Tessa McWatt

Tessa McWatt was born in Georgetown, Guyana, and was three years old when her family moved to Canada. Raised in Toronto in an extended family, she pursued literature, sports and music, but knew from a very young age that she wanted to write. She studied English at Queen’s University and later at the University of Toronto, where her Master’s degree focused on post-colonial literature, exploring themes of the outsider in society and conflicting notions of belonging.

Upon completing her university studies McWatt was employed as an editor and college instructor, living in Montreal, Paris and Ottawa. Published in 1998, her first novel, Out of My Skin, is the story of an adopted Canadian woman trying to define her roots. Her second novel, Dragons Cry (2000), explores family relationships and love and was shortlisted for the City of Toronto Book Award and the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction.

In 1999 McWatt moved to London, England, to research her third novel, This Body (2004). While working part-time teaching creative writing and helping to raise two children, she began to explore a new European angle to the themes of family, memory, migration and post-colonialism. She also wrote a young-adult novella titled There’s No Place Like . . . (2004). Step Closer (2009), her fourth novel, was researched and written while travelling in Canada, Spain, Kenya and Scotland.

McWatt developed and leads the MA Writing: Imaginative Practice at the University of East London, a program that fosters new writing through encouraging students to experiment with hybridity and to move beyond traditional notions of form and genre. Exploring different forms of writing, she collaborated with a graphic artist for Vital Signs, her latest novel. McWatt is also working with John Berger, the British novelist, painter and art historian, to develop a film based on his novel To the Wedding.

McWatt divides her time between her two extended families in London, England, and Toronto, Canada.