Alum of the Month: Délani Valin

Head shot of Delani Valin

November 16, 2022 - 9:15pm

Délani Valin’s passion for words started at just 10 years old when she would find interesting words in the thesaurus and write poems about them or insert them into poems. Now, the VIU Creative Writing grad has released her first book of poetry, Shapeshifters.

This latest development should come as no surprise to anyone who knows Valin, who won The Malahat Review's Long Poem prize while still a VIU student, as well as having her work appear in a number of different publications, including subTerrain, The Malahat Review, Adbusters, Arc Poetry and Portal. In this interview, she shares more about her new book and what’s next for her.

Shapeshifters book cover

Shapeshifters by Delani Valin

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 professors as needed. I also wanted to feel like I was part of a community. I was interested in the Creative Writing program format, which encourages students to build skills in more than one genre of writing. I jumped at the chance to experiment with poetry, fiction, non-fiction and scriptwriting. 

How did the Creative Writing program influence your career aspirations/outlook while you were here?

The Creative Writing program gave me the ability to start believing in myself as a writer. It takes courage to write and even more to submit one’s work to magazines, contests and publishers. With its workshop format, the creative writing program gradually helped me get used to exposing my work to others, while also prompting me to refine my writing through helpful feedback. I can’t say enough good things about the instructors in this program — they are caring, passionate and generous with their time and advice. 

Any other highlights you want to share from your time at VIU?

During my time at VIU, I had a short story I wrote in Susan Juby’s class published in an anthology called Bawaajigan (Exile Editions), and a poem I wrote in Jay Ruzesky’s class won The Malahat Review's Long Poem prize. I felt really supported through these milestones. I am also still in touch with many of the friends I made at VIU — I even met my partner in class!

What have you been up to since you graduated in 2018?

I started a Masters program in Professional Communication at Royal Roads University, where, as a Métis person, I’m doing research on the relationships between mental health counsellors and Métis clients. I’ve started in positions on the editorial boards at The Malahat Review and Room. And I’ve been editing and writing, and working on Shapeshifters

Tell us about Shapeshifters. What inspired you to write this book?

Shapeshifters is a collection of poetry that I started writing while in the VIU Creative Writing program. I write a lot about my Métis identity. Some of the poems embody different personae, like Barbie, the Starbucks siren, the Michelin Man and others. I wanted to imagine the inner lives of these capitalist mascots that I grew up seeing over and over. The book explores what it’s like to wear different masks and also experiments with taking the mask off in more confessional poems.  

What’s next for you?

I’m planning to graduate from my master’s program at Royal Roads University and start working on a novel with a Métis protagonist, portals, monsters and a quest for belonging. 

Tags: Community Engagement | Creative Writing | Our Alumni

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