Imagining new worlds

Origins Stories: David A. Robertson

David A. Robertson is a celebrated and prolific Winnipeg author whose work has achieved widespread acclaim.

David A. Robertson is the author of the 7 Generations series, Will I See? and The Reckoner trilogy. He lives in Winnipeg and is a member of Norway House Cree Nation. 

In 2017, he won the Governor General’s Literary Award for his book When We Were Alone. However, Robertson did not start out as an award-winning writer.

Robertson wrote his first poetry while sitting alone in the dark coat room at the back of his third-grade class. His teacher had assigned students to write a single poem. Prior to this, Robertson had not done a lot of writing, but he suddenly found himself composing 10 poems.  

After his teacher turned his poems into a booklet, Robertson could imagine himself doing nothing else and has written almost every day since.

In middle grades, he focused mainly on short stories, returning to poetry later in high school. While in university, he focused on poetry and longer stories. It was then that Robertson started reading more to improve his writing. He also learned the importance of practicing to better a craft, reading to see how other writers approach things and writing to develop a personal style and voice.

Now, Robertson is interested to see what kinds of change can be created through his publications. “We are all teachers. We can all educate,” he says, mentioning that it’s just a matter of teaching and modelling.

His goal is to educate children and youth about different topics through an Indigenous lens, including foster care, Cree culture, Indigenous history, culture, contemporary issues and resiliency. 

“What I want them to learn, to teach, I take that responsibility seriously. (It’s important) to have a good message, especially to youth. They will create the change,” Robertson says.  

Recently, Robertson has moved on from writing about trauma-based stories. While he notes their importance (especially since there haven’t always been platforms to discuss these issues), he wants to be careful about victimization. According to Robertson, there is another side to stories, namely, “resiliency and power.”

Robertson also writes for fun. “I like creating new characters, imagining new worlds and reimagining classic literature, paying homage to it through a different lens,” he says.

Before COVID-19, Robertson used to travel a lot for work, giving talks, lectures and visiting classrooms. Oddly enough, Robertson has found that his reach, in a way, has increased. In early February, he did three talks to classrooms in Austria. Robertson thinks it is wild that he can “expand my reach by standing around in my PJs.”

Robertson has three books coming out later this year: On The Trapline in May, The Great Bear in September (the sequel to The Barren Ground in  the Narnia-inspired series The Misewa Saga) and Version Control: The Reckoner Rises Vol 2.

Published in Volume 75, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 10, 2021)

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