Photograph — Hadassah Egbedi for Ventures Africa

Earlier in the year, Quramo Publishing Limited put out a call for submissions in a bid to give new and emerging writers in Nigeria a chance to tell their stories, become published authors and gain recognition. And on Monday, October 2, 2017, Samuel Monye and 13-year-old Arshiya were announced winners of the Quramo Writer’s Prize (QWP) at the award ceremony which took place at the Eko Hotel and Suites.

Arshiya, winner of the junior prize is a young Indian girl who has lived in Nigeria for two years. Her winning story, The Forgotten, is fiction based on the historical story of the death of King Tutankhamun, boy pharaoh. “It is an extremely popular story but nobody actually knows how he died. The Forgotten is my version of the story of his death and how some of his closest friends dealt with it,” she told Ventures Africa.

Arshiya, who enjoys reading and creative writing, said she couldn’t believe she won. She had written and submitted The Forgotten for another prize in London, and although it was shortlisted, it didn’t make the final three. “My teacher encouraged me to submit it for the QWP, and I thought it was a good opportunity.”

The Forgotten is the teenager’s first written story; according to her, she rarely writes. “Usually I don’t write. I just think of the story in my head, and tell them to my friends and my brother because he likes stories. This is actually the first story I have written and I am actually now working on a book,” she said. Beaming proudly, Arshiya’s father, Mr Amit, who often helps his daughter edit her stories, said his daughter is a voracious reader, a trait she picked up from him.

Arshiya, winner, junior category of the Quramo Writer’s Prize, with the first lady of Lagos state, Mrs Bolanle Ambode

Arshiya’s advice to young writers is for them to “always be like a second person to yourself when you are writing.” In other words, writers must revise and read their works objectively after writing.

Samuel Monye, winner of the QWP is a novelist and a spoken word poet from Warri, Delta State. His winning story, Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread that was themed around the Lord’s Prayer, tells the story of a young boy, Seun, whose life changed after his uncle smuggled him through the Sahara Desert on an illegal quest. “A lot happened during the journey and he (Seun) found himself stuck in Libya, captured by terrorists at some point but eventually freed,” Monye told Ventures Africa.

Monye said he has been writing for as long as he can remember but only started writing stories and novels in 2012. The graduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, has been shortlisted for a couple of prizes but had never won an award till QWP. He learnt about the Prize on Instagram and decided to give it a shot. Although he submitted the ‘wrong’ draft by error and lost hope, the young writer is currently a million naira richer with a book publishing deal.

Monye said his inspiration is the Bible, and reading and learning about African countries. The story of Aleppo is one of the main inspirations for Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread. “All I did was fuse the elements together and set the scene in Libya, another country with a similar issue. Monye’s advise to writers is for them to step out and make their voices heard. “Step out and the Jordan will part,” he said.

Samuel Monye, winner, Quramo Writer’s Prize, 2017

At the award ceremony on Monday, Mrs Gbemi Shasore, owner of Quramo Publishing Limited, said the company’s mission is to encourage and stimulate a community of talented writers, providing them with an opportunity to gain recognition and be heard. “The QWP Award has the power to transform writers and the careers of winners to a literary path, not just for themselves but as new influencers in society, contributing creative content, education and entertainment.”

Besides high literary achievement, the company also has a clear charitable focus on literacy, reading and education as well as a strong commitment to development and empowerment. “As publishers, we are dedicated to the not for profit enterprise of encouraging reading and writing in Africa because Africa remains the most under-represented amongst the continents of writers,” she said.

Monye and Arshiya with Mrs Gbemi Shasore

The QWP award ceremony was well attended by socialites, renowned writers, writing enthusiasts, and artists including the First Lady of Lagos state, Mrs Bolanle Ambode, former first lady, Dame Abimbola Fashola, renowned actress, Kate Henshaw, and artist, Polly Alakija.

Moving forward, the Quramo Writers Prize is set to become the number one literary competition for aspiring writers in Nigeria to showcase their abilities and possibly get the attention of publishers and literary agents in Nigeria and beyond.

According to Mrs Shasore, the prizes’ judging system is based on quality and integrity. Entries were judged by six literary pundits over a period of four months after the close of calls and conducted in total insulation from Quramo Publishers to the highest international best practices.

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