Diaspora Dialogues (DD), a writing organization in Toronto, is launching a new short form mentorship program for diverse, emerging writers in Winnipeg. DD had its first deadline Oct. 15 and will be accepting new applicants in January.
Zalika Reid-Benta, the program manager of DD, talked about the organization and why it decided to open a chapter in the city.
“We started with Winnipeg because the president [of DD], Helen Walsh, had ties there and we wanted to sort of build a community in Winnipeg, so like not just having a mentorship but doing the things for the mentorship that we do in Toronto such as having professional development workshops, which is why we’re doing the symposium as well,” she said.
“We just think there’s an untapped writing community there.”
Reid-Benta said DD supports diverse Canadian writers in making their writing craft a career by guiding them through the publication process.
“We have four mentorship programs [in Toronto] currently — two long form and two short form,” she said.
She added that the long form mentorships are for those who have a completed or nearly finished manuscript. The short form mentorships, one of which is coming to Winnipeg, are for those who do not have a completely finished manuscript but rather a collection of poetry or short stories.
“We strongly encourage Indigenous writers and writers of colour to apply, but we’ve also had writers who have identified as, you know, having some mental health issues and wanting to write about that, so we also speak of diversity as that as well as culturally and racially diverse.”
On Nov. 9 and 10, DD’s digital magazine TOK will be holding a symposium in the city to bring together writers, both those in the program and those interested in writing in general, to network and to attend workshops, enabling them to gather more information about the writing industry.
“The first day, we’re going to have two development workshops for emerging writers, and so one is going to be pitching publishers to agents […] and we’ll also have a networking reception, so that will include different authors,” Reid-Benta said.
“Our second day will be […] our panel, Blowing Up CanLit, which is really a discussion on what the current landscape in Canada is for publishing books.”
Reid-Benta said the symposium is for anyone interested in writing and getting published. For participants in the short form writing mentorship, they will be able to talk freely with those who have gained experience, while also building their own personal profile as a writer.
She also talked about the motivation needed to become a writer and how she got involved with writing herself.
“I believe that you should become a writer because you want [to],” she said.
“Right? Because there’s something that you want to say, because there’s something that you have to say. I didn’t really realize that I could make a living out of [writing] or a career out of it until high school when I realized that there were programs — you know, undergrad programs, master’s programs.”
This interest is what led Reid-Benta to Diaspora Dialogues.
“When I was in undergrad I took some creative writing courses,” she said.
“And in one of the courses, my instructor actually told me about Diaspora Dialogues and said that I should apply to be a mentee there and that’s how I got involved with the program.”
Tickets for the symposium can be found on eventbrite.com and on tokmagazine.ca. Admission is free but registering is recommended.