Aspiring St. Catharines author gets a boost for her novel on the slave trade

Solange Burrell has always dreamed of being a published author, and thanks to a recent recognition, that’s one giant step closer to becoming reality.

The St. Catharines resident, who is originally from Bristol, England, wrote her novel “Yeseni and the Daughter of Peace” during the beginning of the pandemic.

Once she was finished writing, she tried to crowdfund the money to get it published.

While she had 126 pledges, it wasn’t enough.

That’s why Burrell said she’s honored to have been chosen by publisher Unbound as one of their Unbound Firsts, a new crowdfunded imprint for launching debut writers of colour.

“Being selected for Unbound Firsts means the universe to me,” said Burrell. “Separately though, it is admirable, dedicated, and bold of Unbound to create this special imprint that recognizes under-represented groups within the publishing industry. I’m humbled, excited, and hopeful for the Unbound Firsts imprint, all the shortlisted novels, and of course, for ‘Yeseni and the Daughter of Peace.’”

When Burrell sat down to begin writing a book in 2020, she said she started writing a self-help book, but grew to hate the idea of ​​telling someone what to do. So she switched to writing a fiction novel.

Set in 1748, the story follows Elewa, who lives in a small West African coastal village.

When she finds out that she has Yeseni, a powerful gift that allows her to see events from any point in time, horrific visions of life on barbaric slave ships begin to come to her.

She must decide if she will travel through time and prevent the transatlantic slave trade from happening, or if she will stay where she is.

“I thought to myself, ‘What would happen if the transatlantic slave trade didn’t happen? And what would need to happen for that not to have happened?’ So, you would have to go back in time, and stop the person that could have caused it. So, I just thought I could write something along those lines and this is what I came up with,” said Burrell.

Her work was also the recipient of a one-time $12,000 grant through the Ontario Arts Council Literary Creation Projects (Works for Publication) program.

An avid writer, Burrell received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism in the UK

She has always loved creative writing, she just never knew it would become a career.

Along the way, Burrell said she’s learned a lot about the publishing process.

“You have the goal to write the book, then you think that’s it,” she said. “Then I got another challenge, which was to crowdfund it and I think I did quite well knowing that I’m not very good on social media, but it was nowhere near enough. Then the Ontario Arts Council support helped, then on top of that winning the competition. Now that I’ve got the publishing deal, I still have a lot of work to do.”

Burrell said she recently got her manuscript report back, and she’ll have to spend the next year building characters and going into every single aspect of her book.

“It’s just a journey,” she said.

The book is expected to be out in April 2023.

To find out more about Unbound Firsts and to pledge, visit unbound.com

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