Introducing Room’s 2021 Mentor-in-Residence: Téa Mutonji!

Molly Cross-Blanchard

Room is thrilled to announce that the 2021 Mentor-in Residence is the lovely and brilliant author of Shut Up You’re Pretty, Téa Mutonji! Téa will work with six mentees this year to help them navigate the publishing world and develop their manuscripts-in-progress. Apply now for the chance to work closely with Téa for a period of three months, for FREE!

Keep reading to find out what you can expect from a mentorship with Téa, and for a tidbit of bonus advice for emerging writers.

ROOM: Téa, we’re so excited to have you on board with us as the 2021 Mentor-in-Residence! How do you hope to approach mentoring emerging writers through this program? Do you have a mentorship philosophy?

TM: I consider myself to still be “emerging.” And because of this, I’m constantly adding new information to my google doc, tentatively called: “how to be a writer, a guide.” And though I certainly don’t know everything about the publishing world, everybody knows that the best student in class takes the most amount of notes. I’m that student, and, historically speaking, I’ve cheated on every test. What I’m trying to say is this: I’ll give you all that I have been given because really, what is emerging anyway? 

ROOM: What kinds of writing make you excited to read and create?

TM: I am basically a Taylor Swift song and I like stories that I know from the very beginning are going to be trouble. I love characters who are obsessed with being alive and will do whatever it takes to overdo it. I like characters who live too much, and subsequently, stories that are loud. 

ROOM: In 2019, you released your debut short story collection, Shut Up You’re Pretty. Was there anything you learned through the publishing process that you want emerging writers to know? 

TM: Try to shut the real world out of your head while you build your character’s world as much as you can. And, always follow your gut. I sometimes wish I gave my characters a world that belonged entirely to them. A world I didn’t necessarily share with them. If I had, perhaps Loli would have experienced more joy. If I could do it all over again, that’s what I would do. I wouldn’t forget that as a fiction writer, I can do whatever I want. I forgot that a lot during my writing process and I needed a lot of reminder. My editors did an excellent job reminding me, and yet still, whenever I got alone, I’d often forget. That being said, when it comes to publishing always remember that you are the boss. 

ROOM: What genres will you be working with over the course of the mentorship program?

TM: I work best in fiction and nonfiction but realistically speaking, I take a lot of pride in being a cross-disciplined writer. So, if you have some juicy poetry, I would love to see it. When it comes to the publishing industry at large, I might have more to offer in terms of the business side of writing fiction, pulling directly from my current circumstances. 

ROOM: What do you hope to accomplish by the end of your time with a mentee?

TM: I really hope I help someone navigate how to write a great pitching document for their next book. And answer questions on querying agents and working your way through contracts. I had a lot of help with all of this but that was a matter of privilege. This type of information isn’t always easily accessible. I’d love to share that with someone.


Téa Mutonji is a poet, author and screenwriter residing in Toronto. Her debut collection, SHUT UP YOU’RE PRETTY, is the first title from Vivek Shraya’s imprint, VS. Books. It was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize (2019) and won the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award (2020) and the Trillium Book Award (2020). Mutonji is kept alive by her house plants, Sylvia and Ruth.

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