Also, I’ve just been given the green light to interview her. So stay tuned for some pre-reading scoop!
Who is Pascal Girard? I’ll give you 2 hints:
Hint #1: I interviewed him.
Hint #2: He’s coming to Bishop’s for SWEET.
Read on to hear a little more of his story.
I was hoping you could tell us a bit of your story and how you came to be a graphic novelist.
I would say that I’m a cartoonist more than graphic novelist. I only did one long story. All my other work is short.
I’m always been interest in comic books. I studied cinema in university, but I didn’t like the team work aspect of it (I prefer to work alone). After I got my degree, I began to draw comics. I showed them to Jimmy Beaulieu, another cartoonist who was a publisher too at the time, he liked them and told me to do more so he could publish a book. That’s what I did, and since then I do books.
You mentioned that you’ve always loved comic books. Which comics did you read? Which ones inspired you the most?
I read a lot of Archie comics. Mostly that. And Peanuts, Garfield, Astérix, that kind of thing. I think Peanuts inspired me the most. Especially the character of Charlie Brown. My book, “Bigfoot,” is kind of an Archie story.
Now that I think of it, I was reminded of Peanuts comics when I saw your graphic novel (I was only able to see a few sample pages, so if I’m completely off on this, please let me know). Let’s talk a little bit about your graphic novels; for people out there who don’t know it, can you tell us what it’s about and why you chose to write it?
I see “Bigfoot” as kind of like an Archie story. The main character is also a bit of a teenage version of Charlie Brown. Bad things happen to him but he doesn’t let it get him down (too much). It’s a book mostly about a teenager and new technologies. It’s the story of a teenager who is a “celebrity” on YouTube because of a video of himself that someone put on the website without asking him.
Reunion is just a comedy about my high school reunion that happened 2 or 3 years ago. I was mostly inspired by “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and Larry David. It’s a book where awkward situations happen one after another after another.
If I understand correctly, Reunion is very much based on your life.
Not really. I would say it’s half-half. Half true, half fiction. Mostly it’s like all my books. I’m inspired by real life events, but I build a story with them. For reunion, I just used myself as a character, but the character is not me. Kind of like a comedian.
You also mentioned that it’s inspired by “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. Do you mix fiction with nonfiction then?
Yes. Mostly. But most of the writers I know do that. (I think.)
So our second reading of the year is now done. “What’s next?” you might ask (I know you’re asking it, don’t lie). I’ll tell you what’s next.
Okay, so some of you might remember rumours last year about a creative writing weekend here at Bishop’s. Authors coming and giving Bishop’s students advice about their writing and how to make it in the industry.
Weeeeell, those rumours are true. (you might have already gathered this from the posters on campus, BUT if you hadn’t, I’m glad I was the one to announce it).
This writing weekend is called SWEET (the Student Writing Weekend in the Eastern Townships). I think it’s an appropriate name because this weekend is like candy. Glorious, delicious, literary candy.
The Morris House Reading Series is partnering up on this one, so Anne Michaels is going to kick off the weekend with her reading. Then, we’re also going to be bringing in John Moss, Jeramy Dodds, and Jeffrey Moore for you guys. And that’s just the Morris House portion. We also have professional bloggers (you know I’m going to see that one), graphic novelists, mystery authors, poets, and critics coming in. It’s going to be a kick-ass weekend.
So from now on, I’m going to be writing about Morris House, but I’m also going to be writing about SWEET. Stay tuned, I have more interviews coming your way!
Okay, so one really cool thing about being an intern is that you get to get experience in your field and grow as a person… We also get dinner!
As a student, nice meals are kind of a big deal. Nice meals with one of my favourite profs, one of my great friends Alexis, our SWEET intern, and Kateri freakin Akiwenzie-Damm.
Yeah, dinner was pretty sweet.
We usually go to Shalimar, cause Shalimar is delicious.
And then we have massively intellectually conversations about deeply complex social issues of the utmost importance (translation: we crack jokes and talk about 9Gag).
Fun fact: both Dr. Morra and Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm did not know about 9Gag. My “like a sir” reference was completely lost on them (although Kateri was saying “like a sir” by the end of the night).
We also talked about, geez, I’m trying to remember. You know those conversations you have about the world and what we think might happen in the next few years since oil is running out and we’re over-populated and Europe andAmericaare so overwhelmed with debt? And you talk about the food industry and preservatives, and about how crazy everything is and it’s not totally demoralizing cause you’re all trying to anticipate what’s going to happen next. Like, are we going to collapse? Pull out in time (sexy joke!)? Or become a magical utopia? Those conversations about all kinds of things that just kind of meld into each other in between mouthfuls of deliciously spicy food.
That’s what dinner was like.
If I could bring you all there and share that moment with you, I would. Some authors are prima donnas, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have hit some great ones. Kateri and Tess Fragoulis (back in October) have been a pleasure.
So, Kateri couldn’t make it to the reading…
Just kidding. (Almost had you there, didn’t I?)
Actually, Kateri almost had us there. Here, wait. Let me backtrack a little bit.
Okay, so the last time I talked to you guys, I’d been worried that Kateri might cancel on us; she told me she wasn’t feeling well and I told her not to worry about the second part of the interview. I figured her health mattered more. And I worried, because that’s what I do.
Then I got an email with part two of the interview. And nothing else. Just the answers to the questions, which I was super happy with.
I was so happy with the interview that, well, I was in my own little happy bubble. I didn’t realize that my supervising professor, Dr. Morra, had not heard back from Kateri at all. We didn’t hear anything from her for a few days. Not a word.
So the day of the reading rolls by and we have no idea what to expect. We figure we’ll probably hear from Kateri a few hours before the reading, and that everything should go smoothly enough. But then 3pm comes and goes and we still haven’t heard a word. 3:30 rolls by, then 4. I start to expect the worst. Is Kateri too sick to come? Did she forget the reading was today? Did her car crash? 4:15. Was she kidnapped? Abducted by aliens? Held at ransom by some deranged fan? Ten minutes before the reading, Morra and I give up all hope of ever seeing Kateri. Hopefully, she’s still alive and doing okay. We start calculating what expenses are refundable.
By the time it’s 4:30, I’m trying to figure out how to tell people that the reading is cancelled. Sorry folks, but we seem to have lost the author.
Then, Morra’s cell phone rings. It’s Kateri. She’s a bit lost in Sherbrooke, but she should be here soon. Alexis (our amazing SWEET intern), Morra and I have never been so relieved. Morra goes outside to wait for her in the cold (oh, the things we do for readings).
When Kateri strolled into the bookstore, it was like seeing a unicorn after your parents told you they were all dead. She just strolled in like a boss, took two seconds to collect her thoughts, and then went on to give one of the best readings this series has ever seen. It was amazing.
Kateri is the third Indigenous author the reading series has ever had (she was preceded by Richard Van Camp and Armand Ruffo). May she not be the last. Most of us know close to nothing about Indigenous issues. How many of us know about residential schools? The reserves? About Indigenous history, period. Bishop’s doesn’t even have a professor for Indigenous literature. If profs (like Dr. Morra) didn’t jump out of their field to try it, then we wouldn’t even have the little that we do.
I started wondering about my interview with Kateri. Why hadn’t I asked any questions about her heritage and culture? I felt comfortable enough asking her about editing erotica, but too nervous to ask about First Nations. What does that say?
Thursday was the kind of reading that really got me thinking, which is exactly what a reading should do.
It was also a lot of fun. Her reading was fantastic. I’m going to tinker around with the blog to try and get some pictures up for you guys. Aaaaaand, if you’re good, I might even give you some details about what the supper was like (9Gag was involved).
Also, I want to say a huge thank you to the Bishop’s Bookstore, ITS, Dr. Linda Morra and Alexis Chouan. And last, but certainly not least: Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm. Team awesome. Great reading guys!
Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm is amazing. Enough said. Enjoy the second part of the interview folks!
Can you tell us a bit about your publishing house, Kegedonce Press?
Kegedonce Press publishes the work of Indigenous writers. You can check the website for more info (www.kegedonce.com). What I do want to say is that Kegedonce Press survives because of the commitment of those involved. Without the dedication of Renee Abram, Kegedonce Press would not survive these difficult times in publishing and more importantly, as Indigenous publishing inCanada is developing.
I noticed that you are the editor of Without Reservation: Indigenous erotica. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
Without Reservation came about partly in response to the testimonies of sexual abuse that started coming out when Residential School Survivors began to come forward with their stories about the reality of life in theIndianResidentialSchoolsystem. It was overwhelming to realize that so many of our children had suffered in that way. I needed, and I believed other Indigenous people needed, some positive stories and images to help us get through this and to overcome it. Initially, I was looking for stories about love and healthy relationships between Indigenous people and was shocked that I found very very little. Even when I looked internationally. So, I started talking to other Indigenous writers and artists about it and collecting work for what would eventually become Without Reservation. Today, I believe it is a very important anthology – perhaps the most important one in the past several decades – because it opened a dialogue. In a way, it gave us permission to once again express our sexuality in the way that we wanted and not simply in response to racist and colonial actions.
What are some of the projects you are currently working on (if you’re at liberty to say)?
I’m always working on a few different projects. I’m currently trying to find time to complete two collections of short stories. I also have been working, slowly, on a libretto for an opera – but that’s a longer term project.
And now for some lighter questions:
What is your favourite book?
One of my favourite books is Love Medicine and One Song by Gregory Scofield. Another is Potiki by Patricia Grace, a Maori writer.
That’s difficult, I’m not sure. I do like Marie Clements’ work.
One thing you would love to do in the next 5 years.
In the next five years I’d love to be able to spend a year devoted to writing.
One place you would love to visit.
For years I’ve been wanting to go to Iceland but haven’t made it yet.
If you were standing on a mountain and you had one thing to shout out to the world and they would all hear it, what would you yell?
I would yell: Love one another!