A child lies like a grey pebble on the shore until a certain teacher picks him up and dips him in water, and suddenly you see all the colours and patterns in the dull stone, and it's marvelous for the stone, and marvelous for the teacher.
Do you have prairie roots?
I don't have prairie roots. I grew up in Ontario. I was born in Owen Sound, Ontario which is on Georgian Bay. I grew up in small-town Ontario. The first time I saw the prairies was in 1972. I had quit university in my third year and I went out west by train -- this was in January. I took the train out to Vancouver and that's the first time I saw the prairie landscape. I was very struck by it and then the following September I returned by bus.
You write about it intimately.
I'm glad you think so. I was a bit worried, you know, about writing about the area. I've lived in Winnipeg, but I've never actually lived in Saskatchewan.
Well, that's close. In terms of, you know, a flat place that was dustbowl in the 30s. It's not a huge reach to Saskatchewan.
Actually, one of the things I wanted to do that I hadn't done before was to start the book in a time and a place that I wasn't familiar with. That I'd have to really make my imagination work harder than if I were writing something autobiographical. So that was a challenge. But I loved doing the research on the 1930s. Finding out stuff about how people made ends meet. That was very compatible with my own upbringing since my mother grew up in the Depression and she raised us as if the Depression hadn't ended. So, it wasn't hard to imagine myself into a situation where you had to make a little go a long way. Even though the time and the place were different.
It struck me that the past and the present live hand in hand in this book. Which I thought was wonderful. Quite often, throughout the book, you juxtapose the future onto what becomes the past. You did that quite a bit and you did it beautifully.
Yes. I did that a lot. Part of that was if you tell a story retrospectively, then you don't have to account for everything, right? You can be more selective. When I had to do the rewriting of the novel -- it had been accepted by the publisher, but I had a very vigorous editor and she pointed out, quite rightly, that the second half of the book was a good deal less compelling than the first half. She wanted me to flesh things out more. Certain scenes needed to be fleshed out more. Certain places -- Ottawa, New York -- I needed to spend more time. In the first couple of drafts that I showed her of these changed sections, I was sort of laboriously filling everything in. Which is incredibly boring to read, to say nothing of write. It was only when I managed to sort of yank the second half around that again I was telling it more in retrospect. But a lot of that stuff could fall away and I was just focusing on certain selected moments that came to her [Norma Joyce's] mind when she thought about the past. It helped a lot with organizing the material and not getting swamped by the need to account for everything chronologically.
It seemed to me on reading A Student of Weather to be a very fresh approach. Just the whole concept was different. The physically beautiful and emotional damaged sister is a wonderful character. And the fact that she is such an ungainly little person herself.
Yes. Norma Joyce, the main character.
Yes. She's kind of repellent looking in the first half of the book, which is an interesting place to start a character from. A different place.
I think to a good-looking young man [Maurice Dove, the student of weather in question] she was very homely. Although the more he knew her, the less homely she became.
Actually this happened to me once. I was in my 20s and I met this man who I thought was supremely unattractive. But I worked with him over the summer and within about two weeks I was head over heels in love with him. I found him incredibly handsome.
I haven't seen him since, but I suppose if I were to see him walk in here, once again my first reaction might be: What a homely man. But, you know, proximity does something. And getting to know someone does something. So often, especially maybe with men, their first reaction to women is they're looking for a soft face. And it might take them a while to like a face that doesn't fit that mold. Women are more interested in interesting faces. I'm generalizing wildly, of course. But I'm just saying that I think for Maurice, Norma Joyce was very homely initially.
But she was homely. Not just to Maurice, but you established her as being not physically attractive. Unlike her sister Lucinda, who is very beautiful.
That's right. I did. She didn't look ordinary. Big earlobes. High forehead. Baggy eyes. Yeah. That's right. But over time, she becomes someone more attractive.
But what you describe -- that meeting someone who you think is unattractive at first and then growing to find them more so -- I've experienced that. Yet, I've never seen it described in fiction, where so often the heroines are beautiful and you go from there.
But there is that expression in French, belle-laide. Beautiful-ugly. A belle-laide woman. I'd love to think that my character is the first belle-laide woman in all of fiction, but she ain't.
This is your first novel?
Yes. But the fifth book. So I've written two collections of short stories, and then two books that were kind of creative non-fiction. Hard to categorize.
Your last book of short stories was incredibly well received. You were nominated for...
Every award under the sun! Do you want to hear them all? [Laughs] My son would say: You know, my mom she was nominated for the this award and the this award and the this award and you know what? She didn't win one of them. [Laughs]
Well, maybe this year.
Well, this year will be pretty tough. It will be tough to be nominated, even, given the competition out there.
But it's a pretty wonderful book.
Are you a student of weather?
Well, you know the sad truth is that I've probably opened up a dozen scientific books about the weather and I find them really hard to understand. You know, high pressure, low pressure. All these weather maps. In fact the scientific technical side of weather -- the meteorological or the logical explanations -- are often beyond me. What I like is weather as a visual event. Weather as a force of history that moves groups of people from one place to another. Weather as superstition. And weather as story. So I tried hard to become an amateur meteorologist and for a while there -- for a few weeks when I was researching heavily -- I probably could have talked coherently about the science of weather for a few minutes. But I've forgotten it all.
Are you a journalist?
I used to be.
Because that's a journalistic trait: that immersion and understanding that doesn't always stay with you.
When I worked on [the CBC radio show] Sunday Morning you'd be assigned a story. You knew nothing about it. So you'd work like a dog for a few weeks, get your thing done, go on to the next and lose all the memory of it. It's just gone. I find that sad. I think I remember conversation fairly well and incident. But I don't have a memory made for facts.
When were you a journalist? And where?
I started in 1974. I was working for CBC radio up in Yellowknife from 1974 until 78. And then I worked on the morning show in Winnipeg for 79. Then there was a little break there when I didn't do anything except try to write and do it badly. That was for one winter. I then got hired as a summer replacement for The Sunday Morning Show at CBC radio in Toronto. So I spent the summer doing these radio documentaries and they kept me on. I did that fulltime until about 1982 and stopped again to write, but I would do some freelance stuff, just to earn money.
I went down to Mexico in 1984, again I was primarily trying to write but I'd do these radio documentaries around Latin America. That's where I met Mark, my second husband. So we lived in Mexico for a year and a half. Then we came up -- he's from Boston -- and we lived in Brooklyn, New York. But once I began to have kids I didn't do the radio work anymore. And I would earn money -- and not much of it -- but whatever money I earned was teaching. Teaching at night. Writing and editing.
Did you study journalism?
No. Those were the good ol' days. Nobody studied journalism. [Laughs]
So this wonderful voice is natural. Just yours.
What wonderful voice?
Your writing voice.
My writing voice. But it's not natural. That's sweat and blood. I didn't study creative writing either. There was one time though. That time between Winnipeg and Toronto there was a little time in Windsor where I was supposed to be writing. And I was writing, but it wasn't going very well. I enrolled in a night class in creative writing. An extension course. The kind of thing I would teach later. But you know, I just went for about three times because the teacher was not good and it just made me feel really bad. My own writing was bad, he was a bad teacher. So I just stopped. I think you can have a good teacher. I'm sure that in the right circumstances a creative writing class could be helpful. But that wasn't.
Are you working on anything now?
Another novel and some stories. Just trying to figure out the novel. And the stories: it seems to me that I've got just piles of paper and a lot of stuff to deal with. So I'll get to it soon.
Is it all in longhand?
Well, I keep notebooks and I write longhand. I figure out my stories and the scenes of whatever I'm working on. Then I transfer it to the computer and print it out and edit on the printed copy. I straddle a couple of generations, I guess. Working both longhand and computer. I don't write directly on the computer, although sometimes if I'm stuck I'll just go to the computer and try and pound it out. Sometimes just a little change is enough to jerk you free of whatever trap you're in.
~ Linda Richards, January Magazine
I received a fantastic white mantle from a neighbor who has been renovating their home. I have wanted one for my studio for quite some time, so it was a lovely surprise. It turns out that it has been a wonderful place to take photos of my work because of its height and depth...another fantastic surprise. On another note, I am enjoying the 'Extraordinary Women' project so very much! I didn't expect this. I think it's because every single time I begin a new project, I question my skillset and my choice of subject matter. It's not that I don't love and admire these women, that is definitely not my issue, but rather it is the fact that after all of the portraits I have painted, they still excite me so much. That's what I didn't expect. I'm so thankful for this project, for the extraordinary women who I have painted and who have been in touch with me because of this project. I feel this way every single time and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.
All you can do is stand in your truth.
Eden Robinson, Haisla writer (born 19 January 1968 in Kitimaat, BC). A well-known Indigenous writer, Eden Robinson has won national and international acclaim for her dark, gothic fiction. Robinson counts Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe among her literary influences.
Early Life and EducationEden Robinson was born in Kitimat General Hospital and raised in Kitamaat Village, home to members of the Haisla Nation. Her mother, who is Heiltsuk, met her father, a Haisla man, at a fishing stop in Bella Bella, the traditional home of the Heiltsuk First Nation. The two raised their family, including Robinson and her older brother and younger sister (who went on to become a television news anchor at the CBC), in Haisla.
Robinson earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Victoria. Her first published story, “Traplines” (1991), was published in the literary magazine Prism International while she was in her last year of university. After graduating in 1992, Robinson moved to Vancouver with ambitions to become a writer. She worked a number of odds jobs — janitor, napkin ironer, dry cleaner, mailroom clerk — that allowed her to dedicate time to her literary craft. Encouraged by the early success of “Traplines,” she enrolled — and eventually graduated from — the prestigious master’s program in creative writing at the University of British Columbia.
Writing CareerEden Robinson’s first book, Traplines (1996), is a collection of three short stories and a novella (a short novel). Robinson’s young narrators recount haunting tales of their disturbing relationships with sociopaths and psychopaths. The collection won Britain’s Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize for the best regional work by a Commonwealth writer.
Monkey Beach (2000), Robinson’s first novel, is set in Kitamaat. The novel follows a teenage girl’s search for answers to and understanding of her younger brother’s disappearance at sea. The book is both a mystery and a spiritual journey, combining contemporary realism with Haisla mysticism (see Indigenous Peoples: Religion and Spirituality). Monkey Beach was praised nationally and internationally as the work of a powerful and original new literary voice; it was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award, and won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.
Eden Robinson returned to the characters and urban terrain of her novella “Contact Sports,” from Traplines, in her 2006 novel Blood Sports. Set five years after the original story, the protagonist Tom is still struggling to make a life for himself and his young family. In addition to the socio-economic challenges of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Tom once again faces peril from his sociopathic cousin Jeremy, who takes sadistic pleasure in ruining his life. Reviewers praised Robinson’s unflinching and compelling exploration of the darkest impulses of humanity.
In 2011, Robinson released The Sasquatch at Home: Traditional Protocols & Modern Storytelling (see Sasquatch). Part of the Henry Kreisel Memorial Lecture Series, The Sasquatch at Home provides insight into Robinson’s culture, early life and family. The University of Alberta Press described the stories in the book as “delightful, poignant” and “sometimes quirky.”
Robinson’s latest novel, Son of A Trickster (2017), the first instalment of a planned trilogy, is a darkly comic coming of age story that follows the life of 16-year-old Jared Martin as he navigates his way through the violent, dysfunctional world of small-town British Columbia. The book was praised in the Globe and Mail for the “inordinate amount of glee” it takes “in cramming together traditional narratives with contemporary tales of violence and survival.” It was shortlisted for the 2017 Giller Prize.
~ Jules Lewis
My husband and I spent a week at the most beautiful lake near the Rocky Mountains. There was no wifi, text or phone so it was quite wonderful. There is something so refreshing about being off grid, even though I had to get my husband to help me wash my hair in a tub as there was no running water or electricity either. I am so grateful for our little Boler trailer as it is cozy and very low maintenance which meant I could sketch and swim and read and knit (my first beanie!) and go for many walks and enjoy the silence and the stars. It is definitely what my soul needed. I'm excited to work again and also can't wait for our next little adventure.
I have been thinking of offering a free portrait for awhile now and thought that, since I have received so many lovely gifts over the past year, I'd like to pay it forward and offer the opportunity to win a free portrait to my newsletter subscribers. Since autumn is on its way, which happens to be my favourite season, I thought this might be the perfect time. So, if you are interested in joining the draw, please respond to this newsletter and let me know if you would love a self-portrait or one of a member of your family or a friend. Then, once the winner is selected, I will request a couple of photos to be emailed to me along some favourite colours and/or a list of hobbies/interests that I could incorporate into the background. You will be able to select either a 7x14 inch canvas or a deep 8x10 inch canvas. You are welcome to share this with friends and family, sign up to the newsletter here. This is my way to say 'Thank you!' for all of your support and encouragement.
Dancing is the way I can express the things that cannot be said.
Veronica Tennant, CC, FRSC, ballet dancer, teacher, choreographer, television producer, director (born 15 January 1946 in London, England). Veronica Tennant is one of the most prominent figures in Canada’s performing arts community. As a leading ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada, she became an international celebrity for her dramatic intensity and superb technique. Since retiring in 1989, she has worked as a teacher and choreographer, and has also forged a successful career as an award-winning TV producer and director specializing in dance programming. Tennant was the first dancer to be appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada (1975) and was promoted to Companion in 2003. A member of Canada’s Walk of Fame and the Encore! Dance Hall of Fame, she has received many awards and honorary degrees, including the Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Veronica Tennant started dancing in England at age four and immigrated to Toronto with her family in 1955. As she recalled in a CBC TV interview, “Within one week of our arrival — we didn’t have furniture, we didn't have anything, I don't think I was even in school… but I was in ballet classes.” Tennant studied under famed ballet teacher Betty Oliphant, whose gruelling regimen included nine classes a week.
Tennant trained at the National Ballet School and upon graduation at age 18 was hired into the National Ballet of Canada at the principal dancer level — the youngest in the company’s history. She made her debut as Juliet in John Cranko’s version of the full-length Prokofiev ballet, Romeo and Juliet. The production was later produced for CBC TV by Norman Campbell.
In rapid succession, Tennant added many other leading roles to her repertoire, including parts in Swan Lake, Giselle, and The Nutcracker. With the retirement of Lois Smith, Tennant was quickly adopted by critics and her adoring public as the company’s de facto prima ballerina. Tennant danced the title role in Campbell’s Emmy Award-winning 1968 CBC TV production of Cinderella and continued to excel in the great 19th century classics. She gained even wider renown when she became the National Ballet’s first Princess Aurora in its 1972 staging by Rudolf Nureyev of The Sleeping Beauty, another Emmy-winning program in Campbell’s production for CBC TV.
Tennant’s repertoire also expanded to embrace an enormous variety of roles, including many works created for her superb talent as a dance-actress. Although her career suffered a potentially ruinous knee injury, she took the opportunity of almost a year away from the stage to write a children’s book and have a daughter before making a triumphant return. Two of her most celebrated later roles were as Titania in Frederick Ashton’s The Dream and as Tatiana in Cranko’s Onegin.
During her long dancing career, Tennant was partnered by many of the greatest male dancers of the day, including Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Anthony Dowell, Fernando Bujones, Richard Cragun and Peter Schaufuss. In what many considered a premature retirement in 1989, Tennant bowed out by giving several dazzling farewell performances of Juliet, the role that had established her reputation 25 years earlier, followed by a special tribute gala with visiting guest artists.
After the National BalletAfter retiring from the National Ballet, Tennant remained active in the dance world and performing arts in general, choreographing, hosting, narrating, writing, teaching and directing. She expanded into the theatre as associate director and choreographer at Toronto’s Canadian Stage Company and Tarragon Theatre, and was an actor and dancer at the Shaw Festival during its 1992 season. In 1994, she choreographed Cyrano de Bergerac at the Stratford Festival and Rough Crossing at The Canadian Stage. Tennant also devised and performed a dramatic dance piece, Maud, drawn from the journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, and co-wrote and performed Choice and Chance Encounters with clarinetist James Campbell and jazz pianist Gene DiNovi at the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, Ontario.
In 1995, Tennant shared the title role with Nicholas Pennell in the Rhombus Media film Satie and Suzanne. She also directed productions of Carmen La Gitana at Niagara on the Lake (2005) and Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad with The Royal Shakespeare Company at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa (2007).
Following her retirement from dance, Tennant also became increasingly active as a film and television producer. She was host, creative consultant and writer of CBC TV’s Sunday Arts Entertainment for three seasons. Her first projecty as a television producer was a 1995 CBC/Radio-Canada co-venture, Salute to Dancers for Life/Danser Pour La Vie, followed by a 1996 special about modern dancer Margie Gillis and another featuring Karen Kain in 1997, which went on to win an International Emmy Award.
More recently, Tennant has moved from producing into directing dance films and videos. In 2005, she attended the Toronto International Film Festival’s prestigious Talent Lab workshop for emerging directors. Her extensive filmography includes several notable dance films, such as The Dancers' Story: The National Ballet of Canada(2002); a pairing of SwanS (2003) with Evelyn Hart and Rex Harrington; the award-winning dance-drama Shadow Pleasures (2004), written and narrated by Michael Ondaatje; Vida y Danza Cuba (2008), narrated by Colm Feore; and Something’s Coming (2012), starring Guillaume Côté.
~ Andrew McIntosh & Michael Crabb
I'm thrilled to be sending the painting titled 'Quiet' to the SHAPE AND FORM group exhibit with the Federation Gallery in Vancouver, BC. On the reverse is the painting titled 'Lilium' which is something I began doing this spring...two paintings in one. I think it's such a nice surprise for the patron, an opportunity to flip the image when redecorating. The exhibit will run August 30 until September 12 and at that time will also be available online here.
In May I began work on a collaborative community mural at Luxstone Senior Living in Airdrie. They have a beautiful courtyard garden that houses a dilapidated old trailer that measures about 10x40 feet so I came up with a design painted by local volunteers after I added the initilal 'drawing'. I wanted to create a large colouring book page with a map of sorts in order to make it easier for everyone. I'll make final adjustments once it's complete.
The design came from the idea that all of the residents come from across the country so I incorporated a simplified version of my idea of Canada, from the Rockies in the west to the ocean in the east. I also included the official flowers of the provinces and territories along the bottom so that even children can be involved and also to better represent every province and territory. Of course I had to include Canada geese since I've been running into them everywhere. I can't wait to see the completed project.
In between bouts of rain I was able to add the initial sketch of the mural to the 10x45 foot trailer. The wind was so strong I was afraid the ladder I was using would be toppled but, fortunately, things held steady. My hands were quite sore from hanging on to the ladder and jar of paint so tightly.
I had to make a few adjustments to my initial drawing in order to accomodate a plane that was longer than I initially realized (should have brought my measuring tape, but I am happy with it. I was even able to make the provincial & territorial flowers much larger than I had planned, which I think is a great thing. If the weather would have cooperated better I would have made a few adjustments, but I keow that I would be going back to adjust things after it was completed so I wasn't too concerned.
All-in-all I am really pleased with the outcome and grateful I was able to be involved in another community project, especially after this year. We could never complete these kind of projects without the support of our generous businesses like Home Hardware and local residents. I am extremely happy for the residents and visitors of Luxstone Senior Living.
If you'd like to learn more about my process for creating murals, please visit my YouTube channel here. www.youtube.com/watch?v=9edAXxYMidA
We are all more capable than we think we are.
Anne Murray, the pop, country, and adult contemporary singer from Canada was also among the famous artists who fell victim to the weary path of balancing her career with her personal struggles. The first female Canadian solo singer to make it to the No.1 rank on the U.S. charts, Murray was also the first female artist to be awarded Gold record for one of her signature songs, Snowbird. Her successfully released albums that sold over 55 million copies across the globe, made her the pioneer singer to open the doors of opportunity for fellow Canadian singers like Shania Twain, Celine Dion, and k.d. lang.
Like many fellow artists who savored the sweet taste of victory and widespread fame, Murray had once found herself slipping to rock bottom. It was a dark and painful time for America’s then-Canadian sweetheart. In her tell-all memoir titled All of Me, Murray shares her struggles after she parted ways with the man she had a long-standing affair with—television producer Bill Langstroth. The singer adds that when her ex-husband was already married when their affair was only blossoming.
Apart from the bitter separation, country singer Anne had to go through a series of more personal adversities for over 20 years. “It was just very painful for me and I had no idea. I had no idea how I would be affected. And so, you know, to be truthful, there was a point where I didn’t know whether I could get through the book, because it hurt so much.” She admits.
Her affair with Langstroth set in motion while they collaborated for Singalong Jubilee, a show that aired in CBC-TV. While the two were on a trip to Charlottetown, they smoked weed together then shared a kiss. Murray knew that the affair shouldn’t have grown into something more. Langstroth was about 15 years her senior and her boss, and he already had a commitment as both a husband and a father prior to their intimate involvement. “But I was falling in love, fast, and powerless to do anything about it,” the singer confesses in defeat. Before Langstroth divorced his first wife in 1975, he and Murray had to keep their relationship a closed secret even to the singer’s fans. The discreet nature of their affair led some supporters to speculate about Murray’s sexual orientation.
Aside from her divorce, among the tragic life encounters that Anne Murray had to endure include the plummeting of her career during the mid-80’s, her daughter’s battle with anorexia, the demise of three of the people closest to her—her mother, close friend, Cynthia McReynolds, and longtime manager Leonard Rambeau—along with the overwhelming guilt that Murray had to grapple with after spending so much time away from her family.
As for Murray’s drug use, she clarifies that the only “drug” she had ever touched was dope. She smoked marijuana “like everybody else the odd time”. She more or less strayed away from putting anything else into her system.
Murray may have permanently retired from the music industry, but her decision does not keep her legacy from being fondly remembered by fans worldwide.
In recent years, drug abuse, decline in mental and emotional wellness have been among the most rampant issues tormenting our present-day artist. There are many other artists who, like Anne, are trying to face and fight off their own inner demons. While not everybody may have been as strong and resilient as Anne Murray, this should still serve as a reminder to all of us of just how significant and influential all the love, support, and understanding we give to our idols can be.
~ Country Daily
AIRdirondack Art Project
Alberta (above) +