Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Biggest Problem Canadian Christian Authors Face - Lindquist

I've been giving a lot of thought recently to Canadians in the arts.

If we think of North American movies or TV, names of Canadians such as Raymond Burr, Neve Campbell, Hayden Christensen, Michael J. Fox, Lorne Greene, Paul Gross, Jillian Hennessy, Margot Kidder, Matthew Perry, Christopher Plummer, Sarah Polley, Jason Priestly, Keanu Reeves, William Shatner, Donald Sutherland, Kiefer Sutherland, Alan Thicke, Sandra Oh and others stand out. I'm sure I'm missing a bunch.

Canada has supplied many of the comedians in Hollywood and on American television: Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Jim Carrey, Tom Gree, Rich Little, Kids in the Hall, Howie Mandel, Bob & Doug McKenzie, Rick Mercer, Mike Myers, Catherine O'Hara, Wayne and Schuster, Martin Short, Dave Thomas, Leslie Nielsen, Kids in the Hall, much of the cast of Saturday Night Live…Canadian.

In the secular writing world, Canadians have won Pulitzers, Bookers, and other awards, and are sought after all over the world. We have Margaret Atwood, Margaret Avison, Leonard Cohen, Douglas Coupland, Robertson Davies, Timothy Findley, John Kenneth Galbraith, Graham Greene, Michael Ignatieff, W. P. Kinsella, Margaret Laurence, Stephen Leacock, Hugh MacLennan, Marshall McLuhan, W. O. Mitchell, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Farley Mowat, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Paul Quarrington, Mordecai Richler, Peter Robinson, Robert J. Sawyer, Maureen Jennings, Carol Shields and many, many more.

So - how many Canadian authors who write for the Christian market can you name?

After asking this questions to countless readers and booksellers over the past five years, I know that for the typical Canadian. the answer is going to be - not many. Three or four at most.

Hmm. I wonder what the problem is.

Did I mention that most of the mainstream writers, as well as their publishers, have benefited greatly from government subsidies? Or that some years ago, the government of Canada ruled that there had to be more Canadian content on our radios? Until then, most of the music played was American.

The ruling said that 30% of the music had to have a Canadian connection. The result was that Canadian musicians benefited greatly from the increased air play. And Canada is now known for our high quality musicians and singers. Jann Arden, Bare Naked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, Bryan Adams, Paul Brandt, Terri Clark, Celine Dion, Emerson Drive, Nelly Furtado, Rush, Shania Twain, Tragically Hip, the Wilkinsons and the Roadhammers are just a few of the many Canadians who have won international awards and put Canada on the map musically. I recently listened to a CBC radio interview with Jackie Ralph Jamieson of the Bells ("Fly Little White Dove Fly" and she said that the ruling made a big difference to them. And by the way, the ruling was recently upheld.

What's the biggest problem Canadian Christian authors face?

Getting their voices heard!

My investigations tell me that right now, less than 2% - maybe even as low as 0.1 % - of the books in a typical Canadian Christian bookstore are written by Canadian authors.

If given equal opportunities, there is absolutely no reason why Canadian Christian authors would not do just as well as their peers in the mainstream acting, music and the writing worlds. But at this time, with the exception of a few – such as Janette Oke, Sigmund Brouwer and Phil Callaway (all of whom are published in the United States) – many Canadian are unaware that there even are Canadian Christian authors.

I'd like you to ponder this: it's taken from the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) web site -

What is Canadian Content? Simply put, it's about Canadian artists and Canadian stories having access to Canadian airwaves.

Why is it important? Culturally, Canadian programs and music give voice to Canadians, to their talent and their shared experiences. Economically, it means jobs for thousands of Canadians – from creation to production and distribution on the airwaves.

Is the voice of Canadian authors any different? Should Canadian Christian authors not also have a fair opportunity to have our voices heard? And what about support for the Christian publishing industry in Canada?

What do we need?

1. We need readers to go to their favourite bookstores and libraries and ask by name for more Canadian Christian authors.

2. We need booksellers to create areas for the books of Canadian authors and publishers as well as putting their books into the subject areas where they fit. Last fall, my husband found a guide on how to do your US taxes in a Christian bookstore in Toronto along with a book on what Independence Day means to you. I'm sorry? Where do we live again? How is it right that those books should be taking up self space and my books aren't there?

3. We need the Canadian Christian media - print, TV, and radio - to make lots of room for reviews of books by Canadian authors and opportunities for people to get to know them. (I'd have to say we've seen some hopeful changes in the last few years.)

4. We need churches and other Christian organizations to give opportunities to Canadian authors and not assume that the crowds will only come to hear "big names" from other countries. Maybe at first there will be some hesitation, but if you're following God's leading, it won't last long.

5. We need people who will pray. This issue really isn't about how many books I can sell or how much fame I can get. In Matthew 13: 53-58, Jesus goes to his hometown of Nazareth to teach people. Instead of listening to him, they say, “He’s only the carpenter’s son. Who does he think he is to tell us what to do?" And Jesus replies with, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his hometown and in his own home.” The sad last line is, “So he did not do many miracles there because they had no faith.”

Many Canadian Christian writers have spent months and years writing and rewriting what God has put on our hearts. When we are ignored or put down, it hurts not only us, but also those who need to hear our message. Who knows? There may be few miracles here until our fellow Canadians listen to what God wants to say through us. At the very least, writers are a vital part of the body of Christ in Canada, and need support from the rest of the body. And if we are given a chance, there may be a few surprises.


D.S. Martin said...

Of couse the first step is with us! The Word Guild seeks to honour Canadian authors such as Rudy Wiebe, Margaret Avison and Robert Alloway. I seek to often review Canadian poets and musicians for publications on both sides of the border. Let's all do our part.


Keith Clemons said...

Well said, Nancy. I thank God your efforts, and collectively those of the Word Guild, have not been in vain. We are seeing change. It may seem like slow progress, but it's worth it. Let's keep plodding along and in faith believe there's much more to come.

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