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On Tour

April 18, 2012

On the road to Fort Nelson
Posted by Frances Greenslade

Frances Greenslade

  Because Shelter is set in the Chilcotin-Cariboo, far, but not a world away from Dawson Creek, or any other rural Canadian place for that matter, I asked the students at Dawson Creek High School to write the opening line for a novel set in their community. Some of them said, “Nothing ever happens here. It’s so boring.”
But no place is ever as boring as it might first seem on the surface. The real interest, for writers, is what goes on beneath the surface, the human relationships, what we long for, hate for, cry over; the promises we make and break; or in the things we dream in the miles we cover, passing rolling golden hills and coulees, patches of snow caught in dun-coloured grass and poplars fuzzed with new buds. As soon as someone says “Nothing ever happens here,” I think of novels like Catcher in the Rye, A Complicated Kindness and Monkey Beach where the narrators say the same thing, and then go on to tell complex stories, as rich as anything set in places where everything happens.
And living in a rural place, you tend to forget what it’s like to see it for the first time, like an outsider. Driving just out of town, we crested a hill and a sprawling vista took our breath away. Out came our cameras, madly clicking away. Some students obviously do feel the breadth of the place they live. One starts her novel on a warm summer night, one at the edge of the bush, with the crack of a rifle shot. One boys turns to another and says, “There would have to be zombies.” They both nod.

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