Nunavut authors come together to celebrate northern writing

It's important for children to see their surroundings, language and culture reflected in books, said author Jesse Mike

Several books by local authors will be launched at the event in Iqaluit this weekend

Illustrations in the book Sukaq and the Raven were created by photographing dioramas. Once the photographs were taken, the art was dismantled. (Submitted)

An event celebrating Nunavut authors and their importance to the community gets underway Sunday afternoon in Iqaluit.

The Nunavut Author Event is scheduled to take place at the Frobisher Inn, with around a dozen writers on hand for a book signing and other activities.

"Basically [it's] a celebration of Nunavummiut authors, of Inuit authors, the northern story, northern perspectives and why it's so important to have stories told by people that live in the North," said Neil Christopher, one of the managing partners of Inhabit Media, the publisher of these authors.

Among the authors attending is Jesse Mike. She said it's great, especially for children, that there are stories based on the territory, their surroundings, language, culture and customs — whether they are traditional stories or not.

"People who look like me, or sound like me, or eat like me, and have names like me ... that is something that is so crucial and not something we grew up with," Mike said. "I'm so grateful that my daughter gets to grow up with that."

Mike co-authored the book Families with Kerry McCluskey. It's a look at the different kinds of family structures that exist in Nunavut — nuclear, blended, single parent and more.

"It just worked very well," McCluskey said of their collaboration. "We worked well together."

While she has been a writer since she was a child, McCluskey said it wasn't until her son was born that she started thinking about children's books. Now, her son plays a big role in the writing process. 

"Whenever I am working on a project, I am working on it with him, reading him drafts, looking at his reactions, seeing what he thinks about it and then changing it around to suit him more," she said. "He's a very important person in these projects."

Along with Families, McCluskey will see another one of her books launched at Sunday's event — Sukaq and the Raven. It's based on a traditional creation from her co-author and Inuit storyteller Roy Goose.

The staff at Inhabit Media wanted to come up with creative imagery for Sukaq and the Raven, so they hired Soyeon Kim to design dioramas that could then be photographed.

"These are photographs of this physical structure that was made, layered floating artwork, almost like a mobile," Christopher said. "If you look at the book quickly, you might not notice it. But if you look at it carefully, you see these little strings." 

The dioramas were created, photographed and then taken apart again before the next one was built.

McCluskey said she doesn't have the words to describe how she felt seeing the finished product.

"You hold it in your hands, you open the pages, you look at the beautiful, beautiful illustrations and it's just beyond rewarding," she said.

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