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Two-time winner Elaine McArthur nominated again at Indigenous Voices Awards


Frustrated with a steady stream of rejection letters, Elaine McArthur decided to go the self-publishing route for her latest literary venture.

The result was "Elizabeth Dances Pow-wow," a 28-page children's book that has been nominated for an Indigenous Voices Award.

"I'm just proud of the whole thing," McArthur said. "The way it turned out and the feedback I've gotten from so many other Indigenous families and readers."

Released last December, McArthur's first published book tells the story of a young Indigenous girl who learns the story of why her people dance in the pow-wow style.

McArthur, nominated in the works in an alternative format category, is up against Phyllis Webstad's "Phyllis’s Orange Shirt." Seven other awards will be handed out in Sunday's virtual gala presented by the Indigenous Literary Studies Association.

Helen Knott's "In My Own Moccasins," Kaitlyn Purcell's "?bedayine," and "From the Ashes" by Jesse Thistle are nominated in the published prose in English category. "Shuni" by Naomi Fontaine and "Aquariums" by J.D. Kurtness are up for the French honour.

Funds for the inaugural awards in 2018 were raised through crowd-funding campaigns in response to a controversy in literary and media circles over cultural appropriation. The IVAs have since blossomed into an annual event celebrating the work of Indigenous writers.

McArthur was victorious in 2018 for her short stories and she won again last year for poetry.

"It has opened my eyes and the people around me who support me," she said of the annual awards. "It has opened their eyes to other Indigenous writers that aren't as big as say, Thomas King or Drew Hayden Taylor. These other more obscure writers, they're really inspiring when you see them and hear them."

While battling insomnia one night last year, McArthur said she was looking at her Facebook feed when she noticed an ad for how to self-publish a children's book. 

She clicked on it and was soon on her way. McArthur started working with an illustrator and the project came together.

"It was a bit of a learning experience," she said from Regina. "But I really enjoyed it. So I'm working on a few more."

For published poetry in French, Maya Cousineau-Mollen's "Breviaire du matricule 082" is a finalist along with Marie-Andree Gill for "Chauffer le dehors." 

Nominees for the English honour include Brandi Bird for "I Am Still Too Much," Francine Cunningham for "On/Me," Michelle Sylliboy for "Kiskajeyi—I am Ready," and Arielle Twist for "Disintegrate/Dissociate."

Rene Meshake's "Injichaag: My Soul in Story" is up for the works in an Indigenous language award along with Cole Pauls for "Dakwakada Warriors."

Unpublished prose in English nominees include Cody Caetano for excerpts from "Half-Bads in White Regalia," Treena Chambers for "Forest Fires and Falling Stars," and Steven Hall's "Gatzi Naka."

The nominees for unpublished poetry in English are David Agecoutay for "Willow A Quartet," Corri Daniels for "A Memory of Mary" and Keely Shirt for "Two Little Foxes, Buttertown Beach, I Will Never be Happier?"

The 2020 jurors include Jordan Abel, Jeannette Armstrong, Joanne Arnott, Francis Langevin, Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley, Pierrot Ross-Tremblay and Richard Van Camp.

Winners will receive a share of the $30,000 total prize pool.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2020.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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