The next conversation put a focus on The New African Literary Voice, engaging Writer and Editor, Adebola Rayo; Literary Critic, Jerry Chiemeke; and Creative Writer, Toni Kan, in a personal-view based discovery of which authors are fresh and are making impact, what it means to be fresh, and if they are making personal efforts to be fresh, as writers and as critics of writers.
Toni Kan was very passionate about his preference for ‘good ole storytelling’ over clinical technique. “…Is the story interesting? Is it coherent from the beginning to the end? Is the writing good?” were his self-proclaimed criteria in answering the question of if a book was a good one. This was in response to Mr. Chiemeke’s quest for “…content, plot, syntax, character development, resolution, flow of language, imagery…” in a good book.
Mr. Kan went on to mention that, “Anyone writing about Africa, to Africa, for Africa, is a new voice. Every story is valid…” He expressed his lack of discrimination between good reviews and bad reviews, referring to each as good exposure for a work of art, and therefore, an award. He believed most reviewers and critics did not even know the true essence of a critique.
Isabella Akinseye, who is also the host of Literati Book Club, expertly mediated over this second discussion, whilst offering her informed outlook on the topic at strategic intervals. The floor was later opened to the audience for questions, comments, and contributions.
In between sessions, relevant TED Talk videos were displayed, including Chimamanda Adichie’s The Danger of the Single Story. After the self-reflective conversation of the second session, the meeting recessed for an orderly lunch during which networking was fostered among the attendees over serene music.
The forum returned into session in a timely fashion, for a two-in-one final sitting, beginning with Eghosa Imasuen, Writer and Co-founder, Narrative Landscape Press, and Adewale Maja-Pearce, Writer, Journalist, and Critic, discussing the subject, A Retrospective of Nigerian Publishing.
They were eventually joined by Tahirah Abdulazeez-Sagaya, and Azafi Ubosi, CEO, Parrésia Publishers. The four influencers deliberated on Ushering in a New Season in African Publishing. They remarked on such issues as what publishers look for in potential authors and stories, challenges publishers face with the economy, the government, and with the market, with Mr. Maja-Pearce commenting, “…we have a lot of writers in Nigeria…no structure.”
All four writers/publishing executives agreed that prospective writers should be more authentic in their work by writing stories about their environment, situations they can relate to. Otherwise, they would risk having their works appear like a cheap copy of another great book, or simply come across as pretentious, lacking the depth that makes a literary piece compelling.
After quite a few additions and lines of inquiry from the listeners, the forum wound down with Tahirah Abdulazeez-Sagaya offering closing remarks to all, and vote of thanks to the speakers who had done a good job bringing illumination to intricate matters of the publishing business.
The guests hobnobbed among themselves, pictures were taken, and honorariums presented to the esteemed panellists, as the event slowed to a close. Hopefully, there was a reignition of an individual quest in each attendee to attain a competitive standard in literary output moving forward.