Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Kingston WritersFest Interview Series, with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

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Leanne Simpson (photo credit: Aaron Mason)

It's here! The Kingston WritersFest begins this week, and the writers are already beginning to arrive. Open Book: Ontario has been giving you a virtual behind-the-scenes tour of the festival all month long, so that when you finally meet some of your favourite authors face-to-face, you'll know everything from what books they've got in their bags to how they're calming their nerves.

In today's Kingston WritersFest interview, we speak with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, a writer, academic and Idle No More activist of Mississauga Nishnaabeg ancestry. Leanne has two new books out this fall: The Gift Is in the Making (Highwater Press), a collection of re-told Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe) stories, and Islands of Decolonial Love (Arbeiter Ring Publishers), which is her debut collection of original short stories.

Leanne will appear along with Thomas King in Storytelling and Redemption, a reading and conversation moderated by Shelagh Rogers on Friday, September 27 at 4:30 p.m.

For more details, please visit the Events page. You can purchase your tickets here.

Open Book:

Tell us about what you?ll be reading at this year?s festival.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson:

I will be reading from The Gift Is in the Making. This is a collection of re-told Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe) traditional stories, told within the context of our culture, political traditions and values. I will be reading at the Storytelling & Redemption event with Thomas King and Shelagh Rogers.


How do you manage the shift between being a solitary writer and a public reader?


Most of my work begins one way or another in our oral traditions — particularly this collection. I?ve told these stories to groups of Anishinaabeg families for a few years before I ever wrote them down. My writing begins with community and so the idea that it ends up back in the community at a reading is the process just coming full circle. As a writer, I need to be really actively engaged in things that are meaningful and interesting to me, so I do lots and lots of things other than write.


What is one luxury you allow yourself when you go "on tour" with a book?


Honestly, the whole thing is a luxury for me.


What book will you have with you in your bag while you're attending the Kingston WritersFest?


Well, one of the things I?m going to have in my bag is the manuscript to The Winter We Danced — a collection of writers from the Idle No More movement this past winter that I?m editing with a collective of Indigenous writers. It?s coming out early 2014 from Arbeiter Ring Publishing, and we?ll be deep in the editing and revising stage this fall. I often carry around one of Gregory Scofield?s books of poetry, I re-read Tobacco Wars by Paul Seesequasis often and I am really looking forward to new work by Lee Maracle.


What are you most looking forward to about this year's festival?


I?m looking forward to two things. My ancestors spent time on Grape Island which is an island in Chi?Nibiish or Lake Ontario very close to Kingston before they were relocated to Alderville First Nation. This is my first time speaking in Kingston, so I?ll be thinking about them when I?m here on this part of Mississauga Nishnaabeg territory. Secondly, I am so very honoured to be on a panel with Thomas King. He?s had a tremendous influence on me and Indigenous writers and artists of my generation. He was one of the first Indigenous writers that I read as a young adult and that would have been the very first time I saw myself reflected in writing in a truthful, honourable and very funny way. When I read a Thomas King story I can often hear the voice of a Grandmother or a Grandfather in my head. That has made a tremendous difference to me.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a writer, academic and activist of Mississauga Nishnaabeg ancestry. She is the author of Dancing on Our Turtle?s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence and a New Emergence. She is the editor of Lighting the Eighth Fire: The Liberation, Resurgence and Protection of Indigenous Nations and This is an Honour Song: Twenty Years Since the Blockades, all published by Arbeiter Ring Publishing in Winnipeg. Leanne has two new books forthcoming in 2013, a collection of re-told traditional Anishinaabeg stories entitled The Gift Is in the Making (Highwater Press), and Islands of Decolonial Love (Arbeiter Ring), a collection of short stories.

Find out more about Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's Kingston WritersFest appearances here.

To find out about The Gift Is in the Making please visit the Highwater Press website. For more information about Islands of Decolonial Love please visit the Arbeiter Ring Publishing website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at the publisher, Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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