It was difficult to get a hold of the gentleman who was the subject of this interview. The traditional form of interview appeals to me so I had to get him to make a pact. Anyway, the recipient of the Farafina writing award spoke to me about his foray into writing.
Give me a little background.
My name is Chijindu Umunnakwe, a graduate of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where I studied Microbiology.
Tell me about your foray into the literary world…
It started in my days as a literature student. We drank from the fountains of great authors like William Shakespeare, Daniel Defoe and Chinua Achebe, not forgetting Charles Dickens. My dad was my number one motivator in writing and availed me of some of his books including Canterbury tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and some collections from African Writers Series.
At what age did you start writing?
I started writing at the age of twelve, writing about the stories that always fluttered in my head.
Which authors served as models for you?
Chinua Achebe, Cyprain Ekwensi, William Shakespeare and Daniel Defoe. But more recently, Chimamanda Adichie.
What do you think is lacking in African literature?
The platform for developing the art of writing. A good market sells itself. When you have a good work, it goes a long way to speak for itself. Many books are in the market but only a few are written with the dexterity of literary creativity. People need to learn more about the craft called Writing. Another point is the lack of literary agents in Nigeria who can compete favourably around the world. These agents help discover talent, support their works and groom talents to world class standard. But such platforms that assist writers are not very much here.
You recently won an award in writing, tell me more about that.
I won a place at the keenly contested Creative Writing Workshop. More than 1070 entries were received from which twenty-six of us were selected. The workshop was organised by Farafina and sponsored by Nigerian Breweries. It proved to be a great experience. Chimamanda Adichie was the facilitator.
For how long did the workshop last?
It lasted for 10 days with a literary evening that was open to the public. The literary evening was held at Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Did your experience at the recently concluded workshop help you to form new impressions?
Of course. I loved it because I was almost saying goodbye to fiction. As the publisher/editor of a magazine, I do a lot of journalism than on creative writing. So when I met young people from around Africa who were excellent in writing, I opened my mind to learn more. The way a soup can be unique with spices so also can a work of writing be garnished to make for beautiful reading and understanding. A lot of people do too much telling and not showing thereby making their writing bland. But one can get better by reading extensively.
What awards have you won as a result of your writing?
Three awards. First was in 2010, 50 stars at 50, a national essay competition organised by Intercontinental Bank. But earlier in the year, I was one of the top ten winners in the second National Orientation Agency Essay competition for Nigerian youths. We were hosted by the agency in Abuja in May this year. And more recently, the award given by Farafina.
How do these awards make you feel?
It makes me feel a stronger demand to write. When you do something out of passion and it is appreciated, then you know you have to step up your game. I am making plans to write more and inspire many with my works.
Where then is the meeting point between microbiology and creative writing?
The meeting point between microbiology and creative writing is passion.
I must thank you for your time.
It is my pleasure.
Find him on facebook www.facebook.com/chijindu.umunnakwe 0806 428 4852