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Efemia Chela was one of the participants in the Writivism Mentorship Programme and attended the Writivism workshop in Cape Town this year. She was one of the shortlisted writers for the 2014 Caine Prize with her story Chicken, first published in Short Story Day Africa in Feast, Famine and Potluck. She spoke to Caleb Adebayo about her Writivism experience.

CA: How did you get to know about the Writivism workshops?

EC: I saw the Writivism workshops advertised on social media.

CA: Who was your mentor? How did you find the mentorship sessions?

EC: My mentor was Rachel Zadok and she was incredible. I think that’s because she has such a great oeuvre herself – somewhat folk-based, part dystopian, epic poetry as a novel. A strange distinctive kind of African fiction that is a beauty to read and behold. We communicated mostly online and once in person and she gave me great feedback. There was a lot of track changes and back and forth. When I was stuck with how to develop a story she gave me guidance. She also introduced me to writing in third person which I hadn’t done before.

CA: Are you still in touch with her?

EC: I am still in touch with her regularly. We share war stories about the publishing industry and talk about what we are going to write next.

CA: Do you think Writivism is doing anything worthwhile for upcoming writers?

EC: I think Writivism is good for upcoming writers because it sets them challenges that constrain their writing (the flash fiction piece) and a short story. So they have to really pare their writing down and get to the heart of the story which is an excellent skill to have in your arsenal as a writer.

 

This interview is the sixth in a series showcasing new African writers. It’s a platform for these writers to share their story and reflect not just on their work but also on the African literary scene.  Check back every Friday for a new interview. Thanks to the folks at Writivism for conducting the interviews and choosing to share it on our platform. 

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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