Reviewed in The Miramichi Reader by Patricia Sandberg
Melt is a modern relationship story: friends, husbands and wives, parents and children with the challenges that these connections bring. The author Heidi Wicks employs snappy, smart and frank dialogue to get into the minds and hearts of the two modern protagonists and adeptly builds scenes.
My grandfather Johan Ferdinand (Fred) Sandberg’s immigrant journey from Sweden took him to Canada’s east and west coasts and from southern Manitoba to Great Bear Lake in the far north.
Fred’s early work included delivering mail by dogsled. His construction skills contributed to Canada’s wartime activities, including at secret uranium projects to supply the Manhattan Project during WWII and during the Cold War. You can read about his journey here.
Fred’s story is like that of most immigrants, a decision by a man or woman to leave their home and family in search of a new and better life. It takes courage to make such a decision. It requires luck, resolve and the support of others to succeed. My grandfather had all of these qualities and received such support. Along the way, he participated by chance in significant developments in the early 20th century.
Extracted with permission from The Swedish Press. “My grandparents were passionate Canadians. They chose to fully contribute and assimilate into Canadian society while maintaining their core attachment to Sweden. Fred was only able to visit his family once, which must have been very difficult for all. Although I heard Swedish on records that Fred and Freda played on their turntable, I heard never heard them speak it. None of their children spoke Swedish. My grandparents showcased their heritage in their love of entertaining, the lavish Christmas table weighted down with pickled herring and pigs’ feet, and my grandmother’s famous meatballs.”
The Swedish Press is a very fine magazine about – you guessed it – all things Swedish. Their exquisite judgement is shown in their very positive review of Sun Dogs and Yellowcake which you can see here and which I wrote about here.
I’m very pleased to share my review in The Miramichi Reader of the climate change anthology Rising Tides.
We live on this earth without reflecting sufficiently on how we impact it. Through story, poetry and personal climate testimonies, Rising Tides offers us a window into the feelings and views of forty-two writers closely connected to the climate crisis.
“The way rain falls the spring of life seed to root, stem to leaves. Oh trees, weather maker, life shaper, air sweet. Language of snail, moss lichen. Everything returns …” The intricate simplicity and beauty of Hiromi Goto’s language in ‘This is the Way’ particularly resonated with me, reinforcing one of the anthology’s messages to observe and listen to the change around us.
You can read the review here. Rising Tides is edited by Catriona Sandilands and published by Caitlin Press.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings, editor Karen Schauber has paired twenty-one beautifully-reproduced works of art by The Group of Seven and associated artists with fine storytelling by prominent, contemporary writers. The writers each chose a painting that resonated with them and wrote a story inspired by what they saw.
Like a fine wine with dinner, some things cry out to be paired. In Reimagined, the nearly hundred-year-old brandy that was the Group of Seven is introduced to a fresh vibrant cuisine that is flash fiction, and both are the richer for it.
The Ottawa Review of Books published my full review of this book in its October edition. For information about how the project developed, biographies of the writers included, or to purchase, visit the book website.
Edited by Karen Schauber. Published 2019 by Heritage House. ISBN –
978-1-77203-288-8. Available through Heritage House and Amazon.ca.
AY Jackson of The Group of Seven visited Gunnar Mines and Uranium City twice to paint. Jackson, along with Lawren Harris, also painted many times at Great Bear Lake, the site of Port Radium’s uranium mine.
The best day in a writer’s life is any day an editor says they’ve accepted your piece for publication!
So thrilled that the wonderful online literary magazine The Cabinet of Heed has published my very first short story “The Colour of Us” in its online magazine, mid-June edition. And you can read it for free by following the link. Even better, you can comment, also for free below, where it says “Love to hear your thoughts.” That would be amazing.
The inspiration for my story was the above photo of pots of pigment that I took in a Peruvian market many years ago.
One Human Swimming
Almostas good as winning a competition is getting on the short list. My short story “One Human Swimming” made the shortlist for Pulp Literature‘s Hummingbird 2019 Flash Fiction contest. A different story made the long list for this competition in 2018, and this latest story making the short list (2019) means I’m at least going in the right direction. Happy face.
The inspiration for this story was a running shoe. When the story finds its publisher, I’ll tell you. Then you can read it and I hope you will agree it is wonderful.
Things to Come
Swedish Press published a very complimentary review of my 2016 award-winning book Sun Dogs and Yellowcake in their October 2018 issue. In the spring of 2020, it will be publishing a nonfiction piece that I have written. The piece just might have something to do with Swedes in Canada.
A writer’s choice of voice for a story or novel is one of the most important decisions he or she will make. Voice can be equally important in nonfiction. I will be speaking about voice at the upcoming meeting of The Canadian Authors Association – Metro Vancouver (including Victoria) on January 9, 2018.
I saw the documentary filmThey Shall Not Grow Old just after Christmas. Director Peter Jackson produced this powerful film about the Great War based on 100 hours of historical film footage and 600 hours of audio recordings from the British War Museum.
His team enhanced hundreds of hours of film by sharpening images and adding colour. The motion is less jerky and more natural than in the original clips.
The original footage also predated movie sound but Jackson could see the soldiers’ lips moving, so he tasked expert lip readers with interpreting their words. The experts determined the correct dialogue – with appropriate accents – and this was incorporated into the film.
Jackson also wrestled with how to do justice to the men who had served and lost lives in the war. He decided the story could only be told by using the men’s own words from the audio tapes and then superimposing these over the footage. The result is an authentic and heart wrenching trip into the trenches and battle zones of WWI.
I reached a similar conclusion about voice four years prior when writingmy nonfiction book Sun Dogs and Yellowcake. I determined that former residents of the uranium town where I grew up, must tell their stories in their own words. In this way, life in a mining town in the 1950s and ’60s and the personalities of its residents would be more authentically portrayed.
To hear more about voice and my choice in Sun Dogs, you are welcome to attend the upcoming meeting of Canadian Authors Association – Metro Vancouver (including Victoria) on January 9, 2018. For information about the presentation, please click here.
I recommend that everyone see They Shall Not Grow Old. To watch the trailer click here.
To see more information about Sun Dogs and Yellowcake, click here.
I have been reflecting on the two years that have passed since publishing Sun Dogs and Yellowcake – two years today.
Publishing your first book is an incredible joy. What you don’t realize when that moment arrives is that a book has a much larger life than what it contains within its pages.
Here is what Sun Dogs and Yellowcake has delivered for me.
Re-connection to a ‘time and place’ and to the people who resided in Gunnar. People who had lost contact with their friends for more than fifty years have rekindled their friendships and memories. I have had the joy of reuniting with old friends and making many new ones.
Preservation of the history of the small northern town of Gunnar Mines and honouring a former way of life. Its history was told best through the words of its inhabitants. And people with no connection to the area have shared and appreciated this history because of what it reveals about who we are as Canadians.
Recognition of the significance of mining, an industry that helped form this country. Mining, including the production of uranium, continues to be a key part of Canada’s growth.
Realization that the Canadian mining industry has a treasure chest of fabulous tales that unfortunately are being lost to time. I recall a dinner following the closing of a financing. The president and chief executive officer regaled us with adventures from a lifetime in mining. This was only a small sampling of stories that will likely never be told.
Celebration of the small stories that together chronicle our lives. A narrative that shows where we have come from so we understand where we are.
I did not have many expectations for this book about a little town in the middle of nowhere, in a time no one remembers. I initially thought it would appeal only to its former residents. It has surprised everyone. It has won awards, received significant publicity, and been appreciated by a broad audience.
What a journey!
The headframe in the photo above marked Gunnar’s existence and its passing. I like to think publishing Sun Dogs and Yellowcake has brought not just the town, which closed its doors in 1964, back to life, but also the era. For me personally, publishing has opened up a new world, for which I am very grateful.
The stories continue to roll in. Tomorrow, a man who lived in the neighbouring community of Uranium City shares his adventures.
My husband Robert Mackay and I had such fun in Kelowna this past Thursday speaking to an enthusiastic writers’ group about the pain and gain of traditional versus independent publishing. The audience of about thirty stayed glued to their chairs for the full two hours which we like to think was because of our dynamic presentation and not because they had fallen asleep. They had so many thoughtful questions and it was lovely to share their enthusiasm about writing and literature.
This is a relatively new but growing writers’ group that meets in and receives positive support from the West Kelowna Library. Blair Jean, entertaining raconteur and author of a number of Northern books, and gracious Geneva Ensign manage the group and were our hosts. Blair spent 50 years in Northern Alberta collecting local – including indigenous – history and stories, and his books, including Clearwater Memoirs, are treasures for their preservation of Canada’s past. Geneva is awaiting the publication of her book Community Healing: A Transcultural Model that draws on her extensive work experience, and is a guide for healing of individuals and communities. Continue reading “Kelowna writers’ group is flourishing”
Two dynamic women, Lynn Duncan and Kilmeny Denny, run Vivalogue which provides consultation, editing, design, and other self-publishing services in North America and the United Kingdom. Lynn and Kilmeny decided in 2016 that the time had come to recognize excellence in the Canadian market through a juried competition to determine the best self-published books. The awards, jointly administered by the Whistler Writing Society and Vivalogue Publishing, are known as the Whistler Independent Book Awards and are the first to be offered in Canada for the independent publishing industry. In 2017, a manuscript competition was added.
Farida Somjee won the 2017 Fiction Award for The Beggar’s Dance. Paul Shore was the non-fiction winner for Uncorked: My Year in Provence. Fiction finalists were Annie Daylon for Of Sea and Seed: The Kerrigan Chronicles, Book 1, and R.L. Prendergast for The Confessions of Socrates. Non-fiction finalists were Monique Layton for Notes from Elsewhere: Travel and Other Matters and Patricia Sandberg for Sun Dogs and Yellowcake: Gunnar Mines—A Canadian Story. Louis Druehl won the manuscript competition and his book Kwai Scrolls was launched at the Whistler Writers Festival. Continue reading “Vivalogue Publishing, a champion of independently-published authors”