Feature Article

Growing Roots in Northern Alberta: Musings on Community, Creative Process & Book Publishing

The signs of spring in northern Alberta happen slowly, then all at once: the wild crocuses silently arriving when the ground is still half-frozen, the geese honking, loudly announcing their return from the south, and finally, the aspen opening their tender green buds, flooding the brown valley with the softest shade of green you’ve ever laid eyes on.

Yesterday afternoon, the May sun poured into my trailer, warming my rectangular home with such intensity that I finally turned off my fussy diesel furnace and I didn’t bother lighting a fire in the wood stove. It felt somewhat ceremonious turning off the furnace: a little flicker of pride stirred in my chest. Winter was over. I had survived my first winter alone on the land in northern Alberta. I had managed to hang onto even just a shred of sanity despite a series of unfortunate events: frozen pipes, busted furnaces, the very un-romantic task of splitting wood, everyday, and contending with faulty water pumps by hand scooping water from my cistern. What a season.

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I didn’t expect to make a home in this tiny northern town over the winter. I never anticipated staying. Last year, I came home with only one thing on my mind: writing and re-writing my book. I lived in my parents’ basement for four months and breathed all things Women Who Dig. That was it. That was my sole purpose. Then the fire tower called. Then I learned that the book would actually become a published book. Then the most important relationship in my life unraveled and all the plans that went along with that were no longer. Then everything changed and I didn’t know where else to go.

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Feature Article

Signing a Book Contract From the Sky

Greetings from my fire watch in the sky! Today I’m as buoyant as the brilliant blue tree sparrows that dive and flit around my office perch, a cupola, or tiny dome that balances atop a 100-foot steel frame tower.

I’m briefly breaking my vow of technological silence to SING out the splendid news: Women Who Dig, my book about female farmers and farmworkers around the world, has been warmly welcomed for publication by Bruce Walsh and his team at the University of Regina Press.

I’m soaring over these boreal tree tops today!

Yesterday afternoon, as the fair-weather clouds strolled quietly along the big blue canvas of the sky, I looked out on the vast spread of spruce, poplar, pine and birch trees below, and felt humbled by the journey Women Who Dig has taken me on. Three years, three continents, eight countries, and over one hundred stories from women who are defying cultural, political, economic and social odds to grow food, steward the land, preserve cultural integrity, and nourish their children and communities.

After all that blessed, but shaken travel on off-beaten country roads to meet women on their farms, I must admit, I couldn’t have imagined a better ending to the journey of this book — to receive the news of publication from a place of solitude: the writer completely alone, at last, on the land, in the woods where hundreds of known and unknown wild things grow and roam and blossom.

Sounds romantic, eh? Trust me, some days it isn’t…but today, it’s pure euphoria!

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