Amali Mucheke was a pupil at the Lagos Preparatory and Secondary School, Ikoyi, Lagos, from 2014 to July 2019. She recently won the Historical Association’s Historical Fiction Prize in London. She spoke with Dayo Ojerinde in an interview.
I congratulate you on your achievement. How did you get to know about the competition?
I got to know about the Historical Fiction Competition in 2016 from my History teacher, Mrs Barrett. I had previously sent my work three years ago but it did not get to the judges in London. This year’s event was my second opportunity to try my hand at the competition. All the entries were submitted by my school, Lagos Preparatory and Secondary School.
What attracted you to literature? Does it mean you want to pursue a career in writing/literature?
My mother, a freelance journalist, was (and still is) part of my inspiration for this piece of writing.
As I watch her hard work and dedication towards her work and generally her writing, I’m aspired to be able to produce such a good piece of work that will be read by others.
Also, I just love composite writing. It is a way for me to express my ideas in a broad manner and to share my work with others. I would love to pursue literature in the future although it is not the main career I want to pursue in the future (but for now I am too young to decide).
I would love to continue writing historical fiction in the future and encourage other people with a wild historical imagination to do the same. I also read a lot and my father has a large collection of books from which I borrow.
Your story titled, ‘Freedom for All,’ based on colonial Nigeria won the prize in your category; what was the rationale behind the story?
My story, ‘Freedom for All,’ was inspired by the Black History project I had done for the school assembly, which talked about how much of a struggle it was for Nigerian politicians and heads of state to gain independence for the country. I have lived in Nigeria for five years and just wanted other people to understand how I saw the independence of Nigeria – from the palatable meals to the attacks from the foreigners. Not everything is accurate, but it’s what I see through my eyes.
How do you feel winning the award, and what are your plans to ensure that you continue winning?
Winning the award was a surprise to me, and when the news was broken to me, I was very glad. I am also happy that as I move to a different environment, I think I have left a mark in the school and in my life. I will continue to write works of literature in school and recreationally. I will also get into more competitions and build my confidence so I am able to showcase my work to others.
What is your advice to other pupils of your age, especially on using their spare time for something productive?
For all the children and teenagers reading this interview, my advice is never to give up. Don’t give up when you’re down. Don’t back down when you’ve lost. Just keep going. And hard work pays off.
I spent hours trying to perfect my story (and much credit to Mrs Barrett for helping me through this journey). Although it isn’t perfect, it was worthwhile. If you want to pursue something, stick to it. It may not be what everyone else is doing but it will be what you want to achieve.
So, remember, never give up. Don’t sit and watch netflix or use your phone through the night; try and do something that you can use as a skill in the future.