This, some days ago from MN, who's aware of the posts on this blog
We are truly sorry. It may seem like a giant request, but I do hope you can make a little place somewhere in your heart to forgive. We've just cancelled the book and I am trying to see if the publishers can do a recall on copies sold and get it delisted from Amazon as soon as possible. I've been in contact this morning with authors like ----- and ----- (who were included in the anthology) and some others who reprimanded me, but advised me on the proper way to go about things as these.They went ahead to grant permission to us to use their stories. I've however decided to cancel it and redo things properly, the next time, by MYSELF.
Another thing: I was not gloating when I wrote to you about our book sales going through the roof. I just wanted you to know that the project actually had prospects.
This, from another StoryAfrica person
My name is Evans Macharia, a 3rd year Literature student at Daystar University, and I am part of the StoryAfrica team which published your story in 'Africa's Best Stories.'
Mfonobong just sent me the correspondences you've been having together, and I have checked out your blog. You might not be interested to know these details, but I'll tell you anyway:
When we started this StoryAfrica project at Daystar University, a team of ten of us selected some African stories which we felt had global potential. Our idea was to put together an anthology of the best African stories and sell to the world. Your story, 'the beaten track' was one of the stories we selected. We had collected 18 works- 3 of them were from Daystarians. When it came to the issue of permissions and copyrights, there was a student called [name withheld] who convinced us that she had contacts with many of the writers, and that she could get permissions from all the authors involved- and even sign contracts with them on behalf of StoryAfrica.
That was in December 2009. We paid her Ksh.100,000 for her efforts, and in about seven weeks, around the last week of February, she produced 15 professionally signed contracts from authors whose works we intended to publish, including 'yourself', which stated that you all had given us permission to use your works. Now we know that the contracts were a scam. But we wouldn't have known back then since the contracts and signatures looked so professional. She did her scam well. She told us she had sent emails and faxes to you all and had made phone calls, e.t.c. to get across to you, the authors. Bottom line, she fooled us into believing you all had signed contracts and permission agreements. And so we proceeded to publish. As soon as this scandal came to light, she absconded.
We were all fooled, including Mfonobong.
But a few things I want you to know:
We were not scammers. More importantly, Mfonobong, (who by the way was one of the stellar students in this school) is not in any way the person you have portrayed him to be. I have read the way you have attempted to destroy his image on your blog, and believe me, it is not fair. If you ever get to meet him personally, you will know that he is not the sort of person you have portrayed him to be. When it was discovered that this was a fraud, he took the pains to contact all the writers to apologize. He has stopped production of the book, and has been working hard to get Amazon.com to delist the book and to get Createspace to recall the books.
If you know him personally, you'll know for a fact that he does not deserve this. In the end, we were all victims of a scammer. I just hope you'll see through this and forgive-just like all the other writers he has contacted have done.
I also hope you'll remove the blogposts about him on your blog. They are destroying the character of a good person. And that is the truth. If you have any questions you can contact me if you are so pissed to ask him.
Chika Unigwe's post on Amazon's StoryAfrica page
I was alerted to this book by a writer-friend whose story appears in it too. We were not informed of this anthology (before it was published), and we certainly did not give our permission for our stories to be in it. I have since spoken to some of the other writers whose works appear (or are purpoted to appear in the anthology) and they, like us, were not approached for permission for their works to be so used. The publisher has shown disdain for our profession by simply stealing our stories and publishing them. Further, (s)he ridiculously claims to have Oprah's seal of approval. I urge you not to buy this book by a shameless literary scammer and I urge Amazon to pull it from their cyber shelves
I want to make it clear that I have a lot more by way of correspondence from StoryAfrica than I've actually made public on this blog. My decision to go public with Mfonobong Nsehe's correspondence was informed by the knowledge that a major expose had been done on him and StoryAfrica on Book.co.za. It was already a matter of legitimate public literary interest. What was I to do therefore, keep quiet and allow him to flog the story as given on Book.co.za that all but one of the writers gave permission? Would I have served the cause of writers and writing by keeping quiet in the face of so much double-speak and lies? Would that pressure him to withdraw the book? MN's mails claimed that at least 2 of the writers whose works were used without their knowledge (one of whom is a friend of mine) have been more forgiving. I say that is a matter for them. I am allowed to react to the quite unbelievable violation as comes naturally to me. I take solace in knowing that Chika Unigwe has gone so far as to post an alert on Amazon. At least I am not alone in feeling this book should be taken out, and urgently too. Even now we are not sure that has happened. Mfonobong has claimed in one mail that "for some reason, Amazon.com is not responding."
I want to stress that I deal with many issues of copyright infringement privately. Just last week I discovered that this same story of mine, 'The Beaten Track' had been published in the maiden edition of an online journal championing female writers of colour, complete with my picture and outdated bio as copied straight off another site (to which I submitted the story years back). I wrote to the editor asking them to remove my story as they had no permission to use it. The editor wrote back giving some excuse and apologising but confirming the story had been removed as per my request. No need to escalate the matter therefore.
StoryAfrica is however the most flagrant violation I've been subject to thus far, and in the permanent medium of a 'fast selling' book for that matter. By someone who some days ago at least was quite prepared to wangle a way through the muddle in order to keep the book in circulation. There have been too many untruths concerning this publication. There's the claim that scholars at Harvard selected the stories, then that Oprah endorsed it (which would have been a bit boring on her part, so soon after Uwem Akpan) etcetera etcetera. Now I'm to understand 'signed' contracts were also involved, including one purportedly by me. Where is the truth and where do the lies end? As it happens, the real exposure on StoryAfrica happened on Book.co.za, I merely buttressed their point. In this, I believe I was justified.
About The Beaten Track
This was the second short story penned by me and it was originally published in Farafina Magazine I think in 2006. Then I submitted it to Africanwriters.com. The story made a bit of a ripple in November 2009 when it was the subject of a N500,000 question on 'Who Wants To Be a Millionaire' (Nigerian TV). I wrote 'The Beaten Track' in a psychological space I cannot access again, and for that reason it is unique in my work. I love the story, but it is far from my best. All the more surprising that some Harvard scholars, real or imaginary, should select it as one of Africa's best stories.
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