Okay, you have an idea of the pre-event. The participants in the hall of Loyola Jesuit College, Gidan-Mangoro were ready for the creative writers’ workshop .
After introductions, Mr. Benjamin Yio (the Manager of Aboki Publishers) took the first shot. He delivered a paper on Publishing. Considering how tasking a topic it is, I wondered how the students would digest it. The Historian did his best, flavouring his discourse with some aspects from his experience as Manager. He was a man used to great intellectuals and higher students, himself earning a PhD at the moment. He was through in a few minutes and sat down. Somewhere in between Andrew Bula, another fine writer and my classmate from the university, himself now a lecturer at the Turkish University in Abuja came in. He was here to offer his bit and give us all his support. Suddenly, it was my time.
Somehow, we had a full discourse on ‘Creativity, Creative Writing and its aspects.’ We had thirty-five students who in their different ways wowed me. Matter of fact, we all did the facilitation together! We defined creativity as having to do with our imagination. We closed our eyes and imagined various things. Okay, so all of us had imaginations. We also got to note that writing was putting down words traditionally on paper, but with modern technology, on computers, our phones, systems and the like – even our legs or on the ground. We discovered, together, that anyone with an imagination who could write could be a great creative writer. After all, creative writing is the putting into words the thoughts of our imagination. The catch was to write things that would appeal to readers – you don’t want to leave them bored. We explored various aspects of creativity – poetry, prose, and plays (drama). We noticed that some other creative aspects existed not strictly in the writing genre – from comics to the like. Oh! That gave us some good talking points including Avengers! Yup! Since the DVD copy isn’t out and none of them has been home since it was released, I had the upper hand to give them some gist of it. Of course, I used it to challenge them to write far better: ‘I believe you have the potentials to write far more captivating stories than that. You have to work that potential into reality.’ The key, I repeated could be found in Horace’s prescription that ‘the role of literature is to instruct and entertain.’ More, we were to write in our times, in hopes of posterity. Another thing was to start our pieces excitingly, hold the readers’ interest and finish with grace. I read very short relevant lines from a few of my works to emphasise this point. We wrote and read ourselves and did some corrections.
We spoke on piracy too and for an example, Andrew gave me three copies of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart that had the ‘Buchi Emecheta The Joys of Motherhood’ written on the side. We went through the whole ‘badness’ of pirates. Someone asked one could know if pirates were in business on one’s work. ‘Well, you would discover lots of your work being sold; discover you are getting far more popular and the like. On the other hand, you would also discover something strange – that little money or none is coming into you or your publisher’s hands. Then you know it is going into the hands of the pirates!’ We got lots of participation from everyone as we continued. We all taught ourselves.
At some point, I had Maik Ortserga (Executive Editor, Aboki Publishers and Secretary, Association of Nigerian Authors, Benue) read from his short story, ‘The Death of Tom Vande’ from New Short Stories from Nigeria (edited by Mbaiver Nyitse). The excerpt was based on an attack by some cultists on a university campus. He gave the participants some tips on short story writing too. Much later, Andrew Bula play-enacted Edwin Arlington Robinson’s ‘Richard Cory’, gave a small talk on the values of writing emphasising it could change the world. He finally read his ‘You are a soldier’ from Cerebrality (edited by Maria Ajima and Sam Ogabidu). The beauty of the renditions by these two is it got the attention of the students especially Jennifer Aruya and her friends who did some clicking thing with their fingers. I asked and they said it was a way of appreciating a fine performance or the arts. They accompanied this clicking with smiles, and I knew it truly came from deep enjoyment. I fancied bringing the new style to spice some of our readings at SEVHAGE and Benue ANA. I tried it a bit and thought of how ridiculous it would be for old people to do that. The students agreed with me it would be odd. Off went that thought!
We had some exercises at many points which included closing our eyes to conjure stories and activate our imaginations. This, I explained to them, was because sometimes to really get hold of our creativity we had to close out the limitations that our sight usually placed before us. Inward, we find countless possibilities that we can express and if we decide, explore in life. Memorably, we closed our eyes and all went to our favourite places – all of us. We imagined ourselves doing the best things we loved the most. Since this was an exercise to see how we could express ourselves in poetry – verse, in lines and stanzas, we opened our eyes to write down what we saw. We didn’t have the time to go through each of them as the clock called for a quick move towards closure. There was a chance to look at two and gosh! They were simple but lovely. We peer reviewed each other’s work and smiled at what we had done. Now, with all the adjectives one would think I exaggerate but trust me, if you were there you might have had to borrow some extra words from the dictionary in your description. Well, we had one more assignment. I asked that everyone imagine an earthquake searing through the class, then someone – a man perhaps falling through, and screaming in a lady-like voice. What happens next? Imagine people fleeing, some trying to run through the louvered windows. What happens next? Is anyone saved? Is there chaos? What is the picture created in our minds? That was the assignment I left them with and they did us the honour of a roaring applause and lots of the hand click thing.
Mr. Wilson Ikwebe presented the Loyola Jesuit school banner, some tee-shirts as well as an envelope from the Principal to Mr. Yio. He called me over to join in the presentation but I was too busy having last minute discussions with the participants to be distracted. We had some snapshots together. It was time for them to go for lunch or something… I started giving some books out and everyone wanted one. It was fun to have people want books. And someone says the reading culture is dying! C’mon! Why don’t we try giving books personally to children or organising such programmes and see if they wouldn’t read… But I digress. Maik gave books to the book club and enjoined them to read. We both felt bad we didn’t bring enough books to make of gifts to the students and the school. Noted. Several of the students who had gone out already came back in to say they had a nice time – if only they knew I had a nicer time!
I wasn’t the only one who didn’t feel good that the event had come to an end. But there was the book giving session coming and some fun time with the Reverend Administrators. The post-event…Hmm.
- The Loyola Jesuit Workshop for Writers (ii): the Workshop (sueddie.wordpress.com)
- The Loyola Jesuit Workshop for Writers (i): Pre (sueddie.wordpress.com)
- A Jesuit high school in Nigeria (blithespirit.wordpress.com)