A series in which Isabella is excited about everything that is happening at Growing Room 2019, so she sat down with some festival authors to hear about their work, and what events they are most excited to take part in. Learn more about the 2019 Growing Room festival by visiting our website, festival.roommagazine.com.
Katherena Vermette is a Métis writer from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Her first book, North End Love Songs (The Muses Company) won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry in 2013. Her novel, The Break (House of Anansi), was a bestseller in Canada and won multiple awards. Vermette’s second book of poetry, river woman, was published in the fall of 2018.
ROOM: Hello, Katherena. How are you? Your book, River Woman, just came out with House of Anansi recently. CONGRATULATIONS. I’d love to hear more about the process of this book, how it came to be.
KV: Thanks! This one took a long time to get out in the world. Poetry happens slow for me. Well, everything happens slow for me, really. This book was about seven years in the making. It came over the course of several events - all about rivers, it seems. I love poetry. Poetry always feels like home.
ROOM: You also have a new children’s book, The Girl and the Wolf, coming out this this year with Theytus Books Ltd. CONGRATULATIONS again! The title takes many of us back to our favourite childhood fairytale, but I hear that this book functions differently. Would you like to speak more to that? How did the idea come?
KV: Thanks again. Yeh—this one comes from when I was studying a lot of Western Euro faery tales. I always found these stories so different from the traditional stories I knew, the ones from this part of the world (Winnipeg). Traditional stories don’t always have the wolf as the dangerous predator of little girls—sometimes they were actually helpful. Or at least there was something to learn from them. That’s the kind of story I wanted to write—to take one of those faery tales and turn it on its head.
ROOM: You recently edited the joint issue of CV2 and Prairie Fire with stories, essays, and poems by Indigenous writers from all across ndncountry; hence the title of this issue. From reading your editor’s letter, we get that ndncountry is more than just a place, because according to you, “It is not about borders or real estate or extractive infrastructures; instead it is about the relationships that sustain and connect us.” How has editing this issue connected you? How has working with these artists taken you to unexpected places?
KV: I really loved this job—editing this issue was a dream. We had an editor’s dream of submissions, so many, so rich. We wanted to call it ndncountry to match with our previous project ndncity that centred around Winnipeg-based and connected writers. It truly is a real place, definitely transcends these comparatively recent imposed borders.
ROOM: Some of those writers in this issue, Join Joanne Arnott, Jessica Johns, Molly Cross-Blanchard, Samantha Nock, Lindsay Nixon, Jónína Kirton, and Joseph A. Dandurand will be with us at the launch. Go ahead and give them a heart-warming shoutout.
KV: Hey folks! Looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones. I promise to have my bios in order and my jokes written down in front of me (no one trusts a Kate going off the cuff)
ROOM: As a young writer, I’m always interested to hear others’ stories. How did you come to writing? When did you know? Who were the people that helped you get here? And, what are some of your interests outside of writing?
KV: I always wanted to be a writer. Loved poetry in particular for some reason. Just the act of writing a poem seemed so incredibly powerful to me. Still does. I never thought I would do anything with it. Never knew I could become a writer. It was a beautiful book—In Search of April Raintree that planted that particular seed in me. It showed me that people who look like me and come from places like where I come from can make books. That’s magic is what that is. I have had countless teachers, in institutions, in the world, in books, everywhere, and I’m still learning, everyday.
Outside writing, I am a yogi, walker of dogs, mother of daughters, committed watcher of Coronation Street, a bit of a homebody these days. I blame winter.
ROOM: We have you featuring in several events and readings, including “Indigenous Brilliance,” “Kinship Bonds: The Love that Holds," and of course, you are hosting the Prairie Fire/CV2 ndncountry launch. But tell me, what are some other events that you are most keen on attending?
KV: I just read about the Funny Feminists show—that will be awesome. And I pretty much want to stay for the whole Indigenous Brilliance day. Great job to Jessica Johns, jaye simpson and all who put that together. I am also excited to see Alicia Elliott read from her new book, A Mind Spread out on the Ground. It’s a spectacular book. She is going to have a hell of a year.
ROOM: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me, Katherena. I’m so excited to have you for Growing Room 2019!
Isabella Wang’s debut poetry chapbook is forthcoming with Baseline press in 2019. At 18, she is the youngest two-time finalist and writer shortlisted for The New Quarterly’s Edna Staebler Essay Contest. Her poetry and prose have appeared in over a dozen literary journals, and she holds a pushcart prize nomination in poetry. She studying English and World Literature at SFU, interning at Room Magazine, serving as the Youth Advocate for the BC Federation of Writers, and co-ordinating the bi-weekly Dead Poets Reading Series.