Lucy Chiamaka Okwuma’s contribution to the Nigeria Prize for Literature 2020

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LUCY CHIAMAKA OKWUMA is among the few medical practitioners who have also crossed into the arena of fiction writing. With her novel Neglected, Okwuma has dealt with a major health challenge, mental health. Her book is in the race for the huge prize money The Nigeria Prize for Literature 2020 is offering

She heard news of her being among the best 11 fiction writers in the country after church service from a friend’s telephone call announcing the good news. Her excitement was palpable, according to her, with the Committee for Relevant Art – CORA-NLNG Book Party organized for the writers proving to be “a fantastic event and I felt blessed to be recognized”.

And so for her, “Writing has given me a medium to express my thoughts beyond limitations. I hope writing continues to be my voice that can never be silenced and I hope it gets me through doors that I haven’t imagined going through.”

Okwuma is not intimidated by the star cast of writers she’s competing with, saying she stands a chance, although she acknowledges that “The list is full of great works of literature. However, I think my book Neglected should emerge the winner because it’s a new voice speaking on a subject matter that hasn’t been dived into a lot. And delivering a message that can stand through time. Quite frankly, that’s the beauty about books; they remain presentable evidence on various subject matters.”

Just like everyone else, she has pep projects she believes the prize money will go into ere she to win it; “I have a number of plans and dream projects. God willing, the price money will put them through” and she believes she can win “On a scale of 1-100, I would say 100 per cent.”

Okwuma also reflected on her book and what it brings to the table in terms of health issues she writes about.

According to her, “The challenges reflected in my book that affect modern times are mental health disorders and a little bit on domestic violence, dysfunctional marriages and family ties. I’m no expert in giving ways out of these challenges, but as I’ve written in my book Neglected, especially on mental health disorders, awareness and education play major roles in the solutions. Seeking the appropriate help or route for finding solutions such as talking to medical experts (psychiatrists) should help. Everyone should read the book to get more details.”

In spite of her medical background, Okwuma loves what fiction can do for her and the vision her society should strive for, noting, “I love writing fiction because my exploration really has no limits. And for me, my writing is inspired by what I see in society, so my vision of society that prompts me to write is truly everything and the hope for a better future in all aspects of society.”

She acknowledges that her fictional influences are wide and varied, adding, “I reserve calling particular names but my writing and love for books are widely influenced by works of fiction” written by others.

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