BIPOC Writers Connect

 BIPOC Writers Connect 
 Facilitating Mentorship, Creating Community 
 October 28, 2021

BIPOC Writers Connect is back, and this time we’re going national!

This digital conference for Black, Indigenous, and racialized emerging writers is your chance to connect with industry professionals, established authors, and fellow emerging writers — all in one place! Presented by The Writers' Union of Canada and the League of Canadian Poets, BIPOC Writers Connect: Facilitating Mentorship, Creating Community includes one-on-one feedback from a published author, a practical query letter–writing workshop, an industry panel discussion, and plenty of networking opportunities.

This event is free for attendees, but advance application is required. We welcome applications from emerging writers across Canada. Read on for more details. 

TWUC and LCP are committed to cultivating space where BIPOC writers can share tools, strategies, feedback, and knowledge. Amid the ongoing uncertainties and challenges caused by the pandemic, opportunities for mentorship and community are needed now more than ever.

Thank you to our event sponsors, whose support of BIPOC Writers Connect makes this national program possible: Lead Sponsor Penguin Random House Canada; Program Sponsors Writers’ Trust of Canada, Dundurn Press, Kids Can Press, and University of Toronto Scarborough Department of English; and Supporting Sponsors Historic Joy Kogawa House and Westwood Creative Artists.

Eligibility

BIPOC Writers Connect: Facilitating Mentorship, Creating Community is open to Black, Indigenous, and racialized writers in Canada who have had a minimum of one published piece of writing (e.g., an article or short story in an online newspaper, school paper, or magazine), and who currently have a work-in-progress (fiction, nonfiction, or poetry) to submit for manuscript evaluation. Writers who have one or more full-length published book, staff of The Writers' Union of Canada, and staff of the League of Canadian Poets are not eligible to apply. Previous BIPOC Writers Connect mentees are not eligible to reapply. Applicants must be 18 or older by October 28, 2021.

Program 

Manuscript Evaluation & Mentorship 

Each successful applicant will be paired with a professionally published Black, Indigenous, or racialized writer, who will have had an opportunity to read their work-in-progress in advance of the online conference. At BIPOC Writers Connect, writers take part in a one-on-one discussion with their mentor for feedback on their submitted work-in-progress.

Mentors (from top left): Sharon Bala, Tanya Boteju, Natasha Deen, Farzana DoctorSally Ito, Jen Sookfong Lee, Danny Ramadan, Waubgeshig Rice, Kai Cheng Thom, Nadia HohnJenny Heijun WillsJónína KirtonWanda TaylorNeil Aitken, and Shane Book.

How to Write a Query Letter

In this workshop, industry insiders will provide attendees with tips and tricks for writing a compelling query letter to a publisher or literary agent.

Virtual Networking 

Connect with writers and industry professionals from across the country during facilitated networking sessions throughout the conference. This is always a highlight for BIPOC Writers Connect participants!

First Page Challenge & Industry Panel

Join us for a two-part closing panel, featuring literary industry professionals at each stage along a writer’s journey to getting published. First, attendees get a behind-the-scenes look at manuscript selection as panelists offer on-the-spot feedback based on the first pages of anonymously submitted manuscripts.* Following the First Page Challenge, there will be a moderated discussion on some of the challenges, pressures, and opportunities that come with immersing oneself in the world of writing.  

*Applicants can decide whether or not to allow their manuscript/work-in-progress to be evaluated during this session, keeping in mind that if your work is evaluated during the session, you will not be identified.

Accessibility & Accommodations

This event was created in response to the unique barriers faced by Black, Indigenous, and racialized emerging writers navigating the literary industry.

The Union has set aside some funding to accommodate tech rentals for participants who may require support.

Learn more about accessibility at the Union

Land Acknowledgment

BIPOC Writers Connect is hosted by The Writers’ Union of Canada and the League of Canadian Poets, whose staff are based in Tkaronto, a Mohawk word which translates to “Where The Trees Meet The Water,” or “The Gathering Place.” Tkaronto is bound by Dish With One Spoon, a treaty between the Anishinaabe and the Haudenosaunee to share the territory, promote peace and protect the land. We acknowledge them and any other Nations who care for the land — recorded and unrecorded — and we pay our respects to Canada’s first storytellers.

Applications

BIPOC Writers Connect is a free event, but advance application is required. Applications are now closed. Successful applicants will be notified by August 2021.

More Information

For more information about this event, contact Membership & Engagement Coordinator Kristina Cuenca at kcuenca@writersunion.ca.

Event Sponsors

Lead Sponsor
Logo of Penguin Random House Canada

Program Sponsors
Logo of the Writers' Trust of Canada     Logo of Dundurn Press     Logo of Kids Can Press     Logo of University of Toronto Scarborough English Department

Supporting Sponsors

Logo of Historic Joy Kogawa House     Logo for Westwood Creative Artists

Participant Bios

Mentors

Sharon Bala’s bestselling debut novel, The Boat People, won the 2020 Newfoundland & Labrador Book Award and the 2019 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, was shortlisted for several awards, and is in translation in four languages. Sharon is a member of The Port Authority, a St. John’s writing group. Visit her at sharonbala.com.

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Tanya Boteju is a teacher and writer living on unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations (Vancouver, BC). Her novel, Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens, was named a Top Ten Indie Next Pick by the American Booksellers Association. Her next YA novel, Bruised, was selected as a Gold Standard book by the Junior Library Guild. In both teaching and writing, she is committed to positive, diverse representation. Visit her at tanyaboteju.com.

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Guyanese-Canadian author Natasha Deen’s novel, In the Key of Nira Ghani, was a Most Anticipated Novel for both Barnes & Noble and Chapters-Indigo, is a Red Maple Honour Book, and won the 2020 Amy Mathers Teen Book Award. When she’s not writing for kids, teens, and adults, she spends her time trying to convince her pets that she’s the boss of the house. Visit Natasha on Twitter at @natasha_deen and at natashadeen.com.

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Farzana Doctor is the Tkaronto-based author of four novels: Stealing NasreenSix Metres of PavementAll Inclusive, and Seven. Seven has been chosen for 2020 best-book lists including Indigo/Chapters, Apple Books, Amnesty International, CBC Books, and more. Her poetry collection, You Still Look The Same, will be released in fall 2022. She is also an activist, part-time psychotherapist, and amateur tarot card reader. linktr.ee/farzanadoctor

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Sally Ito is a Japanese Canadian writer, translator, and teacher of creative writing who lives in Winnipeg. She has published three books of poetry and a collection of short stories, and was a co-translator for a book of Japanese children’s poetry about Japanese poet Misuzu Kaneko. Her latest book is her memoir, The Emperor’s Orphans, published by Turnstone in 2018.

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Jen Sookfong Lee was born and raised in Vancouver’s East Side, and she now lives with her son in North Burnaby. Her books include The Conjoined, nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award and a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize; The Better Mother, a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award; The End of East; The Shadow List; and Finding Home. Jen edits and acquires prose for ECW Press and co-hosts the podcast Can’t Lit.

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Danny Ramadan is an award-winning Syrian-Canadian author, public speaker, and LGBTQ-refugees activist. The Clothesline Swing, Danny’s debut novel, won the Independent Publisher Book Award for LGBT Fiction and the Canadian Authors Association’s award for Best Fiction; was shortlisted for the Evergreen Award, a Sunburst Award, and a Lambda Award; and was longlisted for Canada Reads 2018. The novel is translated to French, German, and Hebrew. His children’s book, Salma the Syrian Chef, was released in March 2020 by Annick Press. It is shortlisted for the Blue Spruce Award and was on multiple best-of lists throughout 2020. Danny’s next novel, The Foghorn Echoes, will be released in June 2022, and his memoir, Crooked Teeth, will be released in 2024, both with Penguin Random House. He was named among the Top Immigrants to Canada 2017 as well as awarded the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Award for Excellency. He finished his Masters in Fine Arts – Creative Writing at UBC and lives with his husband, Matthew Ramadan, in Vancouver.

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Waubgeshig Rice is an author and journalist from Wasauksing First Nation. He has written three fiction titles, and his short stories and essays have been published in numerous anthologies. His most recent novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow, was published in 2018 and became a national bestseller. He graduated from Ryerson University’s journalism program in 2002 and spent most of his journalism career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a video journalist and radio host. He left CBC in 2020 to focus on his literary career. He lives in Sudbury, Ontario, with his wife and two sons.

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Kai Cheng Thom is a writer, performer, community worker, adult educator, wicked witch, and lasagna lover based in Toronto, the traditional lands of many Indigenous peoples including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat. She is the author of several award-winning books in multiple genres, including the novel Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl's Confabulous Memoir, the picture book From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea, and the nonfiction collection I HOPE WE CHOOSE LOVE. Kai Cheng is a winner of the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ Writers as well as a Stonewall Honour Book Award.  

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Nadia L. Hohn is an award-winning author, educator, and artivist who advocates for diversity in children and young adult literature. Nadia is the author of the Malaika Series: Malaika’s Surprise (2021), Malaika's Winter Carnival (2017), and the award-winning Malaika's Costume (2016) by Groundwood Books which was selected as the 2021 TD Book Giveaway title. This means that over 550, 000 children across Canada will receive a copy of Malaika's Costume.

Nadia is also the author of Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter (HarperKids, 2018), A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett-Coverley Found Her Voice (Owlkids, 2019), and Music and Media in the Sankofa Series (Rubicon Publishing, 2015). Her upcoming work includes a picture book and anthology in 2023 as well as a picture book in 2024. She is working on middle grade and young adult novels and plays.

Nadia holds a degree in honours psychology from the University of Waterloo as well as Bachelor and Master of Education degrees from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (OISE/UT). Nadia is completing her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph.  She was an inaugural teacher at Canada's first publicly-funded Africentric school and has been an elementary school teacher for 18 years. She is a professor of writing for children at local post-secondary institutions and a frequent presenter at conferences.

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Jenny Heijun Wills (she/her) is the author of Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related (McClelland & Stewart, Penguin Random House Canada). It won the 2019 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for non-fiction and the 2020 Eileen McTavish Sykes best first book prize. It was a Globe & Mail best book of 2019, a CBC best in non-fiction pick, and was named one of the 10 best books by a Manitoba author of the past decade by Winnipeg Free Press. She is Chancellor’s Research Chair at the University of Winnipeg where she is also Professor of English and director of the Critical Race Network.

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Jónína Kirton, a Red River Métis/Icelandic poet graduated from the Simon Fraser University’s Writer’s Studio in 2007, where she is now an instructor. Although she acknowledges and is thankful for the teachings offered through academic institutions, she leans heavily into what some term ‘other ways of knowing’. Like many mixed bloods she and her writing are a weaving.

Her first collection of poetry, page as bone ~ ink as blood, was released in April 2015 with Talonbooks. It has been described as “restorative, intimate poetry, drawing down ancestral ideas into the current moment’s breath.” A late blooming poet, she was sixty-one when she received the 2016 Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Award for an Emerging Artist in the Literary Arts category. Her second collection of poetry, An Honest Woman, was a finalist in the 2018 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Her third book, Standing in a River of Time, will be out in 2022, again with Talonbooks.

In recent years she has been a manuscript consultant with the Vancouver Manuscript Intensive and is a board member of the Indigenous Editors Association. A landless Métis citizen, she currently lives in New Westminster, British Columbia, the unceded territory of many Coast Salish nations, including the Qayqayt, S’ólh Téméxw (Stó:lō), sc̓əwaθenaɁɬ təməxʷ(Tsawwassen), šxʷməθkʷəy̓əmaɁɬ təməxʷ (Musqueam), Sḵwxwú7mesh, səl̓ilwətaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsleil-Waututh), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm, Stz’uminus, sq̓əc̓iy̓aɁɬ təməxʷ (Katzie) and Kwantlen.

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Wanda Taylor is a Black Canadian Author, Screenwriter and Educator. She has written and published both fiction and non-fiction for MG, YA, and Adult readers. She also works in Acquisitions and has served as editor and sensitivity reader on many manuscripts in progress. Wanda also writes magazine features, which have appeared in various publications; including Understorey Magazine, DaCosta Magazine, and Black2Businees Magazine to name a few. Wanda is a former CBC Television Producer and currently teaches college courses in Journalism, Story Writing for Media, and Communications. She also serves as a Mentor in the University of Kings College MFA Creative Non-Fiction Program. Wanda has won awards for her work, including the Women of Excellence Award for Arts and Culture.

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Neil Aitken is an award-winning Chinese-Scottish Canadian author, editor, and translator currently residing in Regina, Saskatchewan. His first book of poetry, The Lost Country of Sight, won the Philip Levine Prize and was shortlisted for several others. His second, Babbage’s Dream, was longlisted for the Anthony Hecht Prize. The founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, he is also a past Kundiman poetry fellow and works as a freelance creative writing coach. Visit him at www.neil-aitken.com.

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Shane Book’s first poetry collection, Ceiling of Sticks, won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize and GLCA New Writers Award. His second volume, Congotronic, won the Archibald Lampman Award and was shortlisted for the Canadian Authors Association Award, Ottawa Book Award, and Griffin Prize. He is also a filmmaker whose work screens at festivals worldwide. An Associate Professor of Writing at the University of Victoria, his third collection, All Black Everything, will be published in 2022.

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