I had the pleasure of attending this year’s Farafina Creative Writers Workshop in Lagos, Nigeria. It was taught by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Binyavanga Wainaina, Eghosa Imasuen and Aslak Sira Myhre. I had intense and enlightening conversations, lots of laughter and a crash course in pidgin. But this post isn’t about the trip, per se. It is about the small things I wish I had with me in Lagos.
I’ve been telling myself for ages that I should purchase a voice recorder. Perhaps the voice memo application on my iPod has spoilt me too much. It is, after all, free. However, in my line of work, I ought to own one. Plus it takes too much time and energy to travel to my friend’s home every time I need to extract the memos (I synced it to her Mac) and I can only email myself recordings in bits. Also, it eats up battery power.
Truthfully, I haven’t looked hard enough for a bargain among friends or visited the best free classifieds site for a worthy purchase. But why did I kick myself for not having a recorder? Because, Nigerian accent. Nollywood hadn’t properly prepared me for the various cadences this accent rode. English see-sawed, tripped and slid from the mouths of my colleagues into my ear in fascinating ways. The more I listened, the more I desperately wanted to capture their voices and the wise, honest and funny words they spoke, abeg!
Before FCWW, the only other workshop I’d ever attended was in 2009. Discussions on Literature are confined to specific spaces; this blog, a couple of 140-word rectangles on Twitter, in private conversations with my writer friends and the occasional book launch and festival. People at the workshop were raw and open in ways I deeply respected and feared. They were doing all this before strangers.
We had daily writing assignments that were projected on a large white screen in the lecture room. Depending on how much time we had, the author either read through their entire piece or just the first few lines, leaving the rest of the class to complete the text. There were a couple of people who had taken to giving a disclaimer that they were not writers before proceeding to floor everyone with beautiful vocabulary and insights. These so-called non-writers were brave enough to try something new. And it wasn’t just that. As I read or listened to different interpretation of writing assignments, I realized that people went to strange and magical places in their minds. This all showed me that I’m not as brave as I’d like to be in my writing and that has certainly got to change.
Who doesn’t need more money? Even if Biggie warned that it would only lead to more problems, I wish I was rolling in cash because Lagos is such an interesting city and I only got to partially explore it. I did do some fun things including eating a snail but that’s a story for another day.
One thing is for sure though, Lagos hasn’t seen the last of me o!