NWT authors doing so much, it’s ‘impossible to keep up’

Richard Van Camp addresses a workshop audience at the 2019 Northwords NWT festival
Richard Van Camp addresses a workshop audience at the 2019 Northwords NWT festival. Samantha Stuart/Northwords NWT

One of the Northwest Territories’ leading authors believes literature in the NWT is operating at its most promising level in many years.

Fort Smith writer Richard Van Camp told Cabin Radio: “I think we’re living in a time where it’s almost impossible, now, to keep up with who’s publishing and who has a book deal.”

Van Camp has written and published 23 books in 23 years – with no plan to slow down – including his latest short story collection, Moccasin Square Gardens.

As this year’s Northwords NWT writers’ festival concluded, he described being ecstatic to see the high number of northern writers progressing in their field.



“I’m going to say there are now 50 to 60 emerging, mid-career, and established writers or authors in the NWT,” he said.

Recently published works by NWT authors include Dr Nicole Redvers’ The Science of the Sacred; former CBC reporter Patti-Kay Hamilton’s autobiographical 2018 volume Trapline to Deadline; and children’s book The Fox and My Boot, created by Lana de Bastiani and Janet Pacey.

“To match Richard’s enthusiasm, I’d say I’m really excited about the things that are happening,” said Judith Drinnan, the longtime owner of Yellowknife’s Book Cellar bookstore.

The Book Cellar celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.



The reason Drinnan started the store in the first place was to provide an outlet for northern writers to display their stories, she said.

“You’ve got all these people who do a PhD and come for six weeks and then write with an authoritative voice.” Drinnan added.

“I don’t deny they have a voice, and they have an opinion. But it wasn’t necessarily the soul of the people.”

Even at high-school level, enthusiasm for literature appears to be growing.

Awards in Van Camp’s name are handed to students at Fort Smith’s Paul W Kaeser High School each year.

This time, the number of those awards – for students who demonstrate excellence in creative writing –is increasing from two to five.