Nostalgia for the Future has expanded in size considerably, from its original form as a short story into a full novel. When I began the Diaspora Dialogues long-form mentorship program, Nostalgia was written as a first-person narrative, but my mentor encouraged me to experiment with the third person. This was the biggest change.
I had worked with other mentors on earlier drafts of the manuscript. I learnt something different from each of my mentors. I was very fortunate to work with Martin Mordecai since he believed fully in the importance of the story I was trying to tell and took the time to read and comment on several drafts. I would send him sections of my work to read every two to three weeks, and he would normally respond within a week with comments. We also met in person a number of times, but not just to discuss my work: he was very generous in talking to me about the process of bringing a novel to completion and sharing his own experiences as a writer. It is invaluable to receive feedback from someone with more experience. Since writing is inevitably a solitary task, working with someone who was both critical and also nurturing was a privilege.
I would say what you can get out of the mentorship process really depends on how much you put into it yourself. The more you push yourself, and also consider honestly the criticism you receive, the more you will benefit. Based on the feedback I received, I am working on some further revisions and expansions of the manuscript before I begin to approach agents or publishers.
The end is the section that I have found most challenging to write so far. The scenes set in cottage country came easiest to me. As for characters, I would say that Christina’s cat, Bustopher Jones, is the most intriguing because we never know what he makes of his reading of Proust.
I understand “nostalgia” as a wistful longing for something better in the past, and I see the novel as, among other things, embodying a similar kind of longing for a possible future. We live in a world where cultural boundaries are increasingly porous, and my own experiences have, in some form or another, included many of the elements that play a part in my novel. I felt that it is important not just to write about a single culture that might superficially appear to be “my own,” but rather about the mix of cultures we inhabit, and the problems, as well as the promise, that such border crossings within the space of Toronto bring with them. I honestly believe that empathy with others is the only way to overcome conflict and coexist in a world made increasingly complex by the closer interactions of cultures.
My audience is any reader. I am not trying to convey any specific point, I just hope that my readers will find the story I have to tell engaging and thought-provoking.