ms. paper! (3)Dear Ms Paper,

 I am always so happy when I see an African writer come into the international limelight—when Warsan Shire was featured in Beyonce’s song, I was over the moon. But lately I’ve begun to notice a worrying trend. It seems as if none of the successful writers that inspire me actually live here in Africa. In fact, none of my writer heroes do. These days I find myself wondering whether anyone would care about my writing if I’ve only lived in Africa? I have lived in Lagos all my life. Like Adichie, I started writing when I was only nine years old, and since then, I’ve known that writing was what I wanted to do with my life. I have only one year left in university before I begin pursuing writing full time. Should I start hustling for a visa to the US or some other western country? I’ve heard it costs lots of money, but my friends are saying that if it means I’ll be a successful writer, then I should see it as an investment. Ms. Paper, what do you think?

***
Dear Aspiring Literary Immigrant:

Let’s get one thing straight. Your question is not about becoming a writer. It’s about attaining a global literary celebrity status. I’m making this distinction because becoming a writer in Lagos is not difficult. Walk to an internet café in your neighborhood and start a blog or better still ask Ojo the Printer down the road to print your debut manuscript.

What you want is literary stardom, and for that the rules are different.

Rule # 1: Leave Lagos!

Lagos, like most African cities, is a literary dead end. You can always return when you’ve attained fame and fortune, and split your time between a winter home in Lekki and a summer home in Massachusetts. Until that happens, you have to seal your fate in that nebulous thing we all call The West. Put down that Hemingway you’ve been reading all day and begin studying the US Visa form because that’s where your hope of becoming a mega literary star lies.

Rule # 2: Get your book to leave Lagos.

If you choose not to flee Lagos because you love the sweltering Lagos heat or because you can’t imagine a life without Lagos traffic jams, then get yourself on the roaster of a prestigious London-based literary agent or get your book published by a fancy New York City publishing house. It’s magical, really. You’ll begin to see your name mysteriously appear on longlists and shortlists of all kinds. The New York Times will review your book and bloggers will fight over every word you utter and Brittle Paper will write blogposts about those killer heels you wore to that fancy book reading at that major book festival. One day, Kim Kadarshian will ask to sample bits of your novel at about the same time that George Clooney’s film production company acquires the rights to your novel. Before long, we will read your polished and guarded conversations on Lunch with FT. Meanwhile everyone—including that Lagos publisher who rejected your work—is talking about how the international limelight really suits you.

When you’re African and a writer, all roads, my dear, lead West.

Yours Truly,

Ms. Paper

 

**********

#DearMsPaper is a fictional agony-aunt series that parodies readers, critics, and writers in the African literary scene. If you have specific questions you’d like me to address, send to brittlepaper@gmail.com

To read more #DearMsPaper posts: click here

Tags: ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

4 Responses to “Dear Ms. Paper: Do I Need a US Visa to Become a Successful Writer?” Subscribe

  1. Mikeinioluwa 2016/08/10 at 02:17 #

    This is a sad TRUTH!
    I’ve been thinking about this for a while.

  2. ezicat 2016/08/10 at 06:18 #

    I guess we have our challenge then as writers, readers and publishers of African lore – building indigenous businesses with worldwide reach. And this is true not just for writing.

  3. Fatima 2016/08/14 at 02:53 #

    Dear Ms Paper,

    I think the word should be “roster” not “roaster” as indicated.

    A good Nigerian may think we need to invite the publisher out for Suya and drinks!!!

    Your’s most sincerely

  4. Peter 2016/08/15 at 01:00 #

    I do think that one can attain literary stardom in Nigeria but the part about literary agent is true. Most agents don’t care where u are as long as the manuscript is good. I think that apart from building our publishing institution, teaching creative writing in our uni will be an easy pathway to literary stardom no matter the location because it hones craft and some agents are bias over it.

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

The Public Execution | by Olisa Onyekaonwu | African Fiction

execution

“…long after the van had taken off…the cry of the prisoner still hovered in the air, like the aroma of […]

The Hummingbird | by Kofi Sey Simpson | African Poetry

hummingbird

“A mockery, designed to quell my grace in flight.”   In this cage, everything is upright and strong, Each bar […]

Ripples | by Miracle Amaka Nwokedi | African Fiction

ripples

“Unlike most mothers in Umuona, Mama did not possess that inner eyes of a mother to make out her daughter’s […]

How the Huza Press Prize for Fiction is Reshaping Rwandan Literature

huza prize

It was the pressing need to reclaim our narrative, which as many of you are aware was being largely told […]

PHOTOS: Chibundu Onuzo Redefines the Classic Literary Book Launch Party

chibundu (1)

A few days ago, book lovers gathered at London’s Southbank Center for the launch of Chibundu Onuzo’s second novel, Welcome […]

Teju Cole is a Finalist for PEN America’s Richest ($75,000) Prize

teju cole 3

Congrats to Teju Cole for being named a finalist in what might be PEN’s most prestigious prize yet. The PEN/Jean […]