Sunday, May 25, 2008

NorthWords program posted

The program for Yellowknife's 2008 NorthWords Writers Festival has been posted.

I'm leading a workshop called Breaking the Electronic Barrier on Saturday, June 14, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. While I would never claim to be the All-Knowing Being of the Website Universe, I've set up a couple of websites using a couple of different methods (the original NorthWords website in 2007, and my own website) and am happy to share what I've learned.

I've been cruising the web since the Jurassic period, when it didn't support graphics, and all you saw was green text on a black screen. (Had to type in your own commands to move from one page to another, and everything.) Given my background in journalism and public relations, I've watched with interest as the web has evolved. Along the way I've picked up a bit about Hypertext Markup Language, design principles, and how a website figures into author branding. We'll be talking about these things, and many more. The workshop will be held in the computer lab at Aurora College, so we'll be doing some hands-on work. And - the postal service willing - we'll have a draw for a copy of The Non-Designers Web Book by Robin Williams and John Tollett.

Right after the workshop I'll be participating on a panel called Writing and the Electronic Universe with Anita Daher and Richard Van Camp, moderated by Annelies Pool. We'll be looking at social networking media, including blogs, MySpace, Facebook, etc., and how they affect readers and writers. I'm looking forward to this event as well, because as much as I love the web, I'm not thrilled about the growing number of ways to spend even more of my so-called free time in cyberspace. Who knows? I could come out of it a convert . . . or not!

Monday, May 19, 2008

New article on my website

I've just posted an article about the writing of "Diamond Girl," a short story published in North by North Wit: An Anthology of Canadian Humour a few years back. After the story was published, the editor of the Territorial Writers Association newsletter asked if I would put together a little piece on how I came to write the story. In true Cathy fashion, it turned out to be more than a "little" piece. (Don't forget - I'm pioneering a new literary form know as the "epic short story." For more on that, please see another of my articles.) I chopped the "Diamond Girl" item to newsletter size, but now, thanks to the wonders of the World Wide Web, you can enjoy the entire experience!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An evening with Elizabeth Hay

The NorthWords Writers Festival and CBC Mackenzie hosted an interesting trip down memory lane last night, in honour of visiting author Elizabeth Hay. Just in case you’ve been living off the grid for the last few months, Ms. Hay won the 2007 Giller Prize for her novel Late Nights on Air, which follows a group of people working for CBC Radio in Yellowknife in the 1970s.

Late Nights includes reference to a couple of iconic northern stories: the Berger Inquiry of the 1970s, and the death of English explorer John Hornby on the Thelon in 1927. In keeping with these themes, the evening opened with Yellowknife author Patrick Scott reading from his recently released book, Stories Told: Stories and Images of the Berger Inquiry. Bruce Valpy, a local journalist and playwright, read from his celebrated play Hornby. I’ve heard a lot about Hornby, which was staged in Yellowknife before I arrived in 1986, so it was good to hear some of the script.

After Ms. Hay read from Late Nights, we heard clips from Focus North, the radio show she hosted while living in Yellowknife. CBC’s current morning show host Randy Henderson then led a panel discussion about what it was like to work at CBC Radio in Yellowknife back in the ’70s. Panelists included technician Bob Carr; Patrick Scott, who worked as a camera operator during the Berger inquiry; the ever-hilarious George Tucarro; and Elizabeth Hay. One of the important themes of the evening was the role of CBC in building a sense of community throughout the NWT. And that’s true – I know from my work as a government communications officer that if you want to get information out to the communities, you need to find a way to get it aired on CBC Radio because everyone listens to CBC.

My own history is wound up with CBC in Yellowknife. Pépé moved north to work for CBC as a camera operator. A lot of our friends are CBC folk. And I’ve spent many hours running around trying to find information for CBC reporters during my career. It’s not hard for me to imagine the world of Late Nights on Radio.

The evening’s discussion did, indeed, make me nostalgic for Yellowknife of the olden days, when the town was still very small and friendly. When I moved here in the mid-80s, there were only 11,000 people and one set of traffic lights downtown. Crossing the main drag was no problem for pedestrians, because motorists would screech to a halt if someone on the sidewalk vaguely looked like they were thinking about crossing at some point (maybe, possibly, perhaps) in the next ten minutes or so.

Having said that, the discussion reminded me that many things remain the same in Yellowknife. People are still friendly (even if the motorists are considerably ruder). People – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – still live close to the land. CBC Radio continues to build a sense of community. And the place retains its anything-is-possible vibe. Maybe you can no longer walk into CBC and get a radio job without any training. (As apparently you could in the ’70s. I couldn’t get a job there in the ’80s and I had training.) But Yellowknifers are busy pursuing their dreams without a lot of hang-ups. The place is crawling with artists – writers, musicians, visual artists, dancers – who routinely put themselves out there. And the community is unfailingly supportive. A holdover from the days before satellite TV when we had to invent our own amusement? Perhaps, but I think it’s just the nature of our little town.