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Meet Ivuoma Okoro of Ivuoma Tells Stories in West LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ivuoma Okoro.

Ivuoma, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I moved to LA in 2016 looking to be a writer in the industry. Like everyone who moves to this town to do that, I figured I’d write a couple of spec scripts for television since that’s where all the jobs are supposed to be. But quickly after getting here, I realized that I wasn’t that into the industry. The mindset, the culture of it, how everyone is more about what kind of sales they can make as opposed to telling great stories- it all turned me off in a big way. It worked out that the story idea I was working with made great material for a novel so I felt little guilt about orienting my attention to publishing for a while. And then, midway through working the manuscript for the novel, I heard an audio fiction podcast that turned the lights on for me. I thought that maybe I could use the narrative podcast medium in the same way as the podcast I had heard to tell my own story. And once I switched into podcasting, the results began to validate that career turn.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
In some ways, the growth of the audience for my show was completely organic. So if there was anything that has been smooth about this process, it would be that. But the biggest challenge is that there’s honestly no money in podcasts. It’s been weird to be invited to speak on panels and to have so many people speak of the success of the show when at the same time, I’m still working full-time at a restaurant to make ends meet. (Though, I’ve since left the restaurant with what’s going on with COVID) It’s tough being a freelance podcaster in that you have all the access you could ever need to your audience but you’re not getting paid for bringing your art to that audience. The other biggest challenge is related to this. It takes an incredible amount of effort to make a fiction podcast and make it well. And that effort equates directly into the hours that you put into it. When you’re working a day job, it can take maybe a year longer than you want to finish a season of your show because you’re working around all the time you spend at your day job. That kind of thing can be very soul-crushing for an artist.

Ivuoma Tells Stories – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I’m a fiction podcaster. Right now, I’m telling a sci-fi adventure story about a huntress of the fantasy future who is employed by her government to kill off the world’s most wanted criminals. And to get specific, the plot of the podcast follows this incredibly decorated career hunter as she hunts down the first bad guy she’s ever had serious trouble catching. I think the thing that sets this story apart is the way I incorporate narrative voice. The show is meant to feel like a very good friend is very excitedly telling you about this show she just watched and that she loved—conversational, casual, energetic, and fun. But it also utilizes sound design and music and that’s what gives it a little more polished feel than me just mouthing off about these characters. I’m proud of the story I’m telling and the fact that I’m getting to tell it exactly the way that I want and in a way that utilizes the aspects of being storyteller that most suits me. I was a theatre major with a performance emphasis in college and I’ve been writing adventure stories since I began formally calling myself a writer so, in a lot of ways, this medium feels like it was designed for me and my style of storytelling.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success for me is putting work into the world that changes the way people view it and themselves, preferably in an incredibly positive way. When I look back at the first season of the Vega podcast, if I never put out anything else, I can say that I’m proud of my contribution to the culture. It’s about that for me. I don’t want to just entertain people for twenty to thirty minutes at a time, I want to put out pieces of culture that make the world feel a little more story-rich if I can use a term that essentially explains itself. I also want to be able to create these impactful kinds of stories on a full-time basis. If I can be a full-time storyteller on my own terms, I would definitely define that as winning.

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