Samuel Kolawole’s debut novel, The Road to Salt Sea, will be published by Amistad Books, a division of HarperCollins in 2021. The book follows a Nigerian man involved in a crime who makes a treacherous journey across the Trans-Saharan migration route and must reckon with the dangers of being a migrant in contemporary Africa.

As the winner of the 14th annual Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellowship for Writers from the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians, Kolawole spent September through December 2019 living in the Smith-McCullers House in Columbus, GA, working on the manuscript of his fantasy novel, The Hunt, with inspiration drawn from West African mythology.

From the Carson McCullers Center’s press release announcing the fellowship:

Named in honor of Carson’s parents, the Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellowship for Writers was inspired by McCullers’s experience at the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference in Vermont and, especially, the Yaddo Arts Colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. To honor the contribution of these residency fellowships to McCullers’s work, the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians awards fellowships for writers to spend time in McCullers’s childhood home in Columbus, Georgia. The fellowships are intended to offer the writers in residence uninterrupted time to dedicate to their work, free from the distractions of daily life and other professional responsibilities.

Kolawole’s work has been published in AGNIGulf CoastKweli, and more, along with various anthologies around the world. He has received fellowships from the Norman Mailer Center in New York City, the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, the Island Institute, and the Wellstone Center in Redwoods, CA. He also was a finalist for the Graywolf Prize for Africa.

Before completing his MFA at VCFA, Kolawole earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and a master’s degree in creative writing with disinction from Rhodes University, South Africa, and he graduated from the Clarion West Writers Workshop for writers of Science Fiction and Fantasy. He is a charter member of the African Speculative Fiction Society.

The Center’s press release offered this brief description of Kolawole’s work in progress:

The story’s main character, Akinkanju, an accomplished hunter running from his past, unwittingly finds himself entangled in “The Hunt,” a supernatural high-stakes contest presided over by the gods for their twisted amusement and involving the best and bravest hunters across the land in a mythical forest of the gods. Akinkanju braves perilous circumstances and an epic journey in an attempt to bring back his family from the dead and find peace.

In addition to this fellowship award, Kolawole’s manuscript Son of a Dog was shortlisted for the Graywolf Prize for Africa, which is awarded for a first novel manuscript by an African author. Kolawole was also the winner of the 2019 Editor-Writer Mentorship Program for Diverse Writers and worked with Amber Oliver, Editor at HarperCollins, to strengthen his first novel manuscript.