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NorthWords NWT Writers Festival enlightens creative minds during workshops

'We all have multiple identities, so being able to pass them on through stories, and to play with languages is great,' says storyteller

One can travel to vast and fantastical surroundings by reading a book.

But when the setting of the story takes place in the reader’s own familiar territory, one can develop a strong and meaningful connection to the pages within, Robyn Scott, president of the NorthWords NWT festival said.

“I think that we often consume literature, stories, media, that doesn't necessarily reflect the life that we live here,” Scott said. “And people like to see their lives reflected, and so having Indigenous voices or having stories that are told from Yellowknife, and from our shared ethos and understanding of how we see the world, makes us feel connected. It makes us laugh, because we can relate to that life.”  

The 19th annual NorthWords NWT festival was held May 30 to June 2 and the event, comprised of numerous literary-themed workshops, book readings, discussions, and illustrations, was an opportunity to network with like-minded storytellers and writers to expand their knowledge and gain insight into the writing process. 

Sharing tradition
One of the family-friendly events held during the weekend was an English and French storytelling session with Shé (Aida Nciri) and Jo (Marjolaine Chevet). 
“Oral tradition is really important for Shé and I because we come from not only families of great storytellers but also areas and countries of oral lore, and it is important for us to pass that on,” Jo said. “We all have multiple identities, so being able to pass them on through stories, and to play with languages is great — to be able to pass this on not only to the kids, but also to the adults and bigger kids.” 

Picture this
In the realm of children’s books, where accompanying illustrations are essential to telling the story, Yellowknife illustrator Alison McCreesh provided an interactive drawing demonstration while creating an impromptu storyline during a workshop. 
“Illustration is a vehicle for the storytelling,” McCreesh said. “It gets the kids thinking in a fun way about character, character design and, like, where it's happening, and what the plot is going to be, so it's an introduction to thinking about designing a story.”

New event
Scott said a new addition to the festival was a full-day writers retreat — a gathering of NWT and guest authors.
“To visit, to share, and to talk really deeply informal conversations about what it is to be a writer was really special. We had wonderful feedback from that, and we're going to continue that with our future festivals.”