Novellas, movies and tours – oh my!

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Richard Van Camp has pitched his tent at the St. Albert Public Library for his four-month writer in residence session.

Richard Van Camp is currently a writer-in-residence at the St. Albert, Alta., will be touring next year promoting three new books. – photo courtesy of George Littlechild

The residency is his third in a series of residencies the former resident of Fort Smith has done with the Metro Federation of Libraries. The federation is a partnership between Fort Saskatchewan, Strathcona County, St. Albert and Edmonton Public Libraries, which shares resources and collaborates on programs.

Van Camp, who is also on the NorthWords Writers Festival board, said he will be in the NWT for that event next year.

“I’m on the board for the Northwords writer’s festival so we’re already planning our (next) celebration next June, and you know all it takes is a phone call and I’d be on the first plane up any time,” he said.

Van Camp keeps busy outside of his residencies as well, he said he has many projects that will be coming out next year which will see him going on tour.

“We’re very lucky we have a new baby book called Kiss by Kiss; a Counting Book for Families, that will be out next fall,” he said. “And we also have a little novella coming out called When We Play Our Drums They Sing and that’s with McKellar and Martin my publisher with who we have a little baby book out called Nighty Night and that will be out in the spring.”

Van Camp is also working on another novella called The Grass Dancer which he said is set in Fort Smith in 1986.

“It’s hilarious, it’s also a little spooky,” he said.

The writer said he’s missing the Slave River Journal and is part of the reason he’s writing Moccasin Square Gardens, a collection of short stories that will come out next fall with publisher Douglas and MacIntyre.

He said the book honours all twenty books he’s worked on over the years. Saying the book is the ultimate celebration of all the things he loves about the Northwest Territories.

“My dad Roger Brent wrote for (the Slave River Journal) a long time ago. Jim Green was writing and I just really feel an ache and I think that Moccasin Square Gardens is honouring the best part of what the Slave River Journal represented and that was watching a little community grow,” he said. “All I can say is it’s nine of the funniest and scariest stories I’ve ever written. All in one. My prayer is that everybody cracks a molar and leaves with a perm after it’s done with you.”

As a writer who has taught at UBC and Emily Carr and been writing for twenty years Van Camp said he feels with having twenty books out with ten different publishers his role is evolving to being more of a mentor now. He said his wish is that he can help as many people as possible get publishing deals.

“You know I’m 45 now, and I think that my role now from here on in as a mid-career artist is to help as many people as possible with their dreams,” he said. ” I’ve been very lucky because I’ve recommended three of these writers that I’ve had the privilege of meeting and reading their work. My wish is that I do help people get those publishing deals that they so rightfully deserve.”

He also said he tries to get people out of their comfort zones by doing things such as open-mics or slam poetry.

“And I also love to nag people, you know, I’m a Fort Smither, I love to nag,” said Van Camp. “I love nagging people to actually get their work out, to contact and to get up in front of an open-mic … to get out of their comfort zones and often the writer in residency program is the perfect cheerleading opportunity that I think every writer deserves.”

Van Camp is also preparing for the release and tour of the movie Three Feathers which is currently in post-production. The movie, produced by Liz Levigne and directed by Carla Ulrich, and shot in Fort Smith is based on Van Camp’s graphic novel. The movie starred the people of Fort Smith and all scenes in the movie got shot in the languages of the South Slave region: Dene, Bush Cree, South Slavey and English.

“That will be out this fall and we’ll be able to tour it across the Northwest Territories and really show it off,” he said. “We’re really proud of it. Because the star of the movie is everybody in Fort Smith, everybody who came out to the feast scene and the courtroom scenes that we shot. Anyone who wanted to, who showed up, was in the movie.”