In my last post, I mentioned this book, The Pains of Childhood. I promised to talk about my writing journey and why I chose the theme I did for this book.
Right after I discovered my love for writing and I realised I could actually write, I wrote poems in all the notebooks I could lay my hands on. Then before my senior school certificate exams, I thought it would help to write something longer than a poem so I wrote this book. I chose female genital mutilation as my theme and I started writing in earnest.
The play tells the story of a young girl who tries to break her family’s tradition of Female Genital Mutilation by running away. It is set in the rural community of Olotu Village at an unknown time. It touches on the plight of circumcised women and children the world over.
As a young girl in Olotu village, Olayemi remains uncircumcised bringing shame to her family. Circumcision is a rite of passage in her village and uncircumcised girls are victimised and unmarriageable.
As the Abe festival draws closer, Olayemi is torn by the decision she has to make in leaving her siblings behind. Several months after Olayemi disgraces her family, her mother decides to save face by circumcising her second child, Afolakemi, at the next Abe festival leading to the break up of the family.
Years later Olayemi uses her family’s story to help others as she eulogises at the inauguration of the Afolakemi Olasanya Foundation in honour of her late sister.
In less than a week, I completed the book and I let it rest for just a short while. All the articles I read said to let the work rest so I gave it the duration of my exams.
Youthful exuberance would not let me disconnect from it and I immediately started thinking of how to publish.
I felt it was phenomenal that I had written a 70 paged play in roughly one week. So I started reaching out to publishers online.
I received my first rude awakening: The list of publishers you’re likely to come across online are educational publishers. By that I mean Longman, Heinemann, Lantern books, Macmillian and the likes. It did not help that I was too eager to publish so I followed every lead and even visited some publishing houses.
When nothing was happening, I consulted some friends. At their suggestion, I decided to stage the play with the belief that I could get a sponsor for it. So I reached out to the British Council, Lagos.
Multiple visits revealed that they were not easily convinced on projects and mercifully, they referred me to HURINET, an organisation that meets periodically in their building.
HURINET stands for Human Rights Information network.
After I made contact with HURINET, I learnt that they were preparing for an annual event. I recall they were hosting it that year.
They needed a play with a human rights theme and I had something that fit. So after much deliberation, I searched for a forum for presentation. A friend of a friend introduced me to Gideon School, Isolo who let me use their students. With the help of Akeem Lasisi and Paulette, we rehearsed the play and prepared for the International Day of the African Child.
Finally, we were ready to stage the play to a live audience. The day came but the students had promotional exams. Added to that, I did not even have money to go out nor a bus with which to convey the students to Ikoyi where the event was to take place. I knew I would have gotten by but then the rain started during the night and it fell very heavily. There was a heavy flood by the time I woke up.
So I stayed home.
Weeks after that, the play was staged at the Valedictory service of the students and they got the stage they needed although it was not the one I promised them.
Fast forward a few years, I had written more poems. I started thinking about other works since it seemed there was no headway for the play. I started writing short stories. Then I tried to publish my poems as a collection but I met roadblocks several times. It was either my writing was not good enough or the gatekeepers had some other excuse.
I was crushed and I rebelled against my passion. I stopped writing for a while. But I never stopped talking about writing. Then I got admitted into the higher institution. Fast forward a few years later, a vanity publisher gave me some critique about the book. He suggested a complete rewrite so that it would reflect Africanism.
I emptied myself of everything I knew about the book and started fresh research on FGM. Rewriting helped me to put things in perspective. A linguist friend helped me add songs to the play and rendered my translations. Under the shade of the trees at the Unilag waterfront, we discussed the rewrite and planned it out. Several lunch meetings later, it was complete.
I heaved a sigh of relief and decided to self publish. Then the real journey began. I went online and called up a search, How to self publish fiction. It had more results than I could check. So I stayed on the first page and I found a couple of blogs that offered valuable advice.
I stuck with Joanna Penn, Carol Tice, Jon Morrow, Jeff Goins and a few others. I edited the pictures I got from the stage play, changed the background and added them to my play. They looked pretty cool.
In the rewrite, I discarded it and decided to publish without it. I reasoned that there might be a second staging so I would not want readers stuck with the image of my young actors.
Women and girls undergo a lot of suffering. Genital mutilation is one way for society to keep them in check. They believe that by clamping on the sexuality of females, then they will have curbed their excesses.
Hence, this play was written with women and their suffering in view. Underneath the beauty of women lies pain and suffering alongside degrading practices that humiliate and demean women. It shows that usually in some remote setting, FGM still happens. Even in our modern civilised world, there are still cases as such. A search through the internet will reveal the number of fresh incidences happening in civilised countries.
Female circumcision, otherwise known as Female Genital Mutilation, has been the norm in Africa since as old as time. Though the practice is easing out in some areas, in others it is still prevalent. It is a dehumanising act. The fact that many parents want their children to be virgins until marriage has spurred on the act. The consequence of FGM far outweighs its so-called advantages.
The UN and various organisations are crying out against it and they are bringing the plight of women to the light. We know that in Nigeria, female circumcision is not largely practised but deep down in our tradition, it exists. Several seminars and various documentaries have been used to warn us against it. The greatest mistake against it is ignorance and helplessness and this book exists as one part to bring this barbaric act to the spotlight.
Filling a blank sheet with your thoughts and ideas is not to be trifled and this is why writing is difficult. That was when I realised that there was more to publishing than wishing books into existence.
No form of writing is easy and what I know now is that writing is a job. It is as difficult as any other endeavour mainly because whatever you put down on paper is from your head.
Sometime during the course of the year, this book will be released as a self-published book available for download on leading eBook platforms. There will be a formal announcement when it is available for pre-order. But first, I’ll like to hear about the challenges you faced with writing your latest pieces. What threw you off about the publishing journey?