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Behind the Sentences with… Namwali Serpell

Behind the Sentences with… Namwali Serpell

Namwali Serpell is shortlisted for her story, Take It

Where, when, and how often do you write?

I’m too nomadic, or “movious” as we say in Zambia, to limit myself to a particular desk in a specific nook with a certain slant of light. I write from late morning to late afternoon, when most people are hungry or sleepy — I seem to find both states conducive to “flow,” as they call it. My writing frequency varies by genre. I can write nonfiction or scholarly prose for about five hours at a time, and as many days in a row as needed. I can write fiction for about three hours at a time, and it improves distinctly if I write every other day. My best work, regardless of genre, often happens in one big burst — an eight hour stretch, say, like a fugue. But I can’t prime my schedule or prepare myself for those eruptions. They come as they wish. I am left spent and grateful.

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