Why Our Programming
For us, diaspora dialogues means an intercultural bridge. In this city with the highest percentage in the world of residents born somewhere else, where each year more than a hundred thousand newcomers settle beside those whose families arrived a year, a decade, a century or a millennium ago, we use art and ideas to explore questions of our connected humanity expressed through its varying cultural contexts and particular situations.
We consider our community to be the mainstream. We work with partners who agree that such a fully inclusive arts sector is not the goal in and of itself, but the foundation on which we together build a vibrant, dynamic and sophisticated global city.
The purpose of our mentoring programs is to encourage and help foster a literature as diverse as the city itself. Each year, Diaspora Dialogues offers free mentoring programs for emerging writers to develop plays and full-length work. First—and second-generation immigrants and Indigenous writers are especially encouraged to apply.
Through an open call for submissions, we select emerging writers to participate in our free mentoring program to ready a book-length project for publication. When appropriate, select mentees will get the opportunity to receive targeted introductions to agents and/or publishers.
As part of this program, emerging playwrights (those with one or no produced plays) work with a dramaturge on a full-length play for one year.
What past participants say
I think that being accepted into the mentorship program has given a huge boost to my writing career by providing a clear focus and a set of realistic goals, and my sense of confidence and identity as an artist. Being involved with the organization has helped me feel connected to a larger writing community, especially through the lunch and learn sessions. I am thrilled about the fact that being involved with Diaspora Dialogues means ongoing support, especially with the process of finding a publisher for the manuscript.
—JO JEFFERSON, EMERGING WRITER 2016
I’ve been writing for a decade, and I’ve reached a point in my development where I need support. Diaspora Dialogues has been a godsend for the mentorship program and for providing a community for early-career writers. I feel it’s tailor made for writers like me, who don’t have connections or financial means to aid in their artistic practice. I’m grateful and elated to have found an organization that recognizes the importance of cultural diversity and exchange in the arts. I hadn’t thought about my fiction in formal terms before. I’m diving deeper into considering the kind of stories I want to write, and how technique and voice can shape those stories. To have fresh eyes on a draft is crucial, especially with the diminishing of traditional avenues of guidance from editors at publishing houses. It has been wonderful to have a seasoned novelist edit my stories and look at subsequent drafts. I especially appreciated the line edits and suggestions on cuts, as well as the probing of my vision as a writer.
—JANE BAO, EMERGING WRITER 2015
Writing can be so isolating at times so it was great to meet other writers—both experienced writers and writers at the same stage as me. The writing group, events, and wonderful staff all make it feel much more like you’re part of a community. For me it came at the perfect time. I’d completed drafts of most stories and workshopped a few in classes, but this was the first time I received feedback on the entire thing. The mentorship really forced me to do a number of things over the six months. First off was actually finishing drafts of all the stories I was working on. The mentorship also helped me to think of my collection as a whole—I found writing a synopsis and nailing down the order of the stories were important steps. Lastly, my mentor really made me question what each story was about and what I was trying to say. Only in revising the stories after the mentorship am I realizing how valuable some of the feedback was.
—DEREK MASCARENHAS, EMERGING WRITER 2013
Diaspora Dialogues provided me with an established writer to work with as a mentor, the opportunity to meet with industry professionals and a group of my peers, and some great online exposure. Not to mention, just being generally buoyed by the news of having been accepted into the program. The mentorship succeeded for me primarily based on the value of the manuscript feedback I received from my mentor. He has been very generously invested in my project and has provided a great deal of direction, encouragement and advice.
—BECKY BLAKE, EMERGING WRITER 2012
Diaspora Dialogues does more than just pay lip service. It offers practical help to a new writer, especially a new comer to Canada, who finds pretty much everything challenging, and your work published even more so. The mentor chosen was an accomplished and successful writer. At the same time, had a lot of perceptiveness and an understanding of a writer from a different cultural background, writing about a different culture. The mentor could give sound advice as to what would work and would not in a market like Canada.
—PRATAP REDDY, EMERGING WRITER 2012 (PRATAP’S SHORT STORY COLLECTION WEATHER PERMITTING IS FORTHCOMING FROM GUERNICA EDITIONS)
The mentorship process has been an incredible gift. I have developed the confidence to call myself a writer and to explore my craft in new ways. Receiving focused and supportive feedback from a renowned writer helped me recognize my strengths and tackle growth areas with a sense of discovery. That sense of being supported by a mentor and by an organization—that sense that there were people who believed in my work, and who were invested enough in it to challenge me to grow in my work—was truly transformative.
—YAYA YAO, EMERGING WRITER 2012 (YAYA’S POETRY COLLECTION FLESH, TONGUE IS FORTHCOMING FROM MAWENZI HOUSE (FORMERLY TSAR PUBLICATIONS) IN OCTOBER 2015)
The mentorship has been, and continues to be, a great experience. I trusted my mentor and so was comfortable in undertaking the major rewrite that she felt was necessary to best tell the story. I’m very pleased with what we’ve accomplished and feel that my book now has substance and weight—that it will be of value to other people (more than a few, I hope).
—SHEILA MURRAY, EMERGING WRITER 2011
I felt so encouraged that I sent a proposal for a short fiction collection to a small publisher, along with a sample story (the one I worked with Rabindranath [Maharaj] on). To my surprise, the publisher liked the sample story so much that she asked to see the full manuscript. The collection is presently under consideration. I would heartily recommend this program to any writer serious about getting published. It is certainly a leg up on a path that is often steep and slippery.
—PRADEEP SOLANKI, EMERGING WRITER 2010
Being involved with Diaspora Dialogues has tremendously benefited me as an artist. It’s all about the mentoring process. Although I’ve been involved in different writers’ groups and workshops, this one-on-one editing was extremely helpful. I began to see the gaps in my writing and ever since, I have been able to self-edit with more success. As well, my mentor was a diversity novelist from a background other than my own, but that was the beauty of the process. We could speak to each other about diversity writing—and understand.
—JOYCE WAYNE, EMERGING WRITER 2010 (JOYCE’S FIRST NOVEL THE COOK’S TEMPTATION WAS PUBLISHED WITH MOSAIC PRESS IN 2014)
The great thing about this program is precisely that it gives you time. It gives you time to come back and rewrite and then it gives you another opportunity and it really is, especially in this day and age where everything is in flux, really incredible and I think it was something that was very beneficial and it’s very special to be able to do that.
—DAVID LAYTON, MENTOR AND COMMISSIONED WRITER 2010, QUOTED FROM AN INTERVIEW ON CBC RADIO’S METRO MORNING
I couldn’t have ever imagined that I’d become a fiction writer. I’d never have even attempted doing something as foolhardy in India. Immigrating to Canada and living here for the last year has changed me. In no small measure, Diaspora Dialogues has contributed to this change. By selecting me for the mentoring program, it opened a new path of creativity for me—a path that gives me tremendous joy and satisfaction.
—MAYANK BHATT, EMERGING WRITER 2009
I feel that Diaspora Dialogues played a key role in helping me realize my dream of becoming a writer. The mentorship programme offers an amazing resource to emerging writers. I would encourage any aspiring writer, who has ever dreamed of developing her voice and telling her own distinctive story, to apply.
—LESLIE SHIMOTAKAHARA, EMERGING WRITER 2009 (AUTHOR OF HER FIRST BOOK, PUBLICATION FALL 2011)
The mentorship program gave me great confidence . . . the opportunity to share my writing with an internationally decorated poet AND have her offer me direct and positive feedback was something that I will always see as a key stepping stone in my writing career.
—IAN MALCZEWSKI, EMERGING WRITER 2006
DD gave me a sense of belonging, of having a place to let my voice be heard. Connecting with other DD writers gave me as a writer great support. In the group, I was the most recent newcomer and was still getting used to speaking and expressing myself in a language that was not native to me. Having the support, opportunities, exposure and appreciation from DD was an amazing experience. Seeing how my words and the words of other immigrants are not being marginalized but even the opposite, being valued and treasured for what we can give back to enrich the culture of our surroundings. This gave me validation of how open and receptive this country can be. Many times I found myself being inspired by the experiences I had with DD and writing poems as a result of that. All of this gave me the stepping stone I needed to continue my career on my own.
—GILI HAIMOVICH, EMERGING WRITER 2005