Our assistant editor, Uchenna Emelife, posed five questions to all the authors shortlisted for the 2023 edition of the Isele Prizes. The questions stretch from their writing processes, to the themes they are most drawn to, their inspirations, and more.

See Nnamdi Anyadu’s responses below. Also, read his short story, “Potluck Jollof”.

Uchenna Emelife: Could you talk about your shortlisted short story, its writing process, and what informed it?

Nnamdi Anyadu: Thank you for finding “Potluck Jollof” worthy to be shortlisted for the Isele Short Story Prize. The idea for this story came to me in parts. It belongs to a larger body of work, so, the idea for that came first.

“Potluck Jollof” slipped in through a conversation with a friend. The urban myth it interrogates is quite popular. However, I wanted an uncommon spin in my own version of this well-known story. So, I held on until the idea for ‘sisterpedia’ came to me.

I juggled these ideas in my head for months, constructing and renovating the plot from time to time. This is how I like to write. When I am satisfied with my imagination, I get to typing. “Potluck Jollof” took about three harmattan mornings in my small garden.

UE: How do you tell a work is ready to meet the world?

NA: Hmm. This is a tough one. In truth, I can never really tell. Between reviews from my beta-readers and my editors, my stories dwell in an endless loop of rewrites and reincarnations. In my private circle, I’m notorious for holding on to works a tad too long.

In the end, I think instinct guides me. Sometimes, I see a call for submissions that speaks directly to a finished work. I reckon that is the world calling, and I choose to answer.

UE: What does writing mean to you?

NA: You know how people confess their undying love for a paramour? That!

Writing, and storytelling by extension, is the absolute love of my life. It’s more than a vocation, or a passion; it’s an anchor. Its transformative power; how it can turn a writer into a voice for a community, an idea, or a philosophy is not lost on me. Actually, that often overwhelms me.

UE: If you could only write about one thing, what would you write and why?

NA: Just one thing? The African society. 

While this might sound like a political answer, it is not. There’s simply so much here that hasn’t been told. At least, so much that I can see. You have graciously limited my answer to only one thing, so, I will take the entire continent.

I’d like to carry on writing about our past, present and future.

UE: Whose work speaks to you? Why? And how do they do that?

NA: Hahaha. You want to put me in trouble. This question is the toughest.

Everybody’s work speaks to me o. I love fiction by African writers, so I read everybody. But I only work in the speculative space for now, hence my current admiration for the works of Nneka Lesley Arimah, T. L. Huchu, E. C. Osondu, Pemi Aguda, Umar Turaki, and Suyi Davies Okungbowa.

I think their works are very exciting. They each, in their own way, broaden the scope of what speculative fiction can achieve. And I admire that they deliver their works in ways that carry our collective memory. 

I can only hope my work is doing the same.

About the Authors:

Uchenna Emelife: Uchenna Emelife is a literary curator, an arts administrator, a bookseller, and a human rights advocate. He is the co-founder and creative director of Book O’clock — a literary platform in Sokoto that hosts a literary blog, book clubs, and a bookstore. In 2021, he co-curated the first Book and Arts Festival in Sokoto and was nominated as Mediapreneur of the Year in the Founder of the Year Awards. Uchenna Emelife is as well an advocate for Child Rights, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, and anti-Sexual and Gender-based Violence. As a fellow of the African Youth Adolescent Network (AfriYAN), he has been contracted for various virtual campaigns to support the cause by Education as a Vaccine and United Nations Population Fund (UNPA).

Nnamdi Anyadu’s work explores human interactions within the texture of futurist possibilities and doctrinal re-imaginations. His writing has appeared in IskanchiOmenanaDown River Road, and The Ake Review. He anchors book chats on his Instagram: @the_africanist and lives in Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria.