Writer

A writer is someone who uses written words to communicate ideas.

Let be whatever may befall

To be, or not to be. For advocates of plain writing, Shakespeare’s most famous monologue is a touchstone. Its opening sentence consists of nine one-syllable words in a row, followed by one containing just two (depending on whether one reads “question” as two syllables or three). It’s a simple sentence, based on a four-letter infinitive …

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The Northern Seduction

Sebastian Fricke and Rose Seguin share their journey, their “inner compasses” with us as they travel and write on their way through Alaska and the Yukon Having completed our undergraduate degrees, Rose and I were very eager to break free of the bureaucracy and daily grind of city life. We followed our inner compasses north, …

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Authors on Eighth celebrates Klondike literature

Each summer the Klondike Visitors Association (KVA), honours the memory of four writers who have meant a great deal to Dawson City and the Klondike: Jack London, Robert W. Service, Pierre Berton and Dick North.

Art is in the eyes of the beholder

Some 30 years ago, as a way of managing his writer’s block, Murray decided to go out to the garage, turn his scroll saw on and put the scroll blade to work to carve away.

Celebrating the Klondike’s Literary Legends

During the week that leads to the Discovery Days weekend, the Klondike Visitors Association, Parks Canada and the Writers’ Trust of Canada celebrate the writers who have made Dawson City world famous. Part of this event, called Authors on Eighth, is a writing contest that began in June and ended in July, in time for …

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Good Advice

Jamie Bastedo is not new to the Yukon. He first came to the territory 35 years ago as a biology graduate student. “Think Never Cry Wolf,” he says. “My head full of book knowledge about northern landscapes and cultures.” The Yukon still means a lot to him and he is excited to be coming back. …

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Writing as a Full Time Profession

James Bernard MacKinnon, commonly bylined as J.B. MacKinnon, will be coming to the Yukon from Vancouver to be the Yukon Public Libraries’ choice as a travelling writer to visit a number of communities during the Yukon Writers’ Festival taking place May 2-7. During his Yukon visit McKinnon will do presentations and readings in the Dawson …

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A Mentor for Yukon Young Writers

Born in England, but transplanted to Newfoundland when she was very young, Kathleen Winter credits libraries with kick starting her interest in writing. “We moved around a bit and in one village the only library was ‘the bookmobile,’ a van filled with books that came to town once a week – I loved that van,” …

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Looking for the Next Margaret Atwood

Krystal McKenna, a Grade 1 teacher at Jack Hulland Elementary School, sets young authors off on a great writing adventure. At the beginning of the year, students draw pictures in their journals. McKenna talks to the student about the drawing and scribes a description. Soon, however, students are encouraged to begin their own journey with …

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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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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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Literature in the Kluane Country

Kluane Country has long inspired writers. Three such writers will be doing readings in Haines Junction and Whitehorse on May 17 to 19. Whitehorse writer David Thompson set his adventure novel Haines Junction in the community; Haines Junction author Elisabeth Weigand wrote memoirs about Kluane pioneer Mabel Brewster; and Ottawa, Ontario writer Claudia Coutu Radmore, …

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Nurturing Good Writing

Unlike many a published author, Saskatoon writer Sandy Bonny didn’t study to become one. It just happened. “I haven’t got an English degree,” she says, “and didn’t train or apprentice purposefully with literary mentors before my first publications, but I did always enjoy writing and continued writing recreationally long after it was required for school. …

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A Very Literate Year (Part 2)

July: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers (American, 1951)  Hopefully hopeless, Anna Karenina details the rise and fall of a Russian beauty who is ultimately destroyed by the strength of her desires and her willingness to seek out her own sexual and romantic happiness. While it has been interpreted as a morality …

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Extraverts and Introverts

There are extroverts and there are introverts—equals in life, just with different ways of having their “batteries” recharged. The extrovert is energized in social gatherings of larger groups and may mistakenly be thought of as “the life of the party.” Well, they may indeed be, but no less than the introvert who is energized in …

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The Craft of Storytelling

Three of the country’s best storytellers will soon descend on Whitehorse for the Northern Lights Writers’ Conference. The conference features Terry Fallis, author of Best Laid Plans; Douglas Gibson, editor and publisher of luminaries such as Alice Munro; and hometown hero Ivan Coyote. The theme is The Storytellers. Douglas Gibson wasn’t always a storyteller by …

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This place is in my blood

It’s a dark and rainy night, when Kate Williams finds an injured stranger on the Highway. She pulls over to help him, not knowing that she will be soon in danger. That’s how Marcelle Dubé’s short story Night Shift starts. Dubé has recently published her short story collection Night Shift (Falcon Ridge Publishing). Readers who …

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Write from the Soul

What’s an English teacher to do once she retires: take a trip through the Northwest Passage? Ruth Armson did that, and wrote about it. Compile an autobiography, perhaps? She did that, too. “I’d been away from home since I was 15, and I thought, ‘What’s a better way of letting my family know what my …

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Grief Writing in Dawson

Jacob Scheier wrote his first collection of poems about the loss of his mother; he was 20. She had gotten sick when he was in high school. It was part of his shift from writing as a hobby to writing because it felt very necessary. And, ultimately, writing about his loss was an important part …

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Mind Stretching Poetry

What does knitting have in common with writing poetry? Both must be done carefully. One mistake can ruin the whole image. Jamie Sharpe knitted a one meter wide and two storey long scarf and wrote a poem about it. Sharpe’s second book of poetry is entitled Cut-up Apologetic (ECW Press). His work has appeared in …

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Some Writers

A voice in her periphery, one that was indelibly twisted into her memories, rose above the unfolding dialogue in her mind and, like the instinct to swat away a buzzing fly, she had to look. She’d been occupying a tucked-away booth — her books and writing utensils strewn about the table in an organized mess. …

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The Play’s the Thing

Any parent knows that watching offspring leave the nest unleashes a jumble of emotions: pride, relief, disbelief, grief, envy, nostalgia, apprehension. Sometimes abject terror. You give them a hug, or a slap on the back, and remind them to keep in touch, eat properly, use condoms, call if they need anything. You try not to …

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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.

Ice fishing on Lake Baikal

A kilometre out on the ice, the motorcycle with its side-cart caught my attention, the olive drab silhouette contrasting sharply against the frozen surface of Lake Baikal, a vast sea of white some 40 km. wide and more than 700 km. long. Known as ‘the Blue Eye of Siberia’, the area of the lake is …

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For starters, try eavesdropping

Rude? Normally, yes. Eavesdropping is never in vogue, unless, of course, you’re a writer. Eavesdropping involves observing, listening and perhaps inhaling details, without being obnoxious. In public buildings, on buses, on the street … any venue could provide inspiration. It may be a conversation you’re in or one you’re listening to … What’s he saying? …

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Musing about the muse

The muse is a mysterious woman, pursued then waited for, enticed then pleaded with; until she is loosed in our imagination. She is sometimes elusive and sometimes bold, declaring her presence. She is in what we see and hear and smell, and in what we taste and touch. The muse is our inspiration. She is …

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Metaphorically speaking, it’s like this …

In the days of LPs, when groovy  was used to describe a wonderful feeling, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were also singing about a rare kind of comfort in “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. Similes and metaphors are powerhouses in writing: similes use the helpers like or as to create word pictures. Metaphors dispense with the …

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Vain jangling, a lullaby for readers

At about that time, Jack was learning that a stitch in time, saves nine. Although it’s an extreme example, the above sentence will no doubt leave readers scratching their heads in confusion: At about what time? And, what was he learning (poor Jack)? When decoding a sentence becomes labour-intensive, the ghost of fresh-brewed goodness rises …

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Easy as 1, 2, 3!

At What’s Up Yukon, it’s as easy as one, two, three. That’s right, this one’s about numbers. And … it gets complicated. Again, this is where your publication’s House Style trumps everything else. Most Canadian newspapers and magazines follow The Canadian Press Stylebook (CP Style), and that includes What’s Up Yukon. Numbers one to nine …

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More than a devotional (book is insight into community)

Northern Reflections, Desmond Carroll, paintings by Ted Harrison, The cover of Northern Reflections shows an inukshuk and a blazing sun over ice. One of Ted Harrison’s favourite paintings, it was also selected by Marion Carroll, the wife of the late author, Desmond Carroll. She had reason to choose that cover. “It’s about guidance. Inukshuks were …

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Poets give ‘voice’ to women of the past

Nineteenth-century photographs of female lunatic asylum patients and Euripides’ play The Bacchae are the inspiration for two poets giving readings in Whitehorse at the end of October. Nadine McInnis was so taken by photographs of Surrey County Lunatic Asylum inmates that she reconstructed the subjects’ otherwise unknown stories in her poems and found herself exploring …

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The long and the short of it

“Jesus wept.” That is the shortest verse in the Bible and one of the most powerful. It has a subject and a verb, and that’s enough. If this were the only verse you ever read, you would know something about the subject: He was human. He felt things deeply. He cried. What you wouldn’t know …

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A balancing act

In a world where imagination is the only contender and where the laws of physics are hotly contested—in the circus world—the act of balancing rivals even the act of breathing, both are essential for survival and success. The world of writing includes balancing acts, as well. One such balancing act involves parallel construction. If something …

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Take the lead

Nothing says “lead” like a top hat, white tie and tails, a walking stick and leather-soled taps. Nothing says “lead” like Fred Austerlitz (Fred Astaire). And, of course, nothing says “follow” like a black chiffon gown that floats just above the dance floor in effortless grace. Nothing says “follow” like Virginia Katherine McMath (Ginger Rogers). …

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These are a few of my favourite things …

Before your vocal chords burst into the chorus from Julie Andrews’ “My Favorite Things” (dash it all, I hate to spoil your fun), I’m not talking about those kinds of things Something better. Some wonderful resources for writing and editing, which include books and websites. Now, wait a minute … I saw those fingers over …

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World of Words: A Poet shares her diverse sense of ‘Place’

Montreal poet and essayist Erin Mouré is an Albertan with roots in Galicia, Spain. “I think in three languages all at once and every day,” she said: Galician, her father’s language, French and English. Mouré, also a professional translator, mastered Galician, a root language of Portuguese, “to preserve the richly poetic culture” of Spain’s mountainous …

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From Ice to Ashes

An excerpt from Jessica Simon’s New Book Chapter One … Under the skiff of snow that blew across the parking lot, a row of footprints trailed from Fanger’s truck – a pile of rust so old it said Datsun on the tailgate – to a line of nearby trees. He opened the door and empties …

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World of Words: History as a Smörgåsbord

“Think of our history as a smörgåsbord, upon which there is more than you can possibly eat,” says Michael Gates, author of the new book, History Hunting in the Yukon, published by Harbour Publishing. As Gates’ popular History Hunters column in the Yukon News shows, he gets personal about Yukon history: “I have always delighted …

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All I ever need …

Sometimes the muse doesn’t just find you; sometimes she follows you, haunts you, tracks your every move and invades your quiet moments, ticking away inside that clockwork brain until you know it’s just no use—she’ll never leave—not until you’ve written that story, that song, that poem … and so it goes. So here it is, …

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2010 Condor Foreign Correspondent contest winner

Nathalie Ouellet was feeling the usual letdown after returning from a European vacation, when she saw an advertisement for the Foreign Correspondent Contest in What’s Up Yukon. “I love writing when I travel,” she says. “It re-enforces the experience.” Writing a story that pointed out the everyday whimsy of Europe, and the ironie s, and …

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World of Words: Locals review great Canadian crime fiction

May is National Crime Writing Month, and in celebration, Yukoners have reviewed work by finalists in three categories. A Nominee for Best Crime Novel: Arctic Blue Death, by R. J. Harlick (RendezVous Crime) This is a murder story that has a bit of a twist. Meg Harris has an intriguing past, some of which is …

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World of Words: “Bodice Rippers” Evolve to “Flak Jacket Rippers”

Chasing trends is a tricky game for writers, says Selina McLemore, editor of Grand Central Publishing’s Forever romance line. “Some can use trends to their advantage, some buck them successfully,” she told delegates to the recent San Diego Writers’ Conference. The key is to understand the trend and what makes it work. She uses examples …

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Ode to ‘Of’

How do I love thee, Of … There are so many ways … gee, let me count them I love thee about as deep and wide and high (Higher than I can reach whilst standing on my tippy toes) Indeed, you are the one my heart’s been dreaming of Of this, I am sure In …

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World of Words: On assignment with Luke Dittrich

If you’ve flipped through a copy of Esquire Magazine in the past four years, there’s a 50 percent chance you’ve read a story by Whitehorse writer Luke Dittrich. And there’s a 40 percent chance you’re a woman. Although Equire is primarily a men’s interest magazine, Dittrich says, “Pretty much everything I write for them is …

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World of Words: Science Is the best story going

Many Yukon book-lovers are familiar with Claire Eamer’s science series for children, Super Crocs and Monster Wings, Spike Scorpions and Walking Whales, and the latest Lizards in the Sky. She’s also had science fiction published in Polaris: A Celebration of Polar Science. Alanna Mitchell writes about science and society. Although they have different approaches, they …

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Writing from Watson

Tor Forsberg writes from Watson Lake. Her publishing credits include “Me Yukon”, which won the 2009 LUSH short story competition sponsored by subTerrain magazine, a story anthologized in Polar Express and numerous profiles and features for the Yukon News. In March 2010 her first book, North of Iskut, was published by Caitlin Press. Below is …

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Drum Roll, Please

Editors love – and hate – writing competitions. We love them because they give us a chance to discover how different writers approach similar subject matter, the choices they make about what details to include, the images they employ to paint word pictures, the structure they use to tell their individual stories. We also love …

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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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An avalanche of words

An interview with C.R. Avery can be like getting lost in a maze with an avalanche of words descending on you. Sentences meander off in unpredictable directions and often don’t actually end. It feels, at times, that you’re listening to an ancient soul who witnessed the birth of the blues, and ‘n’ roll, and practically …

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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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A life on the edge

Ione Christensen, Yukon writer, mother, pioneer and politician, is writing an autobiography spanning three generations. The daughter of RCMP corporal G. I. Cameron and lay nurse Martha, Ione was raised in Fort Selkirk, a once quiet riverside community transformed each summer into a bustling paddlewheel stop where the Pelly and Yukon rivers meet. Ione credits …

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World of Words: No longer restricted reading

When graphic novelist and Grade 7 teacher Rebecca Hicks was in school, reading “comics” under the desk would have earned her a trip to the principal’s office. Now, in her classroom, they’re required reading. “I’ve had great success using graphic novels to enhance reading instruction,” says Hicks. She guides more advanced readers to classical mythology …

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Begin, then begin again!

That’s right; the beginning (where else to start?). Let’s look at some creative, perhaps unconventional ways to begin sentences:

Knowing when to begin again

If you were to write about the northern hairy-nosed wombat, each paragraph would reveal something new about it. A paragraph contains one facet of a subject and it may consist of one word, one sentence or be much longer. What kind of creature is it and what does it look like? (first paragraph). Where does …

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The colon: Abracadabra!

Rising just above the horizon, the moon appears larger than it actually is, much larger than when it’s overhead. The colon is like that—abracadabra!—appearing in a way that has a sometimes-magical affect.

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