Posts Tagged ‘Elnathan John’

In the last few days I’ve chronicled the Book Sprint orchestrated by Heinrich Boll Stiftung but facilitated by people (Barbara, Simone, and filed by Louis) from Links to those posts are below.

7th – 7th (a.ka. The Day We Got There) – Chronicling the Book Sprint

8th – 8th (a.k.a Day One) – Getting to know you #BookSprint

9th – 9th (a.k.a Day Two) – The Nitty Gritty Stuff #BookSprint

10th – 10th (a.k.a Day Three) – We have characters! #BookSprint

11th and 12th – 11th and 12th (a.k.a Days 4 and 5 ) – Life! Our baby is born! #BookSprint


Do you want to know what I got up to the next day? You’re in the right place.

Yes! Yes! Yes! Woke up still on a high from yesterday, albeit with a fresh headache (thanks to our #TurnUp last night, lol). `Went down to brekky, copped the last two boxes of Special K (since I was the only person interested in the thing), and after gisting with Simone, Elnathan, and Kalu for a bit in our workroom, it was go home time.


Went off to my sister’s for her to add up the figures in my time sheet for a gig I worked (I am rubbish with math), and then there was the ‘short skirt discussion’ with a policewoman I don’t have the energy or space to recount.


Noticed my dongle (Etisalat) had stopped working on my mac so I went to a service center. Ended up in their mobile booth – never been in one before and extreme dilapidation/extremely poor maintenance aside, it’s a really good idea – where I was told I would be sorted. I wasted two hours of my life there without getting the help I sought, short version including phrases like their technician not knowing how MacBook’s work. Long version would include gratitude to the technician for trying, and his patience, and finally for accepting he didn’t know what on earth he was doing! I would talk about Etisalat being negligent in employing technicians who don’t know the spectrum of their environment.


Dropped off the time sheet, grabbed a snack, then pushed off to church to see my darling nephew Boo Boo because I knew he’d be asleep by the time I’d go home. Played with him the rest of the time service held for (((photo))), and then I went off to play catch-up with besto (who’d been in town since Sunday).


One hour later (including a call to JT), I tried in vain to reach Pearl. SMH. A bit frustrated and incredibly hungry, I went off to Yahuza, got suya and one incredible banana and strawberry smoothie, and then it was home time!


Fortunately there was power, so chicken, smoothie, and antibiotics later, it was time to pack! Yep, I’m off to England tomorrow.



Today was really busy. I think we’d also started getting tired of being cooped up in the house – I know I was! The food was still crap (it was substandard everyday to be honest), creating perfect characters was tiring, and I missed my nephew terribly! Plus, Pearl and I were now firmly in the grip of the evil flu, and I think Rafeeat was starting to sniff a bit as well. Or was it Kalu?

This book must be completed! Men at work...

This book must be completed! Men at work…

Writing collaboratively also meant loving and leaving your characters, and I remember Elnathan and I had a bit of thing because I felt like his editing of my character was a bit too much. To be honest, I think writing with others is a humbling experience, and one that I’ve learned to approach with an open mind for a million reasons, chief of which is the fact that no one has the monopoly of knowledge. No one.

On the bright side, Pastor Ekwueme and Madam Oluoma were born today (they are characters in the book), and am I proud of them or what?!

Evening... We worked till 9pm everyday. Started at 9am after breakfast, then a break for lunch, dinner, maybe half an hour personal time in the evenings, and then it'd be back to writing, writing, writing!

Evening… We worked till 9pm everyday. Started at 9am after breakfast, then a break for lunch, dinner, maybe half an hour personal time in the evenings, and then it’d be back to writing, writing, writing!

We bonded just a bit more – just a bit more. Sometime before I slept, it occurred to me that 12th was the end of the sprint, and I knew I’d miss everyone. Really  miss them. I also worried about the bits that hadn’t been sorted – title of the book, cohesion of all the stories, graphics, those kinds of things.

We’ll see.



Race against time, book should be published today! And another character was born this morning, the ineffable Bonaventure! I’m sure I don’t have any friends in real life called that; I like and get amused by the name!

I snapped at one (maybe two) people today, really felt ashamed afterwards. Not in my defense or anything, but by this morning I was unofficially ending a 2nd week with the flu, and the constant throbbing in my head was driving me mad. So, I admit I was short with a few people, and this here is an apology!! Please forgive me, I don’t know what to do, please forgive me, I can’t stop loving you! Who sang that song again?

By evening, we agreed on a title, how we wanted to be presented in the book, we agreed on a cover, and after we’d been back and forth with our designer a bit, our baby was ready to be born! Did you know Nigeria had a ‘national bird’? Incredible, but we do!

On the left you can see the different options for a cover...

On the left you can see the different options for a cover…

5 days of blood, sweat, and tears, and we had a book! Whoop! Turn up!

Talk about joy and rejoicing, grooving our hearts and stress away at XO (thank you Oche for being such a wonderful host), and that 4am shawarma! I kind of understood what people say about the sight of a baby erasing all the labor pains – with this experience I can so relate!

And so I give to you, our baby, NAMELESS!!

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Yes!!! Finally!

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Don’t think we could rejoice enough… we did this pose like 3000 times!

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One more for the road, yes please! Big shout out again to Louis for all the photos! Can’t wait to see the full documentary!


Available for download here – and printed copies available (for free) on request.

Massive thank you to Christine, Ghida, and the entire team at Heinrich Boll for the opportunity…how about a book tour next year? Lights, cameras, red carpets and things? Yes please!!

*Sorry this series was interrupted yesterday. My laptop screen was destroyed (destroying my day with it), and I’ve only just sorted that. Details later, but let’s get on with this.

When I first thought of the title for this post, first thing that came to my mind was Alvin in Alvin and the Chipmunks saying, “we have made fire” in the movie. For us, it is “we have characters”!

If you’re wondering what I’m on about, then I’m chronicling the events surrounding the Heinrich Boll sponsored Book Sprint. The day before we ‘checked in’ is here, and days one and two are here and here. You’re welcome!

So. Today, we rebelled. What!! I think those of us who went out to lunch had just about had it with the food. So, at lunch time we went out to Iya Oyo (hi-five someone if you know it), and had a glorious afternoon swallowing amala with ewedu, gbegiri, and our ‘choice of protein’. As an aside, ever been in a restaurant and they asked you that? Always makes me smile!

Anyway, our food was awesome, I even bought some beans and plantain which I took back to the hotel and added to my meals. And it got even better! My brother in-law dropped by (totally unplanned) and he had my nephew! The one and only Boo Boo! Whoop! At first he looked at me funny, didn’t let me carry him, and I understood – I’ve been so irregular and I can imagine he wasn’t quite sure why he was meeting me at the amala place and I wasn’t the one who took him there (Boo Boo loves amala). Then suddenly, he said my name, and we started playing! I love that little munchkin to pieces walai. He cried when we had to leave, broke my heart. 😦 😦 😦

I went to get my passport (totally different story about how unhelpful people can be), and then I went to the pharmacy to buy antibiotics and some stuff to help with the almost two-weeks-old flu I’d had. By the way, Pearl started sniffing this morning, I feel so bad 😦

Then I went to buy a radiator cover for JT, can’t tell for the life of me how I lost mine (not even surprised, how else would you know it had to do with me if there wasn’t any drama?)

The team missed me so much @Xeenarh tweeted me to say so, and back at our lodgings, the rest of the day was spent writing, bringing all our ideas to life collaboratively, and then bonding over drinks and dinner!

There was the incident with our WIFI not being able to take over 10 people, and we had to change our password (because the hotel people had it and even though they’d signed out on their devices, we just wanted to be sure). Do you want to know what the new password became? Naah… I can’t say. Ok, maybe I can. Naah! I can’t!

Stress ball... I can't imagine how many times Xeenarh aligned all the squares, she's so good at it!

Stress ball… I can’t imagine how many times Xeenarh aligned all the squares, she’s so good at it!

We also started filming interviews today…atleast I filmed mine today. I’ve had a look at the video, and apart from a strand of hair that kept falling from my weave, I think mine looked ok! Show y’all later k?

Do the stories make sense? Are they forced? Questions, questions...

Do the stories make sense? Are they forced? Questions, questions…

By bedtime, characters like Jamila, Iquo, Yaro, Alhaji Azeez, Goldie the baby girl (lol), etc. had been born and given direction. Progress!

The evening and the morning, the third day!


Sausages and eggs for breakfast! Yes baby! Even though I had to ask that mine be microwaved. I don’t get it; why do these guys serve us lukewarm food? In the name of everything pure, we’re the only ones here! And then somehow they ALWAYS forget to turn off the airconditioning in the dining area (two split units which directly face the food) regardless of how many times we say so! Argh!!

Food over, work picked up in earnest. Did I mention we have a remote team working for/with us? There’s Henrik van Leeuwen our fabulous illustrator, Raewyn Whyte who did all the copy editing, Juan Gutierrez readily available to provide tech support, and then Julien Taquet who designed the book! I’m not sure I remember but if I’m right all our remote support guys were in different countries, different timezones sef!

Yeah, especially Raewyn who went to work each night as we went to bed, and then we’d wake up to feedback from her. Really cool huh!

Anyway, we were also introduced to the software we’d be working with/collaborating on called “Pubsweet”. What does that name sound like to you? Not even going to share what one of us said it sounded like, naughty children! Technology always amazes me though, that’s all I can say about it.

Today we spent some time outside, talking (and writing on more post its) the types of people we wanted to have in our book. We did it in a funny way. So again, we listed all the characteristics we wanted our characters to have – age, circumstance, education, profession, status etc. (on single sheets), and then we started forming characters from them. That’s when it all came together for me.

That's Rafeeat adding to our board of characters! To be honest, some of them just just remained on that board... no way we could have brought everyone to life!

That’s Rafeeat adding to our board of characters! To be honest, some of them just just remained on that board… no way we could have brought everyone to life!

We had an unending supply of post its!!

You can see we had an unending supply of post its!!

Lord knows what I was saying there... I feel like Elnathan felt I wasn't making much sense! Look at his face!

Lord only knows what I was saying there… I feel like Elnathan felt I wasn’t making much sense! Look at his face!

I mean I already knew (we’d agreed) that the issues we’d highlighted yesterday would be channeled through the characters, but it was nice to actually get there! You know, we’d whispered to one of the facilitators that we couldn’t wait to actually start writing, but the process leading up to this point really made things super clear, and easy! Characterisation was fun, I really enjoyed how we gave some people multiple problems in the name of creating them!

We’d been working in pairs all along, and today I switched from Elnathan (who’d started living the baby boy life which chose him rather than him choosing it, lol) and I started working with Azeenarh. Lovely, lovely, lovely girl. “Living the baby boy/girl life” has become a thing in our ‘house’ now, and I’m sure we’ve used it over 2 million times! Ok, I might be exaggerating about that, what isn’t in doubt though is the fact that it made me laugh every time!

Bonding in the common room (after we got off) was tons of fun, really nice getting to know everyone just a bit more, laughing (we laughed A LOT), and doing every other thing but characterisation and reading each other’s stories. We listened to music too, not even going to repeat the songs that were sang (hello self-censorship) but it was good fun.

Then it was bed time, so good night!

P:S – I was worried different times during the day. I’m still coughing, sniffing, and I really fear I’m going to pass this on to someone. Sigh.

PPS: Massive shout out to  Luis Antonio Delgado who took all the lovely photos and made a film off the entire event!! I haven’t seen it yet but you will as soon as we do!

Good morning! I slept very well thank you, woke up feeling very rested. There’s something about the way I’ve slept in the last couple days that’s made me sleep a bit better. Maybe go to Lagos a bit more often perhaps?

Woke up, caught the end of a cartoon while I got ready, and then I went for breakfast. Again, thoroughly disappointed. This time though, I complained. Didn’t just mean to whinge (and I wasn’t the only one who complained), but I’m now taking medication to clear this week-old flu and for the amount of mental exertion I see in the offing, the least I expect is a decent breakfast! Besides, I’m a growing child…lol…

Thankful to our Care Manager (that’s what I called Ghida in my head) who’d gone over and beyond with the provisions she’d laid out in our kitchenette. Cereal, chocolate, biscuits, fruits, unending supplies of tea and coffee, she even brought medication (we’ll get to that bit soon). I ended up having Special K every morning till we left – thank you Ghida!!!

Breakfast over, we piled into the conference room, our work space for the next few days, and Barbara introduced officially what a Book Sprint was, and all of that information is here. She told us how ours would work (it’s a secret, wait for the book), and then we went round the room with short introductions. Here’s a bit about everyone, all eight of us!

Rafeeat Aliyu () – Blogger, writer of fiction and non-fiction, history nerd.

Elnathan John () – A full-time writer.

Yas Niger () – Blogger, writer (of a self-published book).

Pearl Osibu () – Blogger, writer, designer.

Chioma Agwuegbo () – Blogger, writer, aunty to the cutest baby on earth.

Kalu Aja () – Financial planner and coach.

Azeenarh Mohammed () – Noisemaker, privacy enthusiast, digital security trainer.

Fola Lawal ( ) – Publisher.

And then our facilitators!

Barbara Ruhling () – Book Sprint facilitator, filmmaker.

Simone Poutnik ()- Multi-stakeholders collaboration facilitator.

Yep, that’s us!

Then we talked a lot about our book what we wanted it to be – fiction or not, narrated or not, dialogue or full on prose, on and on and on.

I really liked the exercises (I must say), even though the next event saddened me. We wrote out on post-its all the issues we wanted to see represented in our book, and then we grouped them under broader headings like religion, state structure, corruption, etc. That exercise was almost emotional for me cos it was like unpacking a bag full of bad memories, hanging them out, and just reliving them again.

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 08.38.46

And this was just one sheet of the things we listed!!

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Figuring out what issue would work under what was a task and half!

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 08.38.17

Stop and think…

What was interesting though, was seeing that all our issues are so interwoven! So, here’s a random example – if we fixed the judiciary, stiffer sentences for crimes would ensure a deterrent, and the society would be a tad safer/easier to live and do business in. However, the executive and legislative have to ‘put down self’ to empower the judiciary. Easy right? But when you consider that half the people who should be in jail for one crime or the other are in the E and L, it becomes a bit more tricky. Even trickier is the mindset of the ‘common man’ who lambasts the E, L, and J but sees nothing wrong in bribing his way out of stuff. Do you expect integrity from that kind of person when/if they get into a position of power? If you are dishonest with a pound, you will be dishonest with a thousand pounds. Round and round this mulberry bush, ladies and gentlemen. Sigh.

It was about evening this time (notice I didn’t dignify lunch with a mention), and people were wired! All that talk and writing! So we all took a walk, laughed all the way – to the politician amongst us paying for the fruits we wanted, to seeing a private house with traffic lights (Nigerians are the best walai) – we laughed all the day! Of course I took a picture. What!!??!!

2014-11-08 17.43.09

Ah ha! Before I forget, our lodgings are around the house of the Inspector General of Police. Guess what? We weren’t allowed to walk on his side of the road (where his home is). “For security reasons”, his people said. Was hilarious, the banter we had with the mobile policemen but when you think of it, how much sadder can we get?

I would be embarrassed to live there to be honest – tank parked outside, mortar barriers, floodlights, and mobile policemen perpetually at the ready. Why? Whatever happened to protect and serve? Are they protecting the Nigerian people like this? Why is it normal for one person to be guarded this way, when our brothers and sisters are sitting ducks for Boko Haram in the North East?


Dinner was manageable, nothing I remember. We did a bit more writing, and day one was officially over! Four days to go!

A bit of a background to the series starting today. I was recruited by Heinrich Boll to participate in something called a Book Sprint. It involved 8 writers, five days in seclusion, two facilitators, and one film maker to produce a book. All we had? A potential book title. Everything else? We’d have to figure out in the five days.

This Book Sprint ran from the 8th of November (exactly one week today) to the 12th. Over the next few days, I will chronicle the days spent at our lodgings. Ready? Here’s day one!!

So I woke up, feeling just a bit better than the day before. Do you remember what my yesterday was? Of course you do! If you don’t, read this (BrandiQ and All Souls Church – A day in the life of a strategist!). you’re welcome!

So, back to the 7th, I ate my leftover lunch from yesterday (beans and catfish and plantain), Terra Kulture is the truth!

There was the incident with me getting locked in (and yours truly only noticed when I was at the door and didn’t have the key) but thankfully, I made my flight. Thank you Arik! And big thank you to the hostesses who gave me all the water I needed on the flight, I was totally dehydrated.

Cabin pressure aggravated my inflamed tonsils and blocked nostrils – not a very sexy me getting off the plane sniffing, I can imagine people gave me just a little more space than normal.

Met Pearl and Kalu and we jumped in the car waiting to take us to our lodgings Driver? Funny guy. He was driving us and carrying on this really long conversation on the phone – yes, I told him to please not talk on the phone (never mind it is dangerous, his voice was so loud)!

Got to Dullion Suites, and first off I was disappointed there wasn’t a pool. Yep, I was upset there wasn’t a pool. Anyway, I settled in, and then I had to push off to my sister’s to exchange the things I had in my suitcase for clean, fresh clothes and things. Also, needed to pick up some documents and get JT. Want to see my room?

Do you like my ankara shorts? Love em! Comfortable as anything!

Do you like my ankara shorts? Love em! Comfortable as anything!

2014-11-13 12.16.58

Decent… Amen to white sheets, and not making my bed myself for the next few days!

Got home, there was no power (electricity in Nigeria is one big unfortunate joke), and there was another incident with my car keys so I was stuck.

Bg thank you to my sister who dropped me back at our lodgings. Was nice to meet everyone (details about them tomorrow), and then it was dinner time.

To be honest, I wasn’t impressed with it; don’t think any of us were. At all. I didn’t even take a picture (and y’all know I photograph just about everything I eat). Fatush salad was good, but that was it.

Went out with Elnathan, hung out with a few people. Good, interesting conversation about our darling Nigeria, with all its proclivities and current troubles.

Got back to the hotel, all plans for #TurnUp trumped by a lingering headache and exhaustion, I was in bed and asleep by midnight. Work begins tomorrow. Good night!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote on Speaking Out and I said that if we were intended to exist without each other it would have been one person per continent or country. But, we need each other to survive, and it is foolishness to suffer in silence when help is just a phone call or conversation away.

I had cause to ‘walk that talk’ recently. I had to seek help with some work and it was such a learning experience I thought I’d share so you would have a practical example. Also so that you wouldn’t just relate that post to mental or emotional issues, it applies to just about every aspect of our lives.

I’m particularly happy about this because simple as it is (now that I know better obviously) I could have decided to go it alone, and probably made mistakes in a more public place.

Ok, so I had to hand in an article as part of my Future Challenges commitment, and the more I wrote, the more it occurred to me that it was becoming a satirical piece. I finished writing it, loved it (how do you not love the work of your hands), and I was going to hand it in when I told myself it would be nice to get it vetted first.

I decided to send it to a friend who would know, and who I’d seen critique other forms of writing (fingers in the air if you’re an Abuja person and you ever attended GAP meetings). I rang @Elnathan (of the famous ‘How To’ Series), and he graciously agreed to have a look.

In 24 hours he’d sent it back (whoop), and it was my very first lesson in writing satire! I was so chuffed by the experience I saved some of the notes he made on the work and just feel like sharing them with you!

  • …..The whole idea of satire is that you assume that the ridiculous situation is. Using quotation marks weakens the satire – it is a bit like seeing the camera man’s hands while watching a movie.
  • Use only three dots for ellipsis (I’m always guilty).
  • Remove the quotation marks in ‘illustrious’. Remember, in satire, you mean the ridiculous things you say. The exaggerations, and sarcasm employed for effect are taken seriously and done without apology.

That article ‘My new chosen career’ has since gone live for FC and I’m very happy!

Moral of the story? There’s nothing wrong with first acknowledging that you don’t know something, finding someone who’s more knowledgeable than you are, and then swallowing your pride enough to ask for their help! No shame in that at all; matter of fact, you’ll be better for it.