Write With Style Workshop raises Quality of Nigerian Writing

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Oluwatobi Ibironke

There are different realms of writing: there is a level where the focus is on choosing the right words and avoiding typographical errors in communicating an idea; there is another point where mastery of the use of punctuations, detailed understanding of structure and form, and touch of style in writing are considered. This advanced level of technicality in writing is what just over a dozen writers were exposed to at the “Write With Style” Workshop, by the organiser/facilitator, Oris Aigbokhaevbolo.

The event, which held in late November 2018, was the second edition of the writing workshop. Ahead of the scheduled dates, a number of positive reviews and testaments from credible voices echoed the essence of the workshop online, predicting the impact of a project of its nature.

These came from people like Lade Tawak, who benefitted from the previous edition, and others like Kola Olatubosun – an author – who sees the need for writers to seek help in improving their technique. Both Lade Tawak and Kola Olatubosun sponsored one participant each.

Oris – he prefers to be called by his first name – had earlier established that the idea behind the workshop is to “teach how to avoid rectifiable errors made by writers across genres or by anyone writing sentences regularly” and the timing of the workshop couldn’t be better: the country’s educational system has dropped far below any acceptable standards, the gap between the amateurs and the luminaries in the nation’s literary field dangerously widening. Oris made a good call with the problem at hand, but perhaps a 10-hour session is rather short for an ambition of such magnitude.

However, when you consider the width of the brochure designed for the workshop, you would agree that the registration fee was well requited in terms of value gotten. The art, technical and marketing aspects of writing were extensively covered. Oris taught the concept of style, using the 5 classes of stylists enumerated in a Truman Capote Paris Review interview. He went into detail on the importance of good punctuation in writing and how it helps the reader. He used sentences and anecdotes from the works of Teju Cole, John Updike, Yemisi Aribisala, VS Naipaul, David Remnick and others and spent some time talking about the structures of music reviews, book reviews, personal essays, interviews and reportage.

Before the workshop, Oris published a review of Kemi Adetiba’s popular King of Boys action movie, which most of the participants were familiar with. One of the attendees mentioned the piece, leading the facilitator to laugh. He, then, spoke about the ideal features of a review-essay.

“The review-essay can have all of this – analysis, synopsis, names of creators, judgement, robustness – but it must have more thought. And all of this should be covered in decent sentences employing the present continuous tense,” he said.
The diversity in the ages and profiles of the participants indicated the potential of the workshop to have far-reaching impact. Ada, a lawyer, who appeared to be in her 40s, was one of those who took part in the workshop.
“I just feel I should be writing,” she said, “although I am not sure what it is I should be writing. I hope to find answers now that I have put myself in the circle of writers.”

Jeffrey, a University of Calabar student shared his aspiration of authoring books in the future. The rest of the class was constituted by business analysts, journalists, teachers and a poet.

The name, “The Write With Style Workshop”, does not seem to do enough in defining a project that does more than just teach style in writing. David Jack, a teacher who travelled down from Port-Harcourt for the workshop, gave a thorough statement on the impact of the workshop. He said: “Apart from the opportunity to network with other young, energetic writers, the workshop offered a platform to learn, among other things, the little secrets that make for distinctive writing.”

Oris appears to be mapping out plans to broaden the reach of the workshop. In different conversations, he expressed his interest in extending the workshop to other parts of the country and embarking on a project aimed at properly defining the technique of writing indigenous languages like Pidgin. He jocularly responded to a question from Ada, asking if there is a doctrine guiding the use of punctuation in Pidgin.

“There is none that I can point to,” he said, “but I swear, before I finish there will be one.”
––Oluwatobi Ibironke is a music journalist living in Lagos. Reach him at ibironkeoluwatobi@gmail.com