Chimamanda Adichie is one of the foremost and prominent female writers in Africa. She has so many awards to her credit in the literary world and her acceptability is enormous. ENCOMIUM weekly was at her literary evening at Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, on Saturday, July 2, 2011, and she spoke about ther gains f organizing a yearly creative writing workshop, her literary achievements but maintained sealed lips on her marital life…
What is the purpose of this workshop?
It is creative writing workshop that I organize very year, sponsored by Nigerian Breweries under Farafina Trust which is a non-profit foundation that I co-started with my Nigerian publisher, Muktar Bakare. The aim of the workshop is not just to encourage young writers, but writers who are young in the practice. We have a wide age range. The youngest participants in 10 and the oldest is in his late 50s. So, it’s not about the age, it’s about people who are fresh horns in writing. To get into the workshop, you apply by sending your essay samples and we will select from them. About 500 people sent in their applications but at the long run, 20 were selected and the workshop lasted for 10 days. I taught them the first three days and the other writers took them for the rest. The reason I did this for them was to give then the different angles of writing because my writing is different from theirs. And the motive is to make people love books, to teach people how to read and learn, to love reading and see it from different angles.
What were the criteria used in selecting the participants?
By sending in your essay of not less than 800 words and I have people who preview them because I can’t handle it alone. After the preview, they were short-listed to 50 and I handle the rest myself. What I look for is talent, hopefulness. Though the writing might not be polished, what I really want is the talent an the future in their writing then the final 20 participants are chosen.
Currently, what are you working on?
I am working on a novel, but I don’t like talking about it until it’s finished because sometimes wen you get halfway, it could change from what you actually had in mind.
When is it going to be completed?
I don’t know when I am finishing. Can a journalist give a time a time when he would finish his article? So, I don’t have a precise time it will be ready.
With this kind of creative workshop, how will it change the reading culture of Nigerian?
With more effort, it can be better. Let me tell you a story. I went to a government school in Akoka, Yaba, Lagos, and I was amazed at the level of improvement I saw. The students were not sitting on the flor, the fans were working and I was shocked. It tells you what the Lagos State government is doing. I spoke with the teachers and they told me about the reading time. Governor Raji Fashola’s government is trying but in my own state, Anambra, it’s different. For me as a daughter of a professor, who lives around educationists who are supposed to know what education is all about, though it’s improving there is still hope for the better.
How has the literary world received your works?
I don’t read the review of my books. What gives me joy is seeing ordinary Nigerians reading my books. For instance, I met a woman at the airport in Enugu, she told me she has all my boks. That is what I find meangingful. I don’t believe what critics say and I guess my last bok has done well. It has won some awards and has also been translated into 35 languages in different countries.
How do you feel about the increase in the number of female writers after you?
Female writers aer all over the world and I believe we are taking over the world.
How is life as a lecturer in USA?
I don’t lecture anymore, but when I was lecturing, I taught writing.
How do you feel as one of the foremost female writer in Africa?
I don’t see myself as one, when I am at home it’s either working, eating. I don’t see myself as one. Generally, it means a lot to me, it means very much to me, writing for my own people (Africans). It so nice to be read in different countries.
What do you cherish most as a writer?
Seeing ordinary people reading me. I met a woman in Texas from Ghana, she told me she has all my books and she goes everywhere with them. That is the kind of thing I cherish.
What is the hard part of your job?
The hard part is trying to write, you must know how to read. Like some of the workshop participants said they don’t know the importance of reading. At least, read one book in a week because reading is very essential.
Why did you opt for a private wedding?
I am a writer and I think the only thing I owe the world is my works. My marriage should not be spectacular. I am happy to talk about my works to the public.
CHIDINMA OBIONWU AND JOKE ONITOLO
*This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, July 05, 2011