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My name is Michael Chukwudi. I am a First Class graduate of Biology. Truth be told, my dream was to study medicine and live my life in the hospital. Smiles! That never happened as I am already a graduate of Biology.
This is my story.
I am a First Generation graduate. This means that I am the first to bag a graduate degree in my family, and I am the last child. I am from a low-income family where dreams seemed like a tug of war. The first time I made an appearance in an academic setting, I was just six. It was a bitter experience because everything about the environment looked awkward to me. I joined classes and could not hold a pencil to write the alphabet in the book.
I loved the smell of books: Funny, huh! But I did love it even though I could not write properly in them. However, I was determined on finding the dots and connect with them. I had a dream anyway, even when it was almost impossible to have a dream in where I come from. Fast forward to a year, I learned how to read and write. I went bonkers in joy because I thought it was a hard nut to crack.
The moment I learned how to read and write, I fell in love with creative writing. I’d say that people around me enjoyed it when I tell stories. And my fellow children did come to me for more stories, especially when the moon stood in the sky.
I was an academic meritorious student with dreams bigger than my small self. I wanted to be the best surgeon; so did I dream to be the next Chinua Achebe. I knew I was a voracious reader, more of Achebe’s books. I wrote my first complete book in SS 1. People that read the manuscript were left wide-eyed in shock at my style of writing.
Anyway, I never intended publishing anytime soon then, because if I did- there’d be no one to help me with the finances. I never knew of traditional publishing though, and it’d never be an option because they’d never look at an amateur like myself. I wrote two books in my secondary school and kept them to be published when I am financially stable.
I wrote JAMB for four consecutive years before I gained admission to study Applied Biology at Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki. Nonetheless, on the fourth attempt, I told myself I got to quit if it didn’t work out this time. When in university, I stopped writing to concentrate on my studies.
I wanted to bag a good CGPA in year one to be able to move to my dream course- medicine. On the other hand, the background was a determinant in my undergraduate major. I stopped talking about medicine because I was afraid I may drop halfway taking cognizance of finances. I beat my chest, told myself ‘ I must finish with a First Class.’
However, in my second year at the university, I had this orientation that it’s not all about certificates. I needed to find the dots and connect with them. That was when it dawned on me that I had a talent I needed to hone. I have heard and read about traditional publishing. ‘I’d like to go through this route,’ I’d always say with a hint of the doubt anyway. That was because I have heard stories of good writers who were rejected tons of times and later gave up. It was not easy combining my education with my talent. Most times, I had to absent myself from lectures to attend writing conferences.
Fast-forward to 2017, I wrote my first book. I already dumped the two manuscripts I wrote in Secondary School because they looked like a child’s play to me. Then, I started sending out my manuscript after rounds of editing with better readers. Three to six months, I started getting shocking rejection letters. Some may be kind enough to tell me why I’m not the best fit for them.
The most annoying will be the rejections that read like ‘we enjoyed reading your manuscript, unfortunately, we’ll not be publishing you at this time.’ I did fall in the hands of vanity publishers but I was lucky enough to confide with friends that told me not to be preyed on.
I was tenacious, patient and I endured the rejections. In 2018, I bagged First Class. Yeah! Dream come through. But there was one thing I have not achieved- that’s becoming someone’s favourite author. At times, I had self-doubt. Maybe, I’m not a better writer and that could be the reason behind the rejections.
This is already the end of 2021. Did I publish yet? I grin wide in excitement when I look at those times I was enduring rejections and self-doubt. Maybe if I was swallowed by those odd times, I may not have been able to connect with the dots. Happily, I have two titles published in 2021. ‘UnDeserved’ published by a Nigerian publisher and ‘Wind of Life’ published in the USA. The words of Chimamanda Adichie on Inbounds on how she endured rejections when she first started was my watchword.
I want to tell every struggling youth out there that your certificate isn’t enough. Find the ‘you’ in you. This is because ‘writing’ has taken me to places more than ‘First Class Certificate.’ Again, do not let family background shape your life for you. You can do it. For writers, rejection is part of the journey…
Written by Michael Chukwudi.
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