The day started with budding writers--the Elechi Amadi master class for fiction writers. Most of the students were from the fiction class. The author of acclaimed novel The Concubine, took the students on the major tools of fiction. The tools, which he calls the "standard tools which help them achieve success" include: realism, suspense, humour and entertainment, irony, flashback and stream of consciousness.
He encouraged the budding writers to read widely, because in reading, they will learn about various writing styles and have a better understanding of the world "By reading, you pick up the language and general knowledge of the world. It also helps you to uphold the morals of the society. it gives us an idea of history. Some novels carry the elements of history. That's why the novels cannot die. The novel lives on; it is very concentrated entertainment."
He also talked about criticism and how writers should react to it "Criticism is good...but you can have some criticism that can make an author hopeless. There are also some that can elevate the spirit. Once you write a novel, it becomes world property. Anybody can criticise it and write what they want about it. Just remain calm. Don't start writing back. One, you will be distracted, and won't have time to do more work. Just note the points that they have made. For everyone who says your book is bad, there is almost an equal number saying it is good. You may be lucky to find other people supporting you. Note the good points for your other works. You can have a chance to reply when you have interactions with your readers. Don't just write an article in response. You are wasting your time."
He implored the writers to be realistic in their writing, even when they are trying to criticise the society. "I told my story in the way I knew how and showed our society at work. I didn't go out to showcase our traditional behaviours, etc. Just tell your story and uphold the morals. Just describe the society as you see it and in your own way uphold the morals, tell the story and in your way, the rest will come. Write the best way you can."
Some minutes after the master class, the students went for the poetry and prose classes respectively. There, they were presented with the certificates for participation which bore their names. The fiction class also featured Chibundu Onuzo who worked with Doreen Baingana in teaching the students more on fiction. The poetry class focused on self-criticism and publishing.
The evening was time for the seminar on women and love in literature. The panelists were: Sophia Obi-Apoko, author, Tears in a Basket; Professor Julia Okoh, the Director of the Arts Village; Professor Charles Nnolim, retired lecturer and Dr. Julie Umukoro, the Head of Department, Theatre Arts. The event was moderated by Eze Ibekwe, a lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt.
Some of the questions that were raised included: do women have a place in literature? How are women portrayed in literature? If there is a femme fatale, why is there no homme fatale? What do women writers write about love? How do they portray polygamy? How does African literature portray love?
Dr Julie Okoro on polygamy: I have always looked at issues from a global perspective. Monogamy is the influence of the developed world with colonialism and all that. At this point in time we should be talking about African ideologies which we should uphold about Africa. Polygamy is an African way of life; it was practised from the beginning of time and there were codes of conduct attached with it. And then came Christianity which came to dilute our own practices and came with monogamy. Let us look at how practicable this is. Let us look at the days of our forefathers I saw ethics. With polygamy, there was love, control over the women. There are codes of conduct that if betrayal comes, there were sanctions. Treatments were meted out equally and when there was partiality, three were punishments that went with it. We are not practising monogamy; some men have one wife and have many concubines outside. Women are more than men and look at monogamy, you are encouraging most women to become old maids. We should ask ourselves; how did our forefathers practise polygamy? There is no use practising half and half because we are neither here nor there. We do not have what we call an African ideology that we are selling to our youth. If it is properly marshaled with dos and don'ts, it may work.
Sophia Obi said that polygamy is a result of the patriarchal structure of the society. "There is no way we talk about love that jealousy will not come in. All these issues accumulated are issues that make the woman someone that's seen as a deviant if she wants to protest about issues that deal with her feelings. Who made the African laws? Why are we so adherent to them even when the women are crying out? We cannot remain in the circle to say that our forefathers handed these issues to us, even if they had rules, were the rules okay with the women? How did they feel about these issues? It was not okay then, definitely it won't be okay now where most of the women are educated. Most of the women are even bread winners, so they even have limited time to care for themselves and their families. We need to address the issues causing these problems; they are family issues and if they are not addressed, they will cause problems to the society at large."
Professor Charles Nnolim was the "accomodationist", the one whose position handles both of them. "In America, they are talking about bigamy; it is progressive polygamy. Africans think that women are inferiorised. Until men in Africa begin to look at women as equals, this debate will continue. Women are also clever when they talk about love outside marriage, there are many women who practise it. You say that variety is the beauty of life. There should be love and unity within a family. If you have polygamy, let there be love. If you marry a wife, you should be able to accept everything that comes with her. We should be going towards accommodation."
The debate was followed by a Question and Answer session which the panelists were ready for. There were questions about love, literature, women, the materialistic nature of love today, among others. Professor Julia Okoh ended the session by advocating for more love in the society " People should try to love one another; if man and woman love each other, this world will be better."
The last event for the day was a Meet-the-Author session with Chibundu Onuzo; it was moderated by Daniella Menezor of the Rainbow Book Club. She responded to questions about her writing, her new book and handling success as a young writer. Questions were taken from the audience, and Chibundu signed copies of her books for members of the audience.