A poet and a novelist cast a literary spell

By Elvis Iyorngurum
Two writers, Paul Liam and Theophilus Abbah were guests of the Abuja Writers’ Forum at the literary organisation’s Guest Writer Session for the month of February, 2014. The event is usually a gathering of writers and writing enthusiasts who come together to listen to authors of published books read from their work. It presents the audience with the opportunity
to interact with the guest writers to get first hand insight into the story behind their books. In recent times, the event has also featured other genres of creative arts like fashion design, visual arts and filmmaking.

The February edition of the Guest Writer Session was another package presented to book lovers in the usual fun, excitement and education that is an enduring tradition of the monthly event.

After a rendition of the national anthem, Paul Liam mounted the front seat to read from his debut collection of poems titled Indefinite Cravings. Paul Liam is the Assistant Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Niger State chapter. He is also the Public Relations Manager of the Hilltoparts Centre also in Minna, Niger state. A prolific writer, poet, critic and essayist, Liam has written and published several works in the national dailies. He also writes and reports for the Niger state government through publications such as The Interpreter and Impact Magazine etc.

While responding to questions from the audience, Liam said he got inspired to write the poems in the collection by an experience he once had when he found himself in a police cell. He said for the period he was in detention for an offence he did not commit, he wrote the poems mentally and got them onto paper as soon as he regained his freedom. Explaining the influence of his environment on his writing, he said he comes from the barracks where
one is exposed to all manner of experiences ranging from the good to the ugly and such an environment offers one a lot to write about.

Theophilus Abbah is a past winner of the Forum for African Investigative Reporters’ Editors’ Courage Award and a 2012 finalist of the Wole Soyinka Investigative Journalism Award in the print category. Among his honours is a nomination in 2013 for the ANA award for prose fiction. One of the judges in the competition described his work as ‘highly engaging and explosive.’

When Abbah took the front seat at the reading, he drew his presentation from his 500-page novel, Lost in the Wind. He was praised by respondents from the audience for his engaging narrative and his depiction of the current religious tensions that have marred the fabric of Nigeria’s unity. A female respondent described her experience as a little girl in Eastern
Nigeria during the country’s civil war. She said the gory images of kwashiorkor-stricken children and the memories of men who simply disappeared and were never found lives with her forever and the pain they evoke is always fresh like the events happened just yesterday. She emphasized that more of books like Abbah’s Lost in the Wind are needed to educate our population on the horrors of war and the need for peaceful mutual co-existence.

A member of the audience sought to know Abbah’s mode of publishing to which he answered that he had self-published his work but after thorough editing. On if his work could be classified as historical fiction, the award-winning journalist answered in the affirmative.

Before rounding up their presentations, the two writers responded to the opportunity to read at the forum. Abbah said he had resisted the urge to do a public launch of his book and that he was glad that the AWF had presented him with the opportunity for an event that seemed to him like a public introduction of his work. He expressed his deep appreciation for the
opportunity and also the valuable input that the community of writers present offered to his work.

On his part, Liam was not less grateful. He said he was particularly delighted for the opportunity to read his work to the hearing of literary enthusiasts and seasoned writers and he considered the event a stepping ground for his writing career.

The event thereafter progressed into the traditional segment of a raffle draw through which members of the audience have a chance to win free book prizes. The raffle draw is the forum’s way of giving out books to promote Nigerian literature and also contribute to the revival of the country’s reading culture.

The Abuja Writers’ Forum is a foremost literary society based in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja and founded with the vision of leading the way in efforts to re-awaken the book culture in Nigeria by celebrating Nigerian writers and indeed writers across the world, promoting reading and writing in the country and also giving writers and intending writers the opportunity to
nurture the talent to maturity.

The Guest Writer Forum holds at Nanet Suites, Ekiti House, Abuja. Meanwhile the forum meets every Sunday at Hamdala Plaza, Asokoro, Abuja for critique sessions and also has a workshop series on creative writing in the genres of poetry, prose and drama. All activities of the forum are open to the public and the opportunities of taking part in them are available for all established and prospective writers.

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