Tag Archives: Writing

The columnist versus the commons

All who have written for the newspaper editorial section know what readers know, that theirs is a strange and, in some respects, ridiculous task. We understand how tedious it can be to discover us, once again, with our opinions of the moment. In the defence of editorialists, however, I’ll note it’s simply the case that someone must fill the area between the ads, and a fellow with something to say about the President’s latest tweet (or whatever) is a cost-effective proposition. Not only this, comment sections are as a rule popular features of a paper. As a result you are probably stuck with us, as we with you. This being so, isn’t it time we confessed to some unspoken truths of editorial, opinion, or political writing?

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An iBook, Now in its 2nd Edition! “Residential Schools: With the Words and Images of Survivors”

In 2016, Residential Schools: With the Words and Images of Survivors won the Golden Oak Award. Now in its 2nd Edition, this comprehensive history of Canada’s Indian Residential School System is also available on iTunes  as a deluxe Apple iBook. The electronic version features audio and video enhancements, as well as other additional material. The full colour, hardcover version can be ordered from the publisher here.

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Here is what readers are saying:

“A respectful and informative book about the residential school system written by Aboriginal author Larry Loyie. It includes first hand accounts of many different survivors of the school system as well as photos and documents. This is a heartbreaking, but very important read as it includes the long term effects the school system has had on these families.”

“This is an excellent introduction to the history of the Indian Residential School System in Canada. I truely hope it finds it’s way into every school and church library. The authors compile personal stories, many photographs, and history in a well sequenced telling of the tragic history of relations between First Nations peoples and colonial Canada.”

“Researched and written over the span of almost two decades, the authors document the history of residential schools with first-person interviews (including that of author Larry Loyie) and photographs. It is written in a very accessible way for readers from teens to adults, and should serve as an important introduction to this blight on Canada’s history.”

“Absolutely wonderful overview of Canada’s residential schools, with firsthand accounts and pictures from survivors. Especially loved the “myths” section at the back of the book 🙂 Bravo to the survivors and authors brave enough to share their story.”

“Very comprehensive summary of Residential Schools and their legacy. Great visuals and witness accounts.”

 

The Ottawa Book Awards and new work from Chelsea Vowel

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I’ve been working away these past months at the 2016 Ottawa Book Awards reading list. One of three jurors in the non-fiction category, I drew up my list of finalists this past week, along with my colleagues. I’m pleased to say there was consensus on three of our top five selections. Early in June, I expect, we’ll sort matters out.

There’s an opportunity cost to a commitment of this scale. I agreed to read 21 books in about as many weeks, some of them rather hefty and dense. That’s a lot of hours I could have been doing many other things, but I did enjoy the labour and along the way discovered some books I might not have found otherwise.

Now I have a smallish library of book award books I will be passing along. Only a couple weeks ago I (once again) thinned out the over-flowing shelves, and I’ve no desire to go backwards. Already I have specific books in mind for specific people. And I wish I could tell you what I’ve read and what I thought about it, but until the requisite announcements have been made, I’m keeping my reading list and my thoughts private.

In the meantime, here’s a book I’m looking forward to reading, to recommending, and to giving away. It’s by Chelsea Vowel, more widely known by the name âpihtawikosisân. The book will be released in September but is available now for pre-order.

 

Larry Loyie, 1933–2016

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WITH CO-AUTHOR LARRY LOYIE

I learned today that my friend and co-author, Larry Loyie, is gone.

Larry’s Cree name was Young Man. It was fitting. He had a gentle, even light spirit, despite all he’d been through. Somehow he never lost touch with the character of childhood. I won’t say innocence: there was little of that for children like Larry. In residential school, he dreamed of being an author, but his education at St. Bernard Mission was cold and meagre. He was in his 50s when he went back to school to fulfill his life’s purpose. And fulfill it he did.

Larry developed a simple yet powerful voice. He had an ability to communicate with readers of all ages, but especially with the young. Along with his writing partner, Constance Brissenden, he published books about his youth before and during residential school, reaching thousands of readers across Canada and beyond.

His love for his culture was with him throughout his life, as was his love for writing and for teaching the young. Gentle and honest, compassionate and warm, Larry’s work reflects the respect that he had for his readers, whatever their age. He had a few guiding principles: always tell the truth, make sure the writing is interesting, and inform the reader.

Larry was soft-spoken. He could summon a mental picture with great economy. He felt no need to hit anyone over the head with his message, and so he never did. His prose is disarmingly open, and anyone who follows him in the work of writing about residential schools is well-advised to study his example. He’s given us a wealth of books, and if you haven’t read them I encourage you to do so.

He loved baseball, and we enjoyed going to the stadium together. Connie and I would talk shop, and he’d hush us. “I’m here to watch the game,” he’d say. He’d go from funny to serious in a beat, hitting just the right note in each register. A few times I got a glimpse of the darker stuff, when he’d talk about picking potatoes and chopping firewood. He wanted so badly to read and to learn, and the residential school system denied him. To the school he was a source of cheap, forced labour, nothing more. It could be hard to reconcile this with the gentle, funny guy sitting behind home plate. Why wasn’t he angry all the time? I know survivors who are. It’s a mystery to me, and I guess it always will be a mystery.

Larry left us peacefully. He has done what he came to do. I miss him, and I’m sad he’s gone, but I know if he were here he’d have none of that. Not for Larry, the long-drawn face and the dirge. “Cheer up, young man, and keep going,” he’d say. For you, Young Man, I will. For you.

Uncle Al

Uncle Al

HE WAS, quite simply, one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever known.

Continue …

The Cree should have a flip-chart easel ceremony. No, just kidding.

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THERE’S AN EASY WAY to tell you’ve been spending too much time with the Cree, and it’s this:

When you find yourself saying, “No, just kidding” every time you are just kidding.

As in, “Three guys walk into a bar. No, just kidding.”

If you know any Cree people, you know what I’m talking about.

And speaking of the Cree…

…a long, long, long time ago, the indigenous people of this land had an important right of passage.

When a young man, or a young woman, reached the ceremonial age, all of the people in the community would gather at a sacred spot.

Maybe in the woods, or at the centre of the village, or in the longhouse near the fires. Every nation had their own, sacred spot.

They would call the young man, or young woman, before the gathered community.

It would get very quiet. Electricity would pass through the crowd. Everyone would watch transfixed.

Because the special day had arrived to present the young man, or the young woman, with his, or her …

very own flip-chart easel.

Okay, I made this up. But the point of the story is that today I bought a flip-chart easel.

And owning my own flip-chart easel makes me feel all grown up, or something.

It’s not my company’s flip-chart easel, or my team’s, or my business partner’s. It’s MINE.

And there are so many uses for a flip-chart easel that I can’t believe everyone doesn’t have one of his, or her, own.

I think that’s because there are no decent flip-chart easel ceremonies.

Anyway, from now on I’m going to do everything by flip chart.

Christmas cards, love letters, and tax returns can all totally be done on a flip chart, and why they aren’t already is truly a mystery to me.

You can even set it up on the bus, during the ride from Staples to the subway home, and do a team-building workshop. Trust me, I thought about it.

Here’s just the first of many uses I have found for my flip-chart easel.

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So, yeah, I think I’ll do only flip-chart-Twitter from now on.

And here’s another use, which will finally resolve something I’ve been meaning to tell my son.

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No, just kidding.

Business writing on LinkedIn, The Pulse, by me!

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WHEN I AM not mesmerizing the masses with my work here at waynekspear.com, I’m being all S-M-R-T and business-like over at The Pulse, LinkedIn’s blog for professionals. Writing about your topic of expertise for high-powered business people is the most grown-up thing you can do, except for wiping another human being’s bum. And yes, I have done that, and without question I like writing for The Pulse more.