Akwantuo’s Q&A series kicks off with Nana Yaw Sarpong, curator of Creative Writing Ghana, an online literary news hub.
Q: What genres do you write? Which one most attracts you when you sit down to write?
A: Of genre, I write both poetry and short stories. I started a novel twice but I abandoned it. If I want to communicate something, my impulse says poetry.
Q: What is the first piece you remember writing?
A: I don’t recall the title, but it was after a class on Literature in High School. We had just analysed Amu Djoleto’s Ut Omnis Unum Sint. The poem struck a chord. It might not have been my first attempt at writing. That honour goes to a play I wrote in 2000. I was in a drama and we performed our own plays at the time.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge for you as a writer?
A: My biggest challenge as a writer? Now or before? I know nothing about a writer’s block that lasted beyond a few minutes. I think that there are a few thematic areas I cannot touch because people would see what I thought and I fear they wouldn’t be able to distinguish that process from my person.
Q: Do you write from the same physical space? If so, describe it. If not, what are your ideal surroundings for writing?
A: I can write anywhere. I find it creative to sit in the midst of people with talk going on all around and you sort of mute them all out and write.
Q: Writing can be a lonely business. What do you get from being part of a creative community?
A: I dedicate my time to ensuring that there’s a place for writers to meet. And working with Writers Project of Ghana makes that possible. But which writer doesn’t like to be invisible when they’re writing?
Q: How do people react when you tell them you write?
A: In the past it used to be weird. Today, people look on it more favourably and think that it’s cool. I also think that writers have a tough skin and would rarely allow how people thought of them being writers stop their writing.
Q: Are there challenges unique to Ghanaian writers that others may not face?
A: I think there’s barely any local support for writers. By support I mean enough workshops, spaces for writing, publishing opportunities, competitions -prizes, that kind of thing. Are they peculiar? Some are. There’s no serious national award in Ghana. All that money goes to football. What’s a national investment promotion center doing pumping cash into a national football team? Do you know what happens even in Nigeria? They’ve a literary prize. So that’s a major challenge right there. The thinking being done about creative writing is problematic.
Nana Yaw Sarpong is the Curator of the platform Creative Writing Ghana, an online literary news hub. He’s also the Media and Projects Officer with the Writers Project of Ghana. He is a poet and he’s currently working on a collection of poetry on babies.
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