Fort Nelson author Kerissa Dickie is one of 15 authors chosen from across Canada to join the Audible Indigenous Writers' Circle, a program that offers mentorship and guidance to emerging First Nations authors.
“It’s a huge help for my confidence in my first project that I’m working on,” said Dickie. “I have been working on a memoir and I’ve been really struggling to try and fit in it into a certain formula. The fiction that I’ve always written, it didn’t conform to the format of my memoir.”
Dickie's memoir is titled Nahtay, which translates to dreamer in the Dene language, and is inspired by family connections and history.
"We've got major roots here for thousands of years. My ancestors lived in this area, I've lived abroad and spent almost a decade on and off going to university on the island, but I always come back here because of my ties, my family," Dickie said.
Dickie grew up in the heart of the Northern Rockies in Fort Nelson First Nation at Mile 300 of the Alaska Highway, but attended the University of Victoria, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Art, majoring in writing. She is well-known for her award-winning short story Wildflowers, a fictionalized tale of a residential school survivor. Her work has also been published in Emerging Indigenous Writers’ Anthologies.
“Writing has always been my thing. In school, I always struggled with math and science, and social studies, those topics. They felt out of my grasp, but art and writing were always my happy place,” said Dickie.
Through the writing circle, Dickie has been paired with mentor Dr. Norma Dunning, an Edmonton-based writer of Inuit heritage who won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award in 2018 for her short story collection Annie Muktuk and Other Stories.
Dunning says the program is a great way for indigenous writers to sharpen their skills and reach a wider audience.
"I think it's just beautiful. And I've had the privilege of working with three indigenous writers, they're so creative they make my head spin, they are unreal," said Dunning. "But to be given this kind of opportunity for each of the writers, I think it's beautiful and a leg up. Many of us did not receive that kind of support as indigneous writers."
The six-month program includes workshops with publisher and marketers, and writers will have the opportunity to explore recording their work with Audible, a digital audiobook service developed and owned by Amazon.
“It’s pretty perfect in that way," Dickie said of her mentor. "She has some really great ideas where I can use the short story format that I’m comfortable in to create my memoir, almost to where I don’t need the structure entirely."
Dickie said she's become very confident in speaking from the heart and wants that to come through in her writing.
"Now that I'm getting older and care less about what people think I'm definitely understanding the benefit of sharing perspective from the sidelines because it's going to help me connect with other people," said Dickie. "I think that's the wonderful thing about writing: you can connect with someone right there on their level and not feel so alone in this big world."
Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Email Tom at email@example.com