In partnership with Writivism, Syncity NG is publishing conversations with the shortlisted writers of the Writivism and Koffi Addo Creative Prizes. This conversation took place on Twitter (@SyncityNG) with Kanyinsola Olorunnisola (@K_tops).
Kanyisola is on the Koffi Addo Creative Nonfiction Prize Shortlist for his story The Comedian. He is a poet, essayist, and writer of fiction. His work interrogates anxiety, broken lineage, [in]sanity, grief, and the black body as a warfront—you know, typical stuff happy people write about. His debut collection of nightmares, In My Country We’re All Crossdressers, was published as a chapbook by Praxis. He is the founder of the SPRINNG Literary Movement.
Syncity NG: When I read your story, K, I went, “Ha, some people were born with two brains o! Why did you send in that particular story for the prize?
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola: Thanks for the outrageously generous comment. That was the only story I could send, to be honest. It was an essay that I knew I had to write at some point in my life. I was avoiding it, its insane darkness. So, Koffi Addo became my excuse to finally write it.
Syncity NG: Wow. Your first shot paid off. Didn’t it? Speaking of what it took from you; are all your non-fiction pieces mentally tasking? How far did you have to dig deep for this story?
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola: Oh, not all of them are so emotionally severe. This one just had to come out darker. It’s an essay about the most painful thing that ever happened to me, after all. It took me two years to finally confront the essay. I had to go through… a temporary “insanity” to pull through.
Syncity NG: You writers are so extra. But I’m sorry for your loss. Anyone who has read The Comedian will agree that it took a lot of guts and vulnerability to pull off. Speaking of death and burials (glaring themes in your story), what’s your earliest recollection of death?
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola: “We” writers you mean? We gather dey the category. My earliest recollection would be my grandma’s death. It didn’t mean much to me because I barely knew her. But I remember seeing her body and being haunted by it for months. Not literal haunting o.
Syncity NG: Don’t expose me please. 😏 Speaking of exposure, what advice do you have for writers who wish to write authentic literature or writers who hope to make shortlists?
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola: I think artistic integrity is what matters the most. Just be persistent in your growth. External reward doesn’t validate art. Prizes are determined by many other factors that are out of your control. The best you can do is write your soul with a voice that is true to you.
@writivism: We agree. It’s very important for writers to realize this.
Syncity NG: Be persistent in your growth. External reward doesn’t validate art -Ghandi Kanyinsola
Before you became this confident writer that you are now, how did you handle pressure from your writer peers and still protect your mental state when the rejections piled up?
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola: I learned a long time ago that an editor/judge will either like my work or they won’t. I can’t determine their taste/mood/preference. All I can do is show up for the work and do the hell out of it. The outcome is out of my hands.
Syncity NG: You are ‘bursting my brain’ with your apt responses, K. People want to be established without putting in the work. We celebrate you today because you have put in the work. When did you start writing and asides the Writivism prize, and how many other prizes did you apply for?
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola: I started writing in Primary 3 when one of my archrivals (I had those then) wrote a story that had girls fawning over him. I decided to write my own too, passed it around the class. It was a disgraceful flop. I havent stopped writing flops since. Some just turn gold after edits.
I’ve submitted mostly to poetry prizes. I have my eye on a lot of prizes, though. Caine has always been the dream. When I get serious with it, my mum’s pastor will be on the matter. Lol. #Caine2020
Syncity NG: Kanyin, this humility will not help you. You haven’t stopped writing flops, bawo? 🙄🙄🙄 Anyway, let’s hand you over to Synners.
@mystiquesynn: How do you know a story is good enough for publication? Just gut feeling? You said something about editing. Care to recommend any editors? What happens when you and your editor disagree?
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola: I never know when it’s ready. I often have my friends take it off my hands. For editing, I rely on Adams Adeosun (@mezzy_adamz), @oyindashoola, Innocent Ilodianya (@Ethereal_ilo), Wale (@Wale_Ayinla), and Otosirieze Obi-Young (@Otosirieze). I disagree with editors a lot too. But that is only after considering their suggestion for a long time.
@gideonogbonnac: I have just one question. One cannot help but notice how crisp your sentences are in The Comedian. Neat doesn’t even convey what I felt for your sentences. So my question is how do you structure your sentences? Is there a process?
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola: Thanks, Gideon. It is about voice and musicality of style. My friend @Otosirieze (I’m famzing now) says he never reads someone who isn’t a stylist or possessing technique. That has rubbed off on me. I only read writers with deep regard for structure and style. I learn from them.
@gideonogbonnac K, can you recommend some of these writers that have deep regard for structure and style?
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola: Junot Diaz. CNA. Wole Soyinka. George RR Martin. Lidia Yuknavitch. Ben Okri. BEN OKRI! Teju Cole.
@gwinuc: Congratulations first of all, on your shortlist! I read one of your stories few months back We All Know African Men are Basically Gods. Have you ever been attacked for writing queer literature?
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola: Haha. No. No one who is close enough to me to be in my inbox would dare! Lol. But seriously, nobody has said that. Maybe it’s because I haven’t really written that much content in that direction, you get? But more is coming soon. And I’ll be ready for them when they bare their fangs. Clapbacks were created for this sole reason.
Thank you so much, Kanyinsola, for honoring our invitation, and many thanks to Writivism for making this partnership possible. WeI wish you all the best.