Audible, the audiobook and podcast service, is searching for participants to join the company’s Indigenous Writers’ Circle, a program designed for emerging Indigenous writers.
This year marks the program’s second year. Twenty-one participants will work with one of seven mentors from the Indigenous writing community in Canada.
The six-month program is offered at no cost. Each selected participant receives a $1,500 bursary.
Mentors guide participants through their creative process and help them to find publishers and agents.
This year’s mentors include Richard Van Camp, Reneltta Arluk, Angela Sterritt, Clayton Thomas-Muller, Jas M Morgan, Janet Rogers, and Ryan McMahon.
Van Camp, from Fort Smith, is returning for a second year as a mentor.
“It was such a joy to be there because not only was I able to prepare [a workshop], I was finally able to home in on what I’ve always wanted to say to Indigenous writers, and what I feel they need to know about being represented by an agent or publishing house”, said Van Camp of last year’s writing circle.
The Tłı̨chǫ Dene storyteller, an internationally acclaimed best-selling author, has 25 published books.
When younger, he said, he enjoyed reading about the North through the eyes of Elders and journalists but, growing up in Fort Smith in the ’70s and ’80s, he felt “nobody is telling my story.”
“We were Canadians but we were also Indigenous, we were also northerners,” he said.
“It would have been nicer to have had a mentor sooner to say: ‘I appreciate what you’re doing, I know of your community, what about really diving into [your community]?'”
Van Camp hopes that through the writers’ circle, he can be that mentor early in an Indigenous writer’s career.
‘We are here to help you’
Reneltta Arluk, originally from the NWT, is the director of Indigenous Arts at the Banff Centre. Arluk will be entering the writers’ circle as a mentor for the first time.
Arluk told Cabin Radio she was in “shock” upon receiving an email from Audible seeking her mentorship.
“It’s such a great opportunity that kind-of seems unbelievable, but it is believable,” she said.
“That’s how surprised I was. But I know I’m a really good, deep listener, and I’m here to serve and create space.”
Arluk says she is excited to create accessibility for emerging writers and hopes they will not limit themselves.
“There’s so much of the world around you that tells you that maybe this opportunity isn’t yours, maybe this isn’t for you,” Arluk said.
“By creating this amazing circle, for Indigenous writers to engage with, means it is actually saying to them: ‘This is absolutely for you, and you should absolutely engage with this, and we are here to help you.'”
Arluk is looking forward to reading the writers’ work and “fighting” over mentees with other mentors.
Van Camp agreed, telling Cabin Radio: “I think the reason why this program is so much fun is that you get to pick who you want to work with.
“I’ve got these greedy little eyes for the stories that will be coming my way, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.”
‘Now’s the time’
The mentors encourage writers from all northern communities to apply for the program.
“A lot of Indigenous writers in smaller communities might be saying, ‘Well, who wants to read my story?'” said Van Camp.
“We’re here as mentors to say: ‘I want to read your story; the world wants to read your story.’”
Last year’s circle resulted in a number of book deals, Audible said. The potential to secure some form of deal with Audible itself also exists.
“They give us that platform for six months to really invest in each other,” said Van Camp, “to really take inspiration from each other, and to really cheerlead each other on each other’s projects.”
Arluk hopes the program helps with the revitalization of Indigenous writers and literature in Canada.
“It doesn’t matter the degrees or the education that you have, it doesn’t matter the accessibility that you haven’t had to writing, or to getting your writing to be looked at or responded to,” she said.
“Now’s the time.”
The deadline to apply is May 31, 2022. Writers can learn more about eligibility and how to apply on the Audible website.