Nigerian writer to lead Aspen Words free talk |  Arts & Entertainment

Nigerian writer to lead Aspen Words free talk | Arts & Entertainment

Aspen Words is inviting the community to engage with its September Writer in Residence, Tochukwu Okafor, during a free event on Thursday evening at the Pitkin County Library.

The evening kicks off at 5:30 pm and will run for about an hour in the library’s Bil Dunaway Room. Okafor will first give a 30-minute author talk, joined in discussion by the moderator, Aspen Public Radio Executive Director Breeze Richardson.

Following the discussion, Okafor will lead audience members through a writing prompt exercise on “craft openings,” as stated in an Aspen Words announcement. The exercise is set to run approximately 20 minutes and will close out the evening.

Okafor provided a “teaser” for the writing activity in the announcement. Regarding his “craft openings” choice of prompt, Okafor said: “Every story must have an opening. Openings are tricky to write. They can be fun to write as well. Sometimes, openings set the tone and mood (and in fact, style ) of a story. … We will discuss what makes [openings] stand out, and then go through a thought process with guiding questions on how to write really strong openings.”

Okafor came to the Roaring Fork Valley from his current home in Worcester, Massachusetts, to participate in the Aspen Words Writers in Residence program for the month of September.

Aspen Words partners with the Catto Shaw Foundation each year to host writers for individual residencies spanning the months of May through October. Prospective writers undergo a nominated application process and are chosen by a panel appointed by Aspen Words faculty. Each selected writer in residence is provided lodging in Woody Creek for three weeks. There, they can focus on a project in a serene mountain environment.

Throughout the rotating residencies, Aspen Words hosts free talks and readings with every visiting writer. These events are opportunities for the valley community to further engage with accomplished writers from the larger literary world.

Okafor — an award-winning Nigerian writer and MFA fiction candidate at Emerson College — spends his Aspen Words residency working on a debut novel.

According to the nonprofit’s announcement, Okafor’s in-progress novel is set in Nigeria and the United States and investigates the coming-of-age of a young boy. The new book seeks to examine themes across Igbo mysticism, mythology, sexuality, masculinity, religion and mental health.

Okafor holds a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University and has received numerous scholarships and fellowship grants from prestigious literary organizations, such as the Under the Volcano Writers’ Workshop, Worcester Arts Council, Kundiman, Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop and the Boston Writers of Color Group .

Okafor’s impressive list of fellowships and residencies includes being awarded a 2022 Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts Fellow and Artist-in-Residence, a 2021 GrubStreet Emerging Writer Fellow, a 2021 Bethany Arts Community Artist-in-Residence, a 2021 Longleaf Writers Conference BIPOC Scholar and an alumnus of the 2021 Tin House Workshop, among many others.

The free author talk and writing prompt exercise with Okafor takes place Thursday from 5:30- 6:30 pm; doors open at 5 pm Seating is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. To register, visit

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