Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Out-of-Town-Authors: Waubgeshig Rice

Written voice: Aboriginal author draws on traditional storytelling

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
by: Ariel Gordon

Waubgeshig Rice is an Ottawa-based broadcast journalist and writer, who grew up in Wasauksing First Nation and spent four years in Winnipeg.

He will launch his first book of short stories — entitled Midnight Sweatlodge — next week.

He’ll be joined at Aqua Books on Wednesday by poets Rosanna Deerchild and Duncan Mercredi.

* * *

1) As a writer (i.e. someone whose artistic practice is predicated on time spent alone) how do you approach performance? What do you get out of it?

I think performance is an integral part of being a storyteller. I write as though I’m describing a scene or a story to someone face-to-face.

That’s due in large part to the traditional Anishinaabe storytelling I grew up with. The stories and lessons my grandmother, aunts, uncles and other elders passed down to my generation were essentially performances. They had to engage us as kids and leave us with valuable teachings that we would carry with us and eventually pass down to our kids. I learned early on what it takes to convey the emotion and power in an ancient story, and although my writing isn’t nearly as influential, I try to conduct my stories live the same way.

2) What do you want people to know about Midnight Sweatlodge?

I want people to know that the stories in Midnight Sweatlodge are just a small taste of what it’s like to grow up as an aboriginal person in this country. It’s essentially a short-story collection that touches on specific experiences and emotions, and although many of those are universal on reserves across Canada, there are thousands of more important stories in our communities.

3) Will this be your first time in Winnipeg? What have you heard?

I was fortunate enough to call Winnipeg home for four years as a reporter for CBC. I loved my time there (except the -30 C days) and I am thrilled beyond words to have the opportunity to come back and share my first published work of fiction.

4) What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

I just started reading Richard Wagamese’s One Native Life. It’s essentially about his life’s journey. I’ve always looked up to his writing so as I begin this new journey as an author, I’m looking forward to learning a lot from this book. In my free time I’m working on my first full-length novel. Otherwise, my primary creative outlet is my blog —

5) How does your work as a journalist add to/distract from your creative writing?

It can be a big distraction. When you’re working on deadline all day to make a story interesting and meaningful for viewers/readers, it leaves little left in the creative tank when you sit down at home to write. Broadcast writing and creative writing are very different — like the difference between swinging a baseball bat and a hockey stick — so the challenge is to draw parallels between the two formats and become a more well-rounded storyteller.

Even if I’m exhausted or worn out by the time I get home after a day out in the field and in the newsroom, I try to translate those experiences onto the laptop screen or into the notebook. From there, I can usually shift gears back to whatever creative project I’m working on.

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