Anslem H. Ishaku is a teen author who lives in Maiduguri, Borno state. He has already published four books and working on several others, even though he is still 15. His passion and love for writing is fueled by his desire to inspire his peers and to affect change in the larger society. In this interview with AWAAL GATA, he talks about what inspired him to start writing, his challenges and dreams.
Tell me about yourself, background, education and growing up in Maiduguri.
My name is Anslem H. Ishaku, also known as “influentialanslem” and I am an indigene of Borno state, from Hawul LGA. I am 15 years old. I am a graduate of Namu Model Secondary School, Maiduguri. I am a visionary author, motivator, public speaker, entrepreneur, and founder “Influence Matters”.
Growing up in Maiduguri is a wonderful experience. Borno state is a home of peace, the land is friendly, and the people are hospitable. Maiduguri plays host to different people from different parts of the country and this has given me the experience of living with the “WAZOBIA” Nigeria. Right from here we have the Igbos, Yorubas and different tribes and we have have been living well. Although the insurgency has interrupted our lives, here and there, but we are a strong people and we’ve been able to gather our pieces and we are moving on. I ENJOY MAIDUGURI.
How did you discover your writing ability and what is the first thing you ever wrote?
Well, according to my parents, my writing journey started early. I come from a family that believes in children and in their potential. My mum believes every child is specially gifted and talented. So being raised by such parents, I had an early start. I was exposed to so many good things that had positive impact on me. For example: I was exposed to reading and writing so early, by age 4 I could read well and could also write, so my mum made me a reading timetable and a writing schedule for me. I was given story books to read like the lady bird series and others. And I was asked to review after each reading. During writing time, my mum gave me topics to write on every day, simple topics created from lessons I was taught, stories I was told e.g. obedience, David and Goliath, school etc. of course there were no rules as to length of writing, number of words or even points. It was just to expose me to writing, feed my potential little by little. So, I wrote a few things here and there back then, just exercising my creative power in a special exercise book, especially for that purpose. And I kept growing through the process.
But my first serious writing which became my first published work is titled “FAITH BEYOND THE CRADLE”. I wrote it when I was seven. Although it is a very small book, I can say the writing is very rich and the amazing part for everyone who read it is that I wrote it myself, this is because of my early exposure to books. And by age 7 I had moved from reading kid’s stories to inspirational books. This contributed to my writing in information and skills.
What inspired you to write and which is your favourite genre of writing?
I am inspired by many things; first my inspiration comes from God who gave me the gift of writing. Secondly, I am inspired by my emotions; you know the way we feel convey a lot of messages about life generally. And thirdly, I am inspired by the situations happening around me and also the books I read. My genre of writing is Inspirational writing and short stories.
How did you come about the idea of your book and what is it about?
Well, I have written and published 4 books and the 5th one is on the way. “Goodbye Childhood” ismy fourth book. It is a story about our everyday youngsters and how their families steer their lives. It tells how young Sylvester transits from one stage to another and hopes to influence others to live purposeful lives at all stages. “Goodbye Childhood” is an idea birth out of my desire to contribute in preparing adolescents like me on teenage culture, because at this stage they are prone to all kinds of influences from peers. And to draw the attention of parents to have a close and strong relationship with their teens. In order to positively influence them from home.
Are you currently working on a new book?
Well, like I said I have written and published 4 books already, my fifth book is on the way, titled “Time is Life.” It is a great inspirational book and I can’t wait for it. It will be a great time management resource and a must have for everyone. In the mean time, I am dropping my thoughts as I feel inspired on the issues of rape and child abuse which are very prevalent in our society today, hoping to put them together in a book someday.
Considering the challenges of publishing, how were you able to publish your first book and others as well?
My major challenge has been finance due to the cost of publishing. Although, my first book was not so stressful because my mum was working on publishing her work at that time, but when she saw the script of “Faith Beyond the Cradle,” she couldn’t believe I had grown in my writing to be able to bring out such. So, she quickly asked her publisher to use her deposit to publish my work. But each of the other three books came with its own stress, because as we all know the cost of publishing is high, so it has not been easy but I am grateful to my family who have been supportive in that area. In fact, “Time is Life” is still with the publishers because of finance, it would have been out since March this year, but the cost of publishing is beyond what we can afford. But I am hopeful, because this book deserves to be out. So, I am calling out to well meaning individuals who are interested in supporting young people like me to fulfill our dreams because I am not just writing for fun (although I love writing), but my primary goal for writing is to contribute to the society by making positive impact on people.
What is your most prized moment as a writer?
My most prized moment as a writer was the day, I received a mail from Dorrance Publishing Company, Pittsburgh, USA. That my book has been accepted, I screamed, I shouted and I was so excited. You know from other people’s experiences & stories I understood it’s a kind of hard to meet the standard of an international publishing company. So when I sent my book “TIME IS LIFE” to them, I was waiting in fear but when the reply came in it was in my favor. It was like heaven to me; I will never forget that day.
What are the challenges you have encountered as a young writer?
First of all writing is technical and it is a task for intellectuals. One of the challenges I have had to deal with is in the area of having enough, quality information to pass to my audience. Because it is not enough to just write but one has to write what is relevant, therefore I had to read and keep reading on different subjects. And read from and about other authors to learn how to present my ideas and to sharpen my skills.
Another challenge that almost discouraged me from writing is loneliness, being a writer and not being in the company of writers. While writing my fourth book “Goodbye Childhood” I was discouraged by the fact that I am not appreciated and my work is not appreciated, but my mum encouraged me to keep on writing and not be bothered with the fact that my work is not appreciated because someday your works will go out and be a blessing to someone. Her words revived me and that’s why I am still writing. Also marketing my books has been a challenge but getting to meet more writers in Maiduguri and beyond, I know that writing will now be a whole new adventure.
How has the chaos caused by the insurgency affected you as a young writer?
Though the experiences are not exciting, but it has provided me with great inspirations to write, especially my motivational/inspirational talks. I have learnt so many lessons from the experiences, like how to positively engage myself in more productive behaviors like reading, writing etc, and to teach others especially young people not to be idle but to use their time effectively in a positive way. In fact it, was within this period of insurgency that I gave birth to INFLUENCE MATTERS – a vision committed to the transformation of the minds of young people. Developing their leadership capacity and teaching them to meaningfully engage their potential in productive endeavors. I believe this will curb their involvement in social vices and make them useful citizens.
What are your dreams as a writer?
:My dream as a writer is to become a best-selling author and to impact millions of people around the world through my writings.
As a young writer, what does Maiduguri mean to you in these times?
Maiduguri means so much to me, apart from being my home and base for now, Maiduguri has given me a lot of experiences that has built my life thus far, it is my starting point & it has given me inspirations, the room to groom myself and the grounds to test my abilities. And from this beautiful corner of the world I believe I will rise to shine all over the world.
Who are your role models in the writing vocation and which books have inspired you the most?
Some of my role models in writing are: Brian Tracy, Dr. Myles Munroe, Willie Jolley, Stephen R. Covey, Bishop David Abiyoye, John Edgar Hoover, Ben Carson, and I have been inspired by so many books. Some of them are: Eat that frog – Brian Tracy, Time management – John E. Hoover, It takes a minute to change your life – Willie Jolley, Habits of highly effective people – Stephen R. Covey, Maximizing your potential – Dr. Myles Munroe, Create your own future – Brian Tracy, Understanding the power and purpose of vision – Dr. Myles Munroe, Strategies of progress – Bishop. David Abiyoye.