Welcome to the #SyncityNGLLL show. A show where we celebrate creatives on and off the African continent. This June, we will be having a mini-series on storytelling and our first guest is none other than the maestro, Eketi Edima Ette.
Ushers, please bring her to the high table.
Thank you, I’m here.
Eketi is a gifted storyteller, writing coach, and the author of Chinda Ella, a Nigerian parody of the popular Cinderella folktale. She has also co-authored books like Beyond the Corner and I Wish I Knew This Before I Was Fourteen. A digital marketing and social media enthusiast, she also freelances as an editor, a content creator and has worked with several local and international brands.
Eketi is the co-founder of Meet A Need Empowerment Initiative. She is also a mental health advocate and volunteers with Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative. In her spare time, she travels, reads compulsively, sniffs new books, and admires red sunsets.
We know you as one of social media ‘s gifted storytellers. When you were younger, did you ever think storytelling would be one of your final “bustops”?
I started writing quite early, thanks to my mother. I knew I wanted to be a renowned writer. But at that time, I didn’t know how to arrive at that dream.
How has the journey been for you?
People don’t see storytellers as being in a “serious profession”. Do you have to explain over and over what you do?
It’s been an interesting journey. It’s not the smooth road I thought it’d be when I left my job and started writing for a living. I saw pepper! Real pepper. And, oh, yes. I constantly have to explain what being a writer/storyteller means – especially back home.
But it’s been rewarding. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do and it gives me such joy to do it.
You left your job for writing? Your parents didn’t send you Psalm 23 via whatsapp?
Have they stopped sending it?
My father was my Number One Fan. He hyped my writing from the get-go. When he realised I really wanted to make a career out of it, instead of becoming a Magistrate and then a Judge, he began to sweat just a little. Mum too. It was challenging. I think what helped me for the most part was my naïveté and unending optimism when I started out. It saved me from becoming disillusioned early.
Speaking of “rewarding and joy”, is it safe to say that storytelling has made your financial cup run over las las?
You say? I can’t read this question. My screen is cracked. I can’t see it clearly. Lol.
Lol. You don’t want to say one thing and your Oga at the top will say another, bah?
Speaking of the art of storytelling, what does storytelling mean to you? How can one become a storyteller?
For me, storytelling is life. It’s being many people at once. It’s sharing with the world, tales of the different people who live inside my head. In my opinion, true storytellers are born that way- and through telling stories, they become skilful storytellers.
Where do people who hope to be storytellers start from? Perhaps, insight into how you started and how you grew the current following you have?
I started by reading and listening to stories. That’s where every storyteller should begin. Read, listen, observe. Stories abound around us.
Then I began to write – the stories that came to me in my dreams, then later, ones that popped up in my head. I also learned that talent is important but skill added to talent is more important. So, I took writing courses, learned the skill, got better.
At no point did I tell stories to gather a following. In fact, sharing my first story on social media was a dare. I tell stories because I’m compelled to – I can’t rest until a story is out of my head and on a page. The following is a bonus.
This is what I think a storyteller should do.
What’s the difference between a writer and storyteller?
I have heard a lot of people say it is only children of CNA that use one terminology over the other. Is it the same thing?
I think they’re interchangeable, sometimes.
But we have all sorts of writing – technical, reportage/journalistic writing, copywriting, etc. I think once someone says they’re a storyteller, people’s minds automatically go to fiction, prose etc. Use what you will.
What are the opportunities available to a storyteller?
What can they do in the society? How can they finesse and make money from their craft?
The Arts is a vast field and storytellers can work in almost every niche. Advertising, sales, marketing, scriptwriting, branding, book writing, journalism etc.
Storytellers can entertain, spur revolutions, catalyse thoughts, record history, educate, etc.
To make money, storytellers have to be intentional. This is usually a chore for creative people. They should:
-Put out good content and be consistent with it;
-Read as much as they write
-Send out proposals, instead of waiting for jobs to come to them
A storyteller should never depend on the applause of the crowd. Enjoy it, but put it out of your mind when the curtains fall and get to work. Know that your talent and skill is worth good payment. Demand it, insist on it & avoid the rut of being paid with exposure.
Speaking of conversations, what would you say makes a great story?
A great beginning, an engaging middle and a credible ending.
These three should leave the readers wanting more, asking questions, thinking, re-evaluating, emotional, and so on…
Please talk to us about some of your projects; past, present and future. You have the floor.
I’ve co-authored three books for teenagers and students who are leaving secondary school for the university. I’ve written a novella- Chinda Ella and a full-length novel (soon to be published).
I’m currently working on a collection of short stories.
How do you keep yourself motivated and focused, completely oblivious to the opinions of others?
I often find myself throwing away projects because of what my friends say.
My primary reason for writing is for me. I can’t sleep until I write whatever story is born in my head. I’m not oblivious of the opinions of others – I’ve simply learned to listen to constructive opinions. And sometimes, I ignore the opinions of those I respect. Because ultimately, the gift and stories are mine to with as I will and I chose to write. As for motivation & focus, that’s built out of intentional self-discipline and accountability. I have measurable/achievable targets and have people who make sure I meet them.
How long do you think is the ideal period to write a great story? I have heard that it takes an average of 1 year to write a well written story worthy for publishing. Does time and period matters?
For me, there is no ideal period. Some stories that took a year to write, took that long because of the writer’s procrastination. When à writer starts and finishes depends on them or the story.
Could you share some of the challenges you faced on your journey?
LACK OF SUPPORT:
The people I thought would support me laughed so hard, they had tears in their eyes. Thank God for my supportive family.
LACK OF MONEY:
I was paid with so many promised exposures, I was terrified of charging real money. I was constantly broke! I wasn’t so wise then. I thought I knew it all. Fortunately, I met people early enough who showed me how clueless I was, so my suffering didn’t linger.
Please can anyone be a story teller ?
Most times I have alot of stories to tell but I find it hard to express myself on pen and paper.
No, everyone can’t be a storyteller. But before you decide you’re not one, you should discover why you find it difficult to express yourself on paper or computer. Is it a limitation in language? A lack of confidence in your stories or skill? Or because you don’t have the gift?
Can you couple been a content creator and a story teller?
Yes. That’s what I do.
What was the feeling like after you published your first book?
I was so depressed!
I had a thousand and one questions for myself.
Did I write well?
Will the target audience like it?
Who do I think I am, writing this?
You put a price on it? Are you okay?
I should go find a real job. Me, author? What a joke!
Yeah, that was it.
How does one handle or deal with a writer’s block. I mean a total “black out” like i call it?
Honestly, I haven’t found the answer to this yet. I’ve tried all the tricks in the book: writing something else, taking strolls, working out, reading, taking a writing vacation, etc.
Sometimes, nothing works. The stories will come when they’re ready.
You said we shouldn’t wait for jobs, but send out proposals. A lot of writers face rejections, how were you able to handle this?
At first, it was crippling. But when I realised that staying down won’t pay my bills or help me live well, I got up and started again.
Every now and then, I give up. But soon enough, I get back up. There are stories to be read and money to be made. So, don’t stop trying.
What are three tips you feel can help improve one’s wtiting?
Read what other people write.
Write as often as possible. In doing this, you’ll find your writing voice, your personal style.
Learn the rules of writing and be familiar with the language you choose to write in. Yes, grammar and spelling are important.
Last words before we call it a night?
Being a creative person comes with a large dose of unintentional indiscipline. The temptation to be laid back and carefree and not strive for excellence, is very strong.
Resist it! Every day, as much you can. Don’t ever tell stories because of the crowd. Yes, their cheers and applause are good. But when the dance is over, take off your dancing shoes, find your quiet place and work.
Innovate, diversify, collaborate and do all you can to master your craft.
And with that, we come to the end of the session with @eketiette.
We want to thank our guest for joining us. We also want to thank all those who participated.