Recap: Kya Publishing & Elevated Waves Publishing Writing Workshop at the Toronto Public Library (Albion)

In what has become an annual tradition, Kya Publishing partnered with Cleveland's Elevated Waves Publishing to present a special Writing Workshop for the Toronto Public Library last week, in association with their Black History Month programming. Over the years, the workshop has evolved from discussing the idea of Urban Fiction, to providing information about Urban Fiction...and then with increased participation, we established a format of having a panel discussion followed by one-on-one author chats in the latest editions of the cultural writing workshop.

One thing has been consistent, and that is our dedication to letting writers know about the importance of staying true to their authentic voices, and also honouring their personal experiences. Whether writing Urban Fiction, Black Narratives, or developing cultural writing projects, all writers have entered the environment and left with the same spirit: one of increased creativity.

This year's workshop highlighted a panel featuring children's author Angelot Ndongmo and urban fiction writer Kamilah Haywood. Facilitated by writer Jameel Davis from Cleveland (representing Elevated Waves Publishing Corp.) and co-hosted by Toronto's Kya Publishing.

On Saturday, February 8 at the Albion Branch of the Toronto Public Library, a room of fiction writers, song writers, poets, travel bloggers, and curious creators gathered to obtain tips and strategies, and to meet with the authors.

Angelot Ndongmo provided an introduction of her entry into writing, as a creative soul who was passionate about working with children. She was inspired to create something to share with children, as well as leave behind a legacy of her passions...something that could be passed on. A self-published writer, she has achieved much acclaim and best-seller status in bookstores for her popular children's titles "Loving Me" and "Boy! I Am Loving Me!"


With late night writing sessions taking her into the early morning, Angelot acknowledged that creating her books were works of love, and how inspiration would hit her at strange times...that she would just work with.

Jameel also admitted to being hit with inspiration at inconvenient times, and confessed to mastering the ability to record his thoughts and ideas through voice notes and other means when on the road, or in times away from the office. His recommendation: "get in the habit of putting yourself in the writing seat! It may be uncomfortable for a while, but you'll get used to it, and eventually enjoy it. Try to write daily, until your goals are accomplished."

Angelot noted that the information she was looking for through literature while growing up, the reflections, and the inspiration were often not found in common reading materials. She was inspired to write something that spoke directly to an audience she represented. A Black audience. "I wanted something to educate kids, and also have fun with," said Angelot.


Jameel, a lover of urban fiction (although he has only written self-help books, thus far), recommended allowing readers to walk through the steps of your character and with your characters...and to let them be a part of the story.

An element of a good story, according to Kamilah: "If you can visualize the story, that's good. Include details like emotions, and setting--the more detail the better with fiction--and concentrate on how the narrative is put together," she advised.

Kamilah's latest novel "Diamond in the Rough Part Two" was crafted loosely based on people she knows. The plot and the characters were rooted in reality, but still a creative effort. While she sometimes has plot points predetermined when writing, Kamilah noted that she often doesn't know how the story is going to end, and that it can often change as she's writing it.

A point that resonated: Kamilah mentioned that when she gets into a writing zone, she starts to channel her characters, and lets the dialogue and the plot flow naturally. "And then something happens. I get into a creative space, and notice that the masterpiece starts creating itself," Kamilah said.

While Jameel, and Kamilah often use their cell phones or laptops to record their thoughts, Angelot admittedly was a bit more old school in process.

"I don't like to rely on technology," said Angelot. "I like the feeling of pen to paper." While she appreciates the value of recording details, she also said that she generally knows what she is trying to accomplish when story writing: the peaks and valleys of the characters, and then she sometimes also works backwards. Rarely developing a story around the characters themselves, which she finds challenging.


The various processes of writing were highlighted, as each individual had their own method for creation and documentation. The discussion went in the direction of formal instruction on writing, and the group discussed the pros and cons.

Kamilah felt that courses were a great idea, as long as individuals went in with an open mind to learn, and take away the good...without having it distract from your own creativity. "If you're going there to allow the institution to dictate your creativity, I think it can hinder you as a writer," said Kamilah.

Angelot agreed, that as writers we are used to being in control, and that it's challenging to allow someone else to lead that process. However, she also noted that it's a good idea to have someone challenge your as a writer.

A special guest in the room, children's author Nadia Hohn noted that she will be teaching a children's writing course at the University of Toronto, and was asked to share a few words about her experiences as a published author, and her own challenges with creativity. The biggest obstacle on her path: time. This was a factor that most of the writers could agree to, regardless if they were self-published or traditionally published, finding a quiet creative space was something that was challenging.

Jameel's thoughts: he had a hard time with the concept of creativity being judged, graded, or reviewed from just one perspective. "Certain opinions can destroy your work," Jameel said. "Can't nobody tell you what you can or can not release. And some have lost good projects, or sent out manuscripts and never had them returned." He followed up by recommending: "Fall in love with your style of writing, and don't put anything out in to the world if you're not comfortable with it yourself. Don't let anybody attack your style of writing. Your confidence is everything."


Angelot offered: "As writers, have confidence in what you have, even if somebody doesn't see the vision. There is value in processing negative feedback, unpacking it, and moving forward. Your vision...your job is to never give up."

Kamilah's perspective: "It's a passion. Release what you have, and be the best lover of your own creativity." she said, using the example of song writers or painters, who often have unexpected hits after presenting their art..

In a personal moment, Jameel revealed that he also uses his writing as a form of release. While it was hard to put emotions on paper at times our of fear of retaliation, he confessed to getting a lot of his processes out through writing.

-Reevaluate your eating habits and sleep patterns to maximize your energy to do your project well. (Jameel)

-Create a task list, begin with a small amount of goals, and then commit to them daily for writing, and create a structure. (Kamilah)

-Help to align with your purpose, and see if you have someone in your network you can pitch your work to.

-Take advantage of social media, and following new people in your field, and network, search hashtags, and seek to find out what people are doing, and what they're about. (Jameel)


Kamilah noted that you have to be very cognizant of who you are signing with and connecting with, read your contracts, and do your research before committing to a publishing. Speak with others who have been through the journey, and ask about what you're getting yourself into. Don't be afraid to get legal, maintain creative control of your work.

Jameel: Brand yourself, and don't be afraid to wait to put our your project. You will feel a set of relief after you put your last period, but try to take the time to build your audience and remember that being a writer is more than just writing, it's a business, with more than just a cover and putting an ISBN on your project.

Angelot: Navigating self-publishing depends on your goals. Be careful about the type of company, compensation, and the journey itself. You have to love the process, and love the team of people you have around you to make this happen. Writing the book is the easy part you have to figure out your own marketing plan, and contingency plan.


-Look into requirements for book awards, grants, and other opportunities for being a self-published vs. traditionally published author.

-Pay attention to distribution needs, and access needed for libraries, bookstores, etc.

-Create a marketing plan, identify your target audience, and don't be afraid to share what you're working on.

-Wear your confidence!

-The more you do, the easier it becomes.

Thanks again to the Albion Branch of the Toronto Public Library for hosting our program, and to panelists Angelot Ndongmo, Kamilah Haywood, and facilitator Jameel Davis for sharing their expertise. A special thank you to everyone who registered and attended the workshop, it was a pleasure to share the afternoon talking about our collective love for writing.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.


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