The First Book! panel was hosted by Jacqueline Guest, YA author of many books, most recently The Comic Book War. Four writers, each of whom was celebrating their first book, shared their stories...
Reneltta Arluk (poetry) received a call for submissions, via Richard Van Camp. She photocopied her whole stash of poetic writings, and shipped them off. About two months later, she received a letter: some of these are very good, but, some we cannot read at all. Would you be able to type them up and re-submit? Whoa, good idea! So she types up the pile of poems and sends it in again, and about two months after that, she received an offer to publish. Her book, Thoughts and Other Human Tendencies, was edited and published soon after, and has been translated into Cree, and will soon be available in French as well.
Frank C Busch (novel) got an arts degree, but ended up working in financial fields, he describes himself as a (young) business man. TRC was looking for people with financial background to interview residential school survivors, and so he interviewed some 800 people about this most sorrowful aspect of their lives. He felt he needed to do something with this energy, but, he could not write the stories he'd heard, they were not his stories to tell. What he heard from the survivors was, "I want my culture back," so, with permission of his elders and nation, he wrote an adventure story that is steeped in his Cree culture. In looking for a publisher, he eliminated all those who required paper submissions, because he wanted a publisher that is comfortable in the online world and computer era. He wrote a book proposal, submitting summary and sample chapters. He said, "my proposal was hardly about the book at all, it was all about the marketing plan...." His novel, conceived as the first in a series, is called Grey Eyes.
Lisa Bird-Wilson (short stories) developed and polished her stories at university, and worked with a writers group to perfect them (alongside her self confidence). She was very downhearted with the art the publisher reccommended for her book cover, and she gathered her courage and took him to task: what about this cover art says this is an indigenous book? This is an indigenous book and i want people to know that, right up front! They agreed upon using a portrait by an indigenous artist, and doubled the image to make a very beautiful, eye-catching cover. Her book and stories won many awards and nominations, and she is most proud of the book cover on Just Pretending.
Cara-Lynn Morgan (poetry) likewise was at university, and followed the advice of a teacher-mentor to do a multiple submission (generally considered not a cool thing to do): yes, some rejected her work on that basis, but, she also connected with the publishing house that she needed. Although she was living in Victoria BC, she felt her work like her roots were a Saskatchewan story, and so she focussed on SK presses. Thistledown published her first collection, What Became My Grieving Ceremony.
Four first books, four different paths to publication. Here are the books: