Winnipeg’s finest writers festival, Thin Air, is happening now until October 12, 2020. The events are virtual, for obvious reasons, but they have a huge line-up of writers from across Canada, including a few French authors, who will talk about the craft of writing, give workshops and present their books, so please check out their events by clicking on Thin Air.
Over the last few years, Goldrock Press (https://goldrockpress.com/ ) has published some wonderful books by Northern Manitoba writers, with an emphasis on Indigenous writers. The publishing house is owned by Dorene Meyer, who was featured in a previous MWG newsletter.
This year, one of their more recent titles made it to the shortlist at the Manitoba Book Awards: Entawi Kiskinomakawiyan by Pauline Apetagon. I want to introduce you to Pauline and some of her fellow writers from northern communities.
Pauline Apetagon is a Cree and Nursery teacher at Jack River School in Norway House Cree Nation, Manitoba. Pauline has two children and two beautiful grandchildren. She was married to the late Byron Apetagon, a renowned artist and storyteller.
Pauline believes that the Cree language needs to be preserved. She is the author of Niwanawin, a Cree language book also designed for young children.
Nikiwan – “I go home” – introduces children, ages 5-7, to basic Cree words associated with their home. These include words such as mother, father, pets, bed, plate, and spoon. Vivid photos depict real objects for easy identification. Nikiwan is a valuable instructional tool for Cree language teachers and parents who would like to help their children learn the Cree language.
Entawi Kiskinomakawiyan – “I Go to School” – introduces children, ages 5-7, to basic Cree words associated with school. These include words such as classroom and library, teacher and principal, book and pencil, and also eight primary colors. Vivid photos depict real objects for easy identification. Entawi Kiskinomakawiyan is a valuable instructional tool for Cree language teachers and parents who would like to help their children learn the Cree language. It was shortlisted for the McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award – Younger Category in 2020.
Another prolific author from the north is Brenda Fontaine, who has written articles and poems published in North Roots magazine, First Nations Voice, Urban NDN, Maranatha News, First Nations Christian Writers and all six of the Northern Writers anthology series.
Brenda has also written a contemporary novel entitled Tyranny in Our Times, three children’s books in her Babs’ Adventures series (Stranger at the Creek, Storm on the Lake, and Christmas on the Trapline) books which tell the story of a young girl growing up in a Cree community in the 1950’s, and most recently, a Cree book about winter titled Pipon.
Pipon – “It is winter” – introduces children, ages 5-7, to basic Cree phrases about winter including the weather, winter sports and activities, and other delights of the season. Vivid photos depict real objects for easy identification. Pipon is a valuable instructional tool for Cree language teachers, and parents who would like to help their children learn the Cree language.
ANN-MARGARET DAY-OSBORNE is a Cree language teacher. She was born and raised in Norway House, MB. Her mother, Mary Margaret Osborne, is a resident elder at the University of Winnipeg, and her father, the late Riley Osborne, was an Aboriginal artist. While growing up in Norway House, Ann-Margaret learned about traditions, music, storytelling, and influences that would help her become who she is today. Altogether, she would use her knowledge and memories to help teach children, and those who would listen, the lessons that she was taught. Ann-Margaret has previously published Akihtásowina (a children’s picture book), and Pisiskowak (Cree Language Resource Cards in Instructor/Student sets).
Tânisi êspitaman ininîmowinᑖᓂᓯ ᐁᓰᐢᐱᑕᒪᐣ ᐃᓂᓃᒧᐏᐣ “How you pronounce Cree” introduces children, ages 3-5, to the Cree alphabet written in Cree (Roman orthography), Cree Syllabics, and English. Vivid photos depict real objects for easy identification. Tânisi êspitaman ininîmowin is a valuable instructional tool for Cree language teachers and parents who would like to help their children learn the Cree language.
About the publisher, Goldrock Press
They are a small company located in northern Manitoba, that publishes and promotes northern writers, with an emphasis on Indigenous writers. Their books are all of the best quality, printed in Canada by Art Bookbindery, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Most of their books are in English but some are in Cree or Ojibwa, and some also contain syllabics.
*Please note: Our Kids Book Chats have moved to Saturdays, now that school is back in session. The next one will be held October 3, at 1 pm. For this virtual event only we offer it free for ANYONE and their children.
Writer and educator Larry Verstraete has always lived in Winnipeg. A former middle grade teacher with a background in science and a penchant for stories, he began writing for youngsters while still teaching. For his first books, he dipped into a familiar subject to share stories about discoveries, inventions and daring scientific exploits. Later, Larry widened his scope by writing true adventure stories and, more recently, middle grade novels.
Larry’s seventeen books have been on recommended reading lists and many have received honours. The most recent novel, Coop the Great, was voted MYRCA’s 2020 Honor Book by youngsters in the Sundog group. He is a two-time winner of the McNally Robinson Book of the Year for Young People Award (for S is for Scientists: A Discovery Alphabet & Lost Treasures: True Stories of Discovery). Larry is also a two-time winner of the Silver Birch Award for Non-fiction (for At the Edge: Daring Acts in Desperate Times & Survivors:True Death-Defying Escapes). Honours for other books range from nominations for the Norma Fleck Award (Accidental Discoveries) and the New York Reading Association Charlotte Award (Surviving the Hindenburg) to designations such as Outstanding Science Trade Book of 2011 by the National Science Teachers Association and Children’s Book Council (S is for Scientists: A Discovery Alphabet).
Larry has presented at conferences and festivals including Calgary’s Wordfest, Winnipeg’s International Children’s Festival, Thin Air, Winnipeg’s International Writers Festival, and to literacy groups like the Winnipeg Children’s Literature Round Table and Manitoba School Library Association. As well, he has toured several times with TD Canadian Children’s Book Week and in connection with B.C.’s Red Cedar, Ontario’s Silver Birch, the Maritime’s Hackmatack Children’s Choice Award, and the Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award.
Between writing pursuits, Larry indulges in other favourite pastimes especially traveling and hiking with his wife, Jo, and spending time with his children and grandchildren.
With the Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program about to call for submissions for another year (starting in September with the deadline being November 30, 2020), we thought you should hear from the Mentor who helped Joy this past spring. Not only has he been a Mentor for the SOMP, but has also been an apprentice, so he is able to give some insight from both sides. Let me introduce Keith Cadieux:
As an apprentice: In my early experiences as a writer, the Sheldon Oberman Mentorship was perhaps the largest single influence which taught me that I could take writing seriously and that it was worth pursuing. My mentor was Jonathan Ball, a writer with whom I am still friends. We continue to share work back and forth, many years after the program. The long-term one-on-one interaction that the SOMP provides is an incredibly valuable experience. It allows the apprentice to see how the advice and lessons from the mentor are shaping their writing. Spending months on a single project with a mentor allows for tremendous progress, both for the project itself but also the career trajectory of new writers. The SOMP is a once in a lifetime experience that I wish I could have again.
As a mentor: I’ve been lucky enough to be chosen as a mentor several times now for the SOMP. What always surprises me is how much I get out of the experience and how much my own writing motivation increases while working with new writers. The selection committee has an uncanny talent of pairing mentors and apprentices. Though sometimes, on the surface, it would appear that our writing styles or subject matter are at odds, the apprentices with whom I’ve been paired have always been wonderful people and our work ideas have complemented each other in exciting ways. The SOMP is an experience that I’m glad to return to, as many times as they’ll have me.
Thanks, Keith, for sharing your thoughts on your experiences with the Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program!
In September, we will begin taking applications for the Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program, with the deadline being November 30, 2020. We will need applications for both Mentors and Apprentices. If you are interested in being considered for either position, please refer to the Guidelines under the Mentorship Program tab of the website.
Normally in June, we have a SOMP wind-up at McNally Robinson Booksellers, where the apprentice reads from the work with which the Mentor helped during their mentorship and answered audience questions. This year, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, we were unable to provide an in-person experience to meet our most recent graduate of the program. Instead, here is an interview so you will get to know our most recent graduate of the program, Joy MacLean.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspires you to write.
My background includes careers as a lawyer, mediator, and environmental policy advisor. Related to my love of the outdoors and interest in the environment, I have written on topics such as sacred land, stewardship and local knowledge. As one of the founding directors of the Lake Winnipeg Foundation, I also enjoyed my role as editor of and contributor to the foundation’s newsletter, The Watershed Observer.
One of the greatest sources of inspiration for me is the work of other writers. Among my favourites are the modernists—I just can’t seem to read Dubliners and To The Lighthouse enough times! But there are also many other writers, both past and present, whose work also inspires me, stirring my imagination and boosting my creative energy.
A common thread throughout my writing is my interest in getting beyond superficial appearances and learned responses in order to discover the true essence of things. This quest inspires me to understand how people experience personal change and growth in a way that can lead them to have an epiphany.
I also find inspiration in everyday things and small details as simple as an image, a gesture, or a statement. In fact, it was someone’s passing mention of a detail about harvest time in the Dirty Thirties that became the jumping-off point for the novel I am writing.
Born and raised in Neepawa, Manitoba, I am a prairie person through and through and have a deep connection to the prairie landscape. My home is in Sans Souci on the shore of Lake Winnipeg where I live with my partner, Cam. Surrounded by the area’s wonderful natural amenities, I enjoy kayaking, sailing, cycling, and cross-country skiing.
Why did you decide to apply for the Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program?
At the time that I applied to the mentorship program, I had completed a number of short stories, but my main focus was on a story that I had developed to novella length. At some point, as the novella continued to grow, I realized there was much more to it and that I wanted to expand it into a novel. While I really enjoy the writing process and find it to be inherently engaging and rewarding, it also tends to be a very solitary pursuit. I felt that my writing would really benefit from the fresh perspective, expertise, and objective criticism of a knowledgeable mentor.
How was the submission process for you?
I had a clear idea of what I wanted to accomplish through the mentorship program, and the submission process was very straightforward. In the process of deciding what to include as a writing sample for the submission, I enjoyed the challenge of going through the fourteen or so chapters of my novella and selecting a handful of excerpts that, taken together, would give a representative slice of my work and also convey something of the story as a whole.
How did you feel to meet your Mentor for the first time?
I felt happy and relieved to have an experienced mentor to help to me with my project. And I was keen to make the most of the opportunity.
What were the main focus points of your mentorship?
The main focus, and a big learning curve for me, involved character development. Over the months I worked with the mentor, I learned about how to flesh out and create more depth in my characters. I am also more mindful now of where and how various scenes and passages can reveal the characters, as well as how these choices will affect the overall shape and emotional impact of the finished piece.
Another focus was to take sections of exposition and develop them into detailed scenes. This was very productive work. Not only I did I enjoy it, but it also generated a lot of new material—detailed scenes with dialogue—that gave me further insights into the characters and created points from which the story could spread out in new directions.
How did the pandemic change the way you and your mentor communicated?
Although we had a few meetings before the pandemic’s onset, we decided it would be advisable to meet by phone for the remainder of the mentorship. Personally, I think face-to-face meetings are the best way to communicate, but it simply wasn’t a good option in the circumstances.
How has the program helped you approach your writing now?
There are two answers to this question. At the micro level, I have gained greater knowledge of and facility with a number of writing tools. At the macro level, I learned firsthand that writing a novel is a bit of a marathon, and I have a whole new appreciation for the amount of time and effort it requires. Because a novel can take a long time to complete, it can become an organizational feat to keep track of all the connecting details, logistical considerations, research, and other aspects. For this reason, it is essential to keep tabs on everything and to stay well-acquainted with it on a regular basis. At my mentor’s suggestion, I put together a visual aid to help me with that goal; I now have my story’s settings, timelines, and various other information and intersections all mapped out on a poster-size sheet of paper.
What do you consider the most significant impact on your writing from participation in this program?
While I gained knowledge and skills in a number of key areas such as character development and creating conflict, I think the most significant impact is that I am more aware of how to go about building a story’s theme. I now appreciate how every aspect of the novel needs to work together to generate resonant and cohesive themes.
What advice do you have for others who want to apply for mentorship?
I like to be organized as much as possible and had a clear idea about what I wanted to accomplish so that I would stay focused and on track with my goals. Having said that, I think it’s also very important to maintain flexibility, to keep an open mind and adjust plans and ideas based on feedback from the mentor. It is a balancing act.
Would you recommend this program to other aspiring writers?
Yes, in a heartbeat!
Thank you, Joy, for your participation and comments on the program as you see it. We wish you every success with your future writing endeavours.
Please stay tuned, in the next few days, for some insights from Joy’s Mentor, Keith Cadieux.
Our next virtual Book Chat will take place on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 at 7 pm. It will feature one of the 2020 Manitoba Book Awards winners, Lauren Carter. Please join us by emailing the Manitoba Writers’ Guild to receive instructions.
Lauren is the author of four books. Her poetry collections are Following Sea and Lichen Bright and her novels are Swarm and This Has Nothing to Do With You, which won the 2020 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction at the this year’s Manitoba Book Awards, where she also received the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer.
Her work has also appeared in literary journals across the country including Grain and The Fiddlehead and anthologies such as Best Canadian Stories and the forthcoming Voicing Suicide. A transplanted Ontarian, she holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and has lived in Manitoba since 2013.
She is currently working on completing a third poetry collection called Furrow and the first draft of her next novel. Visit her online at www.laurencarter.ca