Richard Van Camp Interview by Liz Mavor, journalism student,

writing a profile on Kegedonce Press and on how
Angel Wing Splash Pattern came to be

December 9, 2004

LM: When did you start working with Kegedonce?

RVC: I started working with Kegedonce when Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm was putting together "Skins", the anthology. She had selected "Mermaids" just after it was broadcast as a radio play for CBC Radio One.

It was then that I realized what a fantastic editor she was: very respectful, but she also knew how to ask the right questions and get me to rethink certain aspects of my story. I was on the “Skins” promotional tour in Sydney, Australia, and I was complaining about how no publishers would touch my collection of short stories (then called “Burn to Sunlight.)

Kateri looked at me very clearly and said, “Well, Richard. I’m a publisher. Send your stories to me.”

That was it. I did and the rest is history!

LM: What makes Kegedonce Press different from other publishers that you have worked with?

RVC: I found that I had more creative control with Kegedonce Press than with my other two publishers. I was involved with choosing the cover, selecting the order of the stories, being involved closely. That was important to me as this was my first collection of short stories. Originally, I sent Kateri thirteen stories for the collection but she chose nine stories that worked together in theme, pacing and originality. I really think the stories she chose were the best to stand together. I didn't realize that by placing stories that explored the same theme could negate the power of both stories. Kateri explained to me why each story was chosen and we chose the order together. I really appreciated that and now, when I read a collection, I can see if the stories jive or not. I've learned a lot from Kateri. She's been a fantastic mentor.

LM: How has Kegedonce helped you professionally?.

RVC: Absolutely. We are now in our second printing of Angel Wing Splash Pattern and we've received high praise from The Globe and Mail Review, the Danforth Review, the Malahat Review, Windspeaker, and from writers I deeply admire like Simon Ortiz and Susan Power. I have given dozens of readings across North America since the book has come out and I'm always amazed out how the stories have touched people. I'm so grateful that Kegedonce Press published this collection because other publishers we showed it to were not convinced a collection of short stories could do well and, boy, have we done well!

What's great about Angel Wing Splash Pattern is it's really a celebration of some of my finest stories all together. When I look at it now, it's like holding a photo album in my hands. I really love these stories and am very proud of them. I am so grateful to Kateri and Renee K. Abram of Kegedonce for believing in these stories. I'm also grateful to Tim Atherton for giving us such a fantastic cover and to Jerry Longboat for designing such a mysteriously fascinating book!

Through my work with Kateri and Kegedonce, I have also been involved with the Honouring Words tours across Canada and Australia. Both Kegedonce Press and the Honouring Words tours were Kateri's dreams and I have been so honoured to work with her, read with her, and have her as both an editor and as a friend. I really am in awe of her talent as a poet and editor and mover and shaker in Indian Country and internationally.

LM: You write in a lot of different genres, is there one that you prefer? Why?

RVC: I was taught at the En'owkin International School of Writing, at the University of Victoria and at UBC to try every genre out there. I love them all. I really want to get into graphic novels. I've just co-written a movie with two of the best graphic novel illustrators in the world, Kent Williams and Jason Alexander. They have a film company called Neohaus Filmworks and we worked together to write a 33-minute drama called "The Promise." It's a love story and a ghost story and I'm very proud of it. It's done and we've entered it into several film festivals. I'm hoping that I can work with both Kent and Jason in the future on more films and graphic novels. I really admire them and to have them as friends is an honour.

LM: Where do you get your inspiration?

RVC: Music, watching, listening, movies, travel--life!

LM: Do you think that being Aboriginal has made a difference in your writing? Or would you have been a writer if you did not belong to that heritage?

RVC: I know that being half Dogrib and half white makes my writing special. You see, I grew up in Fort Smith, NWT - home of some of the best storytellers in the world. I really believe I started out as an oral storyteller first - just ask my folks! When I write now, I braid the oral tradition I grew up with and combine it with what I see today. I love writing about northerners at the crossroads: making money, falling in and out of love, making their dreams come true, tackling their demons and living lives of courage.

LM: How did you react when you found out that The Lesser Blessed was going to be translated into German?

RVC: I was very excited to be published in German by Ravensburger because it gave Larry Sole's story a new life. I was also very honoured because Ulrich Plenzdorf is a very famous German author and to have him translate the novel into German meant a lot to me. Ulrich also went on to translate half of Angel Wing Splash Pattern without telling us and set up the translation of the collection into German with his publisher in Berlin, Aufbau Taschenbuch Verlag, to create the translation Dreckige Engel! Boy, were we surprised when I got that e-mail!

LM: What do you think of the market for Aboriginal writers in Canada and throughout the world?

RVC: I think Aboriginal Literature in the "new" literature because so many First Nations are having their first published authors telling their stories, sharing their oral history and knowledge and giving new insight into cultures that the world does not know a lot of. For the first time, either through mainstream publishers or Aboriginal publishers, we are getting to tell our own stories our own way with editors who care deeply about the story wanting to be told. I know the academic community is excited about Aboriginal Literature. I know Indians are excited about reading more Aboriginal Literature and I know folks who show up at my readings are wowed with the honesty, spirituality, humour and sharing that goes on in our work.

LM: Can you please give me a short bio of yourself?

RVC: I've published a novel, The Lesser Blessed, a collection of short stories, Angel Wing Splash Pattern, and two kids' books with Cree artist George Littlechild: What's the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses? and A Man Called Raven. I have written three radio dramas for CBC Radio and I've co-written the movie "The Promise" for Neohaus Filmworks. I currently teach Creative Writing for Aboriginal Students at UBC and I also teach Aboriginal Media Arts History for the Indigenous Media Arts Group (IMAG) in Vancouver. You are welcome to visit my website: www.richardvancamp.org for more info on me.

I have just completed my longest novel, The Strongest Blood. It's 370 pages and it's a seven-year love story. I'm currently looking for a new publisher and can't wait when it's out there!

Mahsi cho, Liz!


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