18th annual NOWW writing contest

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I’ll be judging the short fiction section of the 18th annual Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop writing contest, check it out! Other judges include Terry Fallis (novel excerpt) and Molly Peacock (poetry), so polish up your best work, and read up on the rules and guidelines here.

Mini Aodla Freeman’s Life Among the Qallunaat

My review of Mini Aodla Freeman’s Life Among the Qallunaat will be in the Winter 2015 issue of The Malahat Review.

From out of the basement and into the hands of readers, Life Among the Qallunaat is funny, engaging, and honest. Indigenous lit is hot right now, but a rapidly expanding market can overlook diversity. Mini Aodla Freeman’s writing will quietly blow your mind, and I’m thankful to University of Manitoba press for their efforts with the First Voices, First Texts series.

Read the review online here.

More soundscape sneak previews

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Tony and I,  Aberdeen Canyon, Sept 2014. Calder Cheverie Photo.

Here’s another preview clip from Confluence at Aberdeen Canyon.

This soundscape project is part of the worldwide premiere of The Peel Project, a documentary about activism, identity, and art, which will take place at the Arts Commons in Calgary, Alberta in February 2016.

 

Victory lap.

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This is a very busy week. Had a wonderful time reading at Lit POP here in Montreal a few nights ago, what a great crowd! Very thankful to the organizers and to Matrix Magazine. I’ll probably have some more exciting news to share with you about Matrix soon.

Tomorrow I’m off to Toronto (by train, which is kind of cool) to visit with Tony, Callan and Aurora, three of my buddies from the Peel trip. Tony and I will finally be in the same room together to work on our soundscape project, Confluence At Aberdeen Canyon, which will open on December 9th in the +15 hallway at the Arts Commons in Calgary. We’ll be polishing it up, recording some music and poetry, and making a few last-minute decisions before final submission.

Then it’s back to Vancouver to facilitate a breakout session at the BC Nurses Union Human Rights & Equity Conference and talk about the concepts of home, indigenous sovereignty and the politics of reconciliation in the context of the ongoing struggle for Indigenous rights and sovereignty.

And then back to my cozy cabin on Galiano to take it easy for a bit until I get back to work on the Peel book!

Paddling together on the Peel River.

I wrote this for a CBC contest about belonging. It didn’t win. Still pretty good though.

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Photo: Aurora Darwin

This evening, I am an explorer on another planet. A planet where I paddle a canoe on mercury, and the thick, heavy atmosphere burns liquid nitrogen. Where the wings of startled birds make a hovercraft whoopwhoopwhoop as they pass, and that’s the only sound until they land again. Gaetan and I are way out ahead of the group, but the bow position and his gift of amicable silence lets me pretend I’m alone here, and I’m not afraid. Dip my paddle in and pull.

We are so close to the end. The end of the day—as the sun touches down on Northwest Territory hills—and the end of our trip. Twelve of us have paddled the Peel River Watershed from the Ogilvie River in the Yukon, and soon we’ll be in Fort McPherson. A twenty day trip, for a documentary about Canadian identity. So for the last eighteen days, we’ve been looking for ourselves. Our faces in the canyon walls. I am a Métis woman, French and Cree First Nation. Gaetan is from Quebec, that’s all I know about his identity. That, and today he is at the bottom of our social hierarchy. The outcast. These things always happen in groups, somebody pisses somebody else off, and everybody gets in on it.

Yesterday Gaetan had had enough of group dynamics: waking when we’re told, eating when we’re told, keeping within earshot in case there’s a Grizzly. So he separated himself. We didn’t see him all day. He missed the pancake breakfast, though we kept them warm for him as long as we could. He missed the evening fire, when we all talk about one thing we’re thankful for. He was probably thankful for some time to himself. But people don’t like it when you deviate from the pattern, disturb the groupthink.

Yesterday, I ran laps up and down the beach by myself, but I stayed within earshot. When the pancakes were ready, I ran a few more laps. I don’t like being told what to do, either. But I’ve come to count on the group, since it’s comfortable. At the evening fire, I said I was thankful for a day to myself. I’d spent it writing in my journal, a hundred paces down the beach. Sang a little to the canyon walls, but I didn’t see my face in the rock.

This morning, when Gaetan asked me to paddle with him, I gladly agreed. Although we’re paddling the biggest canoe today, the one with all the heavy gear, we’re both strong. It wasn’t long before we were way out in front. He talked about feeling like he didn’t fit in, and I told him I understood.

Early in the trip the Peel was narrow and frothy, now it’s wide and sluggish. Soon we’ll slow down, rejoin the group to find camp for the night. But in the meantime, Gaetan and I dip and pull through mercury. We’re not afraid of anything.