Budding writer, Ginikanwa Bartholomew Ekene, exudes with passion to make a name in the literary circle. The Aguleri, Anambra East LGA born writer spoke to National Light’s crew of ROSE ORANYE and EMEKA CHIAGHANAM on his journey into the world of literature and his challenges, among other issues. Excerpts:
WE UNDERSTAND you are an author, how did it begin?
I would say my journey into the world of writing was a miracle. It started in 2008 when I was in JSS 3, at Fagba Grammar School, Lagos. Actually, I was more into music writing then.
I started by writing Gospel songs. Then I was staying with my uncle. But his wife wasn’t comfortable with what I was doing because I wasted many notebooks. She burnt the eleven notebooks where I wrote the songs.
I relocated from Lagos to Asaba in 2010 and started my Senior Secondary education at Niger Mix Senior Secondary School, Asaba, Delta State.
You said you started writing in JSS 3, what did you centre your writing on?
Initially, I had difficulty reading. I couldn’t even pronounce words. It was in my JSS class that I began to read and pronounce written words, though I was good at mathematics but to pronounce written words was a problem.
My prayer point in church was that God should help me to read. People mocked me for that. I woke up one day and started reading ‘My Book of Bible Stories’ by Jehovah Witness. People thought I was just looking at the pictures. Nobody believed until I started writing gospel music. When I relocated to Asaba, I forgot everything about music.
What have you been doing since then?
I have been working at Ibori Golf Course, Asaba, as Caddy and office assistant. I worked for Society for Family Health as Admin on contract basis. I tried to do something that will help me make some money. I have challenge of furthering my education due to financial constraints.
The last time I came here, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of National Light, Sir Chuka Nnabuife, advised me to do part-time, if the regular programme is not forth coming. So, I have made up my mind to enroll in a tertiary institution by next academic session.
In 2015, I was among the Young Catholic Students that went for convention at Agbor, Delta State. Then, I was already through with my secondary education. I went with a friend, who is an author. Every light-out, he would ask me to join him that he wants to write some motivational piece.
He asked for suggestions but I never knew he was using me to write his book. Before the programme ended, he asked if I knew that I could write; that most of the things in his book were from me.
He advised me to venture into writing. But I told him that it’s not that I don’t want to write but that I found it difficult due to lack of concentration. He said all that I needed was prayer that I should look for a priest who could help me.
I met Rev. Father Cyril Anene at Anwa Campus of Delta State University, Asaba, who had just been transferred to the chaplaincy. He said I should pray before the Blessed Sacrament and after that, I should come to him for prayer. He laid hands on my head and declared that my heart’s desire be granted.
Then the next day, I saw myself in dream writing. Waking up the next morning, I saw a book and pen near me. I picked the pen and remembered that I wrote in my dream and I heard a voice say, ‘Evidence of True of Love’.
That moment, I wrote it down and that became the title of my first novel, a fiction on romance that tilts towards motivation. I told my cousin that I wanted to write, he asked me what I knew that I wanted to write about.
The moment I began writing, the names of the novel’s characters began to pop up. The more I wrote, the more the story unveils.
While writing the book, I met former Delta State Head of Service, Dr Samuel Okporkpor. He plays golf at the Ibori Gulf Course. I told him about my book, though I haven’t gone far with the writing of the book. He requested for the manuscript and appraised it to be good work but said he would assist when the manuscript is complete.
I continued writing. I went to see the chaplain to tell Rev Father Cyril Anene about my book. From that point, he and Dr. Okporkpor at each stage helped to read and make correction of the manuscript.
How many books have you written?
I have written five books and published one; ‘Evidence of True Love’. The titles of my unpublished books are – ‘The fall of the Giants: Anukili the Great’, ‘Tears of Innocent Child’, ‘Life of Tonia the Proud Lady’ and ‘My Reason’, besides four unpublished articles. The first article is titled ‘Problems are nothing but challenges’.
I wrote on the day that I was discouraged by my brother who asked me not to waste time writing that I should do a different thing in life that will help me. At that time, I was looking for money to publish ‘Evidence of True Love’. At that point of depression, Rev. Fr Anene sent me a message.
He sends me motivational texts every morning. The message he sent that morning was ‘why you have not to quit’. I never told him anything about what transpired between my brother and I. I can’t remember the whole sentence but the theme was not to give up in life that every challenge is a phase that will go the same way it came. Since I wrote that article, I have always received invitations to talk to people.
The second article came from a question that Dr. Okporkpor asked me, ‘Who are You’. The third one, titled, ‘What are Your Success Stories’ came the day another Rev. Father asked me what I want to be; how the story of my life would be like.
That piece is about six pages. The fourth one is titled, ‘Beauty of my Dream’ and the fifth one is titled, ‘The Most Fearful Call to Answer is Death’. I never knew why I wanted to write that one but I heard a voice and wrote it down. I have been consulting many people on that but along the line, I decided to abandon it because often, people asked me if I wanted to die or have somebody that wants, so decided to abandon it.
What’s the performance of your first novel in the market?
People advised me to take it to Delta State Ministry of Education for approval for it to be recommended for schools in the state. And that means that once recommended , it will make the required sales.
The ministry officials told me I came a month after they already finished with submission of novels by authors and that I should come back in 2020. They asked me to drop a copy and to remind them in January, 2020.
They advised me to go to private schools. But the challenge is that the book wasn’t approved by the Ministry of Education. So many were reluctant to buy and can’t force their students to buy, but can only introduce it to them.
What I do is that most schools allow me to talk to their students. I use the opportunity to introduce and sell my book to them at a lower price. Beside that, I sold to non students, to an extent I sold an appreciable copies.
How do you get money to publish your books?
Engineer Ifeanyi Nkeki sponsored it. He owns a construction company. I met him at the Gulf Course. One day, he called and told me that he liked my composure. One day, his Personal Assistant asked how far I have gone with my book. Engr Ifeanyi Nkeki asked if I write and I said yes.
He told me that his daughter in primary six writes poems but she is not serious about it; that he needed someone that would encourage her. One day, he invited me to his house. I never knew he was hosting a party for his workers. He introduced me to his daughter as an author and said that he wants her to be like me.
After that, he asked me to come to his office. He asked when I would be launching my book and I told him that I haven’t published it. He asked if it was financial constraints and I said yes. He asked me to make enquiry on what it would cost that he would sponsor it. That was how ‘Evidence of True Love’ was published.
Where do you want to go with your writing?
I want to be known for being a positive influence in our world. The best you can make is to use your gift or talent to achieve that and in my own case, I want to use writing. I want to take writing seriously.
I used to tell myself that if the likes of Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie and others could be known for what they are today, I want to do my best to do what people will not only acknowledge but what will make a difference in their lives.
Are you seeking for sponsors for the publication of other books?
I plan to meet somebody for the publication of my second book, ‘The Fall of the Giant: Anukili the Great’, which I intend to publish before October this year.
I lack sponsor for it. Though, I am still awaiting approval from my King, Igwe Michael Idigo of Aguleri. He said they wanted to have a comment in the book. Two Rev. Fathers have indicated interest to write forward for the book. I want sponsors for my other books too.
What do you hope to accomplish with your writing five years from now?
My people don’t want to hear that I would spend most of time writing. It is one of the reasons I’m finding it difficult to realise my dream. All these while that I have been at Anwa Campus, only two persons knew that I’m not a graduate.
Most often, I get discouraged in events that have to do with students because of my limited education. There was a time I was invited by a lecturer at Igbariam Campus of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University. Then they were having their exam.
I asked myself if these people could be there, what stops me. Sometimes, when I look at all these things, I want to abandon writing. I started my first book in September 2015 and between that time and now, I was able to achieve this. If I can achieve this in five years, I can do more in five years time.
What is your advice to people who are having similar challenges like you?
My advice to them is that before we were born, God has already given us gifts to build our future. I always believe in dreams. Not everybody must be a writer or an artist. Dr. Okporkpor told me that he could write but not speak.
Everybody has a dream that God has given him or her. My advice to them is that they should follow their dreams, no matter the challenge confronting them.
Before I started writing, I found it difficult to be happy. Because I decided to pursue my dream, I’m a happy person. Writing has exposed me to many people.
I wouldn’t have had this interaction with National Light if not for writing. I will advise them to follow their dreams as we have different things to pursue. Don’t do things because others are doing it.
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