More than half a year has passed since Richard van Camp started up as the metro Edmonton regional writer in residence. After having had four-month stations at the Strathcona County and Fort Saskatchewan libraries, he is now putting in the stakes and hoisting the tarp for his upcoming stint here.
Technically, his first day on the job is Tuesday, but he’s going to stop by the St. Albert Public Library from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday for a preview of sorts. Prospective writers can meet the internationally acclaimed storyteller and best-selling author of everything from kids’ books to comic books, poetry collections and graphic novels to short stories and films. His works have been translated into a number of Indigenous languages and one has even been adapted into a film.
The member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation from the Northwest Territories is probably best known for his 1996 novel The Lesser Blessed, a story of a young man struggling to find his identity in a remote northern community. It was made into a movie in 2012.
Writing has been a huge blessing in his life. He says that nothing pleases him more than to talk to people interested in pursuing a full-time career as writers.
“It’s soul inspiring,” he said.
Since he opened his doors for the first time, he has seen dozens upon dozens of people with their craft, even recommending a few of them to his own agent.
“Sometimes just being the first person to really validate somebody professionally is something that is a treasured relationship. Often somebody has heard from their spouse or their parents or a teacher if they’re really good writer. I’ve been writing for 25 years, and published for 20 professionally. When it comes to meeting a writer who is well on his, her or their way … it’s the best feeling in the whole wide world.”
He has a number of programs already lined up for fall. These include sessions on self-publishing, an Indigenous film night, how to create graphic novels, and a focus on his new novella, When We Play Our Drums They Sing. It’s the story of 12-year-old Dene Cho who asks, “Why can’t we speak our languages?”
“This is something that I would love to do forever. I can’t think of a finer way to share the joy of what it means to be a writer and just to be that cheerleader and that halfway point for a writer who’s doubting him, her or themselves to really validating what they’re working on and reminding them to get out there.”
Van Camp prefers to be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org but he can also be reached by phone at 780-240-1194. Details on the entire program can either be found at www.metrowir.com or by searching for ‘writer in residence’ at the library’s website at www.sapl.ca, where his regular office hours are also listed.