On Being Canadian
Originally posted on August 22, 2016
I’ve been thinking a lot about being Canadian lately. The Tragically Hip are no more, Gord Downie has gone home for a well-earned rest. And I have a book to illustrate.
(In case you missed the update on Facebook, I’ve decided to finish The Ash Garden first as an illustrated novel, and it’s coming along nicely).
Canadian publishing works very differently in comparison to American publishing. In fact, you really can’t compare. They’re two different worlds. It’s a different country, which I say with a shrug. Canadian publishing is all about who you know in Canada, what you do that’s Canadian, and where you’re from. Literary fiction by an author born in St. Catherine’s, Ontario, who writes about trees native to Eastern Canada, for example.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Canada. I’m proud to be Canadian. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the world. I’m glad we have tons of support and funding for local Canadian arts. But the truth is, Canadian publishing is limited to, essentially, the Canadian landscape, in whatever medium the creator chooses (books, poetry, etc, etc). As a result, I’ve never felt any confidence to publish my work in my own country. Sad? Perhaps. But that’s just the reality of being the kind of person who marches to a different drumbeat. I wouldn’t be surprised, and I have seen evidence, that similar struggles exist for many different creators, in many countries all of the world.
And I’m tired. Since social media was introduced and became popular, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve apologized for my Canadian-ness. (Oh, sorry, that wasn’t a typo, we spell “centre” with an “re” not a “er.”) I’m tired of being treated as if I’m stupid, naive, a bad speller, and I couldn’t possibly know what’s going on in the country that’s right next door. Yeesh.
I’m tired of omitting the “u.” I’m tired of being un-Canadian.
Okay, so I’ll never make it big in Canadian publishing. I’m cool with that. It’s something I accepted a long time ago. But, really, in an online world where any two-year-old can Google that shit, I don’t think I should have to work so hard at being un-Canadian just in case there’s one person out of billions who doesn’t immediately get that reference.
I have a point. This isn’t a mindless rant post. Really. Thank you for your patience.
The Ash Garden had a lot of Canadian references. A lot of those referrences were edited or deleted, mostly by The Publisher That Shall Not be Named. I would like to attract an international audience, but I don’t think deleting Canadian references was the best thing to do. I feel removing those references has just created a mess. I wrote the first draft in Canadian English, and no matter how The Ash Garden is published, there will be Canadian-ness woven throughout the story. And I won’t apologize for that.
I also won’t apologize for the fact I’m creating, with help of an artist, a comic book set in Tennessee. That’s the story of Cottonseeds. I have a vivid imagination that’s more of a curse than a blessing, and so, I can set story in Tennessee, with references to Tennessee and a crapload of research. (Another shrug).
I will, however, say sorry in casual conversation. The word sorry is in my Canadian blood. I can’t help it. If I cut you off in line or pass by you in a doorway, I will automatically say sorry. (No, no, I’m sorry, please, after you).
I leave you with one of my favourite I am Canadian commercials.