(An In-House Review of the Touch of Spice competition – personal views of course!)
What?! I didn’t know that ‘Naija’s Got Talent’ like this! Pay a person’s price and you would be shocked at what the person would present. I’m sure when Naija Stories and World Reader decided on the theme, they thought, ‘Nigerians wouldn’t really write deep sex stories, let’s just ask them to give us a touch of it.’
They got more than they bargained for. I know. I read all the stories for the contest.
My elder brother’s comment that ‘You have to wear a condom to read some entries’ then made loads of sense. Holy Mother of Aôndo! There was so much steam in most of the stories that you just had to take away the spice and just fan on and on. A few NSers confessed to having to take a compulsory break from NS for the duration of the contest. They sure knew the values of ‘if you can stand the heat, stay outta the kitchen!’
OVERVIEW OF THE WRITERS
There were thirty-five stories from various writers – from the very best of Naija Stories including veteran Seun Odukoya, Da Writing Engineer, Eletrika, and Howudey among others. There was the likes of Sibbyl Whyte and Lactoo present too trying their hands, it would seem, for the first time at new things – one, a different kind of writing and the other, a whole new world of steam. New entrants Helen4ever82, Sunshine and Chinyere Chimodo made the cut with debut pieces that sure didn’t show them to be debut writers one bit. This selection of writers that entered the competition from the start showed that it was going to be some big battle between the writers of grace that NS had come to be proud of, the other writers who had kept showing remarkable progress in every new post and the new plus hardly known entrants. It was a tale that everyone was gearing to read. And yes, readers tore through the posts like mad with Seun-Odukoya (predictably) getting some of the highest view count of stories with over seven hundred views and more than one hundred and five comments. The writers were gracious (or maybe so anxious) giving almost every comment a reply.
Various styles were employed in the contest. Most of them seemed to follow a pattern that defined spice to be SEX and yes, deep sex. Vivid scenes showed that most of the writers (not all) didn’t have a problem with experience. Whether acquired from reading or directly, the craft was shown to leave no reader wondering. Stories like ‘Incidental Pervert’, ‘Enigma’ by Phoenix, Gretel’s ‘A New Beginning’ had a raw rendition of sex that sure spelt ‘spicy’ and a removal of the word ‘touch’. Theirs was full dose! Some of the authors were a bit discreet in their explorations including the like of Leekwid in ‘The Love Triangle’ and ‘Sweet as a rose’ by Scopeman (written in a deep English style reminiscent of grand authors). Some descriptions showed inexperience and rather than raise anyone’s hormones might have mellowed them into humour. Such descriptions as that of Lactoo in ‘Spicy Soul Food’ reminds one of the story of a man who after boasting to his friends he was not a virgin told them that ‘breasts’ were hard like coconuts. There were other stories that just took away the spice and replaced it with some charming subtle romance including Tosin in his ‘Living Again’ (which despite the beauty of his narrative, some say didn’t quite pick the romantic tone).
It would help if most of the writers got to edit their work, now devoid of the tightness of the restriction of a competition and make it come out alright. The errors on some pieces were also horrendous which made reading pretty difficult. Several replies on Amor’s ‘Re-union Confession’ speak of this. There are several others simply thrown in which some writers have confessed were written in a mad rush. While it is one thing to get into a competition, it is lovely to do so with a piece that would stand a fair chance. This calls for writers to pay more attention to editing on normal posts and more importantly, to competitions!
Maybe we should have another competition that would draw people to their limits – maybe something with a horror theme! NS sure keeps on pulling surprises!
The stories can be grouped largely into various categories but over here, we would simply put only a few in similar brackets. There were the ‘Letter’ entries including Sibbyl Whyte’s ‘A Letter to a dear brother’, ‘Letter to my love’ by Milady, and ‘Love is like an Opioid’ by Fiyinfoluwa Akinsiku.
There were also the dream entries including Seun Odukoya’s ‘The Basic’s are’, Mazi Nwonwu’s ‘Incidental Pervert’. Some of the stories were subtly preachy including Da Writing Engineer’s ‘Sunshine’ and ‘A New Beginning’ by Gretel.
Giving it up for girl power mainly was ‘Uloma makes her move’ by Jollof. This piece seemed like it was tailored for the competition considering that it had the requirements for bonus marks including a rounded female character and tones of safe sex hidden somewhere. ‘The Bet’ by Rita carried the girl power theme a bit but of course, a boy had to come change the focus a bit. In the category of surprise finishes (which most of the stories truly qualify for but which only a few are mentioned now) were Howudey’s ‘Sticky Situation’ that had someone ask a question that played at the tongue of this reviewer’s heart: ‘How u dey do am?!!’
There was the native category with ‘The Legend of the parallels’ by Sally Kenneth Dadzie, ‘Nana’s Knight’ by Laryoo, ‘A Touch in the rain’ by Chinyere Chimodo… Okay, I guess some people are getting tired of this… So, let’s skip…
A noticeable reading of the various stories by each other was noticeable. This was made known by the comments dropped on stories by fellow competitors. Most of the comments on stories by different contestants were largely balanced, without bias and in many cases, full of admiration (that in some places looked a bit false). This showed the contestants as being largely open-minded and worthy competitors simply out to have fun (and of course, win the big prize!)
GETTING THE WINNERS – THE SURPRISE POLLS
This was the first stage of selecting from the really closely knit stories. It is very likely that most readers had a hard time deciding which stories to vote for considering such qualities as friendships; quality of writing; the content and the like. It seemed like the votes were going to be tightly contended. Surprisingly, when the results were released it was far from anything of the sort. It looked more like the results of a typical Nigerian election. The difference was that the people in power (The NS PDP) who everyone would have expected to top the charts based on popularity or the others who might have charmed due to their seeming writing prowess were downed by far. Matter of fact, it seemed that after the scores of Bubblinna’s To a brother with Love’ and Da Writing Engineer’s ‘Sunshine’, the ‘competition’ was split among the other contenders with very close but near embarrassing margins. So, it came to be that Bubblinna’s ‘To a brother, with Love’ came tops with 174 votes – 24% of the total votes cast leaving the next contender, Da Writing Engineer with his ‘Sunshine’ with 67 votes (9.4%) of the votes and ‘A Touch in the Rain’ by Chinyere Chimodo with 30 votes (4.14%). ‘Before the wedding night’ by Lawore Olufemi got 7 votes (0.97) while Lactoo’s ‘Spicy Soul Food’ and ‘Letter to my love’ by Milady shared 6 votes a piece (0.83%).
The comments and general feeling in the air after the release of the results sure showed that there was some measure of spice – hot peppery spice to be precise – in the air. Many people seemed disappointed in the results and a good number made comments on their statuses, and/or the result page.
It would seem most of them forgot that polls generally have to do with individual preferences and are not exactly a measure of the quality of writings or anything contended for that matter but more of the popularity of a particular writer, campaigning, and a few other tricks by contestants. Now, from all indications some people did their jobs really well without sleeping while a few others let chance do it for them. Chance sure did its job. It was time to wait for the Judges…
THE JUDGES AND THEIR LIST
An information post ‘Romance Writers Join NS Editors to Judge Touch of Spice Contest’ that was not really viewed from the number of views announced that members of the Romance Writers of West Africa had been co-opted to judge the contest. Well, not surprisingly, considering these writers basically have the heart of the competition and lots of spice at the core of their writings. The RWOWA team include Kiru Taye (award winning author who is also a member of the Naija Stories); Netty Ejike (publisher and renegade Harlequin lover who transferred a passion from reading romance into writing same. Two Naija Stories Editors were also announced as judges including Su’eddie Vershima Agema (one of those regular guys jor!) and the chemical Samuel Okopi (a.k.a Chemo poet and versatile writer). It seemed everyone had to keep their fingers crossed – well, a few people judging from the number of views on the post as earlier mentioned!
THE SHORT LIST AND JUDGES COMMENTS
Like the polls, this came as a surprise to many. There were comments of discontent by some NSers too. [I break here to give the word as I wrote there: No matter those comments, I believe that every piece was lovely in its own way and merited far more than anyone can score. The true mark is in the satisfaction of the author in his work, not in any prize or comment by anyone else. This to me, is the heart and reason for every writing.]
The next stage is set for the announcement.
Really, whoever won the competition doesn’t really matter. The real winners are those writers who were bold enough to take up the challenge and disciplined enough to meet the deadline. Most of the stories need some reworking, true, but there is no doubt that almost every story in the competition deserves to have an award of merit or mention. They are the type that would stand out anywhere and on any forum. Readers and critics too need commendation for sharp criticisms. The polls sure would have been hard too with the lovely selection that were near identical in respects (especially sex). In the end everyone must agree, the competition was well worth it. Phew.