I met Sli in Beijing, China.
The first thing I noticed when she walked into the office on her first day of work was her radiant smile, punctuated by her ability to light up a room with her charming charisma.
As I got to know Sli more, I learned that even when she’s upset, if you can make her smile, the world becomes a much better place to live in.
It took some persistency and nagging on my part (man, I sure can be annoying), but eventually Sli was gracious enough to let me begin to write her book.
For the next couple weeks, we took time out of our strange and hectic schedules to meet up and go over her life story.
As always, I try to make these affairs as much fun as possible.
Each week, we went to different restaurants around the city, her often indulging in a glass of white wine, and me ordering three meals over the course of five hours.
It’s crazy how easy it is to lose track of time when you’re fully immersed in a conversation, and then you take out your phone and the hours have unapologetically passed.
But in that sense, I’m lucky.
See, Sli is special.
Because she seeks to find a deeper understanding to the things that have happened throughout her life.
The more her and I talked, the more I realized that she is a woman who, much like myself, is still trying to find herself.
I know, I know.
Examining past events can be a waste of time, but it also can add perspective that previously was hidden beneath raw emotion and an inability to forgive life for unfolding in a particular way.
This is the reality:
Life is hard to process, and if you never attempt to understand why, you may be blissfully ignorant, but you also may be woefully unhappy.
Ultimately, Sli and I never finished her book. We got 50 pages in and then I could tell that going through all of her memories was beginning to wear on her.
Her reaction to the past forced me to introspect on my own life.
Thanks to Sli, I soon realized that my convenient transparency was beginning to break me down as well.
Not everything has to be probed and examined.
Even the most tragic experiences can be put to rest, not so that we forget them, but so we learn that we are still present, and that our narrative is still playing out.
Regardless of the circumstances, there is still something beautiful about each and every one of us.
Lastly, working with Sli had a profound impact on the way I wrote my second novel, The Long Road East.
Originally, I had planned to write that story in the past tense, but after Sli and I began to draft her manuscript in the present tense, I fell in love with the difficulty of achieving a quality narrative in this style.
Consequently, spoiler alert: The Long Road East is written in the present tense, even though the events that occurred obviously happened in the past.
Without bloviating too much further, let’s get to the conversation that I had with my friend Sli Ngcobo.
Editor’s note: dialogue from this conversation has been modified in order to enhance readability.
Quentin Super: “Why did you want to write a book?”
Sli Ngcobo: “I wanted to write a book because I feel like I have had so many unique experiences in my life. I would like to share them and let people learn some lessons from them.”
QS: “Can you explain what led to us working together?”
SN: “We were working for the same company and I was working on a newsletter project, and I found out that you were a brilliant writer, so I wanted to collaborate with you. Then, you did a short piece on a person we worked with, and after that I thought that you were a person I wanted to work with because I have always had this passion to write a book. So essentially, I met you at the right time.”
QS: “What made you feel comfortable about working with me?”
SN: “I felt comfortable working with you because in general you have a good calm energy, and when we were having conversations it didn’t feel like an interview. It felt like I was talking to a friend. It was easy to open up and I liked how we didn’t always meet in formal settings. We went to coffee shops. Do you remember Tiger Pancake House?”
QS: “Of course!”
SN: “That whole vibe made it really easy to work together.”
QS: “What was your favorite part about working together?”
SN: “Pancakes, duh!”
SN: “Really though, food aside, my favorite part about working with you was that it was like talking to a friend. And as much as we were business partners, I felt as though I was also connecting with a friend.”
QS: “That’s a very nice thing to say. I really appreciate it.”
SN: “You are welcome.”
QS: “Challenging question: tell me your least favorite part about working together.”
SN: “My least favorite part had nothing to do with you, but more so with me having to open up and speak about things that I never really told anyone about. That made me realize I needed to work on some stuff, and that was quite emotionally draining because I learned that writing a book is emotionally draining as well. That was my least favorite part about everything, but at the same time I was so grateful because it prompted me into realizing that I needed to work on some of my issues, so hey, kudos to that.”
QS: “What can someone expect when they work with me?”
SN: “You should expect to pour out your heart and be challenged to tell your stories as honestly and truthfully as possible because you ask the right questions and you have the ability to get that important information out in order to continue the book writing process.”
“Is that a good enough answer, Q?”
QS: “It’s your answer, and I think it’s a good answer, which leads me to ask: what are your plans for the future?”
SN: “Like I said before, I still want to work with you. What we did is not something that I want to leave hanging up in the air, so I want to continue to work toward finishing that project. I also have some other projects that I would like to collaborate with you on in the near future.”
QS: “We touched a little bit about your plans for the future, but what is your dream? What gives your life meaning and purpose?”
SN: “My dream is to be a businesswoman who inspires and motivates people to be the best version of themselves, and that’s what I’m currently working toward. That’s why I want to go home [from Beijing to South Africa].”
QS: “Last question: what would you like people to know about both South Africa and also you?”
SN: “I would like people to know that South Africa is a very beautiful place. People have this misconception about Africa. They only think of it as a continent, but when you talk about South Africa, you’re talking about only one country out of 52 other countries.”
“I want people to know that South Africa is not just a dump. It’s a beautiful country with a mixture of cosmopolitan, nature, and wonderful people who are friendly and warm-hearted.”
“As far as me, well you’re really putting me on the spot here, Q, but just know that I am a creative entrepreneur with a unique passion for chasing my dreams. At the same time, I’m human, and I’m far from perfect.”
Support Quentin Super today by purchasing his first novel, The Long Road North for $13.95 on Amazon!