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Author Natasha Deen a fortunate child of two countries and a mixed-race kid shares with us her journey. As a kid she asked herself over the years, “What does it take to be a successful author?” She goes into how it’s a rise and grind, hard work and a job of dedication and passion. She dives head first into her thoughts around "if we are what we eat, we are also what we read and write.” 

How and when did you decide to become a writer?

When I was a kid, I read This Can’t be Happening at MacDonald Hall and found out Gordon Korman had written the book when he was thirteen. Excited that kids could be writers, I wondered what the steps were to do this phenomenal thing. I asked it of my teachers, school librarians, public librarians, parents, but no one had an answer.

I came to the conclusion that being an author was a bit like winning the lottery, a happy occurrence of chance and luck. I stopped dreaming of being a writer. Fast forward to finishing university, reading a horrible book, and having the question resurface, “What does it take to be a professional writer?”

This time, I was lucky. I had the internet, a better idea of how to search among the stacks of the library shelves, and a focused set of questions about reference and professional development books to bring to the librarians. So, a lot of research (and deleted pages!) later, I had a manuscript, that’s how it all began.

Did you always want to write for kids/ teens? 

I like writing for all audiences, and I count myself lucky that I have books for kids, teens, and adults, as well as the chance to have written for magazines and the stage.

How can writing “change the world”?

Years ago, I read an article discussing how people reading a fashion magazine for as little as two minutes could trigger depressive symptoms. There was also another article on the link between having people write about their best or worst memory, and their resulting decisions when given the choice between junk food and a healthy snack (people who wrote about a happier moment were more likely to choose carrot sticks over cookies, while those who wrote about their worst memory were more likely to choose the cookie). It seems, then, that if the old adage is true and we are what we eat, then we are also what we read and write.

There are loads of articles and research on how stories teach empathy and understanding, foster appreciation for different cultures and communities, and the psychological and physiological benefits to reading (reduced stress levels, boosted immune systems, better sleep habits).

Writing changes the world because it not only changes us on an individual level, it allows for us to look higher and farther, to see the connections, responsibilities, and inter-dependence we have with each other. 

How much of your life/ personality is in your writing?

One of the reasons I think writing is so difficult is that no matter how hard authors try to stay out of their pages, somehow we end up in them. I’m not talking about Author Intrusion, when the writer uses the book to lecture or sermonize, I’m talking about the little bits and pieces of ourselves that we leave on the page.

Years ago, I started reading a book and had to put it down. In real life, the author had just lost their dog to cancer, and the book included a dog character, but I could feel the author’s love and loss in the pages. It was so intimate and raw, I felt I was invading their personal space by reading the story.

In my case, my books always have some kind of positive resolution. My family history includes slavery, poverty, indentured servitude. In watching my elders work and fight to overcome the obstacles before them, I find I’m most excited when I’m writing resourceful characters who fight, not just to survive, but to thrive, as well.

What should non-writers know about writing? What should new writers know about writing?

For non-writers and writers alike, it’s the saying, “hard writing makes easy reading.” Great writers make their books look effortless and easy, but there is no “easy” in what they’ve done. They’ve deleted pages, tossed out entire manuscripts, and given up years to their craft, all in the effort to connect to a reader they may never meet. I hope new writers understand that in this endeavour of ours, it’s not about talent, but about perseverance, patience, and respecting the reader for whom you’re writing.

Are there common themes/ threads throughout your work?

I think the themes of hope, resiliency, humour through difficult times, and claiming self-identity often show up in my work.

You visit many schools and libraries to reach young readers and writers. What do you tell them about the creation of stories?

Ha, that it’s hard! One of the sad things I see is when writers put down great manuscripts because they don’t fully understand what a grind writing can be. They’re discouraged and believe the reason the story isn’t finished is because they lack talent. Not true!

I’m honest with my audience about what a frustrating task it can be, because I want to encourage them to set attainable goals, practice self-care, and to find ways to quiet that internal editor that whispers, “If only you were good at this…”

With my sessions, we talk a lot about how much story matters. Books change the world because they change how we view our environment, ourselves, and our society. It’s crucial that we understand the importance of our stories and find ways to tell those tales.

Do you have a particular writing style, or methods that help with creative flow?

Baahhahaaa, not even a little bit! Every day is a new day for me. I try for a certain amount of routine (writing in the morning, taking breaks, rewarding myself for a good faith effort), but I also gauge what my obligations and commitments are for the day, and then set my daily goals. Some days, it’ll be a few hours in the office. Other days, I’m going to count myself lucky if I open a file.

If there was one tip I could pass on, it would be to find what grounds you as a writer and what sparks your creativity. Is it writing in the evenings? Writing in a sunny spot? Find the moments in which you can get your words in, then build your day around them.

What fills your time when you are not writing?

I have two jobs. I’m a full-time writer and I also work as a Personal Assistant to three furry creatures, who feel serving them should be my full-time job! They fill a lot of time, but they also keep me company in the early mornings and late nights, so they get away with it.

When I’m not writing, I read, both for pleasure and to keep educated in the industry, and I definitely try to keep connected with friends and family. Writing can be lonely and isolating. Authors spend a lot of time by themselves, living in their heads. 

It’s important for my self-care to get out of my head as much as I can, and I count myself lucky that I have friends, family, and creatures that help me find balance in my life.

How has being an immigrant shaped your view of the world?

My origin story is an unusual one. I was born in Canada and when I was three-weeks-old, my family moved back home to Guyana. Five years after that, we returned to Canada. So, I was born a Canadian but my experience with Canada is an immigrant experience, if that makes sense.

As I get older, I feel fortunate that I am a child of two countries, and a mixed-race kid. It has allowed me to learn from a variety of viewpoints and to see different perspectives and ways of embracing the world.

Every day is a new day, Canadian-Guyanese Author took us through her world, her routine, and a wonderfully honest depiction of how she navigates the world of being an author in today’s day and age. Her insights are truly inspirational and make you want to pick up some of her work.