Manitowapow

Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings from the Land of Water

I was going to call this post Literary Post part 2, but the first session on Friday was given by contributors of an anthology of Aboriginal Writers to promote their book Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings from the Land of Water. From their readings and discussion of the book, I knew immediately this was a book I needed to have in my home library. The group explained the name of the book, which is the Aboriginal pronunciation of Manitoba and means “mystery life water”. Since the land of Manitoba sits on the bed of the former great glacial Lake Agassiz and much of the land is broken by rivers and large lakes, the name is definitely appropriate.

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While I haven’t had the chance to read anything from the book except the back cover blurb and the Foreword by Beatrice Moisionier (author of In Search of April Raintree) it promises to be full of historical writings from important people such as Louis Riel, Chief Peguis, Cuthbert Grant and Gabrielle Dumont; literary work from current eminent Aboriginal writers like Tomson Highway, Beatrice Moisioner, Duncan Mecredi and Rosanna Deerchild; political and non-fiction writings from contemporary Aboriginal leades such as Phil Fontaine, David Courshene and Justice Murray Sinclair; local storytellers and those from far-reaching Manitoba communities; new and vibrant voices expressing modern Aboriginal experiences (including an excerpt from the graphic novel 7 Generations: Ends/Begins). The contributing authors are representatives of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Dene, Inuit, Metis and Sioux writers of Manitoba. Their work is prefaced by a brief biography. Some pieces have been translated from the original text/story. Others remain in their original form. This is a book to satiate, at least partially, the thirst for knowledge about the Aboriginal people.

I can’t wait to jump into those pages!

After listening to them speak about their book, I felt a little intimidated. They were a hard act to follow! But follow, we had to do. As much as I wanted to follow them into their next session, Julie Burtinshaw and I were obligated to present our panel on Young Adult fiction. As the Manitoban and the historian, I presented the beginnings of YA fiction by jumping back in time with the use of a literary device – the imagination! I asked the audience to imagine a crazy-haired scientist (in keeping with Christopher Lloyd’s character in Back To The Future) bursting into the room carrying a metal box with a huge red button on top. He points at all of us and says, “Now, I’ve got you!” He slams his hand down on the button. The air shimmers like a hot desert mirage. Our stomachs feel like plunging down in a fast elevator. When everything returns to normal, we find ourselves in a bookstore. As we look around, all the faces are those of teenagers. The calendar on the wall reads 1982, the first official year of the Manitoba Writer’s Guild. Since we are all avid readers and we are in a bookstore, we look for books to read. We check out the shelves and find all the favourite classics, but the only Canadian author we notice is Lucy Maude Montgomery’ of the Anne of Green Gables series. Glancing about, we notice a table of newer books written by Canadian authors, mostly from Manitoba. Eric Wilson’s Canada-based books are there among newcomers Carol Matas and Martha Brooks, both authors from Winnipeg.

I continue on to the next decade, naming the latest titles, then the next decade and the next until we arrive back in our current year. (I will list all of the Manitoba authors I uncovered and spoke about in a future post, as it is a very lengthy list.) There are currently 81 Manitoban authors with about 90 new titles that came out in the last decade alone. It’s possible those numbers are higher, as there are new writers and new books coming out all the time. I doubt that I found all the independent and self-published authors and I am sure there are many who have produced e-books, as well, that I have failed to mention. We also have two main publishers (Great Plains & Pemmican) who make a serious effort to produce the work of young adult authors in this province and several more of the 13 largest publishing houses, here, have YA titles in their current catalogues. In light of this, I am very proud to count myself among the other Manitoba authors of Young Adult fiction, with two novels (‘Withershins’ and ‘Spirit Quest’), both published by the local Great Plains Publishing company.

Freedom of Jenny

My co-panelist from British Columbia, Julie Burtinshaw, explored the current status and future of YA authors. She described the atmosphere of the writing industry, that setting plays a big part of Canadian writing because it often determines where the story can be sold. Regional material sells best in the province it portrays. She mentioned that royalties alone do not make up the bulk of a writer’s income, that we have to rely on income from school visits and giving workshops and attending writer’s festivals in order to make a living, especially if this is our only full-time job. Most writers, unless extremely prolific, need a ‘day job’. She also argued that the comment she’d heard at the previous day’s panel of publishers regarding publishing as ‘the authenticator’ of a writer’s work is not entirely true, anymore. She believes it is the READERS who are the authenticators, for they are the ones who choose whether a writer’s work is worth reading again. She also mentioned a quote by Donna Besel from Thursday’s panel Writing from the Margins, “Urban publishers don’t see the value of country mice. They pour boiling water on your heads!”

“Not a ringing endorsement for the established publishers,” Julie said. “Some might say we are in a publishing revolution and I would agree, and as in any revolution there are casualties. In this new world, all too often those casualties are writers.”

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She mentioned Seth Godin, who spearheaded the Dominoes Project with Amazon. He intimated that success as a writer no longer depends on booksellers or best-seller lists. Julie said that self-publishing is now cutting out the ‘middle people’, that it is important for the writer to get good ideas out there quickly and to as many people as possible. We, as authors, must become our own advocates, because marketing budgets are no longer available to authors – except maybe those best-sellers. We need to get out to the schools, to festivals and bookstores to promote our work. Videos and YouTube book trailers are another good way to get ourselves noticed and presented to the world.

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Julie went on to say that a good portion of her workday is spent building bridges on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, blogging and all those other ‘get-to-know-me-better’ places out in cyberspace. A writer has to learn what will work best for them, explore all the options, and put themselves out there.

In addition, she felt that any discussions about the future of writers, whether YA or any other genre, would not be complete without acknowledging e-books and the way kids read and continue to read in the future. That includes the social networks and sites like Pinterest. She feels that “reading has devolved from books, to  newspapers, to magazines, to comics to facebook to 145 character tweets to texting and finally to Pinterest (no text at all), or as I like to say, we’ve gone from Page to Pixels in a very short time.” The kids of today are so visually stimulated. She feels all that she has mentioned above is what it takes to reach them.

The Darkness Between the Stars

Considering e-books, she cautions that there are horror stories about work being taken and used without permission, e-book publishers who do not honour contracts with authors and the fine print in contracts, all of which means no royalties being paid. Do your homework, she advises because “information is power.” Despite the negative press, there is good news. Parents still want their kids handling ‘real’ books, information is better absorbed through books, and e-books do sell. In short, authors need to embrace all the new technologies/mediums (e-readers, audio-books, paperbacks, collectibles, flexible pricing, & value packs) if they want to be successful. Authors must also be aware of the drawbacks. Forewarned is forearmed, so to speak.

Young Adult authors must familiarize themselves with the trends. Be aware of the pitfalls and also be conscious of what the kids are reading, what they are interested in, and what their lifestyles are. So, what are they reading? she asks. Easy chapter books (short, high-interest novels about 78 ages long), contemporary stories, compelling characters, linear plots, trilogies (especially with the younger end of the genre), books with captivating covers, and those with regional interest do well locally, but not as well nationally. Another new trend is embedding bar codes into books so the purchaser can access on-line videos and songs related to the book. In conclusion, write what you think the kids want to read in the medium they prefer and you have yourself a winner!

Well, I suppose this is long enough for now. Hope I didn’t bore you all! 🙂

Do you have any advice for young adult authors that I haven’t mentioned here? Please feel free to add your advice in the comment section. 

My Bookshelf

eclectic

When I do school visits to talk about my books, I have often been asked what are some of my favourite authors. This is a hard question, because I have such eclectic tastes. I like Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mysteries, Spy Stories, Adventures, Forensic Science stories, Historical Fiction, Teen Fiction and everything in between as long as I think it’s been well-written.

You might have noticed my historical fiction in the top left corner. James Clavell’s Shogun and Noble House were two of my favourites of all time. On the shelf below that are some very old books saved from my grandfather’s library, including the complete works of Shakespeare. Sprinkled among those are a few romance stories. I don’t tend to read romances as a rule, but I was trying to write one for a contest a while back and thought I should read a few to see if I could pick out the formula. The romance I did come up with was rejected because there was too much story and not enough romance. Go figure!

The shelves on the left contain my professional books as well as my husband’s, which also includes handyman & DIY books. (My man is quite handy.) Above the National Geographic magazines are my favourite Sci Fi and Fantasy stories as well as the ‘based on TV series’ stories (Star Trek, Babylon 5, Earth 2, X-Files, Stargate, etc).

Some of Clive Cussler’s adventure novels

Here is a stack of Clive Cussler’s rollicking Dirk Pitt stories. You may have seen the movie Sahara, which was based on one of his novels. As with any movie based on a book, there were definitely some inconsistencies. The most glaring was the producer’s choice for the actor who played Dirk Pitt. Normally I would not complain about any movie starring Matthew McConaughey, but he certainly isn’t the ‘tall, dark & handsome’ type that I had envisioned Dirk to be.

Anne McCaffrey

Hiding behind some of the other books are SciFi & Fantasy novels by Ann McCaffrey, one of my favourite authors in the genre. While I have never read her Dragon Rider series, I loved her Powers That Be series among others. I had the opportunity of meeting her when she came to WorldCon back in 1995. She was a kind and gracious lady whose talent will be greatly missed.

If you look closely at the bookshelf, again, you should see the photographs and the scrapbook of our Las Vegas adventures. When we were there in 2005, my hubby & I went to the Star Trek Adventure at the Hilton Hotel. What a trip that was! Hubby got his picture inserted into the Borg pic on the right. (Have you ever seen a Borg with a moustache? ha! ha!) I ‘joined’ the Enterprise crew in the picture on the left.

There are also books from some of my favourite local authors: Chris Rutkowski, Alison Preston, Karen Dudley and Michael Van Rooy. First, I will talk about Chris, our ‘Fox Mulder’ of Manitoba.

books by Chris Rutkowski

He investigates and writes about strange phenomenon such as UFO sightings, and Alien Abductions, among other things. His book, Unnatural History, includes information on the Lake Manitoba monster called Manipogo (something like the Loch Ness Monster). He also reveals local places where ghosts have been sighted, as well as discusses crop circles and alien encounters. He has even written a children’s book, I Saw It Too based on the eye witness accounts of children who have seen UFOs and alien creatures. He also writes a blog to keep his readers apprised of the current UFO sightings. (see the Blogroll below for his link)

Alison Preston, Karen Dudley and Michael Van Rooy are all local writers of mysteries but each has their own distinct style.

Alison Preston

Alison’s books are set in the Winnipeg neighbourhood called the Norwood Flats. She has created a set of interesting characters who reside there and the unusual goings-on are investigated by one of Winnipeg’s finest, a cop nearing retirement, Frank Foote.

Michael Van Rooy’s Criminal series

Michael’s books are set in Winnipeg’s north end, a seedier sort of neighbourhood which suits the ex-con character quite well. Montgomery “Monty” Haaviko is trying to forget his criminal past for the sake of his wife and baby son, but finds it difficult as his past often comes back to haunt him. I love his dry humour and his innovative ways of dealing with the criminal elements while keeping the police off his back. Sadly, Michael was taken from the literary world too soon, suffering a massive heart attack, so we will not have the chance to read any more of his brilliant adventures.

Karen Dudley’s Robin Devarra mysteries

Karen Dudley’s books all have wonderful titles. Each one has a bird reference that is also a pun on a murderous expression: Hoot To Kill, Ptarmigeddon, Red Herron and Maccaws of Death. Her humour is evident, not just in the book titles, but also in the way her character, Robin Devarra solves the ecological mysteries. Each story revolves around a particular bird and their environment, which is being threatened by unsavoury people and/or corporations. Karen is currently writing a completely different set of books called Food For The Gods. If you would like to keep apprised of her activities, check out her blog (in the blogroll).

Well, I think I will wrap it up for now. Next time, I will discuss all the wonderful Canadian teen-fiction authors and the books of theirs I have on my shelves. Until then, happy reading…and writing!