‘So many young voices out there’: Winnipeg author heads up new indigenous children’s book imprint

A celebrated local author will be giving voice to indigenous authors as the head of a new children’s book imprint under Penguin Random House Canada (PRHC).

Starting next month, award-winning writer David A. Robertson will be Editorial Director for the still-unnamed imprint under PRHC’s Tundra Book Group, Canada’s oldest English children’s book publisher.

“(I’ve been) thinking about it for a while. I’ve been wondering what ways I could give back a little more and create opportunities for new and emerging writers. It feels really good to be able to do this,” said Robertson.

The bestselling author of the ongoing Misewa Saga, Robertson is a two-time winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award. He has also won the Writers’ Union of Canada’s Freedom to Read Award, and his books have been shortlisted for several other prestigious awards. 

Robertson says his writing has been focused on motivating kids to create social change, especially in the area of indigenous issues. In this new role, he hopes to publish stories that will help change our country.

“It’s a big part of reconciliation, storytelling,” said Robertson. “I want to obviously publish stories that are entertaining, that kids can relate to or feel reflected by, or learn about each other in. But I also want to tell stories through this imprint that motivate kids to do good things in their community.”

He says a big part of the job will be providing mentorship to inexperienced authors.

“I’ve been in the game now for 13, 14 years – it feels like a really long time,” he said.  “But I’ve learned a lot in that time. I know how difficult it is, but I also know how rewarding it is.”

As Editorial Director, Robertson will be scouting out new talent and working with them to develop new indigenous-centred children’s stories. He said there has been a lot of interest since the announcement was made last month.

“I’ve told people, ‘just give me a sec’, we have to set up the processes, we have to set up a lot of different things to prepare to get down to business,” said Robertson.

He says it will be about a year and a half to two years before the first book is published under the new imprint. Robertson said he’ll take good story ideas from anyone, as long as they have something to say.

“I don’t want it to be something where it’s unattainable for people. I want it to be an imprint where it’s possible to get your stories published,” he said.

Robertson says the publishing industry can be very tough to get into, but he encourages new writers to stick with it.

“What happens in the publishing industry is that you get denied a lot, it can be a little humbling. You have to have a thick skin, but you have to be determined,” said Robertson.

He says there are a lot of good stories just waiting to be told, and a lot of good writers who want to tell them. “I think that there’s so many young voices out there that just don’t have the opportunity to break into the publishing industry, important voices.”

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