Wale Owoade: I respect young Nigerian writers
Welcome, Wale. What motivated you into publishing a literary magazine?
EXPOUND is a literary movement, a revolution that comes from an underlying passion for the 21st century literary hustle. The world is changing, we are experiencing higher levels of interconnection, and borders are becoming fluid. An average Nigerian can read the works of an American writer on his phone even before his country folks. I have read the works of say Laura Kaminski more than I have read the works of Wole Soyinka. The internet doesn’t differentiate, and this is leading to a fusion of trends, narratives, cultures—literature is not immune to globalization. And so, EXPOUND was established to publish and represent this evolving literary culture.
Especially as you now have submissions and readership from around the globe, to run and keep the magazine current, how do you manage publications in the face of frequent power outages and elliptic bandwidths in Nigeria?
A lot of hard work goes into the publication of our issues. We try to plan ahead and put into consideration the conditions that come with publishing a digital magazine in a country like Nigeria. I was discussing with someone not long ago about how being a Nigerian means you have an unconscious or sometimes conscious preparation for obstacles. There is that 70% probability that somehow something will go wrong and when it happens, we find ourselves more prepared for it than we think—this is how EXPOUND has been able to survive Nigeria.
I often take myself to Mr. Biggs or Salamander Café or nearby cafés just to write and complete tasks, solely to power my laptop for the period I need to work.
I know, right. I go to the office of one of my Professors to get works done. His office is close to my school’s Vice Chancellor’s office so he (and me too) benefits from the VC’s power generator. Hahaha.
And yourself are still in school finishing your thesis. How do you juggle your editorship with personal ambitions?
It is a lie if I say, it has been easy. My body has gotten used to staying awake all night to the extent that I find it hard to sleep even when I have nothing to do (which is rare). I spend my days with school works, internship and my thesis, and I use midnights for my writing, editorship and other creative and personal projects. Sometimes I break down. The beautiful thing is, I still find time once in a while to see a movie or two or maybe get some drinks and peeper soup with friends.
I mean, with all this struggle to bring creations, a Nigerian critic comes to Facebook to moan that young Nigerian writers are lazy. Such dangerous illusion!
A very lazy illusion! Most of these people don’t even write. I don’t take them seriously, and I don’t think anybody should. I respect young Nigerian writers and I believe this generation of writers is the best Nigeria has ever had.
What things turn you off when reading submissions?
I don’t engage much with submissions until after the decision of our genre editors. However, I have encountered some inappropriate submissions. An example was a submission we received last year: the writer forwarded the email he sent to another journal along with the rejection email he received from them as a submission. It was hilarious but also a huge turn-off. I rejected the submission immediately I saw it and I explained the reason to him.
Tens of literary journals started in Nigeria but have now died. And this is quite worrisome, as it does show the awkward trend of discontinuity in good ideas in Nigeria. Do you ever worry or fear that EXPOUND will join the history of defunct magazines in Nigeria?
Yes, I do worry but my passion for EXPOUND overshadows any fear of extinction. EXPOUND is a team of writers and literary enthusiast who are burning with creative energy. There is Saddiq Dzukogi, Jason Snyman, TJ Benson, Oyin Oludipe, Gbenga Adesina, Chibuihe-Light Obi, Samuel Oluwatobi Olatunji and James Ademuyiwa. EXPOUND come to stay, because what we are working on is not just a magazine, we are building a literary culture that will outlive us.
Finance is one force necessary. How do you fund the magazine?
EXPOUND survives on a personal purse. We haven’t received any external funds.
I am aware the EXPOUND team is made of creatives living in separate cities and countries, which implies that you all find a way of conferencing and working out your plans. How do you do it?
This has been a major challenge. Different people living different lives in different places. We communicate through emails, phone calls and we have a conference room on WhatsApp.
Thanks to the internet, right?
Yes! The internet: the blessing of this century.
Talking about the internet: with the readership rate so far, is it most convenient reaching readers online? Are you planning to print?
We are currently not planning to print but we do have dreams of going to print. Like you said, it is super convenient reaching readers online and we are grateful for what the internet is bringing us. Printing is another ball-game and something we can talk about when there is adequate funding.
Having read and published quite a bunch, what proposals would you make towards advancing literary publishing in Nigeria?
We need publishers. Serious publishers. Not those ones you send your manuscript to and not hear from them even after two years. Not those ones who collect your money, print your book and give it back to you to market. Not those ones who ask for your publishing history before they read your manuscript. We need publishers that are passionate about literature and who understand the digital world. I am glad we already have new publishers like AMAB Books who are ready to invest in the talent of new writers. We need more of that.
Back to the team of editors: I notice there is no woman on your list.
Yes, currently we do not have a female on our team and that is not intentional. In the past, Ife Olujuyigbe worked with us as Media and Publicity Manager. We are currently searching for female writers to fill two positions in our team: a Nonfiction Editor (our former Nonfiction Editor is now Copy Editor) and an Associate Fiction Editor.
What events have so far been most exciting since you ventured into EXPOUND?
Every bit of EXPOUND has been exciting—from the first issue to our latest and the one we are currently working on. EXPOUND is driven by passion and that usually makes every issue thrilling.
Wale, thanks for the time; I wish you all the best and bloom in your creative pursuits. As we say in Nigeria, e go better! Hahaha.
E go better, my brother. Thank you for inviting me to your series. I can’t wait to share fish with you again. Hahaha.