As part of Kuumba 2018, the IFOA is proud to host a free thought-provoking discussion with authors Simone Dalton, Rinaldo Walcott and Whitney French on February 7 at Harbourfront Centre. David Bradford will host the talk about authorship, opportunities and impediments to success in the book industry. In 2017, during the release of The Unpublished City, Simone Dalton answered five questions about writing. Find out more about the author below.
Simone Dalton: I always feel somewhat exposed when I’m asked to answer questions like this one. Not because I don’t think the “why” is important—I believe there is power in pinpointing your passion for, or the impetus to do what ever the thing is that you do—but I cannot say in the definite terms that I often hear other writers express that I was born to write, or I’ve been writing my whole life and have the journals to prove it.
I do have journals, but not one of them is complete. I will say this: I’m passionate about people and the stories that they want to share or the ones that they unknowingly unravel as they move through life.
The oral tradition of storytelling has also been a cornerstone in my life. I come from an extended family of storytellers and theatre performers. One of whom is Trinidadian-Grenadian poet and short story writer, Paul Keens-Douglas.
His poems were the first I ever memorized and performed as monologues. My mother’s sister, Gloria Keens-Douglas, was an educator who wrote allegorical Caribbean folktales for all ages. And my mother made sure my appetite for books was satiated in my youth. These influences shaped who I became as a reader and have helped shape who I’m becoming as a writer.
IFOA: What are some of the themes that you explore in your writing? Why?
Dalton: Inherited histories or cultural inheritance within families is one of my theme obsessions at the moment. It’s about how we echo the lives that started before our own, how imprints from our parents are left within us, and what triggers those parts of ourselves to come forward.
I’m currently exploring my own inheritance from my once absentee father.
IFOA: What are some of the genres that you explore in your work?
Dalton: Creative non-fiction and fiction are two of the genres I currently explore in my work; however, I’m intrigued by writing for stage and screen. I sometimes dream of characters in words, but at times, those characters are sharper and more compelling as people beyond the two-dimensional page.
IFOA: Who is your favourite author, poet or writer?
Dalton: Three women stand out for me, Jamaica Kincaid, Edwidge Danticat and Toni Morrison, but I will tell you about the first author in my list and her book: Annie John. Before reading Annie John, I was starved for voices that sounded like my own—like the people in my life—which always sounds absurd to me since I was born and raised on an island not far from Kincaid’s.
It was the first “ah-ha” moment that gave an example of people like me who could write—and do so successfully—in the way that Kincaid did. It was also a powerful portrait of motherhood and one that I identified with immediately.
IFOA: What inspires you?
Dalton: The words of people who have fallen six or seven times and still got up to succeed on their eighth try.
As a writer, Simone Dalton is grappling with the chaos of her relatively new ‘wokeness’. She is learning how to bring this reality forth on the page as a student in the University of Guelph’s Creative Writing MFA program. Simone was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago.
Dalton was featured in The Unpublished City: a collection of works by Toronto’s emerging literary talents. She participated in the book’s launch event held on June 22, 2017 as part of the Toronto Lit Up book launch series, and presented by IFOA and BookThug.
Dalton will next appear on the IFOA stage as a panellist on February 7, 2018 as the IFOA celebrates Black History Month. For event information visit here.