Friday, June 25, 2010

CANWRITE 2010 – Richard Wagamese

R.L introduced Richard Wagamese, the Friday evening keynote speaker. Richard received the Canadian Authors Association award for fiction for his 3rd novel Dream Wheels in 2007. He was the first native Canadian to win a National Newspaper Award for Column Writing in 1991. His debut novel Keeper'n Me won the Alberta Writer's Guild Best Novel award in 1994. His other books include: The Terrible Summer; A Quality of Light; For Joshua, An Ojibway Father Teaches His Son; Ragged Company; One Native Life, his memoir. He has also received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters making him Dr. Richard Wagamese.

R.L having introduced him said, "Please take the podium, Dr. Wagamese" To this he responded, "Wrong thing to tell an Indian to take something, I'm already imagining how I'm going to carry it home on my back". After that he spoke of street life as a young man, leaving school and finding 'at 16 my idea of safety was the library." He described reading stacks of books there and 'when creator came I was ready."

He was out of work at 17 and saw an ad "Native writer wanted" so "I thought I'm half way there, I'm native." When he was asked what training and experience he had, he said, "I lied." Asked for transcripts, he said, "they'd all been lost in a fire." He was told to come back and show his work so he went to the library to read up on how to write 'journalism' and got the job. Since then he has worked as a professional writer.

"I allow myself to be all for Creator and the creative process, to be the vessel."

"Each time we face an empty screen it is a spiritual experience." He shared. "The thing we are called upon to do is fill that empty space with spirit and spirituality……we are conjurers……we pull rabbits out of the hat…..we arrange words in ways they have never been arranged before…it's magic."

"I spoke to the Ojibway elders and they told me that I was supposed to create stories for the story's sake."

"You have to hear it, feel it, smell it, taste it so you can put it on paper so someone else can hear it, feel it, smell it, taste it."

"We're all tribal people, " he said," We have a desire to hear the one voice speaking and we lean closer around the campfire to hear that voice. Regardless of your background we all have oral tradition in common."

Then he created the most amazing complex and beautiful story as a game, receiving three words and a sentence, the sentence being the one that would end the story. Then he told us all a wonderful story and the whole room of authors stood en mass applauding at the wonder he shared.

In closing he said, "When people encouraged me to be the best I could be spiritually, I thought the acronym FAITH meant , Find Another Indian To Hassle, but now I know the acronym for FAITH is Find Another Insight That Heals."

It was an honor to be in the room with and hear this great man say, "It's an honor to come to a room of my peers who face that same paper." When he stepped down from the podium there were tears in the eyes of a few.

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