Mr Ofili, the new English teacher, was to give us our first continuous assessment test for the term. The tip of his head was as far from his feet as the horizontal bar of a goal post is to the ground. He was unbelievably round at his stomach region and wore a pair of glasses with had a rather thin metallic frame to emphasize his scholarly nature. His head could be likened to the countenance of an eggshell, only that there were black tufts of hair scattered haphazardly across it.
The main thing that made Mr Ofili different from other English teachers was that he wasn’t a teacher before he came; he was a university lecturer — a PhD degree holder in English Language major. This was good and yet not good. Our having Mr Ofili as a teacher was good because his teaching was rather substantial and it wasn’t good because he, sometimes, used the university standard to grade our English work. As a result, those who were within the “average belt” fell below it; those who were academically good found themselves balanced on the average belt — well, some of those who, hither to that moment, were used to failing the English language test only failed harder.
I was a completely different fellow — at least to the understanding of my classmates. It wasn’t in the sense of being the smartest or so; it was because I loved the opposite of what virtually all my classmates enthusiastically hated — Mr Ofili. I got to know, later on, that one can not effortlessly pass a course or subject taught by a person one detest. To chunk my story, I had a 42 out of 60 in the exam after doing fairly well in the test (The second-highest score in the class was a 36; Mr Ofili made the exam tough and quite above our standard). It was my unbelievable score that made me develop a love for the English language — and writing-related activities.
Months down the timeline, I started writing poems, short stories for fun up till I got admitted to the University of Ibadan. From what I learned from a senior writer I had encountered, I tried to write as often as possible to build myself up in the art of writing.
One day, as I was scrolling mindlessly on Twitter, I stumbled upon Cmonionline. My curiosity didn’t permit me to hesitate for a second before clicking the link. Initially, I thought it was just a money-making scheme, a scam most likely, but as I fed my curiosity with more spoons of clicks, I found out that it was way better than a money-making site — it was a platform that doled out financial rewards to her participants for doing what they loved — writing!
I found out about the site on a Saturday and by then the submission for that week was closed; I remember how I waited patiently for a Monday to come — nothing had ever made me wait enthusiastically for a Monday before!
I wrote my first work and submitted it to Cmonionline via email. I wrote it so well, I thought, that I was convinced that I would win it. My high expectations were crashed way lower than the ground upon which I stood. I was crushed but didn’t give up. I kept trying week in, week out. At the moment when I was about to give up, I had my first win.
One major reason for my wanting to give up then was based on the fact that there was no feedback sent to the writers. I didn’t know what made my works unqualified to be among the winners. I didn’t know what errors I was to avoid. The things I did which boosted my works, weren’t made clear to me so I could strengthen them. And so, my writings were different every week; it was experimental.
However, as though the prayer requests within my thoughts were heard by the cmonionline team, I started seeing feedback of at least the top five entries. And that alone was a higher gear to my motivation to write more.
Although I have only won once, the cmonionline initiative has made me “win every week”. And by winning every week, I do not imply the monetary win. I refer to the regular act of writing — Cmonionline helped me to grow the little gift by feeding my skill weekly with different topics to write on.
Cmonionline has put in so much in helping every one of us improve our writing, however, I know there is always room for betterment. In terms of improving the feedback mechanism, I suggest the feedback should be done in two phases: One, general or overall feedback on the work of each writer and secondly, a more specific corrective feedback where minute errors in sentences are addressed.
Additionally, there should be a page on the website for participants to interact — more like a chatbox below every work displayed on the website. This would provide a platform for positive criticism and helpful comments which can help better each writer.
Moreso, depending on the capacity of the organization, there might be extra compensation for the best writer of the month and best first-time writer of the month. This, I feel, would motivate newbies.
To be a great writer, you must first be initiated into the cult of readership. To aid in achieving the 50-books-a-year reading goals, a new book should be posted and made available for download for fellow readers every week. Afterwards, an interactive review session would commence and a day — probably a Sunday — would be chosen for the weekly review. This review session would be held on the chat section of the website. This innovative idea, I believe, would help foster the literary growth of all Cmonionline participant.
In all, a drift towards an enhancement of the community is possible. The cmonionline community has, as I have testified, been a fertile soil upon which the grain of my “writing corn” has been planted. But a little extra dose of sunshine and some regular watering of the fertile soil would be a necessity to make the grain of my writing corn, as well as the corn of numerous others, grow to fruition. This would help make the green fields of budding writers flourish. In turn, there would be a ripple effect in the motivation of young writers in Nigeria and the African continent at a broader level. The cyclic chain begins with this community. I believe that we all at cmonionline can make this vision a possibility. I see it, can you?
Ebube Ezeadum, a lover of creative writing wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org