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Mystery Publishers’ Publishing Manager Speech During the Launch of ‘Our Stories Redefined Anthology’ at the 2022 NYrobi Book Fest at Alliance Française de Nairobi

Mystery Publishers’ Publishing Manager, Vincent de Paul, gives speech during the launch of ‘Our Stories Redefined Anthology’ during the 2022 NYrobi Book Fest at Alliance Française de Nairobi on June 25, 2022

Writers present, editors, publishers, readers, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome to Mystery Publishers ‘Our Stories Redefined’ Anthology Launch.

Stories tell of people’s lives, cultures, and ways of life. Every epoch has its stories, told by those who take it upon themselves to take the curator’s responsibility. Writers immortalise such aspects of life.

African stories have evolved from oral to written literature and straddled generations. Today, we celebrate African literary giants, both men and women, who mapped the path we walk on. There is an African proverb, ‘The youth can walk faster, but the elders know the road’, but trust meme lords and ladies to jibe such with memes to the contrary – The elders may know the road, but the youth have Google maps. It is so in writing.

The celebrated literary giants had their time, defined the stories Africa needed, sometimes at the cost of their lives or at the risk of being politically incorrect and suffering immensely, and shaped, and are still shaping, our lives today. However, times have changed. Today’s writers have writing Google maps. We no longer follow in the footsteps of these great men and women. We respect them for laying this foundation, but we owe it to our génération to chart a new path.

We need to tell our stories differently to shape the thinking of future générations, rewrite history, and create an alternative path for future African stories.

It is on this premise that Mystery Publishers was founded to redefine African stories from those of the yore. We publish pop literature, stories showing the current African state of affairs and mapping out what a future Africa looks like. This may only be through injecting new thinking into African writing architecture. How? Bring in new voices, and give them a platform and the opportunity to shape our future.

War, starvation, diseases, imperialistic tendencies of nations, and other left-wing literature may highlight a perpetual state of dystopia, but can there be a silver lining? Yes.

Our Stories Redefined aims to rewrite such narratives. Show an Africa capable of rising to the times of Mansa Moussa when the richest man alive hailed from Africa, and stories were not of a dark continent. A powerhouse Africa. An Africa lighting the path for the rest of the world to follow despite its darkness.

To celebrate African writing, we felt the need to offer a platform and opportunities to new-age African writers to redefine the stories that future generations will be told, listen to, or read.

In 2021, we received 13 poetry submissions from four African countries – Kenya (9), Nigeria (1), Uganda (1), and Zimbabwe (1), but we published 12 (rejected one). This year, we have received 18 submissions from the same countries, but only the volume increased – Kenya (11), Nigeria (5),  Uganda (1), and Zimbabwe (1). However, we will publish 13 stories. The five we rejected because some stories did not meet our submission guidelines, and others did not respond to our emails to sign publishing contracts.

The main challenge we face is authors not approaching their writing professionally, i.e. not doing due diligence before submitting, poor quality manuscripts, poor communication skills when communicating with the publisher, and poor writing skills.

We hope this anthology shall be the vehicle for new-age African writing that we envision. The challenge is, many a time in Africa, ideas die with their originators. Nigerian writer, Ken Saro Wiwa, summarised it well in his story, ‘Africa  Kills Her Sun’. This happens when we are selfish, don’t see and support the vision, don’t build our own, and engage in naïve competitions instead of collaborating. Together we stand, and alone we hobble and ultimately sink.

It’s a call to redefine the narratives we know. To take control of our stories, our future. And yes, We Can.

Thank you all.

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