"That was our mission, to stop the war." A Quick Q&A with #WriterPrompt winner Akomolafe Kayode.


August 6, 1945. 2:15 AM, Enola Gay flew steadily into the skies bound for Hiroshima, Japan. I, Sergeant Joseph Stiborik was among the crew as a Radar Operator. The Japanese, after the Germans were defeated, refused to surrender to the Allied forces and the Second World War was bent on lasting for a few more years. That was our mission, to stop the war.

Earlier that morning in my excitement to be enlisted among the crew on a special mission, I had asked Captain Theodore, ‘What are we carrying?’

‘What’s your business Sergeant?’ he asked lighting a cigarette, puffing smoke into the cold morning, ‘Our mission is not about what we are carrying, it’s about what we are dropping.’As he walked away to board the plane, he turned, smiled and muttered, ‘Little boy.’

I wasn’t sure if he was referring to what we were carrying on the plane or referring to me as a little boy. Even though I was young, my small stature easily gave me away.

‘Ready for this, boys?’ Major Thomas Freebie, the bombardier said as he pushed the button and dropped the bomb. Although we nodded yes in affirmation, when Little Boy hit Hiroshima and sent off a huge puff of boiling mushroom cloud, smoke and debris… only then did I realize there was nothing little about the boy that destroyed so many men in mere seconds. None of us knew it wasn’t the usual bomb.

As we flew back to base, stunned in silence, amidst the shrill rustling of cold air, the only voice I heard was that of Lewis saying, ‘My God, what have we done.’

#WriterPrompt is a regular flash fiction event we run on our Facebook page, although it is currently on hiatus. Writers post stories in response to a picture, then workshop them with other participants and members of the SSDA team. Akomolafe's story of a naive WWII soldier rose to the top in this bout.


How did writing enter your life?

Before the age of ten, I developed a love for art and reading and admired the likes of Wole Soyinka (even though I found it hard to comprehend his writing at the time.) My writing didn't fully take off until my junior days in secondary school after I was inspired by a friend, David Meres, who taught me to write poetry. Ever since I fell in love with writing.  I discovered I had an inborn ability to tell stories but needed to understand the craft. 


What are your favourite themes to write about and why?

All forms of writing have appealed to me as I've written a couple of plays, drama, novels (unpublished), movie scripts, short fiction, and short stories (which have become my strongest form of writing.) My favourite themes are largely around women, the girl child, family and morality. 


Can you tell us a little about the process you went through with your flash fiction story 'Hiroshima' that made you the winner of #WriterPrompt 22.

Hiroshima was a whole new phase of writing for me. I had a very limited knowledge of the people, places and event I wanted to write about, so I spent some time reading about the Second World War and the events of Hiroshima and the military personnel and tried my best to relive their lives through my story. Participating in #WriterPrompt over time has helped me know how to write, explore themes better. The contributions of other writers as well as the organisers of #WriterPrompt have helped to sharpen my skills and crowned me a winner. In the end, 'we' won. 


Akomolafe Bankole Kayode is a young aspiring Nigerian writer who loves to write short stories and poetry. He won the MNS (Mynaijastories) short story competition with his story, “The first time I did it.”  His poem, “My Hanbok” was nominated for an award in the Korea-Nigeria Poetry Fiesta 2016 and his flash fiction, "A soldier's last letter" was shortlisted for the Etisalat Flash Fiction Competition, 2016. His first novel, a collection of short stories is slated for publication later this year.  Some of his works have appeared in Praxis Magazine. He spends his time reading and writing and hopes to impact the world through his works.

"I want to be a part of that magic." A Quick Q & A with #WriterPrompt Winner Innocent Chizaram Ilo

This is how Papa paints the mountain. 

He sits in front of the rotting canvas, the numb fingers of his right hand grip the brush and the aluminium paint tray dances on his quivering left palm.

Mama warns me never to disturb Papa when he paints but I still do.

Today, the painting is almost done. Papa has perfected the blue of the mountain's peak, the melting snow no longer looks like spilt milk and he has fixed the brown-brown skin of the elephants and buffalos grazing at the foot of the mountain.

"Ke kwanu," I greet.

"Who are you?" He asks baring the little remains of his chequered teeth.

"I live here," I tell him because I don't have the muscle to remind him I'm his son and then explaining to him what a son is. Papa does not seem to remember much these days.

"So we are like neighbours." Papa sets down the paint tray on the floor. "You remind me of my son Zim."

I smile, pat Papa's shoulder and run into the house before Mama sees us together. The last time Mama caught me talking to Papa, she yanked at my ears and called me 'devil's child'.

Tonight, Papa calls us to come and see his finished painting. Mama and I chewed our tears and smiled away. We know at midnight, Papa will crawl into the painting and return to the mountain. 

We all came from the mountain and must go back there some day.

#WriterPrompt is a regular flash fiction event we run on our Facebook page, although it is currently on hiatus. Writers post stories in response to a picture, then workshop them with other participants and members of the SSDA team. The tragedy and simplicity of Innocent Chizaram Ilo's untitled story won over ther judges.


Can you tell us when you first realised you were a wordsmith and why do you think you are so attracted to the craft of storytelling?

INNOCENT: "I am a storyteller and I would like to tell you a few personal stories..." - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED Talk - The Dangers of A Single Story, piqued my interest. I wanted to introduce myself in that same way to people: "Hi, I'm Innocent and I tell stories." I wanted to inhabit strange bodies and places.

Storytelling helps me to paint the world the way I see it or want it to be. There is a magic in how single words, when placed side by side, evocate laughter, thoughts, tears, pain and healing. 

I want to be a part of that magic.


What, where and who inspires you to write. 

INNOCENT: There is no one thing that inspires my writing. A walk in the rain, looking out of my window in the morning, eating, reading, watching movies and dreams.
Places also play an important role in my writing. The university campus in Nsukka, my mother's kitchen and my bedside view. Writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Yiyun Lui and Petina Gappah rock my world.


If you had one tip for a newbie writer, what would it be?

INNOCENT: One tip. One tip. Listen to the tiny voice in your head. Communicate with that voice. Yes it's crazy, I know. Karen Russell calls writing "Taking dictations from imaginary people."


Innocent Chizaram Ilo lives in Nigeria but dreams about inhabiting strange places and bodies - this is why he writes. He studies undergraduate economics but prefers writing stories anytime of the day to analyzing clunky graphs. He draws strong influences from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Petina Gappah and Yiyun Li. He once wore fake glasses to up his nerd game. It didn't work.


Interview by Jason Mykl Snyman


"I am lost in thoughts, of how living can be a playlist on repeat." A Q&A with Keem Tunde.

Things That Never Die

It is 06:17am, and I am late. While waiting for a bus, I am lost in thoughts, of how living can be a playlist on repeat: sleep, eat, work and other things lost in transit.

A bus arrives; I am on my way to Victoria Island, but first, Ojuelegba. In the bus, the man beside me looks like my dad. He, the man, has my dad’s kind of Polo on – with stripes. He is light skinned, with folds above his eyes. His neck sits like my dad's – backward, and tilted up a bit, like when he watches the news.

He catches me staring. I do not apologize. I look away. I search through my phone’s gallery, in between, I let out a tear. I am broken. There is no picture of me and my dad, unlike my siblings who have many. Though I bear his name, and he preferred to call me Junior, we were apart, in several ways.

Through the window, I stare, at shops still locked. I think of the owners, still sleeping. I wish for the same, but faced with a different reality. A job waits on the Island. A dawn to dusk job. Two seats away, a man makes me a reference point to his son. "Go to school so you can wear a tie like him." I smile.

Almost at my stop, a look at my phone; I wish to call my dad, to hear him speak for the last time.

#WriterPrompt is a regular flash fiction event we run on our Facebook page. Writers post stories in response to a picture, then workshop them with other participants and members of the SSDA team. Keem Tunde's story tackled grief, memory and expectation in a particularly elegant way.


Tell us a little about what inspires you to write and when you started to learn the craft?

KEEM: My first real exposure to the craft of creative writing was in 2012 through a social platform - 2go. Every day, I would visit the poetry rooms just to observe others write. Later, I started writing my own poems. In 2014, I wrote my first story and posted it on Facebook. The comments were encouraging, so I decided to put in more effort. I am still putting in effort.

My writings are inspired by everyday activities. I am interested in the little things that many might overlook; the bus ride from home to school, how the kids in my compound interact - what they say and how they say it, a picture or phrase etc. Over the years, my writings (especially poems) are influenced by people, places and pain. We all have our shares of pain. Haha! 


Who are your favourite authors and why?

KEEM: Favourite authors? The list is endless, especially with the emergence of a new generation of African writers, I read based on mood. I have stuck with a few authors and works over the years though: say Mario Puzo's The Godfather, JD Robb's In Death series, TJ Benson's 'Tea' among others. Through media platforms, Facebook especially, new writers are emerging and they are changing the narratives; bringing new styles to the table. For every author I read, I am interested in how they depict human experience in their works. 


What is next on your writing agenda, plus some writing tips that you found most useful?

KEEM: The next thing on my agenda is to continue to grow as a writer. It has always been my goal to be a better writer. It is only when I have mastered the craft that I will aim to publish a book. For now, I can only grow through platforms like SSDA, and, hopefully, I can put in for the annual competition in couple of years.

I have allowed myself to be guided by two writing tips over the years:

A. Writing is like music; it must have a flow.

B. Sometimes, writing stories take time. If you relax for a while and come back, you may find errors that weren't visible before.



Keem Tunde is a graduate of Mass Communication from The Polytechnic Ibadan. He lives in Lagos where he doubles as a writer and street photographer.