The People Who Write Questionnaire: Tope Folarin

Tope Folarin, winner of the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing

Tope Folarin, won the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story “Miracle“.

If your life (so far) were a book, what would the title be?

What is the greatest story ever told?
What a great question. I’m not sure if I can decide on one. Can I cheat and mention an entire category of stories? If so, I would say creation stories. They are usually the first stories we hear, and they help us make sense of the world and our place in it. They provide wonderfully simple and precise explanations for complex phenomena. These stories invite us to become storytellers as well, by prompting us to utilize our earth-bound senses and perspectives to describe things that would otherwise remain inexplicable.

Who is the greatest literary character ever created?
I’m not sure if this counts, but when I was growing up in Utah I was really enamored with the story of John Henry. I found it somewhat unbelievable that an American folktale featured a black character as its main protagonist.

Also, I spent way too much time reading Star Trek: The Next Generation novels as a kid, and so I’ll include Jean-Luc Picard here as well, even though he is technically a television character.

Which living or dead writer would you most like to share a meal with?
James Baldwin. Toni Morrison. Deborah Eisenberg. Tomas Transtromer. Countless others.

What is your favorite word right now?
Logorrhea. It’s a word that sounds like its definition.

What word has always looked or sounded strange to you?
Skullduggery. Never knew what to make of that one. And ‘mischievous’. So many ways to say it.

How many words have you written today?
About a thousand, give or take. Par for the course.

Where have you had your most exhilarating writing experience?
I can’t think of one place in particular. Probably anywhere the ideas are flowing, where it seems as if my fingers are moving on their own volition. This often happens late at night, in my small dining room.

What is the thing about writing that you most deplore?
I like everything about writing. Sometimes – oftentimes – it is difficult. But I enjoy the struggle.

What is the thing about writing that you most love?
Writing offers me an ability to create something. I cherish this immensely.

What stereotype about writers have you found to be true?
For the most part we’re obsessive loners. While we are generally great with fictional people, we can be weirdos around real ones.

What’s the biggest misconception about writers/writing?
That anyone with talent can do it. Talent is just the first step.

What’s the one thing no one would ever guess about you from reading your writing?
That I probably watch more trashy reality TV than I should. Then again, perhaps this interest of mine is apparent in my writing.

Tope Folarin is the recipient of fellowships from the Institute for Policy Studies and Callaloo, and he serves on the board of the Hurston/Wright Foundation. Tope was educated at Morehouse College, and the University of Oxford, where he earned two Master’s degrees as a Rhodes Scholar. He won the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story “Miracle”.