My baptism of water into the Ghanaian literary scene took place in 2015 when I started sharing short stories on Facebook. By the start of the following year, I graduated to posting my works on our website (www.2eweboys.com). I continued devotedly on this journey until I got my baptism of the holy spirit in writing in September 2016. The event that marked this second initiation was a DAkpabli Readathon dubbed Tickling Di Sebiticalis which took place at Jam Rock, a restaurant in East Legon.
I wrote a review of the event – my first book reading experience – and my life has not been the same since. One year and three months after that life-changing event, I have moved from being in the audience of this literary event to becoming a member of the organizers of the readathon. My exposure to the DAkpabli Readathon also opened me to many other literary events that take place in the country and one would be surprised at the number of these events that take place, especially in Accra. I have not only become an attendee of these events, I write reports on them – as many as I can.
The year 2017 was a good one for literature in Ghana. There were uncountable book launches, writing workshops, book readings, reading workshops, readers’ meetups, literary festivals and award ceremonies to recognize and celebrate writers in the country. For me, the biggest event in 2017 was Pa Gya! – the literary festival organized by the Writers Project of Ghana.
The proliferation of literary events considering how difficult it is to organize them tells of their importance. The impact of literary events, whether they are readings, lectures, presentations, panels, public interviews, or conversations between two authors in front of an audience, cannot be over-emphasized. In this copy, share what I have experienced (as a participant and an organizer) to be the impact or importance of literary events to individuals, communities and the nation.
Literary events are the foundations of a robust literary and writing community. These events bring writers and other players in the writing community together and these such meetings are the catalysts for expansion and depth. Expansion in the sense that it grows the network of writers and depth because when writers meet, they share ideas (consciously or unconsciously) with one another which is useful for the betterment of their crafts. One writer-to-writer relationship I observe at literary events is the mentor-mentee bonding. Time without number, I have seen a young writer in our readathon audience make comments about how they desire to be like the authors on the platform and ask questions about how to do that. Interactions like this have marked the beginning of mentoring relationships between established writers and upcoming ones. This is a sure way for the literary community in Ghana to grow, not only in the number of people or content produced but in the quality of content produced.
Apart from these events bringing the creators together, some of them bring consumers – readers – and creators together. Readers are important to the literary community and writers because the growth the work of writers and the writing community itself depends on the consumers. What is the point of churning out content if there is no one to read them? This is why I am particularly enthused about being part of the DAkpabli Readathon and passionate about all the other literary events that promote reading. Reading indeed is the lifeline of a writing community. When the last reader stops reading, the last writer becomes useless.
There are also literary events which have been an all-readers affair. Regardless of these events being tagged as an all-readers gathering, wherever two or three are gathered in the name of a book, a writer is in their midst. This is because writers are readers. In fact, writers do (or must do) the most reading.
Reading clubs, book fairs, book exchange fairs, reading workshops and hangouts. These give me the greatest joy. It is such a beautiful thing to see people bond over the love of books. It is a good source of motivation for readers to keep up the good work, a good place for people who want to cultivate the habit of reading to start from and an important source of reading materials.
Book readings and other literary events are sometimes good for book sales. The most sales are made at book launches where books are auctioned for prices higher than the shelf price. At literary events other than the launches, book sales are peripheral benefits. In my experience with the readathons, the focus is to promote reading. When people purchase books at the end of the events, it tells me that the programme has served its purpose and roused their interests enough to want to purchase a book and read more.
Book readings especially add some value to books. People are accustomed to their own internal voice and modulation while reading a book and this may include tenors that may not do justice to the manner in which the author might have written it to be read. Thus, when an author reads out a part of his own book, it helps the reader understand the tone and pace of the book better and increases the chance of the listener or the reader purchasing the book.
Last, there’s entertainment value in literary events. A lot of skeptics do not get the idea of attending an event where you would sit down and be read to. Just like that? They would usually ask. Literary events sound laborious to many people until they attend. Then and only then do they see that the programme does not only engage their minds; it also relaxes it. I have interviewed a lot of first-timers at our readathons about whether the event met their expectations and most of the answers are that they did not expect it would be that entertaining and relaxing.
2017 was a great year for the literature space. We can do more with more literary engagements among writers, writers and readers and readers only. They all lead to the overall growth of literature, authorship and readership in the country. I look forward to 2018 with great expectations. It can only get better. We can only get better.
Elikem M. Aflakpui