On Tour Blog
April 23, 2015
It’s the final night of the Southern BC tour and I’m enjoying a big plate of ribs in my quiet hotel room for the last time. We’ve seen ten cities in five days and half of them I’ve never been to before, although I’ve lived in this province my whole life. After all this, it puzzles me why anybody would choose to live outside of BC. Spectacular scenery (the snow-capped mountains at dawn), friendly people (from principals to waitresses), quirky sights (a super-weird home that bleated when we walked by – I’m hoping it was a pet goat and not the odd owner himself), and lots of readily available coffee.
While Kevin Chong has been talking at high schools, I’ve been visiting the primary grades. It’s been fun to bask in the enthusiasm of some of these small-town schools that rarely see special visitors, and to inspire the children who can hardly believe a “real, live author” (as opposed to all the fake, dead authors that travel through, I guess ) is in their school.
Bryan – the brains behind this operation and also our driver/baggage carrier/time-keeper/restaurant-finder, etc… etc… has been a perfect host (while Karen, Kristie and Val keep things organized at home). The trip has been seamless thanks to this team, and inspiring, thanks to the communities that welcomed us. But tomorrow we go home to family and friends, and a fancy awards gala. And that will be great too! Best wishes to all the finalists, and thanks to BC Book Prizes and Rebus Creative for making this all happen!
April 17, 2015
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.
April 11, 2015
You know who you are.
The kid who talks too much
Or too little.
The kid for whom words
Flick and flip like fish
The pink haired
Mismatched sneakered kid.
Pierced and pale
Or brown and silent
The one shrinking from the world
Or too loudly deconstructing it.
The one that makes the other kids
Roll their eyes
“Oh this again,” they mutter
As though they know you
Better than you know yourself.
This small offering is for you:
Through the stringy bangs
Over the tinted glasses
Across the jungle of classmates
Who tolerate you, begrudgingly
Because that’s the fashion now.
Take a look at me
The funny, round faced author
Rendered twitchy by hotel coffee
With my fishy words,
My oddly colored hair
The splotchy cardigan
Awkward shoes, granny glasses
And high school stories
Not very well disguised as fiction.
See how happy I am?
May 01, 2014
Having just finished our event in the beautiful Fernie library, we are now packing up for our early departure tomorrow. The event was fun—Kathryn read from her book, Lucky, and talked about her goals in writing Lucky. I read the first chapter of The Path of Names, and a short bit of an old short story of mine called ‘4 Short Parables on the Theme of Travel.’ (It being an entirely adult audience, I thought it would be fun to read something for adults, too.) Then Kathryn and I fielded questions together and each asked the other insightful and extremely interesting questions, provoking equally insightful and extremely interesting answers.
The last few days have been busy, filled with school visits, and our visits to various sights in the Kootenays, including a giant truck and an even more enormous open pit mine. (see my blog here for lots of photos and more details.)
May 01, 2014
Whew! It’s Thursday already and I haven’t had a spare moment! Our road trip through the Kootenays has been a whirlwind affair punctuated by school visits, stunning scenery and huge laughs with my new friends, Ari and Bryan.
This is my first time with teens. To this point in my life I’ve managed to successfully avoid teenagers and when I realized that my part of the tour was aimed at grades 10-12, I had a few misgivings. My own memories of teen-aged-ness, well, not the best of memories. And what would I say to the next generation of writers? What would they hear?
I prepped and agonized and at the last minute someone suggested a writing exercise that I thought might be a useful add-on, in case things went quiet or the AV presentation didn’t work. At several schools this has been my best route to actually connecting with the strange species called teenagers. At one point, I responded to a young woman’s scenario by paraphrasing it so that she might better understand what kind of a story she was proposing through the exercise. Her face lit up and she gave me such a look of pleasure and gratitude. I was stunned. All this time I thought high school teachers must be slightly crazed to be in that environment of their own volition. Now I know the sweet reward of connecting with kids. I won’t forget that moment, ever.
April 29, 2014
I have posted pictures and a description of day one of the Kootenays book tour on my blog here: http://arigoelman.com/blog/.
April 24, 2014
We flew to Fort Nelson this morning, in a Very Small Plane. There was a lot of snow, and the pilot said we might not be able to land. For some reason, I thought of Dr. Seuss: “I do not like this, Sam I am.”
But… can I just mention how AWESOME northern BC airports are? Fort St John’s has TOASTERS! A whole display case of funky old toasters, including one which is actually a kettle as well. NEED! And Dawson Creek, Fort St John and Fort Nelson all have shelves of books- for a donation, exchange, or free. Plus all the staff are super friendly and helpful and kind of laid back and low-key in a way that us slightly nervous flyers really appreciate. Other airports further south- you have some catching up to do! I’d suggest starting with the book shelves.
Our pilot did manage to land us in Fort Nelson- and fly us out again later, despite the impressive amount of snow. And it was more than worth the trip. I spent the afternoon with 170 students in grades 5,6 and 7- and they were the most wonderfully engaged, curious, thoughtful and creative group. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them and could happily have stayed for twice as long.
We are back in Fort St John tonight, and tomorrow we head out on the last day of our tour- visiting schools in Chetwynd and Hudson’s Hope. I am looking forward to being in two communities I have never been to before.This tour has been a wonderful adventure.
April 23, 2014
It’s cold and windy and snowy, but today was wonderful despite the weather- because I was visiting schools and talking with kids. Grade 4, 5 and 6 kids. Fort St John kids and Dawson Creek kids. Curious, energetic, excited kids. Overflowing with questions and ideas kids.
SO MUCH FUN. We talked about writing and books and where ideas come from and how they turn into stories. And then the kids came up with stories of their own…
In Fort St. John, the students conjured up Jack, a six foot tall thirteen year old who wants to be an NBA star, and Sherman, his best-friend-since-forever, affectionately known as Shrimp. Sherman has been in a devastating accident and lost all his memories of their friendship. Jack is determined to help him recover- and prepared to do whatever it takes.
In Dawson Creek, the kids created Angela, a girl with purple streaks in her hair and an annoying-but-cute two year old brother who she is fiercely protective of. Angela’s family has decided that they won’t celebrate their kids’ birthday’s because they have no money… but Angela is turning eleven and she wants a big celebration. How many bottles and cans will she have to collect to pay for it? And will her parents understand how important this is to her? Stay tuned…
April 22, 2014
It’s 10 pm and I am sitting in my hotel room after a whirlwind of a day, which took us from Victoria to Vancouver to Dawson Creek (those were flights), and then to Taylor, Fort St John, back to Dawson Creek, and now back in Fort St John (and those were rather nice drives with good jazz playing in the car and a slow rain falling outside).
Flying into Dawson Creek was particularly cool for me because Dawson Creek was the first place in Canada I ever lived (I moved there from England with my parents when I was four). My sister was born there. We stayed a year—and that was in 1973! Today was the first time I had been there in FORTY YEARS! Wild.
Flying into Dawson Creek was also great because the airport actually has a bookshelf where you can help yourself to a book and stick a few coins in a donation box. Seriously awesome, and made me absurdly happy. I took two books, because I had only brought three with me and was worried about running out of stuff to read (I know this makes no sense, given how busy we are, but I’m slightly phobic about ever being without a book).
The afternoon at Taylor Elementary School was fabulous and a great way to kick off the tour. Eighty enthusiastic kids ranging from age seven to eleven or so… and all of them writers! Seriously. I was reading to them from my novel Record Breaker—which is about a boy who desperately wants to break a world record—but Taylor, BC is going after a record of its own. Taylor is on track to become the town with the most published writers per capita—and I will be cheering these young writers on.
And this evening we were welcomed by a lovely group of readers, writers and librarians at the Dawson Creek library. What a gorgeous space- colorful quilts hanging on the walls, cozy couches and chairs, and—of course—books everywhere. I very much enjoyed listening to Catherine Greenwood’s poetry, and talking to everyone who came out to hear us read. Thanks to all of you for laughing when I read the funny parts of my book. And a huge thanks to the library for hosting us.
Feeling very lucky to be on this book tour and grateful for the opportunity. Many thanks to BC Book Prizes and all the sponsors who make this possible. And now—off to bed. The adventures will continue tomorrow…
April 17, 2014
1.) In Terrace, the Welfare Office is in the same mall complex as the liquor store.
2.) The new smelter upgrade in Kitimat employs so many people, they’ve had to rent a FREAKING CRUISE SHIP to house them all.
3.) There’s a 15-year-old girl in Terrace who has already written 7 articles for the local newspaper. When asked if she’d considered charging them for her efforts, she replied: “Oh, I’m not in it for the money.”
4.) Somebody in Northern BC has a Heisenberg Air Freshener.
5.) There is a funeral parlour in Prince George named “Assman’s”. Nothing says dignity like a service at Assman’s.
6.) I have it on good authority that the Magic: the Gathering scene in Kitimat is “about fifty strong”.
7.) Fort St. James had snow TODAY. Even the locals agree that this is weird.
8.) There is a high school in Houston where students aren’t allowed to leave a presentation unless someone asks a question at the end. This can lead to awkward moments when nobody asks a question at the end.
9.) There’s a place in Kitimat called Hospital Beach. It’s a scenic picnic area which also happens to be a storage area for heavy industrial machinery.
10.) Smithers. Just Smithers. Seriously. Actually just Smithers. Honestly. Do it. Now. Seriously, honestly, actually, just Smithers. Now.
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