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 Brittle Paper Literary Awards: New Date for the Announcement of Winners

The announcement of the winners of the inaugural Brittle Paper Literary Awards was scheduled for 23 September 2017. However, a change […]

The Reviews Are In! | Namwali Serpell Has High Praise for Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu

Screen-Shot-2017-09-20-at-4.57.42-PM-e1505944728679 copy

Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu is one of the hit novels of 2017. A historical drama, it tells the story of an 18th […]

New Website Collects Everything Binyavanga Wainaina Has Written Since the Late 1990s

A new Website has collected everything published by Binyavanga Wainaina since his writing career began in the late 1990s. The […]

Opportunity for All Writers | Submit to Vanguard Literary Services’ HIV/AIDS Awareness Anthology

To mark the 2017 World HIV/AIDS Day on December 1, Vanguard Literary Services, a bookselling company in Nigeria, has called […]

The Graywolf Press Africa Prize Launches with Igoni A. Barrett as Judge

igoni a. barrett

A new award just dropped: the Graywolf Press Africa Prize, for “a first novel manuscript by an African author primarily residing […]

Nnedi Okorafor Celebrates Everyday African Life in New Superhero Comic

okorafor comics

A little over two years ago, South African Sci-fi writer Lauren Beukes collaborated with D. C. Comics on a Wonder […]