Last evening our current writer-in-residence, Anik See, presented two of her essays to 15 people at the Dawson Community Library. See focuses particularly on landscape and people’s reactions to it, as well as an interest in the narratives people tell each other, and themselves, about their lives; both themes were featured in the pieces she read that night.
It was an interesting evening — leaving me with a number of items to quiz her about when we sit down to do what I call the “exit interview”, near the end of her residency next week.
One of See’s unique experiences was bundling her family off on a Yukon River canoe trip — inspired by the Yukon River Quest — when her son and partner arrived here for a visit, after the first few weeks of her stay.
Berton House affects different writers differently; See mentioned that. While she arrived here with a very specific project in mind, she found Dawson City stimulated many other project pathways in a genre she calls “fictional essays.”
For See, Berton House has been inspirational.
This morning I reached back four years to my last chat with Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, who was in residence here nearly five years ago now, in the early winter of 2010. For Metcalfe-Chenail, who also had a very specific project in mind when she arrived, Berton House was a research base camp, from which she launched herself off to Haines Junction, Watson Lake, Inuvik, Whitehorse, and Old Crow, searching archives and interviewing people for her history of Northern aviation.
She remembers one very cold early winter day when she built up a tremendous static charge in her snowsuit while walking over to the Dawson City Museum, and inadvertently zapped the archive computer when she sat down to get to work.
Polar Winds: A Century of Flying in the North (Dundurn) had its Yukon debut in Whitehorse during the last week in September, and will send her touring the book across the country.
As I much prefer doing face-to-face chats, I was delighted to connect with her on Skype this morning. As part of our discussion she reflected on how researching Polar Wind led directly to the “Yukon Love” column that she writes for What’s Up Yukon. There were so many anecdotes about relationships that just wouldn’t fit into a book about aviation history, so she was inspired to write this series of shorter, more personal pieces.
Another former resident Joan Thomas (Berton House, July-September, 2012) had her third novel, The Opening Sky (McClelland & Stewart), on sale on the day I wrote this column. This is the book she worked on here. She gave us a taste of the draft during her community reading just over two years ago, but now it is finished and in bookstores; I’m looking forward to seeing a copy.