The re-release of the 2018 graphic novel A Blanket of Butterflies is a vivid re-rendering, in full colour, of an already brilliant visual work of Dene storytelling, imagination, and a newly elevated celebration of the contemporary art form that is the graphic novel.
A Blanket of Butterflies was written by Richard Van Camp and Scott B. Henderson, and this new full-colour edition features art by Donovan Yaciuk and Nickolej Villiger. It has been named the first of a trilogy series titled The Spirit of Denendeh to be released over the next two years, with Book Two slated for release in 2023. Van Camp is currently completing Book Three.
Speaking with Van Camp from his home in Edmonton last week, he shared that the pandemic had offered the first time in his career to spend so much time, consistently, at home.
“Home is where you get to cook and clean and use the crock pot and make a fire and you get a schedule,” he jumps into conversation right away, as soon as the Zoom call starts, hands gesturing excitedly in the air.
“And the process and discipline of just showing up every day with a really good heart. Because when you travel, and you tour — that’s how writers used to make their money, now we can Zoom — and you came back, you were tired, and you’re trying to remember who wanted the one copy of this, and you’re chasing people for invoices, and you’re trying to do book orders. And then you gotta hop on a plane again. At the same time, you’re trying to be a great parent and partner and friend, and it was crazy making, when I actually look back.”
Van Camp speaks with a kind of dynamism that leaves a vivid impression — hands gesticulating in the air in front of him as he leans in and out of the screen, in a way that feels more like live conversation than a virtual call.
“So the gift of ‘now that we’re home’ is that you get to say no to things. Even if there’s money, you get to say, ‘No, I’m really going to focus and that opportunity is really for somebody else who may be just starting out or maybe needs that opportunity’. So I’m good, my house is good. My heart is good, my spirit is full. And it’s full enough to share the bounty. And it’s full enough to trust the divine that these stories, the poems, are showing up because I’m ready and I’m open.
“So that’s really just to set the tone for how A Blanket of Butterflies was born, and The Spirit of Denendeh series was born,” Van Camp said — breathing, bringing his hands down for the first time in almost twenty minutes. “I’m terrified of Book Three because trying to end the trilogy and really honour what was done in Book One and Book Two is actually harder than I realized.” Richard looks at me, with genuine concern blooming across his face. “I thought I could go easy but I really want to bring it full circle and leave it in the hands of the readers for them to really think about. We’ll talk when Book Three comes out. No one will party harder than me. You think Metallica knows how to party? Wait until I finish this book. And when it’s approved, I will do a jig down Franklin Avenue — because this has been a wonderful journey.”
Book Two of The Spirit of Denendeh Trilogy is out March 2023. Book One was just released this past September.