Writer in Residence


By Yejide Kilanko

If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.

― Maya Angelou

We have arrived at my final writer-in-residence blog post. For me, it was indeed an October to Remember. 

I hope you have had as much fun reading all the posts as I had writing them. If you have questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me through my website or social media pages. I love hearing from readers. 

Endings often make me think of the beginning. And of the journey. The living and learning happen in the journey. 

When I started writing poetry at the age of twelve, it was because I needed an outlet, a way to sort through my jumbled thoughts, so they had less power over me. 

Thanks to my unforgettable parents, I was an early reader who had access to an eclectic collection of books. I never imagined that one day I would become a writer of books. To me, books were, are still magic. 

But then, one day, a poem I wrote titled “Silence Speaks” stretched out of a rigid cocoon, flapped its wings, and blossomed into a scene. The scene, excited about its becoming, shared its story and invited others on the adventure. Because they have agency, the characters in these scenes formed purposeful chapters. The chapters held a meeting under a beautiful Iroko tree and jointly decided that they were going to be a book. 

That’s one of the beauties of life—the possibilities. 

The best feedback I’ve received on the book that was first a poem came from a teen who now believes that the abuse inflicted was not her fault. 

I may never get to transform a million realities, but I will always be thankful the solitary fantasy changed mine. Perhaps that young woman will go on to transform those millions. I hope she does. I hope you do, too. 

This second quote by Mama Maya is another favourite. I’m thankful for the wisdom she bequeathed. 

It says, "Love life. Engage in it. Give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.”

True words.

When people ask me how I get story ideas, I often say they come to me while doing life. The spark to write my first novel came because I was a child protection worker who needed to process vicarious trauma. 

So, while you are doing all you can to achieve your writing dreams, don’t forget to live fully in the moments you have. Otherwise, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the regrets of the past and fears of the future. Don't let anyone steal your peace or joy. 

In my previous post, http://open-book.ca/Writer-in-Residence/Yejide-Kilanko/WE-MOVE I talked about the importance of teasing out those things within our control and those that are not. It’s an integral part of managing stress. And whether we want it or not, stress happens because stressors keep on stressing. 

When parting, Yoruba people say, Ojú á tún ra rí. The phrase means our eyes will meet again. It’s a hope and a prayer. 

May they indeed. 

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Yejide Kilanko was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, and lives in Ontario, Canada, where she practices as a social worker. Kilanko’s debut novel, Daughters Who Walk This Path, is a Canadian national bestseller. The novel was longlisted for the 2016 Nigeria Literature Prize. Kilanko’s work includes a novella, Chasing Butterflies (2015), and two children’s picture books, There Is An Elephant in My Wardrobe (2019) and Juba and the Fireball (2020). You can find Kilanko’s short fiction on Brittle Paper, Joyland, New Orleans Review Issue 43, 2017: The African Literary Hustle, and Agbowó. Her latest novel, A Good Name, is out now. When she’s not busy with life, you’ll find Kilanko online playing simultaneous games of Scrabble.