THE 2017 TOTAL WRITERS CONFERENCE: IMPROVING OUR CRAFT

THE 2017 TOTAL WRITERS CONFERENCE: IMPROVING OUR CRAFT – By Oluwaseyi Ayodeji Isaac

It’s been difficult penning the right story reflective of the mood that resonated in a small community in Abeokuta wherein three days, a very hungry congregation was inspired to lay upon themselves the desire and hunger to work so hard till they just cannot be ignored. Trust me, the right words are there, lurking in my jittery fingers but these guys are just so excited they stumble and fail to come out cleanly like a bone as James Baldwin suggested in one of his essays. Permit the jaggedness of this narrative, I am still struggling with the inundation.

The city

Calm, craggy and ashen. A community very resplendent in its seeming slumber, one a creative dependent on solitude for inspiration would appreciate. We neutered the overwhelming silence of the night with our bickering voices and got good support from the stray cats loitering around. Every morning,  we woke up to the end-of-the-year smell of firewood—or harmattan if you choose to be exact— and a thick mist obscuring the black water-tank from our sleepy eyes. The toilets went easy on us and confirmed the hackneyed adage that books are not to be judged by their covers.

The people

It would be a shameful disservice to start without mention my good friend Oyeniyi Miriam Oluwatosin. I almost swooned at the sight of her clear skin the evening sun wisely chose to mimic. Facebook hinted the glorious hue but pictures should never be trusted. Not with the various make-believe editing features flying about.  There was Toby Abiodun and Bright Osunwoke Fc, spoken word aficionados who were also my roommates. You wouldn’t know how big Toby is as a spoken word artist thanks to his upright stature and unassuming disposition. His deftness with pidgin English mirrored the hilarious tales of Warri and its environs that he told. As for Bright, I can only hope he makes the right choice between Amaka and Laura. I am sure it’s going to be a tough call but good luck with it bro. Asides painting miracles, Pelumi Ponmile should probably consider a career in theatre. Man’s hot; his voice is boom box, loudspeaker and hammer, all three in one beautiful package.

Then there was Damilola Osota, brilliant writer, winner of our flash contest and lover of Christ, who stirred to life the shrewd football manager buried deep within me.  It hurts that no matter how hard I try to dig, I forget the name of the special secondary school student with mastery of words way beyond his age. Guy’s a theoretical physicist and has an unpublished paper on the theory of spatial pressure, whatever that is.  I could go on and on about the beautiful people I met but you’d probably get bored and stop reading.

    

 

    

 

    

The speakers

My first encounter with Caleb Somtochukwu Okereke was in an online writing class and he was wonderful. Brilliant writer and thinker, willing sharer of knowledge and of course, a handsome bloke.  I had decided to keep the fact that we would be meeting in person a secret and the subsequent shock upon full introduction almost gave him a heart attack, so he said. His session was moving, so rousing nobody had to be told hard work was the perfect brush for colourful success. Even after he left, we talked about this great man and the defining decisions he had to take.  It’s a given that success comes with big life-altering decisions that will be questioned by many.

Andy Akhigbe probably doesn’t know he’s some sort of a mentor to me. I owe a lot of my very green writing career to him and his platform, Storried. Andy’s passion for storytelling and its many utilizations in whatever field was glaring.  He broke down story structures and took us through the nitty-gritty of storytelling.  He didn’t hold back on ‘sensitive’ aspects and it was refreshing to see one firmly rooted in his convictions and beliefs. Andy is a great man and I am eternally grateful for giving a home to several of my writings.

Meeting Anthony Kehinde Joseph was special for me.  Past opportunities to meet have passed no thanks to the hectic schedule of school and work. I wasn’t much surprised to see his mastery of scriptwriting and the sometimes unpredictable structure that is Nollywood resonate in the building. He was warm, jovial and gave probably the best impromptu speech you’d ever see. Again, meeting him was huge for me and I can only hope we get to work together in future.

Taiwo O Egunjobi is my good friend, mentor and frequent collaborator. A scriptwriter, director, man of God and like me, an Arsenal fan. His body is a house of varied talents and he isn’t afraid to voice it out loud. He is the co-founder of Illusion group and I knew the priceless knowledge I get from him personally and on our very busy company, Whatsapp page wasn’t something to hoard. It had to be shared amongst people hungry for direction. I am more than certain that this man is headed for the top and that peaking isn’t very far away.

The audience warmed up to Sally Kenneth Dadzie the most, and for good reason. Her poise was immaculate and her voice a symphony you never wanted to end. She was practical and rightfully so. Writers are creatures easily enveloped in bubbles of unrealism, thus a smack of practicality is needed again and again to scrape the scales off their eyes, especially in an unconventional clime like ours.  That she broke and set records shouldn’t come as a surprise. She didn’t break while she toiled in silence. Instead, she kept her gaze in the future. You reap what you so, luck or not.

When Miriam told me she was bringing her comic-writing boss, I was eager to meet him. Mr. Murewa Ayodele, upon mounting the stage, didn’t waste time in making his wealth of knowledge obvious to the eye.  This man has dedicated so much to reading and learning, it’s only normal for him to know so much. He introduced us to the wonderful world comic writing and I am sure a lot of us left with a desire to delve into the field.

The physically imposing Pastor Segun Ariyo articulately reminded us of our roles as torchbearers for Christ and his divine message. That we are writers in this confused age puts at the forefront of evangelism and it’s a mandate we must embrace wholeheartedly.

The End

Hillsong was the anthem.  Jon Bellion interfered at some point and attempted to infuse some life into a subdued gathering. We were up till daybreak, struggling to accept the reality that three days had passed and it was time to go back to our normal activities of daily living.  We said our goodbyes in the morning, the strain of heavy bags powerless before the glee holding our faces. We were leaving anew; wiser and cognizant of the work ahead.

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THE 2017 TOTAL WRITERS CONFERENCE: IMPROVING OUR CRAFT

By Oluwaseyi Ayodeji Isaac

It’s been difficult penning the right story reflective of the mood that resonated in a small community in Abeokuta wherein three days, a very hungry congregation

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