By: Isabella Wang, SFU Student
On April 25, One Book One SFU saw a sold out crowd gather to see Eden Robinson and Cherie Dimaline live. One Book One SFU is an annual event committed to bringing together renowned authors, artists, and scholars for dialogue and discourse. In the past, it has featured authors such as Teju Cole, Meggie Nelson, and Ivan Coyote, who introduced Cherie Dimaline as the moderator this year.
Eden Robinson is a Haisla/Heiltsuk author of six books, including the trilogy series Son of a Trickster and Trickster Drift. Cherie is a Métis author and editor whose work has been read and celebrated across the globe. Her bestselling novel The Marrow Thieves won the Governor General’s Award for English-language children’s literature, among others.
Having arrived at the event two hours early, I got a hug from Eden Robinson and front-row seats. For most of the afternoon, the audience members beside me were bent over laughing. So was I. I had tears in my eyes. And as Ivan Coyote later reflected, they had a sore stomach from laughing so hard for three hours.
In their introduction, Ivan begins by sharing an anecdote of how they first met Cherie at an airport departure gate. Both writers were on their way to the same literary festival and, by the time they arrived, Ivan felt as if they had been soulmates since they were eight.
They use this as a way of demonstrating the power of narrative, how stories shape our lives, and how we situate ourselves in relation to the land and each other. Indeed, narrative seems to be what connects all three authors at the event. Cherie knocks back with a cheeky comment of her own, saying that Ivan is such a gentleman and that every time she’s in town, they offer to cook her a chicken.
Thus goes the entire preceding, structured around inside jokes, talk of microdoses and psychedelic mushrooms, and personal narratives as Cherie and Eden share with us their experiences as writers. As Eden laments, there is a certain expectation to be sought whenever the reader reads a text that is dark and humorous, like hers. As a result, she says that people expect dark from her, and they are often disappointed when they see her walk onto stage — the punchline being that in person, she is the most warm, huggable human being to walk the planet, with a very contagious laugh.
On inspiration, Eden recounts how The Trickster Trilogy actually started out as a 10-page story written while she was feeling stuck between projects. She loved hearing stories about tricksters told in her family, so she decided to write one in order to prove to them that you can insert humour into grim and intense stories. On process and revision, Eden shares how she had divided earlier drafts of Son of a Trickster and Monkey Beach into scenes and pinned them all across her apartment suite, adding that she didn’t get the damage deposit back.
Cherie’s first book only took six weeks to write. She confesses to telling that to people at the Giller while leaving out the part about having to write 11 additional drafts afterwards. Wrapping up, Cherie asks Eden what she is currently reading. Eden smiles and says Empire of Wild. It’s Cherie’s newest dystopian sci-fi novel, coming September 2019.
No conversation on writing is ever complete without talk of the paycheque. Both writers reveal what they each did with their first advances. Cherie got $200 and bought beef jerky, the most expensive item she could find at 7/11. She then laughed at herself, bemoaning her meagre advance and splurge, when she found out that Eden went on holiday for six weeks.
It’s a different time now, where money is perhaps not worth what it used to be. The opposite can be said for narrative and, with the rise of Indigenous voices and writers today, these two authors are proof that our words, our stories, hold as much weight as ever.