, Nigeria has joined to celebrate his success through the social media. While Soyinka, Achebe and Ekwensi had spurned the next generation of great writers of literature after them, their progeny has unfortunately failed to deliver in that regard. This state of affairs might have more to do with the dearth of the entire industry than with the literary giants. Nobody is rewarding writers, so nobody wants to write. The level of literature that is available is therefore abysmal in nature. There is no competition, no inspiration, no encouragement. The kind of literature that is available to school children is limited, at best.

In reality most of the books with which Literature in English is being taught in Nigerian schools today are mostly badly written, poorly edited and poorly printed. A pre-teen child who has been taught well how to read and write, can easily pick out the grammatical errors in many of them. This has some obvious implications, chief of which is that writers of influence will be scarce amongst the millennials, who are already bogged down by intrusive technologies with which they have to contend daily. More importantly, who will teach them the practical aspect of grit, the one thing the study and practice of literature teaches? Who will put Nigeria back on the global map? Who will write the book that will unite Nigeria?
In the autumn of 1986, Nigeria’s Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka (aka Wole Soyinka), became the Nobel Laureate for literature. The Nobel prize- a set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural or scientific advances- is the agreed ultimate in the world of prizes and political as it is perceived to be, it is nevertheless agreed that it is virtually impossible to win it if the contender is not extraordinary in his or her field of endeavour. Soyinka The Nobel Peace prize has been by far the most controversial- its subjective nature makes it possible to manipulate and sometimes, politics rather than achievement takes the upper hand amongst the criteria. Of course the science and social science prize winners are far less visible, and the prizes themselves far less possible to manipulate. If someone has done groundbreaking work in physics or economics, it is virtually impossible to ignore them. The most glamorous of the Nobel prizes has got to be the literature prize, the one that Soyinka won. Though he was the first African ever to have won the uber prestigious award, the giving of it to him was not without its own controversies. The novelist, biographer, poet and playwright have been said in some quarters to the late father of Nigerian literature Chinua Achebe, whose great first novel Things Fall Apart had catapulted him into permanent greatness and had him rising year after year like a meteor in the space that is the international literary community. Arguments on this went on for years. Soyinka had opened the door for the rest of Africa including Albert Camus, the journalist and playwright of Algeria; activist Nadine Gordimer of South Africa, her compatriot John Maxwell Coetzee who had also won the prestigious Booker prize; as well as Doris Lessing of Zimbabwe. Out of these, only Nadine Gordimer arguably has boasted as much international clout as Soyinka has, perhaps by virtue of his personality, or perhaps by virtue of his being Nigerian. Soyinka is the one Nigerian who has never sat on the proverbial fence when it comes to national matters. If an African has had such intense influence on the world just for winning a prize, it shows how important the subjects around the prize are to human development. And if science, literature and peace are important subjects to the rest of the world, why are they not to Nigeria? More than two decades after Soyinka won the Nobel prize and Ben Okri’s the Famished Road won the Booker- another very prestigious prize, no other Nigerian has won any major literary prize for their Nigerian writing. Helon Habila, former Arts Editor for the Vanguard; as well as Chimamanda Adizie who won the ‘junior Booker prize’ and the Orange prize respectively, have moved on from Nigerian affairs, choosing, like Okri, to be Nigerian writers at large. In the midst of the tragedy of the London’s Grenfell tower fire in June 2017, Okri wrote a wildly critically acclaimed poem- Grenfell Tower- which ironically catapulted him back to global literary reckoning. As a British writer. No home based writer is given any recognition, except in literary circles. Not for them, national awards. There was a ray of hope when the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas company, NLNG, installed their mouth watering ‘Nigerian prize’. It was to be expected that others would follow. It did not happen, until Etisalat endowed a less prestigious prize more recently whose scope is not limited to Nigeria. As the whole world celebrates the new Nobel Literature Laureate and the sale of his books goes through the roof while they have become the topics at top dinner parties in the world’s capitals, Nigeria has joined to celebrate his success through the social media. While Soyinka, Achebe and Ekwensi had spurned the next generation of great writers of literature after them, their progeny has unfortunately failed to deliver in that regard. This state of affairs might have more to do with the dearth of the entire industry than with the literary giants. Nobody is rewarding writers, so nobody wants to write. The level of literature that is available is therefore abysmal in nature. There is no competition, no inspiration, no encouragement. The kind of literature that is available to school children is limited, at best. In reality most of the books with which Literature in English is being taught in Nigerian schools today are mostly badly written, poorly edited and poorly printed. A pre-teen child who has been taught well how to read and write, can easily pick out the grammatical errors in many of them. This has some obvious implications, chief of which is that writers of influence will be scarce amongst the millennials, who are already bogged down by intrusive technologies with which they have to contend daily. More importantly, who will teach them the practical aspect of grit, the one thing the study and practice of literature teaches? Who will put Nigeria back on the global map? Who will write the book that will unite Nigeria?

Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/10/where-is-nigerian-literature/

SHORT STORY: The Boxer


You’ve long dreamed about the shores where fish are washed ashore just for you to pick them up. He promised you everything, including a safe passage, and a paper upon your arrival. He said you will make decent money to send home to your family. You dreamed it; you lived it. You were ready for it.

You walked into the coffee shop at 10 rue de la Navigation in Geneva and ordered a cup of cappuccino from the beautiful Ethiopian lady who you couldn’t stop imagining naked on your bed. Each time you imagined this, you reminded yourself there was no bed. You sighed. You had slept under the bridge during the summer and found your way to the asylum house in the winter. There you are now, where the mental patients scream and moan in the dead of the night. Strings and white magic powder lay on the toilet floor each morning while you make your way to clean yourself up. You knew you did not have to do that. The most important thing to you was your sanity. You needed it. You needed it more than anything and as you have passed through the rough road of life, you’ve braved it all and still kept your sanity. You can’t waste it now.

You sipped your coffee and lit a cigarette; let it go out through your nostrils while you watched the Ethiopian lady clean the desk, her curves all in your face as she bent to get to the edge of the table. You coughed. You think that it is just a matter of time before she falls in love with you, just like home, just like Njedeka, your last girlfriend. You understood the psychology well enough, but maybe the geography eluded you. You let the thought go down with another sip of coffee.

The pain, it comes occasionally, like the light train at the back of the asylum centre in Geneva, it hits and waits for another five minutes before coming back again. You have had so many bad experiences that they are beginning to hurt in silent moments. You don’t want to think about them. You have avoided them. But today you couldn’t. It sticks, it does.

You could see yourself making it through the sandy deserts of Niger and into Libya. Once again you recount the numbers of men lost in the heat while your guides rode on camel back- John, Kufo, Obialita, and Njemanze. You met them during your travel, which was arranged by a payment of a solid two thousand dollars to get you to Europe. You are still hunted by the fact that no word has gotten to their family back home and probably their families still think they made it to the shores of the Mediterranean.

The sea experience wasn’t the worst of it. It was the most soothing. At that point you had given up in your soul after months of breaking rocks in Tripoli just to make extra money for the next path of the journey.  Two months after you left, heavy artilleries fell on Tripoli. You still think you are lucky to have made it out of Tripoli alive. Libya was no place for a black man you thought, the racism, the pain, the mindless quarry masters who made you toil just for a paltry sum. You struggled with the thought of it.

You could feel the waves pounding the boat as it lies in the bay in the open sea. The Somailan Captain struggled to subdue the waves or probably trick the masters of fate. You knew your fate on that moonless night with the roaring sea. It was sealed, and even the devil knew it. Death was your fate. You had cheated him many times in your life. You still wonder if he will ever catch up with you.

In your head you could hear many people shouting in different languages and pleading with whatever ancestor or god they believed in. You just prayed. You just bowed your head, ‘chineke ka onwu a di nfe’. That was it. You prayed for an easy death.

Beyond the rising and beating storm, the voice of a thousand monsters rose from the pit of the ocean. You heard it all. They called with familiar voices, that of your mum, your brothers and sisters. Your late father was the last to shout your name. The boat splintered into a thousand pieces and bowed to the roaring lion of the sea.

You found yourself lying on the shore, after passing out for several hours. At the other end of the shore, you could hear sirens blaring and the Italian police speaking on a loud phone. You managed to stand. Fell. Stood again and fell. Water came out of your nostrils as you hit the beach with your stomach. You knew you had to move. You knew it was a miracle that you had made it out alive. You knew. You knelt on the white beach and thanked God. Quickly you made your way to the street. That night you knew bullets had been fired too, but you didn’t have the luxury of finding out who got shot, maybe it was the immigrants? You wondered still, and that’s one puzzle you can’t still solve.

The pain came to you; thinking about it was another trauma that makes participation in its lighter. You don’t want to think about it. It’s too heavy, heavier than anything you could ever think of. You wished you could brush it all out of your head, just like bleach on a stained floor, but memories cannot be scrubbed, they stick, and you understood that.

Soon you realized that the Sicilian Island was no place for you. Njoku told you. The kind hearted Nigerian man who you met on the street while looking for shelter dressed in the winter jacket you collected from some hippies who were meditating and told you they were trekking to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. That was your first real encounter with the society. You imagined what they were looking for in life, and then you remind yourself it was the same way you left him to be on their shores. The road might be different, but the aim is the same.

Salvation, you thought, you understand the word well enough, and you know what salvation means. Salvation is just like you are seated in the chapel and praying to the infant Jesus to grant your journey mercies. If infant Jesus had brought you to the shores of Sicily, there will be no problem with him taking them to his birthplace. Njoku took you in and helped you more than anyone would have. He told you how to get to Geneva without papers, just hit the train and pray there was no search party out in the night. You knew what fate had left you with, you are surviving, and that’s all you can do each day of your life, survive.

The beautiful Ethiopian lady served you breakfast with a smile on her face that quickly faded away as she placed it in front of you. You have seen that smile a thousand times; you are no stranger to such smiles. You know the meaning, simply I don’t like you, but I have to serve you. You finished your meal, and dipped your hand in your pocket. You had only five euro left, as the money promised by the government for the asylum seekers had not been paid for the past three months. You nodded your head, knowing that it is not your right, it is just a privilege, an expensive one that comes out of mercy and keeps you going. But that’s not how you make a living.

‘Merci beaucoup,’ you thanked the beautiful lady.

‘Merci,’ she replied with a smile that soon faded away and she started rumbling with the glasses in her back. You knew she was in no mood for a conversation so you left.

You joined the light city rail on the street before the Tanzanite East African Bar. You could see your friends, well not your friends, you knew it. Right from your days in Lagos, you have had the impression that there is no brother in the jungle. The street is your jungle. You have mastered it well enough to realize that no brother exists on it.

Those that tried have been kidnapped by the police or have gone missing. You knew it. The rule was to keep to yourself, that’s a survival instinct you have never ignored. You walked down the empty alley, dipped your hand into the inner pocket of your jacket. You counted the wrapped kilos you had with you. They were all in order and as supplied. You know the severity of missing one of them or messing with their money, some have paid for it with their life.

‘How is it going today?’ you asked the tall Senegalese who could speak a little English. He looked at you and smiled.

‘My territory you know, right? But fine,’ he answered and bounced in his mac Jordan air canvas and walked to the street wall and leaned on it. You understood him well enough. You knew what he meant, and you do. The business was about territory, that’s how you make sales. Each peddler marks his territory, just like animals in the jungle.

You headed north, beside the red window rooms with girls flashing their goodies. You’ve been in there a number of times; when you had extra money to spend. You don’t mind doing it there, eighty euros for a good time is nothing to you on a good day. The Madame was walking out when she saw you, and she waved at you. You knew her. She liked you, but you didn’t like her. You thought she was too large and had big breasts. Yes you made love to her twice, and just like licking a bitter lemon, you swallowed it. You knew the taste of it.

‘Bonjour Sam,’ she greeted.

‘Bonjour, comment ĂȘtes-vous corps?’ you added the beauty to make her feel good about herself. You felt she was too cheap and a whore, but if everything is on the street, why not take it? Even a bitter lemon, you said to yourself.

She walked into your arms and embraced you; you knew she was going to do that. You kissed her cheek, just where she wanted you to kiss it. She smiled as you walked away.

You took the end of the street in the alley. A white man with long hair and a greying mustache walked towards you. You knew him, it was  the old guy Kent, the American who never left and was always in constant need of your white powder. You removed some grams from your pocket, pushed it into his hand, and used your left hand to collect the money and put it into your pocket. You trusted him, he doesn’t miss a dime, and he doesn’t cheat your business. He was a regular. You looked the other way as he made his way into the street.

The snow was getting heavier. You rolled the jacket back flap over your head. Morning hustle pays better. You don’t understand the urge they have, but you knew they would always want it at that time of the day. So you hustle early in the morning and late at night. You could hear the sound of the police siren beyond the dead end street where you stood by. You hurried back to the red window brothels, peered into the street from the end of the walls.  The siren had stopped but the police car was getting closer. You weren’t a stranger to hustle in Geneva; you have been here long enough. You had seen men get caught and sent back to Africa. You hurried back on the main street. At least you made some sales.

You stood at the light rail stop. Your hands in your pocket, you were muttering tunes to yourself, as you watched the young lad skate cross you. You didn’t grow with such toys. You couldn’t imagine going to school with a skateboard in the community high school you went to in Nigeria. The few times you took a football to school, the headmaster seized all of them and you never got them back. Their life is easier and freer, you thought.  You whistled lightly as the light rail approached.

You made a stop at the gym; you always practice just to keep fit. You walked in, submitted your identity to the lady at the front desk. You walked into the dressing room, changed into your boxing gear. The sand bag starred at you. You have been doing this all your life. Aim and punch. You danced around it, held your posture, and swung your fist against the earth bag, it stood still.

You adjusted your poster once more, took another aim at it. Severally you punched your fist into the earth bag. Slowly it moved. That’s how your life has been, you always try, you’ve never given up, through the desert, in the sea, you always keep your posture, and you always punch into it. Life always gives in.

You knew you were a true boxer, one that never gives up, one that the earth refused to swallow and the sea spit out. You have defeated many things; your greatest was against death itself. Each pore on your skin opened, sweat poured out. You gave it another punch, you are not a quitter. You muster the strength in your body, you gave it all. It swung; it respected your wish, just like life, just like any other affair that required hard work.

The snow had melted away, and you could see that through the windows, so you rolled your bed away and locked up your belongings. The room was filled men and smelled like tobacco and gin. You still wondered how you survived each day with a room full of men. Men from all over the world, men like you. You knew that some has lost their way and that no redemption was on the way. You understood it all; and your sanity was the most important if you must return home.

You dreamt of home and how far it has become, across several oceans and lands, a journey that took two years of your life. You walked into the park, and you could feel the sun rays in the cold afternoon, it shone brightly. It was like a blessing. So peaceful in your face, as you dragged the cigarette and felt at peace within yourself.  Down in the alley, the pretty girls played basketball in their heavy winter clothes. You just stared at them, and for a second though, you walked towards them.

‘Hei wanna join?’ one of them asked you in a clear English accent and threw the ball at you; you held it in your palm, bounced it once, stamped and aimed at the basket. You made a three point on first throw. They were really impressed by your skills. You felt like a champion.

‘Nice shot,’ the blond girl said. You smiled.

‘Where are you from?’ the first girl asked you. They threw the ball back at you.

‘Nigeria,’ you said smiling, bouncing the ball around and going for your second aim. The Spanish girl sitting down on the bench finished tying her shoe lace and ran to block you. You ducked like a pro and made another shot.

‘Aha, Nigeria, yea I have a colleague from Nigeria, you might want to meet him… I work with UNICEF here in Geneva, my name Gina,’ the first girl said to you with a smile on her face.

‘Sam,’ you said smiling back at her.

‘And these are my friends…’ she pointed at the Spanish girl first.

‘Shina,’ the Spanish said smiling at you.

‘And…’ Gina said pointing at the blond girl.

‘Natasha’ she said and shook your hands.

You know what Geneva, it’s the international city, you know the whole world lives here and is easy to communicate and get along with anyone. You enjoyed that, you are happy you came here after all, but then you remembered your condition and that happiness melted like ice. You wished it wasn’t that bad. You wanted everything to work out on its own, but you are the boxer, you the master of patience. You believe it.

You know that one day you will be able to park your pathfinder by the basketball court, play and probably drop the girls off. You imagined it. You wanted that life, you think you have come a long way and giving up wasn’t part of your plan now. Like the priest used to say back home, ‘the goodness of God comes slowly.’ You believed that more than any other person.

You are tall enough to slam the ball in the basket, so to impress the girls you made a rush for it, your heavy biceps and strength helped grip the basket rim, you slammed the ball into it. They clapped for you; they were really impressed by your skills.

‘Hei, is really nice to meet you, may I ask what you are doing in Geneva?’ Gina asked.

That’s one question you don’t answer proudly, you drag your foot with it, you don’t easily respond. But of what use is keeping it to yourself?  You thought, why hold back, after all, to you they strangers and you might never see them again after this, you convinced yourself. So you opened up. You have learned to accept your fate; you have learned to answer that one name you dreaded watching it being used on the televisions when you were back home in Nigeria, that name that should not be called or spoken of ‘refugee.’ To you it spells nothing but poverty, homelessness and someone in need of help. You don’t like asking for help, you like to do it all by yourself. You prepared to take your chances on the street rather than wait for a paltry sum from the government. You are a hard worker and a fighter. You want to be seen as such and not as a refugee.

‘You know, my colleague is from Nigeria, maybe he will be able to help you with a shelter or something or something… wait,’ she said. You felt speechless, and you wanted to stop her from making the call, but something in you didn’t want to, something that doesn’t want to make you look ungrateful or proud. You have been brought up to appreciate each act of kindness, so you just said ‘thank you.’

She put the phone on loud speaker and you could hear the beep as it rings on the end of the phone. A voice answered, ‘Hi, Gina, today you have remembered to call me, are we having dinner tonight?’

Gina smiled, you knew that smile. It was the type that says I am not calling you to hang out with you, but just for a favour.

‘Hei John, I have a guy from Nigeria here, probably he is from your tribe too, he is a great guy and just in a situation that needs your help…’

The next voice that came from the other end of the receiver wasn’t that of flirtatious lover, it sounded a lot steamier and agitated.

‘No, no Gina, you won’t understand this country, I will explain to you later…’

‘Can you at least speak with him?’

‘Where is he from? Is he Igbo?’

She looked at expecting an answer, you nodded right.

‘Yes he is…’

A pause followed.

‘No, no, no, no, no, I don’t want to speak with him, let’s meet in the office and discuss this first Gina.’

You knew how the country works; you have met good men and bad men from your country. Most of your countrymen are not willing to carry anyone’s burden. Just like in a jungle, every man for himself, nobody cares how you survive or make it or pull yourself through and no one wants to be dragged down with you even with their influence. You knew it. You smiled at her, but she wasn’t smiling. Her facial appearance was more of disbelief than understanding. She nodded her head strangely. The voice at the other end of phone had died out. You wiped the sweat off of your forehead.

‘I am really sorry, I wish I could have done more for you,’ Gina said. From the lines on her face, you could see the sincerity in her words. Pity lined up as well on her forehead. You wanted to see more, compassion, maybe that kind of compassion that you are used to, that kind of compassion that would make a man do anything for the survival of another. But none of them appeared on those lines. These are the same lines have seen in many of them that came to Africa as missionaries working at the Village.

It is a line that defines special care for the poor African man rather than equality or dignity. To you, it was like having a pet you care about and yet willing to let him die when the time comes. You have seen movies about wars in Africa and how some of them get on the plane to leave with the same care and pity on their faces. You are used to it, so you watched her get into her car and drive away. Maybe you are wrong, maybe you are right. But you are still waiting for someone to prove you wrong, and up till now, you haven’t seen that person yet.

The sun has gone down bright like an orange in the distant cloud. You walked a few meters into the open park, sweaty and cold; you removed another cigarette from your pack and lit it. You dragged it and felt at peace as if each drag came with a consolation.

It’s all in my head you thought.

Making your way back and close to the asylum house gate, a young man approached you, tipped his hat at you and adjusted his jacket. You knew he wasn’t from around here. You have seen many like him since you came to stay in this place. You knew what he wanted, just statistics and facts, that’s what you are worth to them and you knew it. In his eyes you know you have no dignity, you are just another number stealing from the government. You are no stranger to that feeling. Somehow you still managed to smile.

‘Sprechen du deutsch?’ he asked you with a smile on his face too. You have been around for a long time around here. You have met people from all over Europe, you know a little bit of everything, especially languages, so it wasn’t a problem replying in German, but you knew you couldn’t communicate effectively.

‘Nein, English oder französisch,’ you responded with your little knowledge of German and let him know the languages you understood better.

‘English will be fine Sir,’ he said courteously.

You don’t like being addressed as Sir, so you corrected him immediately.

‘Samuel, call me Samuel and how may I help you?’ you inquired.

‘My name Burk, I am a PHD student in Political Science from the University of Berlin,’  He said. Definitely you knew no person would walk into the refugee area apart from refugees and the educated ones looking for numbers and statistics.

‘May I just ask you a few questions Sir, if you don’t mind,’ he smiled.

You knew they would always ask a few questions with a smile on their faces, not a welcoming smile, but one that longs rather for answers. That smile wasn’t sympathizing; instead it was filled with awe and curiosity. Maybe when you tell your story they will think you are another lunatic that tried to cross the ocean at the risk of his own life. You laughed in your mind, after all the frustrated among them have no place to go rather than commit suicide.

‘May I ask how you came to Geneva and became an asylum seeker?’ he asked you.

You have told that emotional heart wrecking story over and over so that you didn’t even want to repeat it again. You have been here long enough to realize that nothing comes out of it.

‘I arrived in Geneva four months ago for a conference, due to the political instability I decided to apply for asylum,’ you answered.

‘Do you think they are treating you fairly? And will you rate the facility, good, fair, poor or excellent? ’ He asked, scribbled a few words on his paper.

‘Poor,’ you answered.

‘And may I ask why?’ he asked looking into your eyes as if the answers will correspond with your facial expression.

‘Well, many promises never get fulfilled, look at our quarters, they are nothing to talk about…’ you answered. You are not a man of many words. You easily get irritated talking about things like this. The young scholar felt your irritation and refrained from asking further questions.

‘Thank you Samuel for helping with this project,’ he said.

You smiled, shook the hand he offered and walked into the building.

The Ethiopians and Palestinians took different corners in the room smoking Shisha with their hookah. You are the only West African in the room. You don’t smoke with either of them. You rolled your bed and lay quietly. You are hunted. You are. The memories flood your head once again. A fighter in the desert that watched men die. A fighter in a sea that was saved by a miracle. You slept.

The night has come; the lights are shining from in the distance. You looked at your watch and it was 12 AM. You made your way to the night club. That was where you wanted to be. You just wanted a coloured room with girls dancing, and that’s where you went to. You sat in the lounge; the pretty girls were shaking their asses and sashayed past you. You bought a glass of whisky. Took the first sip and let it burn your mouth before burning your throat.

Then you gulped the rest of the whisky and walked into the ballroom. You just came to feel yourself. To dance alone no matter how strange it looks. But you don’t mind if a pretty girl walks into your space. That night you made more money from selling your drugs to the young men in fine suits and a lady in a nice party outfit. It is about your survival and nothing else. You understand that better. No girl came your way till the dancing light went off and you went home.

You are up again, back at the gym. The boxer doesn’t miss his practice.  Life has punched your head and to balance it, it was necessary for you to punch something, so you chose to be a boxer. You knew the sun would shine on you in the future and you would find your heart within its rays, on that tiny stream of light.

You now knew there were no thousands of fish washed ashore, but you could still grab a handful of them. Home was only in your heart, a place you longed for and went to through the desert and sea each day you of your life. It is the most difficult and painful path one could take. A pain only a boxer could bear.

About the Author
chika
Chika Onyenezi was born in Owerri, Nigeria, in 1986 and currently lives in Houston, Texas. He is a graduate of Peace and Conflict Studies from European Peace University, Austria. His short stories have appeared online and in print in Story Time, African Roar (2012), literary master Inc., poor mojo, long story short, and elsewhere.  He is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

How to Sell Ebooks: 5 Proven Tips


The ability to sell ebooks as an indie or self-published author is easier than ever before. In some ways, a cult-like following has developed for self-published ebooks among cost-conscious readers and techno-geeks, and many people feel cool downloading books at cheap prices and helping drive the e-reading revolution. If you want to join the fray and sell ebooks to a wider audience, use these five tips to market like a pro.

Sell Ebooks Tip #1 – Give It Away for Free

One of the best ways to assess if you can make it as a new author is by giving away your ebook for free for a limited time, such as 30 or 90 days. Free is the quickest way to generate word of mouth, which is essential to success. If you’re writing isn’t good enough to get friends and family to share your book with others, you probably won’t get the general public to follow suit. By giving away your ebook for free, you can generate enough short-term momentum to carry you through to the real sales process.
Ebook innovator Seth Godin encourages aspiring authors to give away their first book for free. “You should give your book away for free and send it to your twenty closest friends,” he says. “And, if that’s the end of it, then you’re not a good writer. On the other hand, if those twenty people send it to twenty more people, then you have four hundred readers, and then eight thousand readers, and so on. If you can get up to twenty thousand readers of your first book for free, there will be a line out the door of people wanting to help you with your next book.”
Using a free approach with your ebook allows you to test your material with readers without losing your shirt financially if you fail. The opportunity to build a new audience has never been this quick and easy.

Sell Ebooks Tip #2 – The Price Is Right

A large percentage of people who read ebooks are extremely price-sensitive. Amazon started this process by setting prices for most ebooks at $9.99. A continual battle rages throughout the publishing industry on the right price structure. But, Amazon created a trend in the minds of many readers. Thus, many independent authors picked up on this trend and now use low pricing as a way to get readers to take a chance on their new book.
For example, Darcie Chan, ebook author of The New York Times best-selling novel, The Mill River Recluse, used low prices to gain her initial audience. “The goal of my ‘e-book experiment’ has never been to make money,” she says. “I only wanted to get my work out there over time and gauge people’s responses to it. For that reason, I lowered the price to $0.99. I think it is true that readers are more willing to take a chance on a completely unknown author at that price point, and I definitely wanted to encourage people to take a chance on me.”
Not only did people take a chance on Darcie’s novel, they gave rave reviews and spread an electronic wildfire. Within four months, she was selling several thousand copies a day. You could argue that Darcie didn’t make much money from this low-price strategy, but with an established fan base, she’s now in a position to get a big advance from a major publisher or sell her next book at a much higher price.

Sell Ebooks Tip #3 – Partner with Ebook Blogs

Ebook junkies are a tight-knit tribe who possess a powerful communication network. Everyone knows where to go for information, and they check-in regularly. There are numerous blogs, websites, newsletters, and social media pages that specifically review and promote e-books. Having your FREE ebook mentioned on these blogs will naturally help increase download.

Sell Ebooks Tip #4 – Pursue Paid Book Reviews

Besides book mentions and paid advertising, independent authors can pursue literary reviews of their work for a fee. There are a lot reviewers offering that service online. These review sites can help provide a level of legitimacy to an unknown author.

Sell Ebooks Tip #5 – Subsidize Your Writing Costs with a Sponsor

Taking the time to write a book can work against your ability to make a living. If that is the case, consider getting a sponsor for your ebook. This process is similar to getting an advance from a traditional publisher, because someone pays you up front to create your book. In return, you agree to give the sponsor some free advertising space or perform promotional activities on their behalf.
The key to landing a sponsor is to identify people, companies, or nonprofit organizations that want to reach the same audience you want to reach with your book. In essence, you offer yourself as a spokesperson or product placement opportunity for that organization. The company receives the benefit of marketing their product or service in a non-threatening manner to potential customers or donors. Sponsorship will work only if the company believes your book’s audience fits their target market and that you have the ability to sell a lot of books.
There has never been a more interesting time to be an independent author. The opportunities to publish and sell ebooks are unprecedented. However, the fundamentals remain the same. You must write a great book that provides tangible value to the reader. Ebooks allow you to accomplish this task faster than ever before. Start small, use a low-cost pricing approach to gain new readers, connect with the ebook community to grow your platform, find a sponsor if needed, and watch as the world downloads your message like wildfire.

If you need help publishing online, Kindly Visit www.blacktowerpublishers.com.ng and request for Online Publishing Package.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

SHORT STORY: Journey of Hearts

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LOVE IN PARTS
(A Short Story by Poet Razon-Anny Justin)
It was a sultre afternoon. The noise of the hawkers rended the already hot air into bits. They cooed and hissed and whistled; attracting passengers and passersby to their wares.
The bus was uncomfortably hot too. It would’ve been better if she was not sandwiched between two men- a greasy one to her left- by the window and a sweating one to her right. Both-Mr. Grease and Mr. Sweats, were as fat as Elephants. But her uncomfortability did not totally come from the bulkiness around her. It was an emotional thing- a deep seated depression.
The bus had gently eased out of Itam Metropolitan Park. She was leaving Uyo. The town lay there in all its serenade- with cross-matts of neat tarmacs criss-crossing each other at different angles as they snaked into the suburbs. The greenery of lush tropical vegetation in the backdrop and cured roadside lawns made the city a paradise for the eye-tour, but its lull failed to woo her. Omenna was leaving Uyo. Maybe she will come back someday; but now, she was leaving all of it. Leaving her newfound Lover behind too- the reason she commuted to Uyo from Lagos five days ago.
She thought hard; tears formed a mist below her eyelids; her vision was dimmed by it. The screams of the bus- preacher could not distract her. Neither could his prayers comfort her too. There was no succour to be found in Words. She intermittently mopped the gathering tears from the corner of her eyes with a pink hand-crafted handkerchief (another gift of his) she clutched in her right hand, putting efforts to make it look as ordinary as possible. Nobody must know the emotions in her. Nobody had the right to know that the turmoil inside was whelling up fountains of warm tears from her lacrimea. Nobody. Not even the Pachyderm-like men besides her.
She reminisced more. His face beemed in the remote shadows of her befogged mind. She pictured it- as he hugged her the last time, looked away, strolled back on wobbly legs, returning to the Toyota Corolla sedan car he had driven her to the park few minutes before; and zoomed off.
Maybe he was feeling the same way she was feeling now. It might explain why he looked away. Maybe he had tears tucked at the corners of his eyes too.
The other passengers echoed the last Amen and the preacher settled down. The bus was calm once more.
Then came the chill. Omenna felt it once and felt it again and again. It was a feeling of uncertainty. She felt it again- same feeling she felt five days ago while coming to Uyo. Now she was feeling it on her way back.
Five days ago, it was an uncertainty of going to a place you haven’t gone before; to meet a person you barely know.
She went, she met him.
Now it’s an uncertainty of knowing what the future held for her.
“What happens after now”, she queried her heart.
Will he be able to stand the distance?
Will I see him again?
Will I be able to stay without him- now that I’ve consummated the love I felt for him?
Will he find out elsewhere about the secret?
How will he react if he does? Will he ever consider her?
She sobbed as guilt swept through her.
“Omenna! You should have told him”, her conscience exhorted.
But how could she? It’s unbelievable that it worked in the first place. More intriguing that she commuted this far South for someone she barely knew. Someone she met on an online social platform. A facebook crush.
How could she tell him? She had been love starved for so long. It would’ve been folly to tell him the truth at this stage of it. Not only would it have murked-up things, he would’ve been freaked out.
At Ikot Ekpene, the bus pulled into a petrol station for a refill. The murmuring passengers tongue-lashed the driver for not filling gas before the commencement of the long trip to Onitsha. Their time was on the tracks and racing away. Omenna didn’t partake in bad-mouthing the driver- her mind was far away. She fed her eyes on the environmental scenery. Ikot Ekpene, though a smaller satellite town was beautifully landscaped and developing. Like Uyo, it had a plaza- a recreational park that stood at its heart. Akwa Ibom state was really a beautiful place. Its people were equally fine, and the cuisines superb. She would’ve loved to stay here. He had pleaded with her to stay a bit more. “Few more days, Mon Cherie”, he had said.
But she couldn’t. The more time she spent, the bigger the temptations to tell him of her issues; and the longer she stayed, the more broken he will be if he gets to know. He genuinely loved her, and his love was deepening by the day.
She remembered the last session of their love-making. He was so caught up, he didn’t want to use protection.
She shook her head in silence as if it would clear the dark clouds gathering in her mind.
“Men always make these mistakes”, she thought.
They’d meet a woman for the first time, insist on using protection during sex; and subsequently, in no time, feeling they’d known her so well and in their bit to affirm trust, throw caution to the wind.
If she had not insisted on him using it, he would have made that fatal mistake.
But he truly loved her and meant good.
She couldn’t hold it back this time- the tears flowed like hot larva that had escaped a volcano down her cold cheeks. It soiled her make-up; creating two rivulets across her face.
She had longed to make love to him with no protection. To feel his skin as he plunged deep into her. She had wanted to scream “fuck Gold Circle”. But she couldn’t. She had to save him from herself.
She could not bear to be the one that infected such a pure loving Soul with HIV.
The bus pulled out from the petrol station en route Onitsha. In Onitsha, she will board a Marcopolo to Lagos.
She mopped the tears and her spoilt mascara.
“How am I going to tell him of my status”, she suddenly asked the Greasy man by the window. Mr. Grease turned, stared confusedly at her, startled by her questions. Omenna, smiled at him exposing a set of china-white teeth.
“O! Never mind. I wasn’t referring to you”, she offered in a manner of apology.
The bus speed away.
The End.


Anny Justin Udofia, 30; is a Nigerian poet published in the Red-Parrot Magazine and extensively on e-zines like the Kalahari review, allpoetry, poemhunters, I_am_not_a_silent_poet blog, southernibid's wordpress and many others. He holds the 2014 Creative Writer's Association of Nigeria, CWAN award in the poetry category and was a finalists in the highly rated 'BB10 Poetry Slam' held at University of Ibadan in April, 2015. Apart from poetry, Anny writes fiction and short stories. His stories have appeared on MyNaijaStories, Nairaland etc. He speaks Ibibio/Efik, Igbo and English. He blogs @ http://southernibid.wordpress.com E-mail: razon_anny@hotmail.com Phone: +2347036647700 Twitter: @Poet_Razon

On the road: Nobel laureate Soyinka to teach in South Africa


JOHANNESBURG – Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka says being a traveling teacher has become “a way of life” as he takes up a post as visiting professor at the University of Johannesburg.
The 83-year-old Nigerian playwright and author told students and journalists at the South African university on Friday that the benefit of encountering different cultures during his journeys is that “one does not stagnate.”
Soyinka, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1986, has lectured at universities around the world. He said he and his Johannesburg students might create a play together, as well as discuss history and international relations along with literature.
“Absolutely nothing is outside the scope of my interests in this interaction,” Soyinka said. He drew laughs when he added: “What I don’t know, I’ll pretend that I know.”
The university said it hopes Soyinka’s periodic presence on campus will boost plans to set up a creative writing program.
South Africa is a traditional hub of migrant literature and art, including theater, according to Soyinka. A fierce critic of past Nigerian military rulers, he was jailed in the late 1960s during the country’s civil war.
“I am very much an itinerant teacher,” Soyinka said. “And so moving from one institution to the other has become a way of life, not planned as such, but that’s the way it happens.”

20 Writing Tips from Bestselling Authors

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Writing success boils down to hard work, imagination and passion—and then some more hard work. LiteMag fires up your creative spirit with 20 writing tips from 12 bestselling fiction authors.
Use these tips as an inspirational guide—or better yet, print a copy to put on your desk, home office, refrigerator door, or somewhere else noticeable so you can be constantly reminded not to let your story ideas wither away by putting off your writing.

Tip1: "My first rule was given to me by TH White, author of The Sword in the Stone and other Arthurian fantasies and was: Read. Read everything you can lay hands on. I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt." — Michael Moorcock

Tip 2: "Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you." — Zadie Smith

Tip 3: "Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel. If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction. Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development. Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution." — Michael Moorcock

Tip 4: "In the planning stage of a book, don't plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it." — Rose Tremain

Tip 5: "Always carry a note-book. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever." — Will Self

Tip 6: "It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction." — Jonathan Franzen
"Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet." — Zadie Smith

Tip 7: "Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting." — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 8: "Read it aloud to yourself because that's the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out—they can be got right only by ear)." — Diana Athill

Tip 9: "Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." – Anton Chekhov

Tip 10: "Listen to the criticisms and preferences of your trusted 'first readers.'" — Rose Tremain

Tip 11: "Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money." — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 12: "Don't panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I contemplate the drivel on the screen before me and see beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends' embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce . . . Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end. Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there's prayer. St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too." — Sarah Waters

Tip 13: "The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement – if you can't deal with this you needn't apply." — Will Self

Tip 14: "Be your own critic. Sympathetic but merciless!" — Joyce Carol Oates

Tip 15: "The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator." — Jonathan Franzen

Tip 16: "Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful." — Elmore Leonard

Tip 17: "Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong." — Neil Gaiman

Tip 18: "You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished." — Will Self

Tip 19: "The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter." — Neil Gaiman

Tip 20: "The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying ‘Faire et se taire’ (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as ‘Shut up and get on with it.’" — Helen Simpson
Even famous authors sometimes have a tough time with writing; they also go through periods of self-doubt. Despite this, they always manage to come up with the goods. So take a lesson from them and stop putting off your writing plans and get started on your publishing journey today.
There has never been a better time than now to realize your dream of becoming a published author. Let your voice be heard and let your story be told. Never let your passion for writing wane.

Let Black Tower Publishers help you achieve your ambitions »