Welcoming 2024 writer-in-residence Ifeoma Chinwuba

Commonwealth Prize shortlisted author spoke at Mount Royal
Ifeoma Chinwuba
Ifeoma Chinwuba

Ifeoma Chinwuba is Mount Royal University’s 2024 writer-in-residence.

Chinwuba was a child refugee in the Nigeria-Biafra War, and was sent to a foster family in Ireland at age eight. Repatriated after the war and reunited with her family, she completed her schooling. She obtained a B.A. in French from the University of Benin, Nigeria and an M.Sc. from the University of Lagos, Akoka. She joined the Nigerian Foreign Service and was appointed Ambassador to the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire in 2014.

Her books include Merchants of Flesh (ANA Prose Prize 2004) Fearless, Waiting for Maria (ANA Prose Prize 2008; longlist of Commonwealth Writers Prize 2008). African Romance (2013) and Head Boy (2019).

Writing, talking, and reading stories

On Feb. 7, Chinwuba visited Mount Royal’s Ideas Lounge to expound on the art of story, discuss her writerly vision, and read from her new novel, Sons of the East. The audience will have the chance to converse with her on matters regarding the creative process.

Leading up to the event, Chinwuba answered a few questions about writing:

Why do you write?

I am in love with the written word. I write and re-write often, continuously in search of a better phrase. Being an omnivorous reader, nothing is spared my eyeballs: menus, fliers, newspapers, magazines, journals. So, writing is ventilating, releasing the pent-up words churning inside me, to capture the zeitgeist and educate the ignorant about what is transpiring in my backyard.

What’s the best piece of advice you received as a new writer that stuck with you throughout your career?

No advice whatsoever. Back in 2002 Nigeria, when I penned my first novel, Merchants of Flesh, there were no writerly resources that I knew of; residencies, grants, agents, editors. Not having any mentors or institutional support, I muddled my way through the miasmatic fog, and figured things out for myself.

What advice would you give to students who are trying to figure out a writing process that works for them?

I would prioritize school work, assignments, projects, the whole works. Writing is a serious art. One needs to read widely to master it, and then to work the imagination, rue the plot, characters, structure etc. So, for now, I would say, jot down your literary thoughts to develop later in your spare time. Luckily, writing is a portable, moveable art.

Whether someone chooses to share their work publically or keep it private forever – what’s the importance of writing?

A memoir, journaling, in my view, is self-laudatory, and self-exculpatory. Fiction, on the other hand, handcuffs the readers and marches them into an unknown republic, thereby immersing them more deeply into this world.

Is there anything else you want writers to know that you wish you knew earlier in your career?

Get an editor. Two amygdalae are better than one.

About the Writer-in-Residence program

The Writer-in-Residence Program brings authors of national and international standing to MRU to work with and mentor students. Visiting writers hold office hours and meet with student writers. They also visit classes, give public readings/multi-media presentations, and host debates and discussions with other writers. The Department of English, Languages, and Cultures' writer-in-residence program forges links between the academic and the creative communities within Calgary and across the country. This gives our students direct contact with their role models and inspires them in all aspects of writing and the study of literature.