With such a breathtaking resume, Our guest this week needed no introduction. Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond was born in the small town of Plattsburgh, New York and moved back o Ghana at age 12. In 2014, she was included in Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara in celebration of UNESCO’s designation of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, as 2014 World Book Capital. Then she got shortlisted for the 2014 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship. Since then, its been plaudits and plaudits.
We had a swell time interacting with Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond on the fast-paced blue-white streets of Twitter on Monday, and as usual, we’ve compiled the transcript for you guys to either relive the excitement or catch up, whichever category you fit in.
I know you were born in America but to Ghanaian parents, Nana Ekua. As a writer, which would you say has been most convenient? Identifying as a Ghanaian or American?
The way I see it, how I identify is not about convenience–it’s about accepting all that I am. Growing up in the States in the ’80s when people were far from “woke,” I imbibed negative associations with being African and hid/suppressed my Ghanaian identity as much as I could. But going to Ghana at age 12 began to change my perspective and helped instill pride.
True. But has it ever come to a point when identifying as a black American opened more doors in the literary space? I ask this because a lot of writers pander to Western dictates these days in a bid to get published.
Being black in America isn’t easy. There is so much ignorance and bias, even by people who mean well and want to do better. I think what’s “easy” – or rather easier – when it comes to publishing is proximity. Physically living in US/UK makes it easier to meet/network. As far as pandering goes, I think every artist has to fight the temptation to imitate what’s already been well-received, and guard the truth of their voice and story as authentically as possible whether it’s in fashion or not.
You have made so much impact in basically all the genres. Poetry. Fiction. Non-fiction. Op-ed. Etc. (And of course, fashion.) How does it feel to be a well-rounded creative?
Awww, thank you! No one is monolithic. We’re all multi-dimensional with varied interests and gifts. I’ve found that pursuing and nurturing my passions makes me better at writing. It’s also fun to try my hand at different things. I’m better at some than others, and that’s okay. It’s about developing my whole self.
Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, you have such a rich bio! I read your bio and went, “is this one person?” Your work has also appeared in Everyday People: The Color of Life—A Short Story Anthology, African Writing, Los Angeles Review of Books, Sunday Salon, and the short story collection Woman’s Work. What’s the secret to doing so much apart from having light 24/7😏?
No secret. I struggle with balance, but, I keep a running to-do list of things I want to accomplish to keep myself organized. Having power 24/7 must have helped. We barely get things done here due to power outages. Having 24/7 electricity does help! The fact that productivity isn’t bound by those factors makes a really big difference.
Can you take us through your publishing journey?
It’s been a long road and it continues! With Powder Necklace, my agent pitched it to several publishers, but the editor at Simon and Schuster (Malaika Adero) who acquired it immediately got it and got me.
Simon and Schuster? That’s like the holy grail of publishing houses. What would you say gave you leverage through this revered door?
I honestly don’t know. I have to give God the glory. I think it was a mix of my editor liking my work and the timing being right.
Wow. Are we blown or what? Nana, please tell us how your journey to writing began.
I started by writing for magazines like Trace (which has become True Entertainment) and brands like Nike. Writing articles helped me get better at storytelling and dialogue while copywriting for brands helped me get better at distilling ideas.
@mystiquesynn: 1. What’s your daily writing ritual? 2. You have such a dramatic sense of style. What’s the message you are trying to preach through your fashion pieces?
- My writing ritual varies day to day since I’m usually juggling a few different projects. Sometimes I need to read. Sometimes I need to address edits. Sometimes I’m writing. I keep a to-do list to help prioritize.
- In terms of fashion, I’m not trying to preach anything but free expression and celebration of artistry/craftsmanship. When it comes to styles inspired by/originating from Africa, I want our artisans to get the credit for their expertise and genius.
@bisiadjapon: Hi Nana! Was there a time when you wanted to quit?
No. I’ve never wanted to quit, but there have been many times when I wanted and needed to rest/ take a break.
@bisiadjapon: Apart from the protagonist, who is your favorite character and why?
Good question. Of course I love all the characters for different reasons, but Auntie Flora jumps to mind right now. She was modeled after one of my favorite aunties.
Nana, two more questions before we leave. Tell us about Powder Necklace and where we can purchase it.
Powder Necklace is loosely based on my secondary school experience in Ghana. It was harrowing being thrust into a situation so foreign to what I was used to but made me realize how incomplete western depictions of Africa were and are. Get it on Amazon and Ouida Books.
@Nosa_collins: What can you say about your writing? What inspired your writing career, and most especially, how do you manage to cope with different genres. What can we learn from your writing and your new book?
Powder Necklace came out in 2010 so what was on my mind and heart then has evolved. What hasn’t changed is my desire to write as truthfully as possible. Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood, [Zadie] Smith’s White Teeth, [Paul] Beatty’s The Sellout and [Tayari] Jones’ An American Marriage resonated with me because of their unflinching, sensitive, and nuanced portrayals of truths we live and grapple with every day. In terms of different genres, I view them as tools to experiment with and learn from to strengthen myself as a writer.
Nana, please encourage writers before we call it a night! A lot of people out there want to achieve what you have achieved. A kind word, an encouraging phrase will go a long way.
Dear, Writers: Keep fighting for your words to be heard and your stories to be told. Don’t accept rejection as the final word. Get creative. Use platforms in unexpected ways. Apply to/for as many contests and fellowships and residencies as you are eligible for. Remember that rejection doesn’t always mean your work isn’t up to par. Sometimes it’s an admission by the agent/publisher that they don’t know how to sell your work.
Thank you Jesus for this tweet!
Community is important. Connect with other writers at all levels of success for moral support and info sharing and mentoring.
Yaaaaas Lord! Oh Lord, yes! Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you all for tuning in tonight! To say I had fun would be an understatement. Nana Ekua is absolutely charming! Special thanks to all the Synners who tuned in from all over and joined the convo.
Thank YOU!!! I had a blast connecting with you all. 💕 Thank you, Syncity NG, for inviting me on.
That’s it guys! our guest Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond said it all. Don’t accept ‘no’s and don’t stay down for too long. Connect. Make your voice heard and hone your craft. I’m sure you enjoyed catching up. Qe can’t wait for next week’s guest. Please follow us on Twitter @SyncityNG to catch up on our latest updates, great writing from this side of the world and take part in our Tweet Chats.
Meanwhile, have you submitted to our anniversary anthology and applied for our contest? What are you still waiting for? You could win $55, free editing, consulting and books!
Stay safe Synners!