Storytelling insights pair with tales from Elders in prolific writer’s first non-fiction book

‘I promise they will swoon your spirit and heart,’ Van Camp says of stories he collected

Storytelling has the power to bring people together – even during a time of isolation. In Gather: Richard Van Camp on Storytelling, author Richard Van Camp shares his vast knowledge – components of a compelling story, storytelling techniques, and the impact storytelling can have in building community.

Van Camp, a member of the Tłįchǫ Dene First Nation, also shares some of his favourite stories from friends, family, and Elders whose wisdom has influenced him.

Gather is Van Camp’s 25th book, and his first book of non-fiction. “I’ve been recording and transcribing and collecting miracle stories from Elders, Storytellers, and Knowledge Keepers since 1991 when I was the Handi-Bus driver in my gorgeous hometown of Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, and I’ve been thinking about how we’re all craving community, culture, and connection – especially these past few years,” he explains.

Over four years, Van Camp has gone through 40 or so stories that he collected with permission to choose “the ones that have helped guide my life in terms of having faith in the universe.”

These stories include several from Elders and Knowledge Keepers about miracles they have experienced. “I promise they will swoon your spirit and heart,” says Van Camp. The audio from three of the storytellers is available on SoundCloud so readers can listen to the storytellers in their own voices.

Van Camp has high hopes for this book.

“I hope Gather inspires readers to start digitizing their old cassette recordings of family songs and stories, and digitize their family pictures, movies, recipes, gardening, looming, sewing, darning, cooking, and baking techniques. I hope families start documenting their community calendar and start reclaiming their seasonal knowledge (stars, land, moon, planets, etc.), and I hope for future birthdays and for Christmas, it is recorded stories and videos and honourings and inheritances that are passed along, instead of stuff we don’t want or need.”

Richard Van Camp
Richard Van Camp

Also recently published is a dual-language (English and Anishinaabemowin) edition of Van Camp’s board book Little You.

“Right now, Indigenous creators are using baby books, comics, graphic novels, social media, movies, books, pop culture – you name it – to celebrate and secure our culture and languages,” says Van Camp. “So far, Little You is translated into Bush Cree, Dene, South Slavey, Spanish, Ojibwe, and French, and I am so thrilled and honoured to see this.”

Always prolific, Van Camp is currently working on a variety of projects, including a book honouring a Tłįchǫ story told by Joe Lazare Zoe called “How Frog Saved Winter” (working title), which is translated into Tłįchǫ by Madelaine Pasquayak, with illustrations by Carla Rae Taylor. “It’s a teaching story about how everyone has gifts, and I can’t wait for you to read it,” he says.

Van Camp also has two graphic novels in the works, as well as an animated short film. He’s working on short story and essay collections. And Enfield & Wizenty is turning his short story collection Night Moves into an audio book. “So I’m working with our narrator, Marsha Knight, on making sure she has everything she needs to rock the classic northern accents of my characters,” he says.

“Every day is a gift when you have so many projects on the go because there is so much to look forward to.”