Reflections on Writing and Newfoundland from the contributors of Land of Many Shores
One of the reasons we love anthologies is the multitude of distinct voices that get to shine; that’s why we virtually chatted with six of the twenty-five authors contained in Land of Many Shores: Stories from a Diverse Newfoundland and Labrador, edited by Ainsley Hawthorn, (Breakwater Books) a non-fiction collection that debunks the myth of a homogeneous Newfoundland to get their varying perspectives on writing and Newfoundland.Featured on Quill & Quire’s “Joy and Diversity: Summer Reading Guide,” Land of Many Shores collects essays from often-neglected viewpoints about life in Newfoundland and Labrador. In this collection, Indigenous people, cultural minorities, LGBTQ+, people living with mental or physical disabilities and other undervalued and hidden voices are coming to the forefront, with personal, poignant, celebratory and critical visions of the land we live on.
All Lit Up: Tell us a little about yourself. Michelle Butler Hallett: I am a novelist, history nerd, and disabled person. I live with a disease called ankylosing spondylitis that is trying to fuse my spine into one long bone. I make wicked-good soups and stews.Anthony Brenton: I am a novelist and poet living with bi-polar, anxiety, and a few crumbs of other mental illnesses. I am a father and husband living in beautiful Conception Bay South. Tyler Mugford: I’m a proud Labradorian and come from Inuit ancestry. I love photography, writing, and telling stories to anyone who would listen to my ramblings. Ivan J. White: My name is Ivan J White, Mi’kmaw from Flat Bay. A creator and connector at heart. I enjoy adventuring with my beautiful wife and two incredible children. Daze Jefferies: I am a sixth-generation white settler artist, writer, and researcher born and raised in unceded Beothuk and Mi’kmaq territory on the northeast coast of rural Newfoundland. My creative and scholarly practice is deeply informed by geographies and histories of trans women (and) sex workers in Atlantic Canada. I love oceans and archives and writing rural worlds. Leila Beaudoin: My life is consumed by my cats, the news business, and a thirst for nature that never runs dry. I grew up in rural Newfoundland, and I’m always looking for ways to get back there. I got into journalism because I love the story, and I think it’s understanding each other that will make the world a better place.
ALU: Why did you decide to share your story in this anthology?Michelle Butler Hallett: Identity and autonomy are already major themes in my fiction, and, even when able-bodied, as a woman I was constantly being told who and what I am, and what I can and cannot do. I’ve had enough of that garbage. Anthony Brenton: I wanted to nestle myself between others who share a common bond as a group. And to help open up dialogue and meditations on mental illness and the benefits and tribulations therein. Tyler Mugford: I wrote this piece about residential schools in 2020 well before the horrific discoveries that were made this year. But, spreading awareness and educating people on Indigenous issues through a non-judgemental lens is something extremely important to me. Ivan J. White: For too long I’ve seen improper and incorrect representations of Mi’kmaq People from the Island of Newfoundland. I want to help change that narrative and instill pride in Mi’kmaq communities. Daze Jefferies: I believe that this anthology will add new life to literature in Newfoundland and Labrador by highlighting erased, overlooked, and silenced perspectives. My words about rural trans survival are in good company with the stories of many talented writers and gifted community members from across the province. I am especially grateful to share space with Ky Pearce, who introduced me and my work to Ainsley two years ago.Leila Beaudoin: It was time to open up about my identity. How it’s shaped my life. The hurt, the beauty. The difference I want to reclaim, the current narrative that I want to help challenge. ALU: If you had to describe life in Newfoundland and Labrador in just a few words, what would they be?Michelle Butler Hallett: Frustrating and beautiful. Anthony Brenton: Beautiful. Rugged and occasionally downright brutal. Friendly. Richly cultural.Tyler Mugford: Humbling, magical, isolating, rugged. Ivan J. White: A place full of strong, hearty life and people proud of who they are and what they’ve built.Daze Jefferies: A search for peace and solidarity in difference through deepening austerity, political unrest, and ecological crisis.Leila Beaudoin: Hard, hungry, and a book that’s left out the important parts. ALU: What’s one misconception you would change about Newfoundland and Labrador?Michelle Butler Hallett: That we’re clueless and quaint. Happiness when living here is hard-won, not a result of stupidity—and not a commodity. Anthony Brenton: The Goofy Newfie. Tyler Mugford: That this province isn’t the happy-go-lucky place people would like to have you believe. Racism and ignorance are prevalent and a very common thing in NL. Ivan J. White: The Mi’kmaq who came here were not hired guns who committed genocide of the Beothuk for Europeans. By perpetuating this myth we’ve made it ok for settlers to utilize the Burden of Proof Fallacy against an entire Indigenous group.Daze Jefferies: That it is impossible for queer and trans folks to find joyful lives in this place. We are held and we are holding on.Leila Beaudoin: That it starts and ends in the province’s capital. Too many decisions and policies are formed by suits who work in offices in St. John’s while Indigenous leaders, BIPOC, fishers, and women are often left out of the conversation.
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Thanks to the contributors who took time to answer our questions, and to Ainsley Hawthorn for coordinating this Q&A for us. And thanks to Nicole Haldoupis at Breakwater Books for sharing Land of Many Shores with us! Find it now on All Lit Up >>>