All Stories is an initiative that offers free opportunities for underrepresented children's book writers to develop their work. The second All Stories mentorship programme began in October last year and will end in June this year. Every fortnight, we will have one of the mentees as a guest to introduce themselves and tell us about their experience of being an All Stories mentee so far. To begin, please welcome Kenechi Udogu.


I’ve always loved telling stories. I was one of those overly excited kids who wouldn’t shut up about something once I got going, but I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I first realised I liked writing. Coming from a family of keen readers in Nigeria, I have very fond memories of thumbing through the shelves of books which lined the walls of our stair landing. It didn’t take long for me to start forming ideas about what I wanted to read. My sisters and I began writing down our thoughts and drawing comic strips on the back pages of our primary school exercise books, and I haven’t looked back since.


Perhaps because I started writing so young and reading just a little above my age at the time, my stories mostly had teenage female protagonists in them. A few decades on, not much has changed on that front. I still absolutely love being immersed in a great young adult story and imagining myself as one of the characters, be it in a book or on the screen. Which means that even though I also write some material for adults, most of my work is geared towards young adult fiction readers.
Writing for teenagers is notoriously tricky as the right balance has to be struck for stories not to sound too young or too adult, but I’ve always been up for a challenge.


Growing up, I was a huge fan of folklore and fairy tales. I enjoyed the idea of the mystical, the unknown, and the inexplicably dark (Stephen King and John Saul are mostly to blame). So when I started expanding my writing field, it made sense to lean towards magical beings and objects. Saying that, some of my work is contemporary fiction drawn from my personal experiences. For example, I wrote a novel loosely based on my secondary school experiences in a national boarding school in Nigeria. People ask if characters in my other books are based on anyone in my life, and even though I tend to say no, I’m sure some elements are incorporated unconsciously.


One of the best things about being a writer of fantasy and sci-fi is that I can draw inspiration from pretty much anything and anywhere and make it plausible. I’m constantly amazed by the amount of nonsensical information stored away in my head. It is only when I write something completely ridiculous down that I wonder why I even had that particular bizarre nugget waiting to come out.

The idea for one of my novels came about because I misread a café sign that said “The Other Side” on a cold night walking home.
This got me wondering what became of the slipper Cinderella hadn’t abandoned on the palace steps on the night of the ball. The retelling story quickly developed from there.


Landing a place on the All Stories programme was a dream come true after many years of writing without the editorial help I knew I needed. Appreciation of the written word can be so subjective; it sometimes feels like winning the lottery when you find someone who gets exactly where you are coming from.

I am fortunate to say I have that with Nicki Marshall, my amazing mentor. She has been an absolute joy to work with.
We are only a few months into the programme, and she has been incredibly supportive. Setting deadlines with her and keeping a writing journal have also helped me stay on target with my writing goals.


Being on this programme has certainly given me a boost of confidence in my writing ability. I hope to use the mentoring sessions to further develop fantasy and sci-fi storylines which I believe are lacking for teenage children of colour in the current literary market. The monthly webinar sessions we have with industry professionals (editors and agents) have been enlightening and encouraging as we learn about how the world of publishing works, particularly as writers from underrepresented groups who usually don’t have access to such knowledge for free. Knowing that it is possible for any one of us to make an impact in the literary world is what keeps me going. All Stories is definitely on the right track for promoting diversity in children’s literature.​


My family has always been supportive of my work, even when what I produced was probably laughable, and I am eternally grateful to them for never shutting me down. Hopefully, with the support I’ll be receiving from the team at All Stories over the next few months, I’ll be able to better share that glint of magic they’ve always seen in my work with a wider audience.




*Feature image courtesy of All Stories




Author Bio:


Kenechi is a Nigerian-born London-based writer and architect whose work centres on culturally diverse characters, particularly female protagonists in sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres who stand strong in challenging conditions. Her work was awarded a Highly Commended Text win for FAB Prize 2022. She is an alumna of the HarperCollins Author Academy Spring 2022 Writing course. Her short story was longlisted for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and her sci-fi short story was recently published in an issue of Dark Matter Magazine.


She loves singing with choirs and hopes to one day figure out how to hibernate in winter.


Twitter - @kenechiudogu

1 comment:

  1. Lovely to hear your story, wishing you all the inspiration and the best words on your writing journey.


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