Title: I felt among, though didn’t belong
By Edith Onyinyechi Chuku.
At exactly 7:04pm, I was fortunate enough to crawl online with a mere 54MB to lavish. At the top of notification, OCR-South-South Journalists forum took the lead, something new had popped so I tapped it and I saw my mentor, I saved as “mentor Ejiro ICIR” had shared something on the platform: “Longform Journalism vs Creative Writing, Two Sides of the Same Coin in an Evolving Media” flier. I was bewildered. Although I didn’t know what I read, but 100 students appeared so I quickly I joined the training platform.
Wow! It was on! At 7:06pm: The trainer dropped a line: “I’ll start with 2 writing samples.”
Thereafter she dropped another post: “Take a look at this piece of writing below. And compare it with the next….Then quickly spot the difference by indicating what you think.”
Here’s a copy of the first writing sample: “A week before the lockdown was declared in Abuja, a 16-year-old girl was beaten with a knife and stabbed repeatedly with a pair of scissors by her aunt, Juliet Nnadi, an officer with the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps (NCDC). The 16-year-old, according to neighbours, was brutalised by her aunt and went through untold hardship.
“Many of the neighbours told us that the screams of Uloma being beaten daily usually woke them up,” Taiwo Akinwade, the Coordinator of Stop The Abuse Against Women, a non-governmental organisation based in Abuja, explains to me. Akinwade said she and her team visited Lugbe, the neighbourhood in Abuja where Nnadi lives to investigate the case.
“The locals cannot believe the teenager is a niece to the perpetrator because oftentimes the officer denies Uloma from going to school and makes her stand under the sun,” says Akinwade.”
Here’s the second writing sample: The silhouette walked at dawn as though he was straddled with a heavy load on his shoulders. He limped gently, each gait with great effort. The breeze from the east of the River Niger blew a gust of cool air mixed with a certain distasteful odour towards him. Still he continued walking. As he neared the shore, he caught the whiff of that pungent smell again. Ahead of him lay what looked like a human being asleep. A fisherman? He was about to call out to the still figure when the first ray of the morning light fell on the body and the putrid smell hit him like a blow to his nose.
He tried to adjust his eyes to see clearly the sight before him: skull smashed-in, eyes bulging from their sockets, worms wriggling from gashed facial skin. His pulse quickened as quivers ran down his spine both from cold and revulsion. The body looked like that of a young woman. She was fully wrapped in a sheet but her face, the only exposed part, was already rotting. Her decomposed flesh made him retch unexpectedly.
The sight of the corpse brought to the surface a recollection of unpleasant memories. Fishing was the community’s mainstay. Any contamination would only worsen their business. Should rumours of diseased pollution like this ever get to the ears of their buyers, business would crumble and daily living become a nightmare. This was his only source of income.
He frowned, realizing that no other alternative existed for him. Stories had been going round about floating unidentified bodies on the Ezzu River that flowed through Amansea community at Oji River some months back. The discovery of the bodies had ruined the community’s business. He was not about to let that become the fate of his people. Life was hard enough, why make it more complicated.
He looked around to see if there were any more bodies. There was none. The body of the young woman would have to be buried before the sun rose properly. He hesitated. He would need two other fishermen to help dig a grave. Or maybe he should do it alone. He wondered how she got there in the first place.
Stupid young girls who wouldn’t stay in their parents’ homes, he hissed in disgust as he began to look for a shovel.”
Following this post, Umukoro asked: “What strikes you about each writing style? I’ll allow for 5mins read.” I moped, didn’t know how to string my opinions, observations into words, wondering I needed big grammar, but couldn’t even start a sentence. Distracted a bit, I wondered how this group would have existed this long, since August 25, 2020 and I am just joining, but did this really matter?
A Comment dropped on the whatsapp from the trainer: “Are we reading at all, kindly indicate so I know I’m not talking to ghosts.” When I saw that I asked myself: Why did I join? I don’t belong here, they are all professionals, hmm! But now you are here, I tell myself, even if you don’t belong here, they know you are here, get useful I prod myself. That was all my spirit could cook up.
That’s when I saw a response from Bakz Jr and Tega followed by Collins Odigie Ojiehanor who broke the camel’s back, after he was done reading, so was I. But he should go first, I tell myself, afterall it’s a public domain, I need not embarrass myself speaking off point, I concluded.
Bakz Jr opinion was close my thoughts when he posted: “My opinion, this is straight to the point with the inverted pyramid format, concise, simple, a news story.” but, I guess it didn’t appeal, just as I know now that I would have done better than that, as it seemed to me that the trainer didn’t make any comment on it.
Tega’s response was: “I really don’t have the right words to use.” That was the sort of courage booster I needed, even though she didn’t have the right words, in my case, I didn’t know the right words.
Then Collins Odigie Ojiehanor, posted something Magical, I think: “Sample 1 is more of straight news, Sample 2 is more of a feature story” brought an immeasurable relief to me, so he can also lack the right words, that’s why he spoke simple English, I thought, but most importantly, I felt relaxed, I could now concentrate, there was so much to get better at from here, at the least.
The heart of the discussion was a rebirth for me, indeed, I began to see, and understand things I felt were impossible to digest very easily. Thank you ‘Mentor Ejiro ICIR,’ indeed, content is king, not enough to have all the pieces, but creatively laying those pieces in a highly organized and passionate manner makes a beautiful context.
Rich journalism, creative story writing, I just learnt, is not about ambiguity but having a good context and a beautiful story. My fears have been overcome, in my simple language, humanized and embedded with facts, truth, happening events, indisputable knowledge, I can make a perfect, sought-after story, however the most important is: do I have a story to tell, not how many big words do I know.
For me, creative and journalistic writing, which I am most passionate about, is like my underwear I have to fit into it, enter the holes with my two different legs, if not, it won’t fit well on my waist and I can’t walk with it.
LightRay Media Training didn’t just inspire me, there was a complete flush! And the dirt are off. it’s a rebirth for me.