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 actually went through this process in reverse, having been here two years earlier as part of the ODD Gallery’s annual “Natural and the Manufactured” art installation.
Having been here once as an artist, she got to return as a writer.
Mylène Gilbert-Dumas was also here during the last month, having boomeranged to Dawson for the second time since her Berton House stint in 2010 in order to sample the atmosphere of solstice.
Gilbert-Dumas has written a trilogy of historical novels in French set in Dawson in the Gold Rush era, and visited here originally as part of her research. I’m hoping the Lili Klondike books (VLB Éditeur) will be translated someday so that I can read them.
She is now working on a book about a modern woman lured to the Klondike, and is determined to sample every season here.
She is also planning a non-fiction book about real women she has met and interviewed during her two long residences (one at Berton House, one as a house-sitter), so she may be back again.
Linda Goyette was here in 2009 to collect stories for her book, Northern Kids (Brindle and Glass), tales of historical and current children’s lives in the North.
She and her husband returned within a few months to fill a sudden vacancy at the residence and they came back again last fall to launch her book.
Frances Backhouse had visited Dawson before her 2008 residency, and had already written Women of the Klondike (Whitecap, 1995) before deciding to expand the project 15 years later with Children of the Klondike (Whitecap, 2010).
She came back to Dawson for the Yukon launch of the book and the reissue of its companion volume last August.
One month later Charlotte Gray arrived in town to show off her new book, Gold Diggers (HarperCollins), which she worked on here in 2008.
She could not actually launch the book here, as it wasn’t due to be in book stores until later that same week, but she did an extensive reading and talk about her characters in the Oddfellows’ Hall ballroom.
The book got rave reviews everywhere and will surely win an award eventually. The National Post review said, “Charlotte Gray’s new history of the Klondike Gold Rush shows why those hardscrabble years captivate us still …”
The year 2008 was particularly fertile at Berton House. It also brought us Monica Graham, who completed her research on The Great Maritime Detective (Nimbus), the true story of Peter Owen Carroll, the most successful Maritime detective of his era.
“Peachie” Carroll, like many, was captivated by the lure of the Gold Rush and part of his story is how he made it as far as Atlin in his unsuccessful quest for the yellow mineral.
Gold, it seems, was one of the few fugitives he could not find.
There are other books and other writers I could mention who have boomeranged back to Dawson. Perhaps another time.