A virtual workshop for young Black writers is coming to Halifax, just in time for African Heritage Month.
Andre Fenton, a Halifax author, filmmaker and spoken-word artist, is gearing up for the sold-out four-week workshop. Black YA (Young Adults) Matters focuses on coming-of-age storytelling and helping young Black writers in the province hone their craft as writers.
“”We’re going to look at a lot of different kinds of Black identities,” Fenton said, “since there is no definitive Black experience.”
“We really want to break down stereotypes and find ways to combat them with genuine, honest representation.”
Fenton has published two novels: Worthy of Love, about a teenage boy struggling with an eating disorder, and Annaka, about a 16-year old girl who returns to her hometown of Yarmouth, N.S. and reuniting with her childhood imaginary friend.
Fenton wrote Worthy of Love to bring awareness and break stigma around the topic of eating disorders in young men. He said Annaka, an African Nova Scotian fantasy novel, is the kind of story readers don’t see every day.
‘He’s a role model’
Marilyn Smulders, executive director of the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS), is thrilled to have Fenton leading a workshop series.
“Andre has done workshops for us before,” Smulders said. “He is a very talented up-and-coming writer.
“He’s very young, but even at his age, he’s a role model,” Smulders said of Fenton. “He’s getting young Black writers excited about writing, so we’re thrilled that he’s doing this.”
Despite the lack of in-person events, Smulders hopes aspiring writers take advantage of learning from home.
“It’s a great way to connect and to concentrate on your writing for pleasure or your profession.”
Building bridges for representation
Fenton isn’t new to the role of educator — he’s facilitated more than two dozen workshops, many in schools across Nova Scotia.
He’s also helped run the Halifax Poetry Slam for more than five years, and travelled to perform at seven national poetry festivals across Canada.
“I was always a little bit of a storyteller,” Fenton said, recalling a story he wrote in eighth grade about an alien invasion in Halifax.
After high school, Fenton studied the screen arts program at the Ivany Campus of Nova Scotia Community College, learning about story structure and writing techniques. While he decided not to pursue a career in filmmaking, he believes the program made him a better writer.
Now, in a partnership with WFNS, Fenton hopes to share his knowledge with young Black writers in the province through the focus of coming-of-age storytelling.
“I really hope that each writer that comes to the workshop, regardless of their age or where they’re at, that they come away with a diverse set of stories,” Fenton said.
“Being able to help build that bridge for other students who are like me, that they really feel they have a book that represents them in a way, definitely makes the work so much more worthwhile.”
Nova Scotia’s theme for African Heritage Month 2021 is called Black History Matters: Listen, Learn, Share, Act.
Black History Month, first celebrated in Canada in 1950, was renamed African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia in 1986.
About the author
Stephen Wentzell is an ambitious and resilient investigative writer from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has been a journalist for a third of his life....