Reneltta Arluk has some wise words for up-and-coming Indigenous writers.

“One thing that I always encourage Indigenous artists, when they’re exploring their work is don’t censor yourself,” she said. “Say yes to yourself first. If you are Indigenous and you’re writing your work, that work is Indigenous work. It doesn’t have to have cultural tropes in it to feel like it’s authentic.

“If you want to write a crazy science fiction that has nothing to do with what you think are Indigenous things, just write it. Ultimately it’s coming from you your bones, your blood, your voice, your imagination. Just allow yourself to create how you need to create.”

The Banff Arts Centre director of Indigenous Arts and accomplished poet and playwright is loaning her expertise to Audible’s second Indigenous Writers Circle, a six month mentorship program that includes a $1,500 bursary.

It’s open to any hopeful writers who self-identify as First Nations, Inuit and/or Métis who are at least 18 years old. Applicants must be able to submit a piece of work for assessment, but the program is open to all types of writing.

Successful applicants will be paired off with one of seven mentors, including Arluk but also returning mentor Richard Van Camp and other accomplished writers. Over remote conversations, mentors will help guide students through the creative process as they put together a piece of work of their own.

“You get to hang out for like six months with some of the leading Indigenous writers in the country,” said Arluk.”Last year, there were people who got chosen to be published. So just the experience of learning and going through this process is a value in itself.

“The greatest value to is that you get the experience to put your name out there and your work out.”

Arluk thanked Audible for putting the program on and providing a voice for writers.

She said the audiobook service has opened the door for her to discover new forms of literature and expand her work to new audiences.

But most importantly, she said the service was creating the space for Indigenous writers to grow, which is vital to ensure people realize these options are open to them.

“There’s a lot of reasons why Indigenous people can feel like they’re not going to be represented, not going to be heard or that the opportunities are not for them,” she noted. “One thing that I have learned is that, you know, it’s we have to create space for people to be a part of this and invite them in. You don’t sit and wait for people to come to you.

“I think what I really value about this process is that we are inviting and reaching out for Indigenous writers to engage with us by saying ‘this is for you.’ We want you to apply, we want you to be a part of this.”

Applications for the Indigenous Writers Circle are being accepted until May 31. For more information, visit their website at https://www.audible.ca/ep/IWC.

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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