Dorene Meyer’s writing includes eleven novels, two children’s books, a biography, a resource book, and contributions to both Hot Apple Cider and A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider. Dorene is also the owner of Goldrock Press and an instructor at the University College of the North.
Dorene, you will be doing Blue Pencil Manuscript Reviews this year at Write Canada. Can you tell us how you approach a manuscript you have been asked to review?
I like to do a quick read through of the first few pages to get a feel for what the author wishes to communicate. I then have a pretty good idea of the genre, the potential audience, and how ready the manuscript is for publication. I always like to be able to advise the writer on their next step—something concrete they can do right away. With all the wonderful professionals at Write Canada, that next step often is to make an appointment with another faculty member.
Before authors fire off a manuscript for review, what is your #1 piece of advice for them?
I think the most important thing is a hook. Whatever it is you are writing, you have to have a good opening or you will lose the readers right away. My advice is to start your story with someting so fascinating that the reader simply cannot put the book down.
You are also taking appointments. When people sit across the table from you, what do they usually want to know?
What people most often want to know is an answer to the question: “Is my writing any good?” It is my belief that every sincere effort at writing is a worthy accomplishment. Our task as editors is to meet people where they are and help them on to the next step.
Why would you encourage attendees to book appointments with conference faculty?
I think it’s possible to go to a totally awesome writer’s conference such as Write Canada and just watch from the sidelines and never getting involved, taking information in but never applying it to your own writing. Making an appointment with a conference faculty member can take courage, but it is a way of stepping up and putting your work forward—and trusting God for the outcome.
What prompted you to form Goldrock Press? What kinds of books do you typically publish?
I mostly publish Aboriginal and northern authors since I live in Norway House Cree Nation, a community approximately 850 km north of Winnipeg, MB. The stated purpose of Goldrock Press is to publish and promote northern writers. For a variety of reasons, it’s very difficult to become part of the publishing world when you are geographically isolated, and I try to “even the odds” a little. I teach writing classes and mentor local authors, produce anthologies, and help publish local authors’ books. With a growing Internet presence and multiple book launches, we are becoming a visibly active part of the larger Manitoba writing community.
You write novels that feature First Nations characters. You grew up among First Nations peoples and live among them now. How can we who didn’t have such experiences effectively include people of different ethnicities in our fiction?
There is a certain timidity we feel around people who are different from us and this is normal. However, as authors of integrity, I believe we need to get to know a wide variety of people. If we do not do this, our writing will be stale and have a very limited audience. It may feel uncomfortable at first, getting to know people who are different from us in some way, but it’s just a matter of spending time with people, enough time to realize that there is no them and us; there is only us.
You have been involved in The Word Guild and Write Canada for a number of years. What keeps you coming back?
One thing that keeps me coming back is the opportunity to bring people with me. Ten years ago, when I first came to Write Canada, I was from an isolated northern community and had never met anyone from the publishing world. It was such an amazing experience for me to be able to sit down at a table with real live authors, agents, and editors! I want that same opportunity for other emerging authors. This year, I am bringing Shamin Brown, who published her book I’m An Addict with Goldrock Press. Shamin also won first place in her age category in the Fresh Ink contest, winning free registration at Write Canada.
Interview by Steph Beth Nickel