Audible, the audiobook and podcast service, is seeking participants to join the company’s Indigenous Writers’ Circle, a program designed for emerging Indigenous writers.
This year marks the second year of the program. Twenty-one participants will work with one of seven mentors from the Aboriginal writing community in Canada.
The six-month program is offered free of charge. Each selected participant receives a $1,500 scholarship.
Mentors guide participants through their creative process and help them find publishers and agents.
This year’s mentors are Richard Van Camp, Reneltta Arluk, Angela Sterritt, Clayton Thomas-Muller, Jas M Morgan, Janet Rogers and Ryan McMahon.
Van Camp, of Fort Smith, returns for a second year as a mentor.
“It was such a joy to be there because not only did I get to prepare [a workshop]finally got to understand what I’ve always wanted to say to Indigenous writers and what I think they need to know about being represented by an agent or a publisher,” said Van Camp of the last year’s writing circle.
Storyteller Tłı̨chǫ Dene, an internationally acclaimed best-selling author, has published 25 books.
Growing up, he says, he liked to read about the North through the eyes of Elders and reporters, but growing up in Fort Smith in the 70s and 80s, he felt like “no one 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 a mentor earlier to say, ‘I appreciate what you do, I know your community, why not really dive into [your community]?’”
Van Camp hopes that through the circle of writers, he can be that mentor at the start of an Indigenous writer’s career.
‘We are here to help you’
Reneltta Arluk, originally from the Northwest Territories, is the Director of Aboriginal Arts at the Banff Centre. Arluk will enter the circle of writers for the first time as a mentor.
Arluk told Cabin Radio she was “shocked” after receiving an email from Audible asking for her mentorship.
“It’s such a great opportunity that seems unbelievable, but it’s believable,” she said.
“That’s how surprised I was. But I know that I am a very good listener and that I am here to serve and create space.
Arluk says she’s excited to create accessibility for emerging writers and hopes they won’t limit themselves.
“There are so many things in the world around you telling you that this opportunity may not be yours, maybe it’s not for you,” Arluk said.
“By creating this incredible circle, which Indigenous writers can engage with, it actually means he’s telling them, ‘This is absolutely for you, and you absolutely have to engage with it, and we’re here to help. ‘”
Arluk looks forward to reading the writers’ work and “fighting” for mentees with other mentors.
Van Camp agreed, telling Cabin Radio, “I think the reason this program is so fun is because you get to choose who you want to work with.
“I have these hungry little eyes for the stories that come my way, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.”
‘It is time’
Mentors encourage writers from all northern communities to apply for the program.
“A lot of Aboriginal writers in small communities might say, ‘Well, who wants to read my story?’ said Van Camp.
“We are 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 possibility of obtaining a form of agreement with Audible itself also exists.
“They give us this platform for six months to really invest in each other,” Van Camp said, “to really inspire each other and to really encourage each other in the projects of each.”
Arluk hopes the program will help revitalize Indigenous writers and literature in Canada.
“It doesn’t matter what degrees or education you have, it doesn’t matter how much accessibility you haven’t had to write, or to have your writing reviewed or answered,” she said.
“It is time.”
The application deadline is May 31, 2022. Writers can learn more about eligibility and how to apply on the Audible website.