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Ayosojumi on Writing, Loneliness, and Creating Empathy Through Words

By Olanrewaju Oluwafemi Damzy

Enit'ayanfe Ayosojumi Akinsanya is a Yorùbá writer who explores sexuality, women, faith and family through his words. His writing has appeared in Isele, Kalahari Review, The Airgonaut, The Shallow Tales Review, African Writer, Fiery Scribe Review, Eunoia Review, and more. His debut How To Catch A Story That Does Not Exist explores queer, Nigerian voices.

Over the years, literature in Nigeria has experienced a significant change. New voices are rising, fresh voices are speaking. All with a timely message, the message of our time. One of these voices is Yorùbá writer Enit'ayanfe Ayosojumi Akinsanya, finalist for the 2018 National GTBank Dusty Manuscript New Novelist Award, and a top finalist for the 2023 Afritondo Short Story Prize. In 2021, Ayosojumi was selected as one of Brittle Paper's Best Nigerian Writers for his story, Palindrome.

Photo: Ayosojumi
Photo: Ayosojumi

Ayosojumi tells me he has always known he would be a writer. When he was little, he would tell his friends stories and watch their eyes sparkle with excitement as his the unfurled.

"I'd gather my neighborhood playmates and make up stories on the spot. The excitement in their eyes and their demands for more propelled me," he says.

"Soon, I realized that there were stories I wanted to tell myself first. I began writing down my stories in the leftover space in school notebooks, until they became too little to contain my words. I had become enamoured with the thought of writing, of shaping things that only existed in my head."

He explains that the process of writing has been difficult, lonely, "heavily snubbed", but also incredibly rewarding. Ayosojumi says the recognition, both nationally and internationally, makes the doubt worth it.

"More importantly, I've discovered true friendships through those who help me advance my opportunities in writing. I have not arrived yet, but I hope to be there someday," he says.

In Nigeria, people's career choices are often influenced by what their parents deem lucrative. Ayosojumi says he's been lucky to have parents who supported him once his "hobby" became more than just that.

"It's not just a thing to pass time anymore. It has become a duty, something I must do, and a career. It's essentially what I really enjoy and something want to develop," he says. "My parents aren't completely free from worry, but they are learning to trust the process and to watch me make independent decisions. They trust that I know what I am doing."

On Writing How To Catch A Story That Does Not Exist

In 2021, Ayosojumi finally got fed up with the myths about the LGBTQ+ community flying around Nigeria, explaining that the myth "were, and still are, harmful and wrong."

"I decided to write How To Catch A Story That Does Not Exist to educate and engage people. My book is a commentary on the easily misrepresented realities of LGBTQ people living in Nigeria," he says.

How To Catch A Story That Does Not Exist is a collection of 11 short stories addressing various issues in the LGBTQ Community. For example, the story 'Now and Forever' addresses the ridiculous notion that bisexuality is used as a license to be unfaithful—which it is obviously not.

"All the stories in the book were responses to what I considered erroneous accusations directed at the LGBTQ+ community."

Ayosojumi wrote the book in seven months. As a secondary school teacher, he explains that there were lots of prices to pay in order to write his book.

"The journey took a lot from me.There were times I would stay behind after school hours with my laptop to transfer my handwritten drafts. I would type until 9PM in a dark, deserted school building, my keypad sounds echoing so loudly."

He says that the journey to publication was confusing and difficult. He also wanted to publish the book before his birthday, and says he became rather really frantic when he couldn't find a publisher.

"I contacted big writers and book bloggers I knew for any form of guidance. But I was firmly snubbed or, in one case, laughed at. Those who replied me gave limp instructions: “Make your book sellable.” I did not understand what they meant. I floundered around, frustrated and helpless. There were times I stayed up all night, tears in my eyes, and wondering if I should just lay it all to rest. But my late friend, Jude Anuoluwa - a host of earthly angels - to thank for propping me back to my feet."

Luckily, a few days before his birthday, he found IfèAdigo. IfèAdigo published How to catch a story that doesn't exist. It was first published as an E-book in 2021 but it is now available in print format.

"When my publishers called me to say they loved the manuscript and told me their favorite stories in it. I nearly cried with gratitude."

Books are written for readers, and in most cases readers decide if a book is worth calling a book. Ayosojumi hopes that his readers will feel solace in his words, and that they'll connect with the characters, perhaps also drawing hope, wisdom and growth from their experiences.

Photo: Ayosojumi
Photo: Ayosojumi

"My book was written for love, for friendship, for courage, for faith, and to recognize all our human weaknesses and validate our struggles for freedom. I hope someone reads it and becomes a better, freer, happier human."

Ayosojumi advises aspiring authors to take their time.

"Don't rush the process; it's all part of what makes it beautiful. And don't let anyone tell you that your manuscript is not worth reading, no matter how successful and acknowledged they are. Your art matters. Write fearlessly and humanely. Let your book be exactly what you want to say."

Ayosojumi has two half-finished manuscripts that he hopes will one day see the light of day. Until then, check out How To Catch A Story That Does Not Exist on IfèAdigo's website.

Find Ayosojumi on Social Media

Instagram: @Ayosojumiadeniyi

X (Twitter): @OsumareAyomi


About the Writer:

Olanrewaju Oluwafemi Damzy is Yoruba. He is studying for his first degree in Mass Communication at the University of Benin, Nigeria. Damzy has always been an avid reader and lover of literature and it became only natural for him to write when he began to feel burdened by the numerous stories around him. Damzy is concerned about writing the experiences of Queer people who live in Nigeria. He also writes about the stories that calls to him.


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