NorthWords NWT honors writers with literary awards

Northerners Katłįà (Catherine) Lafferty and Isis Essery, along with her sister Rhiannon White, walked away with writing awards at the NorthWords NWT weekend event titled Gather, which celebrated literature.

“Oh, that’s great because the Northwest Territories is my home and the book is set in the North,” Lafferty said of his award. “(It’s an honor.”

Lafferty won the Adult Book Award, as well as $1,000 in prize money for her novel titled Land-Water-Sky/Ndè-Tı-Yat’a, which was published in 2020.

Meanwhile, Essery and White won the Youth Book Award for I Love You More Than The North Is Vast, also released in 2020.

“I didn’t expect that at all,” Essery said. “It’s a real honor to be recognized like this. There are so many great authors in the North, so it’s nice to be recognized and to be among them. It was a very good surprise. »

Isis Essery, holding a copy of I Love You More Than The North Is Vast, received the NorthWords NWT’s Youth Book Award presented at the organization’s Gather event on Saturday, April 2. Photo courtesy of Isis Essery

Lafferty’s Earth-Water-Sky/Ndè-Tı-Yat’a, a novel of over 170 pages, also received a nomination for the Indigenous Voices Awards in 2021.

Although she was unable to accept the NorthWords Prize in person at the Elks Lodge on the evening of April 2 due to academic disputes, Lafferty, who is attending the University of Victoria for her fourth year of law school, had prepared a speech d ‘acceptance.

“It’s an honor to receive an award from where I come from,” she wrote. “Thank you to NorthWords for the continued recognition of my work. This award represents my home, which makes it even more special. It’s also the first award I’ve ever received for my writing — other than when I was in 5th grade and I wrote a short story about something I can’t remember. All I know is that it won a small prize, but this one doesn’t quite live up to this one!”

Land-Water-Sky/Ndè-Tı-Yat’a, published in 2020, is the second literary work published by Katłįà ‘Catherine’ Lafferty. Photo from NNSL file

Lafferty’s book first began as a non-fiction short story she wrote while at her grandmother’s house one summer.

However, through the writing process, he would eventually move from non-fiction to the realm of fiction.

“I took the truth and kind of twisted it and played with it, and exaggerated the truth until it kind of became something much bigger than the new and I continued with that,” she said. “A lot of the stories are centered on certain important themes like the apprehension of children in the reception system in the North and in Canada, more or less. Then there is also the theme of land dispossession and corporate corruption, corporate greed. »

The book also serves as a tribute to Lafferty’s grandmother’s homeland.

“The blanket is where my grandmother was born. It is an island in Great Slave Lake called Nishi Island,” she said. “So I put my heart into it. It has a lot of meaning throughout.

As for the Youth Book Award winners, Essery wrote I Love You More Than The North Is Vast while White illustrated it, after Essery’s first child was born.

“It just occurred to me,” Essery said. “Then, so Rhiannon is my sister, and she’s an amazing illustrator, so I asked her if she would illustrate it for me.

“Then I’m a graphic designer, so we kind of worked together on the design and put it all together,” she continued. “It was really a collaborative process, so it was really great to work with my sister, and it’s just a really fun little project for us.”

The book follows different kinds of children, as well as “different kinds of love” and where it can come from.

“So love can come through your parents, your grandparents, your friends, your family,” Essery said. “So it’s just pretty little rhymes about how much this kid is loved through northern rhyming types, I guess, and pictures.”

Looking at what the future holds for writers, Lafferty aims to finish law school before returning to the North. Essery would like to write another book with her sister.

“We definitely talk about it all the time,” laughed Essery.