I Wrote a Book. Now What?: How Does Publishing Work?, Part Two


Every book passes through many hands before arriving at your local bookstore or library. We’ve developed a six-part series,
How Does Publishing Work?, to shed light on a book’s journey to publication. From developing stories and characters, to editing and illustration, through to the publishing and marketing stage, this series takes a look at all the different people and processes involved in bringing your favourite stories to life.

In part one of our How Does Publishing Work series, we covered the key elements of writing a book, from developing plot and character to the process of writing a manuscript. Now, in part two, we’ll explain how to finalize your manuscript and submit it to a publisher, with a few insights from our managing editor, Laura McKay-Keizer, and writer/artist Jen Storm!

What do I do when I’ve finished the first draft of my manuscript?

Manuscript refers to the draft of your book that you will submit to a publisher. Before submitting your manuscript, make sure to revise your manuscript thoroughly and edit it to the best of your ability. A publisher’s first impression of you is based on your manuscript; think of publishers as potential employers and your manuscript as your resume. Your manuscript is ready to be submitted once you feel it’s the best possible representation of you and your work. If you aren’t sure how you might improve your manuscript, Laura has a few suggestions for new writers.

“Most libraries have writer-in-residence programs. The writer-in-residence at a library is often a professional writer who is available to consult on your manuscript, usually free of charge. The library is also a great place to look for listings for creative writing programs or writing groups in your area, who may be able to provide helpful feedback. Some writers also choose to hire a freelance writer or editor to work with them on the revision process.”

What is copyright, and how does it affect my manuscript?

When developing a book, it’s extremely important that your work is 100% your own. Copyright is a form of law that protects authors from anyone using their work without permission. Intentionally using someone else’s work violates copyright law and is considered a form of stealing; this is something a publisher takes very seriously. This page can help you learn more about copyright law in Canada.

Who is my audience, and how does it affect my manuscript?

As you revise your manuscript, spend some time thinking about the readers who might be interested in your book. Most authors find it helpful to develop an audience profile, which helps you think about who your readers are. To create an audience profile, write a list of characteristics your ideal reader might have. Some questions you can ask yourself while creating an audience profile might include:

  • How old is my reader?
  • What are their favourite book genres?
  • Where do they live?
  • What are their interests?
  • How do they find out about new books?

You may also find it helpful to think of your audience profile as a character by giving it a person’s name, or even adding a picture next to the profile to give them a “face.” You can even create a secondary audience profile if you feel that more than one kind of reader will enjoy your book.

Many publishers will request information about your ideal audience as part of your query letter (a type of cover letter) when you submit your manuscript. Thinking about your book’s audience as you revise will help you prepare your submission later, and will also help you choose publishers to submit to. 

I’ve finished editing my manuscript. Now what?

Once you’re confident in the quality of your manuscript, the next step is to submit it to a publisher. Traditional publishers are companies who licence an author’s work and handle the process of producing and selling a book. If a publisher likes your manuscript and wants to publish your manuscript, they’ll work with you on a contract that outlines how your book will be used, how long the licence will last, and how you’ll be paid for it.  

So, how do I find a publisher that might be interested in my book? 

In general, publishers have niches, which means they specialize in a certain kind of book for a specific audience. For example, Portage & Main Press publishes a wide range of innovative and practical K–12 educational materials, while HighWater Press publishes books by Indigenous authors with a focus on children’s books, young adult literature, general fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novels. 

The best place to start is by looking at books that are similar to yours! Flip open the books that inspired your story and you’ll notice that one of the first pages contains information about the publisher and the edition of the book. This is called the “imprint page.” The imprint page will have the name and logo of the book’s publisher, as well as information like their address and website. Another great tool for finding publishers in your niche is this publisher search tool by the Association of Canadian Publishers.

Once you’ve found a publisher that interests you, do some research online about the kinds of titles they publish. If people who fit your audience profile would like a lot of their titles, they might be a great fit for your book!

Most publishers are up-front with their niches in their Submission Guidelines, which are commonly found on the publisher’s website. If you review the Submission Guidelines for Portage & Main Press and HighWater Press, you’ll see a description of the kinds of books we do publish, the kinds of books we don’t publish, and instructions for submitting your manuscript.

How can I improve my chances of getting published?

This resource is filled with helpful, straightforward resources for emerging writers. Most of the questions you might have about getting published, establishing yourself as an author, and accessing resources are all covered! 

What if my book is rejected? 

If you submit your manuscript, and the publisher sends you a rejection letter, don’t be discouraged! 

“There are many reasons why a publisher might reject your book, and they don’t mean your story is bad or not worth telling,” says Laura. “They may have already published something too similar, they might not feel that their audience is the right one for your piece, or they might just be too busy for a new project at the moment.”

Rejection is something all authors have experienced, and is a normal part of the submission process—so don’t give up. Take it from Jen Storm, who published her first book when she was fourteen years old.

“Don’t let rejection make you feel inferior or unskilled,” says Jen. “Move to the next thing and save it for another publisher.”

Who will review my manuscript?

Once you submit your manuscript, it will likely end up in the inbox of an acquisitions or managing editor like Laura.

“Once I receive and review a manuscript, I’m looking at a lot of different things,” Laura says. “I’m checking if the story is unique and whether we’ve published anything similar. I’m asking if it’s right for our audience. And, to some extent, I’m looking for a little more information about you; do you have a social media platform or website, and are they appropriate for our audience?”

When Laura finds a good fit, she reaches out to the author to discuss the next steps. What follows is a long process of editing, revising, and the many other steps that go into making and marketing your book, which we’ll cover in future parts of this series.

“Publishing takes longer than most people think,” Laura explains. “Children’s books and novels take at least a year, and graphic novels take about eighteen months, but these time frames can vary. A lot depends on an author’s ability to complete revisions quickly!”

How quickly will I hear back after submitting my manuscript?

After submitting your manuscript, be aware that you won’t likely hear back right away. Acquisitions editors often wear a lot of different hats within the publishing company, and may  have a very busy inbox. If you don’t hear back within six months or so, you can send a follow-up to check on your submission. However, sometimes your best bet is simply to be patient.

What’s it like working with an editor?

Once your manuscript has been accepted, you’ll begin to work with an editor to fine-tune your manuscript. Editors look at manuscripts from a totally new perspective; they’re looking for ways to strengthen your story and make it even better for the reader. For Jen, this was a huge learning curve that helped her career in the long-term.

“I was young during my first time working with an editor, and I didn’t learn the terms and skills in high school that were expected of me,” she says. “For example, I didn’t understand what character development actually meant, or how to take their critiques and make a stronger scene because I didn’t understand the editor’s language.”

Jen’s experience is very normal for new writers, so keep in mind that you don’t need to know everything right away. The important thing is to keep working and continue learning, which is exactly what Jen did.

“The publisher ended up having the editor work with me piece-by-piece over a year, and it was a huge learning opportunity for me that I never forgot. They were very encouraging and helped me get my story where it needed to be.”

Meet Writer & Artist Jen Storm

Jen Storm is an Ojibway writer from the Couchiching First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Jen completed Deadly Loyalties, her first novel, at age fourteen. Fire Starters (an AIYLA Honour Book) was her first graphic novel. Jen was a 2017 recipient for the CBC Manitoba’s Future 40 Under 40. She can be found on Instagram @jenstorm_art where she shares her passion for creating art and updates on future projects.

Meet Our Managing Editor

Laura McKay-Keizer (she/her/hers) is a writer and Managing Editor at Portage & Main Press/HighWater Press. She holds a Bachelor of English Literature (Hons.) from the University of Manitoba, and started her career as a copywriter (which has very little to do with the copyright law we just covered!). She became an editorial assistant at Portage & Main Press in 2016, and has worked for the company ever since. 

Would you like to be an editor someday? When asked what skills are essential to succeed as an editor, Laura had lots of great advice.

“Ideally, you should have a tendency to pick out typos, be comfortable asking lots of questions, and be extremely detail-oriented,” she said. “It’s also crucial to have really good communication and diplomacy skills; editing is Diplomacy 101 because you’re communicating sensitive feedback about someone’s deeply personal work.”

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A Holiday Gift Guide for the Readers on Your List

Around the world, holiday shopping—and holiday celebrations—may look a bit different this year. Books are a perfect gift to give from afar, and our titles are available to order online, from the comfort of your home. We have something for all the readers on your list—and a few things you might want for yourself! All of these books are available directly from our website as well as from your favourite local bookstore. 

In this holiday gift guide, you’ll find 

To make sure your books arrive in time for the holidays (December 25), keep these dates in mind when ordering from our website: 

Shipping Location Last Order Date

YK, NWT, NU – Monday, December 7, 2020

NL, SK, BC – Monday, December 14, 2020

AB, MB, PEI, NB, NS – Wednesday, December 16, 2020

ON, MontrealFriday, December 18, 2020

Greater Toronto – Monday, December 21, 2020

And make sure to subscribe to our enewsletter to receive information about special offers, including a deal for Cyber Monday!

 

Books for Kids (Ages 4–12)

Ispík kákí péyakoyak/When We Were Alone (Bilingual Swampy Cree/English Edition)

Written by: David A. Robertson
Illustrated by: Julie Flett
Translated by: Alderick Leask
Ages: 4 to 8
Themes: empowerment, resistance, perseverance, culture and traditions, importance of family, colonialism
Perfect gift for: Swampy Cree speakers and learners, kids interested in Cree culture, those interested in history

An empowering story of resistance that gently introduces children to the history of residential schools in Canada. 

In When We Were Alone, a young girl notices things about her grandmother that make her curious. As she asks questions, her grandmother tells her about her experiences in a residential school.

The bilingual edition of this Governor General’s Award–winning book features the text in Swampy Cree syllabics and Roman orthography, as well as the original English. 

Order your copy here.

Find related activities for both families and school communities in the free parent/teacher guide.

Siha Tooskin Knows Series

Written by: Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead
Illustrated by: Chloe Bluebird Mustooch
Ages: 9 to 11
Themes: values, Nakota culture, sharing culture, emotional intelligence
Perfect gift for: kids interested in Nakota culture, families with new babies, boys with braids, powwow enthusiasts

Paul Wahasaypa (aka Siha Tooskin) is a young Nakota boy living in a modern, urban community. He is guided by the knowledge and traditions of his family, his people, and his ancestors. Experience the spirit of love and community alongside this 11-year boy and his Indgenous relations.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Gifts of His People, Paul learns about the origins of many modern conveniences and inventions. There’s so much to learn about the earliest forms of technology, travel, medicine, and food from right here on Turtle Island! 

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Sacred Eagle Feather, Paul’s Mitoshin explains the teachings about where eagle feathers come from and why they are so sacred.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Strength of His Hair, Paul is nervous about starting at a new school. Mitoshin reminds him how strength of character can be found in the strength of his hair. Perfect for boys with braids!

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Catcher of Dreams, Paul imagines the future of a new baby sister and listens to Mugoshin’s teachings about dream catchers.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Nature of Life, Paul learns how strength, generosity, kindness, and humility are all shown to us by grandfather rocks, towering trees, four-legged ones, and winged ones.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Best Medicine, Paul isn’t feeling well, and he learns that there are answers for him from both the healing practices of his people and from Western medicine.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Offering of Tobacco, Paul knows it is important to show honour and appreciation when taking plants from the earth or knowledge from a learned person. Join Paul and his teacher Mrs. Baxter as they learn about the protocol of offering tobacco. 

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Love of the Dance, Paul has invited his friend, Jeff, to his first-ever powwow! Follow along as Jeff learns all about the dances and their beautiful traditions.

Order all eight books as a set and save! 

Find related activities for both families and school communities in the free education guide.

Mothers of Xsan Series

Written by: Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson)
Illustrated by: Natasha Donovan
Ages: 9 to 12
Themes: life cycles, ecosystems, sustainability, Gitxsan culture
Perfect gift for: nature lovers, kids interested in Gitxsan culture, kids interested in science

The Mothers of Xsan series brings science to life with striking illustrations and lyrical language. With traditional Gitxsan formline art and language woven together in verse, these stories bring the poetry of the Xsan river valley ecosystem into your home. 

Follow each Mother as she teaches her young what they need to survive. 

The Sockeye Mother explores the life cycle of a sockeye salmon. 

The Grizzly Mother follows a mother bear and her two cubs from birth to adulthood.

The Eagle Mother shows how bald eagles enrich their entire ecosystem.

Watch for The Frog Mother and The Wolf Mother, coming in 2021!

Pīsim Finds Her Miskanaw (The Six Seasons of the Asiniskaw Īthiniwak, Bk. 1)

Written by: William Dumas
Illustrated by: Leonard Paul
Ages: 11 to 13
Themes: coming of age, Rocky Cree culture, rites of passage
Perfect gift for: history lovers, kids interested in Cree culture, Manitoba classrooms

Out of an important archaeological discovery comes this unique story about a week in the life of Pīsim, a young Cree woman who lived in the mid-1600s. In the story, created by renowned storyteller William Dumas, Pīsim begins to recognize her miskanaw—the path for her life—and to develop her gifts for fulfilling that path. Brought to life by the rich imagery of Mi’kmaw artist Leonard Paul, the story is accompanied by sidebars on Rocky Cree language and culture, archaeology and history, maps, songs, and more.

Order your copy here. 

Find related activities for kids in the free teacher guide and accompanying iOS app, which includes a Cree narration of the story read by an Elder.

Books for Teens (Ages 12–18)

A Girl Called Echo Series

Written by: Katherena Vermette
Illustrated by: Scott B. Henderson
Colour by: Donovan Yaciuk
Ages: 11 to 15
Themes: resistance, empowerment, identity, intergenerational trauma, history, racism, colonialism, social justice, strong female character, family, coming of age
Perfect gift for: history buffs, comic readers, tweens, people interested in Métis history and culture, young adults

Métis teenager Echo Desjardins is struggling to adjust to a new school and a new home while in foster care. When an ordinary day in history class turns extraordinary, Echo’s life will never be the same. Follow Echo as she experiences pivotal events from Métis history, gains new perspectives about where she came from, and imagines what the future might hold.

In Pemmican Wars, Echo finds herself transported to another time and place—a bison hunt on the Saskatchewan prairie. She visits a Métis camp, travels the old fur-trade routes, and experiences the perilous and bygone era of the Pemmican Wars.

In Red River Resistance, Echo is transported to the banks of the Red River in the summer of 1869. All is not well in the territory, as Canadian surveyors have arrived and Métis families, who have lived there for generations, are losing access to their land. As the Resistance takes hold, Echo fears for her friends and the future of her people in the Red River Valley.

In Northwest Resistance, Echo travels to 1885. The bison are gone, settlers from the East are arriving daily, and the Métis and First Nations of the Northwest face hunger and uncertainty as their traditional way of life is threatened. The Canadian government has ignored their petitions, but hope rises when Louis Riel returns to help. 

Watch for the final volume, Road Allowance Era, coming in 2021!

I Will See You Again

Written & illustrated by: Lisa Boivin
Ages: 12+
Themes: grief, healing, Dene culture, familial love
Perfect gift for: art lovers, families experiencing grief, youth interested in Dene culture

Presenting “a fresh understanding of death and grief” (Publishers Weekly), this book is a breathtaking journey through art, loss, and love from interdisciplinary artist and bioethicist Lisa Boivin.

When the author learns of the death of her brother overseas, she embarks on a journey to bring him home. Through memories and dreams of all they shared together, and through her Dene traditions, she finds comfort and strength. 

Find related activities and lesson plans in the free reader’s guide for teachers and families. 

Get your copy of this lyrical book in time for the holidays.

Surviving the City Series

Written by: Tasha Spillett
Illustrated by: Natasha Donovan
Ages: 12 to 18
Themes: coming of age; friendship; identity; issues; gender roles; Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People; young love; relationships; community; kinship; grief
Perfect gift for: tweens, young women, LGBTQ2S+ youth\

A contemporary graphic novel series exploring the lives of two young women. Follow best friends Dez and Miikwan as they navigate the challenges of growing up Indigenous in an urban landscape.

In Surviving the City, Dez’s grandmother becomes too sick to care for her. With the threat of a group home looming, Dez can’t bring herself to go home and disappears. Miikwan is devastated, and the wound of her missing mother resurfaces. Will Dez’s community find her before it’s too late? Will Miikwan be able to cope if they don’t?

In From the Roots Up, Dez is grieving, living in a group home, and coming into her identity as a Two-Spirit person. Miikwan and Elder Geraldine don’t really understand what Dez is going through. Will Dez be comfortable expressing her full identity? And will her community relearn the teachings and overcome prejudice to celebrate her for who she is?

Find related activities and lesson plans in the teacher guide, which includes curriculum correlations and lesson plans for Ontario, British Columbia, and Manitoba. 

The Reckoner Trilogy

Written by: David A. Robertson
Ages: 12 to 18
Themes: mental health, coming of age
Perfect gift for: superhero fans, mystery readers

Cole Harper is the hero Wounded Sky First Nation needs. In this page-turning trilogy, Cole and his friends must fight against the mysterious evils that threaten their community. 

In Strangers, Cole travels home to find his community in chaos: a series of shocking murders, a mysterious illness ravaging the residents, and reemerging questions about Cole’s role in the tragedy that drove him away 10 years ago. Will he find the answers in time to save his community?

In Monsters, a creature lurks in the shadows of Blackwood Forest, the health clinic is on lockdown by a mysterious organization, and long-held secrets threaten to bubble to the surface. Can Cole learn the truth about his father’s death?

In Ghosts, Cole Harper is dead. Reynold McCabe is alive and free. Mihko Laboratories has reopened the research facility and is working to manufacture and weaponize the illness that previously plagued Wounded Sky. People are missing. The community has been quarantined. What deal did Eva strike with Choch? Who will defeat Reynold and Mihko? Time is running out.

With a brilliant portrayal of what it’s like to live with an anxiety disorder, this is a superhero origin story like nothing you’ve read before.

The Reckoner Rises

Written by: David A. Robertson
Illustrated by: Scott B. Henderson
Colour by: Donovan Yaciuk
Ages: 15 to 18
Themes: mental health, coming of age, culture
Perfect gift for: superhero fans, comic book readers, mystery lovers

Acclaimed writer, David A. Robertson, delivers suspense, adventure, and humour in this stunningly illustrated graphic novel continuation of The Reckoner trilogy.

In Breakdown, Cole and Eva arrive in Winnipeg, the headquarters of Mihko Laboratories. They are intent on destroying the company once and for all, but their plans are thwarted when a new threat surfaces. When Cole becomes mired in terrifying visions, Eva must harness her newly discovered powers to investigate Mihko without him. Are Cole’s visions just troubled dreams or are they leading him to a horrible truth?

Watch for Version Control, coming in 2022.

This Place: 150 Years Retold

Foreword by: Alicia Elliott
Written by: Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, David A. Robertson, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Jen Storm, Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette, Chelsea Vowel
Illustrated by: Tara Audibert, Kyle Charles, GMB Chomichuk, Natasha Donovan, Scott B. Henderson, Ryan Howe, Andrew Lodwick, Jen Storm
Colour by: Scott A. Ford, Donovan Yaciuk
Ages: 15+
Themes: resistance, empowerment, activism, social justice, colonialism, culture and traditions, racism
Perfect gift for: graphic novel readers, comic lovers, history buffs

Soon to be a CBC podcast, hosted by Rosanna Deerchild!

This Place: 150 Years Retold is a groundbreaking graphic novel anthology that re-frames Canada’s history, present, and future through the perspectives of Indigenous writers. Through the anthology’s 10 beautifully illustrated stories,  readers will encounter Indigenous wonderworks, psychic battles, and even time travel.

Gain a new perspective on the past 150 years—and beyond—by ordering your copy today.

Find related activities and lesson plans in the accompanying teacher guide, with curriculum correlations for Manitoba, Ontario, and British Columbia.

Perception: A Photo Series

Photo Series Created by: KC Adams
Foreword by: Katherena Vermette
Critical Essay by: Cathy Mattes
Ages: 16+
Themes: social justice, empowerment, stereotypes, bias, identity
Perfect gift for: art lovers, coffee-table book readers, teens and adults interested in social justice 

From award-winning artist KC Adams comes a mash-up of social action art and flash biography that compels readers to look, then look again.

After a racist, high-profile social media post surfaced in artist KC Adams’s home city, she decided to challenge people to “look, then look again” at Indigenous people in Winnipeg. This brilliant collection of portraits was first displayed on billboards, buildings, and bus shelters around the city. Each image aims to replace dehumanizing assumptions with positive truths about the subjects’ identities.

Get the book in time for the holidays.

Find related activities and lesson plans in the free teacher guide.

 

Books for Adults

The Evolution of Alice (Reissued Edition)

Written by: David A. Robertson
Foreword by: Shelagh Rogers
Themes: community, grief, healing, friendship, loss of a child
Perfect gift for: readers of women’s fiction, short story lovers

Peopled with unforgettable characters and told from multiple points of view, this is a novel where spirits are alive, forgiveness is possible, and love is the only thing that matters.

Alice is a single mother raising her three young daughters on the rez where she grew up. Life has never been easy, but she’s managed to get by with the support of her best friend, Gideon, and her family. When an unthinkable loss occurs, Alice is forced to confront truths that will challenge her belief in herself and the world she thought she knew.

The Evolution of Alice is the kaleidoscopic story of one woman’s place within the web of community.

Reissued with a new story by David A. Robertson and foreword by Shelagh Rogers!

Get your copy of the new edition today.

One Without the Other: Stories of Unity Through Diversity and Inclusion

Written by: Shelley Moore
Topics: inclusion, inclusive education, bias, differentiation, diversity, universal design for learning
Perfect gift for: teachers, educational assistants, school administrators, aspiring educators, special ed teachers, resource teachers, parents of children with disabilities

In One Without the Other: Stories of Unity Through Diversity and Inclusion, Shelley Moore explores the changing landscape of inclusive education. 

Presented through real stories from her own classroom experience, this passionate and creative educator tackles such things as inclusion as a philosophy and practice, the difference between integration and inclusion, and how inclusion can work with a variety of students and abilities. Explorations of differentiation, the role of special education teachers and others, and universal design for learning all illustrate the evolving discussion on special education and teaching to all learners. ]

Get this book for the teacher on your list.

Watch for Shelley’s second book, All for One: Designing Individual Education Plans for Inclusive Classrooms, coming in 2021!

Catch a Fire: Fuelling Inquiry and Passion Through Project-Based Learning 

Edited by: Matt Henderson
Topics: project-based learning, inquiry, collaboration
Perfect gift for: teachers, educational assistants, school administrators, aspiring educators, parents who are homeschooling

This book will inspire, challenge, and engage you—and transform your teaching and learning.

Each chapter in this book is written by a different educator or team about their experiences with project-based learning, both in and out of the classroom. They reflect not only on the how of project-based learning, but more importantly, on the what and the why. They offer insight into how connecting with learners, honouring their experiences, and promoting deep and rich questioning can be the path to powerful projects and learning. Their writing and thinking is saturated with empathy, expertise, a desire to improve their practice, and an acknowledgment of the need to collaborate.

Get your copy in time for the holidays.

Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses: A Unique Approach to Literature Circles (2nd Edition)

Written by: Faye Brownlie
Topics: literacy, literature circles, choosing books for students, teaching strategies for reading and writing
Perfect gift for: teachers, educational assistants, school administrators, aspiring educators, reading tutors, parents who are homeschooling

Faye Brownlie’s Say Something strategy will encourage your students to have not only grand conversations, but also thoughtful responses.

Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses is built upon the premise that all students can become active, independent, thoughtful readers. The structures and strategies in this book are proven to help students develop confidence and competence in their reading. Student engagement with text soars through participation in grand conversations with peers and reflecting on reading with thoughtful, written responses. This unique approach includes:

  • student choice in books
  • students reading at their own pace, thus creating flexible groups
  • literature circles where students discuss the shared text they are reading
  • strategies for teaching written response
  • strategies for co-creating assessment criteria
  • additional activities to develop and deepen comprehension
  • book lists

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Check out our catalogues for more ideas, as well as information about reading and grade level for each book.

Portage & Main Press catalogue (books for teachers, education)

HighWater Press catalogue (books for kids, teens, and adults by Indigenous authors)

How to Write a Book: How Does Publishing Work?, Part One 

Every book passes through many hands before arriving at your local bookstore or library. We’ve developed a six-part series, How Does Publishing Work?, to shed light on a book’s journey to publication. From developing stories and characters, to editing and illustration, through to the publishing and marketing stage, this series takes a look at all the different people and processes involved in bringing your favourite stories to life.

Do you have a story to tell? Making the leap from an idea to writing and publishing a book might seem intimidating, but here’s the truth—you can do it! Writing your first book is an exciting, rewarding project, but one that requires patience, planning, and commitment. 

Think of your favourite book—the one you didn’t want to end, that you couldn’t put down even after re-reading it a second or third time. If you’ve ever wanted to capture others’ imaginations with a book of your own, or if you’re just curious about the many jobs and steps involved in creating your favourite books, this six-part series is for you, starting with today’s topic: how to write a book!

Developing Your Story

If you’re an aspiring writer, you might wonder how authors manage to write so many pages and bring them all together so neatly. In order to create a well-structured story, the plotting process is every great writer’s best friend. The Reckoner trilogy author David A. Robertson recorded this mini-workshop for the Eden Mills Writers Festival to give his perspective on developing plot and character, and how the two intertwine. Watch below to hear his take on these key aspects of story writing.

To give you a closer look at character development, Richard Van Camp produced this informative video for the Alberta Summer Reading Camp to help writers of all levels!

David A. Robertson

David A. Robertson (he/him/his) is an award-winning writer and member of Norway House Cree Nation. His books include When We Were Alone (winner Governor General’s Literary Award), Will I See? (winner Manuela Dias Book Design and Illustration Award), Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story (listed In The Margins), and the YA trilogy The Reckoner (winner Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction, McNally Robinson Best Book for Young People). David educates as well as entertains through his writings about Indigenous peoples in Canada, reflecting their cultures, histories, and communities, as well as illuminating many contemporary issues. He lives in Winnipeg.

Richard Van Camp

Richard Van Camp is a proud member of the Tlicho Nation from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. He is the author of 22 books including The Lesser Blessed (also a feature film), the Eisner Award–nominated graphic novel, A Blanket of Butterflies (with Scott B. Henderson), and Three Feathers (also a feature film). He is a contributor to the groundbreaking graphic novel anthology This Place: 150 Years Retold. Richard is also the author of four collections of short stories, including Night Moves, and five baby books, including the award-winning Little You (with Julie Flett).

Finding Your Process

Once you’ve got your plot and characters mapped out, the next step is to put in the work to write your book from start to finish. However, there’s no one “right” way to write your book. Every author approaches their craft a little differently—that’s what makes an author an artist! To help you get a feel for how professional authors work, we asked authors Dallas Hunt and Tasha Spillett to share their experiences and advice for aspiring authors.

Dallas Hunt

Dallas Hunt (he/him/his) is a teacher, writer, and member of Wapisewsipi (Swan River First Nation) in Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta, Canada. His children’s book, Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock, contains Cree words to support the revitalization of the language. Dallas teaches at the University of British Columbia and enjoys reading great books to his nieces and nephews.

PMP: Can you describe your process for writing a manuscript?

DH: Great question! I think it depends on the type of manuscript you’re writing, and who you imagine the audience to be. For me, while writing Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock, I knew I wanted the book to be as accessible as possible, so I made a point of not trying to “dress up” or polish the language too much. Often, when we hear stories, they’re not polished in the way an academic or poetic work can be. I thought about how the characters would converse, kept it simple, and wanted there to be enough repetition so little ones reading it might remember some of the words. That said, I don’t think the book itself is simple, since it’s dealing not only with the Cree language (a hard language to learn), but also Cree ideas of kinship and reciprocity.

PMP: What advice would you give a first-time author?

DH: Be gentle with yourself. Putting together a manuscript can be hard, but if you have an idea, and you’re confident in it, then I would just sit down and write. Sometimes sitting down at a desk and writing can be the hardest, most daunting process of writing any book, but I promise it will feel much better once you start writing. Trust yourself, that those ideas are there, and that they’re worth sharing—because I promise they are.

PMP: What helps you keep your momentum when creating a manuscript?

DH: I have a mantra I say quietly to myself: “just get started.” Sure, you may have wasted most of your morning watching YouTube videos, or being on Twitter, or playing video games, but there’s nothing stopping you from writing at 7PM, even if it’s just for 45 minutes to an hour. In all honesty, that mantra was the only way I was able to finish my dissertation.

“I firmly believe that other people’s criticisms should not prohibit you from writing what you want to write.”

PMP: How has your perspective on writing books changed now that you’ve done it?

DH: While I do write books, I’m also an academic who reads books for a living and engages with them critically. One thing I try to do now, especially when going through the process of writing critically, is to try to cultivate a mode of generosity when engaging with a text—even if it is a text I don’t like. 

I know how hard and isolating the writing process can be, so now when I’m reviewing a book or someone else’s manuscript, I try to think about what I would like or dislike someone else saying about my writing. I firmly believe that other people’s criticisms should not prohibit you from writing what you want to write (unless what you’re writing is harmful or hateful). 

With that said, I do try to think about how writers are people and are human and make mistakes. We all have complex personhoods, with varying experiences and capacities, and so I just try to take everyone’s “personhood” and “writing” on their own terms. All of this has allowed me to be more generous and forgiving with myself, and to really admire a staggering piece of writing when I encounter it. Sometimes I’ll read something and just be in awe.

Tasha Spillett

Tasha Spillett (she/her/hers) draws her strength from both her Nehiyaw and Trinidadian bloodlines. She is the author of the Surviving the City series, as well as a celebrated educator, poet, and emerging scholar. Tasha is most heart-tied to contributing to community-led work that centres on land and water defence, and the protection of Indigenous women and girls. Tasha is currently working on her PhD in Education through the University of Saskatchewan, where she holds a Vanier Canada Award. The second volume of the Surviving the City series, From the Roots Up, will be released on October 27th, 2020.

PMP: Can you describe your process for writing a manuscript?
TS: I find it really hard to sit down and write if the story isn’t ready to come out yet. My writing process always begins way before I sit down at my computer. Usually, before I can even put the first sentences together, I have to have the story come to life in my mind.
I’ll have an experience, a conversation, or even a dream that will deliver the story and then it grows from there. If that hasn’t happened yet, I really struggle to get started with the manuscript.
Timing really is everything when it comes to my relationship with writing.

“You are the expert in your own experience; tell your story.”

PMP: What advice would you give a first-time author?
TS: You are the expert in your own experience; tell your story.
Read as much as you can.
Where the story ends up might surprise you and that’s okay, extra special even.
Not everyone will get what you have to offer, but for someone, it might be everything they need, and that’s even better.

PMP: What helps you keep your momentum when creating a manuscript?
TS: A great editor! I say that kind of jokingly, but I really do appreciate my editors; they are incredible.
I also think that the story deserves to go live its life, so once I’ve started writing, I try not to make it wait too long.

PMP: How has your perspective on writing books changed now that you’ve done it?
TS: I know now that getting a book from your mind to the readers’ hands is a community effort. So many people pour their minds and hearts into the process. I didn’t realize that before, but I’m so grateful to have formed such trusting and caring friendships with the people who have worked on my books with me.

Taking the Next Step

So you’ve written your first manuscript—congratulations! But what comes next?

As Tasha mentioned, there’s so much more that goes into the process of publishing a book than writing your first draft. Check back in two weeks to read the next instalment of our publishing series: “I Wrote a Book, Now What?” We’ll give you a glimpse into the next stage all manuscripts go through on their journey to traditional publication, along with tips to help you as you query your manuscript.

Make sure to follow our biweekly How Does Publishing Work? series for a detailed look into the people and processes that bring your favourite books to life!

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Books About Anxiety and Mental Health for Kids in Grades K–12

David A. Robertson’s YA trilogy, The Reckoner, follows Cole Harper, a teen superhero in the making who struggles with an anxiety disorder, and later, PTSD. Cole’s struggles are familiar to David, who has also been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. 

“You feel like there’s no one else who could possibly understand what’s going on in your mind and your body,” he says. “It’s such a lonely feeling. But when you start to talk about it, you realize that other people feel that way. I think it’s very important to be able to make people realize that they’re not alone. Probably the most important decision I’ve made in my career was to say I can’t hide the stuff that I’m going through anymore.” 

When David began to read the trilogy to students, he noticed a pattern emerging. “At almost every school I read that book at,” says David, “I had at least one kid come up to me who had never talked about their mental health before and say, “I’m going through that.”
(
Quill & Quire, October 2020)

According to Anxiety Canada, more than one in five children and youth will experience
anxiety at some point. To mark the continuation of Cole Harper’s story with the forthcoming graphic novel,
Breakdown, the first volume of The Reckoner Rises series, we have put together a list of books and other resources to help teachers, students, and families discuss mental health.

 

Children’s Picture Books

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
Grades: PreK–2
Topics: anxiety

Captain Starfish by Davina Bell
Grades: PreK–2
Topics: anxiety

Anxious Charlie to the Rescue by Terry Milne
Grades: PreK–2
Topics: anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder

The Princess and the Fog by Lloyd Jones
Grades: K–2
Topics: depression

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
Grades: PreK–2
Topics: grief

Pretend Friends by Alice Hoyle
Grades: PreK–2
Topics: psychotic disorders, schizophrenia

The Boy Who Built a Wall Around Himself by Ali Redford
Grades: PreK–3
Topics: trauma

Graphic Novels and Comics

Guts by Raina Telegemeier
Grades: 2–6
Topics: anxiety

Kind of Coping by Maureen “Marzi” Wilson
Grades: 7–12
Topics: anxiety

The Reckoner Rises series: Breakdown by David A. Robertson
Grades: 9–12
Topics: anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder

Small Things by Mel Tregonning
Grades: K–6
Topics: anxiety, depression

Surviving the City series by Tasha Spillett
Grades: 7–12
Topics: grief

Novels

The Reckoner trilogy by David A. Robertson
Grades: 7–12
Topics: anxiety, panic attacks

Stanley Will Probably Be Fine by Sally J. Pla
Grades: 3–6
Topics: anxiety

Sarah and the Search for Normal by Wesley King
Grades: 3–6
Topics: anxiety, bipolar disorder, panic attacks

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis
Grades: 7–12
Topics: anxiety, grief, post-traumatic stress disorder

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Grades: 7–12
Topics: anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder

Sparrow by Sarah Moon
Grades: 6–12
Topics: social anxiety

Good Enough by Jen Petro-Roy
Grades: 4–6
Topics: eating disorders, anorexia

Paperweight by Meg Haston
Grades: 8–12
Topics: eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia

I Will See You Again by Lisa Boivin
Grades: all ages
Topics: grief

Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners by Natalie Rompella
Grades: 3–6
Topics: obsessive-compulsive disorder

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Grades: 9–12
Topics: psychotic disorders, schizophrenia

Resources About Anxiety and Mental Health

Anxiety in Children and Youth: A Guide for Parents from the government of British Columbia

Educator Resources from Anxiety Canada

Depression in Children and Youth: A Guide for Parents from the government of British Columbia

Ensouling Our Schools: A Universally Designed Framework for Mental Health, Well-Being, and Reconciliation by Jennifer Katz with Kevin Lamoureux

Talking About Mental Illness: Teacher Guide by the Canadian Association of Mental Health

Talking About Mental Illness: Community Guide by the Canadian Association of Mental Health

Mental Health Lesson Plans booklet from from Can We Talk

Creating a Compassionate Classroom booklet from Can We Talk

The ABCs of Mental Health from the SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health 

Everyday Mental Health Classroom Resource from School Mental Health Ontario

Teach Mental Health Literacy: Teaching MHL (Ages 12–19) from the University of British Columbia

Supporting Minds: An Educator’s Guide to Promoting Students’ Mental Health and Well-being for Grades K–12 by Ontario’s Ministry of Education 

Primary Education Resources for Teachers from the Canadian Association of Mental Health

Secondary Education Resources for Teachers from the Canadian Association of Mental Health

Numbers/Contacts/Resources if you are experiencing crisis

Outside Canada:

  • IMALIVE: Visit https://www.imalive.org/ to chat online with a trained volunteer.
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline US: 1-800-273-8255
  • Crisis Text Line US: Text MHA to 741741
  • Hopeline UK: 0800 068 4141

Canada-Wide: 

  • Youthspace.ca: Visit www.youthspace.ca to access Youth Text 778-783-0177 (6:00 p.m.–midnight PST) and Youth Chat (6:00 p.m.–midnight PST).
  • Crisis Services Canada: Call 1-833-456-4566, or text 45645 (7 days a week, 4:00 p.m.–midnight EST).
  • Canadian Crisis Hotline: 1-888-353-2273
  • Wellness Together Canada: Visit https://ca.portal.gs/ to receive mental health and substance use support, such as immediate text support; information and videos on common mental health issues; mental wellness programs you can do on your own and with coaching; monitored communities of support; and individual phone, video, and text counselling.
  • The LifeLine App: Visit www.thelifelinecanada.ca for direct access to phone, online chat, text, and email crisis support; e-counselling; self-management tools; and to access crisis centres across Canada (iPhone and Android users).
  • First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line: Call 1-855-242-3310 for counselling available in English, French, Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktitut.

Ontario:

  • Telehealth Ontario: 1-866-797-0000
  • Parents’ Lifelines of Eastern Ontario: Call the Parents’ Helpline at 613-321-3211 or 855-775-7005 to speak with a Family Peer Supporter, or visit https://www.pleo.on.ca/ for resources such as the Parent Support Group or One-on-One Mobile Service.

Manitoba: 

  • Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Mobile Crisis Service: Call 204-940-1781 to speak to a member of the Mobile Crisis Staff, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Klinic Crisis Line: 204-786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019 
  • Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line: 1-877-435-7170 (1-877-HELP170)
  • Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services: Call 1-866-367-3276 (Monday–Friday, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.) or visit www.supportline.ca for online counselling. 

British Columbia: 

  • Crisis Line Association of BC: Call 1 (800) SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) to speak with a crisis line worker, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • 310 Mental Health Support: Call 310-6789 for toll-free provincial access to emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre: Call 604-875-2084 or 1-800-665-1822 to speak with a Parent-in-Residence for peer support for families, parents, and caregivers with children or youth with mental health challenges (Monday–Friday, 9:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.). 

Saskatchewan: 

  • HealthLine 811: Call 8-1-1 to speak to a mental health professional completely free. Deaf and hard-of-hearing residents can access HealthLine 811 by using the SaskTel Relay Operator service at 1-800-855-1155.
  • Mobile Crisis Helpline: 306-757-0127
  • Crisis Suicide Helpline: 306-525-5333
  • Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Centre: 306-933-6200

Quebec: 

  • Suicide Action Montreal: 1-866-277-3553 or 514-723-4000 
  • Le Centre d’Aide 24/7: 819-595-9999
  • Centre d’Écoute Le Havre: 514-982-0333 (Monday–Friday, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.)
  • Ligne Parents (association québécoise pour la réadaptation psychosociale): 1-800 361-5085 (24 heures sur 24, 7 jours sur 7)

Alberta: 

  • Mental Health Helpline: 877-303-2642 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
  • Distress Centre Calgary: 403-266-4357 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
  • Canadian Mental Health Association, Edmonton Region: 780-482-HELP (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
  • Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre: 780-594-3353 or 1-866-594-0533 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

New Brunswick: 

  • Chimo Helpline: 1-800-667-5005 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Newfoundland & Labrador:

  • Mental Health Crisis Line: 1-888-737-4668 or 709-737-4668
  • Mobile Crisis Response Team (St. John’s Region): 709-737-4668

Nova Scotia:

  • Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team: 1-888-429-8167 or 902-429-8167 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
  • Crisis Text Line: Adults can text NSSTRONG to 741741 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
  • Good2Talk Nova Scotia: University or College students can call 1-833-292-3698 or text GOOD2TALKNS to 686868.
  • Therapy Assistance Online: Visit https://taoconnect.org/what_is_tao/ns/ to complete interactive activities and videos designed to help individuals facing mental health challenges.

Prince Edward Island: 

  • The Island Helpline: 1-800-218-2885 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Northwest Territories: 

  • NWT Help Line: 1-800-661-0844 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Nunavut:

  • Kamatsiaqtut Nunavut Helpline: 867-979-3333 or 1-800-265-3333
  • Embrace Life Council: Visit http://inuusiq.com/ to access mental health resources, community supports, and stories. 
  • Ilisaqsivik Toll-free Counselling Line: 1-888-331-4433 

Yukon: 

  • Reach Out Support Line: 1-844-533-3030 (7 days a week, 2:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.)
  • Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Region: Youth, adults, families, and couples can call 867-668-6429 to book an appointment to receive free counselling (Monday–Friday, 9:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.)
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Two New Indigenous Graphic Novels for Teens that Hit Close to Home

Leaves aren’t the only things dropping this season! Two highly anticipated young adult graphic novels are making their way down the pipeline this fall. Both releases will capture the attention of teens and adults alike by shedding light on resonant, real-life issues with stories told through the eyes of complex Indigenous protagonists.

Taking off from where David A. Robertson’s popular The Reckoner trilogy left off, Breakdown, acts as a fourth instalment to the series in the form of a graphic novel. Fans of The Reckoner will get to see Cole, Eva, and other returning characters portrayed with striking illustrations by Scott B. Henderson and vibrant colours by Donovan Yaciuk.

Also on the horizon, From the Roots Up is the long-awaited sequel to Surviving the City and part of Tasha Spillett’s Surviving the City series. Illustrated by Natasha Donovan, the graphic novel follows a group of young people as they struggle with love, loss, belonging, identity, and sexuality.

The Reckoner Rises

In what promises to be a thrilling new graphic novel series, the first volume of The Reckoner Rises, Breakdown, starts where the last book of Robertson’s trilogy, Ghosts, left off. Mentally and physically reeling from the events at Wounded Sky, Cole Harper struggles to gain control of his mental health. 

Meanwhile, Eva works overtime to coordinate the assault on Mihko Laboratories while keeping an eye on Cole. Strange forces seem to be working against them, but Eva knows Cole and the rest of The Bloodhound Gang need her strength now more than ever.

Breakdown addresses the complexities of managing mental illness when life doesn’t wait for you. Set in Winnipeg, the graphic novel explores another way to be a hero, even in the face of anxiety and trauma.

With Robertson’s dynamic storytelling and Henderson and Yaciuk’s captivating, full-colour artwork, Breakdown brings this story of struggle, hope, and survival to life in a new, immersive medium. Get a peek behind the scenes below.

 

Surviving the City

Speaking of survival, Dez and Miikwan are back in the second instalment of the Surviving the City series, From the Roots Up. The new volume centres around the best friends in the aftermath of a tragedy that has changed the course of Dez’s life. Meanwhile, Dez struggles with a secret that only one other person knows—and it’s starting to weigh on them both.

Thankfully, all is not lost for the resilient teens. Love is all around them, both in the flesh and in spirit. Dez treads carefully as she navigates high school romance, while a mysterious new student has caught Miikwan’s eye. Could this newcomer be the catalyst to something bigger?

In From the Roots Up, as in Surviving the City, Spillett approaches tough, relatable topics for teens with compassion and without judgment. As the characters seek to find their paths through grief, tradition, and their own truths, Dez and Miikwan learn how much power they really have to create positive change for their communities.

“As a high school social studies and English teacher, I saw the power of graphic novels and comics in working with young people and in helping them to express themselves.”
–Tasha Spillett

About the Authors

David A. Robertson (he, him, his) is a member of Norway House Cree Nation and the award-winning author of books like When We Were Alone (winner Governor General’s Literary Award), Will I See? (winner Manuela Dias Book Design and Illustration Award), Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story (listed In The Margins), and The Reckoner trilogy (winner Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction, McNally Robinson Best Book for Young People). David’s lived experiences with anxiety disorder informed many of his creative decisions while writing the character of Cole Harper. David has written, reflected, and spoken at length about contemporary issues experienced by Indigenous peoples in Canada. He currently lives in Winnipeg.

Tasha Spillett (she/her/hers) is a celebrated educator, poet, and emerging scholar who draws her strength from both her Nehiyaw and Trinidadian bloodlines. Throughout her career, she has focused much of her work and writing in service of land and water defence, as well as the protection of Indigenous women and girls. Tasha is currently working on her PhD in Education through the University of Saskatchewan, where she holds a Vanier Canada Award.

About the Artists

Scott B. Henderson (he/him/his) is an author/illustrator and creator of sci-fi/fantasy comic The Chronicles of Era. He has also created art for many other books and graphic novels, including the Canadian Air Force’s For Valour series, the Tales From Big Spirit series, the 7 Generations series, the A Girl Called Echo series, select stories in This Place: 150 Years Retold, Fire Starters, and the Eisner-award nominated book A Blanket of Butterflies.  In 2016, he was the recipient of the C4 Central Canada Comic Con Storyteller Award.

Donovan Yaciuk (he/him/his) is a master of the art of colouring for comics and graphic novels and has contributed work to Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and HighWater Press titles including the A Girl Called Echo series and This Place: 150 Years Retold. He lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with his wife and daughter.

Natasha Donovan (she/her/hers) is a Métis illustrator originally from Vancouver, British Columbia. Her sequential work has been published in This Place: 150 Years Retold, and the Wonder Women of History anthology. She is the illustrator of the award-winning graphic novel Surviving the City, as well as the award-winning Mothers of Xsan children’s book series, and the forthcoming picture book biography Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer. She lives by the Nooksack River in Washington State.

Catch Up with Your Favourite Heroes!

Breakdown and From the Roots Up are both slated for release on October 27, 2020. Pre-order your copies today and be among the first to find out whether Cole and Eva defeat Mihko Labs once and for all, and what this school year has in store for Dez and Miikwan!

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Orange Shirt Day: Guiding Conversations about Residential Schools in the Classroom

September 30th is Orange Shirt Day—a nationally-recognized event to acknowledge the harm inflicted by residential schools. For educators, this day represents a special opportunity to engage young people in important discussions about residential schools and other structures of systemic racism. 

There’s no way around it; these conversations are hard. They’re painful, delicate—and necessary. So, where are we to begin?

We spoke to three prominent Indigenous authors to get their take on the meaning behind Orange Shirt Day, and how educators can participate in creating a more equitable future for residential school survivors and their families.

 

David A. Robertson on the Origin and Importance of Orange Shirt Day

David A. Robertson is a member of Norway House Cree Nation and the author of several award-winning books for children and young adults, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for When We Were Alone, coming later this month in a bilingual Swampy Cree and English edition. His work focuses on creating captivating works that reflect the cultures, histories, and contemporary issues affecting Indigenous peoples in Canada.

PMP/HWP: Where does Orange Shirt Day come from?

DAR: Orange Shirt Day originates from an experience of one residential school survivor that is common to many, that is the attempted elimination of cultural identity. 

A student, Phyllis Webstad, on her first day at residential school had her new orange shirt taken from her by school administration. We know today that Phyllis’s story is representative of the experiences many Indigenous children had while attending residential school, and we recognize it to both remember what happened, and honour survivors, but also to ensure we do not repeat history. 

I think, as well, we should use it as a day to keep our eyes and hearts open, because it is a history that is still happening, through systems like child welfare. Ultimately, Orange Shirt Day is a day of reflection and awareness.

PMP/HWP: You’ve written several books that address the impact of residential schools on Indigenous peoples. Your children’s book, When We Were Alone, also frames loss of identity through the school’s control over Nokóm’s clothing. Why do you think clothing is such an effective touchpoint for talking to young kids about residential schools?

DAR: You have to find ways for children to relate to Indigenous children who attended residential schools. If children can relate, they can empathize. And empathy is powerful. 

Any child can understand the expression of identity through the way that somebody dresses, or how they wear their hair. Any child, as well, can understand the impact of what it means to not be able to express identity. If I tell a child, in a safe environment, to imagine that the shirt they are wearing, perhaps a team shirt, is not welcome in the room, because in the room, only the shirt for one certain team is allowed, that child can understand the concept of assimilation. 

If I tell a child the same thing about their hair, they can likewise understand the concept of assimilation. It allows me to have a conversation with students about their individuality, the importance of their uniqueness, and how it might have affected children to not be able to express who they are. To have to be the same as everybody else. 

Kids can understand sophisticated concepts if we are able to meet them at their level, in an age-appropriate way.

PMP/HWP: Why do you think Orange Shirt Day is important?

DAR: I think it’s important because it is an entry point to have an important conversation. More than that, it brings people together to have that conversation. That coming together is an important step in the path to reconciliation. We cannot heal a broken relationship in a vacuum. We need to do it together, and we need to do it through listening, and sharing. 

What I don’t want to happen is for this conversation to happen on just one day, so a vital piece of this is to build on this day, by making each day one where we discuss reconciliation, in one form or another. Because that conversation will shape where we go tomorrow. 

 

Dr. Pamela Rose Toulouse on Leading and Enriching Classroom Conversations on Orange Shirt Day

Dr. Pamela Rose Toulouse is an Anishinabekwe (Ojibwe/Odawa woman) from Sagamok First Nation and a full professor in the Faculty of Education at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. Over the past 25 years, she has taught at all levels from elementary to post-secondary and published over 50 educator resources. Dr. Toulouse is a 3M National Teaching Excellence Fellow.

PMP/HWP: Do you have any suggestions for classroom activities teachers can try with their classrooms on Orange Shirt Day that support the message behind the event?

PRT: There are so many classroom activities that can happen on that day, such as KAIROS blanket exercises, Project of Heart events, and learning from local Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and getting out on the land. 

The key is to reach out to the Indigenous community and form a relationship that goes beyond the one day. Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity to fulfill our truthful relationships and responsibilities as caring two-leggeds. 

One of the primary activities is to engage in truth and reconciliation by finding out “who you are.” Being Canadian will be so much more meaningful when you can connect to your own ancestral stories of challenge and hope. This exploration of the past from a personal stance will give students and educators a greater appreciation for “why” Indigenous peoples are so connected to traditions, ceremonies, and the land.

PMP/HWP: You suggest inviting an Elder or Knowledge Keeper from a local Indigenous community to visit the classroom as an extension of learning. If an educator wished to do this but isn’t acquainted with an Indigenous Elder, what can educators do to respectfully make contact with a community?

PRT: Nearly every school board in Canada has an Indigenous Lead who has been entrusted with many roles in K to 12. These Indigenous Leads are the connection between educators and Elders, Metis Senators, and other Knowledge Keepers. 

There is so much diversity across the country in terms of the protocols in how to approach Indigenous resource peoples— the Indigenous Lead can assist educators with this. In the absence of an Indigenous Lead, contacting a local Friendship Centre or a local First Nation or a Métis organization is the best approach.

The gifts and the experiences shared by Indigenous Elders and Metis Senators with classrooms will leave a head to heart impact on the students—and this is something that cannot be replicated anywhere else.

PMP/HWP: How can educators continue to help young people understand the scope of residential schools beyond September 30th?

PRT: Orange Shirt Day is acknowledged once per year, but residential school survivors and their families live with the effects daily. This is why it is so critical to continue to implement the Calls to Action from the TRC and do so in relationships with Indigenous communities.

For me, Call to Action #63, “Building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect” is foundational here. It’s one thing to offer classroom lessons on the history and effects of residential schools and quite another to truly feel the depth of these impacts.

The most respectful outcome is for school communities to take that additional step and do something about it. There needs to be action beyond acknowledgments.

 

Christine M’Lot on Making Progress Through Discussion on Orange Shirt Day and Beyond

Chistine M’Lot is an Anishinaabe educator and curriculum developer from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Christine is the co-founder of Red Rising Education, and works to create Indigenous education resources for teachers. She has an extensive background working with young people in multiple capacities, including child welfare, children’s disability services, and Indigenous family planning. Christine currently teaches high school at the University of Winnipeg Collegiate.

PMP/HWP: In many Canadian schools, there are kids in the classroom who have been directly impacted by the intergenerational harms of residential schools. They might be sitting right next to kids who have no knowledge at all about this painful time in history. How can educators gently guide conversations about residential schools in a way that is constructive for everyone, and not harmful? 

CM: This is a very real scenario that most educators face while teaching about Indigenous topics. One thing that I’d like to remind teachers is that it’s important not to make any assumptions about the level of knowledge that Indigenous students may have about their histories or culture. I’ve definitely made the assumption that because a student is Indigenous, they must already know about residential schools or the direct impact that they had on their families and communities, but this has not always been the case.

   In my classroom, I try to ensure that our conversations around Indigenous topics are not always focused on the negative aspects of history. While learning about residential schools is hardly positive, I always make time to recognize the resilience and beauty in our communities. I think it’s important to show students examples of Indigenous resistance and political action that our communities partake in. It’s important to be mindful of not inadvertently showing Indigenous people as victims all the time but rather as people who continue to fight for equal rights in Canada. 

PMP/HWP: What are some discussion questions early years educators and middle/high school educators might ask their classrooms on Orange Shirt Day to keep the focus on healing?

CM: Some questions I like to ask my students include: 

  • How can we honour residential school survivors as a school and community? 
  • How can we ensure that the legacy of residential schools is never forgotten? 
  • What are some Indigenous theories and practices around wellness and wellbeing that we can utilize in our own lives?
  • How can we ensure that First Nations children get the same level of education and healthcare as the rest of Canadians?

PMP/HWP: Which resources would you recommend to educators to help them facilitate meaningful conversations about residential schools in their classrooms?

 CM: I would recommend the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Canada website as a great resource for teachers to learn about residential schools and gather teaching resources appropriate to their students’ grade level. You can visit their website here. 

I also recommend Red Rising Education for our authentic Indigenous educational resources. We created a special-edition magazine and accompanying unit plans to teach educators how to include Indigenous topics into their curricula. Our unit plans are centred around the themes of identity, community, land and water, and resistance. You can reach us by email.

HighWater Press Titles to Use on Orange Shirt Day

When We Were Alone
for ages 4–8

Written by David Alexander Robertson
Illustrated by Julie Flett

An empowering story of resistance that gently introduces children to the history of residential schools in Canada.
In When We Were Alone, a young girl notices things about her grandmother that make her curious. As she asks questions, her grandmother tells her about her experiences in a residential school. Coming later this month in a bilingual edition featuring Swampy Cree syllabics and Roman orthography alongside the original English.

Amik Loves School
for ages 4–8

Written by Katherena Vermette
Illustrated by Irene Kuziw

Amik tells Moshoom about his wonderful school. Then his grandfather tells him about the residential school he went to, much different from Amik’s school. Amik Loves School: A Story of Wisdom is one book in The Seven Teachings Stories series.

Sugar Falls
A Residential School Story
for Grades 9-12

Written by David Alexander Robertson
Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson

A school assignment to interview a residential-school survivor leads Daniel to Betsy, his friend’s grandmother, who tells him her story. Abandoned as a young child, Betsy was soon adopted into a loving family. A few short years later, at the age of 8, everything changed. Betsy was taken away to a residential school. There she was forced to endure abuse and indignity, but Betsy recalled the words her father spoke to her at Sugar Falls — words that gave her the resilience, strength, and determination to survive.

Sugar Falls is based on the true story of Betty Ross, Elder from Cross Lake First Nation.

7 Generations
A Plains Cree Saga
for Grades 9-12

Written by David Alexander Robertson
Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson

Edwin is facing an uncertain future. Only by learning about his family’s past—as warriors, survivors of a smallpox epidemic, casualties of a residential school—will he be able to face the present and embrace the future.

7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga is an epic 4-part graphic novel.

For more information about Orange Shirt Day, including Phyllis’s story, upcoming events, and resources, visit the official website at orangeshirtday.org.

 

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What Does Two Spirit Mean?

This fall brings the new school year and new books. In Surviving the City, readers connected with Indigenous teens Dez and Miikwan in a story about kinship, resilience, cultural resurgence, and the anguish of a missing loved one.

This October, Dez and Miikwan return in From the Roots Up, Volume 2 in the Surviving the City series. Dez’s grandmother has passed away. Grieving, and with nowhere else to go, she’s living in a group home. On top of everything else, Dez is navigating a new relationship and coming into her identity as a Two-Spirit person. Miikwan also has a new love interest, but she is struggling to understand what Dez is going through. Elder Geraldine is doing her best to be supportive, but she doesn’t know how to respond when the gendered protocols she’s grown up with that are being thrown into question.

But what does “Two Spirit” mean?

Elder Albert McLeod answers this question for readers in the back of From the Roots Up. We have reproduced that text here, with his permission.

What Does Two Spirit Mean?

In Algonquian nations, humans are understood to possess the same beauty and mystery associated with other elements of the Natural World. Each child born into this world has a purpose and a destiny, and carries a divine gift. This belief is expressed in the Ojibwe term aawi, which literally means he/she is who he/she is supposed to be. Algonquian people who are gender fluid and/or sexually diverse (LGBTQI) are accepted as the part of the intentional design of the Spirit and Natural Worlds, and as such, it is a cultural taboo to critique or interfere with their identity, role, or life journey.

During the early colonial period, Canada and various church groups that ran Indian Residential and Day Schools disrupted this cultural imperative and introduced homophobic and transphobic attitudes across the nation. As Indigenous LGBTQI people recovered from generations of oppression and shaming, they began to gather and share their stories and experiences. At the third gathering of Native American Gays and Lesbians in Manitoba in 1990, Dr. Myra Laramee introduced the term Two-Spirit people, and it was quickly adopted by those in attendance.

Two-Spirit is an umbrella term that provides a window into the many Indigenous Nations and societies that honoured and respected their community members who were LGBTQI. There are over 150 words and terms in various Indigenous languages that describe this diversity. The name Two-Spirit reconnects Indigenous LGBTQI to the Spiritual and Natural Worlds.

Because of the shame that was introduced to our communities, many Two-Spirit youth experience teasing, bullying, shaming, and violence because people do not want to understand who they are or accept they have a respected place in their families and communities. This discrimination has increased the rate of suicide among Two-Spirit people and results in many Two-Spirit youth becoming homeless and living in poverty. However, as we begin to decolonize and reconcile from past harms, and as this story informs us, we must continue to provide the nurturance, love, and acceptance that Two-Spirit youth crave from their families and communities.

Albert McLeod
www.albertmcleod.com
April 1, 2020

To learn more: 

https://twospiritmanitoba.ca/

https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/love-and-life-are-greatest-gifts-from-two-spirit-people-571977212.html


Surviving the City brought awareness to the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People, but From the Roots Up picks up the narrative in a conversation about gender, sexuality, and supportive allyship. These conversations are particularly relevant to today’s students—get the teacher guide for support in bringing Surviving the City (Volume 1) into your classroom! 

Pre-order From the Roots Up here.

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Six Tips for Distance Learning This Fall

by, Jennifer Lawson
Hands-On series creator

Like many teachers and university instructors across the country, the pandemic has forced me to teach my courses online for the first time. I am used to teaching in-person university classes with a lot of student participation, so this has been a challenge!

As the creator of the Hands-On series, this experience also has me thinking about the teachers, students, and parents who are navigating these unusual circumstances. As we move forward, distance, remote, or blended learning is likely to be the norm for many of us. How can we create engaging learning opportunities for students, even from a distance?

Below are some of the questions you might have, along with a few thoughts on how to successfully plan for distance learning.

  1. This is all very overwhelming! Where do I start?

No matter what subject you’re teaching, start with the curriculum, just like you would for any other lesson. Both in the classroom and online, create your lessons to address your specific curriculum.

Before you begin planning, review your curricular documents and use them as the foundation for your lessons. And as you plan your year, remember to give yourself credit for doing the best you can under these challenging circumstances!

  1. I don’t know what this school year will look like. Things might change partway through the year. How do I decide what to teach when?

Remember: curricular topics do not need to be taught in a particular order.

With that in mind, try to choose topics based on the season or time of year. This is especially true for science, but is a consideration for all subjects that encourage nature-based, land-based, or place-based learning.

For example, in science, lessons on plants and animals are best when students can observe and explore living things in their natural environment, such as spring and fall. On the other hand, learning about magnets can occur at any time, since it is likely to be done indoors.

Develop a year-long plan to help you determine which topics make the most sense based on the time of year. This helps address uncertainty because you will have an overview of what needs to be accomplished, and can modify that plan as the school year rolls out.

  1. Many parents are trying to work from home while also helping with school work. How do I choose activities that are practical to complete at home?

Once you have selected a topic, think about the lessons you usually teach in the classroom. Look for ideas in the suggested activities in the curriculum and your educational resources.

If you are using lessons from a Hands-On resource, it is a good idea to scan the lessons in order, since they have been developed to scaffold skills and concepts.

Regardless of the resource you are using, remember that not every part of every lesson needs to be taught. Pick and choose activities that are most appropriate for distance learning, such as activities that

  • students can do independently or with minimal assistance
  • require only a few materials
  • could include the whole family in the learning experience

Once you have chosen tasks, adapt the activities to be more easily completed at home.

  1. How can I adapt activities for students and parents to complete at home?

Given that this approach is new to all of us—teachers, students, and families alike—we need to maintain a positive and encouraging relationship with our partners in the learning process. The more family-friendly the instructions, the more success students will have in completing the tasks you assign.

When planning activities for distance learning, create simple and clear instructions for tasks. Like a very basic lesson plan, you might consider a format such as the following:

Materials Needed

Include a list of easy-to-access supplies that students have at home, or that will be provided in a distance learning package.

Task

Provide step-by-step instructions that students and parents can follow. Word these as simply as possible to help students work independently. Make sure the instructions can be understood by families learning English.

Show Your Work

Explain what students need to do to demonstrate learning. For example, students might complete a journal entry or activity sheet, draw a picture, or take a photo of a project. Photos can be taken with any digital device, but make sure to include options for students who may not have access to cameras.

Here is an example of a distance learning task, based on an activity from Hands-On Social Studies for Ontario, Grade 6:

Materials Needed

  • a variety of Canadian coins and bills (or images from online sources)
  • Activity Sheet: Symbols and Images on Canadian Currency 

Task

  1. Look at each coin or bill. Identify the symbols or images you see on each one.
  2. Talk about these symbols and images with family and friends.
  3. Complete the activity sheet.

Follow-Up

  1. Record the value of the coins and bills in the first column of the activity sheet.
  2. In the second column of the chart, record the symbol that is shown on the coin or bill.
  3. How is this symbol significant? Share ideas with your family, and check references. Record your ideas in the third column of the chart.

For example:

  1. How can I infuse nature-based experiences and help students focus?

As much as possible, encourage students to learn outdoors!

Current research (Jordan & Chawla, 2019) suggests that nature-based learning inspires students, helps them stay focused on tasks, and encourages them to get exercise. Be sure to intentionally select tasks that require students to explore nature (with adult supervision as appropriate). This is another time when the whole family can be involved.

For example, during a family walk in the neighbourhood or a local park, students can play Eye Spy to learn about colours, or take photographs of three-dimensional objects they see while studying geometrical shapes.

Source: Cathy Jordan and Louise Chawla. A Coordinated Research Agenda for Nature-Based Learning. Frontiers in Psychology, published online April 22, 2019.

  1. How can I foster accountability and celebrate learning?

One of the biggest challenges of distance learning is helping students stay engaged. As much as possible, encourage students to provide work products that show what they have done and what they have learned. This provides you with evidence of learning to track progress and achievement. Submitted work might include

  • an activity sheet
  • a written story
  • a book report
  • a video presentation
  • photographs (for example, of a makerspace project)
  • a slideshow
  • an audio recording or podcast

Since many families have access to digital cameras on phones or tablets, photography is a great way for students to record their learning process. Sharing slideshows and photographs with classmates can also help students stay connected with one another.

And, of course, for students who might not have access to technology, have them submit hardcopies of their work (for example, drawings, activity sheets, or written work), which you can then photograph to share with the class.

Try to plan a variety of tasks to maintain students’ interest, and celebrate their successes each step of the way. Stay connected and provide feedback regularly. Celebrate learning as a class by sharing experiences and accomplishments.

These six tips are just a starting point. What have been your successes and challenges with distance teaching and learning? Let us know in the comments!

Looking for curriculum resources to help you with your planning this fall? Check out the Hands-On series, and find the resources for your province and grade level here.

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Enjoy the View (Inside)!

Savour one last excursion before the summer ends!

Take a virtual tour and view inside two upcoming graphic novels that explore the experiences of Indigenous teenagers. Enjoy this sneak peek into Breakdown

and From the Roots Up.

 

Retrieve your boarding pass and read the excerpts by downloading the following pdf. Enjoy_View_Inside_Breakdown_RootsUp(2)

Once you’ve had a chance to take this tour, let us know if you Enjoyed the View(Inside)! Share your thoughts, reactions, and ideas for using these books with your students at #HWPviewinside.

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