All Stories, a free mentorship programme for underrepresented children's book writers was launched on 30th March 2021. Here, the second in a series of interviews with All Stories mentees, Deputy Editor, A. M. Dassu speaks to Hannah Ekekwe to find out more about her writing and experience as a mentee.


1. How long have you been writing for?


I’ve been writing since I was a kid. Under my bed in my parents’ house is a box full of notebooks and folders of loose-leaf paper, where you’ll find all the terrible short stories and melodramatic novels I used to write by hand in HB pencil. Every once in a while I like to take them out and read them and, even though they’re a little embarrassing and a lot of the pages are faded now, it’s a comforting reminder that telling stories is what I’ve wanted to do my whole life.


2. What made you want to write for children?


I want to write for children because it wasn’t until I was an adult that I came across characters that I could truly relate to: characters that looked like me and had similar experiences, written by authors I could relate to as well. Everyone, at every age, deserves to find good representation of themselves in the books they read, but I think it’s especially important when you’re young and still figuring out who you are and where you fit in the world. For Black kids, and for Black queer kids especially, it’s important to have stories where you’re not just the sassy sidekick to the white protagonist or where trauma is the focus. It’s validating and empowering to see stories where someone like you is more than just a stereotype. I want to write for children because I don’t want kids to have to wait until they’re adults to find these sorts of stories.


3. Can you tell us a bit about the book(s) you’re writing? (Age range, genre and anything else you’d like to tell us.)


I’m writing a Young Adult mystery and coming-of-age novel. It follows a girl whose best friend disappears from their small town, and her journey to find him while coming to terms with the fact that they’re growing up and that means changes for their relationship.


4. Ooh, I like the sound of that! What has your writing journey been like up to this point?


There was a good period of time where I didn’t write anything and that was partly because I was afraid of writing something bad. My writing journey has been a process of learning to let go of perfectionism, and writing because it’s what I love to do.


5. What made you apply for a mentorship? Was there anything specific you needed help with?


I applied mainly to push myself as a writer and get over my fear of feedback. I also struggle with writing convincing dialogue and establishing a strong sense of place in my stories which is something I’m working on now with my mentor. I applied for All Stories because not only do we get brilliant mentorship, but the publishing webinars and SCBWI membership are amazing opportunities too.


6. How are you finding the mentorship so far?


It’s a really incredible experience. My mentor, Genevieve, is brilliant and encouraging and I know I’m in good hands. She really challenges me to write more, to write better, and to really commit to the story. I’m very lucky to have been paired with her. And the workshops that we get to attend are really fascinating insights into the world of publishing. I’m learning things I wouldn’t get to know anywhere else. I know I’ll come out of this mentorship a better writer.


7. Sounds brilliant! What are your thoughts on representation in children’s literature?


I think it’s been consistently changing for the better for a while now, across all age groups. However, I think we’ve reached a point now where it’s not a question of representation but of good representation. Filling a book with a cast of diverse characters who exist as formulaic stereotypes I feel is more harmful than no representation at all.


8. I agree. What is your favourite book and why?


That’s a tough question! I could give so many different answers but I will say that one book that I still regularly think about years after reading for the first time is Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. The way Ng writes about family is mesmerising.


*Feature image courtesy of All Stories and profile image courtesy of Hannah Ekekwe

Hannah Ekekwe has wanted to tell stories for as long as she can remember, but for the longest time every story she told wasn’t a reflection of herself and her experience (Black, African) but of the white euro-centricity she was surrounded by. It wasn’t until her late teens when she started to read YA fiction that didn’t speak of Blackness as a monolithic experience, and she found her writing transformed; she was able to tell stories that truly meant something. Based in Aberdeen, Hannah’s writing a YA road-trip mystery. Hannah can be found on Instagram and Twitter @smithadachi.

No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.