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BC Book Prizes On Tour

April 14, 2009

On the Road:  Terrace to Kitimat and back

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!



Posted by Margaret Horsfield | Filed under: Northern Leg 2009 | 2 Comments | Permalink

April 14, 2009

Home Town Revisited

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. 

Posted by Margaret Horsfield | Filed under: Northern Leg 2009 | 0 Comments | Permalink

April 08, 2009

“The King Has Goat Ears”  Flies North

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.

Posted by Katarina Jovanovic | Filed under: Northern Leg 2009 | 1 Comments | Permalink

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