5 Questions with Sheila Sampath

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Sheila Sampath, writer, artist, educator and activist designer, is participating in our Valentine’s Day Twitter Chat. We had some questions about how she celebrates love on February 14th and year round!

If you need some guidance writing to your valentine, join us on Twitter between 12-1pm on February 14th to get some professional help.

IFOA: What advice do you have for someone struggling to write a love letter?

Sheila Sampath: Start with something small—where the stakes are lower. Try writing a letter to your favourite dress, bookshelf or armpit. Read it out loud and wait. Ask for feedback. Wait. Feel. When you’ve mastered this, move onto the neighbourhood cat or alpha-pigeon. Repeat. Work your way up to other humans.

IFOA: Did you write Valentines as a child? Do you still? sheila-7162

Sampath: Yes (to both questions), but rarely on Valentine’s Day.

IFOA: What is the most romantic book you have ever read?

Sampath: This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz. The stories in the book really bring out the messiness and complexities of love, as we negotiate race, class and trauma, and link the acts of healing with love in a way that both breaks my heart and gives me hope.

IFOA: Roses, chocolates, candy, teddy bears. What do you prefer?

Sampath: None of these things. I want that figurine of the cat I pointed out in the window that one time and then completely forgot about but you remembered because it was a special moment. Or a mix-tape.

IFOA: If you had to pick just one poet to quote always who would it be?

Sampath: At this moment, Nayyirah Waheed.

5 Questions with Daniel Scott Tysdal

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Daniel Scott Tysdal, author of Fauxccasional Poems, is participating in our Valentine’s Day Twitter Chat. We had some questions about how he celebrates love on February 14th and year round!

If you need some guidance writing to your valentine, join us on Twitter between 12-1pm on February 14th to get some professional help.

IFOA: What advice do you have for someone struggling to write a love letter?

Daniel Scott Tysdal: I’ve got two pieces of advice. One: be yourself. If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re serious, be serious. Second: be particular. Don’t rely on platitudes and generalizations. Share favourite memories of your lover. Share your specific hopes for your future together. Share how these memories and hopes make you feel.

IFOA: Did you write Valentines as a child? Do you still? Tysdal, Daniel Scott

Tysdal: I still give Valentines to my one and only. On our first Valentine’s Day a decade ago, I gave her a phrenology bust. She was moved to tears. I was too anxious to enjoy Valentine’s Day when I was a kid. I was tormented by questions like: “Does an Optimus Prime Valentine that reads ‘You transform me’ truly and fully express my feelings for Amber?”

IFOA: What is the most romantic book you have ever read?

Tysdal: Don DeLillo’s Mao II.

IFOA: Roses, chocolates, candy, teddy bears. What do you prefer?

Tysdal: All of them. A candy filled chocolate teddy wearing a crown of roses. That’s my dream Valentine’s Day gift.

IFOA: If you had to pick just one poet to quote always who would it be?

Tysdal: For Valentine’s Day: Pablo Neruda. For always, it would be really cool to be able to quote a poet from the future, one writing two centuries from now. I would love to have a taste of what I’m going to miss.

#XOifoa Valentine’s Day Twitter Chat

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As Valentine’s Day approaches you might be struggling to find the right words to say how you feel. “I love you” is already written in the generic card you bought, so now what? Perhaps you have the perfect gift but you want to accompany it with a love letter. Maybe you want to send flowers and are stumped on what to write on the note. Don’t let Valentine’s Day stress you out. We have just the thing for you!

We don’t want to boast, but we know a lot of authors. Who better to help you with your love notes than a professional writer? Join us for a live Twitter chat on February 14th from 12-1pm (EST) and get some help writing to the ones you love.

We have asked 2016 Giller Prize nominee Gary Barwin (@garybarwin), editor and art director of Shameless Magazine Sheila Sampath (@sheilasheila) and poet and professor Daniel Scott Tysdal (@dstiz) to help! Follow @ifoa and tweet your request to one of these writers using #XOifoa.

We are happy to help with:

  • Writing your lover of many years something new
  • Penning a lovely limerick for your son or daughter
  • Choosing the right words for a note to mom
  • Sending your gal pals the funniest card
  • A little something to go with the candy gram for your coworkers
  • And much more. Just ask!

Valentine’s Day writer’s block is real. We’re here for you.


Barwin, Gary

Gary Barwin is a writer, composer, and multimedia artist. He has authored 21 books of poetry, fiction and  work for children. His nationally bestselling novel, Yiddish for Pirates,  was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literature Prize, and his new poetry collection, No TV for Woodpeckers will appear this spring. A PhD in music composition, Barwin has been Writer-in-Residence at Western University and Young Voices eWriter-in-residence at the Toronto Public Library. Born in Northern Ireland to South African parents of Ashkenazi descent, Barwin moved to Canada as a child. He is married with three adult children, and lives in Hamilton, Ontario.


sheila-7162Sheila Sampath is a writer, artist, educator and activist designer. She is the Principal and Creative Director at The Public, a social justice design studio specializing in community-based processes and participatory design; the Editorial and Art Director of Shameless magazine, a Canada-wide feminist magazine for teens girls and trans* youth; and an Assistant Professor of alternative and speculative practices in the Faculty of Design at OCAD University. Her first book, Letters Lived, focusing on feminist lineage, was published in Fall 2013 under the Three O’Clock Press’ Women’s Press imprint, and her current art practice explores themes of intergenerational trauma, memory-loss and ritual through displacement and diaspora. 


Tysdal, Daniel ScottDaniel Scott Tysdal is the ReLit Award winning author of three books of poetry, most recently Fauxccasional Poems (icehouse 2015), and the poetry textbook The Writing Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating Poems (Oxford University Press 2014). Online, he runs the Fauxccasional Poems Video Project (bit.ly/fauxpoemvid) and he delivered the popular TEDx talk, “Everything You Need to Write a Poem (and How It Can Save a Life)” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0BUYzMypi8). Tysdal’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best Canadian Poetry and Best Canadian Essays. He is an Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, at the University of Toronto Scarborough.