The 13th outing of the ‘Coal City Book Convention’, celebrated annually in Enugu to promote the literary arts, will be held on Saturday, June 25 at Peekay Garden.
Organized by the Delta Book Club, a subsidiary of the book publishing company Delta Publications (Nigeria) Limited, this year’s celebration will feature a theatrical performance, Our Papa’s Land, followed by a reading by Professor Mike Iloeje from his new book, Rape – My Beloved Country, lamenting the challenges of the survival of the Nigerian state, and a presentation of the new edition of the society’s quarterly magazine ‘The Writer’.
The main attraction will be the awarding of the annual Olaudah Equiano Life-Award to three notable Nigerians “who have personified the pinnacle of creative excellence in their chosen disciplines”, namely renowned pediatrician Professor Bede Ibe, scientist Professor Josephine Ezekwesili – Ofili and politician- commissioner turned novelist Ukwu Rocks Emma.
Dillibe Onyeama, president of the Delta Book Club, told the Guardian: “We have put together an elaborate set of celebrations which we hope will challenge the notoriety of the ‘unlucky 13th’ and inspire our young people in promoting reading. . Culture.”
Speaking about what has kept the book convention going after 13 years, he said: ‘I shouldn’t say it’s a question of ‘what keeps you coming back’ but what ‘gets you back’. keep going”. It’s a question of perseverance. You’re on the right track, so you keep going – based on a policy of continuous improvement. You’re there to promote creative talent – that’s what literature is all about.
Regarding the motivation to start a book convention, Onyeama added, “I’m motivated by the inspiration inherent in both writing and editing. The two complement each other. You write fiction to travel – even if it’s astral travel – and study the intricacies of character and conflict.
Watching how visitors manage to navigate the enormity of the convention, he said they were drawn to book activities by the magnetism of the rich varieties of literary arts on display: books, theatrical performances, poetry readings, award ceremony and fine refreshments. “They will one day aspire to be among the celebrated beneficiaries of this talent hunt, because everyone has a Divine Right story to tell. It’s how you tell it and the marketing skills of the publisher that determine your chances of hitting the mark,” he noted.
Having organized book conventions in different parts of the country, he believes that no part of the country is hard to capture. “You’re into a creative genre, so you have to apply creative strategies to catch the fish, so to speak. But in every part of the country, there has to be a hero that the natives can relate to. In the southeast , the hero is Olaudah Equiano (i.e. as far as my company is concerned. In the west it is Amos Tutuola. In the north it is Abubakar Gimba. The award for literary excellence is anchored on their legendary names. They were great storytellers. How you capture audiences for fiction, which is arguably the most creative genre in literature, depends on the marketing strategies applied by the publisher. We recorded rooms full at Freedom Park, Lagos, at the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) in Abuja, and have been equally rewarded at many venues in Enugu I can tell you, sincerely, we have never experienced anything like this only an empty room. This would only apply due to a m lack of appropriate organization.
He added, “All audiences in the affected states have been equally supportive of each other. All ethnic groups in Nigeria have a rich tradition of storytelling; and it’s up to the publisher to “fish well”, record good catches and use their best marketing strategies to reach the right audience. For example, it was Akintunde Oyajobi’s novel, Nostalgia, which won the first release of the Abubakar Gimba Literary Prize in Abuja.
On Enugu, which is rarely a setting in Nigerian literature, he said it has characteristics that make the city a place of fiction.
According to him, “In Enugu, as the traditional headquarters of the Igbo gender, there is a vibrant social life; and the pervasive nature of the Igbo man as a born trader exposes situations that are ripe for imaginative flair to express through fictional literature.
The essence of Enugu is captured in Story of an African God, which tells of his grandfather, “who ruled with a rod of iron in colonial times, recorded legendary wealth and brought education and Christianity to his Agbaja Empire – which is the largest Igbo Sub-clan.
He also talked about Equiano, the legendary figure, who inspired the birth of an enduring reading culture in Enugu. “He was the first black man, after freeing himself from slavery, to write and publish a book on the history of literature.”
On the book he is currently working on? He said, “When it comes to my own pen efforts, I usually work on two or three ideas at the same time based on plots conceived about 10 years before. I have three that I’m almost finishing – two novels and one non-fiction. I will try to get them published abroad first, since most of my 28 books published so far have been published in Europe and the United States.