Lori Shwydky graduated from Vancouver Island University in 2016 with a bachelor of arts in creative writing. Since then she’s wasted no time putting what she learned to use.
At VIU, what excited her most was the courses that focused on publishing, so after graduation she went right to work creating Rebel Mountain Press in her home town of Nanoose Bay.
As publisher and managing editor Shwydky focused her business on putting out anthologies. Since its launch in 2015, Rebel Mountain Press has put out two teen anthologies In Our Own Voice — collections of work by young Vancouver Island writers in Grades 8-12. Recently, she added another anthology to the series: In Our Own Aboriginal Voice, a collection of stories and poems written by aboriginal writers and artists in B.C.
The first edition of In Our Own Aboriginal Voice is being released at VIU’s Nanaimo campus today (Nov. 22) from 6-7:30 p.m. at VIU’s Shq’apthut: A Gathering Place.
A selection of authors will be reading their work.
“For me, the focus on the In Our Own Aboriginal Voice series of books came from what I learned in my First Nations studies courses about how to look at things from an indigenous perspective,” said Shwydky. “I enjoyed giving voice to writers who aren’t always given a chance to be published.”
The latest anthology houses the work of 13 different indigenous authors.
Authors include Jerry Smaaslet, from the Carrier Sikanni clan in Fort Ware, B.C. Smaaslet had a brutal upbringing in foster homes that led to him losing not only his culture, but himself.
As a young man, he walked a dark path that ended in incarceration for life. He tells a personal story of the journey that led to jail and how once inside he started “walking the red path.” It’s a path that led him to become a leader who now teaches and guides others who seek a similar path of healing and discovery.
Another submission comes from Joe Starr, who is a member of the Haisla Nation. The retired school teacher is a second-year VIU history student.
He started writing after the loss of a loved one and hasn’t stopped since. Starr has self-published two books and his newest story Gilwa was accepted into the anthology. It is an epic telling of a story handed down to him from his ancestors.
“Soon after I lost my partner to cancer, I had my own brush with death and I just started writing. It is just something I had to do. It was a healing process and during that dark time in my life everything was just lining up to come out,” said Starr. “During that period I wrote a lot and a friend of mine asked if I thought that the ancestors were speaking through me. That made me really think. I think it might just be the case.”
Contributor Michael Calvert is a Métis writer who won the 2012 Pat Bevan Award for achievement in fiction writing. The VIU alum is currently completing his master’s degree in publishing at Simon Fraser University. Calvert contributed two poems and a poignant short story to the anthology called Flood Damage. It’s a story of discovery that came when his extended family came looking for his father, who was orphaned at the age of four, and found he had passed away.
They brought with them Calvert’s lineage in a meticulously kept folder of information. Flood Damage is a deep examination of his ancestral Metis roots – roots that he himself never experienced first-hand but could finally start piecing together.
“They had my family tree documented all the way back to the 1700s. With that gift of information, I started researching what it meant to be Metis in contemporary Canadian culture and through that research, armed with my true history, the heritage that was unknown to me came alive,” said Calvert. “It was an awakening for me. I started feeling what so many generations of Metis must have gone through. Writing Flood Damage was a process that definitely affected me.”
Proceeds of book sales will be donated to the Wachiay Friendship Centre in Courtenay.
Dane Gibson is a writer for Vancouver Island University’s communications department.