He Called My Home A Shithole

He called my home a shithole,
I know he meant a dark place filled with flies and smells that make you retch where waste and decay reign,
I know he meant I was less in some way coming from that place.

My home maybe dark but is also full of joy: people laugh in trouble,
children smile with hunger,
lands yield bountiful and green.

It smells sometimes: cloying stench of corrupt, gluttonous leaders and rotten systems; but at others,
the air is clear with the scent of rain, Queen of the Night and palm wine.

There is waste and decay, but from these life grows, seeds take root and soon will fruit.

It is not the names called but the nature of a place that matters,
the good that spring from it,
life, hope, happiness,
the sound of laughter, dance steps
and revival rising from her depths to conquer all.

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Letter To An ‘Aspiring’ Writer

Fellow writer,

Do not aspire, write.

Aspiring work does not exist, only written work does.

When you are starting and dabbling you can call your self ‘amateur’ but don’t expect anyone to ever pay you if you do.

When you have spent enough time on your craft, writing for friends and family and for free, then you must decide if that is enough or if you want more.

Writing contests are a good way to get your work recognized and to finally see a cheque, some cash or a credit alert.

So look for contests that interest you and enter all that are free. You will only gain by so doing: fame, fortune and joy or at least a finished piece.

Set your writing goals be as lofty as you please then set your targets: little things you can control and guarantee.

Value editing and the voice of your beta-readers, remember no one can see his back except through a glass.

Most advice is false but the ones that are meant for you will look you in the eye and you will quiver with recognition. Four of these are however universal: read, read, read, write, read, read, edit, and submit/ publish.

Iron sharpens iron so find the literati and sit with them. Many good things have happened to me this way: contests, calls for submissions, anthology invitations, submission fee grants, free books and so much more. The child by the pot is fed before those outside the hut.

Find those whose work you deeply admire: people and journals. Study them, mimic them and maybe find your calling.

Be consistent, time flies and you can lose much by simply watching the days and deadlines flash by. Know all the time sensitive parts of your goals: the Under 18, 21, 30,35,40 and so on.

Don’t be too full of yourself or your art, make friends, appreciate your readers and fans.
Remember the tripod of writing success: read with purpose, write with passion and build your community.

Support the work of others but don’t be afraid to disagree.

Don’t let anyone put you on a hole, write anything you want to write, use pseudonyms if you must.

Don’t quit your job (if you have one).

Don’t publish first drafts. Don’t be distracted by sub-plot. Don’t pretend to be what/ who you are not.

Commit to being your best self. Send your work to people who can tell you the truth about it (hard and painful and cruel) before you send it to the world.

Lastly, stop aspiring my friend, this is writing not a presidential election.

Yours in the fellowship of the pen,
N.M.

 

•••

To help writers who want to achieve more with their work but aren’t sure how to do this, we are starting a writing group called Eagle’s Crest.

To Join, send an email to Stnaija at gmail

dot com.  before Jan 31st.

Thank you for reading the NaijaWriter.

Tribute To A Trailblazer

We were united by the web across time and space
we had the pleasure of your company, your thoughts, your generosity,
You lived for decorum
even in difference, in disagreement,
in jest,
the world is duller without you,
no one can take your place in our hearts,
no one can wear your colours, we bid you adieu,
may your life continue to inspire others, may your candle shine in the darkness, may we meet again someday,
Adieu Chivaneze.

***

This tribute marks the passing away of a friend, brother, son, follower @chivaneze

May we learn to live for eternity.

Taste of Shame

 

Kusiere fanned herself vigorously beneath the giant red and green umbrella that served as her LottoNaija stand. Sweat gummed her nylon blouse to her trunk. Flies danced with dust in the air. It was past midday and she hadn’t sold anything: not the lottery tickets she had been hired to sell, not the sweets she displayed on the counter to lap up loose change and not the loose sheaves of airtime strapped with rubberbands in her bag.

Across the road, the Paradise Motel was doing brisk business: second hand cars drove in and out, couples walked in laughing and leaning on each other, unaccompanied males strolled in, hands stuffed deep into their pockets. Loud reggae music blared from outdoor speakers, a huge diesel generator poured black fumes unto the street and the electronic sign board blinked merrily in the sun.

Her phone rang. It was Pascal, her bow-legged, overwieght LottoNaija manager.

“Good afternoon sir.”

“What is good about the afternoon? Why haven’t you sold any tickets today? Do you think we are playing here? What have you been up to all day?”

“I am sorry sir. I am trying. It almost month end, people haven’t been paid their salaries. The university is on strike so the students aren’t buying as much as they usually do…”

“Don’t give me that. You have five more days to meet your monthly target. Or else–”

Pascal hung up and Kusiere slipped the phone back into her jeans with a hiss. She was two thousand five hundred naira short of meeting her monthly target and had no idea how to make it up in five days. It was easy to stay in an air-conditioned office barking threats and acting the boss, getting people to buy lottery tickets was hard, unpredictable work.

She opened the candy jar and took some sweets and sucked hard on them for comfort. She had to try her hand at the Joint University Admission Exam and try getting a place again. This lottery ticket selling business was not the life.

A dark blue car drove up to her stand and the rear window slid down. A well dressed woman in a gorgeous purple and gold bubu beckoned to her.

“Good afternoon ma,” Kusi chimed, rushing over with her best smile and most polite curtsey.

“Good afternoon, how are you? Do you have Etisalat airtime?” The woman asked.

“Yes ma.”

“Give me N2000, and scratch it please.”

Kusiere hurriedly scratched the recharge cards and handed to the woman.

“Thank you. You don’t happen to have seen anyone like this man around here have you?” The woman asked, thrusting a picture into Kusiere’s hands.

Kusiere peered at the picture with interest. The man in the picture was in his thirties, much younger than the woman. He wore a black singlet that showed off light brown muscled arms and a skull tattoo. His head was clean shaven and a small scar ran down his left cheek. He looked straight at the camera with a half smile on his lips. A handsome man, one aware of his charms.

Kusiere handed back the picture and shook her head. “No ma, I haven’t. But I’ll pay more attention now.”

“Thank you, that will be most welcome. And if you see him, I would like you to reach me on this number.” The woman said, pressing a piece of paper and some crumbled naira notes into her hand. “Have a good day.”
And before Kusiere could respond the woman drove off.

Kusiere straightened the crumbled paper and the money she had received on her laps. Five thousand naira! She could easily meet her target and have change. Her thoughts drifted back to the man in the picture. Who was he? And why was Madam Purple Bubu looking for him?

With a toss of her waist length braids, she shook the thoughts off. Thank God for the money though, she thought, making a mental note to give a better offering next Sunday in church.

Excited over her windfall and eager to get home, she decided to close for the day. She was bent over stuffing her things into a bag when she heard someone ask for tickets.
She looked up and found herself staring at the man she saw earlier in the photograph. He was thinner and dressed in a long sleve hooded top but his eyes were the same, as was the half smile on his lips.

She put on the machine and punched in her code while her heart raced. “How many tickets do you want?”
“A thousand,” he replied.

She looked up at him but he wasn’t laughing. “Cash or card?”

“Cash.”

Sweat trickled down Kusiere’s legs as she entered the order. Banks were closed and she had no idea how to carry so much money without being robbed. She called Pascal but he was “outside coverage area.” She left him a voice message. She considered dialing the number the woman gave her but changed her mind. She could always do that later, or never, she wasn’t sure anymore.

She was still printing out ticket slips when the police arrived. They confisticated her LottoNaija machine and handcuffed Mr Skull Tattoo. She was screaming when they kicked over her bag sending the contents flying into the gutter like confetti. She was wailing when one slapped her across the mouth and knocked her table over with his boots. But when her eyes met Madam Purple Bubu’s, she was choked into silence. All she could do was sob and swallow her shame.