First, you have to get your fashion right. As an African writer, you don’t want to attend an event, where you’re billed to speak, wrapped in suit and tie. That is bad. Try the ever colourful dashiki. Make sure it’s oversize and starched. That way, no one will doubt your Africanism. For the love of you, you’re an African writer!
If you’re female, you must keep a natural hair(and always tell people why you keep a natural hair–something about being proud of Africa). It must be uncombed and left bare, and if there is any need to conceal that great hair, it must be with a big black hat–all real writers have this look. On a serious note, if you don’t have a hat as an African writer, you really need to answer the question of ‘to be or not to be.’
If you’re male and, bless godness, you’re bald–like me–there is no justification whatsoever as to why you shouldn’t keep long beards. Your literary success has a lot to do with the hair on your chin–and if they’re grey, the better for you
Please, never you make the mistake of arriving at the venue early. Nigerians hate people who keep to time. You’d appear to be jobless and idle. For the love of you, arrive late. Arrive when three persons may have given their speeches. When you meet your host, say something like “Sorry, I had a lot of things to fix. You know, this writing business is not easy.” He will understand. Everyone respects a busy writer.
When you’re called upon to give your speech, please thank your host for the awesome opportunity. This line works: “I want to thank Chief Lateef for this wonderful opportunity. He is a good man. I remember when I first met him….” You just have to be grateful. Nigerians can be very impatient with ungrateful people.
Before you go into your speech proper, acknowledge the last speaker. Agree with him. Say something like, “I totally agree with the last speaker. He’s saying the truth.” Go on to explain to the audience what the previous speaker said. Say “in a nutshell, this is what Mr. Emeka was trying to say.” That way, you’ll appear to be more brilliant than him.
If you’ve written a relatively unknown book, this is best platform to advertise it. “Like I said in page 57 of my book….” can be of help to you. But don’t ever truncate your hustle by quoting from the book. They may find the quote to be shitty. Just tell them to buy the damn book and discover the secrets they’ve been looking for. Keep them in suspense. Nigerians love suspense.
Don’t ever forget to intimidate the audience with your literary achievements. If you’ve ever won an unknown prize(probably handed to you by your village head), make sure you mention it. It doesn’t matter if the audience isn’t familiar with the prize. Say something like “….all these reminds me of when I won the Kakaki Prize for Literature some years back.” The audience will be thrilled to know that you’re an award-winning author. Don’t worry about the type of award. Award na award.
Don’t forget to also feed the audience with big grammar and how many literary heavyweights are your mentors. Instead of ‘pompous,’ use ‘peremptory.’ Nigerians love grammar. Oh, about your literary mentors, use a line like “you know, when I first met Achebe, he told me that…” Please, don’t forget this line, no matter what!
In whatever you say, never you be caught in the web of acknowledging God for anything. A writer shouldn’t believe in God. Even when you’re asked whether you believe in God, please, for the love of you, debunk any link between you and any supernatural being. You must know that atheism is more sexy than piety. A writer shouldn’t be pious.
When you must have given a very long speech and you notice that the audience is bored, pretend to be concluding. Say something like “what am I trying to say, in essence?” Or “In conclusion, I want to say that…” That way, you’ll get their attention and then, for the love of you, continue with your speech.
At the end of your speech, I permit you to be a narcissist and believe that your speech is the best thing that has happened to the audience since agege bread. Tell them to reach you on so so number, and maybe, they could win a copy of your boring book –come on, you don’t have to tell them that your book is boring.
Do all these and be happy. Writing is not easy, and writers should be respected — you are no exception.
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