- ‘If you want to be successful as a writer, pursue excellence’ – Eazy
- ‘Turn your God-given talents to money-spinners’ – Nura Ahmed
- ‘Write for God and humanity’ – Richard Ali | #WednesdayWritersWorld
Richard Ali, author of The Anguish and Vigilance of Things, says authors can become rich if they join writing with other professional works
Hello, you are welcome to #WednesdayWritersWorld and we are pleased to have you here. Please may we meet you?
I’m Richard Ali, a wearer of many hats. Lawyer by training, writer by vocation, an expert in preventing and countering violent extremism (PCVE), member of the Jalada Africa artists’ collective based in Nairobi, board member at BabishaiNiwe Poetry Foundation which awards Africa’s only in-Africa continental poetry prize. I am Ajuma’s first son. I do some law practice in Abuja. I was born in Kano but my upbringing was in Jos and I consider that to be my hometown. I’ve lived in Abuja since 2014. I love to travel and I’ve seen some of Germany, Italy, Morocco and most of the countries of East Africa—Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda particularly.
Why do you write?
A need to express the world as I see it and as it should be! To write is to focus a mirror to the times you live in, giving personal and political interpretations of the times, for the benefit of society. I also believe that stories are very important and that if one does not write and set out one’s stories, we cannot turn around and complain of being misrepresented or even unrepresented, in other people’s stories, or in other people’s stories about us. So, there is the issue of self and group representation as well.
What’s your writing genre?
Prose fiction, poetry, essays.
Fans of your works have accused you of depicting too much about women? Why your obsession with women?
Surprised to hear that! However, I am a lover of women. Without shame! I have a mother and sisters and aunts and they are the most important people to me. I also believe that the earth is female, hence the idea of Mother Nature. I am aware that most of the religions of Nigeria before the European and the Arab came with their religion had a central role for fertility cults and that on the rituals of these cults, headed by women and girls, did the survival of communities depend. I am a descendant of those communities.
Where have your works been published? And how many contests have you won lately?
The 2013 novel, City of Memories, was recently re-issued by Parresia Books. The 2019 poetry collection was issued by Konya Shamsrumi. It is titled The Anguish and Vigilance of Things.
What inspired your first published work?
A beggar child on the street and the realization that we are all like him, all run the risk of slipping through the cracks and down the drain would go our dreams and all we hope to achieve. This inspired Buddha Child, a poem published in 2004 in African Writing.
Describe your writing style in one word?
What writing styles are easy for you to pull off?
All! Depends on what I am writing.
Aside from being a writer what other career would you settle for?
A teacher in a rural school somewhere!
What has been the best part of your writing journey?
Travelling and reading to strangers who intuitively get it.
What do you think is the best way for writers of this time to make money?
Get a job or become a merchant. In Nigeria, and in Africa, writing is a labour of love, something one does because one has something to say and one believes it is important to go on and say these things. Writing is a thing one does fisabilillah, and from an abstract love for “the people”.
In five years time, what do you think would become of Nigerian writers and the demand for their works?
They will still be writing, and those who buy books will still be buying books. Sadly, there will continue to be no enough books of quality being written and less people that would buy them for various reasons.
If you were to be in a gathering where you are to address first-time writers/ authors who want to profit from their writings, what would you say to them?
Become a professional journalist and write your swill each week, you’ll draw a salary. Become a blogger and find a niche that gives you a lot of visits, you’ll be paid for advertising. Write a commissioned biography that whitewashes or at least corrects an impression of a wealthy person and get a cheque. But be sure to leave any moral scruples you have aside. Write web copy, write ads and if you’re good enough, your talent will take you places. But for the love of God, first of all, write well. And that comes from reading a lot and caring about what good writing is and how good writing comes to be that way.
Lastly, if one wants to get published by Parresia Publishers, how does he/she go about it?
Send in a pitch or a submission when the submissions window is open.
Thank you for enlightening us today!
You are welcome!