"Still I feel life seeping out of my scrawny bones." An Interview with #WriterPrompt winner Innocent Chizaram Ilo.

I am dreaming about a dream

Tonight, I am dreaming about a dream of being in a bubble. A pink bubble, silky and a bit gossamer. Wait, I am not the black scorpion gasping for air. I am standing on the hanging-pavement, puffing cheap cigars and nibbling at twigs. Still I feel life seeping out of my scrawny bones. 
She is standing beside Miss Ginger's mailbox, inflating and deflating the bubble. What will I call her, God?
"God isn't a woman, you prick!" Mr Judy says.
"But she has the bubble of life." I snap back.
Mr Judy is the voice in my head and we don't always agree on issues. But he is a sure brute and barrages me into doing his will.
"So, I will call her God," I say.
"This is not going to end well," Mr Judy mumbles.
She catwalks towards me; her hips swaying in the silent melody of midnight.
"Someone has a crush on God!" Mr Judy's tone is scornful.
"A scorpion is trapped in your bubble," I say to her.
"It's not really a trap," she says. "I'm breathing life into the scorpion." 
"How is she speaking with the bubble on her mouth?" Mr Judy asks.
She hangs a slender arm on my shoulder. I can see the scorpion clearly now, its claws are grappling to burst out of the bubble. My knees feel like melting butter. I am sinking. She laughs; a stinging laughter, and a cask of lifelessness envelopes me.


#WriterPrompt is a flash fiction event run on our Facebook page. Writers post stories, then workshop them with other participants and members of the SSDA team.  Innocent Chizaram Ilo won and he talks to Jason Mykl Snyman about his writing journey and influences.


"I've watched Innocent Ilo grow as a writer. In 'I am dreaming about a dream' he's managed to craft a story of surrealism and dread in a very short space. His characters are alive. They breathe. Mr. Judy, as only a voice in our narrator's head, is as well fleshed-out as any other character I've read in flash fiction. We get the sense that we know these people, that we are these people - and that we've seen this scene play out somewhere in the back of our own minds. Innocent has accomplished much, by saying very little. He's hasn't laid it all out in front of us, but simply invited us in. How deep you choose to go is up to you. This is the mark of a truly original story-teller, and I look forward to reading his work in the future." - Jason Mykl Snyman, on choosing the winning story.


What do you like writing about most?

INNOCENT: I love writing about what fascinates me; love, jollof rice, childhood memories and dreams. My characters evolve around people that I know nothing about, though I want to partake in their lives and people I see everyday.

Who are some of your favourite authors and why?

INNOCENT: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie!!!  Purple Hibiscus was the first novel I read with characters like myself. After Chimi is Tiah Beautement. Tiah would always say to me; "Shorten your sentences to achieve coherence. Play around with the story. Read it aloud to yourself." 

I also admire Alice Walker's unapologetic rawness, Chinua Achebe's unbridled wisdom, Noviolet Bulawayo's vibrant prose, Petina Gappah's finery, E. C Osondu's wry humor and Chukwuemeka Ike's sarcasm.

My writing family at SSDA's #WriterPrompt; Frances, CN Ndubuisi, TJ, Gab, Jason, Ibeh, Michael, Alex, you guys rock!  

What advice would you give to someone who wants to improve their writing? 

INNOCENT: Read anything you can lay your hands on (from a boring article on tectonic plate movements to a novel about Eskimos). Write. Watch a lot of good movies (it helps you to learn how to show and not tell). Listen to the tiny voice at the back of your head. Be your worst critic. Have a closely knitted circle of trusted writer-friends for advice, suggestions and feedback on your writing.



Innocent Chizaram Ilo is a Nigerian writer, economics undergraduate and an Iggy and Litro Alumnus. His story 'Vision' won the 2016 Oxford Arts Festival Stories for Children by Children.



Interview by Jason Mykl Snyman