BWS 12.05.21: Waubgeshig Rice

Waubgeshig Rice is an author and journalist from Wasauksing First Nation. He has written three fiction titles, and his short stories and essays have been published in numerous anthologies. His most recent novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow, was published in 2018 and became a national bestseller. He graduated from Ryerson University’s journalism program in 2002, and spent most of his journalism career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a video journalist and radio host. He left CBC in 2020 to focus on his literary career. He lives in Sudbury, Ontario with his wife and two sons.

Widening the Storytelling Circle

Does the world really need another podcast? I guess it depends on who you ask, and how you ask it. About a year ago, an old acquaintance of mine from Ottawa named Jennifer David heard I was leaving my longtime broadcasting career at CBC, and she asked me if I wanted to start a podcast with her. But this wouldn’t be any generic podcast with two Indigenous people riffing on random topics. She had a very specific idea in mind: a podcast about Indigenous literature. I didn’t have to think about it long. I was in.

It wasn’t an entirely new notion. Jennifer had reached out to me back when I lived in Ottawa years ago to see if I was interested in starting a similar project with her. But the difference in 2020 was I had the flexibility and freedom to give it a shot. After a few conversations over the summer, the idea started firming up. It would be a monthly podcast about Indigenous literature in the same vein as a book club, hosted by us, with a new guest every month to talk about a book by an Indigenous author.

And thus, the Storykeepers Podcast was born. We had ongoing conversations about the works in the canon of Indigenous literature we wanted to discuss, along with newer books that we wanted to spotlight. We came up with a dream list of potential guest hosts who were mostly Indigenous authors. We talked logistics and how we could make the project happen. We would each acquire a decent microphone, and record our conversations with our guests over Zoom. In the pandemic era of increased connectivity, it seemed totally doable.

We planned to fund the entire endeavour on our own, but then we decided to inquire with the Ontario Arts Council about funding. We were pointed to the Indigenous Arts Program, and encouraged to apply. In January, we found out we were successful in receiving a grant to cover some equipment and operating costs, and Storykeepers was closer to becoming a reality.

Our first episode launched in March with a discussion about Daniel Heath Justice’s crucial book Why Indigenous Literatures Matter. The uptake and response were great, and we followed that up with an episode on Maria Campbell’s classic memoir Halfbreed. Poet Gregory Scofield joined us for that one. And we have an extensive roster of books and guests planned for the rest of the year.

 We have been very humbled and honoured by the response, and the answer is now much clearer to us: yes, the world does need another podcast, especially another one that focuses on Indigenous literature. Many of our cultures are rooted in oral storytelling, so a spoken homage to the books that inspire, enlighten, and empower us is rather fitting. You can find us on most podcast and social media platforms, so please like and subscribe!

Waubgeshig Rice visits Brockton Writers Series via ephemera series on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 starting at 6:30pm alongside Elizabeth HirstRyanne Kapand Therese Estacion. Our guest speaker Tricia Fish, best known for her debut comedy feature inspired by her youth in Cape Breton – “New Waterford Girl,” talks us through, “Screenwriting versus Prose”.

Special note: As we adapt to current social distancing regulations, we’re happy to announce our event will be hosted by the wonderful ephemera series! They have already done their show online multiple times, so we are thrilled to benefit from their technical expertise, while also increasing collaboration within the literary community and growing connections between organizers, authors, and audience. You can attend the event by watching on the ephemera series YouTube channel. Please log in at 6:30.

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