The Heat Is On

“Loves the fire but can’t stand the heat.” Famous last words spoken to me by an ex-girlfriend. Years later, the words linger; dancing around my sub-concious, jumping to the fore, like they did today.

What brought them up? A little experiment. Instead of moaning about bad blogs and sloppy writing, I decided to do something about it.

What did I do?
I started the #BlogPolice.

What is that?

It is a platform to call out bad writing on blogs, things like clichés, gratuitous adverbs, typos, redundancy, chunky writing and tense confusion.

Does that mean you are perfect?

No, it doesn’t. We found an omission on our blog and mentioned it too. There’s no perfect writer and no perfect blogpost. The aim is to encourage people to make an effort and to give people a sense of accountability.

Why do you want to do that? Does it work?

We want to do that because we care about writing and we care about writers. We left names out so no one would feel victimised or picked on. We added a #BlogAngels bit later on and talked about the good things we noticed as well.

The idea was culled from the Twitter typo-spotting tyrants, handles like: Grammar Police, Gbagaun Detector, Sharp Spotter etc. These handles were dedicated to spotting typographical errors on Twitter. Sometimes they were funny, sometimes, they were a pain in the neck. In any case, they made people read over their tweets and double check before they sent them. They made tweeters accountable.

The Blog Police was meant to do the same thing. It was meant to remind bloggers that people heed their ‘Please read and comment’ requests. It was to show that the effort they spent proof-reading, redrafting or rewriting a post was not wasted.

Alas, it failed.

Despite listing the offending sentences and phrases in anonymity, some people still decided to raid my direct messages with tirades. They went on to state that I should never mention their blogs again. Some unfollowed after that. Some had me blocked.

Normal events, except that these were the same people clamouring for names of offenders be affixed to their ‘blog crimes’. Some of them asked that offenders should be informed so they ‘learn from their mistakes’.

All the while, lying through their fingertips.

The #BlogPolice is defunct. It was a rewarding experiment. It made me read many things I don’t usually read. It taught me open-mindedness and patience.

It also made me notice the great work some people are doing on their blogs.

Most of all, it made me realise that people are often as two-faced as a cheap coin. They can smile with you in the sunshine and stick a dagger into your groin at night.

No wonder the Book says “Woe is he that trusts in a man.”

It raises questions though.

In the world today, every product or service gets reviewed. Some get nods and others get knocks. Sometimes the same product gets both nods and knocks. It doesn’t mean the producer is a bad person, it just means there is room for improvement.

It is great to hear rave reviews. People telling you how amazing you are is soothing. To get better, though, we have to listen to less than savoury stuff. We have to pay attention to issues raised and treat them if they are real or toss them if they are malicious.

If a blogger can’t cope with having a single sentence queried, how will they cope? When they get Kakutanied?

Dodgy Deals II

Read Dodgy Deals I here

Anger whistled in her belly as she fought to stay calm. The weeks of sleepless nights and skipped meals flashed before her eyes like a pantomime. A fresh fount of tears stung her eyes and she blinked them back as fast as she could. The warm fluid trickled down her nose and she tilted her head so it dripped down her throat.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Anything.”

“Are you paying for the hall?”

“Yes.”

“The food?”

“Yes.”

“The ushers?”

Yes…”

“The Compere(s)?”

“Yes,but–”

“But what? Jim. But what?” Nma asked, staring at him, eyebrows raised, arms akimbo.

“Nma, I am sorry.” Jim said. “I really like your work. It is the best I have seen in ages. The problem is we don’t have a budget for up-coming artists. We are offering you exposure and a chance to be discovered. A lot of collectors will be at the exhibition. They might see your work and buy it. You can’t lose getting your work in front of an audience. You have to be known to earn from art. That’s the way it is. That is the way it has always been.”

“Stop.” Nma replied. “Just stop.”
Her voice sliced the air like a scythe.

“Don’t give me that crap. Don’t tell me about exposure. Exposure doesn’t buy paint or canvass or breakfast. You amaze me. You are hosting an exhibition, people are paying to attend.”

She paused for breath and began to tick of the items on her fingers.

” You budgeted for the hall, the ushers, the food,the drinks. You even budgeted for the compere’s. But not the artists. You need to rethink your priorities, Jim. You need to ask yourself why you are doing this. Is it for art? Or are you just another rapist? Taking people’s blood and sweat from them for free, under the guise of ‘Promoting Art’. No wonder you don’t have many takers. No artist worth their salt would allow this–this travesty. Now, if you ‘ll get out of my way. I have things to do and people to see.”

Jim reddened under his collar. This wasn’t what he had envisioned when Tola had told him about a young artist that breathed life unto canvas. He made another effort. “Nma, please, it’s not the way you make it sound.–”

“Then what is it? You made provision for everything and everyone except the artists. You wouldn’t dare ask a compere to speak for free, or rent a hall with exposure. You are a fraud posing as an art lover. You just take advantage of struggling artists to build your fancy art-loving brand. What’s wrong with renting the art work if you can’t afford to buy? What’s wrong with rewarding the people that work night and day, rain or sun, feast or famine, to get art made?” Nma laughed, a cold mirthless sound. “Fine saviour of african art you are. Truly ‘showcasing Africa’s beauty’.”

“Nma, please.” Jim said. “I never thought of it that way–this way. We don’t have enough funds to buy, I never thought about renting. Besides what we would offer would be too shameful–”

“Shameful? Jim, what can be more shameful than offering nothing? Asking me to pay before you display my paintings?”

“Oh no! We could never do that. Shocks! This is not the way this meeting was meant to go. Forgive Nma. Let’s start afresh over a glass of juice. We are on the same team. We love art. We can be friends. There has to be a way around this.”

He reached for her hand and felt an unexpected jolt of desire run up his loins.

To be continued …

Please leave a comment. [Guarantees a mention when DD3 is out 😉 ]

Life Lessons

Someone pines for what you have.
Be grateful.

Someone has what you pine for.
Be humble.

When two hearts agree, Time and Space shrink.

If you can’t sing, clap for singers.

Don’t eat : raw cocoa seeds, wild cocoyam, millipedes.

Be the change you want to see.

Investigate people before you do business with them.

Take chances.

Think production before perfection.

Be courteous. People want to be around pleasant people.

Solve problems don’t dodge them.

Teach people how to treat you.

Be happy in your skin.

Chewing ice can crack your teeth.

Everything has a disadvantage and an advantage.

Work with your advantages.

Note those that celebrate you and reciprocate as much as you can.

Dream like you have forever.

Plan like you have just a month.

Write your yearly,monthly and 5 year goals.

Let people that want to leave you go.

Learn something new every day or week or month.

Guard your eyes and ears.

Do to others what you want done to you.

Ask yourself, if everyone were to do this, would the world be a better place?

If yes, keep it up.

Dodgy Deals

Doubt tickled her belly like a giant spider,reminding her why this was a bad idea . She shouldn’t be here, in GRA Phase 2, walking up a drive to show a stranger her work. She should be at home, in her peach coloured one-bedroom flat listening to Asa and Triple J Plus and Malik. And painting.

But when she saw the call for ‘extra-ordinary art telling stories of courage and passion from Port Harcourt city’ she knew she had to respond.

Her phone rang. It was Dibaal, her half brother calling to say Mama was running out of drugs in a week. Her mother had battled breast cancer for twenty years. Despite the double mastectomy, the tissue in her left breast had grown again. When she was paying the bills for a third mastectomy, she was laugh-crying.

“But how is she?” Nma asked.

“Fine.” Dibaal replied

“Is the wound healing?”

“Yes. And her appetite is returning.”

“Thank God. I will send you something tomorrow. Greet her for me.”

“Thank you, Sister.”

“We thank God.”

She slipped the phone into her jeans. Life was a strange place. Her mother had abandoned her with nuns at age two. Gone off to be a rich man’s second wife. Only Life would necessitate that she depend on that same child for her chemotherapy. Yeah, Life was crazy like that.

She knocked at the door while voices argued in her head.

“Nma, don’t do this.”

“Why not? We only live once.”

“This is just stupid.”

“Who says? Shut up.”

“What if this doesn’t work?”

“What if it does?”

“What if this is just another wild rat chase?

“What if it is not?”

“Let’s Go Home!”

“Knock again.”

She raised her hand to rap on the door once more, when the door flew open.

“Hello,” said a slender Caucasian man in brown jean shorts and a blue T-shirt.

“You must be Nma. Come in.”
He stepped back and she followed him into the house. A cream ante-room led to a spacious parlour with plush seats in real leather.

“Have a seat,” he said, “I am Jimmy Newton. Can I offer you something? Juice? Water?”

“No. I am fine.” Nma said. ” Pleased to meet you, Mr Newton.”

“Please. Call me Jim.” He said.”Tola tells me you paint. Can I see?”

“Of course.” She handed him her camera and took a deep breath.

He studied the pictures with a frown, toggling between a few, shaking his head and squinting. The spider died and left ice in its place. Her fingers drew circles on the leather. The well known sting of failure crept up her spine. She wanted to be home more than anything.

She braced herself for what was coming. She had been in the business for long enough to know the signs. Some would try to make up with flatter “…Your work is amazing! Not what we are looking for now but a true delight.” Others would try to belittle her “…I like what you are doing. Honestly, have you ever thought of going to an art school? There is a great one in New York where Emma Idoma is. I am sure you could get a sponsor.” It always struck her how people who found it difficult to pay for art found it easy to think scholarships for it were falling from the sky like rain. The ice thawed and began to boil. She had to leave this place. If she was fast enough she could still finish Chief Mrs Ikpoki’s portrait. If not, she would at least know that she tried. Nothing could be worse that sitting here, watching someone who couldn’t draw a leaf to save his life, search for the best dump lines. No, she wasn’t having anymore of this.

She rose and forced a clipped smile on her face.

“These are amazing! Wow! I love your work! Fabulous! Jeez! This is simply lovely!”

Her legs melted and she sat down again. Hope was a bubble dancing in her chest. With firm strokes she brushed away tears of relief. It was going to be okay. She was going to be okay. Jim was saying something:

“These are simply amazing! Oh my god! Where did you train? Did you study art in school? I love this. I really do.” Jim said. “I’d like to have a few copies so I could show them to my partners. Do you mind?”

Of course she didn’t mind. How could she? This was the big break she had been working towards, praying for, and now it was here.

“At all.” She answered. “That would be nice.”

“Lovely! So how soon can we get the paintings? We need about 20 for the exhibition, I want at least 5 of yours. The picture of the lovers on a canoe, has to be one and the one with the sleeping taxi man. Amazing. That’s what your art is. I can’t believe my luck.”

“Thank you Jim. I am so happy you like my work. The paintings will be ready by tomorrow. Once you make a deposit into my account. Or would you rather pay cash?”

A pinched silence hung between them for a minute.

“You want me to pay for the paintings? That’s ridiculous! What kind of con is that? Where is the love of beauty in this? Where is the passion? Can’t you Nigerian’s do anything without looking for money? This is crazy!” Jim said, shaking his head faster than ever and running his hands through his mouse-brown hair.

“Everything about Nigerians is transactional. If you want help pushing your car–its a transaction. If you need directions to the night club–its a transaction. I don’t understand it. It has to be the petro-dollars–”

Nma picked her camera and slung her bag back on her shoulder. “Thank you for your time Jim. I misunderstood your call for work. I thought you were trying to create opportunity for people. I didn’t know it was just another poaching attempt. Forgive my naivete!”

She stomped to the door but Jim got there before her. “Hey, don’t take it that way. I am sorry about the way I sounded. I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s just that I don’t have a budget for paying contributing artists. I really like your work. It is fresh and full of life. Please, let me use if for the exhibition. You will gain exposure and an audience. Fans. Most great artists started with free exhibitions. You need to give it time. To build your brand. ”

Nma clenched her hands by her sides and ground her teeth. “Excuse me, Jim, you are in my way. It took five weeks of my time to create those paintings. Eating once day, working ten to twelve hours, praying the muse would keep guiding my hands and eyes; you don’t know what you are talking about. You think this is a scam? You think I should starve myself and work myself to the bone just because you want to have an ‘exhibition? Your Wikipeadia page says you read philosophy but I think you need a refresher course. Now if you’ll excuse me–”

“Nma, wait.” Jim said, “I said I was sorry, I had no idea the work cost so that much. I was hoping to get freewill donations. I am sorry Nma.” He said flicking one hand through his hair while the other was wedged at his side.

To be continued.

Power Play

When a sleepy, poorly paid nurse in a government hospital pierced Chinedu’s ears,she thought he was a girl. It was a mistake that changed in that many ways, how the world would see him.

*

Guarding criminals wasn’t in Martha’s job description but again, what was? : not the mopping of spewed vomit, so malodourous that it made her wonder if the man had swallowed a toilet; not the battle to start the old-model generator; not the slaps she gave women in labour to help them push faster; not the quickies she had in the toilet with Dave.

But all that was insignificant, compared to the problem at hand.

She had come to the night shift early hoping for a quiet night and 6 hours of power. The national electric company, PHCN, hadn’t let her bulb blink in weeks.

She wanted to charge her phones, rechargeable lanterns, and laptop. She was certain this would be a peaceful, uneventful night.

Until she saw the bed, with someone handcuffed to it.

The beaten bruised form looked grotesque on the red mackintosh. While she watched, he writhed and wriggled, straining against the cuffs till he drew blood. His tiny diamond earrings flashed mini rainbows in the white light.

She stared at him, too scared to say a word. He saw her and snarled.

“What are you looking at? Get me some oil, olive oil or something.” He said.

“We don’t have any” Martha replied, fighting the urge to run that hammered in her chest.

“Then look for some. Or else, when I find my way out of these cuffs. You ‘ll be very sorry.” He said, straining against the iron shackles.

“Alright then.” Martha said, backing out of the room.

“Nurse!” Chinedu called.

That was his name. She remembered now, from the handing over notes.
“Yes?” She answered.

“I want to pee. Get me something. Be fast! *#/:+!” He roared.

Anger, Duty and Fear tussled inside her. Duty won. She ambled back into the room got a bedpan and took it to him. Anger boiled in her head, a bubbling cauldron. She took deep breaths and counted to thirty.

When he was done, she zipped his fly and he began to laugh–loud guffaws that bounced of the walls and resonated in the night.

“You are just a night soil woman, calling yourself a nurse. Feeling uppity in your white uniform.” He spat at her. She jumped. The blood streaked sputum landed on the floor where her feet had been.

That’s when she lost it. Tossing the bedpan at his groin, she drenched him in a shower of urine and a sharp, stifling odour filled the room. Walking over to a stunned Chinedu she grabbed his ears and twisted them.

“Don’t ever say that to me, again. Do you hear me?” She asked.

“Yes, yes, I do.” Chinedu said.

She slapped him twice on the cheek and gave him a knock. He tried to bite her but got a blow to the nose that left him howling in pain.

“That’s better. Slimy idiot. I’ll teach you not to say that to any one ever again. Full time fool.”

With that she walked out, rolling her generous hips and humming Fela’s ‘Dem go say I be Lady.’ Back at her desk, she locked the door behind her and rubbed her thighs together till she came, imagining Chinedu inside her.

When she finished. She went back and cleaned him up, swapping his wet soiled clothes for scrubs. He was silent while she worked.

The gunshots that followed startled them. Three masked men barged into the room wielding guns. She screamed and was hit across the mouth so hard she passed out.

When she woke up, she was in an incomplete building, handcuffed to the wall. And Chinedu was smiling down at her.

An Open Letter To The Naija Writer Readers

Check 1 2 3. *Inhale, Exhale*

Hi,
Welcome to The Naija Writer. Forgive me if I gush or ramble, it’s a reflection of the mind-boggling-heart-thumping feeling I have right now.

I don’t know how you came here. Maybe you clicked a link on Twitter or you got invited by a friend.

However, you came, you are here and I am doing my best to make it worthwhile.

Today, I want to say thank you.

Thank you for coming to my blog and reading my work.

Thank you for sharing on Twitter and Facebook.

Thank you for calling me out when I slack.

Thank you for reading things outside your box.

Thank you for subscribing to the blog. It means so much to me.

Thank you for liking the posts. Your approval is like dew on a field of lilies.

Thank you for giving us recommendations and feedback.

Thank you for giving us referrals on your blogrolls.

Thank you for helping us grow.

Thank you for sending us money and gifts. You love, so you give.

Thank you for everything.

And please, don’t stop.

Keep coming and we’ll keep making it worth your while.

My Lady’s Smile

My body fails me sometimes,
The rush of the moment,
The surge of desire,
Takes me by surprise
Then I lie there
Feeling like a worm.
As the scent of sweat and musk
Fills the room.
I don’t want to see her eyes
Bottomless pools of questions
Asking “Sweetie why?”

But at other times,
There’s magic on my kiss,
Rapture on my finger tips,
Her body is a guitar,
I am a maestro,
My fingers make
A symphony,
Tender and urgent,
Fervent
Relentless,
A flurry of sepia and coffee brown
Pleasure, screamed
Then the radiant
Smile of a woman
Satisfied.