Archive | October 2015

Warmup Wednesday!

Directions: Write a scene or an entire story of 100 words on the nose (no more, no fewer), inspired by this photograph. No judging. All fun. (Normal Flash! Friday guidelines regarding content apply.)
Don’t forget to add your Twitter handle & link to your blog, pretty please.

And a few words on how your week’s going, won’t you, please? 

 This week’s Warmup Wednesday challenge: in honor of this week’s Spotlight interview, include a lost novelist.

Lagos bus station. CC2.0 photo by Jens Aarstein Holm.

Lagos bus station. CC2.0 photo by Jens Aarstein Holm.

Spotlight on Nigeria: IfeOluwa Nihinlola

Today launches a new angle of our Spotlight interviews: writing around the world. Over the next few weeks and months we’ll be chatting with a few of Flash! Friday writers from all parts of the globe to help us know our own community a bit better. Up first: the brave IfeOluwa Nihinlola, current FF judge with Dragon Team Seven, and writer from Lagos, Nigeria. Welcome, IfeOluwa!

IfeOluwa Nihinlola

Tell us about your writerly journey. 

I often say my writing journey started mid-2013 when I started a blog while living in Anambra, but I realise that answer is a bit misleading, if not downright untrue. I grew up in a house of books and had a dad who wrote, actively, everyday. I have always had the ability to put my thoughts into words with some level of clarity, and for a long time took that for granted. But 2013 was the year I really took to reading and writing with a deliberate aim to improve in both. I’m the guy who read Shakespeare and Hemingway in his early teenage years, but can’t remember a thing from those books. This is perhaps why 2013 is still a fair time to begin the calibration of my writing journey. 

I found Flash! Friday around that time and started to write fiction at least once a week in addition to blogging. I wrote lots of short stories in that period, many of which are useless and I’ve discarded, and many others that I’ve been editing forever, hoping they’ll one day be fit for publishing. Many of these stories were experiments borne out of reading. I would read a style and attempt an imitation. This often ends in failures that makes it difficult to put all of my work together as indicative of any kind of style I possess — this I’m choosing to see as a kind of success. I can’t say I prefer any genre of writing (really, what is genre?) but writing non-fiction is my comfort zone. I’ve done more of that and less of fiction this year.

You’re a massively busy person, with a full school schedule: how do you balance it all, and writing? 

Can’t say I am that busy. I know working mums who still find the time to write. Lately, however, the approach I’ve taken to writing is to pen lines and ideas on the go: use One Note in Danfo (yellow Lagos buses), pull out my notebook in the middle of a sermon or lecture, and just capture the things that flit through my mind. Then, depending on what I need to accomplish, brood over the scraps and join them all into something with some form of coherence. (That’s the way this interview got written.) Other times, I just block out huge chunks of time, stay in the room to read and write, and read and write, then return to life to catch up with what I’ve missed.

Introduce us to writing in Lagos. 

My thoughts on writing in Lagos are restricted to my experience — as it should be. And since I’m a socially awkward, near-reclusive person, those thoughts are quite limited. The best way to have a glimpse of what writing is going on in Lagos, and any other part of Nigeria, is to get on the internet. There’s a huge community of writers who are always creating and interacting online. Writers also meet at art events — festivals, exhibitions, readings — that happen across the city.

I’m just getting to see more of the places where people work in the city: small cafés, privately managed libraries etc., but those are few and hidden. A writer typing on a Mac in a Starbucks-like cafe is not an image that you’ll readily get in Lagos. I do my own writing in Danfos and kekes, or in my room, or in-between lectures, and I know lots of other writers just find their own space to write amidst the bustle of the city.

I have friends who are brave enough to allow me see their work, and comment on them, and there’s a particular group of five whose stories were the guinea pigs of my bid to understand the workings of good stories.

Many of the writing relationships I’ve formed have come from the three workshops I’ve attended over these two years of writing. And I understand workshops are how many writing relationships are formed, so that’s not strange. A few writing workshops occur from time to time in the city, the most prestigious of them being the Farafina Trust Creative Writing workshop that is led yearly by Chimamanda Adichie, and is one of the ultimate goals of many young, aspiring writers in the country. Contests also abound on the Internet, and many writing contests are open to international entrants.

Here in the U.S. writers struggle to get published; traditional publishing houses still churn out books by the big names, but it’s increasingly difficult to get noticed by agents, and many writers are abandoning that traditional effort in favor of publishing books themselves via Amazon or the like. What’s the publishing situation for new/aspiring writers in your circles — is it “easy” to get published? What trends do you see, and what challenges do writers face?

It’s impossible to compare publishing in Nigeria with the US. Our biggest publishers are  at best the equivalent of American indie presses, and they number less than five. It is a widely accepted thought that many young writers hope to get published outside the country so they can be properly recognized back at home. This often leads to questions about how writing primarily for an outside audience affects the kind of stories that are told and how they are told. These questions then lead to round discussions and loads of pessimism about writing and publishing opportunities in Nigeria, so I’ll try to avoid that.

Talk of writing in Nigeria is usually centered on literary fiction but, lately, there has been an increased interest in writing outside of the established realist fiction traditions. This year, Cassava Republic, one of the country’s best publishers, started a Romance fiction imprint called Ankara Press and published 6 books on it. Omenana, a journal of speculative fiction, also opened more opportunities for quality speculative fiction to be published in the country. And a manuscript project by Saraba Magazine, one of the best literary magazines in the country, is also open to well-written genre entries. So, the writing space is widening.

Publishing in Nigeria thrives electronically more than any other form, and OkadaBooks, a self-publishing app, is the best representative of this. Now, while self-publishing is still largely a mess because of the lack of regard for good editors, it is an option many pursue with varying degrees of success. How many books get sold, and how much profit is lost to piracy is another topic that can’t be properly discussed here.

Tell us about a book and/or author who’s particularly inspired you, and why/how.

My answer to this question changes with the weather. Today, I’m finding it difficult to choose between Dostoyevsky and CS Lewis, so I’ll just lump them together. Finding a dusty copy of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot in a library three years ago, at a time I was going through Lewis’s oeuvre, was the catalyst of my transition from an engineering student with modest career goals to someone who agonises over sentences.

Who are your favorite Nigerian writers (of all time, and contemporary?)? For someone unfamiliar with Nigerian writers, which authors/books would you recommend starting with?

Favourite Nigerian Writers of all time: Chukwuemeka Ike and Mabel Segun. They were the Nigerian writers of my childhood.

More contemporary writers: Rotimi Babatunde for his short stories, Teju Cole for his essays, and Chimamanda Adichie for Half of a Yellow Sun.

Anyone interested in Nigerian writing can start with Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon, a book that has an alien invasion set in Lagos, or Igoni Barett’s Blackass, another book set in Lagos, but like a reverse-Samsa where a man wakes up and finds out he has become white save for the patch of skin on his buttocks. Then they can also google Nigerian books and follow the links.

As a introduction to newer Nigerian writers and stories that I like, the following is a reading list: Lesley Nneka Arimah, Chikodili Emelumadu, Bunmi Familoni, Wole Talabi, Pemi Aguda, Ayobami Adebayo.

What are you reading now?

I just finished reading Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, which took me longer than usual due to a combination of illness and school work. This extended time I spent with it probably affects how I view it. There’s something about experimentation with form that excites me, especially when the writer is able to take it beyond being merely art-for-art’s sake, into a story that moves me. I laughed in some parts, took pictures of some pages to send to a friend, and lowered my hand in a bus after some chapters just to catch some fresh air and view how the world around me fared. Books I read recently and liked: Diane Cook’s Man vs. Nature; Nell Zink’s Wallcreeper.

Tell us about someone who has inspired you as a writer.

I’ve never had a teacher who inspired me into any kind of writing. None. For a while, however, Timi Yeseibo, who runs Livelytwist, where she blogs about life and posts  short fiction occasionally, has been a huge inspiration. She’s one of the first people I met when I started blogging who, while being very skilled, interacted with my work without any hint of condescension. The grace she takes into her conversations with strangers over the internet is the kind of thing that I keep in view in a world where brilliance is taken as an excuse for douchebaggery.

What words of encouragement/advice/suggestion do you have for the FF community? 

I have nothing but admiration for the FF community; I really can’t suggest anything to improve on what is happening already. The warmth in the interactions I see and the mutual respect these writers of immense talent have for one another is something I enjoy watching from a distance. Sure, part of this is because of Rebekah being a great host, but I know that’s not all there is to it. I can only ask members of the community to continue whatever they’re doing to make FF such a wonderful place of/for writing.

Anyone who has been writing for upward of two years can just ignore the advice I have to give here. But what I’ve found helpful, over anything else, is immersing myself in good writing wherever I see it. So I’ll say, read everyone: the dead Russians, the reclusive Brazilian and Italian women, the Jamaican prize winner, the racist British men, the brilliant black American essayists, the prolific Japanese men, the loony Irish short story writers. Take in as many experiences outside of your own, through books, as you can. Then write. Someone somewhere is reading you, and even if it’s not obvious yet, your best efforts are noticed and admired by them.

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 46: WINNERS

Thank you for your tremendous patience today in waiting for results. I’ll keep my chatting to a minimum, and will even (gasp) bullet point my reminders!

  • We are NOW ACCEPTING apps for those who’d like a turn as a judge! Details here.
  • Don’t forget to read Saturday’s #Pyro story & leave crits! Low turnout this week. Read it here.
  • Tomorrow! I’m beyond thrilled to welcome current judge IfeOluwa Nihinlola to the #Spotlight mic, as he shares about his life writing in Nigeria. Be sure to join us!

♦♦♦♦♦

Many thanks to Dragon Team Eight, Voima Oy & A.J. Walker, for commandeering this week’s Alice in Wonderland tale judgery. They say:   

Once again Team 8 has had the luck to get stuck into the stories plucked from the ether relating to such a fantastical book. We’ve had a welly load of grinning cats and tyrannical queens and busy white rabbits and we quite understand now that Team 8 are a couple of the more normal people in the Flash! Friday Fiction Family – Andy for one wants some of what all you guys have been dropping!

(Partly Andy needs to take something to take his mind of reading too many stories with cats in. They got everywhere this week – even into soup).

Team 8 would like once again to thank Catherine aka @fallintofiction. Catherine was the Queen of Hearts this weekend, in so much as she went around exclaiming ‘Off with their names!’ and lo! we could get on with the blind judging over the weekend.

We’ve put our heads together, which is usually quite difficult due to the 3,779 miles separating us but, due to the mind expanding effects of the green skittles (when taken with the correct dose of yellow M&Ms) we got together on a small cloud over the Mid Atlantic Ridge and had a spiffing time reading all the stories over dandelion and burdock and cream buns whilst listening to Cream and Justin Bieber.

So, without further ado… drum roll from a large party of hedgehogs banging wheelie bins with candy canes beneath a prince purple sky and a groovy pulsating moon made of Lancashire cheese…. the results!

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

F.E. Clark, “Twinkle Twinkle Mr. Spiffy.” –because a talking cat in space. “out there beyond”  pure magic!   

Brian Creek, “How to Say Goodbye.” —stunning depiction of a space between dream and death – “I don’t want real anymore.” 

Betsy Streeter, “Friday Afternoon at the Bureau of Dream Leakage.” — for the best title and giving Andy an idea of where he’d like to work.

Catherine Connolly, “Greeting at the Gates of Horn and Ivory.” — the world presented here seems less fun and nonsense and something altogether more grim and foreboding. Or will it be. If she can get past the gate? Moody.

Colin Smith, “The  Girl and the Toad.” — V – Told in rhyme like Jabberwocky, this story is so inventive. I can picture this toad and his epic battle sword.  What a strange dream! AJW – poetry is the new flash! Well, not really, but we’ve had a fair few poems in our stint as Team 8. And I for one am not complaining. This presented an entire story in rhyme and I take my hat off to the writer for that* (too clever by half). The dialogue even in rhyme chimed well – I particularly liked the line ‘What words of follysome blathering spew!’ and intend to use the line in conversation at some point this week. [[I’ve put my hat back on to cover my forklift truck wound – otherwise it frightens the dancing playing cards and the flying mice minstrels.]]

Sal Page, “Lancashire Cat Soup.” — V– the umbrella is an essential ingredient. I loved the wordplay and surreal situation.  And “the Lancashire cat will make your soup extra cheesy”.  Splendid nonsense. AJW – one comment on this: I hope the recipe takes off. Me-oww!

Karl Russell, “Wonderland.” — – powerful social commentary–playing on Alice characters (the dormouse, the mad hatter, Alice), this harsh reality is in sharp contrast to the supposed wonderland on TV,   “Any change?”  AJW – loved this one. Not so much a fairytale but a bit of political comment; quite rare. ‘Any change?’ Nah, of course not. Right on my man! (- or woman, damn blind judging)

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Mark A. King, “Tale of One City.”

V – The setting is the city, then and now.  The use of italics is very effective. It works as a contrast and a mirror for the two characters — they are not so  very different — dealing in death and services as old as time…

AJW – clever combination of two tales across different times. Both tales cleverly crafted and evocative. Making the setting Whitechapel immediately gave it an image to the reader, allowing the writer to concentrate on the little things of the visuals and taste to further the development of the atmosphere. I was briefly considering discounting it as cheating as it’s two stories of 125 words and not one story of 250 😉

Casey Rose Frank, “A Solitary Girl.” 

V – This is a fantasy world with the feel of a children’s book. The animal characters are  lovingly depicted, and the descriptions are beautiful. It is a world of gentleness and soft edges, like a dream, until that haunting final line.

AJW – I thought this was beautiful. It was perfectly paced and the descriptions just fell on to the page like they had been shaken out of Alice in Wonderland itself. Top marks for capturing the mood – you’ve a fine eye and pen for capturing nonsense (that’s a compliment!). I’m feeling the bear should be able to have first choice of the next game, as hide and seek is surely a tad unfair (perhaps he should suggest they play it in the woods, then he can get his own back).

Geoff Holme, “White Rabbit (1967)

V – brilliant  use of language and great  take on the Jefferson Airplane classic — a reference to Alice in wonderland as well as altered reality.  Here, the familiar words become jumbled  together in a magnificent stream of nonsense and poetry.

AJW – This hallucinatory tale is presented like a punctuation-free download dump of a movie. The descriptions are so well depicted I could see it really well. Loved the line referencing the queen minutely reviewing the flash fiction pieces – I assume it is Voima (not sure if that makes me the king or a prince, but I suspect – more likely – jester).

 

SECOND RUNNER UP

Becky Spence, “Chasing Dreams” 

V – The story begins with a somber funeral gathering, when a white rabbit among the flowers lures little Alice away. The  fantastic landscape of fairy rings and happy memories is destroyed by harsh reality. Great descriptions and atmosphere — it reminded me of Pan’s Labyrinth in a way — the mix of fantasy and terror.  Did this father murder the mother and sister the way he kills the rabbit? What does “growing up”  mean? Reality becomes a nightmare. 

AJW – Fabulous piece presenting Alice as a carefree child enjoying childhood in play and dreams until the father figure cruelly discards her dreams in a truly visceral scene – wringing the rabbit until Alice heard the crack. The story hits home as we’ve all gone through this to some extent or other – our innocence can only be destroyed in an single instant then never rebuilt. (That terrible time you are told there is no such thing as Father Christmas… (sorry, should that have had a spoiler alert?). Crack-ing!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Image Ronin, “1=0.9999999999999999999999999999.” 

V – What a trip!  This is both mind-expanding and surreal. The language is astonishing, how it mutates –“Thhhhheeee woooooooorrrlld slllllooooooowwwwws, tiiiimmmmme beeeecooommming frrracccttturrrrree” …. Images fracture, collide, coalesce–” she vanilla and rust mouth and tongue between it popping head her of out eye last the gougingg out reach I blinded other the eye single a wings bejewelled into sculpted face angel’s an crosses butterfly ”  and then back to reality –“fast food and short lives.”  

AJW – Took me a while to read this and realise how it all worked, and it was worth the time. Loved the backwards paragraph in particular – reminded me of when I was on a hospital table jacked up on gas listening to the nurses who seemed to be talking out of order (it was boss).  Great take on a messed up minute- or is it a few days? Transported into the world of a tab drop of something mmmiiinnnddd eeeexpppppandingg and world e x p l o  d  i n  g.  Spot on in its depiction (er, I expect – having had nothing stronger than a Fisherman’s Friend myself (er, not true, see above)). place two top a of deserved construction brilliantly absolutely

And now: for her magnificently constructed third win, it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

Steph Ellis!!!

for

“The Tenth Circle (OR 01010100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01010100 01100101 01101110 01110100 01101000 00100000 01000011 01101001 01110010 01100011 01101100 01100101)

V – This is a realm of  absurd logic. The binary code translates to  “The Tenth Circle” — Yes, I had to look it up.  Here, ones and zeros define this space, this place. Although I am not familiar with programming language, I can appreciate the symbolism of And/Or/Not logic gates and the absurdity of arguing with this gatekeeper.  Here, the world of the Matrix meets Monty Python. There is fiendish humor, too — “I couldn’t bring my plus one — I didn’t use enough poison.”  This hellish argument could go on forever…

AJW – This had me laughing, which is always a fine thing – I felt for Jacob caught in a simple logic trap. It seemed like he was in some bureaucratic nonsense from the film Brazil (or anywhere in the former Russian republic), but it truly was a foul trap devised by the very devil himself, and poor Jacob will have eternity to ponder why he didn’t just follow the instructions precisely. Again another story where we can all think of maddening moments where we’ve been there. Wrong form mate, you want the pink one. But it’s the same questions. You’ve filled in the yellow form – it’s the pink one on Tuesdays. Go to the back of queue. For the love of… logic!

A cool tale with great dialogue perfect pacing and a maddening eternal end. Loved it.

Congratulations, Steph! What fun having you soar back to the top again so quickly! Your winner’s page has a brand new fancy trophy on its shelf now; your winning tale can be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. Stand by for questions for your newest #SixtySeconds interview. And now here’s your logically blazing story:

The Tenth Circle (OR 01010100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01010100 01100101 01101110 01110100 01101000 00100000 01000011 01101001 01110010 01100011 01101100 01100101)

“You surely see the logic of your situation?” said the demon.

Jacob watched the ones and zeroes streaming endlessly across the screen. “Yeeees.”

“Well then you must know we can’t let you through this particular gate.”

“I still don’t …,” said Jacob. He looked around. This wasn’t quite what he’d expected.

“Look,” said the demon patiently. “This ticket says ‘Admit one AND guest.”

“So?”

“This is an OR gate. Your ticket allows you entry via an AND gate only.”

“Where do I find this AND gate then?” asked Jacob.

“Over there,” said the guard. “But they won’t let you through.”

“Why not?”

“No, not NOT, AND, NOT is back the other way. You need AND but there’s only one of you.”

“I couldn’t bring my plus one,” said Jacob. “I didn’t use enough poison. Doesn’t matter though, does it?”

“Of course it matters. You made a deal. You can’t be both a one AND a zero. You’ve got to be one OR the other.”

“Well I satisfy that argument,” said Jacob. “So I can go through this gate.”

“No. If you couldn’t find a plus one that means you’re a zero. So you’re not one OR the other any more.”

“So I could go through a NOT gate because I am zero AND NOT one?”

“You could but your ticket says AND,” said the demon.

“We could spend an eternity arguing about this,” said Jacob angrily.

“And that’s exactly what you’ve got,” grinned the demon. “Hell, isn’t it?”

FFwinner-Web