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Why write about this place?

Posted by Celia Brogan

This evening I went to my second #ReadLocalBC event, called “An Evolving City: Writing Vancouver’s Past, Present & Future,” featuring George Bowering and Wayde Compton.

During the question period after the readings the authors were asked if writing about Vancouver was an obvious choice of setting for them in their writing, or, why did they choose to set their work in Vancouver. Their answers discussed how the choice to set writing, specifically fiction, here provides the power to address some very real and serious topics in a way that can be more powerful than setting their work elsewhere. They pointed out that readers can often feel saturated with concerns and an author’s voice can get lost in the chorus of ‘realistic writing.’ Setting fiction in our local environment allows an writer to propose a ‘what if’ scenario in a way that opens a space for readers to reflect on our current society. Readers can wonder what realities might come to pass given an event as plausible as a toxic fuel spill in Burrard Inlet.

Imagine the stories our students might write given this environmental event in Vancouver as a starting point. What might they imagine as futures for your community? Bowering and Compton suggest that by writing our stories, current and possible, we open the door for ourselves and our readers to see positive futures and to act to realize them.

 

*Check out the list of free #ReadLocalBC events at http://books.bc.ca/read-local-bc/. There may be one or two in your community.

Myth, Madness and a Tale of a Golden Spruce

posted by Celia Brogan

The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed  by John Vaillant.

I love this book. The prose are poetic to the extent that I have used passages as prompts in an art class. The story opens with a mystery and proceeds to weave together strands of natural history, botany,  political and economic history, adventure, cultural history, and social activism.

Every time I try to book talk this title I fall down some sort of rabbit hole: I can’t quite seem to ever tighten my description of the book enough and end up rambling. I could tell you that it’s the life story of an culturally important and botanically unique tree, from germination to felling, but that’s only one piece. I could tell you that it’s the story of a man named Grant Hadwin, who worked in the BC lumber industry and who suffered from a (probable) mental illness, who made headlines with his actions when he took a stand against logging practices in BC. But the book is so much more than that! I could also say that this text provides a lyrical and informative portrayal of geologic history, the history of human culture and the history of economic development of natural resources in BC (which is pretty great since that last topic can at times be a little dry). But those threads don’t constitute the whole text either.  Look! It’s happening again!

Make this book one of your summer reads this year (but keep a set of post-its near by!)

Getting to know BC through Farm and Food Lit

posted by Celia Brogan

I realized a few years ago that I like what I have decided to call “Farm Literature.” There may be an industry name for this but I’m happy with mine. Farm Lit is, for me, a book about someone’s experience living on a farm–hobby or sustenance–or other intimate experience with the food we eat. That’s not a exhaustively vetted definition, and has been developed as I read books I holistically add to the category.

When a local angle is added to the farm/food aspect, I feel even more fulfilled.  Here are three titles from my bookshelf you may want to check out:

Home: tales of a heritage farm  by Anny Scoones is a collection of stories about the ten years she spent living on and restoring Glamorgan Farm.  The farm is on the Saanich Peninsula, on the South end of Vancouver Island and was threatened by development when Anny bought it.  She restored it and made a point of raising heritage breeds and growing heirloom vegetables, opening the workings of the farm to the community.

Wise Acres: Free-Range Reflections on the Rural Route  by Michael Kluckner. Kluckner, a notable watercolourist and Vancouver historian, moved with his wife from a house in Vancouver to a hobby farm in the Fraser Valley. The book is a darkly funny chronicle of the couple’s experience adjusting to farm life, including animal husbandry.

The third title I’ll share today is a bit different. You may have heard of The 100-Mile Diet: a year of local eating  by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon. The authors generated a huge amount of press when they spent a year eating only food that was grown or produced within 100 miles of their homes in Vancouver. Whereas the first two titles are a microcosm of BC food-life, sharing the day-to-day at the production end of the chain, The 100-Mile Diet shows us a broad view of the myriad aspects of the food industry in BC (and not even all of BC–how might this story differ if it was based in Smithers, or Kelowna, or Nelson?) from the consumer’s end.

Looking at local sources of food can be an inspiring way to get to know the land where we live. The people who feed us from our land are often unknown to us in the lower mainland. It’s not as anonymous in smaller communities, but time spent with our students on this topic can’t help but enrich their literacies of place.

 

Kit Pearson: a little magic in Victoria

posted by Celia Brogan

Kit Pearson has authored a number of popular novels for young and adolescent readers. Three of these are specifically set in BC and are great ways to help readers see the stories around them.

Awake and Dreaming is set primarily in Victoria and includes Pearson’s trademark element of magical realism.  The magical element first enables the young protagonist to escape the difficulties in her life, but then provides the safety she needs to clearly address her troubles.

The Whole Truth and its sequel And Nothing but the Truth are historical novels set in the 1930s on a Gulf Island and Victoria, respectively.  Emily Carr features as a character in the second book as Polly struggles with the trials and tribulations of growing up and going to boarding school, as well as some big family secrets.

 

Listening to where we live

Posted by Celia Brogan

Listening to the sounds in our local environment is a great way to enter into a study of place.

Today’s BC text is Sara Leach‘s Sounds of the Ferry. This picture book was nominated for the 2012/13 Chocolate Lily Book award. As the name implies, the narrative is full of onomatopoetic examples of what a BC ferry rider would hear on a crossing.

This text could be a great mentor text for an exercise in representing a particular place or experience through sound. Sounds of the Ferry might introduce activities to:

Sara Leach is an author and teacher-librarian who lives in Whistler, BC. Check out her CWILL profile.

Do you have a text to share that would compliment this one? Share it in the comments!

Read Local BC

Happy April!

Last year we celebrated Poetry Month by posting every school day in April. This year we’re still featuring poetry in our schools, but here at bctela.ca we are going to focus on a different series.

The Association of Book Publishers of BC (@abpbc) has launched a fabulous celebration of local publishing and has announced their Read Local BC campaign for April 2015.

Check out their website for literary events in your community (or one nearby).

We will celebrate in our own way throughout April by posting about local authors, titles, and series we like to use with our students. Do you have a favourite BC author or text you use in your practice? Share it with us in the comments.

Book club Twitter chats – my strategy

submitted by Kelley Inden (@ksinden)

I figured I would share how I go about participating in a book club chat on Twitter. My guess is that there is a better way, perhaps even ‘an app for that’, but here is how I do it. Please feel free to pass along your own wisdom in the comments section.

Obviously, I first read the book and take note of where my attention is snagged. Sometimes I use post-it notes to hold my thinking, or I write in the book if it belongs to me. With this one, I bought the book on my e-reader, so I just used the bookmark and notes function.

Next, I open my Twitter account and open up a new tweet. I compose each tweet in that box to ensure the character count is accurate, and then cut and paste the tweet into a Pages or Word document.

 

Medicine Walk quote2

When the Twitter chat commences, I select and tweet as seems appropriate.

I find that during the chat I don’t have the time to compose more than responses to other people’s ideas. If I have something I want to be sure to share, having the tweets ready to go is the only way for me.

Hope to chat with you on Sunday!

Preparing for the #bctelabook club chat

This Sunday brings our first book club twitter chat about a work of fiction. Chatting about Medicine Walk will be a different experience from our previous chats about professional texts. As you finish the novel and prepare your thoughts for sharing, consider these prompts and provocations:

  • How might stories have the power to heal, in both their telling and hearing?
  • What is the relationship between land and place, and memory?
  • Do the stories about our past need to come from our blood-relations?
  • For whom is the “medicine walk,” really? Are there more multiple walks being taken?
  • What other texts would you group with Medicine Walk?
  • …and other thoughts or questions you have are most welcome

We are looking forward to meeting you online, or in person for those who will get together in preparation for the twitter chat.
Happy Reading!

In-person gathering: 9:30-11am, March 8th, Pleasant Beans coffee house, 39 Kingsway, Vancouver (attached to the Mount Pleasant Community Centre). Or there might be one in your community: ask around!
Twitter chat: 11am-12noon, March 8th, online, hashtag #bctelabook.

In-Person Book Club Chats

Medicine Walk’s richness in themes and ideas may need more room for discussion than twitter can offer. In honour of Wagamese’s work, as well as our varied learning styles, BCTELA executive members Celia Brogan and Pamela Richardson will host a get-together for a BCTELA book club discussion prior to the twitter chat on March 8th.
All are welcome to come!

The get-together will be at a coffee shop called Pleasant Beans, at the corner of Kingsway and E 8th ave, in the Mount Pleasant community Centre in Vancouver from 9:30 to 11am.  Folks are welcome to stay together for the twitter chat from 11am-noon.

Are you thinking of hosting your own get-together at a coffee shop or library in your town?  Please let us know!

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