For Roche Sappier of Tobique First Nation, a love of continuing education, and learning by doing has been a natural way of life. The writer, visual artist and serial entrepreneur hopes that a new writing group he’s about to establish at the Perth-Andover Public Library will inspire others in his community to learn by doing, as well.
On Thursday nights from 5 to 7 p.m., Roche invites WFNB members and friends in his region to participate in his writing group, which will be appropriately titled, “Chapter One.”
Roche says the seed for the new writing group was planted at WordSpring 2022 at St. Thomas University, when he was asked to perform a smudge ceremony on opening night. “That room was filled with energy. Positive, you could almost swim in it. It was like jumping into a hot tub. Everyone was exuding an energy from a spirit. And that spirit was that they were writers, they were creators, they brought their tools with them. I was in the presence of writers and creators and that was the first time that had ever happened. Wow!”
Through the Chapter One writing group, Roche wants to share that same creative energy in his region, hoping to inspire members of his community to appreciate and pursue literacy. ”My wife and daughter and I probably read 10 books per month. We want to reintroduce the love of reading,” Roche says. “It makes you a better human, a stronger human. My Grandfather had a room in his house so full of books there was only room for his desk. My living room is the same.”
The legacy of Roche’s grandfather looms large. His grandfather was the first Indigenous person to earn a PhD (linguistics) from the University of New Brunswick and was a contemporary of Louis J. Robichaud. He set the standard high for his family. “I and all of my siblings have degrees or multiple degrees. We learned to work and thrive at a young age and to survive using the tools that were around us. And we were taught that the world is composed of all kinds of other cultures out there. We were encouraged to make friends with other cultures, other communities.”
Roche would like to welcome writers to the group who have the same goals for personal growth, and who can produce that same creative energy that he felt at WordSpring. “For me, this is more of a spiritual transformation …I want people around the table that think like I do. We’re not all Margaret Atwood yet, but there’s a potential to be.”
Roche self-published his first book in 2017 through his own company called Red Earth Publishing. His book, Glooscap Tales, was a collection of illustrated legends in French, English and Malecite, and was dedicated by former Lieutenant Governor Graydon Nicholas. Roche learned the stories from his grandfather, who taught him about Glooscap. “In our language, Glooscap means ‘a very good man.’”
This book has done very well and is still available on Amazon and Indigo. In 2017, Roche and his daughter rented a kiosk at the Marco Polo terminal in Saint John and offered their book to people from all over the world visiting from the cruise ships. “One of them was a professor from the University of Kiev in Ukraine, and he bought 20 of our books. And he used that as a template for aboriginal history.”
Roche intends to write more books and graphic novels that introduce readers to the ancient world his grandfather taught him about: a world full of mysticism, colour, and possibility, that recalls the magical history of his people and honours strength through dark times. It is this energy and spirit that he hopes will be shared by members of the Chapter One writing group.
By creating the group, Roche feels he’s tossing a pebble into a still pond. “You don’t realize what you can do until you try. I want this group to be self-guiding. We want you to become you as a writer, a contributor to society, an artist. I’m casting a vision, and WFNB members are welcome to come along.”
If you’re interested in participating, contact Tammy Wright, Head of the Perth Library. Her email is email@example.com and her telephone number is 506-273-2843.