Shazia Hafiz Ramji received the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry for Port of Being, forthcoming with Invisible Publishing in fall 2018. She was a finalist for the National Magazine Awards and Alberta Magazine Awards. Her fiction has been longlisted for the Fiddlehead’s fiction prize and received an honourable mention for The Humber Literary Review’s Emerging Writers Fiction Contest, judged by Cherie Dimaline and Ayelet Tsabari. Her fiction is forthcoming in The Humber Literary Review, her poetry is forthcoming in Best Canadian Poetry 2018, and her writing has appeared in venues such as Quill & Quire, Vallum, Metatron’s OMEGA and ALPHA, The Puritan, CV2, Room, The Capilano Review, Canadian Literature. Shazia has offered publishing consultations and worked as an editor for various presses and magazines across Canada. She is currently an editor for the Canadian Women in the Literary Arts and Metatron Press. In April 2018, she founded the Intersections Reading Group, a monthly series dedicated to discussing race, gender, class, and ability in writing and in life. Prosopopoeia (Anstruther Press, 2017) is her first chapbook. Shazia lives in East Van.
What is the most valuable insight or skill that your VMI writers have learned from you?
To trust the process. When writing is focused on completion, the vision for the work can become lost, but returning to the process – to the messy and exciting work that gave shape to the writer’s voice – is necessary. Revisiting the process can renew the writer’s faith in her or his own work.
What do you gain from the mentoring process?
Friendship. This is not a sentimental answer. All writer-editor relationships are like friendships: only friends can tell you hard truths with compassion while remaining committed to your success.
What will VMI participants gain from the program?
They will learn to ask the questions they need to ask themselves to sustain their writing endeavours in the future.
What is the most valuable piece of writing advice you have received?
It’s difficult to narrow this answer to a few words because the response is deeply felt. My teachers Ian Williams and Meredith Quartermain have both given me advice that has allowed me to trust myself. I have become more receptive as a result of their words and their teaching. I know I am receptive when I feel as though I’m writing in a threshold. The best advice has allowed me not to fear it.
What book, poem or other written work has been most inspirational to you?
Betsy Warland’s Breathing the Page allowed me to revise and reimagine the techniques of craft that often take on clichéd language. Approaching my own writing with a new language for revision was an energizing process.
I keep books by these writers nearby so that I can turn to them when I approach doubt and need to feel “inspired”: Kaie Kellough, Dionne Brand, Édouard Levé, Anne Michaels, Solmaz Sharif, Rachel Kushner, Maggie Nelson, Chris Kraus, Zadie Smith, Ken Babstock, David Foster Wallace, James Baldwin, Wayde Compton, Eden Robinson, Guillaume Morissette, Rachel Cusk, Dani Couture, Lynn Crosbie.
What books do you recommend VMI participants read for additional advice?
- Breathing the Page by Betsy Warland
- NeWest Press’ “Writer As Critic” series
What are you currently working on?
A second book of poems and a collection of short stories that seems to be turning into a novel.
What do you enjoy most about being a VMI mentor?
The momentum of another writer’s work for its capacity to take myself outside of myself – because there is something larger at stake. It never ceases to surprise and change me, and I love that most.
There have also been instances when writers see their work through your eyes, and those moments of deep recognition and of enthusiasm and encouragement are very fulfilling. To make people feel understood is the best I can hope for as an editor and as a writer.
What do you wish you knew when writing your first manuscript that you know now?
I wish that I knew just how much being absorbed in the writing of a book can take over one’s way of life!