Delani Valin’s passion for words began at just 10 years old when she found interesting words in the thesaurus and wrote poems about them or inserted them into poems. Now, the VIU Creative Writing graduate is set to release her first poetry book, Shapeshifters.
This latest development should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Valin, who won Malahat Review Long Poem award while still a student at VIU, as well as having her work published in several different publications, including subTerrain, The Malahat Review, Adbusters, Arc Poetry and Portal. In this interview, she tells more about her new book and what’s next for her.
Why did you choose VIU?
I transferred to VIU from Simon Fraser University in my second year. I wanted an experience with smaller class sizes and the benefits of interacting with my teachers as needed. I also wanted to feel like part of a community. I was interested in the format of the creative writing program, which encourages students to develop skills in more than one genre of writing. I jumped at the chance to experiment with poetry, fiction, non-fiction and screenwriting.
How did the creative writing program influence your career aspirations/prospects while you were here?
The Creative Writing program gave me the opportunity to start believing in myself as a writer. It takes courage to write and even more to submit your work to magazines, competitions and publishers. With its workshop format, the creative writing program gradually helped me get used to exposing my work to others, while challenging me to refine my writing through helpful feedback. I can’t say enough good things about the instructors on this program – they are caring, passionate, and generous with their time and guidance.
Would you like to share any other highlights from your time at VIU?
While at VIU, I got a short story that I wrote in Susan Juby’s class and published in an anthology called Bawaajigan (Exile Editions), and a poem I wrote in Jay Ruzesky’s class won Malahat Review Long Poem Award. I felt really supported through these steps. I’m also still in touch with many of the friends I made at VIU — I even met my partner in class!
What have you done since graduating in 2018?
I started a Masters program in Professional Communication at Royal Roads University, where, as a Métis, I research the relationships between mental health counselors and Métis clients. I started taking positions on the editorial boards of Malahat Review and Bedroom. And I edited and wrote, and worked on Shapeshifters.
Tell us about Shapeshifters. What inspired you to write this book?
Shapeshifters is a collection of poetry that I started writing during VIU’s creative writing program. I write a lot about my Métis identity. Some of the poems embody different characters, like Barbie, the Starbucks Mermaid, the Michelin Man, and others. I wanted to imagine the inner lives of these capitalist mascots that I grew up seeing over and over again. The book explores what it is like to wear different masks and also experiments with the removal of the mask in more confessional poems.
What’s next for you?
I plan to complete my masters program at Royal Roads University and begin work on a novel with a mixed-race protagonist, portals, monsters, and a quest for belonging.