There is strength in community. That much we know.
One of the biggest lessons learned over the past couple of years is just how important it is for communities to pull together and support each other when the chips are down. But when it comes to discussing the challenges facing the many groups within a region’s arts community – a blanket title encompassing musicians, visual artists, writers, promoters, venues and creators of all types – the chips are almost never up. As a result, it is not uncommon for artists to turn to each other for the support they need.
Recently, a pair of local writers in Fredericton decided to pool their collective resources to build a support network for underrepresented writers in the province.
“When we moved to Fredericton in 2017, it was for publishing reasons, work related. We work in publishing,” said author and publicist Nathaniel G. Moore. “My wife [Amber McMillan] and I have resources and the urge to help new authors in this province find what they are looking for out of Canadian publishing.
“We are both enthusiastic about giving back to our new community of writers here in the province,” he said.
Drawing upon established contacts, calling in favours and reaching out to like-minded writers who see the value in creating new avenues of support, Moore, McMillan and their colleagues, including many in BIPOC and LGBTQ+ literary communities across Canada, aim to create a support network for new and emerging writers and those trying to navigate a career path as independent artists.
“The catalyst for the program is my own sense of accomplishment in the Canadian independent publishing scene,” said Moore. “And for those who believe the word indie to mean self-published, you are incorrect. The word indie refers to independent, as in independent of corporate ownership, independent of the control of the large commercial publishers in Canada. An indie author is the same as an indie bookstore when comparing small to large. Indie publishers are Goose Lane Editions, Coach House Books, Anvil Press, Talon Books, Cormorant Books, Turnstone Press, Radiant Press, Conundrum Press. The independent publishing community is the largest network of writers working and publishing in Canada today.
“Why not connect new writers? Those in this province who don’t feel confident enough to attend an open mic night, or submit to a journal. Those who they think their writing is too weird, not good enough. What if Trillium Award finalist poet Matthew Walsh looks over your poetry? What if they, a Maritime-born writer, is available to encourage a fellow LGBTQ+ writer into making those first steps? Or what about a letter of support for a writer’s residency application from an accomplished poet from Laird, Saskatchewan, who wants to help a Moncton playwright accomplish their goals?”
Moore’s interest in establishing a mentorship program for writers in New Brunswick is as much about direct support as it is a response to the need for greater diversity and representation within the province’s independent writers’ community.
“The reason for this mentorship program is because for the last five years, living in Fredericton, I’ve seen the same five white people on stage handing out awards, hosting events and supporting the same rotating group of people,” he said. “Odd Sundays, a prominent reading series in Fredericton and Poetry Weekend, the annual poetry meetup where poets from across the country come and read poems, are both gone, and it’s not in my nature to wait for an overfunded literary journal to tell me when my community is going to be back in action.
“I just don’t want to look back ten years from now and see that I’ve become just another writer standing in the way of everything new and exciting that grows around me while I stroke my beard and start work on my thirty-seventh poetry collection.”
The project is now open and submissions are ongoing. Interested writers are encouraged to get in touch with Moore through his website moorehype.com.
“This project will run indefinitely. As long as there are writers in Canada that I know and work with on the regular, there will be support for the underrepresented writers in New Brunswick,” he said.
Matt Carter is a writer, photographer, and father who lives in Devon with his family. This article was first published in Grid City Magazine on June 14, 2022.