Jael Richardson (2008 cohort)
I didn’t plan on becoming a writer. When my siblings and I set out to create a book about my father’s life story, it was simply decided that I would do the actual writing. I was the artsy one, after all.
I applied to the MFA at the University of Guelph because I figured the workshops and the thesis would provide me with the deadlines and accountability I would need to finish an entire manuscript. But the program did far more than that. By taking three different genre workshops, I learned that I had more than one story inside of me.
The MFA plenary classes forced me to wrestle with important questions that continue to shape the stories I tell and the process I use to arrive at a finished product. But the most meaningful part of the program was the workshop discussions with peers, facilitated by talented established writers. I got hard questions and helpful advice. I also got positive feedback and encouraging advice that I still think about when my own self-doubt is overwhelming.
With my Masters degree, I was able to secure a position as a part-time professor at Humber College. I am currently working on a novel. I am also starting a new kind of project that will give other diverse stories a well deserved and much needed platform for promotion and discussion.
Jael Richardson is the author of the memoir The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lesson, a Father’s Life; a children’s picture book of the same name is due for release in February 2016. Richardson recently served as one of the Toronto District School Board’s Writer-In-Residence and continues to speak in schools about the challenges and joys of writing, and about writing diverse stories as a Canadian woman of colour. She received a My People Award as a new writer of merit in the African Canadian community for her work on The Stone Thrower. Excerpts from her first play my upside down black face are published in the anthology T-Dot Griots: An Anthology of Toronto’s Black Storytellers. Richardson currently teaches at Humber College and is working on plans for a literary festival that celebrates diversity. [featured: summer 2014]