Tag Archive | IfeOluwa Nihinlola

Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 48

Welcome to Friday! Er — it is Friday, isn’t it? I’ve never been terribly good at calendars. If it is some day other than Friday, I hope you will indulge me and write something splendid and/or obnoxious anyway. 

Regarding my little calendar problem, by the way: turns out that as of today (not last week!) there’s still ONE WEEK LEFT to toss your name in the hat as a judge for the next round. I’m very nearly literally doing actual cartwheels for joy at those who’ve stepped up so far. But we need a few more. Join us, won’t you? Details here. The deadline’s still Nov 13 at midnight; I’m just counting better today. Thank you!

Last but not least: don’t forget tomorrow is Pyro! Thanks to everyone who turned out last week to sharpen their critique skills on a story. Come again tomorrow! (Note: we could use more stories, too. Please send them here with a note it’s for #Pyro. <500 words, please.)


DC2Judging for their second to last time, it’s Dragon Team Seven up today, which means clever IfeOluwa Nihinlola (by the way, did you read his amazing Spotlight interview about writing in Nigeria?) and the equally clever Nancy Chenier. Check out their judge pages if you’d like to know what they look for in a winning tale.         


Awards Ceremony: Results will post Monday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Thursdays.  

* Today’s required word count:  150 words +/- 10 (140 – 160 words, not counting title/byline)

How to enterPost your story here in the comments. Be sure to include your word count (min 140, max 160 words, excluding title/byline), the two story elements you based your story on, and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new or forgetful, be sure to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Monday.

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Thursday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity.


Winding down our novel prompts (just four more after today!), it’s Gone With the Wind, of course: Margaret Mitchell’s sweeping American Civil War drama starring a proud and rather snotty plantation owner’s daughter who does everything in her power to survive the war and hold on to her family home. 

Story elements (base your story on any TWO of these elements; be sure to tell us which two you chose. Reminder: please remember the Flash! Friday guidelines with regard to content; and remember please do not use copyrighted characters). 

* Conflict: man v man, man v society (not gender specific)
Character (choose at least one): a plantation owner’s daughter, a racketeer, a beautiful woman who never does anything wrong, a noble soldier, a hot-tempered child, a slave whose cruel situation is never acknowledged, a pair of mischief-making twins
Theme (choose one): desperation, determination, slavery, society/class, women’s rights
Setting (choose one): the American South during the Civil War, a war-torn city

OPTIONAL PHOTO PROMPT (for inspiration only; it is NOT REQUIRED for your story):

Oak Alley Plantation. CC2.0 photo by Corey Balazowich.

Oak Alley Plantation. CC2.0 photo by Corey Balazowich.

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 – 44: WINNERS

Thanks for your patience, y’all! Super long day here at the lair. Good news is, we’ve got lots of delectable winners, so I’ll keep my yapping to a minimum this week, except to say YOU’D BETTER COME BACK TOMORROW: on the #Spotlight docket we’ve got Andye from Reading Teen and YADC. She’s a YA book blogger as well as the founder of an incredibly active “YA Book Lovers” group in Washington, DC, and she’s got quite a few things to say about books these days and what keeps her reading a new author. You won’t want to miss this frank, inside-the-brain-of-a-seasoned-reader post.


Many thanks to Dragon Team Seven, Nancy Chenier & IfeOluwa Nihinlola, for their courage in taking on a vast field of Mr. Darcys to choose their favorite (how does one choose a favorite Mr. Darcy?!). They say:   

NC: I haven’t had this much fun livening up a rainy day since curling up with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I love, love, love the kaleidoscope of stories that emerged from Jane Austen as a starting point. Thanks yet again to Holly Geely and her swift powers of anonymizing so we over here at Dragon Team 7 could set to blind-judging these spectacular tales in a timely manner.

IN: It seems I always come here, in these comments, to gush about what wonderful stories get poured out here weekly. But I can’t help it. Thank you all, again, for a round of fun, charming, wonderful stories. And a great thank you to Holly Geely who strips these stories and makes them easier to judge. 



Most Impressive Parody of an Overwrought Victorian Title: Peg Stueber, “Whereas The Olympiad from their Throne on High, do Design to Demarcate the next Branch of the Family Tree“. Also, an appreciative nod for depicting how a mixed pantheon might behave had it emerged in the 19th century.

Bowl-Me-Over-With-A-Metaphor Award: Richard Edenfield, “Treehouse“— Oh, that quality of chandelier light! Oh, what a devastating turn Astoria executes! Oh, what a delivery from Mr. Blankenship! So. Much. Fun.

Most Rollicking Austen Mashup since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Eliza Archer, “Austen in Space“. The preservation of the primary quirks of multiple characters in so small a space is splendid.

Most (Appropriately) Crackling Language Award: Marie McKay, “The Dance” — Such sprightly diction! Birl, whip, snap, scuff and tap! Demented skirl of bagpipes. This little scrap of folklore danced right off the page.

Best Mess: Jenn, “No Regrets.” This story was wonderful and would have been an HM except for its missing the required word count. A whole wedding is contained in this story, in one sweeping take, like a montage of well taken pictures.



Casey Rose Frank, Not Suited for Suitors.

NC: My first take of this tale has the tension ramping up between mother and daughter, with the addled “aunt” being used as a tool for the mother’s cruelty. Their conflict rakes across surface of the polite words like talons. The reader gets the impression this isn’t the first time the mother has used the odd “aunt” to torture her daughter, a transparent ploy to deflect her own dissatisfaction over her daughter’s apparent unmarriageability. In this reading, the “I love yous” passed between them feel excruciatingly insincere. Here we have a succinct “show” of passive-aggressive cruelty — one of the only expressions of power available to women in times when a girl’s value remained solely in her marriageability. Both players are subject to it. This is the way Mother lets off steam from the pressure of caring for her sister. With the reality of the “aunt” being a parrot, sympathy shifts. It’s the mother who is addled and earnest, and the daughter who is burdened with being the caregiver.   

IN: So this story is about a mother and daughter talking about a would-be suitor for the daughter, in the presence of an aunt who serves as a witness (and a tool) in their expert-level game of passive aggression. But there’s just enough suggestions in this story to make me side-eye its realist intentions. A suitor from a lovely plot of land. A chestnut squirrel shooed away from a perch outside the sitting room window. Methinks this “aunt” may be as human as the squirrely suitor.

Michael Seese, “The Garden Factory.” 

NC: My favorite part of this is how the repetition of the maxim on knowledge goes from seeming like an arrogant declaration at the beginning to one of self-deprecation at the end. Also, how “knowledge” takes on its more concrete iteration in its notorious arboreal form. The concept of fallible demiurge plays out wonderfully in the image of a more-or-less benevolent CEO mulling over the pros and cons of his/her enterprise, gaining my reserved sympathy as I read. Of course, from the title (and from the enduring cleverness of the dragon-flashers), I knew there was more going on. The reveal that he is indeed a demigod proves a satisfying one and makes the maxim come alive.

IN: The narrator of this story, the CEO/Manager of an enterprise, sounded like a grumpy god with a creator’s version of buyer’s remorse. But, really, that is just what he is. He goes from cocky, to ambivalent, to sorry all in a day’s work. The writer of this piece takes us through all that using what reads like the opening monologue to a tragic play set in an Olympus that is staged to look like a factory. Now, we just have to wait for the rest of the play to unfold.

Paz Spera, “Brunch.”

NC: The final line made me laugh out loud.  The conflict in novels from the Regency era so often play out in conversations, where the dialogue becomes a duel of words between the two players, the point of the duel not immediately apparent. “Brunch” accomplishes a such a verbal fencing over the unspoken challenge as to who has the most insufferable mother. This story is a perfect illustration of the line from Fight Club noting that a person doesn’t really listen to what other people say, but instead spends the time waiting for his/her turn to speak. One of the most hilarious bits for me was in the way the men appeared with her mother in clandestine locations: the shed, at the breakfast table, then in the sauna. One cannot shake the suspicion that these men might have been the mother’s lovers first.

IN:  We’ve all been part of, or overheard, these conversations where the participants seem to be in a game of “my suffering is worse than yours.” Those bizarre dialogues that are like a game of verbal ping-pong, each return trying to be harder than the previous till one person smashes the conversation out of play and admits defeat. Now imagine two ladies in this game, and the ping-pong is their mothers trying to set them up in the weirdest of ways and you’ll see how this made for one hilarious read.



Steph Ellis, “Pruning.”

NC: I admit, it took me a second read to crack open this tale. Even in my initial confusion, I was drawn in by the conflict over the granddaughter, intrigued by the rewritten will, won over by the tight imagery in the pruning especially as it was coupled with Samuel’s strange relish in the work. I got to the closing line and thought, “Okay, wait, what exactly is being pruned here…?” Once I reached that “Ohhh” moment (which was more of a rub-palms-together-in-sadistic-glee moment) this one became a favorite. The third read (and all successive readings) made me squirm and wince as I re-imagined the last two paragraphs: snagging blades, hacking shears, the description of the wilted matriarch (“she splintered easily”!!!), the heaping detritus. Cutting out the rot from the family tree that would stand in the way of Jenny’s legacy. Such ruthlessness. So very well played. 

IN: Confession: this story bamboozled its way into my list. I had no idea what it was all about, even after the third read, yet I couldn’t leave it out of my list. How do you drop this off: “The blades snagged, the twig too dense for his weak steel. Samuel fetched his shears, hacked back to the root of the problem, tossed the cuttings onto the growing heap of detritus. Next came the matriarch, her petals, long-since faded, adorning a mere husk. She splintered easily.” Nah. Don’t ask about what old Samuel is hacking. Just know the story is here—all great imagery and dark mystery—for good.


Tamara Shoemaker, “Competition” 

NC: The craft of this one inspires pure admiration. It really is flawless writing: the consistent use of the Darcy mug as a symbol; the concrete imagery finessed to convey tone, conflict as well as physical descriptions (knuckles “white where they grip the skin”, “pain slicing his expression”, “wrap my fingers around the warm acceptance”) ; the irony in the husband’s assuming that there must be another flesh-and-blood man turning his wife away from him; the tight dialogue; the fabulous opening line echoed yet transformed in the final line from married fragility to the “warm acceptance” of single-hood. I liked the voice of the POV character so very much: the honesty in her recognition that she’s the cruel one about to hurl painful words, the wry humor sneaking in on “This may be a long night”, the way she allows him to believe it’s another man because that would be easier on him. The husband is very much a Mr. Collins-like figure, and like in the source novel, the Elizabeth-like MC refuses him, but here it is in favor of the idea of a Mr. Darcy, an idea that allows her full self-expression.

IN: How do you write perfect flash fiction? An opening line that cannot be improved upon. Dialogue that is well tuned without wasting words. Short declarative sentences ramp up the story’s tension with simple descriptions. Characters who are, somehow, made whole in such a confined space. A feeling of melancholy set without resorting to any sentimental shorthand. And a good ending. Of course perfect stories are hard to come by, but this comes close. Really close.


Foy S. Iver, “1:3,999.” 

NC: Good speculative fiction is tough to pull off in flash as it tends to require extra world-building while still leaving room for character development and plot. I love that we are introduced to the MC with her worrying over what a mysterious “he” will be like, emotionally engaging us before we find out she’s a “non-organic”. The reader is set up (since we all know the source material) to expect this time be some kind of matchmaking. The few lines depicting her readjustment of her chances of being picked up reveal a slice of the MC’s abilities while also revealing her desire to be picked up. It is demonstrated through her internal dialogue and the filter of her perspective, that despite being a non-organic, Azile cares: she has fears, desires, and preferences. Her anxiety over Mr. D comes clear in the sustained weather metaphors she uses to describe him: “storm of a man”, “severity brewing”, “cold”. I like how Fits W and Mr. D enter as antagonistic then slowly become differentiated as Fits leaves and we get a peek at vulnerability from Mr. D. I appreciated, also, the fleeting allusions to a larger world (the curiosity-piquing hostile Assignments) and to potential conflict (Why is he unwanted?). Such details run the risk of being distracting rather than enhancing, but here, they serve to extend the tale beyond the word count.

IN: There are so many reasons why this story shouldn’t work: It’s SF without the advantage of a story to draw details from and hint to, hence the need for heavy world building on low word count; almost every line introduces something new; it switches point of view slightly; and that title. But it really works. Like all good SF, it pointed my attention to something that isn’t easy to talk about in today’s terms: slavery. It also hints at a kind of forbidden (impossible) love. I like how the voice of Beta-31 reflects all the confusion and innocence and naiveté of someone thrust in the weird world of another, and how the story complicates the larger-world of Mr. D and Fits-W with hints to its restrictions and rules, so they don’t look like mere caricatures. All these in 223 words.

And now: for a stunning, back-to-back win, marking our first-ever SIXTH win — here’s this week’s 


Karl Russell!!!


“Prometheus in Love”

NC: Be still, my beating SF- and alternative-history-loving heart! There is so much story, here, and it’s masterfully put together. Where to begin? The first line: does it catch my interest? You bet. “Lovelace” is a very distinctive name and if you know anything about her or her poet father, Lord Byron, a whole world opens up in that one line. Even if the reader doesn’t recognize Ada (deemed the world’s first programmer—Wiki her) and her work on Charles Babbage’s difference engine or the influence Byron exerted over her life despite her never having met him, the flush tells the reader enough. Tension is well-established right from the get-go, begging the question: What is she looking for in her mechanical partner? 

The diction of the dialogue is consistent for the time period. The banter does the triple-duty of establishing character, character motivation, and the conflict. Meanwhile, the interspersed lines of description give us tantalizing peeks at the machine and ground us in the setting.

There is a recognizable beginning middle, and end, each with a distinctive movement: the opening, where the mechanical man seems to have the advantage over Ada; the middle where Ada alludes Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, another prominent writer of her father’s time (and friend of Byron), and the end with the machine reprogrammed more to Ada’s taste, the advantage ending with Ada. The transitions between them are smooth, taking place each time with attention turned to the work Ada is doing on the cards. The middle section lays out Ada’s intention in the context of the Romantic period, and the machine’s response echoes the very arguments that poets and artists who happened to have an XX chromosome pairing came up against time and time again throughout history, Mary Shelley included. The ending is satisfying because Ada sticks to her purpose, undaunted by her own baggage (the suggestion of daddy-issues) nor society’s circumscription of women’s creativity to procreation. Okay, I think that might be quite enough gushing. Thank you, anonymous wordsmith, for an entertaining read.

IN: There are many things I can say about this story, but none as good as a thank you to the writer and a plea that you read Nancy’s comments again.

Congratulations, Karl! I don’t even know what to say to you this week, other than CONGRATS, and you’ve left me wondering what on earth I’m going to bother you about for your sixth interview! Please find here your re-updated winner’s page. Your winning tale can be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. And now here’s your winning story:

Prometheus in Love

“I am sorry Miss Lovelace, but I cannot replace your father.”

Ada felt her colour rise. 

“My dear sir, I hold no such intention.”

The brass gears in the corner of the repurposed sitting room whirred in mechanical mirth. 

“Forgive me, but for one so versed in the creation of patterns, you seem keenly unaware of your own. Have you not always found yourself drawn to the older, educated gentleman? To what end, save to fill the void formed by the Lord Byron’s absence.”

Ada nodded thoughtfully and returned to the repetitive task of punching intricate patterns in the strengthened cards.

The machine hummed in ozone scented satisfaction.

“Tell me sir, are you familiar with Mrs Shelley’s work, her Modern Prometheus?”

“I am aware of it.”

“Indeed. I found it a most stimulating treatise. To think that a man might create the semblance of life from little more than workshop parts and the application of his own intellect. I wonder; might a woman ever hope to achieve such a thing?”

“Why would she, when it is her purpose to create life in the traditional manner?”

Ada slid the freshly punched card into the bronze lined slot.

The machine clattered noisily, assimilating the new commands.

“Good morning machine.”

“Good morning, Ada my love.”

Ada smiled, satisfied, and applied her attentions to the next card.