Qfest Special: Sefi Atta Unpacks Her Creative Process- Henri Yire

I never set out to be a writer.
My happier moments are sitting before a computer and looking at people move around.
It actually took me about three books before I became comfortable with the title of writer.

Sefi Atta at this year’s Quramo Festival of words, opened up about a myriad of things from her penchant to be territorial to her strange creative leanings.

Sefi is regal, carrying herself like she’s adorned with an invisible tiara. But that doesn’t take away from her ‘realness’ and down to earth personality.

“You don’t have to be intelligent to be a storyteller but you just need to have a penchant for storytelling.”

Her growing up days summarily set the stage for her fierce independence. After co-writing and performing a play with her siblings, Sefi approached her parents privately and asked them if the play was actually good and even after they assured her that it was, she still had a nagging feeling that it wasn’t.

“My brother was the creative one. I on the other hand, was just a daydreamer and I would simply put situations that I had encountered in my head in sequences that made sense.”

As she opened up about her sometimes quirky creative process, Sefi was quick to offer the position of some people about her newest book ‘The Bead Collector’ lacking a narrative drive. With a stoic expression, she reiterated that her position about those reviews was that the book was set in the 70s in Lagos, Nigeria and not much happened then.

Sefi Atta is surprisingly rigid about her stance on gender fluidity, saying that the conversation of being gender fluid is scary to her because she is not sure where it is headed.

The session took a quirky almost hilarious turn when she regaled the audience with accounts of her strange writing routine.

“I hate first drafts.
I dislike public appearances. Also, I don’t like the commercial side of writing, even though I have a financial background ; the truth is, I can only wear one hat at a time.”

The wierdness continued.

“I snack a lot when I am writing.
I have a uniform which I wear everytime I write. It started when I bought a couple of cheap grey sweat pants from JC Penny and people thought I wore the same slack everyday and never changed them, so I adopted it as a uniform because it sort of makes me disappear.”

She opened up to more strange writing habits that provoked laughter amongst the audience.

“When I am writing, no matter how long I take, I don’t read any other book. When I write, the book numbering must end with a zero.”

She offered some advice about the overpowering influence of social media on the lives of people today, giving interesting descriptions.

“Facebook is civil.
Twitter is uncharacteristically uncivilised, it’s like a party where people just turn up and disrupt the event.
Instagram on the other hand is pretentious and it’s a world I am not interested in. You need to learn to manage social media, it should not manage your life.”

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