Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Diaspora Dialogues Mentorship Program: How Diaspora Dialogues Helped Me Become a Writer

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Leslie Shimotakahara

Diaspora Dialogues' mentorship program connects emerging writers with established writers. For past mentee Leslie Shimotakahara, her experience with the program and working with Emma Donoghue helped her realize her dream of becoming a published author. You can read more about the mentorship program here.

By Leslie Shimotakahara

I discovered Diaspora Dialogues at a low point in my life. I’d just moved back to Toronto after a miserable stint as an English professor in small town Nova Scotia. After spending the past decade of my life studying “isms,” I’d come to the realization that I had little interest in grand theories for talking about literature. What I really wanted to do was write my own fiction. A belated realization, no doubt.

All the story fragments my grandmothers had told me about dances and Japanese-American beauty pageants and dusty Internment camps in Minidako, Idaho and Kaslo, BC, and the gritty neighbourhoods where they’d resettled after the war caught hold in my imagination. That well of collective memories surrounding the Japanese-Canadian and Japanese-American communities was what I wanted to spend my life writing about and exploring. But in order to tell these stories, I had to develop my own voice and get into my characters’ heads, which is easier said than done.

I submitted a short story I’d started working on to Diaspora Dialogues, upon seeing their Call for Submissions in a café. I was delighted to be selected as one of their “Emerging Writers” for the 2009/10 mentorship programme. And what luck to be matched with Emma Donoghue as my mentor (a year later, she was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for her latest masterpiece, Room).

Read the rest of "How Diaspora Dialogues Helped Me Become a Writer" on the Diaspora Dialogues blog.

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