With Creative North temporarily up a tree scanning the horizon for dust trails we’ve been Zooming our wonderful speakers finding out what they were planning to share on stage at the Royal Exchange at CN2020. 

You’ll find all the Zoom chats over on our Youtube channel from Friday 19th June.

Storytelling eh?

Seems like everyone these days calls themself a storyteller. Well not everyone perhaps, but 110,502 people on LinkedIn do. And 1,406,338 use ‘story’ in their LinkedIn profile. 

In fact, such is the ‘cult’ of story that we decided to ask a genuine, real deal, real world, published, award winning storyteller, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi to put us all in our place.

Jennifer is lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her first novel, Kintu (Oneworld, 2018), won the Kwani? Manuscript Project in 2013 and was longlisted for the Etisalat Prize in 2014. She was awarded the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her story Manchester Happened, and her first full story collection, Manchester Happened, was published by Oneworld in 2019. She was awarded the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction 2018 to support her writing. 

You get the idea. 

To cut a long story short…  She’s great. Even Andrew loved her short story collection, and he usually only reads books about sports trivia.

And unlike slightly skeptical me she’s also delighted that so many people now want to call themselves a storyteller. 

“It’s interesting that people now are calling themselves storytellers because there was a time when being called a storyteller was embarrassing to, I think mainly to authors, who thought they were much more than storytellers.

I’m glad to hear that now it’s made a comeback.”

It certainly has!

But what about collaboration? How might she have addressed collaboration as the theme of CN2020? 

And this is where it gets really interesting…

While our other speakers talked about external collaborations, the partnerships between writers and other creatives or disciplines, Jennifer took a different route, exploring collaboration within writing.

Not the practical collaboration between, for example, publisher and author but a philosophical collaboration between aspects of her storytelling.

Collaboration within writing

“Of course within literature is the idea of the collaboration between ideas,” she says, “The collaboration between, let’s say fiction and myth. Which to me is a fantastic collaboration. When you look at how myth making and fiction work beautifully together, because you know myth and fiction are related. Or the collaboration between history and fiction. And how those two again work together.”

Now that’s an expansive idea. Aspects of a story, memories, ‘facts’ learnt, feelings felt, objective, subjective, proven and possible woven as narrative. The writer orchestrating these chemical reactions, the collisions, the collaborations. 

“Yes I do use truth, my life experiences or stories I’ve heard about real people or things that I’ve seen happening to other people, real life experiences and merge them with my imagination. My imagination would then be fiction.”

Interesting huh? 

Interesting too, her advice on how to be a better storyteller.

Where most marketers are quick to offer their marketing advice (maybe that’s a  Daniel Priestley KPI thing) Jennifer offers this:

“I can only tell you my experiences as a storyteller. I tend to resist telling people what makes you a good storyteller because there are a lot of ways out there that can make you a good storyteller. 

Thankfully though she does go on to share a little guidance.

“For me as a good storyteller … see that world you’re talking about. 

It must be real to you. The characters must be real to you. When I set a world I tend to see it and I tend to impose on a world that is familiar to me. It could be fictitious but I impose those fiction on a place that I’ve been. So that I know where I’m standing every time I talk about that place. 

That’s the collaboration between truth and fiction.”

A novel concept?

The novel concept?

You? How do you collaborate within your writing?