An Interview with Golden Baobab Prize Longlist Author Portia Dery

Hello Everyone. As you may be aware, we are publishing a five-question interview with Ghanaians on the longlist of the Golden Baobab Prize. Today, we feature Portia Dery. Portia is a social entrepreneur and blogs at portiadery.wordpress.com
Her works have been published by the UK poetry library, Artsbeat Afrika’s first anthology, Ayiba magazine; and the Young Journalists and Writers(YJAW) platform. Portia is also the founder of the African Youth Writers Organization (AYWO), which seeks to lure children to read and write by grooming them in an incubator programme for a specific period of time.

We asked her the usual dosage of 5 questions on makkng it on to the longlist!

CWG: How did you hear about the Prize and why did you decide to enter this particular category?

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PD: I heard of the golden baobab prize via face book. In fact to be honest I have been following the activities of golden baobab and eventually fell in love with its whole idea of stimulating the imagination of children through beautiful African stories. Why I decided to write for the picture category was because I love kids but I adore them most when they are nine and below! So I thought the better way to show them love was to write for them.

CWG: How did you receive the news about the longlist, where were you and how did you feel?

PD: Wow good question! It was almost 10pm (in Gushegu, a district in Tamale where I work) and I was yet to check my email for the day. As soon as I saw congratulations Portia, I froze on my bed and then I took a deep breathe, eventually I went back to the mail, and then it dawn on me that I had been longlisted. Since I was alone in my room, I only had my walls to share the good news and so I shouted THANK YOU JESUS!

CWG: Is this your first time making a Longlist? What are writing at the moment?

PD: Indeed it is! I am currently working on some short stories, rewriting and editing a collection of poems.

CWG: In the past prizes, very few Ghanaians have made the Longlist. Are you confident you’ll make the shortlist?

PD: Nothing is impossible! In any case I have nothing to lose by hoping. Indeed with my faith in God , I know something great is on the way. By the way congratulations to the other longlisted writers, especially the Ghanaians!

CWG: Thank you for making the Writing community in Ghana proud. Any final words?

PD: Yes. I would like to tell young writers out there…especially you who have worked so hard that they should write and write because someday, somehow everything would fall in place. I thank Deborah for her golden baobab. She has indeed dared to put her passion in action. I encourage all writers/readers/literary platforms to partner with each other, for it is only when we join forces that African literature can grow. I am also looking forward to partner my project called the African youth writers organization-AYWO with other literary platforms to lure children to read and write. And thank you so much creative writing Ghana for promoting African literature!

Interview with Golden Baobab Prize Longlist Author Kwame Aidoo

This is second in our series of interviews with some Ghanaians on the longlist of the Golden Baobab Prize announced recently. Kwame Aidoo (KA), popularly known as Kwame Write, is famous for his poetry and street name within the spoken word community in Ghana. This time, he has broken the stereotype by making the list.

CWG: How did you hear about the Prize and why did you decide to enter this particular category?
Kwame Write and Deborah Ahenkorah on Writers Project on Citi fm

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KA: I remember hearing Deborah Ahenkorah, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Golden Baobab talk about the prizes on Citi FM’s Writers Project Ghana radio show, and also on social media, especially twitter. I followed on to the website where I read more about how it functions. I actually wrote for all the categories and even entered the Illustrations category, except Rising Writers category, of course.

CWG: How did you receive the news about the longlist, where were you and how did you feel?

KA: Truth is, the Golden Baobab team sent me an e-mail about it and I was really excited. I was working from home, and I was actually shocked because I didn’t think I would make the longlist. I put in as much time as I do with some of my poems. I only attempted entering when the deadline was almost up, typed it out quickly in about an hour or two when the creative juice flowed, edited briskly and hit send. The media buzz about it; radio, Internet, newspaper and having friends and admirers call from all over adds to the honour and I must say I am very humbled.

CWG: Is this your first time making a Longlist? What are you writing at the moment?

KA: For children’s literature, this is the first time I’m making a longlist. I usually don’t work on just one item in a day. I attend to one writing at a time and give it as much focus and move to another, usually of a different genre depending on priority, deadline, drive or creative buzz. At the moment, of course I am working on more children’s literature and some may evolve into animations in the near future. I am, as well, putting together some works for a personal audio recording project under the auspices of Inkfluent (producers of Vocal Portraits spoken word series in conjunction with Akwaaba Music). Also, I am doing some music journalism for the Music in Africa project for Goethe South Africa. My debut anthology and a mini ‘zine’ that projects the Ghanaian street art and music trend as well as lifestyle of the popular not forgetting the underlying grapevine groove are also in the works.

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CWG: In the past prizes, very few Ghanaians have made the Longlist. Are you confident you’ll make the shortlist?

KA: Yes, I am confident, because my work “The Tale of the Busy Body Bee” has the African folklore/storytelling touch and is carved out for the target age group.

 

CWG: Thank you for making the Writing community in Ghana proud. Any final words?

KA: I’m excited to be part of the writers making the longlist. Golden Baobab in its 6th year is ever passionate about putting blue-ribbons in the hats of African writers and illustrators of children’s stories. These are seeds being sown for this generation and progeny. I would say, particularly to fellow writers and the youth that we are unrestricted in any way to dream big but realistically; make focused plans, especially with our community in mind, achieve them and repeat the cycle.

 

Interview with Golden Baobab Prize Longlist Author Ricky Ansong

This week, we will publish short interviews with some of the Ghanaian authors on the Golden Baobab Prize longlist released a few weeks ago. It is our hope that this introduces the authors to you. As this is only the longlist, we are not looking to pose probing questions, but rather intend the questions to be quite cursory in their outlook.

Today, we start with Ricky Ansong, a young Ghanaian writer and author of Koryor and the Sea. We (CWG) started by asking Ricky how he heard about the prize and why he decided to send in his entry.

Ricky Ansong

Ricky Ansong

Ricky Ansong (RA): I heard about the Prize through Twitter. I decided to enter this category because I love writing for children and I wanted validation from Golden Baobab. I wanted to know if what I wrote for children was good enough.

CWG: How did you receive the news about the longlist, where were you and how did you feel?

RA:I received the news about the longlist through an email. I was then at the Vodafone Café at Cantoments. I felt like my heart would explode. I had to take a walk around the compound to calm my racing heart.

CWG: Is this your first time making a Longlist? What are writing at the moment?

RA: Yes, this is my first time making a longlist. I am working on a young adult novel currently.

CWG: In the past prizes, very few Ghanaians have made the Longlist. Are you confident you’ll make the shortlist?

RA:Yes, I’m confident I will make the shorlist.

CWG: Thank you for making the Writing community in Ghana proud. Any final words?

RA:I would like to thank everyone at Golden Baobab for this opportunity. To the other writers in the competition, I say “congratulations”.

Interview with Golden Baobab

This interview was meant to appear at about the time when the call for submission to the Golden Baobab Prize was announced for 2013. Albeit we were aware of the busy schedule of Deborah Ahenkorah, we still sent her our question. We hope you enjoy it.

1. Golden Baobab is half a decade old almost, what has been the experience so far?

It’s amazing how much we’ve grown in 5 years! Golden Baobab began as the BaobabLiterature Prize in 2008. Given that this year is the fifth year in which the prize is being organized, it’s actually more accurate to say that the Golden Baobab Prize is 5 years old. The prize was being run independently by Deborah Ahenkorah, Co-founder and Executive Director of Golden Baobab, until 2012, when she managed to build Golden Baobab, the organization which runs the prize.

2. You currently work from Ghana, do you have plans of setting up physical offices in other African countries?

As yet, there are no plans of setting up physical offices in other African countries but the idea has not been dismissed altogether. As Golden Baobab expands its work, we will definitely develop partnerships in different African countries with various organizationswho share a similar vision with us. This will ensure that we have key contact persons in these countries who will assist Golden Baobab to achieve its mission to inspire the creation, ensure the production and facilitate the distribution of enthralling, high quality, culturally relevant literary content by African writers and illustrators for African children. We have already started building these partnerships and it’s wonderful to see how many people share in our passion and are willing and able to contribute their two-cents toseeing it come to fruition.

3. You announced the fifth edition of the Golden Baobab Prize in April 2013, what are your expectations?

The Golden Baobab Prize has done incredibly well in the past and this year’s prize is no different. We received 180 stories from 13 countries. Granted, the number of submissions we received this year was lower than we had hoped, but we attribute that to the redesigned prize categories which ask for lengthier stories with an emphasis on content that inspires the imaginations of African children. We know that African writers who weren’t able to submit their stories for this year’s prize are busy writing great stories for next year! We are pleased to say that this year’s entries bring the total number of submissions to the Golden Baobab Prize over the past 5 years to a little over a 1,000 stories.

4. We noticed, from the flyer we have seen, that there are two new categories i.e. Best Picture Book Manuscript and Best Early Chapter Manuscript. What happened to the traditional Junior and Senior Categories?

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The Golden Baobab Prize is moving in a slightly new direction where we have placed a greater emphasis on content that will inspire the imaginations of African children. In order to achieve this, our prize categories needed to change to reflect our vision of a world filled with wonder and possibility, one children’s story at a time. We believe that by fuelling the imaginations of African children at younger ages, we will make a greater impact on them, in that they will develop a love for reading early on in life and grow up with it.

5. You introduced a new program called the Golden Baobab Prize Search Hero Program in June. Can you tell us what it’s about?

When we launched the 2013 Prize in April, we wondered about the ways we could reach out to some new audiences and we thought: Why don’t we get people who share in our passion to help get the word out? So that’s what we did and we decided to call them our Search Heroes! These Search Heroes were competitively selected individuals from various countries who provided local search support for the 2013 Golden Baobab Prizeand they all did an amazing job! One of them, Nana Yaw Sarpong is one of your own. He was our Search Hero from Ghana. The others are Aleya Kassam from Kenya, Lynn Fester from South Africa, Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed from Nigeria and Allieu Kamara from Sierra Leone. We’re going to make this program bigger and better next year so watch out for who the new Search Heroes will be!

7. So once you receive the stories, what’s the next process?

Once we’ve received the stories, we begin the evaluation process which we are particularly proud of because of how thorough it is. The evaluation process is in two parts; the reading session and the judging session. The reading session lasts for approximately 8 weeks and this is the period where the stories are read and scored by the diverse and dedicated members of our reading team. At the start of the reading session the prize coordinator sends an introductory video, introducing herself to the reading team and letting them know what to expect during the reading process. The readers also receive the Golden Baobab Evaluation Handbook, which guides them to score the stories. Each story is read by at most three readers and each reader gives the stories scores. As stories receive their first and second reads, the lowest scoring stories are dropped. The scores from the stories are then averaged and each story is given a single score. Of the averaged scores, the top scoring stories are announced as the longlist. These stories are then sent to the judges who read them and select the winning stories.

8. In the past year, your organization focused more on illustration for children with many workshops (Paul Zelinsky was in Ghana for one of your events), why this development? Is it deliberate? Should we expect more?

The focus on illustration is certainly here to stay. We are actually launching an Illustrator Prize later this year, so that’s something exciting to look out for! Illustrations are the backbone of a majority of children’s book as they inspire evocative visual images that stir a child’s imaginations. We realized that to truly inspire the imaginations of children, thewonderful stories we receive would have to be accompanied by beautiful illustrations that children can fall in love with. As Golden Baobab moves into a production year with our new publishing arm, we will be turning some of the stories we have received into booksand we would love to discover illustrators we can work with to create the type ofbeautiful books that children will spot and immediately want to own

Any last thoughts?

Our vision to see African children reading culturally relevant books will not be materialized if we do not turn the manuscripts into books and that is exactly what the publishing arm is set up for. This endeavour is a huge investment and we would invite corporate bodies to partner with us to make bring this into fruition.

Finally, we would like to thank our partners, supporters and friends who have been with us throughout the years. We are very grateful.

 

Interview with Poetra Ama Asantewaa

Poetra (a name culled from poetry) Ama Asantewaa belongs to a a class of emerging poets whose style little has been documented of in academic circles, yet pervades the impressive literary scene in Accra specifically, and Ghana in general. She is known for her straight-language and “in-your-face” social commentary that so forms the basis of her poetry.

In the past few months, Ama Asantewaa has been working on her fashion line called Alikoto Clothing, which in part tosses the bow-tie on top of indigenous Ghanaian fabric, creating an urban design that is both very Ghanaian and exotic at once.

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When we received an email from her concerning her latest project, Jill of All Trade, from 1 – 12 July 2013, we thought we might as well broaden the scope and catch up with the fiercely charming  poet.

Creative Writing Ghana: Let’s start off with a summary of what you have been up to recently on the literary scene in Ghana

Poetra Ama Asantewaa: In summary, I’ve been underground. Not so much in the light of the media. I led a poetry workshop that was organized by Inside the Moskito Net in the foreign language department of the University of Ghana, performed at a few poetry events, and currently working on two scripts

CWG: When did you start Alikoto? We know it is a clothing line, why did you do it?

PAA: Alikoto started 2 years ago. My mother has been sewing for over 40 years, everything I know, I learnt from her. I was always sketching designs, threading needles and sewing shoddy versions of my sketches around the house. So it came as no surprise when I started a clothing line of my own.

CWG: We know you as a poet. We also know that many poets in Ghana indulge in other day jobs. But clothing/fashion? Really unheard of. Any comments?

PAA: My official day job is as a Networks and Systems Admin. I juggle that with poetry and fashion. I get less sleep and rest, but each of them is like babies, I can’t starve any of them. The satisfaction they each bring me is worthwhile.

CWG: This event that is coming up, what are the details?

PAA: Jill of All Trades is the name of the event, inspired by the current bowtie collection (which is also called Jill Of All Trades).  It is an event to celebrate women who are challenging the status quo and doing more than one activity (their individual interests) and doing each of them successfully. The event will run online and on a tv screen near you in ten days; with each day revealing a Jill Of All Trade, their journey, challenges and triumphs. There will be a networking event on the 20th of July at Taverna Tropicana to bring together people from all professions, to interact, network, share ideas and enjoy some music and poetry

CWG: You say it is for women doing more than one job/activity and doing each successfully; you are talking about yourself right and others like you?

PAA: Yes. More about others like me, than myself.

CWG: Should the men come? We know many men who run more than a single job and do it successfully.

PAA: Yes! Yes! The men are invited! Come in your numbers. We’re celebrating the women for now, but your time will come J

CWG: Any poetry event planned for the year?

There will be poetry and music on the 20th! There will also be a major event in the latter part of the year, details will be communicated once planning is fully done.

NB: entry to the networking event is by ticket, call 0269138921 for yours.

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