Yejide Kilanko has been named one of the 5 up and comers on the Canadian writing scene. Tiah spoke to her.
Tiah: In Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, Zadie Smith said there are two kinds of writers: Macro Planners and Micro Manager. Macro Planners love post-its, construct their plot and often have stacks of notes already written about each character. Micro Managers are more concerned with tone, rewriting the start of the piece numerous times, before moving on, often uncertain to where they are going. Where does your writing methodology fall into these categories?
Yejide: I think I’m somewhere in between. I really enjoy the process of re-writing. It often leads to new discoveries about my characters and story. I’ve also learned the value of a good outline as it keeps me from stumbling through my work.
Tiah: There are often moments when a writer looks at her work and thinks, "Hand me the matches!" Have you experienced this? If so, how do you talk yourself out of turning your work-in-progress into an ashy heap?
Yejide: Oh, yes, I have. I’m not a very confident writer. I over-think everything. On bad writing days, I have to force myself away from the computer. When I’m calm, I add the deleted sections to my ‘leave here for now’ document and tell myself the words will work on another day. Sometimes, they do.
Tiah: You are a novelist, short story writer and a poet. When writing, do you find similar themes appearing in all three of your mediums? Or do certain subjects call to the art?
Yejide: My poems tend to have an autographical slant while my novels explore social issues important to me. A friend referred to my short stories as “snippets of teasery.” I loved the term. I’m not sure why but brevity makes me rely on the use of humor.
Tiah: Writers living in Africa are often dismayed with the realties of local publishing: little to no marketing budgets; if their book is even in a bookstore, it will be found buried deep into the shop on a dusty shelf marked African Fiction; there is often VAT on books; and, when the annual royalty check comes along the writer is lucky enough if it pays for a good bottle of wine. Do writers living in Canada experience a similar reality? Or does Canada give artists greater support?
Yejide: Canadian writers are often supported by their publishers and can access some government funding. But, the reality is very few writers, African or Canadian, can make a living from book royalties. It’s not just enough to write a good book, we writers have to become savvy about how to market our work through different distribution channels.
Tiah: If you could go back and advise your younger writer self, what would you say?
Yejide: There is a craft to writing. Learn it.
Yejide's Bedside Table:
Born in Ibadan, Nigeria, Yejide Kilanko is a writer of poetry, fiction and a therapist in children's mental health. Yejide's debut novel, Daughters Who Walk This Path, a national bestseller, was published by Penguin Canada, April 2012, Pintail Books (Penguin USA) January 2013 and Farafina (Nigeria) 2014. The novel has also been translated into German and Thai. In 2012, Yejide was named one of the top five hottest up-and-comers on the Canadian writing scene by the Globe and Mail. A mother and wife, she currently lives with her family in Chatham, Canada where she is working hard on her next book.