Chelene Knight is the author of the Braided Skin and the memoir Dear Current Occupant, winner of the 2018 Vancouver Book Award, and long-listed for the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature. Her essays have appeared in multiple Canadian and American literary journals, plus the Globe and Mail, the Walrus, and the Toronto Star. Her work is anthologized in Making Room, Love Me True, Sustenance, The Summer Book, and Black Writers Matter, winner of the 2020 Saskatchewan Book Award. Her poem, “Welwitschia” won the 2020 CV2 Editor’s Choice award. She was shortlisted for PRISM’s 2021 short forms contest. Chelene’s novel is forthcoming with Book*hug Press in 2022, and her book on Black self-love and joy is forthcoming with HarperCollins Canada in 2023.

Knight was the previous managing editor at Room magazine, and the previous festival director for the Growing Room Festival in Vancouver. She is now founder of her own literary studio, Breathing Space Creative through which she’s launched The Forever Writers Club, a membership for writers focused on creative sustainability. Chelene works as a literary agent with the Transatlantic Agency.

Speaker’s website’s: cheleneknight.com & breathingspacecreative.com

Speaking topic: Revise: Turning the Tables On Belonging

Belonging stems from a human desire to be accepted and feel safe. As a Black female entrepreneur who explores belonging through poetry and reflective work that focuses on mindfulness, building up a sense of self, and choosing to unlearn language and actions that no longer serve me (or maybe never have), I’ve slowly come into a very clear sense of what it means for me to belong. And because my own sense of belonging shifts depending on the space I am in, I’ve had to unlearn, relearn, and revise.

Divided into a series of generalized phrases, terms, and outdated prerequisites that I revise, this talk uses my own experiences in the writing and publishing world—in addition to experiences in the wider world—as a hopeful catalyst for inspirational change. How did redefining these terms for myself create space to belong in the rooms I’ve previously felt unwelcomed? How did these revisions act as entry points into meaningful conversation with others? What assumptions do we as a society need to let go of in order to chip away at old barrier-riddled systems that continue to prevent true inclusivity and equity in workplaces? What does it look like when personal experiences clash with today’s current political climate?

If you are an organization or group looking to inspire your colleagues to look inside themselves and truly explore how even the smallest of mindset shifts can add up to monumental change in a meaningful and intentional way, this talk is for you.

Other Speaking Topics

  • Author Care
  • Diversity in Publishing
  • Women of Colour as Leaders and Mentors
  • Equity & Inclusion: Women of Colour in executive positions

Previous Keynotes and talks

  • Live Interview with New York Times best-selling author, Angie Thomas
  • Home & Belonging, Keynote, Camosun Fundraiser
  • Home & Belonging, Human Rights and Equity Conference, BC Nurses Union
  • Literary change-makers IIndian Summer Festival
  • Live Interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Natasha Trethewey
  • Diversity in Publishing MagNet Magazine Conference
  • Where are you really from? On Being Black In Vancouver, Vancouver Public Library
  • Black History Symposium

relevant media coverage:

Toronto Star, Chelene On Belonging and Race

Toronto Star, Chelene Knight: One of the Storytellers We Need Most Right Now

Toronto Star, Chelene Knight Writer’s Trust Rising Star

To book Chelene Knight, contact Rob Firing at speakers@transatlanticagency.com.