Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Author Questions & Answers Session With Oyeleye Mahmoodah

Zakiyyah: Good evening, members, it’s time!

I am going to moderate today’s activity, and no one is allowed to interact or distract the session, I’ll be asking Mahmoodah questions and at the end of the Q&A, you’ll get the chance to personally ask her questions. 

Oyeleye, Mahmoodah Temitope is the author of Faded Blues, the winning novel for the Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors (Prose, 2021) and the Youths Digest Campus Journalism Awards, authors category (2022). She also emerged winner of the NESA-LASU essay competition (2023) and the PEACE TALE COMPETITION (Senior Category, 2023).   She is a member of the Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation. Her works have been finalists and semi-finalists for varying literary prizes including the Abubakar Gimba Prize For Creative Nonfiction (2023), Akachi Chukwuemeka Prize For Literature(2023), Gimba Suleiman Hassan esq. Poetry Prize (2023), PROFWIC Valentine’s Day Writing Contest (2023), MSSN-LASU Essay Competition (2022), BKPW Poetry Contest (February 2022), Writefluenza horror/suspense/thriller contest (2021), Wakaso Poetry prize (May 2021) and the Abubakar Gimba prize for short story (February 2021).  Her publications have graced the print/online platforms of Muse, Brittle Paper, the Kalahari review and others, including some intern

Good evening Mahmoodah and welcome! 

Thank you for accepting this invitation. We are super honored to have you in our space, our members are so excited to 

learn and hear from you.

I have 10 questions for you today Ms. Mahmudah, I hope you are excited because we all are happy to have you here today.

Mahmoodah: The pleasure is all mine. I am looking forward to the questions.

Zakiyyah: Great🥰

I’ve known you as a writer since 2022, thanks to the great Art Festival, HIASFEST. Can you express your journey into the world of writing and literature? What was your very first motivation to pick up a pen to write?

Mahmoodah: I began writing when I was eight years old, right after my immediate elder brother was admitted into the boarding school. I was the only child at home then, with my mother. I got to meet my siblings only during the holidays. My mum would stuff the shelves with storybooks, lots of them. I learned in my loneliness how to become an avid reader, and thereon how to write. HIASFEST 2021 however gave me the courage to share the things I wrote, because, for the first time, I learned that what I wrote meant something to someone. My writing was appreciated.

My very first motivation was my parents. They gave me books to read. Those books taught me how to write. First, I rewrote stories and then later, God started to feed my thoughts with mine.

Zakiyyah: Wow, this is interesting. I’m glad you put your words out there.

“Faded Blues” is your award-winning novel. What was the spark behind this story, and how did you develop its characters and plot?

Mahmoodah: “Faded Blues”, my baby, as I call it, was an aftermath of the hobbies I indulged in during the Lockdown in the year 2020. I watched a lot of movies then, one of which included “What Happened To Monday”. That movie inspired me to create something of that kind, but I wanted to make mine a traditional version. I imagined how our Nigerian universe would turn out in the 2070s,  based on the economic figures and political happenings that year, and I was able to come up with a plot that seemed somewhat plausible to me. 

The characters developed every time I tried to type something. Today, I might try to infuse a character and it might not work out. I would remove it, or try to create a backdrop that makes it work. Developing the characters came with lots of trial and error. Thank God, in the end, it turned out well. Every time I read “My Baby”, I am grateful for that.

Zakiyyah:. I like the way you talk about your book and how you appreciate it even with the advancement in your growth and writing career. 

Many of your works have been recognized in literary competitions. How does it feel to receive accolades for your writing, and in what way do these achievements influence your work?

Mahmoodah: I believe the wins are like the ointment that writers rub on their wounds. Wounds come in the form of consecutive rejections. It’s like receiving God’s carefully wrapped surprise on a day you did not wake up feeling good. Nobody goes into a contest with the assurance that they will grab a win. So, those beautiful surprises are reminders that you need to better yourself at writing. If you relax and stop putting in the effort, the surprises might just stop coming. The truth is that a writer’s achievements aren’t landmarks, just alarm clocks reminding us that yesterday’s win was for yesterday’s war. Today’s war would not be the same as yesterday’s. So I put in the effort to not regress,  but to instead become better every day. It’s a one-on-one between me and me every day.

Zakiyyah: Wow👏

Incredible!

Mahmoodah: Thank you 🥰

Zakiyyah: You’re a member of the Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation and even the chairperson of  HCAF Lagos branch. Could you tell us about your involvement with this organization and how it has impacted your writing journey?

Mahmoodah: I once said that HCAF is a fairytale land. We have fairy godfathers in there who are willing to give us all that we need, to blossom from seedlings into trees. When we become little trees, they want us to benefit from the rewards in the hereafter by becoming a canopy for smaller trees. 

I heard that we did not have a Lagos HCAF branch in 2021. I told Daddy, Sir B.M Dzukogi, the founder of Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation that I would like to create one. I was fifteen years old with no experience. I didn’t believe that he’d let me handle such a big task. He believed in me, however. With the aid of like individuals some of whom are members of our Lagos HCAF executives, who also supported and believed in me and the HCAF vision, we have been able to create the Lagos HCAF we know today. 

HCAF taught me not just to grow. It taught me that it is of no use to shine alone. In there, we shine together. That union has given me the courage to give my best in my writing journey, knowing that I am a representative of not just myself,  but of a greater cause.

Zakiyyah: Wow, collected response. 

The union between writers, both great and young writers is always a thing to admire.

As a prose editor with the Teenlit Journal, what do you look for in submissions from young writers, and what advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Mahmoodah: I appreciate creativity. I believe that no story has never been told before, even the weirdest ones. As such, I love writers who test the boundaries of innovation and tell the stories we have heard before in a manner that we haven’t seen. I love bold writers. 

To aspiring authors, I’d say be bold. Do not keep those thoughts to yourself. What is the worst that could happen? The so-called successes are those who took chances and who wrote those weird 

thoughts and submitted them. Darn the fear of rejection! Darn the what-ifs! Just write.

Zakiyyah: Thank you for this advice!

Writing can be a solitary endeavor. How do you deal with writer’s block or moments of self-doubt?

Mahmoodah: Writer’s block doesn’t happen to me. Perhaps, sometimes I’m too lazy to write something. The truth is, however, that I know what to write, but I am not just ready to write it. Every day is a story in itself. So, the stories never finish.

Self-doubt is a different cup of tea. Sometimes, I end up submitting for a contest a few minutes before the deadline or not at all, because of this. Sometimes you have that story at hand, just not the courage to push it out there for another eye besides yours to see. I am overcoming it in bits. Saying “to hell” with the fears and what-ifs, because those things just drag you down.

Zakiyyah: Hundred percent.

In “Faded Blues” and your other works, do you intentionally incorporate cultural elements or themes specific to Nigeria, and if so, how do they enrich your storytelling?

Mahmoodah: Once I had a conversation with a friend about what African literature should mean to us. That day, we concluded that individual writers have a unique definition of African literature. I wrote intentionally, trying to infuse my definition of African literature into my book. This does not necessarily mean that my definition is candid. In some of my works, I branch out and go beyond the borders of what is Nigerian or African and I tell that story anyway. African or not, every literary work is part of a more inclusive world called Global literature. The knowledge that my work could be read, even after I’m gone, by someone living somewhere I’ve never been to before,  makes me unable to narrow down my concepts to just be about the Nigerian air alone. Sometimes, my piece could be specific to Nigeria, and sometimes it could transcend that. In the end, however, the fact that I was born and bred here would always have an effect on my perspectives and the way I put them in print.

Zakiyyah: ❤️❤️

Can you reflect on the concept of “finding peace in art” and how creativity contributes to your well-being?

Mahmoodah: I first heard of the concept of “art therapy” after I joined HCAF. The Kaduna HCAF branch had organized a session for it at that . Before learning of that coinage, however, I used to find healing in writing stories. You know, there is truth even in fiction. Sometimes, a writer leaves her truth in a piece. You might find it out and you might not. Leaving it out there makes me find healing. Writing or playing with digital artistry sets me free from the burden of my thoughts.

Zakiyyah: What role do you see storytelling playing in preserving and sharing cultural heritage and traditions?

Mahmoodah: I believe that storytelling plays the role of invoking curiosity. It points out to us the truth that no one hearkens to anymore so that someone would get curious. Storytelling in my language, Yoruba, is called “Àlọ́  Àpagbè”, with lots of singing and dancing infused, in between a tale told by an elder, beneath the covers of moonlight. Storytelling itself is a cultural heritage.

Zakiyyah: As a writer, what legacy or message do you hope to leave behind for future generations of readers and writers?

Mahmoodah: I write intentionally, hoping that when someone reads a creation of mine, they get to keep a piece of me with them,  perhaps in their memory. I met Sir Chike Momah in his book, “The Shining Ones”. I was twelve. I have been unable to forget him and the message he folded into the pages of that book. Every time I remember the phrase, “May we shine as one”,  I get to remember also that he taught me that. I want to have that sort of effect on others too with my writing. I want to teach people who might never know me something beautiful as well through every piece I get to write.

Zakiyyah: I do not doubt you’ll fulfill your wishes.

Have you ever gotten harsh critics on your works? If yes, please how do you handle it. Or what do you suggest?

Rejection mails too. How do you deal with them or the piece.

Mahmoodah: I believe critics exist to make us better. Of course,  we are humans and we don’t like negative remarks. Perhaps, you may feel down when you hear someone else point out where you have erred. When you are alone, however, you get to ponder on it and try to get better so that you do not receive the same complaint next time. 

As for rejection emails, I have become a bit passive-aggressive towards them. As a frustrated writer, it’s okay to feel sad about how abrupt a rejection mail was, but also learn to appreciate magazines that send you personalized responses. I would always love FIYAH literary magazine for that personalized rejection mail they sent me in 2021. I believe it is part of what made me into who I am today.

Zakiyyah: Niche is very important in writing. How do best do you suggest one can easily discover his niche? If you don’t mind sharing your experience on how you discovered yours too.

Mahmoodah: To discover your strength in the literary sphere, try everything first. Then, you’ll discover what avenue you enjoy using the most. The fact is you are trying to pass a message. It doesn’t matter what means used. All that matters is that you enjoy using that media. I write both prose and poetry for instance, but I write more prose than poetry because I enjoy writing the former more than the latter.

Zakiyyah: And to my final question: In the novel, Morayo was desperate to get into a new marriage after her divorce with Gbnary, but why didn’t she get married to Sebastian after everything?

Mahmoodah: In the novel, Morayo is not desperate. Rather, she was being pressured by her family and society to get married. The fact that she spent her youth with Sebastian and his family placed a strain on the development of their relationship. She had brother-zoned him. Then came the misunderstandings and the ordeals too. The novel’s conclusion does not state however that they did not get married. It only left the rest to your imagination. She was able to overcome her ordeals and sort out all of the misunderstandings she had with him. Perhaps, they got married. Perhaps they didn’t.

Zakiyyah: Yeah. Probably, I sensed the story ended with a cliffhanger. But trust me, your book was magical beyond what words could describe. 

After reading the first chapter of the novel, I had to read the About the Author page and the prologue before continuing. May God bless your art Mahmoodah, you laid a footprint on the path of art and science.

Mahmoodah: I am honored. I really appreciate your compliment. Thank you🥰

Zakiyyah: Thank you Mahmuda!

It was nice having you.

We’ve come to the end of today’s session. Thank you so much Mahmoodah. I enjoyed conversing with you. Looking forward to watching you break boundaries and working to make your goals and aspirations real. Thank you once again.

Mahmoodah: It was my pleasure all the way.  Thank you for having me here. I appreciate the opportunity to be here this night, sharing my thoughts and experiences.

Zakiyyyah: It is our pleasure, indeed.


Oyeleye, Mahmoodah Temitope is the author of Faded Blues, the winning novel for the Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors (Prose, 2021) and the Youths Digest Campus Journalism Awards, authors category (2022). She also emerged winner of the NESA-LASU essay competition (2023) and the PEACE TALE COMPETITION (Senior Category, 2023).

She is a member of the Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation. Her works have been finalists and semi-finalists for varying literary prizes including the Abubakar Gimba Prize For Creative Nonfiction (2023), Akachi Chukwuemeka Prize For Literature(2023), Gimba Suleiman Hassan esq. Poetry Prize (2023), PROFWIC Valentine’s Day Writing Contest (2023), MSSN-LASU Essay Competition (2022), BKPW Poetry Contest (February 2022), Writefluenza horror/suspense/thriller contest (2021), Wakaso Poetry prize (May 2021) and the Abubakar Gimba prize for short story (February 2021).

Her publications have graced the print/online platforms of Muse, Brittle Paper, the Kalahari review and others, including some international anthologies like the IHRAF Youth Anthology 2022, The other side (Writefluence anthology) and INNSAEI: International Journal of creative literature for peace and humanity (IJCLPH).

She is an undergraduate student of the department of Economics, Lagos State University. She is a Prose editor with the Teenlit Journal, a blooming online journal which seeks to provide a platform for youthful writers to showcase their creativity. She is also the chairperson, Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation, Lagos Chapter and the curator of the HCAF STARS SERIES. She finds peace in art. As such, whenever her nose is not buried in a book, she enjoys playing mobile games, watching movies or crocheting.

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