Meet Hannah Onoguwe, short story judge hysteria 2016

Which writers or poets inspire you and why?

There are so many, more than I can likely remember off the top of my head. More recently Taiye Selasi, for her lyricism, the way she plumbs the depths of a character’s emotions, feelings, until you must agree that there’s nothing more that could have been said about them. Paulo Coelho, for making fantastic stories in simplicity. Maya Angelou for her graciousness, her honesty, her weaving of sentences.

hannah onoguweThen you have the ones I’ve known for much longer: Wole Soyinka for a vocabulary I’d love to transplant in its entirety, for his versatility with genres; Cyprian Ekwensi, for the ability to own cultures that weren’t his; Nora Roberts for her dialogue and the sheer number of her offerings.

Do you have a ‘must read’ list?

Not really. Maybe one day I’ll get around to reading the complete works of Shakespeare, or Soyinka. And recently I’ve been thinking of hunting down a copy of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, with all the buzz about the movie. More realistically, though, I determine to read the books I have on hand. So on my list for now are Daughters Who Walk This Path by Yejide Kilanko, The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro, Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John, The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani, Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama, The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, and Shadow Self by Paula Marais. And someday I should finally, finally, finish the last installment of The Fifty Shades trilogy by E.L. James, Fifty Shades Freed, which has had a bookmark stuck in it for almost two years now.

Where and when do you do most of your reading?

Usually in bed or on the couch. Whenever I have a free moment, which is usually when my son is in daycare or, if home, napping.  Or playing with his father. If he’s with me and awake, he has to be absorbed with something. This means I often read in bursts, and there are likely to be myriad interruptions, but it eventually gets done. I love my eReader as well, especially on trips. For a couple of months, though, I’ve been loving hard copy more.

What are you reading currently?

I just finished Fine Boys by Eghosa Imasuen. It’s about campus life in Nigeria in the 90’s, with cultism playing a starring role against a backdrop of family issues, love and politics. It’s funny and laidback, the language is classic everyday Nigerianese.

Are you a library lover, a bookshop bird or an online owl?

I could say all of the above, but I’ll have to admit I’m mostly an online owl! It’s great. You can just sit in the one spot and have all sorts of experiences. I’m opening pages and pages of stuff I want to come back and read, You Tube videos I want to watch, spying on people’s Twitter pages, reading about hair, saving recipes, inhaling celebrity gist, visiting online shops…well, you get the picture.

Which genre of writing do you prefer and why?

The short story because it can be the best of snacks, tasty, satisfying and healthy. Also, as a writer, because the goal of reaching The End is closer. Yes, a lot has to be left out, you don’t have the liberty to go on and on about settings, backstories, character descriptions and dialogue like you can in a longer piece, but I think it forces you to be decisive about what goes in there. You have to make the language crisper, tighter, more functional.

Bio: Hannah Onoguwe’s work has appeared in Adanna and BLACKBERRY: a magazine, as well as online in Litro, The Missing Slate, Cassava Republic, African Writer, The Kalahari Review, LawinoThe Stockholm Review and Brittle Paper. She is also one of the contributing authors to the Imagine Africa 500 anthology. The author of Cupid’s Catapult, a collection of short stories, when she’s not reading or writing—or being distracted by the Internet—she enjoys watching movies and trying new recipes. She lives in Bayelsa.



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