Photograph of blogger Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha

November’s Featured Blogger: Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha

It’s my pleasure to introduce Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha  as my featured blogger for November.

She is the creative force behind ‘A Cooking Pot and Twisted Tales,’ and ‘The Art of Beautiful Expressions,’

How did you decide on the name ‘A Cooking Pot and Twisted Tales,’ for your blog?

Choosing ‘a cooking pot and twisted tales,’ is as literal and as mundane as it gets.  Following weeks of coining names for feel and size, I failed to find anything that settled with me. One Saturday afternoon as I prepared lunch with my children, we swapped stories whilst cooking – it’s the way that my mother raised us. She entertained my siblings and me with folk tales or songs, somehow that made the chores lighter, happier and faster – that was when the name came to me, and as it settled in my heart it felt just right.

You write in the about me section of your blog: “If I blog successfully throughout the next year, I would have cultivated the discipline of settling down to write and ramble. I would (hopefully) have finished the drafts of the three novels that I am working on.”

Have you achieved those goals?

I have blogged consistently for two years and I must say that I am glad that I started. From my younger days, I journaled my thoughts in a diary, wrote stories and poems on scraps of paper. I started stories I never finished. I hoped that cultivating the habit of writing daily would give me a disciplined approach to my writing. I’ve written far more than I expected in the past two years. My novels are still in draft form because I am still reluctant to go the route of self-publishing for my novels – not just yet.

In two years, I’ve successfully published two of my poetry books – Out of The Silent Breath and Unbridled and the third poetry book is practically ready to go. I aim to release that in January 2018 because I have another book that sits in my soul and presses for my attention. Surprisingly, it’s a self-help book and inspirational. I have a need to get it out because I know it will help people.

Photograph of blogger Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha holding a copy of her book of poems, 'Unbridled'
My poetry book ‘Unbridled,’

Did you always want to be a writer, or did writing come to you as an adult?

My love for words and expressions led to my participation in school dramas/dance, writing dramas and short stories, and lead speaking at debates.

As a child, I didn’t know a lot of black writers except a few like Buchi Emecheta, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Flora Nwapa and the esteemed late Chinua Achebe who happened to live a stone throw away from my folks at the University of Nigeria Nsukka campus, even then, I simply knew him as Nwando’s daddy – Nwando Achebe was my school mate. Most of the books available to us were written by Westerners and I had no idea that one could become a career writer.

I grew up in a place where a child’s course of study was determined by the parents and my parents thought my flair for the written and spoken word was better channeled into Law as opposed to Mass Communication or Theater Arts, which were my choices. In fairness to my parents, back then our actors and journalists were not well paid and I guess my folks worried about my future. Out of deference, I started out reading Law, then French language and my career has evolved over the years. Now, I am finding my way back to that which always had my name on it – writing and communication – though I must say that I’ve gained more from my diverse career background.

You mention that as a child in Nigeria you loved Nigerian Folklore: do you have a favorite story?

I was raised in a loving, Nigerian family; I was fed the staples of folklore and proverbs. Words of advice from my parents and grandparents were always accentuated with proverbs that puzzled my young mind.  Being that our life was always busy with many chores and farming, to make these duties less cumbersome especially when peeling cassava, shredding the corn heap, making pap, weeding the farm etc, my mother told us stories and most of the tales were underlined with a moral or two.

These tales helped to hand down tradition and customs and I remember that tales of the clever Tortoise and the animal kingdom always made us laugh, while ‘AGABA, the eater of liars,’ firmly planted the moral to tell the truth in my mind.

 

book cover for Out of the silent breath
Out of the silent breath by Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha

What other kinds of art shape your writing?

My writing is influenced by a keen observation of things that go on around me daily. I am an avid people watcher and a people’s person. Sometimes, I simply take a seat and as people pass by, I formulate stories in my head about them. I love nature – who doesn’t. The wonders of the world that I see leave me in constant awe and appreciation. I draw from life’s experiences, past and present, from the handiwork of others, painting, photography, conversation with total strangers and music. Music kindles my spirit.

Do you see blogging as an art?

If art is defined as self-expression, then blogging which is a form of self-expression is an art and the blogger becomes part of the art he creates.

I see your blog as a centering influence, has anyone ever said that to you before.

Robert, words like yours keep going. I must tell you that when I started my blog, it was purely born out of the need to make some sense of my life, broken as it was. In real-time, I am attuned to community and society around me and for some reasons unknown to me, I draw others easily to me; I could say that I’ve unwittingly managed to carry this over to my blog.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about success as a blogger?

Blogging success for me is writing stuff and finding that it resonates with others. It still amazes me till tomorrow that people bother to read what I write. I will say that most times I’m tickled pink. If truth be told, I only expected a handful of humans to pity me and read an occasional post. I didn’t anticipate connecting with as many people as I have, and I must say that it humbles me.

Blogging has shown me latent parts of me that I had no idea existed. I knew that I had things to say, but I can’t believe that I have this huge well of untapped resources in me. What I’m learning is that the more I dig, the deeper and richer it gets. That I could take up blogging and stick to it has helped my self-belief, determination, and courage to grow. One thing I will say to anyone having self-doubt in their capabilities as a blogger or writer, ‘work through the doubts; they may never go away, but your can-do attitude will quiet them.’

You have a separate blog, The Art of Beautiful Expressions: how is it different from A Cooking Pot and Twisted Tales?

‘A Cooking Pot and Twisted Tales,’ is my first blog baby and the second blog baby ‘The Art of Beautiful Expressions,’ is a self-hosted blog set up to serve as a resource center for bloggers, writers and photography. I focus on the rudiments of blogging, writing and photography.

Please share a short piece of writing, a poem, or perhaps an excerpt from one of your books.

 

Excerpt from my poetry book ‘Unbridled,’

Us 

There are us.

Born at the edge of a void

where there is no beginning;

early memories blurred

by recollections of bouncing on uncle’s laps

where turgid erections caressed our baby butts.

 

There are us.

Sitting alone all night

erasing ourselves and playing cracked records

from torturous nightmares of useless rape

forcefully fucked and threatened with grim death

where safety is far, and we can’t seem to get away.

There are us.

Who have felt emptied

by those who take want they want

leaving us feeling less than whole

plotting their demise in inconceivable ways

where we pray for peace to find us.

 

(c) Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha 

 

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