Lit Chat: Meet Marcie Rendon
Minneapolis-based author and enrolled member of the White Earth Nation Marcie Rendon is a delightful person and a gifted, hardworking, and prolific writer in many genres. She was generous enough to chat with me about her work and her new debut novel Murder on the Red River from Cinco Puntos Press, which she describes as “the story about a young Native woman, raised in foster care, who is incredibly resilient and is making her way in the world, her way. In doing so, she helps the county sheriff solve a murder in the Red River Valley of the North.” The Red River Valley has been home to Ojibwe in the region for hundreds of years; European settler-occupiers arrived in 1812. Currently, the valley spans the political border between the nations of Canada and the United States.
On top of being a novelist, her official bio lists her other major publishing accomplishments and recent awards: “[her two] nonfiction children’s books are Pow Wow Summer (Minnesota Historical Press) and Farmer’s Market: Families Working Together (CarolRhoda). With four published plays, she is the creative mind behind Raving Native Theater, which produced Rendon’s play Bring the Children Home… at four venues in 2015–16. She is a recipient of the Loft’s 2017 Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship with poet Diego Vazquez. Additionally, her poem, “Wiigwaasabak” was awarded a place in the St. Paul Almanac’s Impressions Project Summer 2017.
We all can appreciate that writing a good novel presents myriad aesthetic, craft, philosophical, ethical, and other opportunities. I asked Marcie what the most challenging aspect was for her and she talked about both storytelling and the need for persistence in seeking the right publisher. She said, “The most interesting phenomena of writing the novel was experiencing how the main character, Cash, took charge of where she wanted the story to go, what she wanted to have happen. It wasn’t hard challenging, it was very interesting to start writing and feel as if I were not in control. The most challenging aspect of the whole process was pitching the novel to publishers and agents and getting rejecting continuing to pursue publication. I know many people get frustrated with rejection but it is part of the process and it pays to keep pitching the story. It really does.”
I asked her what her advice is to newer writers and she had some clear instructions and encouragement, “There are two things. One, pursue publication. Send your work out to publishers, calls for submissions, agents—send it out. You will never get published if you don’t send your work out to get read. Second, stack up those rejection letters, emails as evidence that you are producing work and submitting it. There is an editor, publisher out there who will say yes. And three, even though I said two, enjoy writing. It does not have to be agony or suffering. Enjoy it.”
Writers are almost always working on multiple projects even as they are working hard to promote new publications. Marcie is no different. She told me, “I am working on the second Cash murder mystery. I am also working on a young teen book, again about a child in the ICWA (Indian Child Welfare) system; always poetry and one or two plays. My short story, “Civil Defense,” was just accepted into the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime anthology, Dark Side of the Loon.”
Ah, what do we do when we are not reading, writing, daydreaming about our writing? Marcie gardens right now, and is also designing and sewing her own clothes, “I like my gardens, both my vegetables and flowers. I would love to get some time at a Minnesota lake in the tradition of Minnesota ‘going to the lakes’ kind of time, although I don’t know if that will happen this year. I am also sewing some of my own designer clothes to start wearing to readings as I have been through the Tammy Beauvais line of clothes, I think.”
I believe the best writers write for their time, as well as the future—generations ahead, even. Marcie Rendon knows that the world very much needs and will continue to need Native literature, plays, poems, stories, “I would just really encourage any Native writers to write, get their work in front of the eyes of agents, publishers, editors. Our children, future generations, need our stories.”
Sun Yung Shin is the author or editor of six books including two books in 2016: Unbearable Splendor (poetry/prose) and A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota (anthology of essays). With the filmmaker and writer Xiaolu Wang she recently co-founded the Women of Color Artist Collective. She lives in Minneapolis and can be found on Facebook, twitter, sunyungshin.com, and agoodtimeforthetruth.com.