Q&A: Words on the Times – Nzube Nlebedim of The Shallow Tales Review

AiW note: The Shallow Tales Review literary magazine is an online literary outfit that aims to share the unique African story. It was founded in August 2019 by Nigerian writer, critic and editor, Nzube Nlebedim, and is run bySTR Logo a three-man team.

The team takes to heart the publication of works that tell of the African story; of the African who rises from his shallow depths to prominence, chronicling the shift from mediocrity to success. 

We were delighted to have the opportunity to catch up with The Shallow Tales Review founder, Nzube Nlebedim, for his Words on the Times – an AiW Q&A series inspired by the spirit of community and resilience, initiated to connect the blog’s communities of work and life through their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic.


AiW: Could you tell us about your work and how your plans have been affected by the pandemic?

Nzube Nlebedim: The Shallow Tales Review literary magazine is a Nigerian-born literary platform which welcomes works from African writers from all over the continent. We also accept and publish pieces from writers outside Africa, as long as their  work tilts towards the African reality. As a magazine, we are interested in showing vast experiences of writers in and out of the continent. STR Issue 33

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, I must say we thought the worst. A suggestion, I must confess, was that we should shut down production and wait till the world got saner. I am glad we didn’t work on that idea because things seem to have gone a different way, more differently than we anticipated. I must say that the pandemic came with both its blessings as well as its curses. 

For one, we had more people writing. And with more writings, we had more contributions to the magazine. The pandemic gave everyone ample time to reflect. For  writers, this reflection is poured out on paper; writers  expressed their ideas, boredom and ennui. We gladly received their output when they submitted. Quite expectedly, many of the published works in the last few issues were redolent with the scent of today’s troubled times. 

However, since the pandemic has considerably slowed down economic activities and businesses worldwide, it has become much more difficult to demand financial patronage from organisations. Literary magazines and events get very limited sponsorships and financial patronage in the first place, anyway. The pandemic, with its near crippling of the economy, only worsened things.

In what ways are you working now that you weren’t before?

The magazine, since its modest inception in 2019, has grown in great leaps, and weOrji are excited to be playing an active role in the curation of works across the continent. It is an enriching and fulfilling as well as difficult job. It gives us the chance to connect with and feel the pulse of the African literary community. At the same time, the entire curation and editorial process is a stressful and mind-boggling one. But it’s a job we love, too. 

I must add here that in the first place, there wasn’t always a ‘we.’ When the magazine began as a weekly blog for publishing writers, there was only a ‘me.’ And so, looking back then and today, it’s clear how well we’ve grown. There is now a full team, greater visibility across Africa, a vibrant readership, and an ever-growing hope for better days. Plans are still underway for print production, and we expect to be on bookshelves soon.

What have you found most supportive and/or heart lifting in this time?

History has taught us that humanity’s love and beauty emerges stronger in periods of chaos. In chaos, we can separate more clearly good from bad, great from good. The pandemic has shown the strength of humanity, and more so our honest zeal to thrive and grow despite our misfortunes. Writers are writing with more zeal, putting Onyeout their experiences of the time in their words and works.

In Nigeria, for instance, following the October 2020 Lekki Toll Gate killings, the crop of poets, short story writers and essayists in the nation have risen to detail the trauma of our collective loss. And by doing this, we show a clear path to how things can be better.

Much of the poetry  and prose  published in the last three issues of the magazine have been centred on the pandemic, the SARS and toll gate tragedies. In all, however, we sense a hope that rises beyond the clamps of distress.

How can our blog communities support you?

Every magazine needs sponsorships, be it in the area of collaboration, media publicity, financial donations, etc. African magazines in particular are in dire need of support. And this includes us. Fortunately, we have experienced a great deal of support from many African and European literary bodies. 

Thanks to Africa in Words which is doing  exceptional work in promoting African literary magazines and voices. Equally commendable are the James Murua’s African Literature blog, Kalahari Review, Eboquills, Itanile, Duotrope, DL Shirey, Open Country Magazine, and many others who in many ways have supported us in the past. 

More can be done still. I anticipate a time when small literary communities will team up to organise literary awards that stand head-to-head with some of the biggest contests worldwide. We need such collaborations to birth more Caine prizes, Brunels, Man Bookers, and maybe the Nobel one day. We can do this. But first we need to start small.


If you would like to learn more about the kind of poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, art and photography that is published by The Shallow Tales Review, check out their issues here.

The magazine accepts “fiction, opinion articles, commentaries, book reviews, poems, one-act plays, cultural essays, art photographs, and translations that touch on the sensibilities of the African”; find out more about their submissions criteria here.

You can also message them through their Twitter platform.


Nzube Nlebedim is a Nigerian journalist, fiction writer, essayist, poet and editor. His works have been widely published in Nigeria, America and Ecuador.

He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Shallow Tales Review literary magazine. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.


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