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Nostalgia

You know, there is always the question of asking yourself if you are ever going to be a best seller in your lifetime. These days, those are the questions that I find myself asking each time I start writing a story. The question started simply enough. A very young child came to my house and we started chatting. He wanted to know why I was hunched over my computer almost all the time he was in the living room. I blinked and tried to focus on the young man. He noted that most times he called to say hello to my children, he invariably found me typing. I took a deep breath and wondered if I should do one of two things.

You know look down my nose at him and reply in a pitying voice on how he has missed the true calling of the writer and tell him he was not likely to understand what writing meant to me, yeah, I am still broke and I am not sure if I can claim that I have sold my book in thousands never mind millions. What? No, I am not about to discuss my despair either. Hey!, I mean my despair that I am never going to finish writing all I have to write. I never have enough time and the stranger thing is, I have had days that I sit by the computer and the stories just goes on in my head and the computer remains blank. That is really frightening when I wonder if all this is going to be worthwhile. I am not trying to change the world neither am I likely going to change my immediate community, unless I wish to be a liar.

That is another thing, my niece doesn’t think I work anyway. She came over to spend the holidays when I was part of a television series on teenage reproductive issues. She had liked me and was enthusiastic about the series, I NEED TO KNOW. She read the stories every night, staying up all night sometimes. I was preening and waiting for the commendations to flow in. She looked up and I saw real bewilderment on her face.
“seriously auntie, I have never met all these people you talk about in your story, you are just forming them up right?”
“You mean like I am making them up”? I asked her slowly puzzled at what she was implying. Here, let me insert a warning: We are writing Nigerian English and my friends across the pond may have to hold on for a translation later.
My niece nodded and I smiled, “Yes of course , that is what is called fiction, the situations are real though”.
“You mean Ikechukwu is not real?”
“No my dear, the young boy that acts the part is real but that is just his television name”.
“Hmmm, very easy job Auntie, just sit down, dream up stories about people and you get paid for having fun”.
I stared at her, opened my mouth to explain what enter- educate drama is all about and clammed shut as she stared askance at me. She commented that she envied my job and wondered why I had not become a millionaire at the very least. She said she might one day take up my job.

That was years ago, the juice train left and I stared into the hard glare of straining to make two tired ropes stay glued. Digital television, internet radio and programmes took me to hunger street and I needed to look at dim areas of my creative mind to quell the noise of my growling belly.
I have been writing since I can remember the meaning of pain, hunger, dreams and a compulsive need to talk to persons I have never met. My imagination wakes me up every dawn as the sun dips her fingers on my hopes and gives me a taste of its promise. I have like a thousand stories, impatiently jostling for attention. Men I know so well in my head, conversations that seem unending, situations crop up and I ponder on their solutions. An urgent need to tap a shoulder and start a conversation.

I am doing one right now right? Were you interested? Oh well, you got this far. That must count for something. But you see, a new fear is peeping at me. How much time do I have?
Will I ever write a best seller? Sometimes I picture a vast field, the sun is setting, the players are all gone, I am staring at the lonely abandoned ball in the field, the stands are silent and a lone figure walks onto the field, he touches the ball and hears in his soul the roar of his dreams and he makes a lob into the far end of the field. The sun yawns and calls me over.
I will see you soon my friend.

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ROSES….or THORNS? Conversation from the workshop.

How long have I been out? I have been attending a workshop for writers in my neck of the woods and it was really an eye opener for me. I had a better understanding for Gerry, my chief editor who doubles and the face of my publisher as he is the one I really always relate with.

I was the only one who gave a paper on creative writing but I would share that in a moment. What I found really interesting were the comments of the writers who had gathered to listen to the presentations of the speakers who were a collectivity of learned persons, a prof and some intellectual doctors.

I came away with a better understanding of the agonies that Gerry must have gone through with me and maybe a few other authors. I never could understand for a long time why I had to wait forever to get a book out in print and I had a better understanding at this workshop.

Apparently the traditional publisher has a lot to contend with, from the minute he agrees to publish a book. An indigenous publisher who is acclaimed by all as being very successful agreed with the general outrage that enhancing our reading culture is an uphill task as it costs the earth to get all the materials needed for printing a good quality book.

He gave a list of that they had to pay for. The high taxes, the high level of corruption, and the intransigence of electricity, salespersons not remitting in record time . By the time he had finished his catalogue, the hall was silent. I sent a silent thanks to Gerry.

Before the publisher took the mic, I had gone round some of the stands of authors to see what the competition was, some had self -published their works. I was interested in that since I have been toying with that idea for a while. I need to keep my body and soul together. I write solely and have very little outside income so I have been hungry for a long time.

The idea of self- publishing became very attractive as I have quite a lot of books, (some in series) that I want to publish. I use to feel I do not have that much time left and should really do something to put out as much as I have written over the years.

However the lot I saw at the workshop dismayed me. Badly collated prints, badly stapled, and I just sighed and walked off feeling depressed. The other side of the coin did not look attractive either. Publishers want to wait months, some years to publish your book, cannot promise to help you promote and the very small matter of royalty is a strange word to them.

I mentioned that to my new friend, publisher chairman at the workshop as we got talking, he seemed to have liked my paper and he asked me questions about my new book Numen Yeye. He explained with a twinkle in his eye that publishers need to deduct their initial cost outlay before they can pay royalty and added that self publishers had the problem of marketing as well as the logistics of placing their books at location where it can sell.

However, he consoled that he has a large staff, and works along the coast of West Africa. I gave him a suspicious look and smiled, wondering if the same treatment of low royalty applied to his titles. He laughed and called over an author. He invited the author to be honest and confirm what he got last month as royalty payment. I stared as the man smiled and simply brought out a photocopied check for one million naira. I almost fainted. The author explained that he fainted too, but believed it when the bank confirmed payment. So he had the cheque photocopied as he was going to frame it.

I was quiet for long moment after that, but felt a deep sense of gratitude to Gerry Huntman. I wondered if he had ever thought of being a manager of talents. I recollected all my fears, tears and sometimes fury and each time Gerry had been rock solid and calm. Phew! I could never have understood the publishing mess but for him. But I still have questions. Why do publishers take forever to reply to queries?

I am still in a quandary about self publishing. I like to have somebody else make sense of what I am trying to say and not kill me in the process. I love to know that someone is there in my corner so I would love to have my book published for me. I really am not sure I want the ego trap of wanting to do it myself. Above all, I can’t stand publishers who think they are doing me a favour, for they make me want to shove my gray head down their throat.

Finally, I had a very beautiful time at the workshop as ah yes, my book was well received and I got quite a lot of enquiries. More than half of my friends cannot buy books online so I am going to be the book seller of my book from the look of it.
Oh yes, my reviewer took my book with him on the flight to Britain as he told me that he did not want to miss a page.

Wow, you could say it looks like it might turn up roses for this old lady who simply can’t stop dreaming.

 

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