The Author Spotlight Series shines a light on writers creating heartfelt and original work across genres, giving them an opportunity to talk about their books and why they do what they do.

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Lydia Collins

“Lydia is a writer and sexual health educator based in Ottawa. She published her first chapbook of poetry titled Angry. Black. Woman. in January 2019, and most recently, entered her role as the African, Caribbean, and Black HIV Prevention Strategy Worker at Somerset West Community Health Centre”.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always known I needed to write. It is an outlet I could never deny or deprive myself of. It wasn’t until my second or third year of university that I started to take my writing seriously, and want to share it.

Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
I journaled a lot as a child. I don’t remember the very first thing I wrote, but I do remember writing about a girl I had a crush on. So I guess I’ve been writing about heartbreak for a lot longer than I realized!

How did you develop your skills?
As cliche as it may sound, I developed my (and continue developing) my writing skills by always choosing to write. Even when I know it isn’t my best work, sometimes just simply getting something from pen to page helps. As long as I keep writing I always know that even when I can’t articulate what I’m feeling, the right words will eventually come out. They will always come out.

Who are some of your biggest literary influences? Do you have a favourite book/author?
Some of my greatest literary influences are (of course,) the great Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Claudia Rankine, Nikky Finney, and Kiese Laymon to name a few. It is hard to choose a “favourite” book as they range so widely across genres and styles, and cannot necessarily always be compared to one another. However, a book I hold especially dear to me is Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness, a collection of essays written by black authors, edited and curated by Rebecca Walker. That book has- and continues to- change, or rather evolve, my life and my perception of myself and and those around me.

How would you describe your work?
If Toni Morrison and Tupac had a baby.

What’s your writing process like?
It ranges in regards to geographical space. I don’t have one specific spot where I must write. Sometimes it is on soft grass underneath tall trees. Sometimes it is at my desk. Sometimes it is on the bus. It does, however, tend to start with a word or a thought, or inspiration from my own life experience or the experiences of those around me. Most of all, my work is always born from curiosity; my ability to imagine the things that have not happened, and re-imagine the things that have.

Tell us about your most recent work?
My most recent work, Angry. Black. Woman. was published and released in January 2019. This work explores my complexities of race, sexuality, and womanhood in my own lived experience. This work hopes to resonate with many, but is not written as a way to describe all black pain, all black struggle, all black love. Angry. Black. Woman. challenges- and even embraces- stereotypes that haunt me, and so many like me, without generalizing the experiences of black women, and instead emphasizing our multifacetedness.

What are you working on now/next?
I am currently working on another poetry book (surprise!) Unlike Angry. Black. Woman. this one will focus more on the things that make me feel whole. The things that make my heart feel full. It comes more from a place of gratitude but still explores feelings of loneliness and heart break. That is all I can say for now!

The fifth annual Naked Heart LGBTQ Festival of Words will take place in Toronto from November 22, 23 and 24 2019 at Glad Day Bookshop and Buddies in Bad Times.