Website Review: Naijastories – A New Haven for Nigerian Writers

Naija Stories (www.naijastories.com) went live in March 2010 and has become one of the top online communities which serves the needs of new and emerging Nigerian writers and literary enthusiasts.

At the site, writers share their work, receive help through the commentary to improve their work, gain recognition, connect with publishers and peers, and gain access to a potentially global audience. By the anniversary of its launch, Naija Stories had recorded 1,700 posts by over 680 authors in fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and drama.

Recently, the Wibiya toolbar was added to the site and it became a social media networking site, much like any other, permiting users to register and connect with one another. Naija Stories is however, felixible because you don’t have to register to read, rate, review and recommend your favorite stories.

Users score member points as they remain active on the site and they can improve their ranking by registering, submitting a story, starting a discussion group or a forum topic.

Naija Stories is run by its founder, Myne Whitman*, a Nigerian romance fiction writer, Tola Odejayi*, her husband, and a recently constituted team of volunteers.

*Pen name
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This review was originally published in the RSVP Edition of Y! Magazine (April – June 2011). It first appeared online on YNaija.com.

Memories: Naija Stories Lagos Meetup

As I make this post, I am at a cyber cafe where the speed is far slower than that of a snail! :( I’ve been in all day, reading up stuff in a relaxed manner, and it’s been worthwhile. (I just thought to hibernate and keep really solo this weekend.) Anyways, it’s been a week since the Naija Stories Lagos Meetup, so I decided make this post. I’ll be updating this with more pictures and more gist as soon as I get better internet tomorrow or the next. Here goes:

Last Saturday, January 8, 2010, was indeed a memorable day. Members of the Naija Stories website met in Lagos to mingle, have fun, engage in literary discourse and brainstorm the future of the online portal which has now become a rich repository of literary works by Nigerian writers who largely represent the future of our great nation’s literary dynasty.

The event which held within the premises of Verdant Zeal Marketing Communications Ltd on Sowemimo Street, in Ikeja GRA, thanks to Dipo Adesida, brought together eighteen members, including Myne Whitman, the founder of NaijaStories.com and her sweetheart, Tola Odejayi, who edits entries and moderates the website. (By the way, those are both their pen names.)

I got to the venue over thirty minutes after the scheduled 10AM, no thanks to my addiction to my laptop screen. When I quietly walked in, Abby was the one talking about herself and a bit about how and what she writes about. I also recall her explaining the origin of one of her stories because she wanted to write about her ‘alter-ego’. Remi-Roy was not so difficult to recognize as we had just become Facebook friends and exchanged a number of e-mails that same week. She was first to give that warm smile and spill my name out. She sounded so excited to see me. There was a space in-between her and the gentleman sitting close to the door, so I responded to her welcome to that seat. Oops! Let the meeting begin!!!

It was soon my turn to speak so I made some noise by clearing my cold-stuffed throat like former President Obasanjo would do before speaking. I tried to keep the whole thing as short as possible (I think I could be a lot talkative when given the chance and I become more comfortable). Other people introduced themselves while other latecomers trudged in to cause subtle distractions. The king of distractions was Christopher Ogbuehi (a.k.a Cikko) who caused the biggest stare and drew the noisiest guffaws when he told us his NS username. Apparently, he had written some mind-blowing stuff on the website and most people had hitherto been trying to imagine what he actually looked like in real life! My own surprise at seeing him was that we lived in the same hostel (Mariere Hall) at the University of Lagos four years back. Then, he was in his final year studying Law in UNILAG. The only other thing I’d share with you right now about him is that he was a king at Pro Evolution Soccer! I was in room C308 while he must have been in C305.

Tee Akindele will be remembered by me as the man with Charisma. Plus, I observed that whenever he was going to give comments, he would go on and on, never lacking substance to spit! Really, that amazed me. He also has a way of gesticulating when talking as he passionately aired his views. This he did before and after Tola Odejayi gave a little talk on his observations about most stories submitted on NS as well as useful tips about writing and making submissions. In his opinion, before a writer finally decides to submit her/his story for publishing, she should check for the flow of the story, logical consistence, and how technically sound the story is. Also, before pushing the send/submit button, you should be bold to say, “This is how I feel is right and this is why I feel it is right”.

Amazing Couple: Myne takes a shot while Tola looks on...

Thereafter, there was plenty of room to ask questions and engage in more useful discourse. Some of the popular questions/debates bothered on writing for financial gains versus writing highly literary stuff for the name. Must I pander to western sensibilities to become a famous/rich writer? To what extent should I consider my audience when writing? Am I to write to suit my audience or just write what’s on my mind? Should writers write more about real/existent places and to what degree of details? Must I tone down my use of the literary elements, my excellent grasp of grammar and rich vocabulary bank? There were so many questions to ask and deliberate on! Eventually, suggestions and observations were made about the future of the NS website. Some of the major points were the need to drastically improve the graphics and layout of the website. Myne and Tola currently run the website on a voluntary basis and as such are beginning to look into ways of sustaining the website whilst compensating writers, especially the top writers who have made exceptional contribution to the growth of the website. Some wonderful ideas are being considered and we definitely should be looking forward to a bigger and better Naija Stories.com as the New Year unfolds.

The Unveiling of Abby! :)

It was soon time to call it a day, after generous refreshment and the vote of thanks. In fact, someone who just joined NS that same day thought there was going to be a gate fee of sorts. No, thanks to Myne Whitman and her admirable sweetheart (Tola Odejayi), as well as Dipo Adesida (who provided the meeting space), and Remi-Roy who also helped in organizing the programme. I took so many snapshots as you can see and really, some of us found it difficult to leave so soon! We bantered for as long as our legs could permit. Abby was perpetually bespectacled and naughty, poking jokes at everyone, such that we became very curious to see the eyes behind the dark glasses. Perhaps, what was more intriguing was her earlier disclosure that she wanted to be a sniper as a child. I was smart enough to catch her off-guard!

Altogether, it was fun meeting up with hitherto virtual friends and networking further. Sometime past three in the afternoon, after about 15 more minutes of exclusive gist, Remi-Roy and I finally parted at the gate of the venue. We were the last to leave the venue. Perhaps, I’ve found a new aunty to gist with anytime I want to. Just maybe!