Today we’d like to introduce you to Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail.
Danielle, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I just love the written word, and I have devoured books since I was little, so it makes sense that I devote my life to writing stories – my own and other people’s. I started freelance writing and editing with my middle school newspaper back in Canada and wrote angsty poetry and songs when I was a teenager. In university, I studied History and thought I’d become a professor, but the stories called me back. I published my first adult nonfiction book, For the Love of Flying, in 2009 and since then I’ve published two more: Polar Winds and In This Together (a collection of essays I edited). I’m now working on everything from kid’s books to novels and memoir, and in 2019, my first picture book – Alis the Aviator: An ABC Aviation Adventure – comes out.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I specialize in telling hidden stories for all ages. Often, this means lifting unfamiliar people and events into public consciousness. With my aviation history books, I highlight marginalized voices as much as possible: women, Indigenous people, and people of color, especially (so far). In Alis the Aviator, the character who guides the reader through this ABC book, is based on Dr. Alis Kennedy, likely the first Indigenous woman in Canada to receive her private and commercial pilot’s licenses. I hope it inspires and educates girls to pursue their aviation dreams!
I also like to look under figurative rocks and find the secrets we hide – from each other and ourselves. This is definitely the case with a nonfiction book I’m working on called Hurts: Searching for the True Story of Canada’s Largest Indian Hospital. It’s a combination memoir, history, and detective story that took me up to the Arctic and back down to Houston.
The stereotype of a starving artist scares away many potentially talented artists from pursuing art – any advice or thoughts about how to deal with the financial concerns an aspiring artist might be concerned about?
The advice I’ve heard over the years for artistic work and entrepreneurs (and I think writing straddles both) boils down to this: don’t quit your day job until you’re established. Keep it as a side hustle. And don’t overwhelm yourself: if your job is really intense and you’re passionate about it, you won’t have much left for your art. I have friends who are teachers/professors who can only write in the summer. And that works for them. They take notes all year long and then write in a furious burst for that season.
Margaret Atwood says that you can have two of the three: be a parent to small kids, write, or have a job. After burning out trying to do all three, I have to concur! Now I am trying to pace myself better, and this has involved a lot of negotiation in my family.
Finally, look for grants and scholarships!
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
People can check out my books at libraries and bookstores around the world – including here in Houston! If you want to meet me in person, I’ll be at the Lone Star Museum on July 5 and 6 for some awesome events and please come to Brazos Bookstore on August 18th at 3 p.m. for a special Alis the Aviator story time.
For more info about my books and appearances, please go to www.daniellemc.com.
- Website: www.daniellemc.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danielle.metcalfechenail
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/Danielle_Author