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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“Sepideh (Sepita) Hatami is a Persian short story writer, poet, and translator who has won several literary awards in Iran including Fakhteh, Heyrat, Negah-e-No’s Youngest Writer of the Year, and Khodnevis among others. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at Western University in Canada and her research delves into the narratives of the Middle Eastern refugee women, exploring their struggles and resilience through the lens of literature. She is currently residing in London, Ontario.”


When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

As a daydreamer child with a strong imagination, I was often recognized as the family storyteller. I transformed my creativity into tangible expressions by crafting intricate worlds from pictures cut out of my siblings’ old textbooks and would make a complete city with people, buildings, and jobs or I would write and perform plays for my family now and then.


As I grew older, my passion for storytelling evolved. I started a small library in our basement for which I would craft handmade membership cards for neighborhood kids and relatives. That was when I began writing and illustrating my storybooks. Encouragement from the parents and the eagerness of the children who would ask specifically for a book written by myself helped cultivate that skill and enjoy the process of storytelling. It was through experiencing this joy that I realized writing was the way to create a whole world for myself and others.


Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?

Absolutely! My very first writing adventure took the form of a poem. It was a sunny day, little five-year-old me swinging away in the yard, and an airplane zooming across the sky. It felt so close, I could practically see the colors on its wings. That sight sparked something magical in me.


So, I poured my awe into a poem about that plane and its vibrant wings. It became my mom’s go-to tale whenever she talked about my writing escapades. She even memorized it and would recite it for us, turning a simple moment into a lasting memory of my first written words.


How did you develop your skills?

I was fortunate to study English Literature at one of the best Iranian universities and then Comparative Literature at the University of Western Ontario. In both universities, I had very good teachers who helped me recognize my strengths and weaknesses.


However, the most challenging yet rewarding facet of skill development was putting my work out into the world. Recognizing that improvement stems from the crucible of criticism, I actively sought opportunities to share my creations. Sending my works to magazines, participating in festivals, and engaging in literary circles became a transformative experience. I realized that waiting for perceived perfection only hindered the improvement and guidance. Instead, my approach was to lay bare my evolving skills, embracing criticism as a catalyst for growth and refinement. This willingness to expose my work, imperfect as it may be, proved to be the catalyst for recognizing and nurturing my true creative potential.


Who are some of your biggest literary influences? Do you have a favorite book/author?

In the world of literature, I’ve been captivated by the raw approach of Hemingway. His unfiltered narratives resonate with a stark honesty that cuts through the complexities of human experience. On the other end of the spectrum, Virginia Woolf’s ability to delve into the recesses of her inner self is nothing short of enchanting. Her creative expression weaves a mesmerizing tapestry of words, bridging the gap between language and the wordless dialogues within.


But my literary journey doesn’t solely traverse Western landscapes. Iranian women writers have left an indelible mark on my appreciation for the art of storytelling. Goli Taraghi and Belgheis Soleimanipour, among others, have enriched my understanding of womanhood in literature. Their works carry an exceptional Persian aroma, painting vivid imagery that adds an exquisite layer to the narrative. Each author, in their unique way, has contributed to shaping my own storytelling voice as a woman and fostering a deep appreciation for the diverse threads that weave through the world of words.


How would you describe your work?

In my work, I aim to be a storyteller of the rawest personal narratives. I firmly believe that every individual, regardless of their background, holds a captivating story within them. It’s disheartening that among the people we encounter daily—whether it’s the neighbor we nod to, the stranger in the grocery store, the florist we buy a bouquet from, or the driver delivering our food—there exists a treasure trove of untold stories. These are the stories I aspire to unveil.


My work is a reflection of the unheard voices, a retelling of narratives from the seemingly ordinary and overlooked individuals. I see my role as bringing to light the stories of the voiceless, shedding light on the experiences of those who may seem unimportant at first glance. By doing so, I aim to highlight the significance and impact of these stories, unveiling the nuanced emotions attached to them.


Through my writing, I hope to offer readers a fresh perspective on the ordinary aspects of life, fostering a sense of empathy and connection. It’s about creating a bridge between the reader and the seemingly unremarkable people they encounter in their day-to-day lives, revealing the profound significance that lies beneath the surface.


What’s your writing process like?

My writing process begins with the simple act of watching people. I observe the everyday scenes unfolding around me—the passengers on the bus, a mother handling a tantrum in a store, or the young woman at the clothing shop with her grandmother’s bracelets. I pay attention, not just to the actions, but to the stories each person carries.


The heart of my stories often originates from a real person, like the elderly woman living below my floor, who shared the tales of her life and love during our long conversations. Or it could be the man carrying a heavy work bag onto the bus, lost in silent contemplation by the window. These real-life encounters become the foundation, the core reality, upon which I build my narratives.


Mixing these realities with my own creative elements, I weave a tapestry of life stories with fictional threads, constructing an entirely new world for the story. Layers of emotion are added to the elements, forming an imaginary narrative rooted in a tangible reality. Whether it’s drawing inspiration from the old woman’s experiences or imagining a story within the flesh of the bus passenger, I strive to celebrate the authenticity of the people I encounter. New characters are introduced, events unfold to intensify experiences and emotions, and different beginnings or endings are crafted. Even if the connection between my creations and real people boils down to a fleeting observation on a bus, I cherish that connection.


Tell us about your most recent book. 

In my most recent work, a poem featured in an anthology curated by the Immigrant Writers Association, I weave a heartfelt narrative paying homage to the resilience and strength of immigrant women. This piece is a tribute, drawing inspiration from the wisdom imparted to me by my late mother, who sadly passed away almost two years after my immigration.


Separated by distance for two years prior to her passing, the poem reflects the complex emotions and the profound impact her teachings had on me. It’s a poetic celebration of the indomitable spirit of immigrant women, capturing the essence of my own experiences and the enduring legacy of my late mother’s wisdom. This anthology allowed me to share a piece of my personal journey while honoring the untold stories of immigrant women everywhere.


What are you working on now/next?

Currently, my primary focus is on my Ph.D. thesis, a comprehensive exploration of the works of female refugee writers. This project delves into the unique voices and perspectives that emerge from the experiences of displacement, seeking to shed light on the narratives often overlooked in mainstream discourse. I am passionately engaged in unraveling the intricate layers of these literary works, exploring themes of resilience, identity, and the profound impact of displacement on individual and collective stories.


In addition to my academic pursuits, I am also in the early stages of developing a collection of short stories. This endeavor aims to weave together narratives that resonate with universal themes while offering a nuanced exploration of the human experience. Through these stories, I hope to touch on elements of connection, adversity, and the diverse ways in which individuals navigate the complexities of their lives.