Elnathan John reads in Accra

011Two book related events this past week: an Accra Book Club discussion and a visiting writer.

Accra Book Club was a rescheduled event, so there were only two of us – one of the other regulars having traveled! But we had a good talk about Anthony Doerr’s bestseller, All the light we cannot see, and other books and reading in general.

013The visiting writer was Elnathan John, who recently 015published his first novel, Born on a Tuesday. The readings were organized by the Writers Project of Ghana, and took place at Vidya Book Store in Osu. About 40 or so people came and all seemed pretty engaged. Elnathan John read excerpts from his novel, which was available for sale, and at a reasonable price, and spoke about writing, especially in the context of Northern Nigeria.  It was a very enjoyable way to spend a late Saturday afternoon!

I look forward to more of such events.

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Two weeks of non-stop bookish activities

It’s been a fairly busy two weeks, and for those of us interested in books and information, there have been
lots of events going on – in addition to work related stuff!

2013 Burt prize winners - coversFirst there was the Burt Award for African Literature. This covered the winning Ghanaian books for 2013.  I admit I arrived late – but I didn’t miss too much of the programme, which had, it seemed, more or less started on time [which is great]. The speeches were OK, with William Burt, the Canadian who funded the Burt awards, talking about the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series of books! That really brought back some of my early reading.

Naturally I bought copies of the prize winning books:

  1. Perfectly imperfect, by Ruby Yayra Goka (1st prize)
  2. Ossie’s dream, by Nanayaa Amankwah (2nd prize)
  3. The boy who spat in Sargrenti’s eye, by Manu Herbstein (3rd prize)

The first and third prize winners have been prize winners before.  The occasion was covered by the press, though not in its entirety as usual.

Then the day after, actually in the same venue – British Council – there was the launch and showing of the documentary The art of Ama Ata Aidoo. The film, by Yaba Badoe, was pretty interesting, though perhaps a little bit long. But illuminating especially if one has read or wants to read some of Ama Ata Aidoo’s work. I did not too surprisingly buy one of Aidoo’s books, No sweetness here - coverwhich has recently been republished here in Ghana.  There’s a great account of the launch here.

Another event was the yearly GAWBOFEST (Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival). Not exactly my favourite event, but maybe that is because I always tend to go to buy books, and get slightly disappointed at the range available. I also find that the long speeches in the morning session must be pretty boring for the children who attend, but then I admit that I don’t stay that long to see what happens during the rest of the day. Yet it is an event that I would wish to continue, just simply because there need to be more opportunities to see books, to buy them, and to talk about reading and writing.

I also went to the September Ghana Voices reading, organized by the Writers Project of Ghana. This month it was Benjamin Kwakye, who it turns out I have met before – though I am ashamed to say that I didn’t remember this. I was also annoyed with myself because I forgot to take copies of his books with me to be autographed!  [Too many things to remember on this day]

The September gathering of the Accra Book Club also took place during these two weeks – our read was the somewhat confusing, well-reviewed thriller, The shining girls, by Lauren Beukes.  Although I enjoyed reading it, it was a little confusing, and talking about it certainly clarified my understanding of this novel about a time-travelling serial killer, and the plucky victim who chased him.

All these activities included a fair bit of book buying – nine books in total – mainly because it is still difficult to buy certain titles as book shops with the kind of stock I like remain very few and far between here in Accra. I even managed to buy one of Ghanaian/American author Kwei Quartey’s books which has been on my wish list for several months.  Murder at Cape Three Points  - cover

As well as these events, I was also away from my usual work location, attending a couple of meetings and a workshop, all connected with the consortium of libraries my workplace belongs to.

On the work side, I was away from campus, attending a couple of meetings and a workshop, all related to CARLIGH (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana).

Now I have to write up two sets of minutes, plus an evaluation of the workshop.  Plus of course get back into the work swing of things!  Definitely no rest for some of us!

 

wife-of-the-godsIt is interesting that American/Ghanaian mystery writer Kwei Quartey is presently visiting Ghana – obviously doing research on his next book?  I heard him speak, and do a reading on CitiFM’s Writers Project programme two Sundays ago, which was at least better than nothing, but part of me wished that he could have given a public reading here in Accra.  I guess that is being a bit selfish, but I guess that is what comes of being in this location.

I do remember Quartey being asked about the availability of his books here in Ghana.  And of course the usual issues of where publishers chose to promote books came up.

Unfortunately there is also a major issue of what local booksellers chose to sell.  I think I read Quartey’s first novel, Wife of the Gods, as a borrowed copy which a fellow Accra Book Club member had bought on a trip  outside Ghana.  His second book, Children of the street, I did buy from a local bookshop [though I haven’t read it yet], and the third , Death at the Voyager Hotel, I managed to download on my e-reader [actually this happened because Quartey mentioned it on the Writers Project radio programme!]   I am not sure however whether any of them are currently available here in Accra, which is very sad, in my opinion.

Thanks to fellow blogger and reader, Chris Scott, for reminding me, via his website that I had actually considered writing about this.

Didn’t miss the latest reading of Ghana Voices

Last week I looked at the Writers Project of Ghana website and saw  there was a reading on 24 October at the Goethe Institut. Given that I looked at it on Thursday, this meant I had  missed the October readings.   I wasn’t very happy with myself, and told the world so.

Imagine how happy I was when I got an email to say that the reading was actually scheduled for Wednesday 31 October, so I hadn’t missed the readings by Mamle Wolo.  And when I checked, information on the WPG website is updated.

So I will make sure that I take my copy of The kaya-girl with me.

 

Upcoming literary and bookish events in Accra

The next ten days or so promises to be full of various bookish and literary events, which I am very much looking forward to.

  1. Ghana Association of Writers Book Festival (GAWBOFEST) takes place on Friday 21 September 2012 at the National Theatre, here in Accra – in theory from 08.00.  Realistically as it is a public holiday, probably from around 09.30 or so.  Lots of activities according to an advert but no real programme available online, at least as far as I can tell.  I shall go, at least briefly.
  2. 11th Ghana International Book Fair, which takes place from Monday 24th to Saturday 29th September, again at the National Theatre.  Book sales and exhibitions are of course the main part of this event, but there will be other parts, including meetings, and the formal launch of the Burt Award 2011 winning books.  For more details, see their website.  Always on my list of events to attend, and spend money at!
  3. Writers Project of Ghana monthly readings, on Wednesday 26 September, at the Goethe Institut, with Nigeria writer, Chuma Nwokolo.
  4. Accra Book Club’s monthly gathering, with a discussion of Esi Edugyan’s Half-blood blues, which I have nearly finished [having no electricity at home for nearly 48 hours definitely does not help my reading!]
  5. A biannual meeting of the Consortium of Academic & Research Libraries in Ghana (CARLIGH) at the end of next week – good to meet fellow librarians.

So I will definitely be busy, and if I get my act together, I should actually do some posting as well!

Bookish activities in September 2011

When I started writing this, I thought September hadn’t been a particular active month for me on the books side.  But then upon reviewing it I realized it wasn’t as quiet as I had originally thought!

I bought nine books at local bookshops here in Accra:

  • 2 cookery books – I just can’t resist buying these, though I don’t always cook from them!
  • 1 novel – one of Boris Akunin’s books, The winter queen, which I had heard of on BBC World Book Club podcast
  • 2 art books
  • 2 pamphlets for visitors/tourists:  one on Twi and the other on Old Accra
  • 2 copies of Ama Ataa Aidoo’s The days, to be given to children as gifts

And then there were two freebies downloaded to my Kindle.

I only completed two books – which for me is unusual:

  • Flat earth news, by Nick Davies:  non-fiction on the media andvery relevant in the days of scandals from the Murdoch empire
  • The historian, by Elizabeth Kostova:   probably the main reason why I didn’t finish many books, as this is over 700 pages long!  An entertaining vampire story

The last couple of weeks of the month was busy.

I went to GAWBOFEST – briefly, as I mentioned in an earlier post.  Like others, I look forward to more of such events, though I know there is a lot of effort involved in organizing them.

Next was one of the Writers Project of Ghana events at the Goethe Institut with Camynta Baezie reading from his novel The African agenda.  I had bought the book a couple of years ago, and quite enjoyed it – an international thriller with African characters!  A pity though that there weren’t more people attending.  I know Goethe Institut puts information onto its website, and sends out emails, and Writers Project also sends out information via Twitter, but maybe these means are still not enough to bring people in?  I guess it also depends on how much publicity the authors themselves do.

And there was a gathering for Accra Book Club, after a gap of couple of months, to discuss Diane Setterfield’s The thirteenth tale. .  The book is a contemporary “gothic” with tales within tales, but with lots of references to reading, writing and books. That was fun.  And we planned our readings for the next six months or so, which was good.

So that was my September on the personal literary side.

GAWBOFEST coming up on 21 September 2011 in Accra

The Ghana Association of Writers is organising its first Book Festival – GAWBOFEST – tomorrow, 21 September 2011, and I am intrigued. It is taking place at Aviation Social Centre, from morning till late afternoon. I gather from a recent phone-in that the Vice-President of Ghana is even supposing to be launching it, which means the opening ceremony will probably be quite long.

There are going to be readings by various “prominent personalities”, storytelling, poetry, books for sale, and so on.

Interestingly GAW does have a website , but there doesn’t seem to be much going on there, in contrast to the Writers Project of Ghana which I believe has a much younger feel to it, and is updated, and promoted regularly.

This is the first of these kind of events from GAW, which I always get the feeling is dominated by somewhat older writers, and I think it is worth taking a look at the event – maybe some time in the late morning, especially as it is a public holiday.

Needless to say I will report on what I found.