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Friday, August 24, 2012

WHERE YOU SHOULD BE THIS WEEKEND...

...if you are in Lagos and love all things literary.

This evening, there's the Farafina Trust Literary Evening, to mark the end of the 2012 Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop organized by Chimamanda Adichie. Onyeka Onwenu will be performing and, of course, several notable writers will be there: Chimamanda herself, Binyavanga Wainaina, Rob Spillman, Jeff Allen and others.

Date: Today, 24th August 2012
Time: 5 pm
Venue: The Grand Ballroom, Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos

And tomorrow, Farafina will be launching the print version of Eghosa Imasuen's Fine Boys. Chimamanda will be hosting this event, and Binyavanga Wainaina will be reading from his work as well. A few lucky guests will leave with some Farafina books free!




Date: Tomorrow, 25th August, 2012
Time: 2 pm
Venue: Quintessence, Falomo Shopping Complex, Falomo, Ikoyi, Lagos

Both events are absolutely free!

Friday, August 17, 2012

WHY WRITERS SHOULD WELCOME MISTAKES

Image from here



I have no stories of my own to share this week, so I'll be sharing writing tips from Daphne Gray-Grant. Here's what she has to say about the positives of making mistakes as a writer:

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes… Here are the reasons why:

1) We become less fearful. When we've fallen a number of times, we learn there's usually no huge amount of pain involved. It's more of a nuisance than anything else. So we write a first draft of something that doesn't work or is even flat-out wrong. What's the big deal? We can always rewrite it! But we won't write any better until we learn to take some risks and try writing it differently.

2) We learn more. Most of us welcome the idea of winning awards or being buried in praise by our clients, bosses and peers, but I find I always learn more from mistakes than anything I've done well. Once, in my daily newspaper days, I remember writing "they're" when I meant "their." I knew the difference – I'd just been working too quickly. Unfortunately, no editor caught the error and it was published. In a story about a famous writer. Talk about embarrassing! My mistake, however, taught me to be infinitely more careful with homophones. 

3) It teaches us to forgive. Making mistakes is part of the human condition. If we can forgive ourselves (and forgive others), our lives become much more pleasant. And, by the way, who wants to be perfect? Perfection leaves no room for improvement.

4) Mistakes mean we're progressing. As we make mistakes and continue to learn, our writing slowly improves. Often, we don't see the change – in the same way we don't see changes in our children or our parents, unless we've been away from them for a time. The bad news is we're all too close to our own writing to truly be able to judge it. And the good news? If we're making mistakes, we can be confident that we're also making progress.

5) We'll create a positive, self-perpetuating loop. If we refuse to be stopped by the fear of making mistakes, here's how things will work out: We write. We make mistakes. We learn from them. We write differently. We make new mistakes. We learn from them. We write differently. We make new mistakes. We learn from them. We write differently... (Note: You do have to be willing to LEARN for this to work!)
           
In fact, there are very few downsides to making mistakes while writing. The real mistake is to pretend we're not going to make any. Or, far worse, not to write at all.


Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book, 81/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a brief and free weekly newsletter on her website. Subscribe by going to the Publication Coach.


Friday, August 10, 2012

AUNTY VICK

Image from here


Let me give you a scenario to chew on. You know the nosy woman in the Nollywood film who always goes to visit the clueless mother of Caro and, after examining Caro like a lab specimen while she serves drinks, turns to Mama Caro and says, “Mama Caro, can you not see that that girl is pregnant?” This nosy woman with x-ray vision is Aunty Vick.

And I am pregnant. A pregnant, teenage undergraduate. It’s a few weeks old and I have morning sickness. I stay hidden in my room most mornings, emerging only after my mother leaves for work. I am lazy and irritable, and how have I never noticed that our house smells like raw eggs? I am afraid. I am tired of trying to act normal around my mother. I’m failing, but not horribly. Not yet. She is distracted. I am thinking of an excuse for going back to school before resumption. I worry about the baby’s father; about what he will say when I present him with this new reality.

My hell just got hotter; Aunty Vick is visiting.

I have never liked her enough to smile at her, but today I do. It is a wan smile, but maybe it will fool her. I step to the side, opening the door wide enough to fit her massive frame. She sniffs at my greeting, plops her bag of goods at my feet and waddles into the living room. I pick it up and follow her, leaving the door to swing shut behind me.

In the living room, she collapses into the couch and we both pretend not to hear it creak. I place the bag on the floor gently beside her, wondering what she has brought to sell this time but not really caring.

“Let me call mummy,” I say, glad to have a reason to leave her presence. She reaches for the TV remote and as I climb the stairs I can make out the soundtrack of a Nigerian movie. I knock on my mother’s bedroom door and poke my head in just long enough to deliver my message. Then I disappear into my room. Moments later, I hear my mother skip down the stairs and I exhale.

I’m starting to drift off into a pensive sleep when I am jolted awake. My mother is screaming my name from the living room. I go into a panic, look around the room for an escape route. Those darned burglary proof bars! God knows I would rather hurl myself out the windows. There is nothing in my room with which I can kill myself; I will have to face them. I can just see Aunty Vick, her eyes wide with the scandal of it, and that hint of malicious satisfaction she would try to hide from my mother.

I consider pretending not to have heard the call; but in typical fashion, my mother bellows out my name again, decibels louder. I make the sign of the cross – for the first time in years – open my door and go down the stairs to the living room.

“Yes, mum,” I whisper.

My mother barely raises her head.

“Get drinks for Aunty Vick.”

As I leave, it’s Aunty Vick’s eyes that follow me. My mother is busy rifling through the bras, camisoles and panties Aunty Vick is selling. I enter the kitchen and quickly blink back the tears that well up in my eyes. I get the drinks – Aunty Vick’s favourites, Guinness stout and a can of malt – place them on a tray with a glass and walk back to the living room, counting the seconds as I go. With shaky hands, I set the tray down on the stool beside Aunty Vick and straighten up to leave.

“Open it and pour for me!” Aunty Vick orders. I open the Guinness.

“Hmm. I’ve been looking for something like this o,” my mother says, holding a black camisole up to the light from the windows and examining it. “But laziness hasn’t allowed me go to Balogun. Now I’ll be able to wear that lace top I got, thank God. It’s just been lying there.”

Aunty Vick growls her approval. “You have good eye. This one is very high quality; it will last you well.”

I glance up as I start to fill the glass with malt. My mother is examining a nude coloured bra that is clearly too small for her; Aunty Vick is examining my hand pouring her drink.

“Tutu, this one will size you o. Shebi you are 32B,” my mother says.

I mumble something incoherent, set the can of malt down on the tray. Aunty Vick’s eyes are on my chest as I stand up straight. I pretend not to notice, but sweat is forming on my upper lip. I flee from the living room.

I reach the bottom of the stairs and turn to look back at the two women. As I feared, their heads are close together now. They are sharing something secret. Aunty Vick’s eye catches mine. And just like that, my life becomes a Nollywood script.

Friday, August 3, 2012

THE ROMANCE PROJECT

Image from here


Warning: It's sappy, it's a bit cheesy, it's kinda old, and from my pathetic attempts to write romance. Enjoy.

“So, I hope Tonia wasn’t too much trouble today,” Cheta said. He sat on the couch, his feet up on a stool, wearing Labake’s bathrobe like it had been made for him even though it was a few sizes too small.

“Oh, no, she’s been good. Homework’s done. I gave her a bath and she fell asleep right after dinner.”

Labake sat opposite Cheta on the floor. In the dim light from the candles she couldn’t clearly make out his features, but she could feel his eyes. There was still no light and the rain wasn’t letting up. Cheta and Labake watched each other in silence. Then he spoke.

“I can’t thank you enough for this; for all the help you’ve been with Tonia. I’m so clueless, I don’t know how I’d have managed without you.”

“Come on, you don’t have to keep saying it all the time. And it’s my pleasure, believe me.”

“Still, thank you.”   

“Again, you’re welcome.”

Cheta smiled. Labake swallowed.

“So….”

“What?”

“Nothing. Just thinking out loud. I don’t know that much about you...”

“What else would you like to know?” Labake asked, her head cocked to one side.

“You could start with your family.”

Labake sighed and stretched her legs out on the floor. “There’s really nothing much to tell. My family’s a small one; right now there’s me, my mum, my younger sister, who used to live here in Lagos but has now relocated to Abuja, and my elder brother who’s in Germany with his family. My father died not long after I finished secondary school. And you met my mother the other day…”

“How could I forget,” Cheta cut in, smiling.

“Yeah… so, that’s it really. My sister in Abuja is married with two kids, and my brother’s also married and has a son, though I’ve seen him only twice; once when my brother came to Nigeria with his wife, and another time when I visited them over there. We’re quite close, my brother and I; although we used to be much closer before he moved away.”

“And your sister?”

Labake shook her head. “Nah. Not close at all. She’s always thought I was mum’s favourite, and… maybe it’s just me, but I get this sense that she thinks she’s in constant competition with me.”

“Why would you think that?” Cheta asked. In a perverted way, he was glad to learn that Labake’s family had their own issues.

“I don’t know... It’s just some of the things she says sometimes when she claims she’s joking. Like when she got her oil and gas job. She came into the house screaming, and we were all happy for her and rejoicing when she turned to me and said ‘You probably wish you were me right now, abi’, or something like that. I don’t remember the exact words now.”

“Well, maybe she was joking.”

“She certainly laughed, but I don’t think she was joking. And even if she was, you know what they say about jokes: sometimes the easiest way to say what’s on your mind is to say it as a joke. Oh, and there was her wedding. I was her chief bridesmaid, and at some point during the wedding preparations that morning, the best man told me he’d misplaced the rings, and I was really upset. I helped him search for it for a while, and then I popped into the room to see how far they’d gone with her makeup and everything; to know if we’d have time to rush out for another ring if we didn’t find the original ones. My worry must have shown on my face because as soon as I walked in she looked up at me and was like ‘Ah-ah, Labake, I know you’re angry that I beat you to it, but at least smile and pretend to be happy for me now.’ Those were her exact words, said with a smile, of course. I just turned and walked away. Thankfully, the best man was able to find the rings, if not she might have said I was the one who hid the rings to stop the wedding from happening.”

“But it’s not like you guys are sworn enemies or anything.”

“Oh no, we manage to keep it civil. And it’s not like she’s ever come out and said anything. And I’ve never confronted her about it, so… But we do get along when we need to.”

“Okay.”

“So now that you’ve heard all my sordid family tales…”

Cheta smiled. “They can’t be all bad now, come on. I’ve met your mum and she seems nice and sane.”

Labake laughed. “She is, mostly, but she still can’t understand why I chose to teach children for ‘peanuts’ when I can be making much more doing something else.”

“Well, I’m sure she’s just concerned and wants you to be okay.”

“But I am okay, Cheta.”

“I can see that.”

Labake laughed quietly.

“What?”

“Nothing… it’s just, my mum also can’t understand why I’m not married and producing offspring yet.”

“Why? She has three grandchildren already.”

“It’s not even about the grandchildren. I think she’s afraid I might be turning into an old maid.”

“And does that bother you?”

Labake frowned. “Not really. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to meet someone and fall in love and get married and have kids and all that, but I’m really not in a hurry. It’s an important decision, and I’m not going to let myself get pressured into making a mistake.”

“But right now you’re not…”

“Seeing anyone? No.”

Cheta contemplated that for a moment, trying not to show his pleasure.

“I don’t mean to sound like your mum or anything, but why not? You’re beautiful, smart, mature…”

“Wait a minute, Cheta,” Labake said, laughing. “This one that you are complimenting me like this, it’s strange. I’m used to you glaring and looking down your nose at me.”

Cheta laughed. “But seriously… and you have a good heart. You should have your pick of men, Labake.”

She shrugged. “Well, maybe I just haven’t found him yet. I’ve been in relationships before; I’ve gone on dates, but there’s just always something missing. I don’t know what it is, but I believe I’ll know when I finally find it.”

“Ah,” Cheta sighed. “The ever elusive ‘it’.”

“Yeah, what about ‘it’?” Labake said with a smile.

“ Nothing.”

“Oh, come on. What, you don’t believe in ‘it’?” Labake teased.

“Okay, here it is. I just don’t know that this ‘it’ is a real thing. I mean, I thought I’d found ‘it’ once. And I was…” he chuckled bitterly. “…God, I was so sure.”

“And…” Labake urged.

“And it was a lie. The most brilliant, well played, painful lie, Labake. So if you ask me, I can live without ‘it’, thank you very much.”

They listened to the rain, which had slowed to a light shower, for several minutes.

“Labake, are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she mumbled.

“Oh, God. I’ve upset you now,” he said, moving to sit beside her on the floor.

“Oh no, it’s okay. You were burned, and… and you have the right to your opinions,” Labake said.

She sat still, trying to stifle the panic she felt at his closeness. He should look ridiculous in that damned bathrobe.

“Well, my opinions don’t necessarily apply to you. Besides, I’ve been known to be wrong sometimes… more times than I’d like to admit, actually.”

They sat there, thighs touching, for a while. And then she made a mistake. She turned and looked in his eyes.

***

Cheta knew she could see it. He wanted to kiss her. No, not want. You don’t merely want your next breath. He was going to kiss her. He would regret it after, but he would deal with it then. He kept his eyes on hers as he ran his thumb over her cheek, moving closer.

He heard her catch her breath as he touched his lips to her neck, just below her ear. Then the line of her jaw. Then her chin. He lingered there, drawing a line with his thumb down her neck. He closed his eyes as their lips drew closer. It coursed through his veins, the thrill of finally knowing what she’d taste like.

They blinked as light suddenly flooded the room.

Up NEPA.