Berton House

How real life can inform fiction

In the course of his Massey Lecture series in 2013 (published as Blood: The Stuff of Life, from House of Anansi Press), Lawrence Hill used a fair amount of autobiographical information for anecdotal evidence to enliven his research material. In this way, we learned that he once hankered to become a professional runner and was stopped …

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A tale of Arctic exploration

Yukon author Eva Holland has taken advantage of Amazon’s Kindle Singles format to produce what might have been a 45-page volume about the early history of Arctic exploration.

A Tale of the Klondike Tailings

Despite the romantic image of the grizzled miner panning by the creek side in search of gold, that phase of the Klondike’s mineral saga was relatively short. Entrepreneurial minds knew of more efficient and less-labour intensive ways of getting gold from the ground, and it wasn’t long before the arrival of the dredges in the …

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SOVA at 10

When talking about the location of the Yukon School of Visual Arts (Yukon SOVA) in Dawson City, two issues are often raised: What does the location do for students? What does it do for the town? Kyla McArthur, who works at SOVA as the administrative officer and is also a town councillor, spoke of the …

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Rooted in the Yukon

Toronto-based poet Claire Caldwell’s role as writer-in-residence at the Berton House in Dawson City ends this month. Caldwell is no stranger to the Yukon. She lived in Whitehorse from ages three to nine. These years had a deep impact on Caldwell. That’s where she found her fascination for nature and the outdoors, she says. “Certain …

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Stories for Gold

Each year the Klondike Visitors Association works with the Writers’ Trust of Canada, Parks Canada, and the Dawson Community Library to put on the Authors on Eighth Walking Tour during the week before Discovery Days. Connected to that event is the annual Authors on Eighth Writing Contest, which challenges would-be authors to emulate the work …

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Chasing Stories in Skagway

My shakedown cruise for our trailer has come to be my annual pilgrimage to the town of Skagway to attend the North Words Writers’ Symposium, held this year from May 25-28 in the windy town. This was the seventh annual event, of which I have attended all but one since the first in 2010. The …

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Fresh Words and Deep Roots

Writing poetry since she was a child, Nova Scotia based author Shauntay Grant says she has always loved creative writing. “The oldest poem I’ve kept is from fourth grade,” she says. The vocalist, poet and author began a residency at the Berton House Writers’ Retreat in Dawson City in April. She is working on Proof, …

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Turning Her Life Into Stories

As a former English teacher, long time library patron, book reviewer, informal Berton House liaison, and editor of The Klondike Sun, it often falls to me to make the introductions when an author comes to do a public reading at the Dawson Community Library.

Keeping Busy On The Berton House Beat

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 …

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Landscape and Solitude

In 1938, when Anik See’s maternal grandparents wanted to get married, they had to satisfy the authorities in their German homeland that neither side had any Jewish blood for at least three generations back. Her grandmother undertook to compile the necessary documentation. “She hated the reason for having to do it, but she did what …

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Proposing World Heritage Status for the Klondike

The headline on the front page of the July 24, 1997 edition of the Klondike Sun proclaimed, “Berton Proposes Dawson for World Heritage Site Status.” The Berton was Pierre Berton, of course, Dawson City’s most famous living son at the time and author of some 60 books. It wasn’t the first time anyone suggested the …

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Authors on Eighth

Taking a stroll along the Writers’ Block — from the corner of 8th Avenue and Hanson Street to the corner of 8th and Firth — you find yourself sandwiched between Berton House and Robert Service’s Cabin at the top end. Moving south and then west, you close the block at Jack London Square, with the …

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Winter Snow Dropped Early this Year

My experience in Dawson says we first snow before Thanksgiving. But there are exceptions. One memorable year we had snow early in September

They Keep Coming Back

The departure of yet another Berton House writer, Jeanne Randolph, brought to my mind the number of writers in residence who have come and gone – and come again over the last few years. This happens to quite a few people other than writers, and is referred to locally as the Dawson Boomerang Effect. Randolph …

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Dawson and the Ted Harrison Effect

While doing what I call my Berton House exit interview with Sara Tilley, the latest writer-in-residence, she remarked that one of the things that made her feel comfortable and at home here was the colourful palette of our buildings. It reminded her of buildings in Newfoundland. That’s quite true. I noticed the colours, particularly in …

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Playwright Sherry MacDonald shares her secrets to the creative process

Sherry MacDonald, the newest writer-in-residence at Dawson City’s Berton House, has a place secured in heaven. “There’s a special place in heaven for single moms who have raised three boys,” she says. MacDonald is a playwright and her plays have been seen on stages in Vancouver, Calgary, and Florida. Her sons are now grown and …

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Process of Imagination

One thing his early journalism career taught author Lawrence Hill was to pursue the adventure of his stories. Alongside working on final drafts of his eighth novel, Illegal, due out early next year, over the past few weeks the Berton House writer in residence has been embracing the Yukon and doing preliminary research for a …

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A Fortnight in the Freezer

Today was one of those overcast days when the sun didn’t break through and all we got was indirect lighting. When this happens I can’t help but feel cheated. The sun has been back for a couple of weeks now, and while it isn’t quite hitting the streets (except for a bit on Front Street) …

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The Origins of Berton House: Pt. 2

When I left off with this history of the Berton House, Pierre Berton had bought back his childhood home for $50,000 in 1989 and donated it to the Yukon Arts Council. The council collaborated with the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA) to set up the Berton House writer-in-residence committee to make decisions about how to handle …

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Adventure starts here

It was novelist Lawrence Hill who told me while we sipped tea in the Downtown Hotel dining room in Dawson in March that his early career as a journalist taught him to embrace the adventure of his stories. The beauty of living in the North is the adventure that is innate to every story. Pursuing …

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The story of bones

Being in Dawson City for a residence at the Berton House is a dream come true for Winnipeg writer Joan Thomas. This is not the first time that Thomas has been to this area. In 1996, she spent a month camping in the Yukon with her family. At the time, Pierre Berton’s childhood home was …

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The Berton House Boomerang Effect

I was enjoying an hour’s quiet reading on our front deck last week when a familiar French-Canadian voice hailed me from the street. I wasn’t entirely surprised to see Mylène Gilbert-Dumas coming through my front gate. She is a Facebook friend and my minimal high school French does allow me to pick through some of …

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The Ice Bridge Begins

I finally managed to spot the place where they are crossing the Yukon River yesterday (November 19). I’ve been hearing stories of people making the trek since about two weeks after they pulled the ferry out, but the ice build-up has been so erratic this year that I hardly knew what to believe. It looked …

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