Welcome to the highly acclaimed show where African creatives are celebrated, SynCity Literary Lords and Ladies. This is the second episode of our second season. Last year, we had authors like Amaka Azie, Leye Adenle, Dele Ogun, and Romeo Oriogun grace the show.
This year, we began the show with Bisi Adjapon. You can read her interview here.
On Monday, we had another author whose book titled ‘My Mind Is No Longer Here’ was first published as an e-book with Bahati Books UK in 2017, and then in 2018 by Parressia Publishers, Nigeria. His name is Sylva Nze Ifedigbo. Here is a slightly edited transcript of our open Twitter chat.
First question. Why was your mind no longer with us when you wrote this book? What brought about the choice of such an intriguing title?
Sylva Nze: I can assure you my mind went nowhere when I wrote the book. LOL. But seriously, that title, for the most part, captures the essence of the book, and when it came to me, it was like Eureka!
Lol. The Eureka part is apt. I am curious; how much of your personal story was invested in this book? Did you once try to leave the shores of Nigeria and it didn’t work out?
Sylva Nze: You know, it is often said that fiction writers write a bit of themselves into their stories. That is probably true. But #MMINLH is not exactly my personal story, especially as per trying to leave and not quite succeeding. I have never tried. However, I have had friends who have. Some, successfully. Others, not so successful. I also cannot deny that there are bits and pieces of my personal experience littered all over the book.
I found #MMINLH deeply relatable. I grew up in Lagos and 30 percent of my family have tried to cross to ‘the abroad’ through legal and illegal means. Was your book a deliberate attempt to show the dangers of desperation for ‘Obodo oyibo’?
Sylva Nze: First of all, thanks for the compliment, 😃 ’cos my aim is to write accessible and relatable stories. Fact is, young Nigerians are in a hurry to leave by whatever means. This is the reality of our time. I chose to tell that story. Like one of the characters said in the book, “the happiest place to be in Nigeria is the departure lounge of the International Airport.”
Let’s talk about the hard part, the writing process. Can you take us through some of the pains you went through from conceiving this idea to submitting the manuscript to Parresia Books?
Sylva Nze: Oh wow! It’s going to take a number of tweets to put this through. I will start by saying that the actual writing of the first draft took all of 30 days or so. I participated in the national writing month #NaNoWriMo Challenge and knocked out the first draft. The journey from that draft to a published book took another four years. What happened in-between? Well, life did. Those four years included brutal edits, and redrafts, querying publishers, working, as per I have a 9-5 (to keep body and soul together), and some other challenging personal experiences. By and large, the work was first published as an e-book by Bahati Books in 2017, followed by the print release last year by Parresia Books.
I was privileged to work with some ‘brutally’ good editors both from my personal network, and those from my publishers. But frankly, the pain was in enduring Lagos traffic and still staying up at night to do those redrafts.
We have all kinds of refreshment. Small chops, Amala and ewedu, fufu and nsala, semo and egusi. Please allow the waiter to take your order. We also have soft drinks in the cold room. RT to claim your meal.
Sylva Nze: No chilled beer? You’ve not heard that the best brains are those soaked in alcohol? 😜
Ah! I want to ask one very very very very important question. It’s about money. Are you ready to tell us the truth and nothing but the truth?
Sylva Nze: Eh…I will try. LOL
How profitable has #MMINLH been? Don’t lie o.
Sylva Nze: Well, you know you don’t measure profit only in monetary terms as a writer. The mere fact that you are being read and people from time to time drop you those messages about your work is the ultimate fulfillment really. However, I know what you are referring to. In terms of sales, I can tell you the reception has been wonderful and sales have been impressive, but we are still not where we want to be. So make una help my hustle o. Go get your copy and one for a friend. Both e-book and print copy dey 😁.
Speaking of endings, that ending sha… 😏😏😏😏 Very wicked ending. No spoilers but you could have had mercy on at least one person.
Sylva Nze: LOL. 🙌🙌🙌 I try. But seriously I had mercy on all of them
Just before we round off, there are a lot of writers in our community who worry about their writing and complain about publishing. Please leave a few words of encouragement for them. Then we will take questions from the public.
Sylva Nze: Candid advice will be to keep at it. Writing is a lonely venture, a labour of love for the most part. But if it is your thing, just keep at it. That opportunity will come. But also know, you need to read, read, read to become better. Your dreams are valid!
@ayoola_imran: Literature indeed is a reflection of society. Your book depicts the danger behind illegal migrations. There are many Yinkas in society. How do you think such elements can be deterred from such menace?
Sylva Nze: Well, everything stands or falls on leadership. We need to give young people reasons to stay. The grass is not exactly greener on the other side. To do that we first need to fix the economy, create jobs and build an inclusive society.
1. What’s the worst review you ever got for #MMINLH?
2. Do you think a ‘mentor’ or ‘godfather’ is necessary before a Nigerian writer ‘blows’?
3. How have the sales of the book been so far?
Sylva Nze: 1. You know how reviews are. People’s opinions vary and they have a right to it. I guess what I will term the ‘worst’ comment I have gotten so far was that the ending was predictable, which surprised me ’cos that’s something other reviewers had commended.
2. You need mentors certainly, but godfathers? well, I am not sure what those are in this context. Fact is you need to network and build relationships within and outside the literary circles. Some of those relationships can be a ladder to certain heights.
3. On Sales, we are just waiting for you @mystiquesynn to buy your own copy and we will meet our sale targets. 😃 So go now and order it.
@ayoola_imran: With the high rate of unemployment in the country coupled with the mentality based on ‘Logo Benz’, how can we use literature to minimize the high rate of illegal migrations? In what way can @naptipnigeria nib such malady in the bud?
Sylva Nze: Very good question Ayoola. I think literature can help a great deal and #MMINLH is an effort in that regard. We need a counter-narrative to the likes of Logo Benz to both entertain and educate our people. Sure @naptipnigeria should explore this.
@theolamonday: The idea for the book, is it one that had been formed a long time ago, or was there a eureka moment that made you to just start writing and go with the flow?
Sylva Nze: I had a story in my head. But that original story is not what ended up as the book. So the initial draft underwent transformation along the line following feedback from editors and new ideas that flew into my thoughts as well.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have come to the end of the show! Special thanks to our guest @ for his candid contributions to this chat and to everyone who tuned in.
Sylva Nze: Thank you @SynCityNG for having me. I appreciate all of you book lovers who joined in. Let the conversation continue. Follow me here and on IG. And yes, go buy the book. Do have a swell evening. Cheers!
Don’t forget to buy copies of ‘My Mind Is No Longer Here’. Send a DM to @Parresiabooks on Twitter to get started.
Next Monday, we are hanging out on Twitter with Logan February (@LoganFebruary), author of Painted Blue With Saltwater. Logan is such a sweet person and will be giving us a chance to get intimate with his creative side. Set a reminder to be part of it. Follow us @SynCityNG to stay in touch!