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Author Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond speaks to WomenWerk on advocacy, inspirations and keeping a day job
As an author, style and culture reporter, and copy writer Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond displays her passion and talent for documenting the world around her. WomenWerk had the pleasure of interviewing Nana Ekua for WomenWerk Wednesdays. In this interview she speaks candidly about writing as a career and a responsiblity and her inspirations.
WomenWerk: What are you most proud of as a woman and why?
I’m most proud of achieving humility. :) But seriously, I’m just proud that I’m alive and have a chance to learn a little more and love a little better each day.
"Don’t fall into the trap of feeling sorry for yourself because you haven’t yet got to the stage where you can [pursue your dream] full time."
WomenWerk: Who are two females you admire and what have you learned from their work?
The women I admire most are my mother and sister, primarily because they’ve taught me not to define myself by my work. As far as female writers go, I aspire to Buchi Emecheta’s gift for pacing and the honesty of Elizabeth Gilbert’s voice.
WomenWerk: What project(s) are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m wrapping up edits to my second book, researching and plotting out my third, and on deadline to deliver a short story.
"Look at a day job as a type of fellowship that pays you to research a certain sector or society"
WomenWerk: You’ve mentioned you wrote your first novel, Powder Necklace, during the little spare time you had. What advice do you have for those wanting to pursue their passion project while still maintaining a day job?
My advice to anyone working a day job while trying to make a dream happen is this: Don’t fall into the trap of feeling sorry for yourself because you haven’t yet got to the stage where you can do it full time.
So many of the greats had to work jobs they hated (or liked), and it didn’t stop them from producing. T.S. Eliot wrote “The Wasteland” while employed as a banker. Kurt Vonnegut managed a car dealership. Toni Morrison was an editor.
Look at a day job as a type of fellowship that pays you to research a certain sector or society, and look for work that informs your passion project. Charlotte Bronte was able to use her position as a governess to render Jane Eyre authentically.
What’s worked for me thus far is building a career as a copywriter, and writing articles and opinion pieces on the side. Both enable me to keep my writing skills sharp.
"I think writers have a responsibility to hold a mirror up to society. The beauty of writing is the reflection can, and should, come in various forms."
WomenWerk: You’ve used your platform to speak on various social issues. What responsibility, if any, do you believe a writer has to be a social advocate? On international issues such as the #BringBackOurGirls, what role do you believe those of us in the diaspora can play, if any?
I think writers have a responsibility to hold a mirror up to society. The beauty of writing is the reflection can, and should, come in various forms, whether it’s the funhouse variety of science fiction or comedic writing. Or those crazy magnifying glass mirrors you find at department store makeup counters.
For my part, the story of the nearly 300 girls kidnapped in Nigeria is very personal to me. I was 15 when I stayed at my boarding school in the mountains of Ghana’s Central Region to cram for my ‘O’ Level exams. Back then, my fears were limited to getting bitten by a mosquito, or not having enough water to bathe and drink. These fears seemed innocuous, and comical in hindsight; just part of the “TIA” / “This is Africa” refrain that enabled me to shake my head and laugh at the gross inefficiencies of life on the continent.
Now, I know the same things that made for great stories about my time in Ghana made those girls easy victims. When citizens allow leaders to get away with providing sub-par infrastructure, or none at all, without demanding more for themselves and their children, nations remain stuck in a cycle of poverty and victimhood.
If anything good has come out of this brazen attack, it has forced many Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora to agitate for results-based leadership. The #BringBackOurGirls movement showed Nigerians at home and abroad joining Africans, Americans, and Europeans in demanding stronger action from the Nigerian government. In July 2014 alone, there were three publicized protests in which Ghanaians peacefully showed their discontent with poor leadership.
As a Ghanaian-American writer, I feel personally vested in using my voice to insist on better.