The Next Chapter

2021 Indspire Awards recipient Drew Hayden Taylor talks about how he wrote the novel Motorcycles & Sweetgrass

In this 2010 interview, the Ojibway playwright, author and journalist spoke with Shelagh Rogers on location at Curve Lake First Nations in Ontario.
Drew Hayden Taylor is an author from Ojibway from the Curve Lake First Nations. (Sinisa Jolic/CBC, Vintage Canada)

Drew Hayden Taylor is an Ojibway playwright, author and journalist from Curve Lake First Nations in Ontario. He has worked on over 17 documentaries examining Indigenous experiences.

In 2007, Taylor debuted with the YA novel The Night WandererHis other books include Motorcycles & Sweetgrass and Take Us to Your Chief, a collection of Indigenous science fiction short stories.

Taylor is a recipient of a 2021 Indspire Award in the arts category. The Indspire Awards recognize Indigenous professionals and youth who demonstrate outstanding career achievement on a national level in a variety of fields.

The 2021 Indspire Awards will broadcast nationwide on Tuesday, June 22 at 8 p.m. (8:30 p.m. NT) on CBC TV, CBC GemCBC Radio One, the CBC Listen app and APTN. 

In this 2010 interview, Taylor spoke with Shelagh Rogers, on location from Curve Lake First Nations in Ontario, about his novel Motorcycle & Sweetgrass.

Life in Curve Lake First Nations

"In many of my novels, my plays and my short stories, there's a thinly veiled community called Otter Lake. I will come clean and say it is Curve Lake, but I do not base my characters on anybody here. 

"But I like the atmosphere, the size of the community, the interrelationships and the quirkiness of some of the characters. So the communities that appear in my books and plays is, for lack of a better term, a thinly veiled Curve Lake."

The power of dialogue

"I grew up in an oral culture. One of my fondest memories is growing up across the road from my grandparents. They had three big ash trees out front with a big bonfire pit and a bunch of chairs there. From about late May to early October, any number of mixture of aunts, uncles and cousins would come over and tell funny stories. 

"I grew up right across the road. And when I was growing up, we didn't have air conditioning. It was just an open window with mosquito netting. Every night I went to bed to the sound of people telling funny stories and laughter. That was my lullaby.

Every night I went to bed to the sound of people telling funny stories and laughter. That was my lullaby.

"I think it was Arthur Miller who said, 'I can describe more in one page of dialogue than 10 pages of prose.' As somebody who's written over 20 plays, that is how I reveal character, how I reveal background — and how I reveal history." 

Drew Hayden Taylor's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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