Professor Diop Sits with AUN Academy Students

The session, moderated by Ms. Emilienne Akpan of the School of Arts & Sciences, was well attended by the secondary students who wanted to learn about the art of writing.

Professor Diop started by saying that ‘nobody can tell you to become a good writer’.
 
“If you think you can’t live without writing, don’t do it because it is very critical, hard, demanding, and sometimes it is for nothing. You have to be interested in being a writer.”  He also stated that writing is different from other occupations like being a footballer, singer, or actor because you can actually make money from them, which you can’t from writing. Money shouldn’t be your major principle for being a writer.
 
Diop thinks that loving literature plays a part in being a good writer. “As an ardent reader your mind is mentally stimulated which also encourages you to write. It increases your mental strength and nobody tells you what to think and how to decide.”

However, he clearly pointed out that reading should be for pleasure. “If you don’t like a book you must not read it. If you write, keep doubting. Many people are arrogant and being a good writer needs a lot of humility.”
He referred to Nigerian authors like Soyinka, Achebe, and Chimamanda, citing them as role models who should inspire the students.
 
He answered a few questions from students who wanted to know how many books he has written and his inspiration for writing. Professor Diop has written about 50 books. On his inspiration for writing, he said, “After telling a friend a story about something that has happened, you feel relieved, which is the same as writing. I think the true meaning of literature is to share something with people.” This was a reason for writing his first book at 15, to talk about racism in Senegal and denounce it. His first work was published at age 16.
 
Bearnice Spy, a 10th grader asked how he was able to put himself into his characters, especially in the book, Murambi: Book of Bones, considering the fact he wasn’t a part of the Rwandan genocide.  He explained that he never wanted to write a fiction about it so he had to visit Rwanda and spend three months doing research and asking questions. He clearly remembers how shocked he was in writing the book in 1994.
 
He also answered a question on how long it takes to write a book.  He told the students that there is no particular duration. Being a good writer requires taking time. For him it takes roughly four to five years.  Murambi, however, took him only two years; he describes the book as an exception.
 
The last question was from Shamma Gashan also a 10th grader who asked if it requires a lot of emotions to be able to write a good book. He responded, saying that of course it requires emotions and sensitivity. He also said growing up he was a shy person and the need for him to connect with people or speak out pushed him to become a writer. He recalled his experience in writing Murambi saying he went twice to the hospital as a result of breaking down due to the Rwandan genocide sufferings and killings he was writing about.  .
 
Professor Diop is a novelist, writer, and journalist, and father of two. He teaches creative writing and African literature at AUN.

By Danielle Ukaogo

The Writing Center

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