I started writing because writing was a better form of communication for me. Things I would be too worked up to say (speak), calmly, without sounding petulant or angry; I communicated in writing in the exact tone I intended.
As a teenager, things I couldn’t ordinarily work up the courage to say to my parents, lest I be branded disrespectful, I wrote in letters so long they ate up (sometimes) five pages of full scalp sheets.
Father encouraged it. Writers have the world at their feet, he said. So I wrote to him and he wrote back. We established a pattern of behaviour, wherein he would admonish me for my improper use of paragraphs or short-hand-like way of texting, and I would take corrections. Corrections that now come in handy.
When I was in Secondary school, I attempted writing fiction, but it was just too hard and I soon gave up. I just read, voraciously.
Then, I stumbled across Binyavanga Wainana’s interview on Aljazeera about his book “How to write about Africa”, and I was blown away. I played the interview over and over again, and laughed and laughed.
He was charming, elegant, eloquent, sarcastic and “homely”, but above all he was a writer, changing Western perception of Africa.
That was when it dawned on me that Africa consisted of many other important writers other than Soyinka or Habila or Adichie. Writers blazing positive trails in our world, pushing for change.
I quickly followed him on Twitter. He was the first writer I followed after Kiru Taye and Jackie Collins.
Suddenly, I started taking a deeper interest in writing. With Mr. Wainana’s helpful reply to my tweet asking him about Creative Writing courses, I looked up MFA programs in USA, but their tuition fees scared me off.
Then, a friend advised: just write and read, with time you will get better. So I wrote and read.
Then, I stumbled across other amazing writers like Elnathan John, Chika Oduah, Ms. Afropolitan, Collins Uma, Ayo Sogunro, Mr. Sagay Sagay, Nta Bassey aka St. Naija, Toyin Fabs and a host of others. Amazing writers! Every day, they put up fantastic stories that gradually made me realize I didn’t need a creative writing course to be a writer.
Excited, I opened a blog, put thumbs to keypad and wrote stuff. Soon, I had friends laughing at and loving my blog posts. I boldly changed my bio from “Shy Writer” to “Writer”.
When StNaija started the #NoFreeWriting campaign I saw reasons with her (him?), and retweeted her (his?) tweets. When I first learnt about the Etisalat Flash Fiction Competition (through @StNaija) I wasn’t all that interested. Which one is flash fiction, biko kwanu? But, I was curious so I searched the internet and traipsed blogs for flash fiction writing tips.
It was challenging telling a story that would have a meaningful plot and a protagonist and villain, in just 300 words. A challenge I loved.
Thanks to Etisalat, I’m now a fan of flash fiction.
Finally, inspired by a class assignment in a book I was reading “The Writer’s Craft”, I wrote “In nightmare” and gave some friends to proofread and edit. They all laughed after reading it and called me over-imaginative. Some said alien invasion is never ever possible, I should’ve made the invasion Boko Haram themed but I was reluctant to edit the story line so I just took other editorial corrections and submitted “In nightmare”, knowing FULLY well I was expected to canvass for votes.
Then, I read Tusabi’s criticism of the Etisalat flash fiction and I just gave up! Who told me I can canvass enough votes to make my story matter? Indeed the competition is flawed. I stopped campaigning for votes; it is much like begging, abeg!
But, @StNaija gave a rejoinder that made me cower in shame. Ungrateful little me!
She (he?) thanked Etisalat for sponsoring the literary prizes and acknowledging unpublished writers without asking for entry fees; for recognising the importance of Literature in our world, instead of the usual dancing and singing competitions big corps love to sponsor.
I was ashamed at my ingratitude. Surely, Father raised me better!
Etisalat made an effort to promote the #NoFreeWriting campaign that I supported so passionately and I dared criticise their efforts. How sad!
Shame-faced, I went back to campaigning for votes, but I didn’t speak up in support of Etisalat, and Tusabi’s blog post has gone viral!
I am sorry, Etisalat. Forgive my ingratitude.
I am Egoyibo Okoro. I am an unpublished writer (whatever that means!). Please vote my story “In nightmare” as Etisalat’s flash fiction of the year.
God bless Etisalat! God bless Literature! God bless Writers!