Prince Albert teacher and aspiring novelist grateful for opportunity with Audible Indigenous Writers’ Circle

Prince Albert teacher and aspiring novelist Danika Hudson-McLeod was one of 24 emerging writers selected to take part in the Audible Indigenous Writers’ Circle 2023 program. -- Submitted photo.

The Audible Indigenous Writers’ Circle will have plenty of Prince Albert content after local writer and teacher Danika Hudson-McLeod was selected to participate.

Hudson-McLeod was one of 24 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis writers chosen to take part in the six-month mentorship program. She said she’s grateful for the opportunity.

“I thought it was really cool that … an actual person read my story and was like, ‘I want her on my team. I want to mentor her,’” Hudson-McLeod said during a Zoom interview on Tuesday. “It was a nice stroke of confidence in my writing ability, which I’m not always confident in.”

This year’s Audible Writers’ Circle is the largest since the program started. The circle pairs aspiring novelists and poets with established writers to help elevate Indigenous voices in Canadian literature.

Applicants were judged on their strength of a written sample they provided, and on the potential benefit they would receive from joining the Writers’ Circle. Successful applicants like Hudson-McLeod will receive guidance and coaching from mentors, and take part in workshops.

They are also eligible for a $1,500 bursary to support their participation in the program, although the cost is free.

Hudson-McLeod said the program is vital for writers like herself who are trying to break into the literary world.

“I don’t feel like there’s a large enough network out there for Indigenous writers,” she explained. “Sometimes it feels like there is no place for us. This (writers’ circle) definitely helped me realize there is a place for us in the literary world.”

Hudson-McLeod began writing her current novel 10 years ago, but stopped writing during a difficult time in her life. She later lost most of the story, but felt compelled to try again when her life started to improve.

“I didn’t have it backed up, but it’s never stopped playing in my head, so it’s like, I need to get this out. It’s something I’m really passionate about,” she said.

“I’ve always wanted to write,” she added. “Ever since I was little I was always making stories up. I stopped for a while because life got really tough for me and then I sort of lost confidence in myself. When I saw (the writers’ circle) on my Facebook, I thought, ‘I have a novel that I’ve been working on for 10 years. I’ve got a chapter I can send in, and we’ll see how it goes.’”

Hudson-McLeod will be mentored by Vancouver-based Cree writer Jessica Johns, who published her debut novel, ‘Bad Cree’, in January. The two have already spoken a number of times, and Hudson-McLeod said those meetings have been encouraging.

“She’s a horror author, and I thought that was really cool. I looked right away at what she wrote, and (started) reading her stuff. It makes sense and I’m like, ‘this feels good.’ The few meetings I’ve had with her have been really good. She’s really supportive.”

Hudson-McLeod’s work in progress is a high fantasy novel inspired by Indigenous culture. She’s always been a fan of fantasy novels, and was inspired by the beauty of the Prince Albert area to mix the two ideas together.

I was always obsessed with fantasy ever since I was a little girl,” she explained. “Then Waskesiu and the surrounding lakes and the whole area, the river, it all just really inspires me. Prince Albert is really beautiful.”

Hudson-McLeod lived in Prince Albert between the ages of 16 to 23, but is originally from Regina. She moved back to Prince Albert almost a decade ago.

Ideally, she’d like to keep teaching in Prince Albert while honing her skills as a novelist, and eventually transition to writing full time.

The writers’ circle is sponsored by Audible, an online audiobook and podcast membership service that allows users to purchase and download books for listening.