By Anote Ajeluorou
After a successful 5th season of horning the writing skills of budding Nigerian writers, Fidelity Bank Plc held a closing ceremony for the 27 young writers it trained during the month of July in its Fidelity Bank Creative Writing Workshop, tagged, ‘The Write Way to Greatness’. U.S.-based Nigerian writer and teacher at Goerge Madison University, Helon Habila led two other female writers from the U.S. – Aminatta Forna and Sally Keith - in conducting the session.
At the Ocean View Restaurant on Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, venue of the event, the bank’s Managing Director and CEO, Mr. Reginald Ihejiahi, expressed delight at the yearly training intervention his bank was making in boosting Nigerian writing through the workshop. He traced the story of the bank’s intervention to when award-winning author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, started the workshop, which he said had grown to where it was, with Habila effectively taking over and sustaining it ever since.
Although Ihejiahi said he did not know the direction the workshop would take at inception, he nevertheless, argued that the success of the training workshop for writers was partly due to Habila, who had stayed focused on the idea. He described the three writers for this year’s workshop as a team of accomplished and dedicated writers, who had made a name for themselves in writing.
While addressing the gathering of newly trained writers and other accomplished writers also present, the accomplished banker said writing was something he thought “You need to learn; if you don’t read enough, you’re not likely going to write well. But reading should not be about motivational books”. He assured that new ideas were being brought in to enrich the workshop and make the series more exciting, interesting and better. He noted that the compendium that came from last year’s edition had been repackaged to make it more appealing.
This year, poetry seemed to have featured prominently unlike last year that had prose fiction, especially the short story sub-genre. Workshop participants read out their poems to delight the audience. From Tonye Willie-Pepple read ‘I may never pass this way again’, Bokuru Julius read ‘Portrait of pain’, Michaela MOye, Benedictus Nwachukwu, also read their poems, all products of the workshop.
The workshop coaches also added spice to the evening when they, too, read excerpts from their own works. Keith read a poetic piece from her collection, Dwelling Songs while Forna read prose piece from To the Memory of Love. Forna, a Sierra Leonean, once lived in Lagos when she was just two and schooled at Corona School, before she left for the U.S. She had vague but fond memory of Lagos, and was happy to be back to give something back.
Forna said she decided to take the workshop participants on non-fiction writing because of the growing influence of that genre of writing, and stressed that it was the main thing in Western writing and U.S., especially for memoirs, childhood writing and other writings that define society.
Also, workshop team leader, Habila, enjoined the participants to take their training seriously, as he noted that there was no university in Nigeria offering degree programme in creative writing. The Fidelity Bank Creative Writing Workshop, he said, was therefore one way of getting skills in creative writing in the country, which they should consider a privilege.
Nigerian writers that attended the event included Odia Ofeimun, Tade Ipadeola, Toni Kan, who partly organised, Emman Usman Shehu, Caine Prize for African Writing 2012 winner, Rotimi Babatunde, Jude Dibia, Lagos ANA chairman, Daggar Tolar, Jumoke Verissimo, Maxim Uzuato and Deji Toye and several other budding writers.