Storytelling can be as simple as turning off the television, sitting down at the dinner table and telling someone about your day.
That’s the belief of Richard Wagamese, the critically-acclaimed Canadian author of novels including Indian Horse and Medicine Walk.
“When you ask somebody a question, the subtext of whatever the question is that you’re asking that person is ‘tell me a story’,” he said.
“We take the word and the idea of storytelling for granted largely not recognizing how much of a part it actually plays in our lives.”
The power of storytelling in our daily lives, and the importance of conversation in an age of digital distraction, are topics the novelist plans to discuss during an upcoming visit to Smithers.
Wagamese, who is also an award-winning newspaper columnist, is being brought to the region by the Bulkley Valley School District, Embrace B.C., the Smithers Bridging Committee and the Smithers Public Library.
The author will speak to young people in school groups about his writing, but adult readers can also hear him speak at a public presentation at the Roi Theatre on Feb. 12.
An Ojibway man who is originally from northern Ontario, Wagamese writes fiction that brings to the fore issues affecting First Nations people.
The impacts of residential schools and displaced families are some of the topics explored in his writing.
Now based in Kamloops, the author said when he writes, he thinks about writing for a person who is exactly like he was at a certain time in his life.
“I always think that there is a young person out there who is really, really struggling to try and get hold of a sense of themselves, to find out who they are, what their identity is and what they want to do in the world,” he said.
“The stories that I write are kind of directed to that phantom person that I don’t know but I always write to somebody that I suspect is just like me, just like I was.
“I want to give them a story that is entertaining, that’s enriching, that’s empowering and that has a good, solid message to it in the long run.”
When Wagamese speaks to local students this month, the author plans to walk them through his creative process.
He said young people were usually interested in his own journey to becoming a professional writer.
“I use my own life as an example of how you can imagine yourself to be somewhere that maybe you’ve never even considered before, but by imagining yourself being there you can imagine yourself doing what it takes to get there,” he said.
“Reading especially has really empowered me because I’ve only ever completed Grade 9 education and I’ve been able to do all these things in my professional career despite that.
“The reason is because of a love and a passion for reading and for language.”
An extension of that passion is his belief in the importance of storytelling in our daily lives.
He said distractions in the form of technology were getting in the way of conversation, subsequently silencing the stories he said were needed in healthy homes and communities.
“Those are all stories.
“We forget that and we need to hear those things from each other, especially in our homes and in our communities.”
Bulkley Valley School District Aboriginal Student Services principal Birdy Markert said Wagamese would be an inspiration to the school’s students.
“Through his writing you can see that he has struggled with some various issues himself and I think it’s important for students to see, here is a fellow who has struggled with different issues in his life,” Markert said.
“Still, he’s able to weave beautiful pictures together with words and draw us into his material.”
Wagamese’s public presentation will be at the Roi Theatre from 5–7 p.m. on Feb. 12.