How to Start a Writing Career: An Interview with Enajite Efemuaye

0
94

Surely you are familiar with the publisher of bestselling and award-winning titles such as And After many days (Jowhor Ile), On Becoming (Toke Makinwa) and Against The Run of Play (Olusegun Adeniyi), Kachifo Limited, popularly known as Farafina.

Well, in this foremost publishing house, Enajite Efemuaye is the managing editor. This basically means she oversees the day-to-day running of the different literary imprints Kachifo has and their different processes.

Her work has been published in African Independent, This is Africa, Ake Review, Sabinews.com, Guardian Life Magazine and Brittle Paper.

How to Start a Writing Career

 

Here is our interview with her:

How did you find yourself in the writing/editing space?

Being a reader from an early age meant I developed a skill for language, the English language particularly. I always got the top marks in essays and letter writing and I was the go-to person when there was an argument about what was or wasn’t correct grammar.

After university, I got a job in a print press and I took to editing books that were brought to us for print. I wasn’t very professional at the start, I worked instinctively, but over time I got better. I didn’t start thinking of myself as a writer until 2013 when I won a weekly online writing competition organised by Fidelity Bank three times consecutively.

That was when I realised there was a whole literary community out there and I began to make friends and read blogs. In the following years I applied for and got accepted into a few writing workshops and began to write a column for Sabinews, and I haven’t looked back since.

What were the two major challenges you faced when starting out on this career path and how did you overcome them?

When I started out I wasn’t really thinking this was going to become a career. It was just something I could do and I did it. I have always been a self-teacher so in the early days, I’d Google things like “how to be a writer” and “writing tips” and “types of editing”.  Access to information and training might have been a challenge but I had the internet and I made use of it. I still do.

I did a lot of free work back then as part of the learning process; I knew I had to pay my dues. The challenge came when I started to charge for my services. A few people didn’t understand why. After all, was it not just to “proofread this small thing”? It used to make my blood boil but with time I found ways to connect with the people who understood the value of the services I offered and were willing to pay.

What are the perks of being an editor or a writer, especially in the African writing space?

One perk would be a sense of superiority over mere mortals. I kid. I don’t see that there

are perks beyond what a regular reader has. I still have access to the same books as everyone else. I might read them at manuscript stage because of my job, but everyone gets to read them eventually. I attend the same festivals and events as everyone else and argue the same issues that have been argued for years

How to Start a Writing Career

You are the Managing Editor of Kachifo Limited. What has been your experience so faring the role?

My experience has been more of an education. When I first assumed the role, I thought I’d spend a lot of my time reading and corresponding with writers and authors and being cool. I forgot the “managing” in the title. I’m a general dogsbody with a high-sounding title. The blessing is that I love what I do. I love being in the publishing business even with all the attendant challenges of running a business in Nigeria.

What type of writing opportunities would you suggest to a writer who is struggling with earning from his writing?

I assume the writer is at the very least competent and has some skill. Find the platforms that pay for the kind of writing you do and pitch to them. Connect with other writers who are published on those platforms and ask for pointers. Be polite. Nobody owes you anything.

If you were not an editor, what would you have been?

I am a graphic artist as well. So, I would have redirected all my effort to graphics. Or maybe I’d have used my chemical engineering degree.

The likes of Amazon have done a whole lot in promoting the self-publishing industry. What’s your take on self-publishing?

I worked with a print press for years and on the average, we published six to ten books each year for writers who handled everything themselves. All I’ll say is that self-publishing is a necessary part of the industry.

How do you think African Writers can make a positive difference on the continent and beyond?

I take it African writers mean writers of African descent whether they live or were born on the continent or not. They already are. They’re writing and telling stories. They’re engaging the world with words; and with how connected everything is with the internet and with social media, it has gotten a lot easier to grow an audience for whatever message you choose to preach.

How to Start a Writing Career

Any mentors? Is there any place for a mentor in the life of a writer?

I have mentors, most of whom are unaware they’re my mentors. I have never bought into the idea of a writer needing someone to physically hold their hand and direct them.

Tendai Huchu said it best in a piece he wrote for Brittlepaper: “I wish I could hold your hand and be your mentor, but the truth is, I have a lot of shit going on, you know, trying to write my own stories, working to pay the bills, maintaining relationships, generally existing in a world that doesn’t give a crap. I really wish I had the time to help you, but, short of offering my own work, I’m unable to, and this isn’t because I’m an arsehole, or I’ve “made it” and I don’t care for budding writers starting out. On the contrary, we’re in the same fucking boat, dude. We both stare at the white blank page and are struck by that overwhelming sense of paralysis. The rejection slips keep coming like ice picks to the heart. But by some strange impulse, dear reader, we keep striving, we keep trying. I may not be able to mentor you, but I can at least recommend you bypass the bullshit and try the same mentors I have. They never ignore your emails or tell you no. They are available for you 24/7. All you have to do is to open the pages of their books.”

If you’re lucky to have a mentor with whom you have a relationship, one is willing to share their network with you and help your career, then jump on it. It’s a waste of time wailing, “The older writers don’t want to mentor us.” Or spending all your time sending messages to writers asking them to mentor you. Find their work, everything they have written and read them.

Inspire a young African Writer in a sentence

Do the work.

It was a joy interviewing Jite for this piece. Being a writer and editor herself, her responses were a delight to read and insightful too. I hope you learnt something from her as I did.

She is on Instagram as @jyte12 and on Facebook as Jite Efemuaye

© 2018, Demilade Olafisoye. All rights reserved.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.