#TheSparkleInterview – ‘Birthing any idea is hard work and you have to do the hard work to birth it.’ Toyin Poju-Oyemade

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Today’s interview is a bit different from the norm for so many reasons. We had the pleasure of interveiwing the delectable Toyin Poju-Oyemade. Although she has not written a book yet (because after this interview we knew we got a book title!) she’s doing something quite amazing for authors and the reading culture in Africa.  

Wondering what that could be? She’s the brain behind Chapters, a program that seeks to explore, understand and learn principles of life and living specifically through books. 

There’s so much wisdom and fun packed in one interview and  we KNOW you would love it. 

Hello. Can you please tell us who Mrs. Toyin Poju Oyemade is?

I am a simple young lady trying to discover and live God’s purpose for her life. I am a media person, studied Mass Communication from the University of Lagos. My passion lies in media, ministry and music and the key is to use those areas to touch and impact lives positively and for the kingdom of God.

What inspired Chapters? You could have done a show on music, why books?

For the longest time, I always knew I would have a show or shows. I had started that in the university and when I finished, I went into documentaries but I always knew I would have a flagship show for TV and the online space, I just did not know what it was. When I got married, I remember that my husband would ask me, ‘So what do you say it is that you’re going to do on TV?’ All sort of ideas had come up but I hadn’t felt that one thing that would at least be the first of many. 

Flashback to 2015 I was reading a book, ‘And The Storm Came‘ by Kike Mudiaga where she tells her story of how she went through the loss of her family members and came through. The pain and the story at that particular time resonated with me because it showed how somebody could have gone through so much tragedy and loss, especially as a Christian and still come out whole and complete. It was a time in my life I was thinking about a lot of things and I was also becoming aware of the fact that there seems to be a lot of tragedy, pain and loss in life and people seem to get lost in that space. This was someone who had gone through that and came out to say I’m still standing. 

I remember sitting down reading the book and telling myself ‘somebody needs to know this’, ‘how can I share this story?’ So I called a friend and that was when the idea of doing a show around books came up.  I remembered that when Oprah was doing her show she had something called the Oprah Book Club, a segment of the show where she would talk about a certain book and why people should read it and sometimes she would have the author on the show and talk about the concept of the book. So I thought to myself, ‘Okay, what you are doing is not really different; the only thing is that you’re just taking that part and turning it into a show specifically.’ I called a couple of friends and asked, ‘What do you think about a show on books?’ One or two people thought it was amazing, we went back and forth and came up with the name, ‘ Chapters.

There’s a saying that ‘if you want to hide something from an African man put it in a book.’ I do not like that notion and the truth is they’re so many things written in books that can transform our lives. I want Chapters to help people regain their reading culture and showcase Nigerian authors and books. 

To have a show on books you must be a reader! What encouraged you to start reading and have you been able to sustain it with your very busy schedule? 

I come from an academic family. I read Famous five, Secret Seven, Eze goes to school at a young age because reading was encouraged at home. Then I was an art student in school which involved a whole lot of reading. Besides, I believe reading is a part of my nature. I genuinely like to read. I’ve learnt that we are not as busy as we think we are. It just boils down to structure, lifestyle and balance. If you think the book is important you’d find a way to make sure you make yourself read. 

One thing we are going to try to do with Chapters as well is create a book club because you need to find a way to help people have structure I always say: ‘If it’s a chapter a day, you’re fine; if it’s a page of a chapter a day, at least get something in your brain, get your brain thinking about something. ‘

If you know that you don’t read, you can start with fiction and then you can read deeper topics later but it is important to read. There’s a reason why there are books, and there’s a reason why the Bible was written in book format. It shows that books are important.

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What of people who were not raised to read how can they learn to read? 

First off, as long as you went to school you had to read. So nobody can say. ‘I don’t know how to read.’ You’ve just not rehearsed yourself in the practice of reading. I know so many people struggled through school because reading was hard but if they told you, ‘Open this book and 50 million dollars would come’ everyone would read! Sometimes you just need to find a compelling reason. If you feel reading is hard, audio books are available, just listen. Just start, start with something easy, start with a magazine, start with fashion, something fun. Just read. 

It’s easy to advertise an entertainment show. How do you advertise Chapters? 

Advertising Chapters is daily work, daily wisdom, and daily insight. We use social media mostly – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. I think one of the things that makes Chapters special is that every show is different because we’re talking about different authors, subjects and specific things that affect day to day living.

Season One had episodes on finance, wedding planning, leadership, teenage parenting and marriage. These are things that affect me and you so what we are marketing is not the show itself but the concept, the subject matter for that day. We are not just saying watch Chapters because it’s a show, we are saying, ‘Look 2019 is coming and we have an episode on leadership. Listen to this person’s take that may help you decide who you’re going to vote for.’ That makes the marketing more targeted and with social media you just have to find engaging ways to reach people.

The quality of the show is partly dependent on the the books you review. How do you select the books to read?

Selecting the books for Chapters can be interesting. For Season One I went to Laterna and Terra Kulture. We looked for books that spoke to specific issues, anything that concerned life and living with an interesting angle to it.  I read through all the books to have an engaging conversation with the author and to ensure that the values are values I support or want to adopt.

What would Chapters do to anyone who watches it? 

Chapters would educate you. We are an education platform, we’re here for knowledge dissemination and even if it’s not knowledge that you need now, there’s no knowledge gained in life that would not be useful to you. Chapters would empower you to make better decisions.

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What’s your most interesting episode ever? 

All of my episodes of Chapters have touched me but one of the books I like is the book called Conscious Life written by Funmi Oyetunji. It seemed like she sought to write a book that answers all the questions of life from the day you were born till you die. The book is such a complete conversation, broken down properly till the end. All of my books speak to one area of life but this book tried to bring everything into one book and she did massive research. 

Zahra by Sola Aguda is another book and the only fiction book we’ve done. I went to Terra Kulture to look for books and one of the sellers talked about it. Fantastic one. How someone can tell a story about marriage and you’d be so educated? It’s simply an amazing book. Leadership by Dr. Maxwell Uba has also gotten so much traction.

What lessons have you learnt from birthing Chapters?

Wow, so many lessons! 

1 Birthing any idea is hard work and you have to do the hard work to birth it.

2. Believe in yourself and your ideas. I remember when I wanted to start Chapters and I told somebody who I regard as a mentor and he told me nobody wants to watch this. I understand people see the world from their point of view and I had to believe in my dream and although this person has become a staunch supporter, if I had listened at that time, we wouldn’t be here.  People did not see what you saw; so don’t expect them to respond to it the way you will. 

3. Money doesn’t answer all questions. Many times what holds people back on their dreams is that they don’t have money. When I was going to do Chapters, I did not have all the money I needed. I leveraged on friends, relationships and work I had done in the past. I borrowed cameras and other equipment from different people. I couldn’t afford to pay for them but I leveraged. Learn to build bridges in life and understand that no man is an island. The same way you’d need people is the way people will need you. There are people around you that God has given you to help you birth your ideas. I got a space for free to shoot from someone whom I had volunteered with for free for seven years. You have to sow good seeds.

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4. Sometimes the birthing of a dream can be tiring. I remember when we shot the first stage of Chapters, we had done nine episodes and I was tired emotionally exhausted. I was reading books so I was physically exhausted and because I didn’t have money to pay everybody, I was the writer, presenter, producer, director…everything. My brain cells were stretched. I was in a situation where they’d say ‘cut’ and I am thinking of the chapters I had not finished for the next episode. There was a time I had a shoot that morning and I hadn’t finished reading the book and I just told my husband, ‘You know what, I can’t even lie. I haven’t finished reading this book. Just read and tell me where I should focus on.’ 

I was financially tired and I almost entered into depression. We finished shooting and I couldn’t sit down with the editor. I was just like ‘who sent me message?’ The pressure of life is real, the excitement comes but can wash away quickly because the reward for work is more work. We recorded and now we had to edit. Some episodes were 40 minutes and I had to cut down to 25 minutes because it was on television. 

5. When you’re birthing a child everything that can go wrong sometimes goes wrong. It doesn’t mean it’s a foolish idea or you’re not called, it just means life happened. One Tuesday morning, two of our ACs packed up and the two episodes we recorded that day couldn’t be used. We were sweating throughout and we kept saying, ‘Cut cut cut’. That was part of my depression, money wasted. Luckily, we were able to call back the two authors. 

Shooting Season Two, it’s like the forces have said, ‘Even if the AC works, something else won’t work.’ The call time can be 10 am and we won’t do anything till 1 pm, but no matter the challenges, keep pushing. Your dreams will work. 

The reward for work is more work

If there’s a purpose behind what you’re doing you won’t end after one level of glory. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Books, Fun and Food At The Book Banters With Nkiru Olumide-Ojo

We were excited when we received an invitation from Roving Heights to attend The Book Banters with Nkiru Olumide-ojo. What’s better than hanging out with other book lovers at a bookshop? Maybe reading the books perhaps.

The event took place yesterday on Sunday 28th of January at Patabah Bookshop in Surulere. For those who attended, you’ll agree with us that the book reading was one of a kind. The event was not only highly educative and enlightening, it was also filled with fun conversations and loads of refreshments. You know what they say, when books, fun and food come together, they make history!

For those who didn’t attend, really where were you? To be honest, you did miss a lot. The author of the book, Nkiru Olumide-Ojo read portions of the book as shared the inspiration behind the book. She also gave some useful tips to the women present, admonishing them to be strong and be courageous enough to go for what they want.

On mentoring, she said, “Look at the person’s journey and what you can glean from it.”

When asked why she chose the title, ‘The Pressure Cooker’ for her book, Mrs Olumide-Ojo’s answer was simple – she felt she was under so much pressure, like she was boiling in a cooker, and it inspired her to write the book, to encourage other women out there who are also under pressure, and to teach women how to juggle it all together.

The host of the event, Olive Emodi really did a great job in steering the conversation to the right direction causing the author to share deep insights from her book.

The beautiful event ended with photographs and a book signing. Well done to the Roving Heights team. You rock!

 

If you would like us to attend your book reading or book club event, please send an email to thesparklewritershub@gmail.com. 

 

Get ready for the Grill and Read Annual Readers’ Award

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The Speech House International, initiators of the awesome Grill-And-Read event for book lovers are happy calling for nominations for the inaugural Grill and Read Annual Readers’ Awards! (GaRARA).

The awards seek to recognise the contributions of the reading community to the socio-economic development of the nation. Readers occupy a position of influence in the society and that their collective strength can be harnessed to bring about change in the way reading and writing are perceived.

GaRARA which will honour readers, authors, publishers, and organisations will come in 13 categories and will include the following: Reader of the Year; Celebrity Reader of the Year; Reader’s Event of the Year; Reader’s Show of the Year (Radio/TV); Reader’s Person of the Year; Book of the Year; Classic Read of the Year; Author of the Year; Book Discovery of the Year; Book Review Site of the Year; Book Club of the Year; Book Cover of the Year; and Publisher of the Year.

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There will also be special awards for NGO of the Year and Spirit of Reading Award.

Nominations will be open from Wednesday February 1 through to Sunday April 30, 2017. All nominations will be made on the dedicated site: http://www.grillandread.com/readers-award.

Please note that nominations are to be based on books and literary activities in the outgone year up until December 31, 2016.

All nominees and nominated books should be resident in Nigeria.  Further information on the awards will be provided in the coming months.

We are excited about this. We hope you are too! Send in your nominations as soon as possible. 

 

You have a writing voice and here’s how to find it

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“No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.” Oscar Wilde

The only way to sustain your writing career and avoid burning out trying to be like everyone else is to find and develop your writing voice. Your writing voice is your unique approach to the world. Your writing needs to have its style and personality. This is what gives you authenticity.

Wondering how you can find your writing voice? Keep reading…

1) Write from passion. If you don’t care about the things you’re writing about, you will never discover your true voice. Your voice is stifled when you write about a genre you hate. ‘Voice’ lives in the deep closet of your soul, and will only venture out when you’ve given it space to move and room to breathe.

2) Free-write. Write what you please, or in a way that is most comfortable to you. Your writing voice should be natural to you. Once you are done writing, go back and compare it to your other articles you have written, do they sound alike? If they don’t then you need to check whether you’re truly writing from your heart.

3) Read your previous articles. To find your writing voice you may need to read what you have previously written. Does it sound like what you will love to read? Your writing voice must sound like you and interest you. If it does not you may need to change the way you write.

4) Write to your ideal reader. Your writing voice should appeal to your ideal reader. How can you ensure that it does? Describe your ideal reader in detail, what does he look like, what does he like? For example: your ideal reader can be a secondary school student who loves fashion but is struggling with his academics. What do you think he will like to know? Once you have done that, write to him and him alone.

We hope this helps.

Have you found your writing voice through other means, let us know in the comments section.  

Dear writer, this is why you should read

by Adedotun Adejoorin

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Have you ever wondered why people keep asking what book  you are reading now or when last you read a book? Do you question why you have to keep reading as a writer? Or do you want to know the difference between a writer who reads and the one who does not?

Well, we have the answers for you!

Reading is not just a hobby for any serious writer; it is a necessity and these are the reasons why:

Reading widens your skill – When you read, you will begin to appreciate the different styles and approaches each writer uses in writing and this will help you to find your niche. The more you read, the more you’ll be exposed to all kinds of writing; the good, the bad and the ugly. You will learn how to avoid the mistakes other writers make and you’ll learn good writing habits too. Reading helps you to analyze and make your stories better.

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Reading can be a source of inspiration – When you think you’ve lost your flow or the well of inspiration has gone dry, try reading. There are times when as a writer you don’t feel like you are in your place or you do not have enough motivation to write. At such moments, take a book and read. It can help to re-fire your inspiration. It will fuel your imagination and give you new ideas.

Reading helps you learn new vocabulary – As a writer the major tool you use to communicate your thoughts and ideas to your reader is vocabulary. This is why your grasp of vocabulary is crucial. It will help you become a better writer. The more words you know the better your writing will be. Want to know how you learn new words and have fun at the same? We’re sure you already know the answer – by reading!

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Reading helps you to keep up with the trend – Can you imagine a technology reporter not aware that Apple has released a new iPhone? It will be a disaster and that will probably be because he does not read. It is very important for writers, especially those who write industry based articles, to keep up with the trend. You need to read to know what is happening in that industry you write about. You should be the one informing your readers about what is happening. You cannot afford to write stale news; you won’t get clients that way. When a new invention comes you should be the first to know.

Reading develops the mind – According to Richard Steele ,”Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body”.  Exercise makes the body stronger, healthier and builds its stamina. It is the same with reading. It makes you wiser and more exposed. The mind needs to be exercised daily and reading helps you achieve that. As a writer you rely on your mind a lot and you cannot afford to let it lie fallow.

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We love this quote by Natalie Goldberg – “If you read good books, good books will come out of you!” So keep reading and keep writing.

 

Become a better reader with these tips

Hey there Sparkle Writers! We know; it’s been a minute since you read a post from us. We went on a short break to re-strategize and we are back with a bang! Watch out for great writing tips in the coming days.

You already know by now that to become a better writer, you need to be a reader. Some of you may have already cultivated the habit of reading regularly. The question is, are you making the most of your reading time? Here’s how to become a better reader (which will inadvertently make you a better writer);

Be deliberate about reading

To be a better reader, you just have to create time to read. We know you live a busy life and you hardly have time for yourself but you can still find the time to read. Think about all that time you spend going through different timelines on Facebook and Twitter. That time could have been better used to read a book. Start by reading at least 15 minutes every day and before you know it, it will become a habit.

Read widely

If you like romance novels, that does not mean you should only read romance novels. When it comes to reading, you really need to come out of your comfort zone. Expand your horizon and read other genres. By reading widely, you enlarge your mind and capacity to write better.

Read bad writing

Yes you read correctly! Reading a book that was badly written helps you to know how not to write. Even when you read good books, you should form the habit of critiquing it. What did the writer get right? What could they have done better? Doing this will help you to become a better writer yourself.

Take notes

It is important to take notes while you read. Jot down your thoughts in a journal or note. Scribble within the book. Highlight and underline words, phrases or sentences that jump at you. By taking notes, you’re guaranteed that you are actually paying attention to what you are reading and you are learning from it too.

Reflect

Think about the thoughts you have jotted down. Think about the things you read in the book. Reflect on them. What did you learn from the book? What can you takeaway from the book that will help you to become a better writer? Also review the book; the good, the bad and the ugly. What can you learn from them?

By using these tips, you will definitely become a better reader and a better writer too!