Yes! This is a letter from me to you! I figured I hadn’t written a letter in a while and instead of doing a Circum-Flash or a Circum-Alert, I’d just go with a personal tete-a-tete with you! Especially since I have some really exciting news that I’d like to share :)
I believe the hardest promises we make are the ones we make to ourselves. Precisely because you have to live with that voice in your head that’s counting down the minutes until you fulfill your promise and that bashes you like crazy when you don’t deliver. So, I promised myself sometime back that I would get to work on writing my very first book for publication – ideally before I hit the silver jubilee. And now, time’s a-ticking and my conscience is guilt-tripping me into overdrive, so I had to get to work on delivering. I started writing this morning and I am super SUPER excited!
A little background: I have actually written a couple of books. No, not in my mind. In reality. They’ve just never been published, and I’ve never pushed them because I figured it’s all part of the preparation. The first one I wrote with my great friend Abena Anoff of Girl, It’s Not Just You in JSS 2 while at Alsyd Academy. The less said about that book the better LOL. When I think about who I am now, I figure that book could be counted as a “disgrace”. Funny thing is we both think so. Actually, let me be kind to the younger, naive, Jemi & Abby. It was well-suited to who we were at the time: teenagers trying to make sense of the world and thinking everything foreign was better. Long story short, “The Spiker Sisters” (Can you believe the name even?) was heavily influenced by the Baby Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High and the other stuff we used to read back in the day.
The second book was really targeted and was written during the leap year between finishing SSS in Ghana and waiting to get your results and go to university. I was working as an Administrative Asst. and Editor at a start-up publishing company in Accra and my boss said, ‘Hey, feel free to work on a writing project of your own if you’re interested!’ Such a swell boss! So yea, I got in touch with my friends Afi and Mash and “The ’16’ Journal” was borne. Basically that takes a journal/diary format and relays the struggles and triumphs of adolescence. And… there are excerpts of that right here on Circumspect! Why it didn’t get published? I had to leave Ghana to study in the U.S. and I guess sponsorship fell through as well.
So then, I’ve been wanting to write a book, but got busy with school, work, life. And honestly too, I think I was a bit afraid. You know how we psyche ourselves out of the things we really want to do – our dreams – before we even begin to do them? Yeah, that and the fact that people would be like “I can’t wait for your first book”. Eeek! I panicked! Anyway, I eventually started on one and the thing is, I had the plot all figured out. I knew exactly what the themes would be, who the characters were, I even had the title ready. Lol. I was working on it….and then I met Chimamanda Adichie in D.C.
Got to interact with her and I asked her about the process of writing a book. Precisely, do you already know what you’re writing before you write it? Like, do you have the themes, titles. Are your characters all planned out? She advised: Go with the flow. Don’t force a story. Don’t tell yourself that you’re going to write political fiction or historical fiction or semi-fiction or whatever. Sit down, write, and go where your heart leads you. Beautiful words of inspiration huh? Well I freaked out. I just stopped working on “Broken” (the title of the already figured out book lol. There’s an entire concept behind the title too!) altogether lol. Don’t get me wrong, I know that novel has great potential and all, but maybe its too forced, and maybe its not for right now.
After a while, I knew what I needed to do. I had to acquaint myself with current contemporary African writers, since that’s the “group” I imagined my writing would fit under. And you know, there are a TON of amazing young African writers out there – Chimamanda Adichie (The Thing Around Your Neck), Ayesha Haruna-Attah (Harmattan Rain), Myne Whitman (A Heart To Mend), Binyavanga Wainaina (How To Write About Africa), Uwem Akpan (Say You’re One of Them) and so on – so I got to ‘work’ (ha!) reading their stuff, paying attention to the flow of words, the descriptives and so on. It was fun to do and definitely gave me a lot to think about. I also talked to a young Senegalese blogger, fashion-enthusiast and author who’s working on her new book – Charlotte Seck (Sa Vie Entre Luxe et Humanitaire) and she gave me tons of tips and has been egging me on! (Thanks babe :) ) My lovely Afro-Optimistic sister Arame Tall also gave her vote of confidence after reading the first couple of pages of “Broken”.
So yea, this morning I wake up earlier than planned and I’m laying in bed thinking “Why am I awake at this time? Int nothing specific to do.” And then I remember that I had ‘promised’ myself I would start work on my book. I’m like, but I don’t know what to write about! I have nothing at all. Voice in my head is like, “Really? Think back to that day in English class when you decided to ‘push the envelope’ on your writing. What was that about?”Basically, we had a report-writing class in Wesley Girls and I was looking at the template for writing a police/investigative report and I was bored senseless. I wanted to do something different, something fresh, something…dangerous? Lol. Well, I took a risk and it turned out pretty good, apparently. I think I have it somewhere in storage back at home. But anyways, I’ve thought my first book would be about a lot of things – usually about development – but this morning was the first time I thought it should be a detective/mystery novel. Although if you think about, it was ‘mystery’ report that pushed me to take more risks with my writing. Alors, that’s what it’s gonna be primarily, with a dash of love and development lol.
So there! Now that I have done the unthinkable and tweeted my intentions, there’s no turning back LOL. And hopefully, the universe will conspire with me on this and make it a reality, inshAllah. I actually already started writing it on the bumpy road to work and the story is building up in my mind. Needless to say, I’m restless with anticipation and I hope you are too!!! As Alicia Keys puts it, “If I can touch the sky, I’d risk the fall just to know how it feels to fly!” Much love, peace and blessings!
P.S. If you know of any potential publishers or writing resources, kindly forward on :) Also, I dunno how this is gonna affect my writing on Circumspect, but don’t be alarmed if you don’t see too many updates – I’m working on something much better for y’all :)
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.