VANCOUVER – Who better to define and lead a national indigenous writers union than indigenous writers themselves? Its hard to believe, with the number of published indigenous writers rapidly increasing, there hasn’t, until now, been a national conference for native writers to meet face to face and initiate discussions from which a national writers union can be formed.
Simon Fraser University, the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, Theytus Publishing and many other sponsors came together in support of this vision.
They were joined by invited guests from The Writers Union of Canada, The BC Writers Union and funding reps from Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the BC Arts Council. And when the question “What do we want” was posed to the group, the response was very near unanimous.
Native writers see a need to develop an independent national indigenous writers union where we can define our own levels of success, include non-literary practices such as storytelling and the spoken word, create a jury of our peers and perhaps, work to rewrite the definitions of “novel” or “thesis” etc. in response to the need to indigenize industry and the academy and broaden traditional literary terms to include our history as pre-literary contributors and welcome new, as yet undiscovered, literary based practices.
We have clearly covered enough distance in our collective literary work where we can now look behind us and see, with clarity, the path paved by those who broke trail. As such, those expert voices were heard in conversational sessions hosted by writers Lee Maracle and Joanne Arnott. Secwepemc writer Garry Gottfriedson shared valuable tips on getting published followed by an extremely comprehensive breakdown of the “value added chain of publishing” by Talon Books president and marketing coordinator Kevin Williams.
Lee Maracle offered her wise council again in a session titled “Living the Story, Writing from the Community with Authenticity, Protocol and Power. Winnipeg based poet Duncan Mercredi led a session on “self-publishing” along with Hamilton based KOBO representative Mark Lefebvre who promoted the pro’s of digital self-publishing and offered two KOBO Readers as door prizes.
Overall the first national indigenous writer’s conference can go down on record as a big success. The energy and will to forge ahead with our own recommendations was palpable and a facebook group (National Indigenous Writers Working Group) has been created where further communications can continue.
by Janet Rogers