Writer | Storyteller | Researcher
Professor of Creative Writing at The School of Literature, Drama & Creative Writing
Professor Tessa McWatt is deeply committed to creative work and interdisciplinary approaches. She is the author of seven novels, two books for young people and one non-fiction book.
Born in Guyana, Prof McWatt grew up in Canada and now lives in London. A Professor of Creative Writing here at UEA and Creative Writing Research Group Member, she won the Eccles British Library Award 2018. Her work has also been nominated for the Governor General’s Award, the Toronto Book Awards, The Hilary Weston Prize, and the OCM Bocas Prize. In 2021, she became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
I work with stories and language and am interested in the poetry that exists between people. Language is crucial in our understanding of ourselves but also in remaking our possible futures in a world that is so formed by structural inequality. If we can make whole worlds on the page, surely we can reinvent how we live on this planet.
‘My creative writing is research that I’ve been engaged in since a young age. To create is to make an effort to order and understand the world.
I’m a writer who works to make connections with other writers and artists, whether graphic designers (in my novel Vital Signs) or composers (in my libretto). I’d like those collaborations to expand into other disciplines, so that we broaden our understanding of creativity and our effect, not only on our own disciplines but on the broader cultural, social and environmental landscape.’
Old and young. White and brown. Male and female. British. Indian. Other. Four strangers from around the world arrive in India for a wedding. Together, they climb a mountain — but will they see the same thing from the top? Londoner Reema, who left India before she could speak, is searching for a sign that will help her make a life-changing decision. In pensioner Jackson’s suitcase is something he must let go of, but is he strong enough? Together with two unlikely companions, they take a road trip up a mountain deep in the Himalayas, heading for the snow line — the place where the ice begins. But even standing in the same place, surrounded by magnificent views, they see things differently. As they ascend higher and higher, they must learn to cross the lines that divide them. Read more about The Snow Line.
Prof McWatt plays a lead role in this research project that pairs writers with people in the community to uncover stories and invigorate place and storytelling, as a new way of seeing, hearing and having meaningful exchanges. COVID-19 hit the world with such ferocity and pace in 2020 that our social fabric changed beyond recognition virtually overnight. The communities 'CityLife' traditionally works with are among those hit hardest by the isolation of locked-down city life. This project tells the story of COVID-19 from their perspectives. Voices that are not usually heard in mainstream media. Read more about CityLife: Stories.
Prof McWatt’s 2019 memoir interrogates our ideas of race. A braiding of memoir, an essay on race science and the political and historical context for racism, this book highlights language as a tool, but also a weapon, and the care we must take in using it. We’re all products of language. We’re all built on stories. And we need to be careful about the stories we tell and how we hear them. How we hold those stories, how we tell them and how we interpret them are really important to a contemporary way of understanding what we’re doing as ‘othering’ people. Why do we need to draw boundaries that keep some people out? Purchase this book online.
Thinking Without Borders
‘Writing and interdisciplinary, cultural studies-based methodologies can involve marginalised and socio-economically underprivileged communities, producing literary non-fiction about their lives.
These approaches afford access for people who may not use the internet regularly, can support mental wellbeing, and generate new understandings of isolation, community and coping with Covid-19. We collaborate in intergenerational community-building, giving voice to individual and community experiences in original literature.’
- The Snow Line
- Vital Signs
- Higher Ed
- 'Oil': A Jar of Wildflowers
- Luminous Ink: Writers on Writing in Canada – Co-edited with Dionne Brand and Rabindranath Maharaj.
- The Knife of Dawn – Opera libretto based on the life of Martin Carter with composer Hannah Kendall.
BrowseTake a look through Prof Tessa McWatt’s wonderful collection of novels.
WatchProf Tessa McWatt virtually presents 'CityLife: A Community Storytelling Project'.
ReadProf McWatt discusses her memoir 'Shame On Me', a conversation delving into racism and antiracism, the relationship between literature and activism.