Author spotlight: Theresa Meuse

Theresa Meuse is an author, educator, and adviser. She is the author of The Sharing Circle (Nimbus Publishing, 2003) and L’nu’k: The People (Nimbus Publishing, 2016). She has also contributed to volumes 1 and 2 of The Mi’kmaq Anthology (Pottersfield Press, 1997 and 2011). Her newest book, The Gathering, is forthcoming with Nimbus. In the following post she talks about writing, her passion for Aboriginal crafts, her work as an educator, and more.

How long have you been writing? 

I have been playing with words most of my writing and reading life, 50+ years, but never realized those words would be shared someday with others. The very first writing that I allowed others to read, would have been a true story I wrote about a Chief burying some pre-contact Aboriginal remains, that was published in The Mi’kmaq Anthology (Pottersfield Press, 1997), edited by the Late Elder Rita Joe and Lesley Choyce.

What drew you to writing in general, and writing for children in particular? 

I always liked writing poems and lyrics and to satisfy my ego in my early twenties, I paid to have my very first poem published in the ???? My interest in writing for children came when our son was starting school in 1997. When his teacher knew I was a Mi’kmaw person, she would have me present cultural education to the class. It was show & tell sessions that allowed the children to learn in a way that let them touch and see how things are made, i.e., eagle feather, talking stick, dream catcher, medicine pouch, etc. Not long after I decided to come up with another way to educate. I sat at my computer and began typing stories about the show & tell items. Using word perfect 5.1 and clip art, I started to create a paper story to go along with the teachings. This was well received by the children and they ended up becoming the manuscripts for my first published book, The Sharing Circle (Nimbus Publishing, 2003), which is still in print.

In addition to being a writer, you are also an educator. Do you see a connection between the practice of writing and the practice of teaching? 

I have come to learn that my writings seem to focus on educating. That was my goal from the very beginning and it still remains my focus. When I do a book launch or reading, I always have a display of items for people to view. I believe it helps make the teachings real to those who may be learning about it for the first time, or who want to learn more.

What do you love about living Nova Scotia? 

Nova Scotia’s history, pre and post European contact, is very extensive. As a Mik’maw person, I am very proud to be a descendent of our ancestors who showed great strength, had a wonderful vision and, lived a unique wholistic approach to life. Although challenges have been many over the centuries, it is nice to see the positive growth that is happening and more acceptance to our culture. The recognition given to welcoming others to Mi’kma’ki makes me smile.

What’s the biggest misconception about being a writer? 

“No, I am not rich like Stephen King”? This is the statement I start with when I speak to students in the schools. It’s a great ice breaker. I also learned that many people, particularly students, think writing is hard and they are not good enough to have anything published.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? 

Keep all your writings, even if it is just words or a sentence or two. Put them in a shoe box or some kind of container and put them in your closet. Even students who write essays or poems in school, keep them too. One never knows, when someday down the road, 5, 10, 20 years from now, those writings could become the inspiration of a book. Writing is made much easier today because of the computer, especially spell check and grammar checking. And, don’t worry about these type of things, as the publishing company provides for an editor and designer of your book. Just think about your concept, what message you want to share and begin writing or recording it.

What’s the best part about writing in your part of Nova Scotia? 

Having been born and raised in a Mi’kmaw community and then living off-reserve in Nova Scotia, I think has contributed to my books being well received by people, especially the school system. Also, being close to the city of Halifax allows me to pop into my publishing company as needed.

What’s your guilty pleasure? 

I can’t say I have a guilty pleasure, but I do like to create Aboriginal crafts. I can go for days and weeks creating all kinds of things from medicine pouches, dream catchers, medicine wheels, key chains, etc. When I do this, things like house work, laundry and cooking become less important but it doesn’t make me feel guilty. The guilty part could be that I don’t and can’t sell these the things I make. People will ask to buy things and I can’t do it. The things I make are made from the heart, so when they are to be passed on, it has to be given from the heart. So, just because I can’t sell something though doesn’t mean I won’t give it. 

What do you do when you have writer’s block? 

Take a break. Could last one day or several weeks. I just accept that writer’s block has crept in and move on to others things. For me, most of my writings don’t involved deadlines so, that is helpful and helps to prevent stress during a writer’s block. 

What are you reading right now? 

With a smile on my face and perhaps could be my guilty pleasure, is Jude Deveaux romance novels. My daughter and I have collected them over the years and they are still fun to read over and over. 

What are you working on right now? 

I am working with Nimbus Publishing on my next book, The Gathering, which we hope will be out this fall. I am also, hoping to develop some Aboriginal resources that will also be viewed as other ways to learn about Aboriginal culture. This is what I like about our Mi’kmaw culture, it never ends.

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Recommended Experience Levels

The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) recommends that participants in any given workshop have similar levels of creative writing and / or publication experience. This ensures that each participant gets value from the workshop⁠ and is presented with information, strategies, and skills that suit their career stage. The “Recommended experience level” section of each workshop description refers to the following definitions used by WFNS.

  • New writers: those with less than two years’ creative writing experience and/or no short-form publications (e.g., short stories, personal essays, or poems in literary magazines, journals, anthologies, or chapbooks).
  • Emerging writers: those with more than two years’ creative writing experience and/or numerous short-form publications.
  • Early-career authors: those with 1 or 2 book-length publications or the equivalent in book-length and short-form publications.
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  • Professional authors: those with 5 or more book-length publications.

Please keep in mind that each form of creative writing (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and writing for children and young adults) provides you with a unique set of experiences and skills, so you might consider yourself an ‘established author’ in one form but a ‘new writer’ in another.

For “intensive” and “masterclass” creative writing workshops, which provide more opportunities for peer-to-peer feedback, the recommended experience level should be followed closely.

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