Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Special Feature! Interview with FOLD Festival Guest Author Waubgeshig Rice

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Waubgeshig Rice

Author and journalist Waubgeshig Rice has been telling stories since he was a teenager. Some of those stories ended up in his short fiction collection Midnight Sweatlodge, and in 2014, his first novel, Legacy (Theytus Books), was published. Legacy is the story of a young Indigenous woman facing violence while navigating life with her Anishnawbe family. Waub recently announced that the novel will be translated into French by Les Éditions David in 2017. Waub also puts his storytelling abilities to work as a reporter and producer with CBC News Ottawa.

You can meet Waub in person at the FOLD: Festival of Literary Diversity in Brampton on May 7, 2016 at the 11:00am panel, "Powerful Protagonists", a subject Waub is well-qualified to speak on — the Gibson family in Legacy are a complex, fascinating and memorable a cast of characters. Waub will also participate in a special educators workshop at Central Public School in Brampton on May 6, 2016.

Open Book is thrilled to partner with the FOLD to introduce our readers to a fantastic new literary festival. We'll be speaking to several of the festival's guest authors and are excited to kick off this series with Waub today. He tells us about why the FOLD name influenced his decision to participate, the talented Indigenous writers who shaped his teen years and his advice for emerging writers.

To find out more about the FOLD, you can also see our interview with FOLD founder and Creative Director, Jael Richardson.

Open Book:

Tell us about how you become involved with FOLD and what you'll be doing in the festival.

Waubgeshig Rice:

Jael Richardson reached out to my publisher, Theytus Books, late last year to invite me. I emailed her right away because the name of the festival itself — Festival of Literary Diversity — excited me so much that I felt like I absolutely had to be a part of it. The more I learned about it through our email correspondence, the more thrilled I became. I’ve only been a published author for about five years, and although I’ve had the fortune of attending many great literary festivals across Canada, I’ve never experienced anything like FOLD. As for my involvement, I’ll be part of a student/educator workshop called Back to the Future on Friday, May 6, and a panel called Powerful Protagonists on Saturday, May 7. On top of that, I’m just really looking forward to meeting people and chatting about everything to do with literary diversity.


What has your experience of diversity in Canadian literature been, as a writer and reader?


As I became an avid reader in high school in central Ontario in the 1990s, I don’t recall reading much from diverse authors or about diverse communities at all. Either those books weren’t part of the curriculum, or they were only on the fringes of mainstream Canadian literature. As such, although I developed a strong passion for storytelling and writing, I didn’t believe I could actually become an author someday. Fortunately, one of my aunts was very keen on Indigenous writers, and throughout my teen years, and she would give me books by authors like Thomas King, Richard Wagamese, Lee Maracle, Jordan Wheeler, Louise Erdrich and more for my birthday. That was truly eyeopening and inspired me to write on my own. Eventually my own work was published by Theytus Books, and independent house that specializes in Indigenous literature. Since then, I’ve had great opportunities to share my books at festivals across the country. Much of the time I’m invited as an Indigenous voice, and although some may perceive that as tokenism, it doesn’t bother me. Indigenous writers need to be present in all discussions about literature and storytelling in Canada.

Open Book:

What makes a great literary event, in your opinion? Do you have any advice about readings and events for emerging writers?


In my opinion, a great literary event stimulates discussion before, during, and after a panel or reading. It also has a diverse roster of writers from many communities and career paths. The sessions themselves are compelling in title and makeup of writers. It’s rewarding for everyone involved, and encourages friendships and connections across communities.

My advice for emerging writers at readings/events is to just be themselves. Reading your work is obviously a very important part of your presentation, but people are also there to get to know you as a person. It’s always interesting to them to see the person beyond the pages. So come to a reading with some interesting or funny personal anecdotes or stories. I’ve found that people always enjoy laughing at events like these. Don’t worry about trying to be a comedian; just be warm, fun and inviting.

Open Book:

Tell us about a favourite book you've read that you feel is an example of the diverse literature FOLD is bringing attention to.


I’d have to say my favourite book is Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King. Published in the early 1990s, it’s just as timely and important today in telling the stories of modern Indigenous people in Canada. The book explores a number of important themes, including cultural reclamation and revitalization, the challenge of moving from the reserve to the city, environmental conservation, the time-honoured connection to the land, and traditional storytelling. It’s the kind of book that an event like FOLD effectively shines a spotlight on.


What is up next for you?


I’m currently working on my second novel, and I also have an ongoing short story project. Both are about Indigenous communities in modern-day Canada. Highlighting these voice in Canadian literature will always be my modus operandi.

Waubgeshig Rice is an author and journalist originally from Wasauksing First Nation. He is the author of Midnight Sweatlodge, a short fiction collection published by Theytus Books in 2011 as well as the novel Legacy, also published by Theytus in the summer of 2014. His journalism career began when he was a 17-year-old exchange student in northern Germany, writing about being Anishinaabe in a European country for newspapers back in Canada. He graduated from Ryerson University’s journalism program in 2002, and has worked in a variety of media across Canada since. He started working for CBC in Winnipeg in 2006. In addition to reporting, he has produced television and radio documentaries and features for the public broadcaster. He currently works as a video journalist for CBC News Ottawa. In 2014, he received the Anishinabek Nation’s Debwewin Citation for Excellence in First Nation Storytelling.

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