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The MFA Chronicles: Okwudili Nebeolisa 

The MFA Chronicles: Okwudili Nebeolisa 

The MFA Chronicles blog series offers perspective on the experiences of Nigerian writers who are currently on MFA programs, shedding light on the challenges and rewards of such a journey. 

Nigerian writers who aspire to pursue their writing dreams can gain valuable insight into the application process, program selection, cultural and language barriers, and how to overcome them.

This month, we spoke with Okwudili Nebeolisa.

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Okwudili Nebeolisa is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop where he won the Prairie Lights John Leggetts Prize for Fiction. His poetry manuscript Terminal Maladies was selected by Nicole Sealey as the winner of the 2023 Center of African American Poetry and Poetics and will be out with Autumn House Press in September 2024. He will be starting an MFA in fiction at the University of Minnesota. 

What motivated you to pursue an MFA? 

An editor suggested I get an MFA as a way to give myself time to think about writing and produce work and getting better. Before that, I didn’t know about MFAs. And then I saw that many of my favorite writers, many of them American, went to MFAs. 

How did you select the program you attended and what was the most challenging aspect of the application process?

I looked for programs that had a reputation, programs with professors I believed I could work with, and programs with fellow Nigerians in it. 

How has the MFA program impacted your writing and creative process?

It’s given me time to think. That’s a writer’s greatest resource. And yeah I have seen my poetry develop but then I think it would have just developed anywhere else. What I really learned was the art of writing and reading fiction.

Who are you reading now?

I’m reading a lot of people. Chimamanda Adichie, Carl Phillips, Donika Kelly, Roger Reeves, Hussein Ahmed, Marilynne Robinson amongst a million others I can’t remember on the spot. 

What are your writing goals? What are you working on now? 

I don’t have set out goals. I know I’ll disappoint myself if I do. I’m working on a novel at the moment. Trying to think about fiction while I also write some poetry. 

What advice would you give to other Nigerian writers considering pursuing an MFA degree?

Do your research. Check the opportunities each program you’re applying to has to offer. Be prepared for the loneliness you may experience in a foreign land. Be prepared and focussed about what you want to produce during your time in the program. Don’t do it because everyone is doing it. Have a clear personal reason for doing it because, before you know it, the two year period has elapsed. 

Interested in sharing your MFA experience with us? Please fill out the form here.

About the Writer: Precious Obiabunmo is a graduate of English and Literature at Nnamdi Azikiwe University. She’s the Digital Content/Community Manager at Kachifo Limited. Connect with her on LinkedIn

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