Thanks for your time Sandra, You're Nigerian, what was it like growing up in your country?
Growing up was quite eventful - not in a good way - and that's when I started writing seriously. I was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria; I'm the first of two children. I lost my father quite early and life became worse with all the 'steps' around. Had so many things to cry about and no one to talk to so I married 'Silence' early and fell deeply in Love with my pen and paper; they became my everything, for in them, and through them, I could create a different reality for myself.
Does your difficult childhood still influences your writing now?
Yes. A lot of my stories have female heroes (sheroes) because, while growing up, I was constantly reminded of my limitations and denied a lot of privileges simply because I am a girl... Funny thing though, some of those also came from women. It felt like being a woman was a barrier or curse rather than a blessing or a strength; so in my writing I create women who encounter similar hurdles and come out better, stronger and victorious. It helped a lot with my self-esteem and soon I stopped seeing my limitations and started seeing how strong I could really be - not without a lot of tears though.
Can you remember writing down your first structured words?
Oh, literature was always my favourite subject in school. I know teachers enjoyed reading my compositions and essay writing, but this event sticks out more; it was the end of term and we had covered the syllabus. Heck, we were done with exams for the term, so the whole block was razed with noise. In a bid to punish us, my literature teacher walks into our classroom and says; “Start writing a story. You'll stop when I ask you to." I remember it felt like a canon had being let loose. My pen raced my heart as I flipped each page of my 2A exercise book in a bid to be done with my story before she says; 'time up.' Truth is, she never meant to mark the stories, but I insisted she read mine and I was glad when her face lit up and she said; "Did you write this? Just now?" She practically told every teacher in the staff room about my prowess and I suddenly stopped being invincible... it was liberating. I felt I could really do something with my words.
So, it seems you have a real love of words back then?
Hmm, did I? Yes. I still love words. Although I'm an eclectic person, I do love how simple words combined together could create a transcending feel.
Did you go to University?
Yes. I attended the University of Benin, Benin city, Nigeria. I studied Theatre Art and it encouraged my love for words and helped me put those words in human form in front of a live audience. It's refreshing to see my works performed apart from being read.
Is writing your full-time job?
In this part of the world, one can barely live off one source of income, let alone from just writing. People tell me, that I chose the poorer kind of life; I've got the passion and may get the fame but may never really make money from writing. So, no; writing is not even a source of income at the moment. I survive as an artiste hoping to make my break sometime soon.
Tell me about your very first writing engagement.
Well... one day, before I went to school, I went to a cybercafe to search for writing opportunities that paid online. Really, couldn't find any that interested me, but someone found me. She worked in a radio station at the time and asked me if I could write short plays for her, and I said; 'Sure', even though I had no experience at all. I was just sixteen at the time. I learnt on the job. The first time I heard actors read my lines on air, I knew that's what I really wanted to do in my life. The passion kept me going, even when the pay was nothing to write home about.
Tell me about the projects you are working on at the moment.
I'm trying to start a local theatre in my area. It's being quite challenging and frustrating due to lack of funds or investors, coupled with the fact that theatre culture seems to almost be dead in this part of the world. I really hope to get a chance to travel abroad to a more creative and appreciative environment.
What do you most love to write about?
Anything basically; from mystery to romance; drama and children stories.
What is the process of transforming that initial moment of inspiration, or idea, into actual words on paper?
Hmm... well, I won't lie, I get blasted with a lot of ideas daily. It takes a lot of discipline and hard work to write at the moment. Sometimes I feel I wrote my best words when I was younger, but when I read my words now, I know they are different and more refined, and I know I'm only getting better by the day.
Do you have a particular writing location?
No particular location or time, but give me a good idea and silence any time, any day and anywhere and I'll write.
What are your plans for the future?
I intend to enter more writing competitions to keep Improving, and to also put my name out there. I have collections of poems, plays and stories. I hope to one day have them in hard cover, not just ebooks.
Name your THREE most favourite books and why.
Without a Silver Spoon by Eddie Iroh
Silas Marner by T. S. Eliot
Sizwe Bansi is Dead by Athol Fugard.
They may not be my best ever, but they come to mind at this instant and I may not know why exactly but what they all have in common is that each of the stories tell of our struggles as humans to make a meaning out of our existence. They emphasise our fights and pain, the need to fit in, the need to Love and be Loved in return, to change 'norms' or 'odds' and to make each day better than the last.
Lastly... what does writing MEAN to you?
Writing is my means of escape. In words, I find life and my existence becomes meaningful.
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