Tuesday 19 April 2011

What's hard for you as a writer (final part)

"The phone is ringing, the doorbell too, there’s a zillion emails waiting for a response. There’s forty plus writers waiting (rather impatiently) for edits of their work, not to mention the dozen books waiting to be read from authors wanting blurbs or opinions. I have to leave soonish and push my book at various events. There's two blogs waiting for posts, and If I go onto Facebook I’m surely doomed," says Ivor W. Hartmann, a Zimbabwean writer, editor, publisher and visual artist, currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa, when asked what is hard for him as a writer. Ivor is a very painstaking writer who works with the meticulousness of a lapidary.

The author of Mr. Goop (Vivlia, 2010), a sci-fi children's novel, Ivor was nominated for the UMA Award (2009), and awarded The Golden Baobab Prize (2009). He is also the founder and managing editor of StoryTime, which has published a host of Nigerian authors, the blogger included. Ivor explains his "dilemma" further: "I’m hungry and thirsty, and absolutely none of the above is footing my survival bill. So what is hard for me as a writer? Simply finding the time to research and write, that’s it, that’s my biggest problem. Waiting for that special time when the world fades away and my characters and I can get down to having a blast, and seeing what new corners of my mind we can turn over rocks in and see what's there."

Within a short time of bursting onto the Nigerian literary scene, Myne Whitman seems the most visible Nigerian writer in cyberspace, thanks especially to her vivid and highly engaging romance fiction novels. She is a whirlwind of change, of sorts, the founder and managing editor of NaijaStories.com, a critique website for aspiring Nigerian writers, and social networking for everyone that loves Nigerian literature. When I queried her about what she finds hard as a writer she has this to say, “As a self-published author, I will always be grateful for the vehicle the internet and social networking provides to get my book out there. Setting up an active blog and publishing my book has served a double purpose for me; finding out the target audience for my kind of writing and building a platform too. If not for the social networking channels, A Heart to Mend would never have gone viral the way it did. It was through the support of bloggers that I did my first blog tour for A Heart to Mend with the attendant publicity. By the end of that blog tour, I was getting requests for interviews and features almost daily. I put up chapter one of the book on a free reading website and it became a massive hit. It remained in the top 10 for three consecutive months!”

“The beauty of social media opportunities powered by the internet meant that I could remain in my work room with just my laptop and a connection, and meet up with these dozens of interviews via chat, skype, email, etc. As time went on, I continued networking with other writers and self-published authors and I as I shared what I had learnt, I picked up some good nuggets from them too. I set up a twitter page and opened up my Facebook profile for use with my pen name,” says Myne Whitman, a pen name. Her real name, however, is Nkem Okotcha. “As I became more adept at using the word-of-mouth tools on those two sites, the visibility of A Heart to Mend quadrupled. I learnt how to interconnect these media, how to set up scheduled tweets or how to update Facebook via RSS feeds, etc. However, with more visibility, and the bigger the platform, comes a higher expectation to always be connected with your readers and fans.”

Although well traveled and currently domiciled in Washington with her husband, Myne still visits Nigeria now and then. For me reading A Love Rekindled,her latest novel, reminded me of certain follies I was prey to during the roving undergrad years. She has more to say, however: “So the challenge for me as a writer using social networking is that of distraction, thereby reducing the amount of time I have to write. Personally, Facebook has proved the most addictive. I find that sometimes while updating my pages, I may stray into something else entirely and so on, thereby wasting precious amounts of time that could have been put to better use. There was a day I took a break from writing and as usual, the first point of call was Facebook. The site was down, and I kept refreshing it for almost five minutes before it dawned what I was doing. I laughed at myself, left a message on Twitter about my addiction and went to check some other things. I had to really think that day but it is what it is. At the end of the day, I have to find a way to balance the two by making sure that my internet use is mostly purposeful and in a way that is linked to my writing, and also set out a specific time for my writing itself without any distractions.

That way, I still get a lot of writing done while remaining in the social circles.”