Writings of the general word's body

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Unoma Azuah interview

Unoma Azuah, Molara Wood and Victor Ehikhamenor - photographed May 2009 in Lagos

Here's a picture that would have qualified for a 'While Wordsbody was sleeping' slot... US based writer Unoma Azuah with two of her constituency - myself and Victor Ehikhamenor - both of whom were not long returned from the UK and the US respectively. Azuah was around for the summer last year; it's a year on and she's in Nigeria for the summer again, doing writing workshops up and down. Here's a recently published interview of mine with her.

While Wordsbody was sleeping

It's getting very difficult to update this blog at present. My monthly internet supply via USB booster is paid up, yet connectivity is often poor or non existent. Many times in the last week or two I've tried to post about forthcoming and ongoing art events, but had to give up after wasting lots of precious time, and with a mounting sense of frustration.
Thus, I wasn't able to blog about the Stakeholders Forum on Taxation and the Arts convened by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation in Abuja last week, in which I was a participant. Nor was I able to blog about the very important 'African Women in Film Forum', the first ever, held in Lagos on June 16 & 17. the screening in Abuja last Tuesday of the Stepping Stones film The Fake Prophet, a screening I attended and still hope to blog about my observations.
Due to the same connectivity issues, I could not inform about many literary readings which have now passed, like Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani's reading for Infusion in Abuja last Thursday, or her Abuja Writers Forum event, held yesterday. Or the various other readings in Abuja (the literati there like to think Abuja's where it's at now, but the jury's still out on that one...). Or the readings in Lagos yesterday: the ever popular BookJam (the 5th edition featuring Kunle Ajibade, Toni Kan and Abraham Oshoko); and the Farafina Book Review event held at Terra Kulture, oddly timed to clash directly with the more established BookJam. To name but a few.
Things being the way they are, I'm introducing a 'While Wordsbody was sleeping' series of blog posts, to capture events missed for one reason or another. There's a whole load of these of course, given that Wordsbody was completely inactive during 2009 (relocation blues, rupture caused by finding one's level, having just moved from the UK to good old Naija).
So, here's the first of such posts, and the images here were taken by me at the 2nd African Regional Summit and Exhibition on Visual Arts, ARESUVA for short, which opened on 19 November 2009. The picture below of the main lobby of Abuja's International Conference Centre, you get a glimpse of the main exhibition. A prominent painting to the left of the hall is of the late President Umaru Yar'Adua and his Turai. Yar'Adua was still very much alive then, but only just. In a matter of days, November 23, he left Nigeria for Saudi Arabia for medical reasons, never to be seen alive again. During my two days in Abuja, I visited the Federal Capital Territory's Millennium Park (there was nothing there...) and saw a big political banner announcing Yar'Adua as 'The Man for 2011' - next year being election year - and I remember wondering if the so-called 'Baba Go-Slow' was even the man for 2009, not to talk of 2011. Oh well, Yar'Adua is dead and gone to his grave now...
The other pictures here I took of the fascinating Tanzanian sculptor Mwandale Mwanyekwa, who memorably exhibited at ARESUVA. She's tiny in size but large in vision and passion, probably why she's known as Big Mama.

  • Images by MW


Press release from Farafina

Pilgrimages: Thirteen African Writers. Thirteen Cities. Thirteen Books

The Pilgrimages Project
Pilgrimages is a ground-breaking, pan-African project organised by The Chinua Achebe Center, Bard College, in partnership with Kachifo Limited in Nigeria, Kwani? Trust in Kenya, and Chimurenga in South Africa, in celebration of Africa’s first world cup.
The project involves 13 African writers visiting 12 cities across the continent and one in Brazil for two weeks during the World Cup. At the end of the project, each writer will produce a book of non-fiction travel literature based on their experiences, forming a series to be published next year.

The Writers
The writers and cities involved in the project are Funmi Iyanda (Durban), Alain Mabanckou (Lagos), Abdourahman A. Waberi (Salvador, Bahia), Akenji Ndumu (Abidjan), Doreen Baingana (Hargeisa), Chris Abani (Johannesburg), Uzodinma Iweala (Timbuktu), Billy Kahora (Luanda), Kojo Laing (Cape Town), Binyavanga Wainaina (Touba), Yvonne Owuor (Kinshasha), Victor Lavelle (Kampala), Nicole Turner (Nairobi) and Nimco Mahmud Hassan (Khartoum).

Alain Mabanckou in Lagos
Alain Mabanckou from Congo-Brazzaville is considered one of the most talented writers in Francophone African literature today. His most notable works are Verre Casse (Broken Glass), Bleu-Blanc-Rouge (Blue-White-Red) and The African Pyscho. His work, Memoirs of a Porcupine, won the Prix Renaudot, one of the highest distinctions in Francophone literature.
Alain visits Lagos from the 25th of June to 2nd of July 2010, during which time he will crisscross the city, from the ‘highbrow’ to the ‘slum’. Each day of his stay will alternate stops at football viewing centres, local bukkas and beer parlours, upmarket bars and relevant cultural events, and will include interviews with local denizens, artists, writers and other social commentators. Alain will be guided around the city by architect, writer and publisher, Ayodele Arigbabu, who will also blog about their daily experiences on the Pilgrimages website.

The Website
A dynamic and state-of-the art multimedia website has been launched as part of the Pilgrimages project. During the 13 Pilgrimages the writers and their local guides will blog on the website. Correspondents, artists and photographers in each city will also post topical content on the site.

The Books
The Pilgrimages Project will culminate in the launch of twelve books in four African cities in January 2012 during the African Nations’ Cup. The collection promises to be the most significant, single addition to the continent’s archive of literary knowledge since the African Writers’ Series of the 1960s. The books will be published by Kachifo Limited in Nigeria, Kwani? Trust in Kenya, Chimurenga in South Africa and a francophone publisher to be announced.

For more information on the Pilgrimages Project, please visit the website.

For more information on Pilgrimages and Alain Mabanckou in Lagos, please email info@kachifo.com
or call

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tunde Kelani sends out an SOS

I was at a press conference on June 2, when filmmaker Tunde Kelani spoke in no uncertain terms about the danger posed to himself and the Nollywood film indusry in general by pirates. One of Nigeria's most respected cinematographers with works that set the bar with every new movie, Kelani was speaking in the run up to the release of his new film, 'Arugba'. 'We are going to be pirated,' said Kelani, who admitted that he'd been cornered by the pirates and the system. He said he had no choice but to release Arugba (launched on June 13) after a two-year delay and with his production company lacking the funds for his next film. Arugba went on the market on June 14 and in less than 10 days afterwards, the pirates flooded the market with not just one pirated version of the new film, but two (see image).

Tunde Kelani has released a statement yesterday on his "despair" - below.

"It is with the greatest and darkest feeling of despair that I have to announce the massive piracy attack of our new film ARUGBA released on homevideo barely a week ago. On our part, we complied with all the guidelines stipulated by all the government agencies and paid all dues but got no protection from the criminal activities of the pirates who are bent on pulling down our industry. As things stand, it is becoming impossible for me to continue my career as a filmmaker in my country Nigeria as it is no longer possible to recoup our investment or get the opportunity to exploit economically our copyright and repay our creditors. Unless the Federal Government of Nigeria rescues us from this economic menace, the growth and development of the nascent film industry in Nigeria will be stifled completely by this miasma of piracy, illegality and outright theft. The popular Nollywood industry is under great threat and may already be experiencing its death throes. While we have decided to write a letter of protest to President Goodluck Jonathan, the Attorney General of the Federation, The Federal Minister of Information and Communication, the Inspector General of Police and all the relevant government agencies, we can only appeal to the general public to ignore the pirated ones and buy our genuine movies."

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Caine Anthology

Congratulations to Jude Dibia whose short story, A Life in Full, written at the Caine workshop in March, provides the title for the 2010 Caine Anthology, published July 1.

The anthology also contains this year's 5 shortlisted stories, available to read online now.

Here's an excerpt from shortlisted writer Namwali Serpell's short story, Muzungu - about an expatriate child's sudden jolt into an awareness of racial difference...

Ba Simon was singing softly under his breath. He’d probably picked up some nasty song from the shabeen, Isa thought emphatically, repeating in her head a condemnation that she’d heard a thousand times from Ba Gertrude, the maid. There are three kinds of people in the world: people who unconsciously sing along when they hear someone else singing, people who remain respectfully or irritably silent, and people who start to sing something else. Isa began singing the Zambian national anthem. Stand and sing of Zambia, proud and free. Land of work and joy and unity. Ba Simon gave up on his quiet song, smiling down at Isa and shaking his head while he flipped steaks he wouldn’t get to eat. Ashes from the brai drifted and spun like the children playing in the garden.

The other shortlisted stories

Namwali Serpell is Zambian. Winner of the 2010 Caine Prize will be announced in Oxford on July 5.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Seun Kuti plays on June 12


In a series of concerts that started in August 2009, Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 will for the sixth time thrill audiences with yet another fiery performance at the center for Nigerian culture, Terra Kulture in VI Lagos. On this significant day in Nigeria’s history, Egypt 80 will perform a tribute concert to the upholding Democracy in Nigeria.
Following Nigeria’s first match against Argentina in the 2010 World Cup holding in South Africa, the band will perform some tracks from Afrobeat king the legenday Fela Anikulapo Kuti, as well as from their Many Things album. They will also debut new tracks from their upcoming album set to be released at the end of 2010.
Seun Kuti + Egypt 80 hold two regular performances in Lagos at The Afrikan Shrine every last Saturday of the month and Terra Kulture bi-monthly on the second Saturday.

JUNE 12TH 2010
8:00p.m - MIDNIGHT

(following Nigeria vs Argentina)
Tickets available at
Terra Kulture VI (Tiamyiu Savage Street) * Naira.com * Jazz Hole Ikoyi * Gbogobiri Ikoyi
Reservations: 08054834528

Brought to you by
Egyp80 Records, Africa-Related & Terra Kulture

Jeffrey Daniel in Lagos

Jeffrey Daniel (right) is seen here with Kunle Tejuosho of Jazzhole Records at the Keziah Jones show in Terra Kulture last night. I'd seen an interview with Daniel in a Lagos newspaper some weeks ago and so I knew he'd been in town. Lucky for many nostalgic Shalamar fans, the singer, famed for his dance moves, was still in Lagos to be sighted last night.
  • Photos by MW

Oyiza Adaba

Photographed at the Keziah Jones gig - here's Oyiza Adaba, presenter of the television arts show, Messengers.
  • Photo by MW

Keziah's Funkathon

This was perhaps the best moment of the Funkathon that was the Keziah Jones concert of a couple of hours ago, held at Terra Kulture in Lagos. Nearly all of this photograph is taken up by Keziah's self-made guitar, known as Rugged One. With the Nigerian coat of arms incorporated into the design Rugged One's a star in itself. But let's see who we've got here. L-R: Mike Aremu on saxophone, Duro Ikujenyo on the keyboard, Bez on the mic and Keziah's the one wielding the Rugged. The three musicians jammed while young Bez performed Fela's crowd-mover, 'Water No Get Enemy'. And the crown went for it, singing and dancing along.

Quintessence Cafe

So, I was in Quintessence some days back, browsing through the art gallery section, the book shop area, the arts and crafts (from key rings to jewellery cases to tie-and-dye clothing) and selected a few things. There's always something new to discover, so much in one not particularly large outfit. And there it was, a new addition to Quintessence, by way of a quaint little cafe. Wonderful, I told the attendants. Just like Borders on London's Oxford Street (before it closed down - sigh) where you could browse through books all you wanted and then sit at the cafe for some croissants and tea, any excuse to hang around books all day. Some in Nigeria certainly could use some reminding to know that books are comfortable things to be around.
No sooner had I finished gushing than two men came in.
"Where's the cyber cafe?" one of them asked.
"Cyber cafe? There's no cyber cafe here," someone answered.
The men pointed to the door. "The sign outside said 'Cafe'." I was gobsmacked. Only in Nigeria would a sign saying 'cafe' be taken to mean nothing but an internet cafe!
Anyways, this is just to let folks know that if you're around Falomo Shopping Centre on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, you could always stop by the cafe inside Quintessence, or meet up with your peeps there.
Which reminds me: the other major arts place along Awolowo Road, the bookshop/record shop/events venue, Jazzhole - also doubles as an intimate restaurant/cafe.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Interview with Ama Ata Aidoo

I took this photograph of Ama Ata Aidoo during an interview in Lagos last Sunday May 30.

Hear her
"I was lucky to have grown in an environment where maybe storytelling was part one’s living experience. I later realised that we had some kind of informal professional – would that be an oxymoron? – storyteller. You know, a man who was known as a storyteller (but he wasn’t earning anything from that). He was there in the village. Also, I had the good fortune of having for a Headmaster at one point when I was in Primary School in the same village someone who was very interested in getting us to tell stories to ourselves during the school hours. Maybe it was his way of making sure we didn’t fall asleep on him because we were kids and it can get hot. And this teacher not only had us telling stories to ourselves but every now and then over the weekend he would haul us around the surrounding villages, telling stories to the people. Incredible. I couldn’t have ordered this. If I had been aware that these were also helping me to become a writer. I couldn’t have known, but I suspect that it helped for me to have grown up in such an environment."

Keziah Jones in Lagos

Keziah Jones plays at the Terra Kulture in Lagos on Thursday 10 June. 7pm for an 8pm start.
"Keziah Jones, born and raised in Nigeria, moved to France in the early 90's and has been making waves there ever since, returning to Lagos now and then to perform some of his highly original and very funky music for us. A guitarist without peer, Keziah is a dazzling performer with great stage presence and an easy rapport with the audience. He recently performed at the Jazz Hole where he totally charmed the audience and convinced us that we had to bring him back and give our favorite audience the chance to see him perform.Our favorite new wonder group, Vincent Ezelle will open the show. Led by the soft yet rich voice of singer Chuma, Vincent Ezelle is a lush mix of soul, folk music and soft rock. Their dreamy single, 'Signs and Wonders' is causing a stir on the radio and Smooth FM's already snapped them up for a live acoustic session. They'll be performing a great set of songs about loving and living in Lagos."
Keziah Jones
Thursday, June 10
Terra Kulture
Tiamiyu Savage
Victoria Island, Lagos
Tickets: N5,000 (buy online at www.naira.com or at The Jazzhole - 168 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi /The Life House - 33 Senari Darinjo Street, Off Younis Bashorun, VI; Chams City Ikeja - 2 Isaac John Road, Ikeja)

Chika Unigwe in Abuja

Chika Unigwe (middle) flanked by Lola Shoneyin and Dapo Oyewole who hosted her reading of May 26 at Infusion in Abuja. Unigwe read from her novel 'On Black Sisters' Street at the event, which reportedly was jam-packed. Shoneyin and Oyewole started Infusion, and this is their second literary event.

Chika Unigwe was in town as a facilitator of the Farafina Workshop (she read at the finale event at the Civic Centre, Lagos on May 29) and also did a creative writing workshop for school kids in Port Harcourt.
  • Photos courtesy Infusion

Fidelity Bank gets catty with Adichie

Here's Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie caught in Ooops-like mode at the Farafina literary evening at the Civic Centre in Lagos on May 29.

Adichie, who's made the New Yorker's list of 20 writers under 40 (no surprise) could have responded with 'No, they didnt!' if shown Fidelity Bank's recent press release announcing their 2010 workshop, taking place in an unspecified serene location in Abuja, commencing July 18. The Fidelity Workshop is to be led by Helon Habila who the bank says is "a more rounded" choice for them.

The question then follows: 'a more rounded choice' than who, exactly? Adichie? Is this an 'Ouch' moment?

Once upon a time, Adichie started a workshop to bring new Nigerian writers to the fore, and got Fidelity Bank to sponsor it. She starred in many a full page advert for the bank. Now she's moved the workshop to the Farafina Trust, with sponsorship by Nigerian Breweries, and it seems Fidelity Bank is sour. So, they rebrand her workshop as theirs and sign Habila on board.

One more writing workshop in Nigeria is to be welcomed, especially with the involvement of Habila, who has not been seen to be a major champion of up-coming Nigerian writers. But did Fidelity really have to get so personal in their press release?
  • Images by MW

New Reads

An interview in yesterday's UK Guardian Review with South African author Andre Brink...

I ask about JM Coetzee, whose decision to leave South Africa for Australia is said to have caused resentment in some quarters. Brink worked with him for years at the University of Cape Town, "and learned a hell of a lot from him. I always admire writers who can pare everything down to the essential; it's totally the opposite of what I do, and we were so different that I could very deeply respect what he was doing without feeling that I had to compete with him. Anybody can understand why somebody might reach a point when they just want to move out. And after he published Disgrace, there was such a violent reaction against him, especially from within the ANC, that I can't blame him for deciding that he'd bloody well had enough. Although, on a very personal level," he adds with a look of exaggerated innocence, "I can't understand why anybody would want to go to Australia."
  • Read the interview here.


And in today's Sunday Times UK, a revealing excerpt from a new book about Nelson Mandela details the warring within his family, and the toll of the struggle on all their lives. I read some lines there squirming a little, thinking: why would this offspring tell the world that the Madiba's no longer altogether there?

Once Zindzi accepted that her parents could not be reconciled, it became easier for her to welcome Mandela’s third life partner, Mama Graca — Graca Machel — into their family.

Graca made it clear to Zindzi the first time they met that she would never occupy Winnie’s place in her father’s heart. That was something everyone is agreed on, even now — that Winnie was the great love of his life. But the new relationship at least provided some members of the family with a stable emotional base. Graca was warm and affectionate, Zindzi said, while her father, though loving, was physically undemonstrative.

More on StoryAfrica

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

Chika Unigwe

My observations

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.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

StoryAfrica update

Mfonobong strikes again... And please note the boast about how well the scam book has done in 6 weeks.

Dear Molara,

That is why I wrote this apology. I'm NOT attempting to impress you with hopes of a royalty or appease you with a byline in a 'less reputable' publication as ours. I'm saying that there was a breach by someone in the team who was charged with the responsibility of gaining permissions, and I'm taking responsibility on behalf of the team. We are working on cancelling this first edition, but there are so many things involved. Once we are done with the process (which will be soon), be assured that the book will be deleted and prodution and marketing efforts will cease.

And by the way, while I am truly very sorry on behalf of the team and must exercise caution and respect in writing to you, I just want you to know that the thing you said about sales picking up in 2050 is absolute crap. Sales have actually been good. Target and Walmart, apparently, are selling the book, and we've already sold in thousands in less than 6 weeks. Smaller publishers in America and Canada have already requested for republishing rights, and the project would have succeeded if not for the mistake on our part. It's unfortunate that this has happened this way, but when we get our act together next time, we will succeed.

Once again, accept our sincere apologies. Don't bother responding to this mail.

Kind regards,


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

see me see trouble-o!

I just got the mail below from a certain Mfonobong Nsehe (mfonobong@storyafrica.com)....

Dear Lara,

Greetings. My name is Mfonobong Nsehe and I am the founder and editor of StoryAfrica. StoryAfrica is a literary project founded by lovers of African literature at Daystar University, Kenya. Our aim is to sell the best of Africans literature to the rest of the world, and to promote African writers to American and European readers.

We made an error in publishing one of your stellar pieces, 'The Beaten Track' in the first edition of our quarterly anthology, 'Africa's Best Stories,' without your permission. A lady who was part of the StoryAfrica team, and who was charged with the responsibility of getting permissions from authors apparently lied to us that she got permissions from several writers whose works were featured to use their stories. After complaints from writers, we discovered that we did not have permission to publish many of the stories we did publish.

Even though the harm has been done, 'Africa's Best Stories' has been published, and your story is in it. I know it is really late, but I would like to use this opportunity to request for the permission to use your story. You will be paid a royalty for your story as soon as sales pick up. But even more importantly, in the book, we have provided a byline to help promote you and your books.

We are really sorry for the misunderstanding. Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Mfonobong Nsehe


My reply...

Dear Mfonobong,

Please note that my name is not 'Lara' - it's Molara.

This must rank as the highest piss-take 'literary' email I've ever received. What makes you think I'd be impressed by your offer of 'royalty... as soon as sales pick up' (when, in 2050?)?

And how condescending of you to think you've done me a favour by providing a byline to "promote [me] and [my] books." Did I ask for your promotion? Do you know how many bylines I've earned in my writing career, in how many reputable publications?

Bottomline is: you had no right to take my story - without permission - and publish it in any anthology, I don't care if it's the Best Universe Stories. You have a nerve to purport to inform me of the sacrilege after the fact. I'm completely flabbergasted and outraged. This is intellectual theft at its most blatant. Your behaviour is a complete negation of everything I stand for.

Remove my story from your anthology or you'll hear from my lawyers.

Molara Wood