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Shasore: Quramo writers’ prize designed to lift writing, literacy

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The Executive Officer of Quramo publishing firm, Gbemi Shasore, is among the few Nigerians, who are losing their sleep over the decadence of the Nigerian society and growing illiteracy in the country. While some only lament the problems and carry on with their lives, the thespian would not rest until she has contributed her quotas, see things are changing for good. In fact, she has had stage performances to enlighten people, especially the youth, on slavery, artefacts and the Nigerian history.

Last year, her publishing outfit set up Quramo Writer’s Prize (QWP) to encourage unpublished writers to put their stories in print; it also has as aim to encourage people to read.
On reasons for setting up the prize, Shasore said: “We are trying to close the literacy gap we find apparent in our society. If you look around you will find that there are more illiterate people than literate. So, we are sensitising people to write stories and as well to read. We know that everyone has a story to tell and we want to use our platform to spread their stories, for those that can write them, to as many people as possible.

“The Quaramo Writers’ Prize was primarily borne out of this. While most publishing houses would want to publish literary giants only, we chose to publish the story that is inside everyone, including the literary giants. The prize is for unpublished writers; it is to encourage everyone to write.”

The maiden edition saw Samuel Onyedikachukwu Monye going home with N1million apart from a publishing contract. This year, the publishing firm is preparing to make another lucky writer richer by the same amount.

What does it take to win? “Write a story, fiction or non-fiction, of 15,000 to 20,000-word count and forward the manuscript to Quramo website.” Shasore said. “The prize is for writers that have not been published before. It does not include people that have self-published themselves. However, this year’s entry closed on May 31. Our panel of judges goes through all the stories and decides the winner.”

Do you edit the stories? “No, we don’t edit the manuscripts. We read them the way they come and pick a winner, but we can only edit your work after proposing publishing contract and it is only when we have done this and you accept that we start editing. I think the judges look at a very good plot, well written manuscript devoid of too many errors and other factors, which I do not know,” she noted.

Gbemi believes that despite the uniqueness of new technology, the traditional book can never go off the shelves. It is on this premise that her company presents its stories in both the traditional book format and new technology to enable everyone to read.How successfully have African stories been told? “There are a lot of people writing the African stories,” she said. “Stories that are indigenous to the place they come from, and there are others writing on other aspects of life. So, it is a lovely mix bag of variation of writing, which is good for a perfect educational experience like ours, where you have some Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, East Africans writing. It is a mixed bag and I think that is good for our education.”

She stated that the prize is open to all Africans even though the publishing firm is concentrating on Nigeria for now, as it is still a new prize. Shasore also said she is focusing on literacy because it is the crux of Nigeria’s problems. According to her, the more people learn how to read and write, understand what they are reading and writing, the more they would know what their rights are.

She said: “If people are literate, they would know what they should demand for, what to tolerate and what to do on their own to make this nation a better place to live in. Education is the foundation and way forward to make Nigeria a better nation. I am concerned about this because I am a Nigerian and what affects the country affects my children, my children’s children and I. It affects all of us. Literacy is very crucial to the society.”

Shasore also spoke about her target audience in her literacy campaign, saying, “For very many years, history was not taught in schools, but it gladdens my heart to hear the subject will return to schools. It was when I staged Ajayi, the Slave Boy seven years ago that I realised that history is off the school curriculum. Literacy is paramount because it enables you to read about your history and, therefore, understand where the nation has been, where to tread and when not to tread. I am interested in history because as a subject it is like a foundation that should be built on. It is crucial to nation building and we cannot build a strong and lasting house without a solid foundation.

“The youth need be well equipped and properly integrated with the older generation, those in authority, politicians and their teachers, so, they can learn our local histories, identify our mistakes and chart a way forward. We need to tell them what they have not been told before, that is our history so they know where they are coming from because they are the next in command. Really, my focus is the youth and people who do not know enough of our history, but I am particularly concerned about our youth.”

With the return of history to the classroom, how prepared are Nigerian authors and publishers to the new challenge? “We are very much prepared for it,” she stated. “There are a few books on our local histories, but the fact remains that we can never have enough, because history is a subject that tells about things that happened in the past. We have about three in our compendium and we shall be releasing a documentary on one of them in a few weeks.

“I want to tell you that once the subject is brought back in schools and we have the understanding of what the curriculum is, people will begin to write books on it. We have people who are gifted in research; they will go into it and come up with something for our children.”

After a winner emerges, Shasore said: “With Quramo Writers Prize, we fish for talents and encourage people to read and write. In so doing, we give out N1million, as incentive to the winner and an offer to publish the winning manuscript. And once a winner emerges, we make him a member of the family. We check and nurture him aside pushing him to as far as he can go into the world.”


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Gbemi Shasore
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