Chelene Knight is the author of the poetry collection Braided Skin and the memoir Dear Current Occupant, winner of the 2018 Vancouver Book Award, and long-listed for the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature. Her essays have appeared in multiple Canadian and American literary journals, plus the Globe and Mail, the Walrus, and the Toronto Star. Her work is anthologized in Making Room, Love Me True, Sustenance, The Summer Book, and Black Writers Matter.
The Toronto Star called Knight, “one of the storytellers we need most right now.” Knight was the previous managing editor at Room (2016- June 2019), and programming director for the Growing Room Festival (2018, 2019), and now CEO of #LearnWritingEssentials and Breathing Space Creative. She often gives talks about home, belonging and belief, inclusivity, and community building through authentic storytelling.
Knight is currently working on Junie, a novel set in Vancouver’s Hogan’s Alley, forthcoming in 2020. She was selected as a 2019 Writers' Trust Rising Star by David Chariandy.
Chelene on author care
Breathing Space Creative has been in the works for a long time, as a dream. I am not only president of BSC, but I am a writer too. The idea for Breathing Space Creative came to me after navigating many difficult situations as a new author while walking this tricky CanLit terrain. I have experienced racism on panels, sexism at conferences, and I have even had opportunities removed because I spoke up and asked a question about editing, or just plain asked for help. To me, this is not the CanLit I dreamed of. I never expected to strike it rich as a writer (I know, right?), but I had dreams of feeling safe (or as safe as possible) to write, share, and publish my words. Since speaking up and asking for what I wanted and needed, I saw a shift in the CanLit cannon, I saw the clouds part. Hello silver lining! I want other authors to keep going and not give up because of a few negative experiences.
Founder + CEO
Nav Nagra is a writer, facilitator, and friend. The Communications Manager and Diversity and Inclusion facilitator at Vantage Point, Nav has had the pleasure of working with many organizations to find their path to better inclusion and equitable practices. A certified coach through Essential Impact, Nav understands the importance of compassion, listening, and understanding and what it takes to find care for one's self and others. Nav also serves on the board of the Vancouver Art Book Fair and on the Professional Development committee of AFP Vancouver. Finally but certainly not least, Nav is an editor and collective member of Room Magazine.
Nav on Author Care
I'm trying to think of reasons why Author Care is NOT important and I honestly can't think of any. Author Care makes the writer feel secure in what they are doing, that they are on the right path, and that they are taking the best steps and care of themselves. Finding yourself alone in the creative world can feel incredibly daunting even if you've been told you have a community around you. You need to feel that community and a sense of comfort within it. That's where Author Care comes in. Author Care enables you to take care of yourself with support that makes you feel like someone always has your back. There are so many questions you can have when navigating the writer's world and have the help of Author Care just makes it that much easier along with a feeling of safety.
Jónína Kirton, a Red River Métis/Icelandic poet, author, facilitator and manuscript consultant currently lives in the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Sḵwxwú7mesh, and Tsleil-Waututh. A graduate of the SFU Writer’s Studio in 2007, she was Betsy Warland’s mentor apprentice at the studio in 2017 and 2018 and is currently one her Vancouver Manuscript Intensive mentors.
Her first collection of poetry, page as bone ~ ink as blood, was released in April 2015 with Talonbooks. It has been described as “restorative, intimate poetry, drawing down ancestral ideas into the current moment’s breath.” A late blooming poet she was sixty-one when she received the 2016 Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Award for an Emerging Artist in the Literary Arts category. Her second collection of poetry, An Honest Woman, was a finalist in the 2018 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Betsy Warland had this to say about the book, "When writing from the voice of between, writer and reader have no place to hide. Assumptions and camouflage fall away. Murdered, missing, and violated women and girl voices have been silenced. The story lethally repeats. Kirton picks over how she was raised familially and culturally like a crime scene."
Until very recently she was a member of Room Magazine’s Editorial board and the curator of their on-line news related poetry series, Turtle Island Responds. She was one of the co-founders of the reading series, Indigenous Brilliance. For a number of years, she was an active member of the Vancouver literary scene but now finds herself in semi-retirement due to health issues and the demands of her manuscript consulting work. She is committed to author care, her own and that of others. Jónína brings over twenty five years of experience as a facilitator, sacred circle/self-care teacher and advocate. She has created her own teaching style based on circle work that weaves Indigenous and non-Indigenous teachings around circles. True to her mixed race Métis/settler roots she and her work are a weaving of both cultures.
Jónína on Author Care
It means offering an author firm footing by having their back as they make their way into the CanLit world. It means removing systemic barriers or at the very least acknowledging they exist. I think author care would ensure not every author is treated the same as they may all have differing needs. It means asking questions and doing some deep listening to what an author may need keeping in mind they don't know what they don't know. I see author care of this nature as something that might be better done by an outside source or by someone who comes from a marginalized community and has experienced the literary world so know what the expectations are and that some are unrealistic so need to be challenged or questioned and others would simply be helpful to know. Even the smallest things can be helpful i.e. does this audience tend to dress up or down. It is a huge barrier to connection if one shows up 'dressed up' and the audience sees this as privilege on display so the author is written off as one who doesn't get it. And yet there are events that seem to call for a more dressed up approach. What is an author to do if they don't have the wardrobe? I have certainly been there. It takes a lot to hold your head high if 'underdressed' due to budget constraints. Maybe the publisher can't buy them a new wardrobe but I do feel that having author care, helping them to feel valued could help shore up the author and help them to shine despite this barrier to success. Feeling supported could simply make it easier for them in all regards.
Jessica Kent is a crafter, a marketing coordinator, and a lover of books. She always has a crochet, knit, or cross stitch project in her bag and is inspired daily by all that she is learning as a marketing coordinator.
Jessica has an environmental science degree from Simon Fraser University and you can find out what free patterns Jessica is working on her website: www.jesscrafting.com
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Jade Melnychuk is the Designer and Owner of Cove The Studio. A small creative studio passionate about cultivating meaningful, intentional & purposeful goods and services for those who value a holistic approach to life.
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