My Experience at #GrillandRead Port Harcourt

Last week, I happened across a number of posts on Twitter about #GrillandRead. I almost always read while I eat so the Grill part caught me. This is a candid post on my personal experiences at #GrillandRead.

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GrillandRead, like the Convener, Abigail Anaba, author of Sector IV, (@anabagail on Twitter) says, is a gathering where people who love reading, the occasional readers, writers (the Serious, Not-So Serious and the Pretentious), Poets, Spoken Word (artistes?) and people interested in literary stuff, can come together in a conducive atmosphere and have fun talking about books while networking and munching on grilled food. There was a lot of buzz about it on Twitter; dozens of retweets clogging my timeline on a regular, all the cool Port Harcourt people and @TouchPH were behind it and so I just had to come.

In the past, I have had terrible experiences with literary events in Port Harcourt, and I was a little apprehensive, but with convincing on Twitter from Franklin (@ThatPHCBoy on Twitter) and the Convener herself, I decided to. By the end of the event, I had decided to write a review of my experience and well, here I am.

Location

If you are organizing any event at all, one of the things you have to pay attention to is the location. GrillandRead did a very good job with that. By situating it at the junction of Elekahia Estate and Stadium road, which is centered in Port Harcourt, the organizers could be sure of a solid number of attendees from all over the city. And this was what happened. There were attendees from Choba, Aluu, Mgbouba, Elekahia, Artillery, Old GRA, GRA Phase 2, Rukpokwu, Eliozu and so many other places. I had never been to the location before that day but it was easy for me to find, all of the taxis on Stadium Road knew it. There was also a large banner placed at the gate entrance, which is just at the junction and so even those without my 20/20 *cough* vision could find it.

The garden which was also used (Name withheld abeg, #NoFreeAdverts), was conducive enough, contributing lots to the right kind of ambience (as much as you can find it in grey-weathered Port Harcourt) and for all that, high marks in my books.

Sound and music

Music is a huge part of any groove, book party or fraternity shindig, and the DJ played an okay selection of music, calm enough not to be too jarring, but boring enough that I can barely recall a single song that was played. I do remember though, that there was almost no correlation between the songs played, save that they were “RnB musiks”. Music is a huge part of the arts and I really hoped the music at a book get-together would have been a little more stimulating, in going with the rhythm or theme of the entire event. Alas, too much to hope for.

Also, the microphone kept having really terrible signal and made a large part of the proceedings nearly unbearable to un…d…sta…and. In my opinion, the organizers did not plan or determine any kind of theme for the event or even bother arranging a playlist with the DJ. Neither did they test equipment properly before the event commenced. Low marks here.

Open Mic, Spoken Word and Master(?) of Events

First off, the Open Mic session was the very best of the entire event. I thoroughly enjoyed myself here. Dozens of people, including yours truly had opportunities to read some of our stuff as well as, stuff we had read somewhere to the entire audience. I listened to some really good poems and heard some really nice voices. The spoken word poets present were the very best and big kudos to the Convener for encouraging the Word Phantoms (a spoken word group out of University of Port Harcourt) to perform. I had my fingers nearly sore from clapping again and again.

I read Lamentationem. Click here to read.

The Master of ceremony however was terrible. His jokes were boring, and more than half the time he seemed unsure of the programme he was running with. Thank goodness literary enthusiasts love to talk and helped him out a lot of the time with their own comments and jokes. That session would have been a disaster. It was Hallelujah when the Convener came up and gave us leave to hit the grill, mingle and ignore the MC.

Food, drinks, books and ticketing

To attend GrillandRead, the ticket fee was N1,400, with options to pay online or with a bank transfer and also at the gate. This was favourable for me because my USSD mobile transfer didn’t go through when I tried and while a large part of Port Harcourt is indeed in this decade, quite a considerable number remains as traditional as they come. However, at the gate I was charged N1,500. I am not sure even now if that was inclusive of a “gate charge”. It was very bad form to charge a different price at the gate, from what was listed on the website.

Speaking of bad form; tickets came with stubs for food and drink. Ergo, the food (which was Holy and Blessed by the Almighty Port Harcourt Bole and Fish, served in a styrofoam pack with plastic – imagine! – forks) is supposed to paid for with the ticket right? Wrong. Getting to the grill, I was informed that the ticket only paid for fish (a tiny thing I would get across the road at Elekahia estate for N100-150) and that for the yams and plantain (that make up the actual bole), I would have to pay a sum. Bad, bad, bad.

The drinks were not so bad, with orange juice in a bottle and lemonade poured in a cup being the options. I chose lemonade, which was okay, packed chockfull with ice cubes as it was, and can only surmise the orange juice was as good. The only other options for drink available were sold.

Authors, Discussions and Books

The panel of authors which included Othuke Ominiabohs, author of Odufa and A Conspiracy of Ravens,  Ifeanyi Ajaegbo, author of Sarah House, Franklyn FineCountry, author of Avenger of Blood and Merit Gogo-Fyneface, author of White Places were completely uninformed (or so they had us believe) of what their duty was at the event and spent most of the time (when the faulty microphone let them) saying, “So, I don’t know what you want to know. What do you want to know? Can someone help me?”

I didn’t know as well so I couldn’t help.

The discussion devolved immediately after it started, with the very boring and barely grasped monologue of a young man (didn’t get his name) who kept trying to compare Things Fall Apart with the movie adaptation (which almost none of us had seen or could remember seeing) and trying to align the comparison with comments on the Nigerian movie industry of today. I was lost from the very beginning and I have seen the 1971 movie adaptation of Things fall Apart.

Like with most events that happen in Port Harcourt, the discussion became much too intellectual (and boring). People began leaving their seats and milling about as the authors on the panel tried not to disagree too much with some (book buying and patronizing) members of the audience, several individuals hustled for the faulty microphone with the MC, each posturing and desperate to make their voice heard and have their say while using too many words, the DJs went around the corner to eat their (hopefully free) bole and out of the corner of my eye, I watched the Convener flee to the carpark where some fellows had gathered around several bottles of palm wine and it seemed a very interesting discussion was brewing.

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Book dat cost

I went to the carpark too after passing by the book stand.

The book stand had books by each of the visiting authors, as well as some others. And to my greatest surprise, the costs of the books were such that I was tempted to question my motives to read more African writers. One would imagine that with the amount paid at the gate, the book vendors would have agreed on a discount rate with the organizers. Apparently, the money paid for the venue had to made back or something because that did not happen.

Final Words – Will I attend another GrillandRead event?

Yes. I made a couple of new friends at GrillandRead Mr @CharlesOzi and Miss IB (@Designerkath on Twitter) among them. The networking session could have done with a little help, such as games and other fun events to pair attendees and help loosen the characteristic shyness most book lovers suffocate themselves with. It would have helped me for sure. Perhaps I should have eaten a hearty lunch before attending and come stocked with more cash for books, and perhaps a less apprehensive mind, but I am sure with a little improvement and adjustment to the more tense mien of the Port Harcourt people, GrillandRead will do better next time.

6.0/10.

Disclaimer

  • Just my opinion o! I have a manuscript with publishers, before I hear say ehen…Na joke I dey
  • LOL. I am not joking. I meant every word.
  • If I mispell a name or book, please forgive

Follow on Twitter @Stillweather.

Peace.

UPDATE (31/10/2016)

Spoke to the Convener on Twitter and she said, prices of tickets were set to be cheaper online than at the venue to encourage people to pay ahead of the date. Also, GrillandRead did not promise food for attendees, but only fish, palmwine or fruit juice on the ticket. These details according to Abigail were stated clearly in the @GrillnRead tweets prior to the event.

I unfortunately did not see those tweets before this post.

 

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Guidelines to organizing a book launch in Nigeria

So, last night a friend of mine hit me up, we used to be quite cool back in UNIBEN and he had just written a book. I was still gushing with my praise, congratulations and “You know say my own signed copy na free na heehaw heehaw” when he added that he was having a book launch party planned. Naturally, my excitement tripled. I was seeing very visual visions of chatting, dinner and ehmmovies with the brunette sapiosexuals, when he brought me down to earth with: “Chris, can you help me out with the program. Like, what’s supposed to happen?”

That was when I realized, in typical Nigerian mien, Oga was planning a book launch party, and did not even know what it was going to be all about. So, I decided to write this post for those of you out there who are planning book launches and don’t know how to go about them. Continue reading “Guidelines to organizing a book launch in Nigeria”

How I nearly got killed because of a sugar mummy in Port Harcourt

Sugar mummies in Port Harcourt are a serious thing. A really serious thing. It has not been one time or twice that I have been propositioned. There is a lurid satisfaction that comes with being the object of sexual attraction of someone 15-20 years older than you. Anyway, this is one of my stories of what happened.

When I first came to Port Harcourt four years ago, I was young, bright-eyed and hungry. I had come from my little town in Benin City and I was determined to make sure I made money in Port Harcourt before I headed back. Very quickly, one of the first things I did was to start a business. I registered a company with the CAC and started searching for clients everywhere I could.

One day while talking business with a potential client who was the owner of a beauty salon in GRA Phase 2, I was called over to a lady who was getting her hair braided. She asked me what I did and then gave me her business card and told me to call her the next day. I was overjoyed. It seemed like all my dreams were about to come true. Not only had I been able to meet a potential client, I was also going to get a second one. I was so happy.

As soon as I got home, I called the lady. She quickly told me to call her later and sent me a text message to meet her the following day at a restaurant in GRA. I was so excited. I spent the whole night writing and rewriting proposals I will present to her. When power went, I ran outside and bought a few litres of petrol to run my generator so I could print out enough proposals for our meeting. Continue reading “How I nearly got killed because of a sugar mummy in Port Harcourt”

Why Writers should wear lab coats

I was thinking on my way from church this afternoon. It was one of those deeply introspective moments where you are staring out the taxi window at the passing gala and La casera hawkers while your stomach roils with ASH.

ASH (ay-sh) (abbreviation)

meaning: After Service Hunger. The mysterious hunger known to afflict churchgoers every Sunday immediately after service. eg. Omo na to go Bola house go chop after service o! This ASH no be here

Continue reading “Why Writers should wear lab coats”

The Four things to do when Y.A.C.B.F.A.B.H

There must have been fifteen different alternate beginnings for this post before I finally went “Simbelah it!” and typed this one anyway. It’s been an irregular past couple of years on this blog and too naturally a lot of the regular readers have fled (ja lo sibe?). As you might imagine, I spent a lot of time this evening thinking of possible posts I could drop here that will bring my readers back.

So I checked my drafts.

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Nothing really stood out for me…

 

Continue reading “The Four things to do when Y.A.C.B.F.A.B.H”

About the Art of Writing in 2016

Let me give you a dilemma to ponder on. Imagine a writer, extremely skilled in his craft, or hers, whatever, and this writer starts to write professionally. Here is the first thing that happens: the writer stops writing what it is they love to write and instead what they know people want to hear, what is de rigeur, in vogue, the style of the moment, the fad, etc etc. What comes next is the application of best practices, blogging styles, the many and numerous tricks of the trade and words like content management, SEO, post targeting, click baiting etc.

See, the worst thing that happened to writing as an artform in this century is the creation of the phrases, content development, content creation etc. Content developers are not writers same way wall painters are not artists. The ability to spin words that will entice and enthrall is beyond simple content made to sell a product, fill the pages of an e-book, the lines in a proposal or the empty pages of a website.

See, content development is not writing. A content developer is not a master of magic.

I manage a couple of blogs both privately and for clients and partners and I can tell you that the best content developers often are the worst writers imaginable. Good writers make awesome content developers for sure, but I can bet you a thousand quid that your best author will be hard-pressed churning out pages of (400 words or less) articles on ‘Beauty products for the insane and recently acquitted’ day in and out .

The point I am trying to make is this, when writers begin to pen down professionally, they start to follow the rules and the problems with rules is this: they stifle creativity in more ways than one. Not only do rules make it practically impossible to stretch the imagination further than a certain point (or at least allow it to, because imaginations as agreed by Messrs All and Sundry, have a way of stretching themselves wherever they like, rules be damned) but also, rules have this thing about defining the objective. The rules of an athletic track race demand that each runner stay in his lane and thus the objective changes. The objective of the race is no longer to find who wins the race by arriving first at the finish line, but to find who does so while staying in his lane. Rules draw a line to limit.

Writers should not be limited.

Our Heavenly Father shows us this first in His own word where by his will, he pens down what he deems is the story of creation as we will understand it, fantastic as it sounds. Our foolishness is therefore in determining and saying of what He has written that it is improbable or impossible to happen, given what little we know of the cosmos. But I digress.

Someone will argue that rules of writing are necessary so as to determine expertise and judge competence and also so as to establish a system by which what is written can be read and understood. And that I agree with.

The rule should therefore stay with the manner of presentation and not in the type of content. In the little village where I grew up, we often ran, us little kids of the village. Our rubber slippers held in our hands, to aid our bare feet with better traction on the ground, our trousers hitched up to prevent any sort of drag and so on. We ran to compete with each other, to know who was fastest and bestest. But most importantly, we ran for fun. We ran because we wanted to, surely competition was a basic staple in this need to race, but the enjoyment of it all was just as important. And so fat kids like me could run halfway to the wall, turn back and run the way we came. Everyone else yelled and complained, but it was all fun. In the presentation, comparing both the modern race as we see in the Olympics’ track events and that I constantly practiced in my little village, both involve moving from one end to another with the determining factor being the length of time of race and the order on which the competitors arrived at the end. Excellent. In matters of the lane, starter’s pistol, and other newfangled rules and regulations that govern the manner in which the race is run, the rules only see to stifle.

The basic sprinting stance now involved moving with legs pumping and arms like a piston following in coordination. In the old village, some ran with both arms flung out to the sides, others with arms straight back in the manner of anime ninjas and some yet just ran with reckless abandon. Some, such as yours truly, simply rolled along as a mass of shaking and shivering rolls of flesh.

When you write, write with reckless abandon. Let the words pour forth and the truth of your soul peek through.

I had an epiphany yesterday.

“An artist must be a man of huge appetites. For to understand the world which he depicts he must have a huge desire for it. The world. The artist must want to swallow it up, to gobble it whole, to completely immerse all of himself in the sticky morass of the world. To have the world stink on his skin. For you must understand that art is only a reflection of the world, a description, a depiction, an interpretation, seen through what the artist has seen, heard, felt or desires of the world. Art is the world made new.

Now here is the rub. An artist must have a huge appetite for the world, but the artist must not satisfy this appetite in the world, but in their art. In your art. The artist just take all of his longing and desire and paint on canvas, play on stage, sing with all of their breath,  or scribble out with a pen. The artist must scratch himself of all of this desire. Purge all of it out by delving into it, but only through the art. Only through his creation will the artist live and experience his desire. Those artists who have realised their appetites and have made of it their art, they succumbed to the knowledge they will never experience their art in this lifetime and so decided that they will portray it in their art, and so from the moment of that decision, they were plagued with the need and desire to quickly gain release.

It is the job of the art connoisseur, the novel reader, the gallery shadow, the music lover to experience these worldly desires so expressed by the artist. It is he who would dive headlong into the mess of the artist’s wants and dreams, immerse himself in the shameless sty of the fifth of the artist’s vilest thoughts and experience in them an enjoyment, a relief, an orgasmic delight akin and belonging to the sigh of the artist’s final satiety.”

Rules however, will not let the artist fully express these desires. Rules leave no space to dive in and roll thickly within the desires that will be expressed.

When writing in 2016, my advice is simple. Ignore the rules, plunge in deep. Write from the heart, in bold slashes that dare criticism. Write the things you want to, ignoring the comments and the unlookers. Throw the ink against the sheets, slam your palm on the keyboard, imprint your fucking ideas on the mind of every one who reads. Then settle back and say, “Fuck it! That’s what I think, and I think beautifully.”

That what GOD did, only not in those words.

Disclaimer

  • I am a content developer

If you liked this post, follow on Twitter @Stillweather, also like this post and the blog, so you can get updates to future posts.

Leo

I never said

I taught you to roar

You always had it in you

deep in your throat

you just took your time.

But then I was there

when only meows and purrs escaped your lips

instead of the growls of a jungle beast

when all you did was run and pounce and fall.

I couldn’t carry you

so I just fell with you

wanting you to stand

so that you could lift me.

I cried your tears

because lions don’t shed tears

They only shake their mane and bare their teeth.

Now your growl is thick

Your roar is strong

And I am a doe

that must either become a lion

or get left behind.