Award-winning poet and writer Téa Mutonji is Western’s incoming writer-in-residence. (Sarah Bodri photo) As Western’s incoming writer-in-residence, Téa Mutonji feels right at home, relating to students. The award-winning poet and author is a student herself, currently pursuing her MFA in the low-residency creative writing program at NYU, where she was awarded the 2021 Jill Davis Fellowship in Fiction. Mutonji was still an undergraduate when her debut short story collection, Shut Up You’re Pretty, was selected as the first title to be published under VS. Books , an Arsenal Pulp Press imprint curated and edited by writer-musician Vivek Shraya . “I always call it the ‘American Idol for writers,’” Mutonji said of Shraya’s national call for work by new and emerging Indigenous or Black writers, or writers of colour. “You didn’t have to have any real credentials, you just had to have a book that felt right.” Urged by her professor, Mutonji entered a collection of writing – poems, essays, short stories – based around a central character named Loli, and a central location close to Mutonji’s heart: Scarborough, Ont. The Toronto district was Mutonji’s first home in Canada, when she and her family emigrated to Canada from the Democratic Republic of Congo when she was five years old. “I love Scarborough,” said Mutonji, who was the editor of Feel Ways: A Scarborough Anthology , a volume of works by writers of Scarborough, created to shed light on the suburb’s myths and stories set in diverse immigrant neighbourhoods. “There is a sense of community that makes it a really special place, and the more I see other places, the more I appreciate how unique it is. “Since I had written so much about girls and Scarborough in the past, I had a lot of material to work with. I gathered everything up and explained in my submission letter that I’ve noticed I have an ‘obsession’ with writing about the same theme.” One month later, Shraya invited Mutonji for coffee. When Shraya shared she wanted to mentor Mutonji and publish her work, it came as a complete surprise. “I had no […]
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