Friday, December 11, 2009

Frosty Friday

We've hit the deep freeze, a couple of weeks early. This was the temperature when I walked to work this morning.

When I headed back down the Franklin Avenue hill after work, it was -49 with the wind chill. Kind of a drag right now, but the cold weather means the ice will be forming on the lakes - good news for smowmobilers, skiers, snowshoers (like me).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Morning mist

This morning's mist enshrouds the houseboats on Yellowknife Bay.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ready for winter . . . I guess

All over Yellowknife, there are signs that winter is imminent: the sky is that dull slate blue we get every fall, the leaves are off the trees, woodpiles are sprouting in front of houses.

The last two weekends have been a round of pre-winter preparation chez nous. I’ve ripped up the garden and the bedding plants, washed and oiled my bike, tucked away my kayak in the garage.

And now we wait. Ice is forming along the shore of Back Bay and there’s a skiff of snow on the ground, but it will be a couple of months before there’s enough of either ice or snow for winter activities to start.

In the meantime, it’s the season for spicy chili, hot beverages and a good book.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

UTDC reviewed by the Ultimate Bookhound

The Ultimate Bookhound has posted a review of The Ugly Truck and Dog Contest. Bit of an acid test, since the Bookhound grew up in Yellowknife. It passed muster, however, receiving a 4 out of 5 (= Good. I really enjoyed this, and I recommend it.)

Check it out!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Warm welcome in Whitehorse

Hats off to Whitehorse!

A good-sized group came out to my reading at the public library this evening. They listened politely, laughed at the right times, and answered my questions about the Yukon writing scene. They stayed afterwards and talked about life in Whitehorse and Yellowknife. It was a great time.

Many thanks to Mairi Macrae of the Whitehorse Public Library for organizing the event - everything from securing the room to finding a projector for my Yellowknife slide show to doing the publicity to providing snacks.

And thanks to Roslyn for taking photos!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Last day of summer, 2009

Last Monday Pierre called me at the office at five to five with the request that I get myself home as soon as possible.

"We're having a picnic supper in the boat," says he. "It'll be our last chance this year."

Last Monday was a stunner in Yellowknife. Sunny skies, 24 degrees. The weather's been marginal this summer, and a lot of people were griping about the fact that our entire summer seems to have occurred on a Monday in September, when everyone was back at work.

So shortly after five I hopped on my pink mountain bike and coasted down the Franklin Avenue hill to the Old Town. Turns out Pierre was serious about getting into the boat. I'm usually in charge of the cooler, but while I was wandering around, checking my e-mail and putting my hair in a ponytail, he got everything packed and was sitting in the car in the driveway ready to go while I was still looking for my ball cap.

It was, indeed, a lovely evening on the water. We went about 15 minutes out on Yellowknife Bay, then puttered around some little islands while we dined on snack food. The lake was absolutely calm; it was so warm I was wearing a tank top. We waited until the sun was almost down, and then headed back to town.

Fall hit the following day; it's been cold and rainy ever since.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Reading at the Whitehorse Public Library

I'll be in the Yukon next week, and will be giving a public reading of selections from my book.

Monday, September 21, 2009
7:30 p.m.
Whitehorse Public Library
2071 2nd Avenue
Whitehorse, Yukon

If you're in Whitehorse, come on down!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ugly Truck and Dog Contest in the classroom

Got some great news this week - Yellowknife Catholic Schools has decided to use The Ugly Truck and Dog Contest as part of its high school program, and ordered a class set of books. Excellent!

Monday, September 7, 2009

What I did on my summer holidays

Labour Day is here, and it’s time to touch base. Here’s how I spent July and August.

1.) Went fishing in the East Arm of Great Slave Lake for eight days in July. Scenery wonderful. Company great. Fishing slow. Bugs bad. As in: I had to wear a bug net over my baseball hat the entire time I was out there. A couple of nights we ate late, and there was a haze of mosquitoes around my face as I tried to have supper. Had to pick squirming little bodies out of my food. Ugh.

2.) Spent five days in Regina visiting my parents, aunt and uncle, family friends, and buddies from my journalism days. Exploded a large bottle of tonic water all over my parents' kitchen; spent the rest of the visit cleaning the floor, walls, ceiling, cabinets, stairwell, hutch, etc. Learned that tonic water has real staying power. Weather great. Nice birthday party for my dad. No bugs. Yay!

3.) Back to work right after the August long weekend. Very busy.

4.) Managed to get my new kayak in the water a few times, but incessant wind means I haven’t been out as much as I would like. Common complaint among Yellowknife boaters this summer.

So that's us, all caught up!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

NorthWords Writers Festival: The Fabulous Fourth

Let’s get in the Wayback Machine so I can blog about the NorthWords Writers Festival like it just ended yesterday. (When, in fact, it ended three weeks ago.)

This is the fourth year the festival has run, and it just keeps getting better – the board of directors (Doris McCann, Annelies Pool, Jill Vaydik, Larry Adamson, Richard Van Camp, David Malcolm, and John Mutford) deserve a big round of applause. Many thanks also go to Judith Drinnan of the Yellowknife Book Cellar, who hauled stacks of books to each of the public events so eager readers had easy access to the authors' wares.

In addition to the established public events, there were more writing workshops and panels than ever before. Guest authors included Giller Prize winner Joseph Boyden; science writer and broadcaster Jay Ingram; poet/writer/publisher Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm; and YA author Anita Daher (who used to live in Yellowknife and continues to be a good friend to many northern writers – like me!).

The public events were packed – I was late getting to the family barbecue and had to search for a parking spot. I was (again) a few minutes late to a lunch-time talk with Jay Ingram and local science author Jamie Bastedo, and only got a seat because the organizers were setting out extra chairs. I was definitely NOT late for the two open mikes at Javaroma (with dessert provided by DeBeers Canada) because I know from years gone by that those events very popular. The organizers had originally capped the attendance for Joseph Boyden’s workshop, but responded to popular demand and opened the floodgates. The other panels and workshops also garnered good crowds.

My book was hot off the presses and my publisher, Borealis Press, very kindly arranged to have a couple of boxes airlifted to Yellowknife. Richard Van Camp took every opportunity to make sure the assembled masses knew about it (thanks, Richard!), so my book sales got a kick-start. I attended as many events as possible and was exhausted by Saturday afternoon. A quick nap, and I was ready for the Fourth Annual De Beers Canada Gala Readings. Glad I made time to practice the passages I read – I think it went well!

If you live in Yellowknife, please consider volunteering for next year’s NorthWords. It’s great fun. For more info on the festival, just visit the website.

(Photo above: Cathy reading at the DeBeers Canada Gala. Photo below: signing a book for fellow northern author Mindy Willett.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Book launched!

We had a great turnout here in Yellowknife last night for the launch of my book, The Ugly Truck and Dog Contest, and Other Tales of Northern Life. About 60 to 70 people attended, including Mike Kalnay, inventor and long-time organizer of Yellowknife's actual Ugly Truck and Dog Contest. I read from the book; Moira Cameron and Steve Goff played some lovely music; we had a projector set up showing some of my photos from Yellowknife's Old Town. There was coffee, tea and desserts themed to the stories in the book (Prospector's Trail Brownies, Northern Lights Cheesecake, Ménage a Trois Cake, Cranberry Crumble Cake). Much fun!

(Love the photo above. The event was held at the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre, and the title "Three Billion Years in the Making" refers to a geological event. But I must say, it sometimes felt like my book was also three billion years in the making!)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Book launch!

The book launch for The Ugly Truck and Dog Contest and Other Tales of Northern Life will take place:

- Thursday, June 25, 2009
- 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
- Northern Frontier Visitors Centre
- 4807-49th Street, Yellowknife, NWT

Readings from the book
Music by Moira Cameron and Steve Goff
Photos of the Old Town, coffee, dessert . . . see you there!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Listed on!

Was just cruising the internet, and discovered that The Ugly Truck and Dog Contest and Other Tales of Northern Life is now listed on the website here.

I spoke with my publisher on Friday, and we are going to try to have copies in Yellowknife in time for my reading at the NorthWords gala on June 13.

In the meantime, I am working on promo materials, website updates and so on. Stay tuned for info on the official launch!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ugly Truck and Dog Contest on the presses!

Great news! My publisher got in touch with me last week to let me know that my short story collection, The Ugly Truck and Dog Contest and Other Tales of Northern Life, is on the presses.

Here's a sneak peek of the cover, designed by David Tierney of Borealis Press.

Not sure of the release date right now, but we are going to try to get some early copies up to Yellowknife in time for the NorthWords Writers Festival. I am reading at the closing gala, so would be great to have some copies on hand!

He's back . . .

The little fox made a re-appearance today. Snoozed for an hour or more in the backyard.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Life imitates art . . . or one of my stories, at least

Just had one of those quintessential Yellowknife experiences.

In early April, Pierre and I were vacationing in Calgary and Pierre bought a new vehicle. His plan was to fly back to Yellowknife as planned, get insurance and plates, fly back to Calgary and drive the vehicle home. He had to work out of town for a couple of days before heading back south, but no problemo, we’d had a long cold winter. And then we got several days of surprisingly warm weather.


Here’s the thing. Yellowknife is not on an all-weather road. The highway that connects us to the outside world crosses the Mackenzie River close to the town of Fort Providence. There is no bridge (although one is being built). In the spring/summer, a ferry takes vehicles across; in the winter there is an ice bridge. During the spring melt and the fall freeze, when there is neither an ice road nor an operating ferry, there’s no way to get across.

“Leaving Yellowknife,” the last story in my soon-to-be-published collection of short stories The Ugly Truck and Dog Contest and Other Tales of Northern Life, deals with this very phenomenon. My protagonist, the not-so-angelic Angela, has been offered a prime job in southern Canada. She races south in her beloved car before the ice bridge closes and she is stranded in the NWT for another month before the ferry starts running.

I’m not going to tell you what happens to Angela, but Pierre didn’t make it. It became clear he could not get to Calgary and then make it back up to the NWT in time to get across the quickly disintegrating ice road. So he re-booked his ticket. I think he gave himself about three weeks, which should have been enough time. But then the weather turned cold, and the dates for the ferry kept getting pushed back.

I was predicting that he’d end up in Alberta for days longer than he wanted to, but it all worked out. The ferry started running a couple of days before he got to the crossing, and he’s home safe and sound with a carload of bedding plants. (Yahoo!) Now I just have to keep them alive until it’s warm enough to plant them.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Backyard visitor

Pierre was on his way out to the barbecue this evening, but decided to postpone supper. Someone was snoozing in the backyard, and he didn't want to disturb our guest.

Chances are good this is the same little fox who's been having the occasional nap in our backyard over the past few weeks. We can also hear him jumping off the rocks onto our deck in the middle of the night. Our cats watch from the window, and are fascinated by everything he does. Moments like this I'm glad they don't go outside. They'd probably end up as fox food, and then I wouldn't feel so kindly towards the little guy.

He soon woke up and skedaddled, so I didn't have to wait too long for Pierre to get on with supper.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Signs of spring

I am fortunate to live across the street from Great Slave Lake. The comings and goings on Yellowknife Bay keep me entertained: float planes taking off and landing winter and summer; snow machines, dog teams, skiers in winter; kayaks, canoes and motor boats in summer.

Last night something odd caught my eye. Looked like a dog team was coming across from the far shore, except the order was wrong – the sled appeared to be in the lead, with the dogs following behind. I whipped out my binocs, and it turned out to be a snow machine pulling a komatik (wooden sled topped with a frame and white canvas liner) and two smaller toboggans. The little caravan zigzagged across the lake in front of me, then took a sharp left and headed down the shore. The ice along the shoreline is melting, so the driver would need to find a spot to cross onto land.

Moments later, another little entourage appeared across the bay. This time it was an all-terrain vehicle pulling another komatik and a toboggan, with a dog running beside. Someone was standing on the back of the komatik. The komatik rider and the driver of the ATV kept turning to check on the dog, a shaggy, medium-sized ginger-coloured mutt. They stopped; the komatik person grabbed the dog and placed it in the second toboggan. As they were starting off, the dog (who clearly considered the intervention unnecessary) jumped out. They continued for a couple minutes, then stopped again. Dog was placed in the toboggan once again. This time the second person rode on the back of the toboggan to make sure the dog stayed put. Dogs are so happy to be out in the spring air they often don’t feel their own limitations. With any luck, the poor beast hasn’t strained any muscles or cut its pads on the ice.

My guess is that these people were hauling in their stuff from their winter camp. It’s not unusual for northerners to set up a wall tent out in the wilds during the winter and use it as a base for winter activities. These are not your usual camping tents – they sit on wooden platforms and have wooden frames covered with canvas. A little wood stove will keep a wall tent surprisingly warm.

We’re now firmly in the in-between season. Although I still see para-sailors out on the ice, they don’t have much time left. The countdown to boating season has begun.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Inspiration at a writing workshop

Spent yesterday afternoon getting some much-needed inspiration at a writing workshop presented by Hayden Trenholm and sponsored by the NorthWords Writers Festival. Hayden (who is a playwright, fiction writer and former Yellowknifer) discussed how to balance plot and character in genre fiction.

Plotting is not my favourite thing. I like inventing the characters, I like putting them in odd situations . . . and then my story drafts start to founder. Sometimes, after staring at a draft long enough, I can see the natural evolution of the story, and then all is well. But my pile of half-finished tales is a testament to the fact that my fictional universes don't reveal themselves as often as I would like.

So what to do? When you're stuck with your plot, how do you get it unstuck in a way that remains true to the characters? Hayden gave us a number of exercises to help us get back to the basics of our stories: you understand where your characters are coming from, you understand where they're headed.

So, time to get out the worksheets provided by Hayden, close my eyes, and pick a draft from that pile . . .

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wear your snowshoes to work today?

Ecology North, along with the NWT Recreation and Parks Association and the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority, have declared today "Snowshoe to Work Day." This morning CBC ran a clip of some hardy souls tramping across Back Bay, so someone took up the challenge.

I did walk to work today, albeit sans snowshoes. There are times when they'd be useful going up the Franklin Avenue hill, but (mercifully) the sidewalks have been ploughed for the past few weeks.

My brand new high-tech snowshoes are down in the garage, waiting for me to give them a try. I, however, am waiting for the temperature to go above -30 and for the wind to die down before I venture out. We'll see what the weekend brings.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Book deal signed!

Good news on the writing front – Borealis Press of Ottawa will be publishing my short story collection, The Ugly Truck and Dog Contest and Other Tales of Northern Life, later on this spring.

Not only has the deal been signed, the editor and I have been busy doing our thing with the manuscript. Editing and revisions are done, and the manuscript has been laid out – page proofs should be winging their way to me even as we speak.

You can take a peek at the cover image and read a blurb about the book on my website.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Is it 2009 already?

The Yellowknife holiday season passed in a blur, as usual. Many social events, much food, much visiting, much fun.

The weather was colder than usual this December, so the Christmas landscape had a Narnia-esque feel: brittle, white, still. Hoar frost on the trees, so lace everywhere. Too cold to do much outside, but pretty to look at through the window.

I took some time off work over the holidays, but was back at it last week. I walk to the office, which is a half-hour trek up to the New Town, and then back home again at the end of the day. People seem to admire the fact I do this all year round, even in the middle of winter. In fact, I would much rather pile on the snow pants and parka and trudge up the Franklin Avenue hill than try to manage a car at 30 below.

For several months I make this commute in the dark - in mid-winter we only get about four hours of daylight, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., or so. But yesterday morning, there was a sign that spring is on its way: when I left the house, instead of the usual blackness, there was a line of light along the horizon, topped with a band of turquoise that deepening upward into sapphire blue. So, less than a month since the solstice, it's apparent the days are getting longer.

(Photo: Ice fog rising toward Yellowknife's New Town, taken from the ice of Yellowknife Bay, January 3, 2009.)