Y. D Tetteh reminisces about winning 2016 Koffi Addo Prize for Nonfiction

1. What inspired your award winning story, Lost Futures Or: A Guide to Losing Love?

I think I had been wanting to write about love – and my experiences of and around it – for a long time, but wasn’t quite sure how to do it. The marriage of my romantic partner, and the end of a relationship that never really left the ground, provided the necessary stimulation I needed to put something into words finally.

2. How has life changed after winning the prize?

Since winning the prize I feel more confident saying and knowing that I can write — that I have this skill when I need and want it. It continues to be amazing to have recognition not just of my writing ability, but also of my experience. I’m very grateful for that. Surprisingly, I’ve actually not written much since. I suppose I’m waiting for another big event!

3. What would you be looking for in entries to a prize?

I would look for sincerity in entries. Honesty is compelling. But entries also need to have clarity; stories need to be more than an assault of emotion or of information.

4. What do you think should be done to promote non-fiction in the African literary scene?

Prizes like this are amazing because they reward the bravery of writing non-fiction (and writing at all!) I think prizes like this are a tangible, practical beginning to encouraging more non-fiction writing in Africa. In a broader sense I think two other things are crucial: encouraging people to read (and read broadly) and nourishing an environment of emotional connection and communication. People can’t write emotionally resonant stories (fiction or non-fiction) if they are not practised in knowing and sharing how they feel.

5. What are you currently reading?

I just finished Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahesi Coates. I’m very excited because I’ll now be moving onto a fantasy novel I’ve been meaning to read for ages. It’s called The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson and is over one thousand pages !

6. Are you working on something at the moment? A book maybe?

I’m not currently working on anything. I’m trying to read as much as possible, though. To keep my mind working and ready I often spend time looking at people, actions, or situations and think through all the different details – sometimes I’ll go so far as to mentally “write” a description. I promised Chuma Nwokolo I’d have written a book in ten years though, so maybe I should get started again soon !

7.  Any last advice for entrants?

Give it a try and give it your best. Don’t be afraid of some label or title. I still have trouble calling myself “a writer.” That confidence will come with time. Write something, edit it, write it all over again. Go for it.

Listen to Tetteh read her winning story here.

Submit to the Koffi Addo Prize for Nonfiction here


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