"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


"The intense heat in the eyes of onlookers figuratively set the girl ablaze..."A Q & A with #WriterPrompt Winner Lydia Durunguma.

The Striped Girl

There had never been a colder morning than that in Gembu.

The oxygen in the air was replaced with ululation and hissing from parched lips; red, immovable eyes peered through windows.

“This is what the gods vomited when they choked on an unpleasant food offering."

“The womb that bore her was rotten!"

“I’m sure her mother slept with a black and a white man at the same time; sacrilege!”

Spit flew from mouths to ground, shoulders shrugged, thumbs and middle fingers snapped. Bent heads shook.

The fusion of the wailing of the womb that had borne her, the incantation of the priest and the chants of the young bare-chested men dreamed up a dreadful symphony. It was her sixteenth birthday and she was still abnormal, thus she had to be returned to the ones who had given her to them.

She was stripped; arms and feet bound.

Vivid cinnamon-coloured eyes; the brown stripes on her yellowish-white skin were like the stripes of a tiger. Those stripes; a work of art mystifying a lost and perhaps beautiful soul, creating wonder in minds only as deep as water puddles.

She was drenched in kerosene, a match was lit and the flame that ensued licked every inch of under-appreciated art.

I began to choke; no, not from the flame’s fume but from guilt; guilt that I let these people bathe in their ocean of ignorance.

But, what was a white man going to tell them about vitiligo that they wanted to hear?

#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. The guest judge for this competition was author and illustrator Alex Latimer, he had the following to say about his choice of winner,


"I enjoyed every single one of the stories - they all have something quite compelling about them. Choosing a winner is never easy, but I have settled on Lydia Durunguma's story. In any piece this short, each word has to work hard and Lydia has done this very well. The tension starts right from the beginning, then on top of that she builds mystery and she ties it all together in the final sentence with a satisfying reveal which changes the way you understand the story as a whole. Woven through all of that is strong characterization and setting."


Hi Lydia! Congratulations on winning this #WriterPrompt! The competition was stiff, and we had a number of really imaginative interpretations of our tiger image. Tell us a little bit about yours. What inspired you to go into the direction of the vitiligo disease?

LYDIA: When I first saw the theme picture for this prompt, I was short of ideas on how to interpret it. I didn’t want to write a clichéd interpretation of a tiger which was, to me, writing about its strength and wildness, so I decided not to write and just read the other stories. The inspiration eventually hit me the next day when I saw a girl at the market with this disease; the intense heat in the eyes of onlookers figuratively set the girl ablaze. I thought she was beautiful but many didn’t. I remember the discoloration on her skin drove my thoughts to this prompt’s theme and there you have it.


This #WriterPrompt was judged by SSDA shortlister, Alex Latimer. Tell us a bit about your experience with our judge and hosts and what it’s like being critiqued by your peers so openly.

LYDIA: It feels really nice to have your piece appreciated by an amazing storyteller. I’m grateful for this platform, one where you can read other stories and have your story read and critiqued as well. Being critiqued by my own peers is also a reminder, lest I forget, that there are still so many things I’m yet to learn in the art of storytelling.


Some of our previous winners have said that a few ideas came to mind when participating in certain #WriterPrompts. Did you have a few back-up ideas or did you just go with the first idea which came to mind and made it work? Tell us about your process in crafting your stories.

LYDIA: I had no back-up ideas, but I also didn’t go with the first idea that came to mind. The process of crafting my stories; when my mind is sapped of inspiration, the first thing I do is eat. If that doesn’t work, which is a big ‘if,’ I take a stroll or I read a book or a short story. I used to think that reading what other writers have to say when I am stuck would inadvertently lead to subtle plagiarising but it doesn’t. What it does is take me to a place where my stunted creativity has room to thrive.


Lydia Durunguma is a creative writer; a native of Imo state, Nigeria. She is inspired by food and people. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and a novel.


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.




"A certain "right way" of being a writer does not exist in my realm." A Quick Q & A with #WriterPrompt Winner Frances Ogamba


We are fragments of time, and the universe. The bodies we inhabit, like trees, sand, pebbles, wind, and oceans, are passages. We walk through them until the end bell tolls for us, and we melt into susurrations and echoes, and tears, its salt our souls.

We once lived here, you and I, in this rectangular box placed deep in the valley. These surrounding hills grew on us, and it appeared as though we sank further into the ground. The stars knew our names, and the birds inserted them into the verses of their morning chants. Our footsteps are written here, in these sands. The stones may remember which are yours and mine. Does God know we owned here once with our kisses and the music we made with our thighs? Why are we suddenly strangers in a place that stood in our names? Why do pots clatter in the room we kept empty, and dogs bark in a yard that formerly brimmed with our silences? Do the newcomers smell us? Something has to hint to them the kind of people we were – your finger stamps on our room wall, the melted candle wax that caked on the staircase, the broken glass pane of the living room window. Do you think they smell our fear the morning those robbers accosted us, or our anxiety the day we saw a cut on my shin?

Did our laughter die with us, or does it ring in the indistinct sounds they hear?

#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. Frances' bittersweet story of memories, old homes and our place in the cosmos, won. Here she sheds some light on her writing journey and what she's reading at the moment.


This is the third time your story has won a #WriterPrompt. What do you attribute your flash fiction success to?

FRANCES: In 2015 when I first learned of #WriiterPrompt, I thought I knew quite a lot about writing. Two years down the line, I have worked harder than I remember, staying up late nights just to read up what every writer in my library has to say. Yet, isn't it strange that I have found out that I know so little? I write these things because they are the best expressions of how I feel at that moment, without even knowing if they would be commended. Maybe it is the wide reading (which I think every writer should be doing) that moves my flash fiction forward. Maybe it is the realization that I know nothing, the further I delve into knowledge. Maybe it is both.


Which book, if any, have you recently read that captured your heart and why?

FRANCES: A book, Damage, by Josephine Hart, a dead author. She prised apart the details of the human mind and human nature. She accessed depths of man than she was allowed to. Let me give you an excerpt from the first page.

“There is an internal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives. Those who are lucky enough to find it ease like water over a stone, onto its fluid contours, and are home. Some find it in the place of their birth; others may leave a seaside town, parched, and find themselves refreshed in the desert. There are those born in rolling countryside who are really only at ease in the intense and busy loneliness of the city. For some, the search is for the imprint of another; a child or a mother, a grandfather or a brother, a lover, a husband, a wife, or a foe. We may go through our lives happy or unhappy, successful or unfulfilled, loved or unloved, without ever standing cold with the shock of recognition, without ever feeling the agony as the twisted iron in our soul unlocks itself and we slip at last into place.” 

I do not know who else begins a story like this, but Josephine Hart does.


Can you tell us something about your writing world? 

FRANCES: I read more than I write. The aphorism 'write always' is not for me. Some rules and a certain "right way" of being a writer do not exist in my realm. I also think rejections are great. I look out for them. I still have a lot of work to do, so the rejections are awesome reminders of that. 


Frances Ogamba is a writer, poet and graduate of Foreign Languages and Literary Studies from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Frances is bilingual (English and French) and has run a Master's degree programme in Professional Translation at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. She was selected for the 2016 Writivism Mentorship.


Interview by Catherine Shepherd