Fresh Words and Deep Roots

Writing poetry since she was a child, Nova Scotia based author Shauntay Grant says she

has always loved creative writing.

“The oldest poem I’ve kept is from fourth grade,” she says.

The vocalist, poet and author began a residency at the Berton House Writers’ Retreat in Dawson City in April. She is working on Proof, a poetry novel about a young boy’s efforts to document a marginalized Black Nova Scotian community.

Grant is a descendant of black refugees, Jamaican Maroons and Black Loyalists who came to Canada during the 18th and 19th century.

In an interview with the BBC in 2012, Grant says that people always ask her where she is from. “I can trace my roots here (in Nova Scotia) back into the 1700s,” she tells the BBC. “That, for Canada, for some people, is a bit hard to believe.”

Grant has written three children’s books, her first, published in 2008, is called Up Home.

“When I was 18, I wrote a poem about my community called Up Home, which I shared some seven or eight years later at an event in Halifax. Afterwards a local editor approached me about publishing the work as a children’s picture book and that’s how I got into publishing,” she says.

Up Home was selected for the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign, which was started in the United States by 11-year-old Marley Dias. Dias started the movement because she was tired of reading about “white boys and their dogs.” The campaign now boasts a library of 4,000 books featuring black female characters.

Grant’s book Up Home also won the Best Atlantic Published Book prize at the Atlantic Book Awards in 2009.

Her career path began with studying journalism and music. She hosted a show on CBC Radio 2 in the Maritimes for seven years and directed choirs. She also wrote songs for radio and television projects. “All the while though I kept writing,” Grant says.

She has also published her poetry; The Root House is her first collection of poems. Furthermore, Grant is a teacher of creative writing at Dalhousie University.

Her focus is on the black communities in Nova Scotia.

She had never been to the Yukon before and says she is enjoying her residency.

“I’ve always drawn inspiration from nature and so the mountains, the trees and the river make this a beautiful space from which to write,” she says.

She will wrap up her residency on June 23 with a reading of poetry and spoken word at the Whitehorse Public Library.

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