Dear Writer, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff  

The tweet below recently found its way to the small corner of Naija Twitter that is “Literary Twitter”. 

 

Eghosa Imasuen, author of Fine Boys, weighed in on the matter in a series of tweets which we have put together below. 

It isn’t bad advice not to argue “small details” with your editor because they are likely right. An editor is a specialised reader. Appreciate the luxury of engaging such a reader of your work, but it is what it is: a luxury. You will not be over the shoulder of readers, when the book is published, explaining in their ear why a mistake is not a mistake.  

There will always be exceptions, especially from our POV as authors from the global South. But all things considered, with an editor from your culture, no italicisation of your language’s words to protest, etc, listen to your editor. At least over the “small stuff”. 

I’ve seen both sides now, writer and editor. I’ve seen what happens to a manuscript when a writer’s reputation and skill means that editors can’t edit them anymore. I’ve seen when youth and surefootedness means the writer can’t listen even if they tried. I’m currently looking at an older version of Fine Boys. The manuscript still has notes from the copyedit. Things I fought for, small things, I see now that the editor’s suggestions worked.  

Perhaps this is about the words, “argue” and “minor details”, and if editors are better writers. Editors aren’t writers. The process is collaborative. If the manuscript has been substantively edited and is at the last copyedit, don’t sweat the small stuff. Listen. The final decision is still yours.  

 

Follow Eghosa Imasuen on Twitter @eimasuen.

Before the war ended

An excerpt from Allison Chimaeze Eñeogwe’s autobiography, Perseverance: Arise and Shine

Perseverance Cover

From my radio, I knew by late 1969 that Nigerian troops began an unprecedented move towards the Aba axis. Aba-Ngwa people are as farmers and producing the best garri throughout Nigeria. This movement of the federal troops seemed to be total as they were combing from village to village. The majority of Ngwa people who had no money to feed themselves if they fled from their homes decided to take on the greater evil – mass surrender. The information from the radio revealed that those who surrendered were treated fairly. All they had to do was to hide in the bush or anywhere and await the retreat of the Biafran army. Then, when the Nigerian army advanced towards them, the people came out with white handkerchiefs in their hands, shouted “One Nigeria” and were safe from harm. 

I went to Amepku Uratta, got my father with his wives and brought them to Umukalu Ntigha, Brother Levi’s village. By this time, he had also left Eziala Mbawsi – his in-law’s place – and moved to his village. 

Other refugees living with us were moving northwards towards Umuahia, but my wife was very sick and I knew that if we went further, she was going to die. Going further meant getting to Mbaise area or Okigwe. In such a place, where were we going to get food? So, I called my father and told him that we were going to surrender now. I told him what I had been hearing from the radio, the modality of surrender and how those that surrendered were treated.

This time around, my father was afraid. “Do you mean that after we have managed all these days to escape death from Nigerian soldiers you want us to surrender now so that they will kill us?” he asked. 

“No,” I replied. “The war has been going on for a long time and everybody is tired now. Most of the soldiers are now interested in whatever will end the war than what will protract it.” 

“Chimaeze, if you say we should surrender, let us surrender. If they kill us today, I have lived longer than you and I have eaten more food than you. I will abide by your suggestion.” 

Having gotten the approval of my father, I called everybody in Levi Okeogu’s compound – his elders, himself and all other refugees. I told them of the decision we had to take that very day, in view of the fact that federal troops were at our doorsteps. I had to be careful about making this thing open because I was afraid that someone might decide to report me to pockets of Biafran soldiers that were around the area who would not waste time in coming to execute me as a saboteur.

Since we were within shelling range of artillery guns, we could hear the booming sounds of all sorts of weapons, both small and large. Earlier, Levi had taken me to the bush with his brothers to map out our strategy. Thus, by 2 p.m. on 24th December 1969, we moved into the bush between Umukalu and Osusu Village and laid down flat in the bush. At about 4 p.m., we heard the marching song of the Nigerian army in Hausa, and I gave the order to shout, “One Nigeria” and rise up with handkerchiefs and move towards Osusu road and let the soldiers see that we were not armed. 

Earlier in the day, we had buried my father’s double-barrel gun and other guns in the compound of the Okeogus, which we did not recover. I had to buy new guns for my father after the war. 

As the Nigerian soldiers saw us moving in that convoy – male, female, boys, old and young – they were astonished. Some of them even knelt down and prayed to God and thanked him while others said, “So the war is ending?” Immediately, I came out from the bush with my wife and my two little children, my mother, my father and his entourage behind me. I was wearing a white long-sleeved shirt with white trousers. The soldiers shouted: “Welcome, my men. Food dey, water dey.” They instructed us to head to Okpuala-Ngwa hospital, where Isiala-Ngwa North Local Government Headquarters is located today. 

Not long after the first detachment of troops passed, another detachment came by. I was wearing my wife’s wristwatch – a Buler Swiss watch – the one I had bought for her for our wedding. One soldier approached me and quickly removed the wristwatch from my wrist and it fell. Immediately, two of his colleagues picked up the watch from the ground and said, “Sorry, teacher.” One blew the sand off the wristwatch and put it back on my wrist. “We are sorry, teacher,” they repeated.

According to these kind soldiers, they had been in the bush for three years now praying that the war would end. Now that the people were coming out to surrender, their greedy colleague wanted to treat them badly. One of them warned the offender that if he engaged in such misconduct again, he would kill him. His partner nodded in confirmation of the threat.

They ordered the soldier to apologise to me, and he said, “Sorry, teacher.” I am sure it was the way I was dressed that earned me the name, “Teacher”. 

We marched to Okpuala-Ngwa hospital where thousands were already gathered, loosely surrounded by some Nigerian soldiers. Immediately I settled down, a soldier came towards me and saw my radio – it was a Philips. The soldier told me that as soldiers, they took anything they desired from any refugee – radios and other valuables – but he had vowed that he would never take anything from the owner simply because the situation permitted it. So, he humbly requested to buy my radio. I told him that it was alright but that, since it was getting late, he should come over the next morning so we could talk about it. 

The following day, the soldier came as arranged. He was not alone. The night before, I had made enquiries in the camp and I was told that I was fortunate I passed through the front and came in here with a radio. I was advised to quickly do away with the radio before I was accused of using it to communicate with Biafra soldiers. Throughout that night, I was afraid that what I had been warned about may occur. 

I asked the soldier how much he would pay for my radio. The other soldier opened his bag and brought out a new radio exactly like mine. He was just there to advise on a fair price. “Talk truth for God, how much did you buy this radio?” my “customer” asked him. The soldier replied that he had just returned back from “pass” to Ibadan and that “truth for God”, he had bought his radio for 15 pounds. 

I didn’t argue with him over this position and the buyer said he would pay me 15 pounds. I had been expecting to get five pounds at most. The soldiers left and in less than ten minutes, the buyer returned and gave me 15 pounds of Nigerian currency. That was when I discovered that Nigeria had redesigned the currency during the war. The money felt like a thousand pounds and marked the beginning of my financial recovery. 

The Biafran currency was, however, still a legal tender among us in the camp. 

We stayed in the camp until 31st December 1969, when they told us to go back to our different homes in the areas that had been liberated by Nigerian soldiers. So, on 1st January 1970, we started our journey back to Egbede.

 

PERSEVERANCE: Arise and Shine is about an “Iron Man of Action” who rose from being an apprentice electrician to a top industrialist.

At 18, young Mazi Allison Chimaeze Eñeogwe dropped out of school for lack of funds and moved to Port Harcourt where he became an electrician. His uncommon ingenuity made him stand out, and he rose fast in his chosen career, which was truncated by the civil war in 1966, during which he had to cross enemy lines for trade. Once the war was over, he settled in Aba and got involved in different industrial ventures. His faith as a Jehovah’s Witness always put him in good stead before people, and his sense of humour has seen him through many dark days.

PERSEVERANCE: Arise and Shine chronicles this proud Ngwa man’s challenges – sell-outs, fraud, kidnap attempts, false detention and a two- year self-imposed exile – and how he has come out of it all still holding his head high.

 

Available on Kindle HERE.

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Before You Send Out Your Manuscript

Dear Writer,

Writing is an act of self-exploration and submitting your work to a publisher can be the scariest act of your life. As publishers, we are aware of this and sympathetic. If we select your work for publication, we would do our very best to make the process pleasant for the writer.

However, to increase the chances of your manuscript being picked up by a publisher, we advise that you adhere to the rules of grammar, punctuation and submission.

Black African American Ethnicity Frustrated Woman Working In Str

Some mornings, we log into the submissions account and there are hundreds of emails waiting to be read, most of them with manuscript excerpts. Unfortunately, our request for more hours in a day hasn’t been granted (yet), so we can’t afford to waste any of the twenty-four we get. If you are a writer submitting your work to a publishing house, here’s how you can make our lives (and the lives of other editors and editorial assistants) easier.

Do Not Show Off

Contrary to what your friends and family members might have told you, you’re not the best writer since Okri or Arimah. But even if you are extremely talented, we won’t read your manuscript unless your email contains a synopsis of your novel and an excerpt of reasonable length (we suggest three chapters). We do not want to read a list of every award you’ve won since Primary School. We know every book we’ve published; don’t list them in your email or tell us that your work is better than those of seasoned authors. Allow us to judge that.

 

The moment we see emails like the one below, we know we won’t download or read the submission.

“If kachifo would like peharps, a demonstration, i would e-mail them my worst poem and they will be bewildered by beauty and admiration my stock of quality can give. I do not beg because i know writers like me would catapault the industry. My goal: to exceed Ngozi Adichi, ECHEBE, WOLE SOYINKA and to messure above SHAKESPARE and MILTON. Please e-mail me! (Sic)”

Do Not Send Your First Draft

Do as much work as you can in cleaning up your manuscript before sending it in. Does your story flow? If we can’t make sense of it, we won’t read past the first paragraph or chapter. Spell check! It doesn’t say much about your commitment to the written word if your manuscript is riddled with grammatical errors.

Send a Synopsis

Besides doing all the work you can on your manuscript, do even more on your synopsis – it often determines if your manuscript will be read or not. We rarely spend more than five minutes on each email. In that time, we read the synopsis and decide if we should download the manuscript excerpt or not. Do not send your manuscript without a synopsis, and do not send your synopsis without a manuscript. Both are important. And please, do not send a link to your blog, your Facebook or Instagram accounts, telling us to read your works there. We can, but we will not.

Obey Instructions

Often, submission guidelines request that you send in a synopsis, and attach an excerpt from your work to the email. Your synopsis can be sent in the body of the email (we prefer this), but do not send your sample chapters in the body of the email. Save your excerpt as a Microsoft Word document and send it as an attachment to the mail. However, do not assume this is all a publisher will ask for. Every publisher is different. Find out the guidelines of the publisher you want to send your manuscript to and follow the guide to the letter! If you will not dedicate time to reading and following the guidelines, the editor will not dedicate time to reading your work.

Editor vs. Fairy God Editor

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We are editors, not fairy godeditors. No fairy god editors are waiting in the wings, dedicated to turning ALL writers’ rags into fine cloth. We won’t edit your story and send it back to you “even if it won’t be published”. Also, it’s very unlikely that we’ll to send you an email when we are done reading your excerpt just to tell you what we didn’t like about it. There are simply too many submissions and like we said, there aren’t enough hours in the day.

So while we try to send a response, if you don’t one within eight weeks, it means Kachifo will not be publishing your work under our Farafina imprint but we wish you all the best.

Here are our submissions guidelines:

To have your work considered for publication by Kachifo Limited, please send an email to submissions@kachifo.com, including a strong excerpt of about three chapters or 10,000 words saved in Microsoft Word, a one-page synopsis of the work, and a short author bio. (Note that a synopsis is not the same as a blurb or a teaser. A synopsis should contain “spoilers”, and should give a summary of the entire story, including and especially how it ends.)

The sample of the manuscript should be properly formatted (double-spaced, left-justified only, 12pt Serif font). Our preferred font is Courier New.

Introduce yourself and your work in the query letter in the body of the email. The subject of your email should be the title of your manuscript followed by the word “Submission”. Your submission will be acknowledged and assessed by our editors. We will respond within eight weeks if we are provisionally interested in publishing your work.

At this time, Kachifo Limited is not accepting unsolicited poetry or short story collections submissions.

Please note that we only accept submissions via email to submissions@kachifo.com. We do not accept hard copy submissions.

Unsolicited submissions sent to other Kachifo email addresses may be overlooked. Hard copy submissions will not be acknowledged or returned.

Please see the FAQs or email submissions@kachifo.com for further information on how to publish with us.

If you would like to know more about Prestige, our publishing services imprint, visit www.prestige.ng.

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Our Farafina E-book Store is Live!

On the 20th of October 2018, Kachifo Limited launched its new e-bookstore, farafinabooks.com.

Now, you can buy and read, on your devices, your best-loved titles from any of our imprints: Farafina, Tuuti, Breeze and Kamsi.

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To Start Reading on Farafinabooks Continue reading

Non-Fiction Is What You Need. We Can Prove It.

Non-fiction isn’t boring.

Perhaps you found it difficult to read before now, but the problem is not exactly with the genre itself.

A simple solution for you would be to seek out non-fiction with themes you already enjoy in fiction, such as crime, race, human rights, feminism etc.

Fiction and non-fiction are not as different as you think when you look closely. The latter can be narrated just as creatively as the former.

We also imagine that you are, perhaps, a big fiction reader who simply wants to switch up her reading preferences.

Wherever you fall, this blogpost is for you!

We curated a list of non-fiction essays, all with varying and intriguing themes, to start you off on your non-fiction-reading journey.

1. My Secondhand Lonely by Zoe Gadegbeku

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In this baring article, Gadegbeku reveals the thin, and sometimes transparent, line between having it all together and social isolation. First published in Slice , and later in LongreadsMy Secondhand Lonely leaves you with the knowledge of a phenomenon we may have never considered before now.

Read the full essay here.

2. Home by Ope Adedeji

Where is home? What is home?
In her riveting three-part essay, Ope Adedeji leaves no emotion undescribed. She reveals where, to her, home is —  and where it isn’t.
Read the full essay here.

3. Finding Binyavanga by Sada Malumfashi

Binyavanga Wainana is set to attend a literary evening in Kaduna.
Sada Malumfashi, a Kaduna-based writer looks forward to this, but he knows little of  how his life will change because of this event.
An enchanting essay about falling further in love with Northern Nigeria’s history and, of course, of finding what makes Binyavanga tick.

Read it here.

4. Nigeria: The Trouble of Nigerian Culture Writing by Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

In this didactic article, Oris Aigbokhaevbolo draws attention to the declining quality in journalistic writing by popular ‘culture curators’.
This article draws lessons from the drama which ensued after an article published on The Pulse website about rapper, M.I. Abaga, escalated into a full-blown shouting match on the website’s Loose Talk podcast.
Read the full story here.

5. The Shea Prince by Frankie Edozien

Journalist and author of Lives of Great Men, Frankie Edozien, dazzles in this piece about a journey to Ghana that marks the start of an unclear and intense friendship.

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Published in adda stories, this essay revolves about the author’s friendship with Will, a native of dry, dusty Tamale in Ghana.

Will is old-school, married with children, easygoing. But one thing he  struggles to accept, however, is the strong chemistry between him and the writer.

Read the full essay here.

6. Who Will Claim You by Akwaeke Emezi.

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Published by Commonwealth Writers, this essay confronts the realities of being a product of different cultures.

Emezi asks questions in this essay: ‘Is [belonging] a birthplace, a passport, a childhood? and ‘Can you claim a people with enough force that they claim you back?’ She explores questions on belonging that we may never have answers to.

Here’s an excerpt:

Read the full story here