A blog about writing and self publishing

KWL – 225 – How to Write Engaging Dialogue with Zalika Reid-Benta

#224 – How to Write Engaging Dialogue with Zalika Reid-Benta

Author and winner of the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Literary Fiction Zalika Reid-Benta joins us on the podcast this week to discuss her award winning debut title Frying Plantain.

Author and winner of the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Literary Fiction Zalika Reid-Benta joins us on the podcast this week to discuss her award winning debut title Frying Plantain. Zalika discusses the book’s road to publication, from high school writing project to finished work, she tells us about her writing process and how it has evolved over time, and she gives some great advice for writing natural and organic sounding dialogue. 

  • Zalika talks to us about her debut short story collection, Frying Plantain, how different mentors pushed her to keep pursuing the story she started in grade twelve, and how she found out she had won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
  • She tells us about Frying Plantain’s road to publication, from working on the story during her MFA at Columbia, to querying publishers in New York, to finding an agent and expanding on her original work, to being acquired by House of Anansi
  • Zalika discusses her MFA experience and why she found it to be so positive, including the opportunity to connect with other writers and to learn invaluable lessons about criticism
  • She talks about her perfectionist-leaning writing process, tackling her work sentence by sentence, and how gaining confidence in her writing and branching out into different genres has helped her process evolve
  • Zalika gives us some excellent advice for writing authentic sounding dialogue and she tells us what steps she takes to make sure the rhythm of her dialogue sounds natural and organic
  • She tells us about her current project, a Young Adult Fantasy novel, why she’s so excited to write in this genre, and what works inspired her as a YA Fantasy reader growing up

Useful Links
Zalika’s Website
Follow Zalika on Instagram and Twitter
Frying Plantain
Watch Zalika win the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia
Banff Writers Studio
The Belles
Veep (on HBO or Crave)
Sons of Anarchy (on Netflix)
The West Wing (on Prime in US, unavailable in Canada (but there are plenty of clips on YouTube is you want to hear the dialogue!))
Insecure (on HBO or Crave)
Atlanta (on FX)
Beloved
The Naming
The Oran Trilogy (available in paperback at Indigo)
The Summer Prince
Gossip Girl
The A List
Samurai Girl


ZALIKA REID-BENTA is a Toronto-based writer. Her debut short story collection FRYING PLANTAIN won the 23rd annual Danuta Gleed Literary Award, recognizing the best first collection of short fiction by a Canadian author published in 2019 in the English language. FRYING PLANTAIN also won the 2020 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize in literary fiction, was shortlisted for the 2020 Trillium Book Award and was longlisted for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize. FRYING PLANTAIN is currently nominated for the 2020 Forest of Reading Evergreen Award presented by the Ontario Library Association. Zalika is also the winner of the 2019 Byblacks People’s Choice Awards for Best Author.

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