Friday, December 31, 2010

Old Yellowknife Christmas tradition

I was going through some old photos and came across this one. I took it in 1986, the first year I lived in Yellowknife.

To get everyone into the holiday spirit, the City used to set up a Christmas tree smack dab in the middle of 50th Avenue and 50th Street - the main intersection in downtown Yellowknife. They hadn't covered this contingency when I took driver training in Saskatchewan, so I was never sure if one makes a left turn by cutting in front of the tree, or swinging wide around it. If you look closely at the photo, you'll see that there are no traffic lights, so whatever we did, we had to use the honour system that goes with an unmarked (and usually treeless) intersection.

I forget when they stopped putting up the tree. That tradition probably ended by the close of the '80s, about the same time they put up traffic lights in the downtown. I sometimes pine for the old tree, but given that Yellowknife is almost twice as big as it was in 1986, and drivers aren't nearly as patient as they used to be, it's unlikely to be resurrected.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Watching the solstice eclipse from the Dettah ice road

Even though it was minus 20, plus wind chill, there was an impressive turnout on the Dettah ice road on December 20 for the super special solstice eclipse. Cars, trucks, snowmobiles, parasailors – even a lone cyclist pedalling past in the dark. The ice road between Yellowknife and Dettah – a First Nations community across Yellowknife Bay – is the ideal observation spot because it is close to town, but there’s little light pollution.

We watched from the relative comfort of our little SUV – sun roof (moon roof?) cranked open so we could see the Earth’s shadow slowly move across the face of the moon. The visibility was excellent, and the moon seemed to pop right out of the sky when we looked through the binoculars. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a red moon before, so was pretty impressed when the eclipse reached totality.

We had Christmas choirs playing on the satellite radio, which added to the sense of grandeur. When we felt chilled, we turned on the vehicle for a bit. Between fumbling with cameras and binoculars in the cold, and our heated car seats, we had a unique northern experience of getting frostbite on our fingers at the same time we got first degree burns on our butts!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Great workshop!

Thanks to everyone who participated in my Creating Northern Characters workshop this past Sunday. A bit of brainstorming and some small group work, and there they were: an army wife looking for some fun; a crack addict who sold his friend's booster cables for some quick cash; a man who likes boats and snowmobiles more than the company of women; a Somali cab driver making a go of it on the streets of Yellowknife. Good work, everyone!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I'm leading a workshop this Sunday

Northern writing often focuses on landscape and weather, but what of the people who roam those wild locales? How does a story’s setting affect the development of its characters? How do we create characters that truly reflect the northern experience? Join me for an interactive workshop of writing exercises, discussion and ideas.

Sunday, December 5, 2010
1:30 to 4 p.m.
Aurora College, Room 127, Yellowknife, NWT
Fee: $30, Register in advance at the Yellowknife Book Cellar

Many thanks to the NorthWords Writers Festival for sponsoring the workshop!

Great time at the book signing

Last weekend's book signing, organized by the NorthWords Writers Festival and the Yellowknife Book Cellar was a great opportunity to sell some books, do some Christmas shopping, and connect with my Yellowknife writer friends. I shared a table with Bren Kolson, author of Myth of the Barrens.