This spring, Téa Mutonji and I joyfully promoted her book, Shut Up You’re Pretty, the first book published under the VS. Books imprint. During our promotional tour, I was repeatedly asked how I had settled on the age limits for eligible authors in the open calls (the range was 18–24 in the 2017 call and 18–28 in 2018).
When asked this question by an older woman at Brampton’s FOLD festival, I responded with my usual comment that my focus was on mentoring youth, and closed by respectfully adding, “Also, what could I possibly teach you?”
She responded, “Many older writers are here precisely because we want to learn from you.”
After this event, I found myself reflecting on this exchange. I thought about how often the parameters of mentor relationships are typically rooted in the assumption that an older person will teach a younger one, even though mentorship is ideally a reciprocal process and youth are important cultural teachers. I also thought about how the resources and opportunities available to artists in marginalized communities, however few, tend to favour youth (and how I myself missed out on many opportunities for queer and trans youth because I came into these identities as an adult).
Lastly, I thought about how many older writers from marginalized communities have faced harsher systemic barriers than the ones that exist today, and have missed out on the advantages of increased representation, rights, and demand for more diverse books. As Tracey Lindberg succinctly stated: “Please remember: ‘emerging writers’ includes old birds who stopped fearing and started writing…”
In rethinking my ideas (and biases) around mentorship, age, emergence and access, I have decided to take the third open call of VS. Books in an exciting new direction by mentoring and publishing the work of an older BIPOC writer.
If you are an unpublished writer living in Canada who is Indigenous, Black or a person of colour and who is 50 or older, you are invited to email VS.Books
- your name, date of birth, and city of residence
- a completed novel or memoir manuscript draft of approximately 50,000 words [We are requesting submissions in these two genres because the first VS. Books publication was a book of short stories, and the second is a poetry collection. As a multi-genre writer, I want to support writers working in other genres.]
- a half-page synopsis of the book
- a short bio and social media/website info
- a description of what kind of support you are looking for from me in relation to your book
The mentorship will include:
- regular editorial feedback and writing support on your manuscript from me in person or via Skype meetings
- advice and support relating to the writing process, grant-writing, CV-writing, social media, promotion, organization, self-motivation, the publishing process, touring, performing, and anything else that might be pertinent (e.g., informal conversations about art, process, the intersection of art with gender, sexuality, race & religion)
- a publishing contract with Arsenal Pulp Press & VS. Books, with a $1,500 CAD royalty advance and book release slated for Fall 2022.
- my assistance in developing a marketing plan (alongside Arsenal Pulp Press’s marketing team)
- my assistance with booking and organizing a launch event
- a one-month post-publishing debrief period with me to brainstorm future goals
Please note that if we have worked together before through previous mentorship programs or in another capacity, you are still welcome to apply. You may also apply if you have self-published a book, but the manuscript you submit must be new and not previously published in full elsewhere, including online. Feel free to email me if you have any questions!
The application deadline is January 4, 2021. All applicants will be notified about the selection by the end of May 2021. The selection process will be based primarily on my ability to support your work on your manuscript.
Look forward to working with you!