The MacDowell Colony is about the greatest writing residency program in the United States. Founded in 1907 in Peterborough, New Hampshire where Edward MacDowell — the America’s first great composer — said he produced more and better music, the Colony has supported the creative work of more than 7,900 men and women of exceptional ability from around the world. Some famous people that the Colony has supported include James Baldwin, E.L Doctorow, Alice Walker, Gregory Pardlo, Jonathan Franzen, Michael Almereyda, Meredith Monk, Leslie Robertson, Alice Sebold, Thornton Wilder, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, and Barbara Tuchman.
The Nigerian Nneka Lesley Arimah, author of the well-celebrated story collection, What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, has also attended the Residency in 2016. The Colony offers 32 studios to artists in seven discipline; that is, it supports: writers, visual artists, composers, filmmakers, playwrights, interdisciplinary artists, and architects. Each year, more than 300 artists come to Peterborough to work. Anyone may apply, and the Colony is noted for its support of both emerging and established artists.
The Fellowship lasts from two weeks to two months; accepted artists are given a studio, accommodations, and all meals. And there are no fees. There are also more than a $1000 stipend and a refund of cost of travel. I spoke with Uchenna Awoke, a fiction writer from Nigeria who has just returned from a five-week writing residency at the Colony. Uchenna has gone to the Colony to complete work on his fiction manuscript, The Liquid Eye of a Moon. His short fiction has appeared in Transition, and Elsewhere Lit. In this interview, he shares his experience at Peterborough and gives information about the process that took him to the MacDowell Colony.
You just flew back to Nigeria from a five-week writing program at The MacDowell Colony, how did the program impact your writing?
I left the MacDowell Colony with a feeling that my writing was in its first bloom. The kinship there is unbelievably friendly, the environment incredibly natural; their connectedness magical. The ideas simply flowed. I arrived the Colony in the middle of winter. You know how it is when you arrive in a place you haven’t been before and it is very cold and the first thing you get is a big smile that’s like a warm spell. That’s a smile that resonates with everybody at the Colony. It’s a culture there; from David Macy, the Director of the MacDowell Colony, to the student helping out in the kitchen, to me, the artist-in-residence that had just arrived. That’s what I call great kinship, and that’s the great warmth you, the artist-in-residence enjoy when you are in your studio working or when you are having breakfast at the Colony Hall; a hall that is really a home. The same warmth stays with you as you are looking through the window at the blue expanse of the sky over the snowfield and the wood beyond, sometimes with a herd of white-tailed deer sunning themselves along the far tree line. These things work together –the friendly atmosphere, the view that is so beautiful it looks surreal, the magnificent meals, and a 24-hour access to the Savidge Library stocked with old and contemporary literature, written by some of the most powerful writers on earth who are themselves MacDowell Fellows. You have the opportunity to read Michael Chabon or Susan Choi and other great writers. Those are not books you easily find down here. That is what I call the magical connection; the connection that inspires the artist to go deeper and deeper in her work.
What were the challenges you faced in the application process and travel to the Colony?
The first step was getting a work sample ready (usually a maximum of 25 pages). And then I wrote a project proposal explaining the plot of the novel and the stage I was in the work. This was the hard part because I had to squeeze it into a very small application field that sometimes may not accommodate more than 500 characters with spaces. Apart from this, I had to work on my writing till I got to a point where I felt that the work sample was ready; this was not easy, because, about 5% or even less of the avalanche of applications is accepted. You can see how tight it is to get in there. I also had to provide a recommender and this, Nandini Dhar, my publisher at Elsewhere Lit, did so well for me. I had a couple of months to wait (I submitted my application on April 14, 2017 and got the offer letter on June 7, 2017) in which period I had woken up every morning with the reality plucking at my mind. Having been accepted, there was the process of getting an American visa. That is a process! But a letter of support written by David Macy (the Director of the MacDowell Colony) himself helped me greatly.
What are the opportunities available to creative workers in the Colony?
You have a whole studio to yourself; a clean and equipped studio. You have great meals. You have quiet. You are surrounded by an incredible colony of artists and staff; a lot of friendship. You have the opportunity of an open studio where you share your work with established artists. What else can a writer ask of? I think you have everything!
What advice do you have for up-and-coming story tellers?
Keep writing. Have the courage to send your work out. Get turned down for as many times as should make you want to want to take a walk. But never quit. Be invigorated. Be aggressive. Read to train your imagination. Read those who are writing and getting it right. Write. Do it as if it is the only thing you have come into this world to do.
You went to the MacDowell Colony to complete work on your fiction manuscript, what should we expect soon?
I went to the MacDowell Colony to complete work on my manuscript, The Liquid Eye of a Moon. I hope to get it published soon, but how soon, I can’t say immediately. I have just completed the book and my residency. While I am looking for an agent or a publisher at the moment, I am taking a break from writing to rest.
What makes you to want to pick up a pen and write? And what is the best teaser about The Liquid Eye of a Moon?
It varies. I love stories, whether tales by moonlight or the ones read in books. A well written story inspires me. I could get inspired by a conversation. It could be culture or nature – things happening around me or things coming into sudden stunning views; those things are capable of making me begin or continue a story. And a teaser, yes. The Liquid Eye of a Moon began after I chanced upon a strange form of belief. Let’s say, expect a story about love and human tabooing.
Thank you, Uchenna
Thank you too for this opportunity.
Ejiofor Ugwu conducted this interview for Satellite Times
Exclusive: Real reasons Bauchi Deputy Governor resigned – Aide
Yakubu Adamu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, to former Bauchi State Deputy Governor, Nuhu Gidado has revealed to SATELLITE TIMES the reasons which forced his boss to resign.
Adamu confirmed that it didn’t come to him as shocking news that his boss unceremoniously dumped his common ticket with the Bauchi state governor because he plays a less significant role as a deputy.
The media aide averred that Governor M A Abubakar’s style of leadership and that of his former deputy differs, even to handling such issues when it comes to delivering their campaign promises.
However, there are speculations that Engr. Gidado may be eyeing Bauchi’s governorship seat come 2019, but believes that from the way he sees the APC administration moving in the State, he may be unable to reach his destination.
Another rumour circulating over Gidado’s resignation centers around speculations that he may be dropped as Gov Abubakar’s deputy come 2019.
It would be recalled that the former deputy governor who travelled out of the state 5 weeks ago was on his two weeks annual leave. During his trip, he used the opportunity to see his doctors and also performed the lesser Hajj before returning to Abuja last week.
Gidado’s resignation letter dated 16th May, 2018 and was acknowledged by the Governor on the 23rd May, 2018.
Efforts to find out who received the letter to the state governor proved futile when our correspondent in Bauchi reached out to the Government House through the Special Adviser, Media and Strategy to the state Governor, Malam Ali M. Ali who confirmed thus: The executive Governor of Bauchi State Mohammed A. Abubakar (Esq) has accepted the resignation of Engr. Nuhu Gidado as Deputy Governor and wish him well in his future endeavors.
He further described his tenure and service to the state as meritorious and therefore, deserving commendation. The Governor particularly commended the former No 2 citizen of the state for the remarkable manner of his resignation, Ali proffered.
He expressed optimism that the former Deputy Governor will avail the State of his vast wealth of experience to the state anytime he is called upon in the future.
Interview: What Dapchi girl told American visitors
One of the recently released Dapchi girls met with visitors from America called US Nigeria Law Group, international lawyers leading the “I AM LEAH” campaign in solidarity with Leah Sharibu, the only Dapchi girl not released by Boko Haram abductors.
Q. Were you the ones cooking or did they (Boko Haram) cook for you?
Dapchi Schoolgirl: We were the ones cooking for ourselves because they said “these children may say we will poison them.” We ate 30 bags of rice plus maize grits in our three weeks stay.
Five of us died on our way going (into captivity). They only gave breakfast and dinner; no lunch. The five girls that died were buried in one grave – all of them on the same day. And they (Boko Haram) advised us not to reveal that we were the ones that killed them. But we said that we didn’t do anything to them. They just died on their own.
Q. Did they wash them before burying them?
Dapchi Schoolgirl: No, they were just buried with their blood like that and they just pushed sand on them.
Q. But the governor (Governor of Yobe State) said that you were in Gaidam and even brought one Canter Truck that they said was the vehicle that conveyed you?
Dapchi Schoolgirl: It was all lies, we passed Gaidam. Boko Haram even asked us “where is the army?” and we said there is no army in Dapchi. They said “it’s a lie there is.”
On our way to Abuja (to see President Buhari) we asked one of the soldiers “where were (they) when Boko Haram abducted us?” He answered that they were watching us while Boko Haram was taking us. And the reason why they didn’t follow us is that Boko Haram will kill them. Then one of the girls asked him, “you were seeing us being taken away, what is the use of your work?” And he kept silent. “You only know corruption” she said.
Q. Where is that Christian girl (Leah)?
Dapchi Schoolgirl: We left her there (in the Boko Haram camp).
Dapchi Schoolgirl: It’s because she refuses to be a Moslem.
Q. Was she crying while you were leaving?
Dapchi Schoolgirl: Yes, I even begged Leah to accept Islam but she refused and said she can’t live with herself if she converted and came back. So she will not – that it’s better to be killed by Boko Haram. There’s one old man from Damaturu who is also a Boko Haram that brings us water. He also asked Leah to convert to Islam but she said “no.” Where by the news reached to their commander that there is one Christian girl that refused to accept Islam so they brought her before him. She repeated the same thing, and he said “we will kill you.” He showed her one makeshift zinc hut and ordered her to go and sit inside.
On our way from Dapchi with the terrorists while going some of us were praying that “let us get into an accident so that we will all die.” Boko Haram captured three Red Cross staff. They showed us where they kept them but didn’t allow us to see them. They said they will hand us to Red Cross but later they changed their mind and decided to bring us back by themselves. They said that they will release us in exchange with two hundred of their members. They said Buhari said something when he came to Dapchi.
The “I AM LEAH” solidarity group visited Leah Sharibu’s parents. Excerpts:
IAMLEAH Interviewer: What message do you have for your daughter?
Father: I want Leah from now henceforth not to deny Christ in any situation of suffering and I want her to endure with what she started to the end.
IAMLEAH Interviewer: What’s your message to the government?
Father: I am pleading for the government to do the right thing and help, as they do before, for bringing the rest to their parents, to do so to our daughter.
IAMLEAH Interviewer: What’s your message to those that are praying for Leah?
Father: I want the Christians to continue praying for Leah, for it is because of the Christians’ faith in prayers that is why Leah stands in the faith, and I want the Christians not only to pray for Leah, but also the family.
IAMLEAH Interviewer: What’s your message to Boko Haram?
Mother: I said that even if we are told today that they’ve shot Leah, I thank God that Leah is still Christian, and that one day I will see her again.
IAMLEAH Interviewer: What message to those praying for Leah?
Mother: May God accept and answer all their prayers.
Exclusive: Father of released Dapchi girl speaks to Satellite Times
Saleh Alulah, father of one of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls, has authoritatively confirmed the breaking news that the girls have been released. Saleh is the father of Hadiza Saleh a 14-year old Junior Secondary Secondary 3 (JSS3) student.
In an exclusive interview with SATELLITE TIMES, Saleh said his daughter and other girls were early Wednesday morning brought back and dumped by persons believed to be Boko Haram.
“Yes they have been brought back. Five are dead”, he said.
“You know they abducted 112 people. 110 were the Dapchi school girls while the other two were unknown boys. So 107 people were returned in total”, he added.
Mr. Saleh further revealed that prior to the release of the girls, rumours filtered the community that the girls were going to be returned Wednesday morning.
“After hearing these rumours, I personally drove to the where the girls were dropped and witnessed it myself. The abductors said they were not going to harm anybody and they told us that it was at their own discretion that the girls were being returned.
“Right now as I am talking to you, we are inside the General Hospital Dapchi where the girls were eventually taken to for treatment. Parents of the girls were seen at the hospital filled with mixed emotions but they were chased away by the Nigerian Army.
“The Nigerian Army went as far as beating and harassing some of the parents”, Saleh said.
When asked what really happened to the five that were confirmed dead by him, he said “My daughter (Hadiza Saleh) said that some of the five girls unfortunately died on the day of the abduction due to fear.
“Even the ones that were returned today are looking really worn-out, tired and depressed.
“They are currently receiving medications.
“Right now, the hospital is surrounded by armed security personnel.
Efforts to reach the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO of Yobe state were unsuccessful.
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