by Daniel Nkado
I am Igbo. While growing up we had what we call ifo ifo. It means folktales telling.
My grandmother was an expert.
She could tell the same ifo twenty times and you’d still not be bored. Once, she was tired and my father tried to. Halfway through, we had all fallen asleep.
I think the storyteller himself started to doze first.
But my grandmother didn’t go to school. She called paracetamol ‘parakitamol’ and my mother’s name B-i-a-t-y, instead of Beatrice.
But she was a master in the art of storytelling. She knew the right way to start, what to add and what not to.
She would look at our faces and know the best story to tell at any time.
And just when you thought you have heard the main thing, she would break into the characteristic song that was common to Igbo folktales.
Storytelling is art and not just about who knows how to put down words on paper.
Same way you don’t need a college degree to know you can sing, or act, or draw, that is the same way for storytelling too.
Writing is not storytelling. Writing is what you can learn. Storytelling is gift.
While the writer struggle with principle, the storyteller laughs along with his or her audience.
No matter how gorgeously the words are presented, if the events you are describing are not sweet to read, things are bound to get dull at some point.
And that’s why people skip pages.
Or drop the book and doze off.
Or fling it to the wall.
The wealth of your word bank does not matter in storytelling. What matters is your ability to start something and a dozing person would get up to listen.
The ability to grab and hold. It has nothing to do with degrees and colleges.
Personally, I think storytellers should be discovered the same way great singers or footballers are discovered on the streets.
But what publishing house, whether here or abroad, would be willing to take on a non-graduate writer.
To them, how can you claim to have written a novel when you don’t have a degree in English Literature?
The ordinary literary agent will look at your bio first before deciding whether to open your submission or not.
I bet you that Ms Adichie wouldn’t have been as famous as she is today if she hadn’t completed a master’s degree in creative writing at a foreign university.
Only few Nigerians with storytelling talent has had and will have that opportunity.
Our editors are expert storytellers charged with the ability to revive even a dead story.
So if you think you’ve had a thought once to be heard, a flame deep inside you that you can’t just put out, write it down and submit and leave the rest to us.