“It’s Universal law that whatever you focus on expands” – Interview with Chiwenite Onyekwelu

“It’s Universal law that whatever you focus on expands” – Interview with Chiwenite Onyekwelu

Chiwenite Onyekwelu

TABLE TALK

It’s Universal law that whatever you focus on expands” – Interview with Chiwenite Onyekwelu

In anticipation of the fifth edition of Kreative Diadem’s annual writing contest, we share this interview with Chiwenite Onyekwelu, last year’s poetry winner.

Chiwenite Onyekwelu is a poet. His works have appeared on Rough Cut Press, America Magazine, Cultural Weekly, Isele, etc. He was a finalist of the 2021 New York Encounter Poetry Contest, winner of the 2020 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize, runner up of the Foley Poetry Prize 2020, as well as the winner of both the 2020 Kreative Diadem Annual Writing Contest (Poetry Category) and the Christopher Okigbo Poetry Prize 2019. He studies Pharmacy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University where he also serves as Assistant Editor-in-Chief (Agulu Campus).

Kreative Diadem: Who is Chiwenite? Tell us briefly about yourself.

Chiwenite: I’m a poet, essayist, editor, poetry co-teacher at the Threposs Learn, and undergraduate of Pharmacy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.

Chiwenite Onyekwelu

Chiwenite Onyekwelu

Winner of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Content (Poetry Category)

KD: When did you first discover your passion for writing and what inspired you?

Chiwenite: Discovering my passion for writing can be traced back to when I was small. I remember writing several clumsy stories when I was in primary five. But it was not until my last few months in secondary school, that I began to think that maybe I should actually be more deliberate and take writing a little seriously.

When I wrote my earliest stories as a kid, it wasn’t because I felt I could do it. At that time, I was suffering from anxiety because of my first pedophilia experience. And because I was so scared to verbally narrate what had happened to anyone, writing offered an escape route, however temporary. I began with keeping small notes that I never let anyone else find. Now, when I think about your question, I want to say that it might have been that first pedophilia experience that inspired my writing.

KD: What are some of the challenges you face as a writer and what steps do you take to overcome them?

Chiwenite: My greatest challenge at the moment is the inadequacy of time. To think that I have a lot I want to write about, yet half the time, I have my head flattened under the weight of Pharmacy and all that comes with studying it. This is not to say that I don’t love what I’m doing here in Pharmacy School. But I’m just boxed up at a spot where one thing I love is struggling so hard to swallow up another thing I also love. To overcome this, however, I have given up most part of my leisure time. When I’m not busy with schoolwork, I’m almost always writing.

Another challenge, I must say, is in the area of improving my writing skill. As an emerging writer, there is still so much to learn. But then, the problem is ‘who’s willing to teach?’ The few available writing classes here cost quite a bulk, and we all know what that means. So the majority of us emerging writers have resorted to self-teaching, which is such an exerting, trial-and-error method of learning to write.

I know Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is doing great with the Purple Hibiscus Writing Workshop. The Tampered Writing Workshop and also the SprinNg Writing Fellowship have all been helpful to writers at the grassroots. But I feel this challenge exists especially because here we do not have more already-established writers doing stuffs like these.

KD: What are some literary figures that inspire you and your work?

Chiwenite: The term “literary figures” seems to elude me of its exact meaning. But if you meant the writers who have inspired my writing the most, then it would be arduous to name them all, particularly because at every point in time, I have a “new” writer whose work I feel drawn to. Recently, I have found inspiration in the works of Momtaza Mehri, Cathy Linh Che, Theresa Lola, I.S. Jones, Danez Smith, Alexis Rhone Fancher, Romeo Origun, Hala Alyan, Akwaeke Emezi, Bryan Byrdlong, Nneka Arimah and so many others.

It’s Universal law that whatever you focus on expands…Write, even if nothing seems to be improving or the rejections keep coming.”

KD: Last year, you won first prize in the flash fiction category of Kreative Diadem’s annual writing contest. What was your reaction like?

Chiwenite: I felt very excited. Being in the 2019 Kreative Diadem shortlist (poetry) taught me to believe in my self. So, when I was announced first prize winner for 2020, I was like “oh-boy, we’re really really getting somewhere!”.

KD: What was the inspiration and meaning behind your winning poem: Hydrology?

Chiwenite: Hydrology was inspired by a personal experience. Before now, I lived as though I was underwater. Like I was drowning under the heft of my childhood, and however I tried to step unto the shores, there were always some memories that wouldn’t let me.

So for me, the poem was a kind of catharsis. It was my first big leap towards healing. The poem tells the story of a boy who was once fragile and untouched until something happened. I do not know how to go further from here, but that is all the meaning behind Hydrology.

KD: Do you have any other published works aside from Hydrology, as well as any other achievements you’d like to share?

Chiwenite: Some of my most recent poems can be found on Rough Cut Press, Cultural Weekly, and on America Magazine. And my most recent recognitions include emerging as a finalist in the 2021 New York Encounter Poetry Prize, winning first prize in the 2020 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize, and emerging as a runner-up for the Foley Poetry Prize 2020.

KD: What are some of your long-term goals as a writer?

Chiwenite: I have to start working on a poetry chapbook any time from now, then maybe on a Collection afterwards. It is also my dream to get an MFA in Poetry much later in the future, and more than anything, to give back as much as I have received.

KD: Any forthcoming works or publications?

Chiwenite: No, not yet. Still waiting for editors’ responses.

KD: What advice would you give to young writers like yourself, especially in Nigeria?

Chiwenite: I too need that advice. But let me say this quickly: there is no magic recipe for writing. However, some of the two most effective strategies in becoming better are reading and consistency in writing. It’s Universal law that whatever you focus on expands. So read widely, especially contemporary works, then try out new styles and avoid limiting yourself to a particular theme. Write, even if nothing seems to be improving or the rejections keep coming.

Any final words for Kreative Diadem and its readers?

Chiwenite: Thanks to Kreative Diadem for everything it’s doing to help writers. Her readers, no doubt, are in very good hands.

Isolation

Our third issue ever, "Isolation" is out. We had thought-provoking conversations with Alexis Teyie and Tobi Nifesi. It's a collection of works from some of the finest minds out there -- poetry, short stories, interviews, and creative essays.

Do you love our published works?

You can add your literary work to an endless list of poems, short stories, flash fiction, and essays.

“You’ve got this. You’re good enough”— Interview with Daniel Ogba

“You’ve got this. You’re good enough”— Interview with Daniel Ogba

Daniel Ogba

TABLE TALK

“You’ve got this. You’re good enough”— Interview with Daniel Ogba

As we anticipate the fifth edition of Kreative Diadem’s Annual Creative Writing Contest, we recently chatted with last year’s flash fiction winner—Daniel Ogba. Enjoy!

Daniel Ogba wants to move and watch and not stop, that is why he writes. He has writings featured in Ile Alo, the African Writers (now defunct), and the Muse Journal, No. 47. He is currently studying Dentistry at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Kreative Diadem: Who is Daniel? Tell us briefly about yourself.

Daniel: I really don’t know how to answer this type of question. I haven’t figured out fully yet who I am or am not, I don’t think anyone ever fully figures, and I am still in that process of knowing. I can only tell you that I am a firm believer, and I dream a lot.

Daniel Ogba

Winner of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

KD: When did you first discover your passion for writing, what inspired you?

Daniel: It was my grief that first introduced me to writing. I lost my father when I was six, and so I searched for a way to keep his memory alive. A longing that his pictures alone weren’t sufficient to provide.

So I started writing about him, started building fictional characters around him- how he walked, what he smelt like, the kind of things he liked that I started growing up to like. Little acts that I didn’t ever want to forget about him, most of which are a blur now. I think that particular loss has reshaped every aspect of me, my writing inclusive.

KD: What are some of the challenges you face as a writer? What steps do you take to overcome them?

Daniel: I think the challenges I face in my writing are all in my head. Well, except the ton of school work occupying my schedule, and even that, too, is something I can overcome if I work hard enough to. I’m a very lazy person mentally. I’ll be unstoppable if I can be able to overcome my own self.

KD: Who are some of the literary figures that inspire you/you look up to?

Daniel: There’s a plethora of them. There’s Chimamanda Adichie, obviously. I really love Akwaeke Emezi for the genius structuring and plotting in her stories. I admire the unafraid-ness in Eloghosa Osunde’s works, something I’m aspiring towards. I’d give anything to live in Pemi Aguda’s head. Ope Adedeji is astonishing. TJ Benson is another remarkable writer, and I’m really looking forward to reading his novel. Chukwuebuka Ibeh is incredibly talented and sweet. The list can go on and on. I am generally inspired by work that leaves me in complete awe, or breathless.

 

I’ll be unstoppable if I can be able to overcome my own self.”

KD: In 2020, you won first prize in the flash fiction category of Kreative Diadem’s annual writing contest. How did you feel about winning?

Daniel: I couldn’t contain my joy. The year had been terrible and so tough it had me already on my knees. When I saw the mail, I literally screamed and danced on the road, my friend thought I was losing my head. It was the news I needed that period after too many rejections.

KD: What was the inspiration and meaning behind Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst?

A Kendrick Lamar song. With Sing About Me I hoped to explore friendship, and the nature of families we create for ourselves outside of the family. Also, it had an underlying theme of depression; of the way people wrap themselves up in different layers and shades of fabric to mask the issues they’re inwardly dealing with, live up to society’s expectation that you appear fine, your struggles regardless.

KD: Do you have any other published works aside from Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst, as well as any other achievements you’d like to share?

Daniel: No.

KD: What are some of your long-term goals as a writer?

Daniel: The goal is one thing: to become a really good writer.

KD: Any forthcoming works or publications?

Daniel: At the moment, none.

KD: What advice would you give to young writers like yourself, especially in Nigeria?

Daniel: I wouldn’t necessarily call it advice. It’s something I picked from one of Eloghosa Osunde’s interview on Brittle Paper sometime ago, and made mine. “Any voice that says my dreams are not translatable to reality is a lie. I’m good enough. The only thing separating me from where I want to be is consistent work and discipline, not incapability.” Basically, just write, put in work. You’ve got this. You’re good enough.

KD: Any final words for Kreative Diadem and her readers?

Daniel: The work your platform is doing is surely the Lord’s work. I pray it continues. And you guys should be really proud. You’ve offered a stepping-stone for several writers to go ahead and do amazing things, it’s lovely to see.

Isolation

Our third issue ever, "Isolation" is out. We had thought-provoking conversations with Alexis Teyie and Tobi Nifesi. It's a collection of works from some of the finest minds out there -- poetry, short stories, interviews, and creative essays.

Do you love our published works?

You can add your literary work to an endless list of poems, short stories, flash fiction, and essays.

Kreative Diadem

The right to think is the right to write

© 2015 - 2020 Kreative Diadem. Copyright. All Rights Reserved.

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NOTES ON CRAFT: THE THING ABOUT FLASHBACKS by Olakunle Ologunro

NOTES ON CRAFT: THE THING ABOUT FLASHBACKS by Olakunle Ologunro

Conversations

Notes on Craft: The Thing About Flashbacks

by Olakunle Ologunro

Hey there,

If this is your first time reading this letter, you can flashback to the previous letters in the series here.

This week’s letter is for flashbacks.

When you think about flashbacks, what comes to mind? I’ll be honest, I think of two things. First, I think of the Nollywood typical treatment of flashbacks. Yoruba Nollywood, especially. You can watch a movie where everything is a flashback. Or a flashback that contains three more flashbacks. 

I kid you not.

The second thing that comes to my mind is a sprint in a former direction. A runner turning back to swiftly pick up something. And that’s how I often like to approach my definition of the word, as well as my relationship with the entire concept. A sprint in a former direction, usually to pick up a[n old] detail, or to draw the readers’ attention to something that is important to the story or the character’s personality.

The definition of a flashback is simple, easy to grasp. It is when you, the writer, take the reader out of the present story and go back into an earlier time in a character’s life, or an earlier event in the main course of the story. 

Here’s an example from one of my favourite short stories to read, “Someone Like Sue,” by Rebecca Curtis.

This is what I was thinking:

The fact that Sue didn’t have a job didn’t surprise me. The last I knew, after college, she’d been working at a large department store. But I always thought she’d lose the job, especially because she was so small—she only weighed ninety pounds and she was only five feet tall. Her smallness seemed to point to something about her everyone could see, that she was untrustworthy and could be easily beaten up. Not many people had trusted her in college, and a lot of people had beaten her up.

In this story, this character has just received a phone call from a woman who calls herself Amy but who the character believes to be Sue, her old friend from college. The character is sitting down after the call when her husband comes to her to find out who called. But our character is thinking, and in revealing her thoughts, the author flashes back to her college days to reveal her relationship with Sue, and the kind of people Sue and our character are.

By using flashback, the author achieves a number of things:

  1. She reveals details that help the reader understand Sue and the character, and thus gives the story more depth because the reader now understands the motives of each character.
  2. Interiority. The reader is able to see the character’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the situation. 

But her friendship brought me a lot of benefits, like the way we held hands when we entered a party, and how all the guys thought that looked good, and when I thought about the money I’d loaned her that she never paid back, I knew that in a way she thought I owed her the money, because of all those times we’d held hands.

Reading the whole paragraph to the end, the reader is able to see how the character feels about Sue, what she thinks about their relationship and her reaction to Sue’s lie that she is now Amy.

  1. The flashback helps us understand the current conflict even further. We, the reader, now understand why Sue might pretend to be Amy, and why the character struggles between giving her the money or not.
  2. The author has also been able to tell the story in a way that is not 100% linear. She takes the reader to the past and back, and this time, the reader returns with even more details that make the story more interesting and gives a new dimension to the previously expected outcome.

 

Flashbacks can take a number of ways: an object can be used to start a flashback. A word, a gesture, a sound, all of these can bring about a flashback for the character. 

As a writer, the best approach is to use flashback as a tool to complement and strengthen your work. Make it richer, more interesting. But also be wary of too many flashbacks. This will do the complete opposite of what you have in mind. 

Ask yourself questions. How does this flashback change your story? What does it add or take away from it? How has it changed your character? What do they now know?

A very simple way to do this is to apply it to yourself. If, right now, you had to flashback to a specific period in 2020, what would that period be? Why? How will the flashback change your present circumstances, even if for a minute?

Let me answer that. If I had to flashback to a specific period in 2020, it would be the lockdown period. Why? It was the one time where I felt absolutely listless, I could barely read or write. I’ll emerge from this flashback with complete gratitude for where I am right now: able to read and write again, to enjoy the solace that stories bring. 

Now, will you also take the test?

Read: “Someone Like Sue” by Rebecca Curtis.

 

See you soon.

-Kunle.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Olakunle Ologunro is a Nigerian writer. His work has been published in Brittle Paper, Agbowo, the Queer Africa anthology, and the Gerald Kraak anthology for work that provokes thought on the topics of gender, social justice and sexuality. He is an alumnus of the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop and a finalist for the 2020 Adina Talve-Goodman Fellowship from One Story Magazine. He won the inaugural Kreative Diadem Prize for short fiction.

Photo Credits:

Photo by Dancan Wachira from Pexels

 

 

 

 

Winners of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest

Winners of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest

Winners of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest

Here is the highly anticipated list of the winners of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest. Now in its fourth year, the prize seeks to recognize the best literary works by Nigerian writers aged 21 years and below.

This year we received 145 poems and 87 flash fiction pieces from which our guest judges: Nome Emeka Patrick, selected three winners for the poetry category and Dr. Arthur Anyaduba picked the top three flash fiction entries.

Here are the winners with comments from the judges:

Poetry Category

Winner: “Hydrology” by Chiwenite Onyekwelu

It wasn’t so hard to choose this poem as the winning poem. Few lines into it, I was pulled deep into Chinwenite’s language, and its responsibility to clarity, and to the way, it paddles his story. Chinwenite’s is a moving poem. Its position is at the threshold of love, a paradigmatic poise of what it means to reach into desire & (re)claim it. Anne Carson writes, “All lovers believe they are inventing love”, & this poem not only moves along the edge of this assertion but also finds a way to embody it in a novel way. In this poem, the reader is made witness to the lover, the beloved, and the passion that burns in the proximity between them. Healing is the core of love, and Chinwenite doesn’t fail to reiterate this in this brilliant poem.

First Runner-up: “She Stared Back at Us with Eyes Closed” by Amarachi Iwuafor

Amarachi’s poem is a poetic monologue, a plunge into mourning that comes with the realization of loss, the acceptance of it, and the constant groping to make sense of it. Here, I kept rereading this poem, & I’m marveled at its simplicity, a subtlety that isn’t really a subtlety, but an attempt at eloquence in the face of grief. By offering us her own version of it, Amarachi seems to be telling us this is how the loss of someone undoes us. And there’s this catharsis that lurks in these lines, “How often we grope for life/ when we are close to death.”, one anyone would immediately be struck with. This is a breathtaking poem! No pun intended.

Second Runner-up: “In the Name of Transcendentals” by Ibe Obasiota Ben

Ibe’s In The Name of Transcendentals is a powerful poem. I am particularly drawn by its voice, the effortlessness at which the lines spill forth, and its originality. I admire how this poem seems to interrogate the idea of death and grief and the ‘others’, how it orbits around these subjects with grace and simplicity. This is a great poem.

Honourable mentions:

“Melody of Anarchy” by Ajani Samuel Victor

“This Thing Called Death” by Blessing Anaso

“in which my dead grandfather calls yet again through the mouth of a door” by Mayowa Oyewale

“Grieving, my body feels like laughter caught young in its youth” by Chukwu Emmanuel

Flash Fiction Category

Dr. Arthur Anyaduba writes: “These stories are the products of supremely talented writers who clearly understand the foibles and the intimate struggles of living and experiencing life. These writers have mastered the art of making storytelling into an affective experience. The stories are also quintessentially ‘Nigerian’ in their imaginative worlds, their sounds, and the manifold experiences that they tell powerfully.

“What I found most curious about all the stories is that even in their varied forms and concerns they tell about similar experiences and situations provoking similar kinds of emotions: childhood trauma and abuse, the angst of loss and pain, and the complexities of human relationships. The quality of writing and the depth of imagination of these stories are incredible. There’s always that strange feeling of self scorn that I get each time I ‘judge’ a story to determine its worth, its rating in relation to others, its strengths, and whatnot. But these stories have all refused to be judged.

“Each one of them that I read left me confounded and lost in its storied world. I found myself unable to judge, to assess, to rank the stories. Instead, the stories forced me to think and to feel. The victory of these stories over me was that they took me in without my recognizing how deep; they made me look at experiences more closely, more intimately, until I was no longer able to pronounce a judgement.”

Winner: “Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst” by Daniel Ogba

First Runner-up: “A Feeling of No Name” by Chiamaka Ejiofor

Second Runner-up: “This Too Shall Pass” by Jesutomisin Ipinmoye

Honourable mentions:

“Moments Before We Die” by Yvonne Nezianya

“May My Words Be Taken to You” by Sobur Adedokun

“Verses of Silence” by Timi Sanni      

 “Fluttering Hope” by Miracle Chidera Odigwe                                   

Congratulations to the winners!

We are grateful to our guest judges — Nome Emeka Patrick and Dr. Arthur Anyaduba — and everyone who sent in their work. Thanks to all our sponsors for their generous donations. 

Interviews with the contest winners will be published at a later date.

The maiden edition which held in 2017 was judged by Sueddie Vershima Agema (Flash Fiction) and Okwudili Nebeolisa (Poetry).

 

Isolation

Our third issue ever, "Isolation" is out. We had thought-provoking conversations with Alexis Teyie and Tobi Nifesi. It's a collection of works from some of the finest minds out there -- poetry, short stories, interviews, and creative essays.

Do you love our published works?

You can add your literary work to an endless list of poems, short stories, flash fiction, and essays.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS by Jesutomisin Ipinmoye

THIS TOO SHALL PASS by Jesutomisin Ipinmoye

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

by Jesutomisin Ipinmoye

This Too Shall Pass – Second Runner-up of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

To Peter.

 

Your mother, a woman of greying skin and brittle bones told me that was your first name today. We were eating rice for the first time since your burial, watching as the sun fell into the horizon, and she turned and she said it. That name, a name that carried the mark of a saint, fell off her tongue and lay listless in the soft earth. She asked me if I knew. I told her I did not. That I called you Sir, Oga, Uncle. That I called you other things like Animal, Dog, and Beast. Any word that would strip away the humanity you loved to sheath yourself in, the humanity that you draped over your sins, claiming them to be errors that everyone made. I wanted to tell her that we did not have that sort of relationship between employer and employee, which would allow me knowledge of your name. Or even knowledge of you as a person. 

Not even on the nights that you’d slip into my room and demand perverse things that your wife sleeping upstairs would not do for you. I wanted to tell her these things, but I could not. 

So I let her eat in peace. 

To Peter

Your mother is virtue. 

This is something I have struggled to understand in my months living with her. She is a woman with many hearts, a woman of much love. I have been unable to explain your specific brand of horror, your callousness, and evil, by looking at your mother. In the months after you died, where I searched for someone to blame, I looked for ways to blame her. I looked for signs that perhaps she watered a particular demon in you, gave it the earth, and the fertilizer it needed to grow. But I found none. 

Your mother is virtue. 

It only makes me curse you more.

 

To Peter

I started living with your mother because, after the funeral, your wife and daughter moved far away. Your mother says they’re coming back, but I know better. I know how people run. I remember how your wife held your little daughter’s shoulders tightly, as sand was slowly heaped unto your casket. I remember how she cornered me later that night and asked me questions. Do I still want to go back to school? Do I know how to find my family? Her eyes lingered in spaces above my head, as though making eye contact would legitimize me as another person she had to worry about. I told her what she wanted to hear. I was fine. I would stay with your mother until I know how to fend for myself. I remember the mist in her eyes. She was just about to leave when she turned back and whispered, I’m sorry.

To Peter

 

I don’t remember how to get back home. Sometimes, I sit under the guava tree in your mother’s yard, and I try to draw maps in the earth that lead to home. Perhaps it is the fact that I’ve never owned anything, so where do I start understanding what it means to own a place. Or maybe it’s the fact that I was five when a tall man with a shadowed face took me away from where I might have called home and into another world. 

I do know that I’m not from here. 

I remember there was a language in my mouth that my tongue spent years breaking into pieces, just so I could understand when your wife told me to wash plates, sweep the yard, and clean the car. I have come to learn that I existed in your lives, as a result of compromise. Your wife wanted help in the house but didn’t want another woman in the house with her. It fascinates me that she was so aware of the type of person she married, that she went out of her way to choose a little foreign boy, hoping it would dissuade you. Sometimes, I think she knows it didn’t. But of course, we don’t speak of such things.

We don’t speak of the violence. The cracking of leather belt on supple skin. We don’t speak of the loneliness. The countless hours I spent staring into space. We don’t speak of the abuse. The insults. The fact that all I owned, all that felt familiar enough to call mine, was the pain.

Now that you’re dead, I don’t remember how to get home Peter. 

And now, as the pain slowly calcifies int

To Peter

Your mother’s favorite thing to say when confronted with suffering is this too shall pass. She said it again just this morning when we woke up to find the poultry farm raided and the chickens missing. 

She said it when, as we cleaned the living room, I finally told her about everything. She was silent for very long, her eyes watering her cheeks. I expected her to say it, to try to swallow up the confusion with a promise of things to get better. 

But she said nothing. And I said nothing. And we both cleaned the room, sweeping away the silence. 

Photo Credit: Photo by Askar Abayev from Pexels

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