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On Tour Blog

April 14, 2009

And you came from Vancouver only to read us a story !
Posted by Katarina Jovanovic

Katarina Jovanovic

Our first talk starts at 9:15. Uplands Elementary in Terrace. Only Robin and myself. Margaret and Elise are going later, to Caledonia Secondary. I am reading to the grade 3 students. Two classes together. Every single student engaged and listening with their eyes wide open. They carry me with that childhood enthusiasm for the story and such generous appreciation for having a book author visiting the class. I never talked with more energy and inspiration. After the reading, the teacher comes up with an extension: all the children will draw a picture of their favourite part of the story. Curious, I walk between the tables leaning over little shoulders: what are they going to draw? Some children draw the king looking at himself in the mirror. Most of them choose the scene with Igor digging the hole and shouting his secret into it. They all fill out the hole with the words:” king….goat…ears”. Some of them approach me saying that they want to become the writers.

Our second visit is in the afternoon. We are full of energy driving down to Kitimat. Yes, we all agree, we are the finalists and it would be nice to get a prize but this trip with all the children we get to talk to - that’s more exciting than anything else.
In Kitimat,we separate again. Margaret and Elise are heading to the high school students. For Robin and myself the next stop is Nechako Elementary School. I am reading to 40 children: grades 1-3. This group is even more involved. We can’t possibly end the talk: they have so many questions: when did you start writing? .. why did you write this story? ..now that you are famous, do you get to meet other famous people? .. what is the prize: do you get a car.?... do you know what happened to the king after?...where does he live?
They all want an autograph. While I am signing,we talk. They find out that I came on the plane from Vancouver.

” And you came from Vancouver only to read us a story?!” - yells a little boy in the corner, his dark eyes growing really big and bright.

Picture 051

Filed under: Northern Leg 2009 | 2 Comments | Permalink

April 14, 2009

First Day
Posted by Robin Stevenson

Robin Stevenson

This is our first day on the Northern leg of the tour… and this is actually going to be a week of firsts for me. First book tour, first time in the north, first time away from my not-quite-five year old. And believe it or not, first ever blog post. Despite considerable peer pressure, I am a committed non-blogger. .

Until now I guess. And it is funny: Knowing that I should post my first blog entry tonight has been making me notice things differently all day. If a student asked a particularly interesting question, I’d think hmmm. Can I work that into the blog? If we drove past some spectacular scenery—which we did—I’d think I wonder if I could describe that well enough to write about it. Or would that be boring? I wish something really funny would happen. When Bryan, who is our fabulous driver and fearless leader, said “If we hit a moose, duck,” I thought, Wow, that’d be an exciting blog post. Assuming I ducked fast enough.”.

Of course, to some extent I do this all the time anyway—scavenge my daily life for potential material for my writing. I imagine most writers’ lives become fodder for their writing in one way or another. But I write novels, so the truthful details that work their way into my writing are usually well disguised. Sure, my name is on the cover of the book but the readers don’t know the exact relationship between the story and my life. They can’t tell which the true bits are. And I kind of like it that way. I like the freedom that fiction provides. I can make my stories exciting because they don’t have to be true.

Hmmm. Maybe if I could write fictional blog posts. Think of the potential for drama, intrigue, suspense…

But as it turns out the day really was filled with excitement. I spent the morning in Terrace and the afternoon in Kitimat, and in both towns I met with wonderfully enthusiastic groups of students in grades four to seven. Their energy level, love of reading and passion for creating stories was incredibly inspiring, and listening to them talk about their favorite books and why they love them reminded me of my own passion for reading at that age. Collectvely, the kids came up with their own fictional characters: in Terrace, a 10 year old boy who desperately wanted two things—a dog, and and to be taller than his younger sister; and in Kitimat, a fabulous home-schooled skateboarding 12 year old called Katie, with blue streaked hair, two good friends, and divorced parents who were tearing her in two different directions with their constant fighting. We talked about the myriad of stories that could be written about those characters, and about the fact that each student would have their own story and their own way of telling it. 

I hope some of them will write their stories down. 

Filed under: Northern Leg 2009 | 3 Comments | Permalink

April 14, 2009

On the Road:  Terrace to Kitimat and back
Posted by Margaret Horsfield

Margaret Horsfield

I had forgotten the beauty of this countryside, even though I spent my childhood here. As the day brightened, the sun emerged, and with it the mountains.  How could I have forgotten the scale, the beauty of the mountains?  But I had. And I am glad to be here again.  The whole day, in between readings, has been illuminated by bright sun on brighter mountains.

First stop today was Caledonia High in Terrace, my old high school.  I had the pleasure of hearing Elise Partridge speak of and read her poetry for the first time, in the school library, with about thirty students and three teachers in attendance.  Having no poetic voice of my own, hers fascinates me—I spoke of my own work, too—and it was a great start, for both of us. 

From there, to Kitimat, and the next reading in Mount Elizabeth High School. This time Elise and I found ourselves in the beautiful theatre at the school, a facility with remarkable acoustics, which we later learned serves as a theatre for the entire community.  About sixty students gathered at the front, and again, we talked of our work.  The combination of Elise’s poetry and my “documentary” experience in writing Voices from the Sound, combines remarkably well.  Our work, our styles are entirely different, and entirely complementary.  Just as the students were tiring of me, they were able to hear her more elegaic voice, and oh how that group loved her poetry!  The response was remarkable, especially amongst the girls, to the poem she wrote for her husband. An audible sigh, a murmur, rose amongst the students following that poem, that powerful expression of love.  I was astonished, and very moved.

Kitimaat Village for lunch, and the spectacular setting of a restaurant,  right by the water, with mountains all around us, for an early dinner.  Mark this on my memory bank, I thought. Do not forget this.  I must come back here.

In the evening, to the bookstore in the Kitimat shopping mall, where the owners had gone to a such a lot of trouble to welcome us, with a spread of coffee, cupcakes….and books!  I especially liked the store dogs, small, fluffy and friendly!  A highly motivated and interested group gathered to hear us all speak of our work, and this was the first time we all came together for an event. Earlier in the day Robin and Katarina had been at elementary schools, while Elise and I were at the high schools, but this time…it was a foursome at work.  I heard Katarina speak of her book, with such clarity and enthusiasm, and Robin told the showstopping story that inspired her Thousand Shades of Blue book….how she and her partner set sail for the Carribean with almost no sailing experience.  Remind me never to go sailing with Robin, I thought!  But it was such a great story.  Then Elise, again, with her poems, again holding us all, listening with such attention. 

Sponsors showed up at the bookstore, too.  From Rio Tinto Alcan, from the Bank of Montreal—- the people who have helped to finance this tour, without home we would be home doing the dishes and putting the cat out.  Instead here we are, now back in Terrace after a luminous drive back in the fading light, through the mountains.  And here we stay till tomorrow, glad to be here, and soon to be in Hazelton!



Filed under: Northern Leg 2009 | 2 Comments | Permalink

April 14, 2009

Home Town Revisited
Posted by Margaret Horsfield

Margaret Horsfield

Walking around Terrace, I am looking for signs of the town I knew when I grew up here.  I lived here throughout the 1960s, went to elementary and high school here.  The elementary school, the house we lived in, the church we went to….all gone. I went looking, hoping to see signs, landmarks, traces, but I found few, indeed none. I felt lost.

But the mountains have not changed.  And the Skeena runs wide and gray-green, just as I remember, and the old bridge curves over it—the same bridge I bicycled across,over forty years ago, as logging trucks thundered towards me in a cloud of dust—for the roads were not paved then.

I look at the main street, we are staying right on it, and try to see again those May 24 parades, when logging trucks, shining and new, in great numbers, lined the street, part of the parade, passing by us, proudly and noisily, one after another. This was a town where the loggers were kings.

I am not sure that the Terrace I remember exists any more, but I know that the high school I went to still exists.  Caledonia Senior High!  I was there, on its opening day, part of the first Grade Eleven class, in 1969.
And I will be there tomorrow, talking to students about my book, about writing, about valuing local history, about keeping and opreserving the letters and diaries of our grandparents and great grandparents. 

Probably here in Terrace, as elsewhere throughout BC and Canada, people have, in their attics, or in suitcases, or in long forgotten boxes in their basements, the personal letters, diaries, documents that truly reveal the history of this place.  I am convinced that through personal story, through colourful glimpses of everyday life, we begin to understand our past.

So I will share a few letters, from my book, with the students, and I will ask them if they have anything like that within their own families.  And because I have built my book largely on collections of ordinary correspondence, on grocery orders, and gossip, and information about local transport….. and because I believe such sources are hugely undervalued, I hope to be able to convince at least a few students at the school that the stuff of everyday life,sometimes seeming so trivial, can indeed be the truest, the most real,  bones of our history, and can provide the first step in understanding who we are and where we came from. 

Filed under: Northern Leg 2009 | 0 Comments | Permalink

April 08, 2009

“The King Has Goat Ears”  Flies North
Posted by Katarina Jovanovic

Katarina Jovanovic

Here I am, doing my first BC Prize blog only several days before the Northern BC Tour. We shall be traveling, talking, reading in schools, libraries, book stores, museums….

In this moment I have only a vision of the trip, but I know that it is a precious experience for an author: reaching out to people personally, not only with your written words.

Filed under: Northern Leg 2009 | 1 Comments | Permalink

April 25, 2008

trust the process
Posted by Rita Wong


I don’t know how the Kootenays tour went by so fast. While I enjoyed hearing everyone read (crying my eyes out at one of Meg’s readings, admiring the vivid flow of David’s writing, jumping into Heather’s interactive writing exercise and musing over her thoughtful words), it was the question and answer periods, the live discussions, that especially made the trip worthwhile, reminding me of how reading and writing feed and generate a larger dialogue that keeps flowing, a larger sense of community, an ability to imagine, to empathize, to keep learning.  Funny how we spend so much time both face-to-face and online doing just that.

Thanks everyone!

Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 2 Comments | Permalink

April 25, 2008

Nothing Stops the BC Book Tour ...
Posted by Heather Burt

...although the near-white-out blizzard over Kootenay Pass last night came close. At first it was like we were in the Starship Enterprise, with millions of tiny asteroids flying at us and not much else in the blackness to give a sense of perspective. Very surreal. “We’ve reached warp speed,” Mr. Spock, I mean David, said, though in fact Bryan was inching along at a judicious 10km/hr or so, ready to stop and/or turn around the second we started sliding. For a few alarming moments somewhere short of the summit we were indeed in a complete white-out, and it looked like we’d be slouching back to Creston for the night .... but THEN, ghostly lights appeared up ahead; we crawled on and found ourselves behind the shield of a towering 18-wheeler with its hazards on. Other transports had pulled over, so we could only hope we weren’t following the path of Bob the Crazed Trucker of the Kootenays (if we were, I suppose we could only hope at least one of us would survive to write the story). Over the summit we went, and gradually the snow lightened. Some cocky youngster in a hot little car raced past us at 30 km/hr. Who knows what his/her fate was. We four travelling authors were safe and sound with Our Man Bryan. We love Bryan.

I should say that our visit to the Cranbrook Library last night was worth the adventure. One of those intimate gatherings with interesting questions and discussion ... and several keen folks walking away with four new books in hand. Yay! The matter of money-making occasionally comes up during Q&A sessions, and while we all ardently, and honestly, insist that our motivation for writing and touring comes from a passion for those endeavours (and that going into the writing biz for the money is usually a wacky idea), it’s always heartening to have people show their interest and their faith in our work by getting themselves a copy.

Signing off with best wishes from the Kootenay Roast coffee shop in Castlegar ...


Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 1 Comments | Permalink

April 25, 2008

The Writers Among Us
Posted by David Jones

As those of you following this blog must be aware by now, every evening the four writers on the Kootenays leg of the B.C. Book Prizes tour visit a different public library or café. After Bryan Pike pays homage to the legion of corporations and organizations that have funded the tour, he introduces us and we each read from our books.

None of us is being mobbed by the kind of audience that you might imagine one meets on a book tour—people who have read our books and are dying to meet their authors—fans, in other words. Speaking for myself, I don’t think I’ve run into anyone on this tour (other than a teacher or librarian setting up the reading) who has actually read my book. Now, if this sounds like a complaint, believe me, it’s not. I’m grateful to anyone who takes the time to show up at these events and listen to us.

Most of the people who turn up fall into one of four categories:

1) People who are literary buffs who track these sorts of things.
2) People who spotted the poster in a bookstore window and found themselves free that evening.
3) People whose children saw us at school earlier that day.
4) People who just happened to be at the library, minding there own business, when these literary hooligans tumbled out of a minivan and started reading out loud, making it impossible for them to concentrate on whatever it was they really came there for.

But always lurking among them are the writers–-the people just as keenly interested in the craft as we are. You can see their eyes glittering from the back row.  They’re often shy. Polite. Tentative-–sometimes to the point where you have to coax it out of them: “So . . . do you write yourself?” I’m not the most intuitive guy in the world, but I can usually spot them. At least, I think I can. Who knows how many more are out there, wearing camouflage just a little too effective to pick out of the crowd?

The fact is, most of them want to be spotted. I always love meeting these people. I know some writers don’t. They keep waiting for that 800-page manuscript to thump to the floor between them and their new best friend to say, “Did you drop something? Oh, wait, that’s my novel. How did that get there?”

I don’t know why I like talking to these people so much. Maybe it’s the anticipation of that moment when the admission that they, too, are writers spills from their lips. Maybe it’s because sometimes I have the impression that right then, when they’re saying the actual words to me, is the first time they’re saying it aloud. Or even to themselves. And as I do my best to embolden them, usually just by talking about writing—the process, what it’s like when it’s going badly, what it’s like when it’s going well—I can see them warm to the idea before my very eyes. “I am a writer. I must be. After all, I’m talking shop with other writers!”

At the same time, these conversations are always just a little awkward for me. That’s because these people seem to assume that I have some advantage over them, that I know some secret they don’t, or even, perhaps, that I am a better writer than they are. That may or may not be true. I believe that getting published is a combination of talent, hard work, and luck. You need all three in some proportion. If you’re hugely talented, you need only a little hard work and luck. The world will beat a path to your door. If you’re incredibly lucky, you don’t need much hard work or talent. And if you work really, really hard—well, you still need some talent and a bit of luck. But for me, becoming an author has been a long and incremental process.

So I never know quite how to address these people, because I look at them and I still see me. Maybe they’re not published because they’re unlucky. Usually, I suspect, they just haven’t given it quite enough time. My point is, I never really know if maybe I shouldn’t be asking them for advice. There’s no way for me to know until I’ve read some of their work.

Which happens, sometimes. A man approached me this evening after we gave a reading to a small but enthusiastic crowd at the Cranbrook Public Library. He had written and illustrated a children’s book, and asked me to take a look at his manuscript. I’ll be reading it on the drive home to Vancouver, tomorrow. I don’t know if I can do anything for this man, but the least I can do is read the work he gave me. He was polite, he was brief, and he was direct—oh, and he also bought one book from each of the writers present and then asked him or her to sign it. 

In addition to being talented, hard-working and/or lucky, it doesn’t hurt to be smart about it, too.

Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 2 Comments | Permalink

April 24, 2008

The Top Of The Pass
Posted by Bryan Pike

Bryan Pike

A pleasent drive over Kootenay Pass

Meg and David enjoy a nice walk outside as we reach the sumit of Kootenay Pass

Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 1 Comments | Permalink

April 24, 2008

tea heaven
Posted by Claire Mulligan

Like Arleen, I am a blog virgin, and so I did a bit of research first about the history and how tos of this strange art. I learned that blogs can be arranged around a theme, or written more as a journal. I learned that it was first called web journaling, web diaries, or blithering idiots writing on the internet. I learned that a marker of blogging is its ‘interactiveness’ meaning that others, if they have nothing better to do, can add their too bits to your commentarty. Aha, blogging is the modern version of the bathroom wall, except it’s legal, and cleaner.  I learned there is now something called the blogosphere which I picture as a vast green blob hovering about our heads, no doubt because of that B movie way back. I learned that it is best to blog anonymously or have a pseudonym. The pseudonym cannot be too easy, so that I should not be Erialc, which is my name backwards. This anonymous business is important, apparently, because ‘your relatives might be shocked when they read your uncensored thoughts,” you might be fired, your marriage ruined.. Well, this blogging sounds mighty dangerous, so perhaps I’ll just stick to a safe topic: tea. I have been living in the belly of the Empire for the last several years—this author tour has been a wonderful excuse for a holiday—and although America is a large nation there is not a tea pot to be had. Even the finest restaurants will serve you a tepid cup of water with a red rose tea bag on the side. It might go back to that business with the Boston tea party; I’m not sure. Or perhaps being such individuals they can’t stand the thought of sharing a large pot of tea. Because at dinner parties you are all given that tepid cup and then offered an enormous choice, one tea bag per person, which seems, not only wasteful, but needlessly democratic. Sooo, at the moment I am in tea heaven. Even a Tim Horton’s gives you a tea pot, and at the moment we are at this lovely cafe in Oliver. Not only do I have a tea pot, but it is a beautiful ceramic pot, with loose tea and a tea ball. The cups are actual china tea cups like Grandma used to have, all are different. And the teaspoons are made of silver. I’m on my third pot on this rainy day as we wait for our gig at the Oliver public library. I think we’ve been a great team. And I am so impressed with the work of my tour mates. I’ll be sad when it’s over and I’m banished back to tea-pot-less America.

Cheers, Claire

Filed under: | 1 Comments | Permalink

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