Mrs Ifeoma Ndiolo-Enaholo is multi-talented. She is a writer, poet, movie producer, a motivational speaker and an administrator. She doesn’t like it when people say that they cannot write, because they don’t have time to write. As far as she is concerned, a writer who has passion to write would always create time to write, irrespective of their busy schedule. Her published works include Panorama, Juggle the Dice, Hidden Treasures and You Too Can, and she isn’t done yet writing but hopes to publish more creative works in the nearest future. In this chat with Damiete Braide, Ndiolo-Enaholo speaks about how the environment influences her writings, why Nigerians don’t read, why she wrote a collection of long and short poems, among others.
At what point did you take to creative writing, and what was the motivation behind it?
I have always been writing. I am a very observant person. I take note of almost everything that happens around me. I noticed things that perhaps others don’t see. Due to the fact that I observed so much and am keen about what is happening around me, I got a lot of ideas of critiquing what I see. So, when I see things, I try to figure it out.
I started writing very early in my early age but I actually believed I started writing during my National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) days, but it was my younger sister who reminded me that I have been writing since my secondary school days that I have always been writing things. I had a lot of interest in English Literature which was my best subject. If I am asked any question on any book that I have read, I would tell you what the book is all about. Also, I was able to recite poems that I had read willingly and joyfully, so, I started writing things as they came to my mind.
During my university days, I became conscious of writing poems. I started with poetry. I would write some poems which I didn’t take serious. It was during my youth service days that I began to take note the poems that I wrote. As I travelled from one location to the other, on one occasion, I travelled to Oron, Calabar on a boat which was my first time, I took notice of the water, seaside and as I moved around, I noticed that the world is actually bigger than what I thought. I began to discover places, people and their culture and that got my interest in the heart of nature, the fact that there is so much that I actually have not seen. I went around and began writing them down and later I became conscious of them. I had some experiences that I had that I wrote about. There was a nightmare that I had in my room in Calabar, it was so scary and when I woke up, I wrote a poem about it and when I began to put my poems together, it formed the book, Panorama. From there, I started writing other stories which gradually constituted my work, Juggle the dice.
As a writer, which of the authors would you describe as your favourite author?
I have a lot of authors whom I have respect for like the late Chinua Achebe, because of his simplicity of language while Cyprian Ekwensi, Chimamanda Adiche and others. I don’t have any favourite author but I appreciate each author with their individual creativity. I see what they do and like about their works and I appreciate them.
You have published various aspects of writing, which of more difficult to write –poetry or fiction or non-fiction?
I have written all the different genres of literature, and they are all interesting. Writing works on fiction requires a lot of things like the ability to create all the different characters and their traits. Creating a strong character takes a whole lot and you have to do it well; otherwise, you have not done a good job. There are requirements for writing fiction, for example, the beginning is very important, you have to create the right interest of the person reading it. The conclusion is also very critical. If you don’t get the mix right, the story becomes watery, and it will not be impactful.
When writing poetry, a poem might look simple and short, No! There is a whole lot involved in poetry and you have to know what is involved. If you are writing a poem, it has to be meaningful. It has to have the right take-off, ought to say what you are trying to say and should either to rhyme or make meaning to whoever is reading it. The end of the poem is also critical, so you look at it very well. Sometimes, short poems can be very difficult to write by finding the right words to use.
For non-fiction, it’s also demanding, because it is based on facts. You must do your research and have your facts correctly. If you don’t have them, then you have committed a blunder because an individual can take the author to court. You have to be sure of what you are putting down and be able to stick out your neck that you are sure of what you are doing, otherwise, don’t even write it.
They are all tasking in different ways. Fiction is interesting, because it is fun. If you are creating a character, someone can say, waoh! Where did this idea come from? Someone once asked me, where I got my character from, and I told the person, it was divine. I created the character and I haven’t seen anything like that before. It could be fun.
For each one of them, you write them, as the ideas come, you have to find the right moment to create them and be able to capture them at the right time, otherwise, you lose them. I still have a lot to do, am doing poetry, am working on fiction and I am still going to write non-fiction works from my experiences that I have garnered over the years.
How does the environment influence your writing and why do writers write about their life’s experiences in their works?
The environment influences my writings to a great extent. You cannot write about what you don’t know, and, if you haven’t experienced it, you might not be able to write about it. This is why writers like to travel or see new things so that they observe things, because they have to be abreast of what is happening. For example, they must listen to the news, be in touch with people to know what is going on in the world otherwise, how would the reader be able to get something from what the author has written about? Sometimes, the author has to interact with people by talking to people and they would tell their stories and the author would learn something new. The author has to find out how people were able to tackle situations because your writing has to be as real as possible to be able to create the impact that you want.
Despite your busy schedule as a mother, writer and administrator, when do you find time to write?
It is difficult to find time to write, but, if it is your passion that drives you, then you have to create time to write. I have created time to write. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night to write. I always have my jotter and pen beside me and begin to put down ideas as they come. I wake up early to write. Sometimes, I write when I am going to work. Sometimes, if I am in church, I also write. I have written a poem while in church and I have to do it when I did it. It was during a burial ceremony, so, I took my pen and paper and wrote a poem about the person that was buried. It depends on when it happens and I have the vision and I have to create what I want to create. I have written poems in traffic. If you wait for when you will have time to write, then you don’t have that passion to write. Whether you like it or not, when you have something to write, you will find time out of your system to put it down when it has to be exposed.
Your collections of poems, Panorama, is a combination of long and short poems, why is this so?
Panorama was my first published work, and it was written over a lengthy period of time. It was from my service days to when I started working in Lagos. When I was writing them later, I decided to put the poems together. I wrote some of the poems with dates, while others don’t. I wrote them over a long period of time and, when I decided to put them together, I got all my poems and published them in one book. What I did was to separate the long and short poems, because I wanted to publish my collections. Now, when I want to publish the poems that I have, I would separate the long ones from the short ones. It will be done in such a way that the poems would be suitable for matured minds and it would be done separately while the others would be for children in secondary schools.
I chose the name Panorama, because I was more interested in the context. It is something that I visualised, and anybody can read it. Some of the short poems are enjoyed by adults and youths. Some of the collections in the short poems are about life, money, sea, nature, a baby, telling people not to maltreat their children, etcetera.
Juggle the Dice, published in 2013, are experiences of people living in Nigeria. They are stories that connect with and relates to what happens to the family next door. It contains 10 stories filled with drama and fast-paced.
It chronicles the life of an ordinary man and his experiences. I related the story from the Eastern to Western part of the country due to the fact that I grew up as a child in the East and later moved to Lagos. The book is about the experiences of people living in such areas and using the knowledge of my experiences, I created the 10 stories. Actually, I hope to translate the stories into movies. One of the stories, The Best Tenant, has been produced into television series, and has been aired. I am optimistic the others would soon be converted into movies where people would seat and enjoy and appreciate good stories.
Your third book, Hidden Treasures, published in 2014, is about the rivalry between three sisters and brothers. Why did you relate it to the civil war in Nigeria?
When an author is writing drama, he/she has to determine the period of the work. The book talks about the schools that the children attended, the life of the family, they experiences during the civil war and what they did to survive during the war. It was a period of 1960s to 1980s, so, I had to determine the period and created the story around the civil war.