Mentors, both professional and personal, are a valuable resource in anyone’s life. But many professions lack the social safety net that a busy workplace can afford.
Recognizing that writers are at a particular disadvantage, Diaspora Dialogues, a local group focused on supporting and connecting culturally diverse writers, established a mentorship program that pairs emerging writers with established ones in an attempt to usher in a new generation of poets and authors.
“The idea is that the emerging writers have an opportunity to learn from mentors not only in terms of craft, but making in roads in terms of community and networking,” says Julia Chan, Diaspora Dialogues’ artistic director.
The group solicits authors and poets for original work for consideration by a five-member jury. The only criteria are that the writers must not have published a book and their work has to engage with the GTA. Rather than targeting specific cultural groups within the city, the program is meant to bring the multitude of ethnicities together.
“We saw an opportunity for a space where communities could come together and share stories,” she says. “Sometimes the best way to meet each other is through art.”
Pouring over this year’s 130 submissions, Chan, who is also a juror, says quality and originality are key.
“A story we haven’t heard before, that shows us something new about the city or a community.”
The final 10 to 15 writers get paired with mentors; Lawrence Hill has participated in the past while Andrew Pyper is among this year’s participants.
Refining a single piece of fiction or a collection of poems over a four-month period, the emerging writers will come out of the experience with a publishable product.
“We feel like we fill an important niche,” says Chan. “Stories are a good medium for bridging difference.”