We chatted with Jules Koostachin author of
Unearthing Secrets, Gathering Truths (Kegedonce Press)—an evocative collection of poetry that explores the experiences of an Indigenous woman—about a stand-out moment in junior high, journaling, and writing to tell Indigenous stories.
All Lit Up: Is there one stand-out moment or experience you had that helped you realize you wanted to become a writer?
Jules Koostachin: When I was a child I started journaling, a lot. My childhood was tough and I discovered that writing helped me stay sane. I used writing, as a way to soothe myself and to express what I was feeling, which was for the most part, was very confusing.a I remember when I was a junior in high school, we were reading to To Kill a Mockingbird and we were given a comprehension assignment. So I wrote about a girl I knew whom her father was abusing. I wrote about how she spent hours in the bathtub trying to scrub herself clean. Well, the school called the Child Protective agency, and they soon interviewed me. Apparently, my piece was so compelling that I made my teacher cry...because of the content of my essay, they thought I was in danger. I realized the power of words that day, and that I had a gift to create change/action by shedding light on what mattered to me.
ALU: What’s the most surprising thing about being a writer?
JK: I am still surprised by the reaction of people when they read my work. I watch their expressions so I know if they are connecting to my words. It’s a beautiful feeling when they travel with me.
ALU: What was your most rewarding moment as a writer?
JK: Good question! I’m not too sure yet, I think it’s when people journey with me. When I write I often get lost, travelling in memory or even better, my imagination. Writing is so very personal, but is also a place where I am truly myself without judgment. I feel safe when I write, at times I feel like I channeling stories that may not be mine; stories of the past surface.
Jules' workspace featuring Wonder Woman.
ALU: Why do you write?
JK: I’ve been journaling since I can remember and it’s always been a way for me to gather my thoughts, and make sense of what’s happening in my life. I also use it to find and explore the alternative worlds that exist in my mind and my heart. Now that I am older, writing carries new meaning; I write to tell stories of Indigenous reality.
ALU: If you wrote a memoir, what would it be called?
JK: I am currently writing a memoir called Moccasin Souls which starts in the spirit realm before birth. It’s going to be a difficult piece, but I’m ready now.
Jules' writing advice: Face your fears! Embrace your stories! Go to the place where your mind and spirit will soar!
ALU: What’s the toughest part about being a writer?
JK: Writing is not a challenging process for me. Well, that’s not entirely true, academic writing is difficult at times because it’s not personal the way creative writing is. With academic writing you always need someone to back up your ideas...I think with creative writing you can do or say whatever you feel is right. Endless exploration and self-expression!
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Born in Moose Factory Ontario, Jules Koostachin was raised by her Cree speaking grandparents in Moosonee, and also with her mother in Ottawa, a survivor of the Canadian Residential school system. Jules is a band member of Attawapiskat First Nation, Moshkekowok territory, and she currently resides in Vancouver with her partner and twin sons. She is a PhD candidate with the Institute of Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice with the University of British Columbia – her research focus is Indigenous documentary.
Jules carries extensive knowledge working in Indigenous community in several different capacities providing support to Indigenous women and children who face barriers; these community experiences continue to feed her advocacy and her arts practice.
Three fast facts about Jules
What’s your favourite food or place to eat out?
Chicken Souvlaki at Olympia with a glass of chardonnay
What’s your favourite music/band?
I love love love U2, INXS, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie, Annie Lennox, Prince, Tracy Chapman, Lenny Kravitz, Madonna, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and other music from the 80s and 90s (my era)
Favourite travel destination
I absolutely loved Ireland, it was incredibly beautiful and the people were so friendly and welcoming.
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All Lit Up acknowledges we are hosted on the lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat. We also recognize the enduring presence of all First Nations, Métis and the Inuit people, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to meet and work on this territory.