Thursday, 25 May 2017

16 Dos and Don’ts for Aspiring Writers

Writing advice is everywhere you look these days, from blogs to YouTube to 140 characters on Twitter. And a lot of it deals with story structure and plot elements and how to create memorable characters. But that’s not what this post is about.

Rather than focus on plot or character or style, these 16 Dos and Don’ts focus more on the practice of writing, how to develop good habits, and how to help shut out some of the inevitable distractions. Because trust me, there are always distractions…

DO write every day. Ideally at the same time. Preferably without distraction. Half an hour. An hour. Fifteen minutes. Whatever works with your schedule. Just pick a time and develop a habit and stick with it.

DON'T worry about your word count, especially when you first start out. If you don’t write much of anything and just sit there and stare at your computer, it’s okay. The practice is what matters. Eventually the words will come.

DO some writing exercises if you can’t think of anything to write. Pick a scene and write the same scene from different points of view: first person, second person, third person limited, third person omniscient. Or pick a scene and write it in different tenses. Anything to help stimulate your mind and challenge you to write something you might not be comfortable doing.

DON'T pay attention to how much other people are writing. It doesn’t matter if all of your writer friends on Twitter are pumping out 2000, 3000, or 4000 words a day. Just focus on what you can control and don’t compare yourself to others. After all, it’s about quality, not quantity.

DO carry a journal with you in your purse or backpack. Yes, that’s right. I said a journal. An actual book of blank pages that you write in with something that’s called a pen. It helps you to keep in touch with the physical process of writing. And it’s easier to write an idea down in a notebook than waiting to fire up your laptop.

DON'T check your Facebook profile or your Twitter account or your e-mail during your dedicated writing time. Staying disconnected from the Internet will allow you to stay connected to your writing.

DO read as much as you can. Novels, short stories, magazines. Read humor, romance, horror, mystery, suspense, non-fiction, memoir, poetry. Don’t get stuck reading the same thing over and over, even if it’s what you’re writing. A well-rounded reader is a well-rounded writer.

DON'T expect that you can learn how to write by reading a bunch of books on how to write. The best way to learn how to write is to write.

DO pay attention to song lyrics and movies and appreciate why you like them. It’s all writing, even if it’s in a different form. A writer can find inspiration in all sorts of places that aren’t the printed word.

DON'T pay attention to what other people say you should be writing.

DO write something that speaks to you. Something that makes you laugh or cry or get chills down your spine. Something that resonates with you. Because if it doesn’t resonate with you, chances are it’s not going to resonate with anyone else.

DON'T try to get it absolutely perfect the first time. That's what rewrites are for. If you spend all of your time rewriting your first chapter, you'll never get the second chapter written. Or the third.

DO get feedback from a writers group or a couple of trusted friends or colleagues. Family members are okay, too, but only if they're going to give you an honest critique. Criticism is only helpful if it's constructive.

DON'T try to please everyone who gives you feedback. Writing is subjective and everyone is going to have their own reaction to what you've written. Use the suggestions that help to improve the story you want to tell and throw the rest of them out.

DO realize that once you send your novel out into the world, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to everyone who reads it and not everyone is going to like it. Accept that fact and deal with it and learn how to not take everything personally.

DON'T forget that you’re supposed to be writing every day.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Importance of Editing and Reviewing a Manuscript

One of the most common questions I receive is, “Why isn’t my book selling?”  The answer is usually painful to hear.  Avoiding that question altogether lies in tackling another question early in the publishing process, “What will prevent my book from selling?”

Editing is one of the absolute factors that will influence your book sales. The degree to which you personally edit your thoughts and writing, combined with the degree to which you invest in professional editing will ultimately play a large role in developing reader comfort.  A great edit will not ensure your book sells, but it will definitely eliminate one of the largest potential detractors that might prevent book sales.

Some authors decide against getting their books edited.  It takes time, can be expensive, and can be emotionally invasive.  After putting your heart and soul into something, it can be very difficult to hear what needs to be fixed.  By definition, editing is critical, so it’s not at all uncommon to see authors avoid it like the plague.  When I wrote my first book I did not initially have it professionally edited, and it was one of the larger mistakes I made in my first foray into publishing.  I thought that I was saving money and time, but in the end I was mistaken on both counts.  It did not save me time and ended up costing me more in the long run.

The truth of the matter is that even extremely experienced writers have their works professionally edited.   Traditional publishing houses put every book through a minimum of two edits.

Professional editors, like the ones we work with at Black Tower Publishers, are trained to put their own personal feelings aside and focus on enhancing your work.  There is a significant difference between having a professional do the job and letting a friend edit your book.  Friends have a tendency to be less critical than is helpful.  Although they may have the best intentions, their ability to ensure the essence of your book is conveyed properly generally falls short.

The two questions that are probably on your mind at this point are, “How much editing do I need”, and  “How much is it going to cost?”   Every manuscript is different.  Fortunately there is an inexpensive way to address both questions: a Manuscript Review Analysis.  Black Tower Publishers offers this professional service; designed to help authors know the type of manuscript editing they would need for their manuscript, and they will also review the manuscript and give tips on how to better the manuscript. The last time I checked, they charge about N4,500 for that service. Manuscript Review will help you know what you are doing. They will let you know if your manuscript is ready to be edited and published, or if you have to revisit the manuscript and do some more work on it.

So whether you’re just starting your work or wondering why it isn’t selling the way you would like, it’s always a good time to think about editing.

Happy Publishing!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Africa: How Achebe's Four Books Have Traced Africa's Transition

It will be four years on March 22 since Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, the doyen of African literature passed on. That the father of African literature (a title he has declined on numerous occasions) harnessed creativity to present Africa in its transformative stages, which I would wish to categorise as pre-colonial, colonial, post-independence (a period not more than a decade after independence) and contemporary is in no doubt. In his works, he intertwines history with creativity to represent Africa's trajectory through her epochs into the current state in a style that is akin to tracing a baby from birth through adolescence up to adulthood.

Achebe's first novel, Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God belong together with regard to their period. Both of them symbolically represent the African continent at birth, when African writers were busy debunking the stereotypical misrepresentation of Africa as a dark continent and choosing, instead, to represent her as she was, her flaws as well as positivity.

I narrow down to Things Fall Apart. The novel acknowledges that Africa had her flaws. For instance Nneka's twins are thrown away. We also witness the brutal killing of innocent children, as is the case with Ikemefuna. Nevertheless, there is a positive aspect in the pre-colonial Africa: decision making is not arbitrary. For important decisions to be made, a debate -- akin to the current parliament -- has to be held and the majority carries the day. This is what happens when Umuofia wants to declare war against Mbaino. Further, tribes don't just start wars against each other. A peace delegation is sent first to seek reconciliation. Achebe's baby Africa is thus not romanticised.

The second novel, No Longer at Ease, represents Africa in transition, the symbolic toddlerhood. We encounter two characters who have ventured outside their home country: Obiajulu Okonkwo and Clara Okeke, who travel to England to study English and nursing respectively. Again, we encounter Isaac Okonkwo, who has weathered the storm of cultural conflict to join Christianity and become a catechist to the chagrin of the traditionalists. Having been set in the time of transition to independence, we meet the white people, hitherto the bosses, who must now pave way for the Africans they considered inept to take up leadership. They are represented by Mr Green. Thus the toddler Africa is characterised by spreading her tentacles to discover the outside world.

The fourth novel, A Man of the People, interrogates the symbolic African adolescence. It is a political satire that revolves around the lives of the people of Nigeria in the 1960s. Achebe explores the excesses committed by the ruling class in the name of protecting the country's hard won independence. Most of those in position of power, such as Chief Nanga, are out to use their positions to acquire wealth at the expense of developing their nation. They engage in a multiplicity of social evils such as corruption, misuse and wastefulness of public resources, for example by hiring goons to immobilise their opponents. They have managed to stay in power by making the citizens believe that their actions are meant to benefit and defend the entire community.

Anthills of the Savannah represents Africa in her adulthood. The African leadership, as represented by Sam, has shed off the innocence exhibited at the adolescent stage, instead adopting outright dictatorship, assassinations and intimidation as seen with the leaders who try to oppose His Excellency, as happens to Sam.

On a positive note, Achebe reveals an emancipated woman -- Beatrice -- whose birth to a girl encapsulates the continuation of women liberation as is the case with the contemporary woman who has, arguably, managed to overcome patriarchy.
Surely, Achebe's literary prowess is enigmatic. His ability to intertwine African history with creativity is an exceptional feat that can never be equalled.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

See Why Every Writer Should Publish Online In Nigeria

Most Nigerian authors have been searching for publishing companies to help them publish their books. They expect the publishing houses to review their manuscripts and then offer them publishing contracts where the publishing house handles the cost of publishing the book. Well, as long as it’s in Nigeria, that might never happen because most publishing houses in Nigeria don’t operate that way. They can only offer contracts to well established writers like Chimamanda, Wole Soyinka or promising up and coming writers like Charles Umerie. These are people they think they can make profit off their books even if it didn’t sell well. Nobody wants to invest their money into an unknown author; and not just that, Nigerian literary business isn’t as hot as that for unknown authors to break the market just like unknown music artists do all the time. That’s the simple truth.
A lot of young authors have figured that too, and they don’t depend on publishing houses to give them contracts. Rather they resort to printing their own books. That’s a totally brave move, but very unwise. Unless you have people requesting your book before you print it, and also have a perfect channel to distribute it after publication, you shouldn’t think of wasting money by printing it.
Well don’t be discouraged by this post because I have an amazing solution on how you can achieve your literary dreams. Have you heard of online publishing? Most people have, but if you haven’t, I think you should really pay attention.
Online publishing can be the answer to the problem young Nigerian authors face today. With online publishing, your book would be available for purchase worldwide! That’s one thing printing your book can’t give you. You can’t distribute it worldwide.
We live in an advanced age, and if you look around, you will notice that printed books are starting to lose value. Everything is read digitally these days. If you go to church, pastors are using iPad as bible. Even newspapers don’t sell that much again! Why purchase bulky papers when you can read them online- for FREE?!
That’s the world we live in, and young writers should adapt too. My advice to them should be they should publish online first. When you publish online, and maybe you are lucky enough to break the internet with your online published work, you will notice how publishing houses would be calling day and night to publish your work because you have proved that your work worth the risk.
Now let’s talk about how you can publish online.
Publishing online is just like printing the book. Both of them are still read. That’s what most online publishers forget. They think since it’s mostly free to publish online, they can treat their work anyhow and put it out for people to see; and still at the same time expecting to sell thousands of it. If you don’t prepare your online work professionally, it will never get anywhere. It would be available to the world, but only to be rejected by the world too.
With my research, it costs about N200,000 to print about 500 copies of your book, and still, most people won’t sell about 50 copies of that book. But do you realize that with just.. let’s say N50,000, you can have your book professionally published online? If you can handle the processes of publishing it yourself, starting from editing the manuscript, formatting it to kindle format or epub, designing the book cover and uploading it online, then you do it yourself. But if you can’t, I suggest you meet a professional to help you do it. There are a few publishing houses that help people publish online at a very cheap rate. Check BLACK TOWER PUBLISHERS NIG and contact them.
After your work is available to the world, all you have to do then is promote. As a person, you have friends and families. Share the link to your book to them through Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, and also ask them to share with their friends and relatives too. Then connect with them and build yourself some fanbase.
There are many platforms to publish your book online. They include Createspace, Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Lulu, etc. Createspace offers you a chance to publish your work, but it cannot be downloaded and read digitally. What they do is print-on-demand. That is when people order a copy or copies of your book, they print the book and ship to the person. Amazon Kindle can be downloaded digitally, but that is mostly for international sellers. Most African countries (including Nigeria) can’t purchase kindle books on Amazon. But you can still publish there if you still wish sell to international audience that reads mostly kindle books. Then the best one for Nigerians is Okadabooks and Lulu. Okadabooks is easier, and it has over 100,000 readers on their site. Readers can easily purchase your eBook just by recharging their Okadabooks account with airtime. The minimum withdrawal limit on Okadabooks is N10,000, and you can withdraw straight to your local bank account. Lulu offers two options. You can publish it as Print-on-demand or just as ebook.. or even both for the same book! People can easily buy your book with their ATM cards, download the book and then read it on the phone with an ePub reader!
You can visit these sites and find which is best for you! Or contact Black Tower Publishers and request how they can help you publish online.  Good luck!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Book: See Why You Should Read Kingdom Tales

Kingdom Tales is sometimes labelled a fairy story, but it’s far from that. It’s an allegory to the events that took place in Africa after most of the African nations were free to rule themselves. It was a time plagued with wars and coups, and the author of Kingdom Tales did an amazing job retelling those stories using animals.

Even though this novel is politically minded, it’s still very entertaining for kids to enjoy. The author has a good sense of humour and great writing style. When I first read it, I really enjoyed it as a fairy story about animals fighting for supremacy, not knowing it represented something deeper. That’s why I say it’s safe for kids to read too.

After reading it, I gave it to my son and daughters and they loved it more than I did. There is a great moral story in the book, and I think it’s a book every teenager should read. It’s totally safe for them, and there are some quotes in the book that I loved so much. A few of them are:

“…But being prepared for something doesn’t mean you are afraid of that thing.”
“…And he wished everything could leave his mind. But unfortunately, the things we wish don’t leave–they come.”
“…Be the gold in the dirt and not the dirt in the gold.”
“…Never annoy your enemy in his own house.”
“…What is meant to happen will surely come to pass. No matter what we do, it can’t be altered.”

There are also some important parts every young person should read. And the book coming from a young writer would make it easier for teens to wrap their head around it and apply the moral lessons this book teaches. I still know my children listen to their friends more than they listen to me.

There was a part of the book where Hasha, king of the eagles, lived with nothing after being exiled by his officials. Instead of committing suicide or giving up like most people would do after losing their family and wealth, he held on. He stayed alive and started getting back on his feet one step at a time till he finally got back his kingdom and rescued his family. This should be a form of motivation for anybody not to give up and be patient enough to accomplish anything.

Charles was able to add African folklore and medieval feel to it too, so anybody from anywhere can totally enjoy the book. And it’s a quick read too. Very classic.

It’s an interesting read, and you should get it for yourself or your kids. If you enjoyed reading books like Lion King, Animal Farm or Chronicles of Narnia, then you should also get this book. Happy Weekend. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

Africa Mourns ‘Mother of SA Literature’

The recent death of the first black South African woman to be published, Miriam Tlali has robbed Africa of its pioneers in literature.
Tlali died last Friday at the age of 83 after a long illness.
She is remembered for the books she wrote such as “Muriel at Metropolitan”, which was the first to be published by a black South African woman in 1975.

Some of her books include ‘Amandla’ (1980), ‘Mihloti’ (1984) and ‘Footprints in the Quag’ published in 1989.
In her native land, the late Tlali is remembered as the ‘mother of literature’.

South African Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, described Tlali as a literary legend and a literature pioneer who told the African story on the international arena through her reputable novels.
“Mama Miriam Tlali has earned her stripes as the real mother of South African literature,” said Mthethwa as he poured out his heart on social media.
“In Mama Miriam Tlali, South Africa and the entire African continent, has lost a literary giant.
“An African proverb says ‘when an old person dies a library burns to the ground’. What then happens when an old writer, a man or a woman of great knowledge, like Mama Tlali dies? Do a thousand libraries burn to the ground?
“The late once said just a book by itself, if it has the right messages in it, can change the whole human being. It can remake a person.”
He said Tlali was a trailblazer having been SA’s first black woman to publish a novel.
Zimbabwean celebrated artist and novelist, Albert Nyathi, in his tribute message said Thali did not belong to South Africa alone but the whole region.
“A writer carries the history, hope and aspiration of a nation or continent.  A writer like the late Mama Tlali, does not only belong to South Africa but, she belonged to the whole region,” said Nyathi.
“Writers are observers coming from the community and are also affected with what affects the community; I believe Africa will continually give birth to writers such as the late Mama Tlali.  Although the continent may not have the exact hand of the late in literature, her legacy lives on to inspire writers of the current generation.”
Several condolence messages for Tlali – ranging from novelists, readers and literature fanatics across Africa are still flooding the social media.
“Mama Tlali shall forever be remembered for giving birth to South African literature. In her time, she was one of the female novelists who pioneered the dismissal of gender and racial discrimination in literature in Southern Africa,” said Lekhetho John from Lesotho commenting on Minister Mthethwa’s recent posts on social media.
According to SA Ministry of Arts and Culture department, Tlali was born in Driefontein and grew up in Sophiatown.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Penguin Random House Wins "Heated Auction" over Barack and Michelle Obama's Books.

The bidding war for Barack and Michelle Obama’s post-White House books is over, and Penguin Random House has emerged the winner. They won the worldwide rights to both books after what a New York Times report described as “a heated auction among multiple publishers.”
Penguin did not disclose specific terms of the deal. But the word on the streets is that it is most probably an 8-figure deal. Industry insiders say that some of the opening offers ranged from 18 to 20 million, so it is very likely that the winning offer exceeded that.
The Obamas have had a long relationship with Penguin. They published Obama’s previous bestselling books and Michelle Obama’s book on her experience running a garden in the White House.
Here is what Markus Dohle, henchman at Penguin has to say about the deal: “We are absolutely thrilled to continue our publishing partnership with President and Mrs. Obama…With their words and their leadership, they changed the world, and every day, with the books we publish at Penguin Random House, we strive to do the same. Now, we are very much looking forward to working together with President and Mrs. Obama to make each of their books global publishing events of unprecedented scope and significance.”
The Obamas are always about service, so it comes as no surprise that they plan on giving part of their earnings to charity. Penguin will also “donate one million books in the Obama family’s name to First Book, a nonprofit organization that provides books to disadvantaged children, and Open eBooks, the Washington-based partner for the 2016 White House digital education initiative.”

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Chimamanda: We Don’t Have Enough Children’s Books That Tell African Realities

Chimamanda Adichie is vocal about many things and African literature ranks highly on that list.
The Nigerian author, in a video by The Atlantic, says without enough local alternatives, African children have to read books that don’t portray realities they can identify with.

The daughter of a university professor, Adichie grew up “surrounded by books” in the Nsukka campus of the University of Nigeria, one of Nigeria’s oldest colleges and early on, she noticed a startling problem: “The children’s books that I read, and I think this is true for many other young children in countries that were formerly colonized, didn’t reflect my reality.”

Based on British and American books she’d read, Adichie says she had to develop a “parallel imaginary life.” To help other African kids escape having to imagine alternate lives, Adichie wants more Africans writing books for children. “For complex reasons that have to do with power and resources, there just are not many children’s books that are about African realities as there are about American and western realities. And many African realities are still being told by other people,” she says. “I want African realities to be explored by Africans.”

For children, Adichie says, based on her own experience, reading about realities they can relate to helps build a stronger bond with books. “My perception of literature changed when I started reading African literature,” she says. “Feeling a greater sense of connection with those books, feeling that there’s something different because it felt close and it felt familiar.”

The award-winning author and cultural commentator, who recently became a mother herself, has written books that cover numerous adult themes from war and displacement to love and the immigrant experience. While some books touch on childhood experiences, Adichie is not known for writing children-targeted books. That might very well change.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Thoughts On Contemporary African Literary Criticism

What is the correct state of contemporary African Literary criticism? This is certainly not a simple question to answer. It is also not in any way a complicated question to answer. What is important, however, is that a complete, thorough knowledge of African writers is compulsory for anyone interested in contemporary African literature. Such a complete, thorough knowledge is compulsorily necessary if we desire to develop an abiding interest in contemporary African literary criticism.

Whether the African writer is liked or not liked is of no value, of no importance, of no relevance, but he or she must be read and evaluated dispassionately following the tradition Gerald Moore established in 1962. In fact, since that time when Moore published his Seven African Writers, African literary criticism can rightly be said to have been seen and accepted as a worthy enterprise of scholarly and professional enquiry with its own distinct traits that must occupy closely the “health of mind of the critic as the doctor with the health of the body,’’ to borrow I. A Richards’ words (25). Clearly, since 1962 different kinds of value judgments, pronouncements and estimates of comparative assessment and comparative greatness of African writers and writings have been the concern or preoccupation of the literary critic and reader. But their true worth and value to the development and greatness of our literature and criticism can be said, rightly or wrongly, to be still elementary. We may not accept it but the corpus of creative, imaginative works and books known today in the domain of established African literature far outnumbers the body of valuable criticism when we speak, at least, in terms of books (or handbooks) claiming originality, to the literature of contemporary African literary criticism. Today, in Africa, we seem to have far more writers than critics, and these critics, in the main, seem to be more concerned with writers from their respective national or ethnic territories and domains. This perspective needs immediate qualification.

Since the nineteen seventies, following the example of the already cited Gerald Moore, “the intensity,” to quote Solomon Ogbede Iyasere, “with which African critics have become engaged in the criticism and review of African creative works” (20), has been remarkably phenomenal in the development and direction of African literature and contemporary African literary criticism. The significance of the development and direction were such that attempted to curtail the dominance by foreign, that is, Western, critics, of African literary enterprise, that is, African literature and its criticism. Standards of critical tools and values that were considered to be foreign to Africa were to be done away with and jettisoned. As the editors of Presence Africaine put it, ‘’The soul of our people will not be heard in the concert of nations until they have regained their artists, their authority to judge and their privileges as consumers and interpreters of their works of art. In short they must retrieve the organic dimensions of their own vitality’’ (qtd. in Solomon Ogbede Iyasere 21). And in the more blatant words of Joseph Okpaku, also quoted in Iyasere’s essay, “The primary criticism of African art must come from Africans using African standards. We cannot accept either of the two existing approaches to criticism of African literature. It is as undesirable to plead for leniency in criticizing African works as it is absurd for Lewis Nkosi to ask that Western critical standards be used”(21). When these words were uttered African scholars’ nationalistic idiosyncrasies were in vogue in and outside the arena and orbit of African literature and its criticism. At the time black grains of African cultural features were greatly attractive to the African traditional brain of the African-skinned intellectual. The African scholar’s rhetoric of persuasion and conviction must be employed in praise and defence of African artistic productions that were adjudged by Western critics especially not to make the expected grade. Ernest Emenyonu’s chastisement of Bernth Lindfors for his jaundiced criticism of Cyprian Ekwens’s fictional art is too well known to be re-visited here in full. But I hasten to quip here that both critics – the African and Western, respectively, – were deeply concerned about the ideas of literary value as they perceived them from their respective rhetorical and moral stand-points.

The marks these standpoints (and others) have left on African literary criticism today are discernibly the marks of the chosen tongue of critical rigour of high value and the marks of the chosen tongue of ethnic-national glorification of neighbourly art. While Lindfors’ chosen tongue was universal and equally aided by its universal appeal Emenyonu’s was “vernacular-traditional,” to borrow JP Clark’s words (“Interview with John Pepper Clark” (16)), a mode that was not good enough for the cause it meant to promote or serve. In his attack of Ekwensi, Lindfors was defending and promoting universal criticism; in his defence of Ekwensi Emenyonu was protecting his countryman from universal annihilation. But we must make no mistake about it: Ernest Emenyonu is an efficient, unique, sound elderly scholar and critic.

Today in African, especially in Nigerian literary criticism, vernacular- ethnic critics have taken over or seem to have taken over the business and profession of Nigerian literature and criticism from the experts of natural instincts of truthful criticism and absolute set of principles of taste and decorum. Critics of conscience are giving way to critics of ethnic value, critics who encourage and father commercialism. The meaningful call and avid promotion of an African aesthetic which earlier critics and writers such as JP Clark championed are now being controversially abused. In fact, JP Clark’s “vernacular-traditional” literature and criticism is now being bastardized as ethnic bigotry worshipped as useful criticism in several quarters. Critics of this sort and mind speak of the works of authors and writers from their ethnic, regional and “national” groups as texts that must be studied and interpreted from the traditions and elements that inspired and produced them. A critic outside the ethnic tradition is censored disingenuously and disadvantageously to the extent that he or she is accused of using strange, foreign elements and criteria to judge, say, a Yoruba or Igbo imaginative literature. Deliberately, I refrain from any specific example, I being from a miniature, wee Nigerian ethnic group of no importance or consequence in contemporary Nigeria. This speaks volumes or should speak volumes about our contemporary criticism. But this is part of the problem of Nigerian, nay, African literary criticism of the present time. And what will be my defensible position if I say this or that book from this or that ethnic or regional group does not meet the literary grade of imaginative or realistic acceptability? As a critic and writer from a wee ethnic group with no literary stronghold whatsoever and with no identifiable cult or school of defenders, whatever my qualified attitude or position may be or is, is of no value and will amount to no value. Our literature and criticism cannot grow in good health this way. This view must be taken seriously otherwise ethnic quacks and dilettantes will now be the overseers of the “health of the mind” of our literature and criticism “as [is] the doctor with the health of the body” (I.A. Richards 25). This perspective and the sentiments it expresses may not be new, but the general theory they espouse is the general theory that hints at the dubious colour and odour that quackery and dilettantism are transmitting to the nostrils of our critical quest and taste.

Many years ago, when my sense of criticism was just above its fledgling state, as a young bird fledging to fly, I sent an essay to a Southern African-based journal on the writer Lawrence Vambe of Zimbabwe. The essay in question was on his very broad-themed book, An Ill-fated People. The essay focused on the book as history, autobiography, literature and orature, and several other concerns. The editor of the said journal rejected it outright on the grounds that I could not be making the claims I made (valid or not valid) because of the distance between Nigeria and Zimbabwe. I think the said editor, going by his name, as far as I can remember it, was a white man, probably a white Zimbabwean, who could not stomach the intellectual claims I made for Zimbabwe (and Africa). I branded him a racist and, out of frustration, sent the same essay to a superior journal in the United States edited then by a top-ranked scholar and critic in our discipline. The editor, also a white man, accepted it in full. My critical articulation and theoretical aesthetics appealed to him. He was not induced against me by the malaria of racial malice or the “jaundice” of racial prejudice. That publication helped immeasurably to stand me in elevated theoretical and critical worth. This is in no way an exercise in self-trumpet-blowing.

Of what relevance are the recalled critical judgments and acts of experiences? The point is that I have witnessed a junior colleague in one of our universities who was similarly discriminated against by two Nigerian journal editors of two different ethnic regions of our country. First, he sent an article to a journal whose editor seemingly detested the writer focused on ostensibly because the said writer was not from the editor’s ethnic base. Our young colleague sent the rejected article to another editor of a journal from the same ethnic group our young critic’s focused-on writer hailed/hails from. His article was accepted. I then advised him to replicate exactly his experience by sending an article on another writer whose ethnic region was/is different from the same editor that accepted his earlier rejected article. The latter editor rejected the article. Our essayist thereafter sent the article to the earlier editor whose ethnic base is the same as the new writer focused on. It was accepted without qualms. Thus the point is that in contemporary Nigerian literary criticism considerations of literary or critical values seem not to be the ulterior ends at issue. This is bad as it is not lucrative to our critical sensibility and judgment and imaginative experience and ethos. This perspective may appear to be a controversial one, but it should not or ought not to be seen as such, for it cannot be ignored in view of the fact that several of our critics are losing their conscience to ethnic delusion. I say it again: Ethnic values, ethnic peculiarities and particularities should not determine our literature and criticism. If a poem is good, it is because it is good. If a poem is bad, it is because it is bad. If a poem is neither here nor there it is because it is neither here nor there. We must not disturb our critical consciousness by debating this perspective. Ethnic polemic or politics may serve its purpose, but we must let literature and criticism remain what they must be. As Eliot famously said of Arnold, we must not go for ‘’game outside of the literary preserve altogether…’’ (23).

It may amount to literary heresy if we pay no heed to this concern. The critic’s task, in the words of Northrop Frye, is to ‘’isolate quality,” and nothing else (23).

This brings me to a salient point relating to bad belle criticism and good belle criticism in especially contemporary Nigerian literary criticism. There is a third brand of criticism, which is in-between bad belle criticism and good belle criticism. The first is induced by the malaria of malice and jaundice of petty prejudice, the second by the sweetness and scent of friendship, the third by the stress and distress of balanced appreciation and the hallucination of objectivity. I am inclined to also style the last mentioned pine-apple-face criticism. The merits and demerits of a “studied” work are ranked on the scale and prison of rough, ugly, scarred beauty mixed with the juice of approval and disapproval at the same time depending on the bad belle and good belle moods of the ‘’critics.” I hope the metaphors are not misplaced or misapplied ones that are offensive to our literary sight and tongue.

Clearly the three types in varying guises are engendered by the mantic of manipulation of our literary and artist consciousness. The three types were, for instance, demonstrated when Achebe released his There Was a Country shortly before his demise.

A useful point to make at this point pertains to African writers who are equally unusually distinguished critics. Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, J.P. Clark, Ngugi wa Thiong’ O, Es’kia (Ezekiel) Mphahlele, Lewis Nkosi, Isidore Okpewho are all famous writers, who have made their mark as first rate critics. They are “ancients,” grand-elders, who are being imitated by several modern writers who are critics as well. But the critical and literary habits of the latter seem to be significantly different from those of the former. While the grand-elders, for instance, were patient to preserve their art from impurity and contamination, the moderns are in a hurry, usually, to taint their literary value with hasty publications (for promotions) that trivialize their art. (I refrain from naming examples of the poetic culprits). Yet our contemporary critics in several instances turn a blind eye to their numerous flaws. Materials that should have been employed to the advantage of the new writers are theoretically and critically utilized against them through ill-judged remarks of no serious or profound aesthetic, moral, environmental, political and cultural values. Uncritically scintillating remarks and critiques of our critics relating to our new writers become our new writers’ banana peels. But not all our contemporary critics of my generation are of the un-aesthetic grade. Some there are among us who are really creative critics. I have such persons as Damian Opata, Remy Oriaku, JOJ Nwachukwu-Agbada, Hope Eghagha, Gbemisola Adeoti, Isidore Diala and Sunny Awhefeada in mind. They belong to their classes of generations, but they are critics to reckon with. Apart from Damian Opata, Remy Oriaku and Sunny Awhefeada, they are remarkable writers as well.

In a remark pertaining to Achebe’s stature and status as African writing path-finder, Ernest Emenyonu states as follows: ‘’Chinua Achebe’s remarkable influence on contemporary African Literature is as much as in the establishment of the art of the African novel in his fiction, as it is in the articulation of African poetics and aesthetics in his extra fictional pronouncements. He is as much the father of the modern African novel, as he is the forerunner-theoretician of African literary criticism’’ (xv).

This remark, as nice and as justifiable as it is or may be, will be taking with some pinch of salt by some persons who are exceedingly good critics. I know that it has ruffled a lot of feathers in some quarters. But we cannot dispute this fact: Achebe is a great writer and will ever remain great – as Wole Soyinka, JP Clark, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Isidore Okpewho are great writers who will ever remain great. Soyinka and Okpewho, for instance, are undisputable eclectic ‘’forerunner-theoretician[s]’’ in myth scholarship and criticism. We can say the same thing of JP Clark who is the father of Oral Literature in Nigeria, as we can glean from his Ozzidi corpus and translations. I expect new and worthy experts in the area of contemporary African literary criticism to challenge openly, with decorum, our elders in the profession in such a manner that will be beneficial to our aesthetics.

Many of us seem to be too squeamish or to be too cowed by the achievements of our literary elders and mentors to attempt to open or break new grounds. Socrates taught Plato and Plato taught Aristotle. Each mentor and each mentee broke new grounds in scholarship. But there is hope that the generation(s) of the Femi Osofisans, Niyi Osundares, Tanure Ojaides, Adebayo Williams are worthy examples to cite in this connection. These four mentioned writers are well-languaged writers who are also very unique theoreticians and critics breaking new grounds in form and style – to the glory of our literature and criticism – as our Christian-minded literary brothers and sisters will put it, but not in the manner of Nollywood. In the last stretch of phrases one may perceive a dose of humour/laughter a creative critic should endeavour to imbed, if necessary, in his or her enterprise. Achebe does this excellently well in his essays in Morning Yet on Creation Day. So also does JP Clark in his The Example of Shakespeare.

One more issue. Why do our contemporary critics wait for the West to applaud our writers before they themselves do so? We must now learn to discover our writers (and critics) for the West rather than the West doing the discovery for us. This is imperative for the growth of our contemporary literature and criticism. Indian literary scholars have been doing this for years. They do not wait for the West to tell them who is a good or talented Indian writer. They objectively and faithfully ‘’sell’’ their writers to the West. Doing what I am hereby recommending will give Nigerian (and African) literary community its greatest happiness in no distant time.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Black Tower’s Short Story Series Is Out Now!
The Twelve Tales is finally out for purchase.  It has 12 contributing authors whose stories were chosen and added to be published early next year.  These contributing authors are: Emeka Aniago, Damilola Peters, Mudiaga Ejor, Iwe Ikechukwu, Stella Ibrahim, Oyemi Joy, Uche Okoli, Jerry Nnaji, Sandra Ajayi, Vanessa Cole, Nwankwo Ejike, and Miracle Ikeji.
Black Tower Publishers initiated the Short Story Series to give authors the exposure and experience they need to embark on much larger career as writers. It’s also a way of promoting online publishing, and letting Nigerian writers understand they can do much through online publishing.

Collection of the stories started in January, 2016; and it ran through the year and ended on 20th of December, 2016. Those authors whose stories weren’t picked, and those whose stories weren’t polished enough to be published on our blog can still re-enter next year.

The sales of the eBook (The Twelve Tales) will begin on 20th January, 2017; and at the end of each month, the contributing authors will receive their proceeds from the sales of the month.
Stay Tuned. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Why You Should Hire An Editor For Your Manuscript.

Many readers notice character and plot development in every story. However, editing ranks as an equally important aspect of the writing process worth mentioning. Some of you may be rolling your eyes. Why harp on about editing?

Because it matters.

Over the past few years, I’ve read quite a few self-published books. Most of the books have been wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Yet some have been painful to read. Others have been good, but could have been great with the assistance of an experienced editor. Too many self-published authors don’t think readers can tell if their novel hasn’t been professionally edited. Trust me, most of us can. As for authors who skip utilizing beta readers and critique partners, that shows as well.

Click here for a professional editor
I’m not just talking about typos. Many readers will forgive one or two, and these errors do happen in books that are traditionally published. Editors do so much more than proofreading. Developmental editors assist with the story and its execution. This process may involve a massive rewrite, but from my experience, it’s well worth it. My developmental editor has suggested some major changes, including reworking the ending of my first novel. I followed her advice after pouting for a day and you know what? She was right. It’s a much better story now.

Another type is substantive editing, which involves the larger aspects of the novel such as character development, plot holes, unresolved threads, pacing, etc. Yet another form of editing involves copyediting which makes sure you don’t change your character’s name or hair color. Copyeditors also fix grammar and punctuation, as well as assist in fact-checking and identifying potential legal issues. There are even more kinds of editors and some overlap occurs.

Please be wary of editors who say they can offer several different types of editing with one reading. You really will get what you pay for. I’m not saying you have to hire five different editors, but make sure you check your editor’s credentials. Who have they worked with? Do they offer a sample? Most will do this for free. What type of editing experience do they have? Do your research to save yourself from losing money. Also, take the time to recognize the parts of the writing process you need the most help with.

When I hear of self-published authors who admit they didn’t work with a professional editor I cringe. Not only is the author publishing something that isn’t the best that it can be, but the person is denying themselves the opportunity to learn and grow as a writer.

If you want to improve your writing, work with experienced editors. It’ll change how you think about editing and it will make you appreciate all that they have to offer.
Your readers will thank you for it.

Click here for a professional editor

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Remembering South African writer Peter Abrahams: 1919 – 2017

South African writer Peter Abrahams died on 18 January 2017. An early pioneer in the exploration of race identity in South Africa, he was a literary giant who was at the forefront of capturing the injustice of apartheid.

Peter Abrahams, who died aged 97 at his home in Saint Andrew Parish, Jamaica, was one of South Africa’s most distinguished writers. His fiction and non-fiction work challenged and dissected the complexities of the black South African identity. His biting criticism of the early days of apartheid and his exploration of pan-Africanist philosophy were fuelled by the need to tell the world of the injustice of racism and colonialism.

Abrahams will be remembered best for his Mine Boy, which was added to the South African school curriculum in the early 2000s.

Mine Boy, a brutal story of South African urban migration, became the first novel by a black South African to be published internationally. It was the third book by a black South African to be published, after Sol Plaatje’s Mhudi in 1930 and RRR Dhlomo’s 1928 novel, An African Tragedy.

“I am emotionally involved in South Africa,” Abrahams said in 1957. “If I am ever liberated from this bondage of racialism, there are some things much more exciting to me, objectively, to write about. But this world has such a social orientation, and I am involved in this world and I can’t cut myself off.”
During his most prolific years, 1946 to 1966, Abrahams wrote eight novels, as well as memoirs and political essays. His 1948 novel, The Path of Thunder, inspired the ballet piece, İldırımlı yollarla, by Azerbaijani composer Gara Garayev.

Abrahams’ early years
Abrahams was born in Vrededorp, Johannesburg, in 1919 to an Ethiopian father and coloured mother.

According to his obituary in The New York Times on 22 January 2017, Abrahams was inspired to read and write at a young age when he heard Shakespeare’s Othello. A prodigious student, he began contributing poetry and short fiction to so-called bantu publications after completing his basic education. As a young budding writer, he consumed literature, particularly the works of black American writers.

“I read every one of the books on the shelf marked American Negro literature,” he wrote in his memoir Tell Freedom: Memories of Africa in 1954. “To (these) writings of men and women who lived a world away from me … I owe a great debt for crystallising my vague yearnings to write and for showing me the long dream was attainable.”

This knowledge also inspired his political thought and his desire to capture the black South African psyche in words.

Ship to London
After a stint as the editor of a Durban socialist magazine in 1939, Abrahams found work aboard a ship bound for London. In the British capital, he worked as a journalist on the British Communist Party’s Daily Worker newspaper.

He lived in London’s African immigrant community, meeting exiled political figures and intellectuals, including future Kenyan leader Jomo Kenyatta; Kwame Nkrumah, who would go on to lead Ghana to independence from Britain; and Trinidadian pan-Africanist George Padmore. The experience inspired his most multifaceted work, the 1956 novel A Wreath for Udomo, about political and social transitions in postcolonial Africa through the eyes of the continent’s political exiles. Renowned English literary scholar Harvey Curtis Webster called the book “the most perceptive novel … about the complex interplay between British imperialism and African nationalism”.

During the 1950s, Abrahams travelled across Africa, including a return to South Africa to observe the rise of postcolonial, pan-Africanist political movements. These essays, long considered the most authoritative work on the era, were later published as Return to Goli.

Settling in the Caribbean
After being commissioned by the British colonial office to research and write a comprehensive history of Jamaica, Abrahams wrote of the island and its people: “…in the stumbling and fumbling reaching forward of its people, is dramatized … the most hopeful image I know of the newly emerging underdeveloped world”.
With his wife Daphne and their three children, he made Jamaica his home for over four decades.

South Africa, however, remained foremost in his writing; in particular, it was the setting of his 1965 novel, A Night of Their Own, about the anti-apartheid underground. This inspired his 1985 magnum opus, The View From Coyaba, a detailed transgenerational novel about black struggle movements in Africa, America and the Caribbean.

As he got older and the postcolonial era reached its pinnacle with the end of apartheid in the 1990s, Abrahams felt less obligation to capture the zeitgeist of black African political thought. Instead, he let new, younger literary voices speak about the evolving movement.

Speaking to Caribbean Beat magazine in 2003, Abrahams said: “I became a whole person when I finally put away the exile’s little packed suitcase. When Mandela came out of jail and when apartheid ended, I ceased to have this burden of South Africa. I shed it.”
Abrahams never returned to his country of birth.

Overdue tribute?
The Daily Maverick’s J Brooks Spector observes, in his lovingly detailed obituary of Abrahams on 25 January 2017, the often overlooked connection between South Africa and the writer, and begs an important question: “Surely there should be a (South African) library named in his honour, an endowed chair in African literature at one of the nation’s premier universities, and a publishing effort reprinting his output in a standard, uniform edition?

“Embracing his memory as an early literary pioneer and impact as a writer must also take into consideration the eclecticism of his political thinking, his influence on the pan-African idea, and an ethnicity that embraced the near-totality of South African experience,” Spector concludes.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Emecheta - the 'Old School' and Feminist Literature

As the literary world deliberately giving a nod to mourn one of its rare, female gems, Buchi Emecheta, WO examines contemporary Nigerian literature by women writers; and how well their themes align with the feminist tradition.

Feminism, according to the dictionary, is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. Feminists have also worked to promote bodily autonomy and integrity, and to protect women and girls from rape, sexual harassment, and domestic violence.

Until the 20th century, the number of female writers in Nigeria and Africa could be counted on one hand as they were few in number. Before then, female writers were not acknowledged by critics as women were expected to be taking care of their homes. Times have changed and female writers have come a long way; some have even gone as far as being Nobel Prize winners.

Feminist writing
A few of these women, who took the literary world by the horn, not only wrote good stories but had the zeal of writing good feminist stories.
Interestingly enough, some of the younger generation of female writers have told Woman's Own feminist writing has not fizzled out with the passing away of this gtoup of writers but that in as much as they do not want to be tagged as feminists, they are still following in the steps of the older generation of female feminist writers.

 Toyin Akinosho, publisher, Africa Oil & Gas report, is of the school of thought that feminism is just an ideology. He was of the opinion that "You do not have to be a female writer to be a feminist in the actual sense.

"Just because I am a female, I can work and fend for myself and other does not necessarily mean feminism. Whereas non feminism in a light way basically means the man is the overall boss or that you have to be submissive to him."

What made the likes of Buchi and Flora fall under that category is because they wrote and began to use that medium to give voice to women. A woman being independent and strong does not mean that these women are feminists the way ideologists woulddefine a feminists. However, in the African context there are strong, independent women who see no contradiction in being submissive to their husbands in the marital setting.

This type of woman does not portray feminism in the real sense. I would rather say that these writers in their own capacity gave women a voice and opinion. Authors like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and others did not pay attention to such.

Strong characters
For the last 40 years when these female writers wrote their books, women did not have the strong characters to give voice to their frustration.

I won't call them feminists but rather female writers who gave voice to women and their plight. They are not opinion writers rather they identified that women have a role to play in the society. They put characters in their novels that showed that women had contributions to make in the society, whereas in the books of Chinua Achebe, the women are silent and subservient to their male counterparts. That was the style of early African literature, but when females start writing, using female characters as protagonists, this feeling about feminism began to show.

Patriarchal dominance: The truth is that I just don't want to use the word feminism but I think because of them, you now have so many women who could come out and write their stories. They were coming out at the time when the dominant story in Nigerian literature was patriarchal. That's a very important statement they were trying to make.

The word feminism from the western culture much much more than they thought. Western understanding of feminists is very broad. In their writings, they projected feminism as major characters to be heard, but in the real sense, back at home, the women still obey their husbands, undertake domestic chores like taking care of children without deliberately giving a nod to feminism in its real sense which is basically sharing every domestic chore equally between husband and wife and observing the rights attached to it as practiced in Europe America and other parts of the developed world.

Older female writers as pace-setters: The women we admire like Buchi and the rest set the pace but we should also remember that Buchi said she doesn't define herself as a feminist, although she writes powerful literature. These days, people are not ashamed to be called feminists. I would rather just be an advocate for gender equality because femininity is some kind of trend right now and anything that becomes trendy soon to loses its

 Female empowerment
So for me, I believe that right now the text is stronger, the message is stronger and when you have such strong literature, people will abuse it. There is a lot of abuse and ignorant messages from quarters to water down the true essence of what writers like Chimamanda are doing. When you have such a strong African woman springing up internationally, there will be resistance. So I believe Buchi Emecheta and the others set the pace and the other young men and women are carrying the message even farther.

Joy Isi Bewaji, a writer and modern day feminist opines that if there was never an era where so many people were talking about female empowerment, it is actually now. Bewaji defends her statement by saying that "Chimamanda writes a lot about female empowerment in her own way. We all write about that. Anybody who believes in gender equality, whether they agree that they are feminists or not have tried to empower women with their literature. Lola Soneyin writes powerful scripts for women."

Anwuli Ojogwu, another young writer opined that "I think that everybody embraces feminism in different ways. Feminism is based on one's experiences. So to accuse young female writers of not being feminists enough would be unfair. Within feminism, there are many subtexts or sub topics There are people who fight for equal pay, maternal equality, and many causes within the female circumstance. I would say that Nigerian young writers are assertive. Whether they project enough feminism may not be clear or boldly stated. There are young Nigerian female writers I know who are assertive. For a society like ours, I think that is bold."

Monday, 30 January 2017

Chimamanda Adichie Marched Alongside Thousands in Washington, D.C. (Photos)

On January 21st, hundreds of thousands of women gathered in various cities in the US and around the world to march in support of women’s rights.

The march in Washington, D.C, which kickstarted the movement drew an enormous crowd.  Chimamanda Adichie, a feminist icon of note, was there to lend her support.

She shared photos of her time at the march on Facebook and highlighted a few of her favorite protest posters.