Udoka Okafor, Age 18, Canada
Nino Ricci is a Canadian author and novelist. He is the writer of the highly acclaimed novel, Lives of the Saints,
Who inspired you to start writing?
My first inspiration came from the writers I read as a child, from Dr. Seuss and Beverly Cleary and Walter R. Brooks to writers like Mark Twain and Jules Verne. I read voraciously when I was young, and without any concern for whether what I was reading was “high” literature or not. All that mattered was that it engaged my imagination. Eventually I realized that someone had to be writing those books I was reading, and I began to imagine that one-day that someone might be me.
Who is/are your role model(s)?
My roles models in terms of my writing would be any writer whose work I have admired at some point in my life, from Dr. Seuss forward. From those who date from my more mature years I would include a fairly wide range, all the way back to writers like Homer and Sophocles and Catullus and Shakespeare through to more contemporary ones like Fydor Dostoyevsky, Anton Chekhov, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon, Virginia Woolf, Italo Calvino, and Alice Munro.
That is not to say that these writers have been role models in terms of how I wish to live my life. Writers don’t always make great role models in that regard. Their lives can be quite messy and dysfunctional, or simply boring. For life models, then, I have tended to look more to people like Jesus and Gandhi and Buddha (might as well shoot high) or, a bit more locally, to someone like Pierre Elliott Trudeau. In other words, I look to people who have stood for important values and who have been willing to fight for them in the face of tremendous opposition.
What do you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses?
My greatest strengths, perhaps, are my persistence and my perfectionism. Often enough, these are also my greatest weaknesses. My single-minded devotion to a task can sometimes make me lose perspective and neglect my connections to the people around me, the ones that make life worthwhile.
What do you consider to be the pros and cons of your writing career?
One of the cons has to do with what I’ve just mentioned, the tendency to lose perspective and sometimes to lose connection to the world outside my head. Writing requires a great amount of solitude and concentration, and it is very easy to disappear into the bubble of one’s own mind after a while. It also is not great at providing a reliable income, something that takes it toll over the years.
On the plus side, every day as a writer I get to do exactly what I want to do in exactly the way I want to do it. That is paradise.
How does it feel to be a role model to youths and adults alike?
This is a hard question to answer, first because I am not that aware of being a role model and second because, as I’ve mentioned, I’m not sure writers make very good ones. There are quite a few things I have done in my life that I don’t recommend you try at home, and the truth is that the thought that people might take me as a role model makes me want to run out and behave badly just to discourage them. It is my books, rather than my life, which I would like people to pay attention to and take something meaningful from.
What advice would you give to young aspiring writers?
My advice is always the same: persist. Pigheaded persistence is the only thing that gets you through. If writing is not merely what you want to do but what you feel you have to do, then persist.
Udoka Okafor is an 18 year old Canadian writer. Udoka says, “I am an aspiring writer just trying to find my voice and navigate my way through the world of writing and writers.” Read her blog.