African Street Literature: I just listened to a radio segment from the Swedish public service radio where you were interviewed in the capacity of a member of Ghanas growing returnee community. Can you say something about your background?
Stevie Nii-Adu Mensah: I was born in 1981 in Bromma, Stockholm, Sweden. I was born into an extremely artistic family that hails from Kotobabi, Accra & Tafo, Eastern Region of Ghana. Creative arts became an early outlet for me as my first years was spent on the road travelling around Sweden and partaking in my parents cultural performances. As the school years started in 1988, I took a liking to education and creative arts and began writing poetry, rap songs and short tales whenever I had the chance. Dancing was also a very big part of my life both then and now.
ASL: Your book It’s Cold Oo is set in Ghana and is about a girl who gets bullied in school. Can you tell us a little bit about how the book came about? I believe it was part of a project?
Stevie: My book It’s Cold Oo came about after teaching music in several schools across the world over a ten year span. The idea of it snowing in Ghana sparked the beginnings of the book. The notion of a bullied individual digesting her bullies harsh words, yet never letting them break her was also the indicator to writing the book. Reading the book in Schools for 2 years has created more content and turned the whole thing into a project called ReadUP Ghana.
ASL: ReadUP is a project you have started, if I am not misinformed. What is the idea behind it and what are your goals?
Stevie: ReadUP Ghana is an educational project which is meant to elevate people in several ways. Currently a tool for learning, by using the scenarios and plots that are being covered in the book It’s Cold Oo, and using the message taken from it, and exhibiting it through presentations. The goal is to create an awareness about the dangers of bullying and a great synergy amongst the groups that are working with ReadUP Ghana.
ASL: What is the intended audience for the book?
Stevie: The intended target for the book is all ages… Sort of like a Harry Potter.
ASL: Who did the layout/cover art for the book?
Stevie: I took the cover shot for the book, additional design was made by Hetura, a book company based in Spintex, Accra.
ASL: I hear is available for purchase in Stockholm and Accra (and probably other places too). How is it distributed and can you say something about the attention it has received in Ghana and Sweden respectively?
Stevie: It is available at BookNook Book Store in Tema, Ghana and Just Africa in Stockholm, Sweden. It has been receiving attention through Tv and Radio and book festivals in Ghana, and obviously through my many school Readings. I just now introduced it to Sweden when i visited last year. I had Readings at Etnografiska Museet and Just Africa and Internationella Engelska Skolan in Årsta and the reception was fantastic.
ASL: Is there or will there be a digital version of your book (and future books)? I understand that digital literature is coming on strong in Ghana, especially in children’s literature.
Stevie: There will be both a digital version of the book/books and an audio version.
ASL: Has it been a problem to find ways to distribute your books to presumptive readers? This is something that seems to be a challenge in Ghana as well as in Nigeria and Kenya, because bookshops are forced to close down and shipping costs are so steep.
Stevie: There has not been a problem at all to publish. Mainly due to the growth of the writing and publishing community in Ghana. It is steadily growing.
ASL: You have also released a song with the same title. What is the connection there?
Stevie: The song ”It’s Cold Oo” came first. Written in the Ga language about a musician getting encouraged by his grandma to go out and fully live his Dreams about becoming a full fledged musician. It is connected to the book in the way that the 2 main characters of the book also are daydreamers.
ASL: Are you working in any other literary project at the moment? If so, do you have any specific plans for how you want it to be published?
Stevie: I am currently working on Part 2 and Part 3 of It’s Cold Oo to finish up this trilogy. Hoping for them to get picked up by a great publishing company.
ASL: It sounds like you have a pretty well worked out plan for the trilogy. What can someone who enjoyed the first part expect from the next two instalments?
Stevie: It’s Cold Oo is a trilogy. It goes from being bittersweet in part 1 (chapter 1-3), to dark and eerie in the second book (chapter 4- 6) and finally horrifying in the last part (chapter 7-9). Ama & Euphoria are really being tried and tested, due to the transgressions that occurs in the first book.