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Moon of the Crusted Snow

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I’m very excited to announce that my next novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow, will be published by ECW Press in the fall of 2018. It’s a post-apocalyptic thriller that takes place in an isolated First Nation in northern Ontario. I posted a story synopsis on my Facebook page that you can read below:

When I started developing this idea a couple of years ago, I originally intended it as a short story. But the more I thought about it, the more it grew. I began writing in September 2015 during the two-week Indigenous Writers Program at the Banff Centre, and I’ve been able to keep a steady writing momentum over the past year thanks to kind grants from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. My employer, CBC Ottawa, has graciously granted me leaves of absence to accommodate the creation of this novel. And just this fall, ECW acquired the publishing rights. I’m extremely grateful to these organizations for this opportunity.

Moon of the Crusted Snow is a novel about the end of the world as we know it. I described it above very simply as a “post-apocalyptic thriller”, and that’s likely how it will be billed going forward. But it’s much more than a story about the apocalypse and its fallout. It’s about resilience, self-discovery, and renewal. Without giving too much away, an important underlying theme in the story is how one community’s collapse could be another community’s new beginning.

But there is a great deal of darkness through which the characters in the story have to find light. It’s a harrowing struggle through the harshest season. The unwavering desire to survive is what has always drawn me to post-apocalyptic novels, and some of those classic stories inspired me to write my own, but through an Anishinaabe lens. I hope you’re able to read it when it’s published. Stay tuned for more details in the lead-up. Miigwech!

Midnight Sweatlodge: The Audiobook

There’s a resurgence of Indigenous storytelling happening across Turtle Island. Through a variety of media, voices are getting stronger and stories are reaching farther. More Indigenous people are bolstering culture through stories and connecting with their roots, and more non-Indigenous people are learning about those crucial experiences.

Literature has been an important way to document those stories and teach others about Indigenous life. Many prominent and emerging authors are producing stellar work year after year. Books have been a substantially viable medium in accomplishing that. But in the world of Indigenous fiction, there’s been a largely untapped resource: the audiobook.

My good friend Rick Harp pointed this out to me earlier this year. While a handful of prolific authors has successfully adapted their books into audio, most stories remain in physical print. So he wants to start a new trend in Indigenous storytelling to change that.

Rick has chosen my first book, Midnight Sweatlodge, as his first project in this movement. He’s started a Kickstarter campaign to raise needed the money to turn it into an audiobook. It’s an ambitious, enterprising proposal, and I’m honoured and humbled he wants to use my fiction as his initial source material. For those of you unfamiliar with the original book, Midnight Sweatlodge is a collection of short stories that was published by Theytus Books in 2011. You can read more about it here.

Rick is a veteran journalist and a media visionary. With a wealth of experience at APTN, CBC, and other media outlets, he knows the importance of stories in keeping Indigenous culture at the forefront of our collective psyche. He’s the founder of mediaINDIGENA, the online multimedia magazine, and with all his experience and expertise, I’m confident he will do the stories I’ve written justice with his own voice.

So please check out the video he produced below, and visit the Kickstarter link. I hope you’ll consider supporting this exciting project!

Midnight Sweatlodge

A growing orange fire raged outside a humble sweatlodge. A tall, lanky young man in a heavy dark work coat and jeans stood beside the fire holding a pitchfork and keeping a watchful eye. His much shorter cousin in a similar getup was there to hold the flap open to the lodge’s doorway. It was midnight and glowing embers carried high through the midwinter air as the fire crackled. There were five young men and three young women — ranging in age from late teens to late twenties — standing in a line waiting to get in; towels wrapped around their shivering naked bodies. They wore boots to protect their already trembling and frigid feet from the snowy ground, a thick crust that was broken with each step to reveal a fine white powder underneath. Each held a shaker to keep rhythm with the songs they’d sing inside. The women standing at the front of the line all wore their hair down and so did the young men who had long hair. The blistering orange glow seemed to illuminate their various natural tans — from beige to bronze to almond brown — and the fire danced in their slanted brown eyes. They slowly made their way towards the small dome, about four feet high and twice as long in diameter. An elder sat inside, awaiting them.

I’m pleased to announce that in May Theytus Books will release my fiction debut called Midnight Sweatlodge. It’s about the modern-day Aboriginal experience through the eyes of a group of very different young people that share similar hardships. They take turns telling their stories in a midnight sweatlodge ceremony in the depths of the bush on their reserve, far from their struggles in the contemporary outside world. From depression to drug abuse to identity confusion, each has a battle to overcome, and for most it’s a matter of survival. They wrestle with their own desire to understand their traditional past and reconcile it with their seemingly bleak future. Few realize the first step in that healing is sharing and letting go. For some, it’s already too late.

This project essentially began as a short story collection. Since high school, I’ve enjoyed writing short fiction in my spare time – primarily based on my experiences and those of my friends and relatives growing up on the reserve. There were a few I was particularly proud of, and I decided to pursue getting them published. In 2004, I pitched a collection idea to the Canada Council for the Arts, who generously bestowed a writing grant upon me to develop and refine it. From there, the stories eventually became part of one narrative. After sitting on it for a few years, a few friends implored me to submit it to publishers. In early 2009 I mailed a handful of manuscripts across the country, and Theytus was kind enough to take it on. They paired me with one of my literary idols – the illustrious and immensely talented Jordan Wheeler – to edit and further polish it.

This has been one of my life’s goals and I’m extremely happy that it’s finally coming to fruition. I hope you’ll check it out when it’s in print. Stay tuned for more details. Miigwetch.

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