How to rekindle interest in fiction writing

Ayo Banjo

Ayo Banjo

At the announcement of the call for entries for the fourth edition of the pan-African literary prize, Etisalat Prize for Literature during the week, publishers and editors of fiction works were called to rise up to the challenge of producing quality literary works as well as give young talented writers the guidance and exposure they deserve.

Two patrons of the prize, Prof. Kole Omotoso and Mr. Dele Olojede, said in view of the fact that the prize also recognises and rewards the efforts of publishers there was a need for publishers to take some risks and invest in young talented writers.

Omotoso noted that the media over time has focused more on the winner of the award, thereby down playing the institutional support for the publishing industry that the prize provides. For him, with the buying of 1,000 copies of the three shortlisted books from the publishers, distributing them to schools and libraries, no doubt, it is not just about the author, it is about the publishers, editors and readers.

He also stated that if Nigerian writers want to be in the winning team for the prize, then the country’s publishing industry must revive itself and support authors.

For the publisher of defunct Next newspaper, Olojede, the prize is making efforts to bridge the gap of “insufficient infrastructure for publishing. The critical role played by an editor supplied by a publisher is what is lacking. A writer needs the supporting infrastructure of an editor to guide a writer. We need to move away from the appalling model where writers pay for their works to be published. No talent emerges that way”.

Chair of judges is author of Measuring Time and Oil on Water, Mr. Helon Habila, who will be assisted by Ivorien writer, Edwige-Renee Dro and South African children’s writer, Elinor Sisulu. Commending the prize organisers, Etisalat, Habila said he saw the call to be jury as “not only as a challenge but an opportunity. I’m a champion of African literature. African literature is appreciated the world over, but in writing and publishing, we have a long way to go. We have left African writing to foreign publishers and promoters; this prize is righting that wrong model. This is a great opportunity to promote African writing”.

The Managing Director of Etisalat, Mathew Willsher and the Manager High-Value Sponsorships and Event, Etisalat, Opeyemi Lawal, said that their company is committed to hosting the prize for a long time as it is what they believed in.  Willsher maintained that it is a critical prize not just for recognising quality literary works but also identifying upcoming talents in the creative world and supporting the creative industry.

He further said that they are tremendously proud of the prize; reason it is not just about slamming the brand name on the event, which was also corroborated by Lawal.

Lawal disclosed that call for entries, which is open to only first book authors, will run from June 1 through August 31, 2016, while the announcement of longlist and shortlist will be in November and December respectively and the award ceremony in March 2017. She further said that the Flash Fiction category is also open for writers.

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