‘If I don’t write, I run mad’ – Femi Morgan | #WednesdayWritersWorld

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This entry is part 8 of 9 in the series WednesdayWritersWorld S01

Femi Morgan, author of Renegade and curator of Artmosphere, believes that writers have more to do in order to convert readers to their works.

You are on Memorila’s #WednesdayWritersWorld. May we meet you?

Femi Morgan is a writer, arts curator and creative entrepreneur. He is the author of five books of poetry and the curator of Artmosphere, a culture and conversation event. Femi Morgan was longlisted for the BN Poetry Prize in 2015. His poems and writings have been published online and elsewhere. He lives in Lagos like a recluse.

Why do you write?

I write because if I don’t write, I will run mad overnight. Writing is a vehicle for a lot of things, sometimes it is to start conversation, and it could be to respond to a philosophical question or a problematic motif in society. Writing could be a playground, a battlefront or a platform for advocacy for me. There is a sense in which writing is a religion for me because I can’t live without reading and writing – yet a lot of my writings are trashed. I can say only 5% of my work has been ‘exhibited’ because I can be spontaneous about first drafts but very slow with other drafts. Writing, for me is not for any braggadocio or any claims to being the greatest intellectual, it is just an asserted freedom to express and engage society.

Where and when did you cut your writing teeth?

I have been writing for a long time. I started with reading my father’s books. He had access to books donated from an organisation in Britain in his college day, so I had access to some history books, autobiographies that had nothing to do with me. I also grew up in a space where classic western and Nigerian music interjected with spiritual songs. So I started writing my own songs before stumbling on Niyi Osundare’s works. It was Osundare that changed my direction in 1998, but I never published a book of poems until 2008.

‘If I don’t write, I run mad’ – Femi Morgan - #WednesdayWritersWorld
‘If I don’t write, I run mad’ – Femi Morgan – #WednesdayWritersWorld

What is your best writing genre?

I believe that I can write anything. It would take continuous investment in reading and the trials of writing to go full circle with the genres. So I think that it would be best that I describe it as the genre that I have invested a lot of my creative prowess in the most, which ultimately has, after a long time brought to me existential rewards – that would be poetry.

How many published works do you have and where can they be accessed?

I have five works. All poetry. They are Silent Drummings (2008)–out of print. Phases: Poetry of People (eds 2015), an anthology of poems, its digital footprint is online for free download.  There is also Songs of Travel (2016), which can be downloaded on Memorila and other platforms for free. In 2019, two of my books of poetry were published by Baron’s Cafe, Renegade, and Whispers. You can order paperbacks or digital copies on Baronscafe. You will also find digital footprints and access to the books elsewhere online. I’m currently working on another book but it is best not to jinx it before it becomes fully formed.

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Apart from writing, what other profession would you have chosen?

Hmm. Is being a philosopher part of the professional options? You know a creative person is like a spirit that can become anything. The options for me are quite many. I would love to be a medical doctor for example, but I have no iota of resistance to putrid smells, blood and emotional numbness. I would love to be a visual artist but I can’t draw to save my life. I don’t mind being a stay-at-home dad if the woman can pay my groom price. But I inherited the gift to sell from my grandmothers, so I could be a marketing executive. A lawyer could be a philosopher too, depending on the principalities that control the politics of the courtroom as pertains to the rule of law, or a food taster for the president of Nigeria is another option.

My long hours in the bathroom days are over, it would have been a good incubator for a music career, but maybe songwriter would do. I think I’m naturally drawn to any profession that will give me the opportunity to interact and contribute to meaning making. A lecturer, a clergyman, a babalawo, a singer, a critic, a community relations and governance person, a journalist, the list is long. A writer can wear many hats and still be a writer.

What is Baron’s Café about?

Baron’s Cafe is the publishing imprint of Fairchild Media. Baron’s Cafe is interested in avantgarde literary works and has been in existent for three years. Fairchild Media on the other hand is a PR, Content Management and Creative Enterprise firm that has been around for much longer. Baron’s Cafe has published digital and paperback versions of titles and also distributes digital and paperback versions to trusted platforms across the country. We are also working on distributing across English-Speaking Africa through digital and bookstore partnerships.

I do not run Baron’s Cafe alone. In fact, I’m fast becoming an advisor because publishing operations has been transferred to the publishing executives.

What does it take for one to get his/her books published through you?

The Baron’s Cafe website www.baronscafe.com has a submission page that would prompt the executives to start work and give you a response in weeks.

How do you get inspirations for your writings?

All inspirations come from God. They are brought to us in different ways, we ignore some and we catch some. I get inspired by reading great works, and sometimes it’s just an epiphany that harpoons upon my mind as I meander through daily life. Sometimes, it is a random statement from some conversation that recalls itself for the sake of crafting post-memory. I’m conscious not to make my writings about me because crafting existential nexus that tells blunt poetic truths and justice is important to me, a lot. I’m just the vehicle that God uses. When I’m not too busy to listen, he uses another. Therefore, as a writer I must be available to engage the inspiration that God brings.

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Femi Morgan

In the next ten years, what do you think will become of writers and writing profession in our climes?

Writing will always be with us. What the challenge of the writing profession is the appreciation of the value that we bring to a society whose elite is more inclined to science and mathematics, while art has received some economic and general acceptance more in movies, music and visual arts. On the other hand, the general populace is so impoverished and so desperate to concern itself with lofty existential ideas so much that movies and music are only for distractions as long as it is free download.

So what is the fate of writing profession in the next ten years? I would say that writing like water will always find its way. I also think that as writers we aren’t pushing ourselves out there enough, we aren’t solving those industry challenges that will make that imagined 5% (out of 200 million) see, feel, engage our books without straining their pockets and faulting seamless and quality delivery. But the more we push and stretch, we will be able to make successes through collaborations within the arts, creative and media space. We need structural and financial interventions from government and institutions.

The moment we become weary of celebrity personalities and are focused on creating workable and repeatable processes then we would make success of writing.

How can reading culture be encouraged?

We are already making giant strides about reading culture. We have quite a number of book festivals, bookclubs and culture events. There are also bookstores that are passionate about reaching new audiences through events. We also have radio programmes that are focused on books and authors and there are online magazines that have shown promise in making writing accessible to the reader.

Despite all these strides my concern is that we may be preaching to the converted. I wonder where Celebrity Read is now. It is gone and dead. We need to make new inroads to uncharted landscapes – that’s all I have to say there.

I also think that funding remains an issue for reading culture projects. This is why I do not blame those who have succumbed to be sponsored by men and women who embody sleaze, genocide and all sorts of unpalatable agendas because funding for reading culture is like locating an oasis in the desert. I have curated Artmosphere for 8 years now. The project which focuses on literature, arts and social conversations went from being a monthly project to becoming a quarterly due to the strains of funding. I think the world leaders and change organisations are more inclined to agendas of climate change, malaria, HIV than reading culture instead of using reading culture to help make sense of these world agendas. We just have to do what we have to do because we are interested in cultivating an enlightened society.

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Who are your role models?

Let me focus on role models for creative writing. Niyi Osundare, Andrea Levy, Tade Ipadeola, Ros Orlando-Martins, Ben Okri, Conrad Aiken, JP Clark, etc

Among contemporaries, which writers influence you most?

Hmm. Adebiyi Olusolape is one writer whose works – the ones I have had the opportunity to read has challenged me a lot. Adebiyi is also a great thinker, writer, critic and editor. Nwilo Bura Bari is a great storyteller and a great human being. Adebola Afolabi (RezThaPoet) for his meticulous planning and execution of art and culture projects.

What is your fondest moment as a writer?

Fond moments. Fond moments. Writing my first book and receiving critical reviews was good. Publishing a book is like giving birth to a new born child, that’s unforgettable. Hmm, curating successful events also gives me joy. But of all, being with my family and realising that they love me despite the fact that a creative is not perfect and does not really conform to general societal expectations. It gives me the confidence that home is where happiness resides.

What is the hardest challenge you have ever faced as a writer?

My father always says that challenges are for those who have vision. So we are here and we will face something that we did not plan. So the biggest challenge is this idea that you have to be part of the politics to succeed in the creative world, especially in creative writing – especially when you wear different hats and represent more than yourself. I think it was Zukiswa Wanner that said that a lot Nigerian writers should focus on the craft instead of the politics. I agree totally.

If you were to address first time writers who want to master the art of writing, what will be your advice?

Be yourself. Make your mistakes early. Read like hell. Refuse to be dehumanised by anybody or institution. Be graceful with criticism. Know that you will soon die so do you best to live your life to the fullest.

How can one benefit, financially and otherwise, from writing?

Hmm. The craft of writing is multifacated. You may not make so much from one thing but you tweak it and be copywriter, scriptwriter, editor, blogger – we are already in the era of having multiple streams of income.

Which five fictional or non-fictional books have impacted most on your life?

These questions are tough. For fiction:
1. Ngugi Wa’Thiongo’s Wizard of the Crow
2. The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
3. Small Island by Andrea Levy
4. Tomorrow I will be Twenty by Alain Mabanckou
5. Blackass by Igoni Barret

Non-Fiction:
1. The Man Died by Whole Soyinka
2. You are Not a Country Africa by Pius Adesanmi
3. Oil, Politics and Violence by Max Silloun
4. Fela: This Bitch of a Life by Carlos Moore
5. We were Eight Years in Power by Ta-nehesi Coates

I will make do with these ones.

Thank you for your time.

You are welcome.

Series Navigation“Don’t write with the intention of making money” – Zahraddeen I. Kallah >>

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Faruk Ahmed

Faruk Ahmed writes about ICT and deplores it for personal and business uses. He is a fervent watcher of political events.

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