Driving the Peace
Posted by Aislinn Hunter
Right: back from the Peace and settled down again – though I’m thinking of Gabrielle, Kayla and Bryan out there on the road.
I had a great tour. The air was fresh, the scenery was beautiful and the students in the schools were really sweet: a bit cautious maybe but interested in writing and curious about how a person becomes an actual ‘writer.’ All told it was a whirlwind 4 days on the road with Bryan (the mastermind behind Rebus Creative and the BC Book Prize tour and gala) and (the very funny and smart) Gabrielle Prendergast who is up for the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize. Together we visited 8 schools (Gabrielle was at the elementary schools and I was in the high schools), did a handful of interviews as well as running a workshop for adults at the very hospitable Fort St. John library. It wasn’t all work though: we also spotted hawks and deer, stood on the banks of the beautiful Peace river, slid down a waterslide in the Pomeroy hotel – okay that was just me – and visited museums, bars and numerous restaurants (getting tofu in a tasty dish in Dawson Creek was awesome).
My favourite part of this tour (I was lucky enough to do the Northern leg of the BC Book prize tour back in 2002-ish) was hearing the high school students’ responses when asked to identify 5 things they know a lot about and 5 things they don’t know a lot about but are interested in. This exercise was from the part of my talk where I try to explain that the adage ‘write what you know’ is really limiting… one just has to know what one is writing about, hence the value of curiousity and research. Up in the Peace schools, it was the range of responses that was exciting: some kids up there already know a lot about sports or fishing and some know about fashion or movies or chemistry. The range of things they said they were interested in knowing more about was also vast: from astrophysics to Greek history to cooking. If there’s anything I try to communicate at these talks it’s the importance of curiousity and the value of starting to develop a sense of your own self-worth and the value of your own interests and your own knowledge… no matter how boring it seems to you no one knows what you know in the way that you know it. Anyway, that was my favourite bit: getting a snapshot of their lives and learning from them. (I sense that for some of them their favourite moment was hearing about my experience on the film set of the movie version of Stay… though a few of them also seemed to like hearing about John Guare’s play Six Degrees of Separation and the theory that we’re all linked by a very small number of degrees.)
Anyway, I started this blog at the airport – the three of us were tired and had returned to our technologies (Bryan was checking his e-mail, I was drafting this blog and Gabrielle (who was frightfully smart all week) was saying – rather enthusiastically – ‘I just can’t get enough of cat videos…’ so the world was folding back in on us in our busy-ness.
I loved being in the Peace. The company was great (we talked a lot about writing and literary politics and growing up and where we felt most at home in the world) and the idea of touring as writers was exciting in a twittery world where presencing writers in their actual bodies happens less and less. In Fort St. John we took a pile of books out of the library to learn something about the history of the region as we were driving (I read out loud from the back seat). The Peace is a really vital part of the country (Hudsons’ Hope was the third oldest settlement in Canada and Dawson Creek was named after the ‘father of Canadian anthropology’). I’m grateful to the BC Book prizes for allowing me to see this part of the province in such good company. Thanks to the sponsors too, this wouldn’t have been possible without you.