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Strength through story

A man in a black sweater looks at the camera and smiles. A number of books on a shelf can be seen behind him.

Author. Poet. Performer. Educator. Mentor.

Andre Fenton, the award-winning writer behind Annaka, Worthy of Love and the forthcoming novel The Summer Between Us, says that while he has many titles, his unconventional journey into creative writing leads him to describe himself a bit more broadly.

“Going to film school, diving into spoken word poetry, and then eventually turning that into becoming an author,” he says. “I ultimately like to think of myself as a storyteller who has experience in multiple mediums.”

An unconventional journey

Andre first completed Screen Arts at Ivany Campus then returned a year later to take Social Services. While the two programs may seem unrelated, he says they both gave him essential skills that he draws on today in his work with youth in across Nova Scotia.

“I combine the two programs as I help young people find their voice and the strength to tell their stories,” says Andre of his youth writing workshops. “From being able to understand story structure from Screen Arts, to the facilitation skills from Social Services, I learned how to be versatile with my skill set from NSCC.”

Despite hosting more than 50 workshops over the last three years, Andre says that he never tires of the pace of what he calls a responsibility and a privilege.

“I always find myself learning something new from the participants,” he says. “Helping them find the strength to tell their stories motivates me too.  Representation is important and being a resource for underrepresented youth in this world is something I never want to take for granted.”

Healing through story

This sense of responsibility extends to his own writing as well.

“Thinking back to the bookshelves I was surrounded by in school, I never really met many characters who reminded me of myself. If I can be the person I needed when I was younger, that would be fantastic.” 

Andre says that while his stories aren’t autobiographical, readers will certainly see aspects of himself in the characters and words he creates.

“I was always the bigger kid growing up, and I struggled deeply with the idea of body image. I found that writing Worthy of Love through the lens of a young African Nova Scotian teenager was a healing experience. It helped validate what I’d gone through growing up, and I’m happy to know it helps others who struggled in the same ways.”

As he looks to 2022 and the publication of the Summer Between Us, Andre says fans of his work will see familiar themes tackled once more — self-esteem, race, representation and worthiness.

“They’re topics that I never shy away from because I feel there is a consistent need to shed light on them. Being able to tell the stories that I do, there is much more room to explore those topics in an open, honest way. It’s also a lot of fun.”