Diary: The Banff Centre’s Indigenous Writers Program

Opportunities knock at your door when you least expect them, and when they do, they can knock you right off your feet and make you ask yourself-is this really happening to me?

I applied for the Aboriginal Emerging Writer Program in 2011 through the Canada Council for the Arts. When I received confirmation in the summer of 2011 that I was accepted into the program, I literally had to shake my head a couple of times before I realized what the acceptance into the program meant for my writing career.


The Banff Centre for the Arts is an amazing place to go to, especially for Indigenous writers who are in the early stages of their writing careers. As a freelance journalist, it has always been a dream of mine to embark on expanding my writing repertoire. The program, which was previously called the Aboriginal Emerging Writer Program, is now called the Indigenous Writing Program. The Aboriginal Emerging Writer Program, as it was called in 2011, gave me a unique opportunity to study with other accomplished emerging writers and established authors such as Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, poet and owner of Kegedonce Press, Gregory Scofield, Bruce Pascoe (Indigenous Australian author), and the grandmother of Indigenous Literature, Lee Maracle.

It was amazing to sit amongst my peers and receive Maracle’s and the other faculty member’s guidance on how to hone and polish the writing project that I had been accepted into the program for. My particular project was a memoir style collection of short stories based on my experiences of growing up as part of the Sixties Scoop, being taken away from my biological parents, adopted, being put back into the child welfare system and growing up in foster care. I explore my ultimate fight to grow past the adversity of my childhood and become a successful University graduate. I also write about how I survived mental health issues that could have silenced me if I had not had certain people in my life to help me believe in myself.

The two-week residency at the Banff Centre was like a boot-camp, but it was a boot camp that focused on what I loved to do, writing! We were taught various techniques on how to get ourselves out of writer’s block and taught various types of writing, including humor writing. As well, we listened to other students, received feedback on our particular projects and individual time with our mentor.

After two weeks in Banff, participants continued with 10 weeks of online mentoring. This was where we would work on our projects, and receive editing and written feedback on our progress.

The Indigenous Writer’s Program is limited to eight writers, but I can say that I felt proud to be one of the eight chosen in 2011 to participate in a once in a lifetime opportunity.

For more information about the Indigenous Writer’s Program, please visit http://www.banffcentre.ca/programs/program.aspx?id=1012