Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Saskatchewan Book Tour

Shelley A. Leedahl returns to her home province for a 5-event Book Tour. Leedahl will be reading selections from her latest collection of poetry, Wretched Beast (BuschekBooks, Ottawa, 2011) and, pending release date, from her new book of short stories, Listen, Honey (DC Books, Montreal, 2012).  ____________________________________________________________

Monday, June 4th, 7:30 PM:    Reid-Thompson Public Library, Humboldt

Tuesday, June 5th, 7:00 PM:   Pilger Public Library, Pilger

Thursday, June 7th, 7:00 PM: John. M. Cuelenaere Library, Prince Albert

Monday, June 11th, 7:30 PM:  Vertigo Reading Series, Regina  (at Crave Kitchen & Wine Bar, 1925 Victoria Ave., Regina)

Tuesday, June 12th, 7:30, PM: McNally Robinson Bookstore, Saskatoon

All are heartily welcome.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Would this be considered a gale?

What woke us this morning: the patio table and chairs shifting around the deck and across the yard, as if a poltergeist was at work. It's funny how many folks say they love the sound of waves, but in our experience, there comes a windy point where you begin to revile the crashing.

There's no sleeping when there's a gale blowing like this morning. Greg picked up and left the master bedroom (oceanside) sometime in the middle of the night, and tried to grab a few winks in the small main floor bedroom, with its cabiny wood walls, darkness, and serenity.

It took me half an hour to pick up the newspaper (Vancouver Sun) that had blown across the yard and street, the Adirondack bench that had tipped, the empty beer cans and glasses from last night's entertainments (a sun-smashing day of both drop-in and expected company, prefaced by our friend Glenn's party across the street). I strapped cushions onto lounge and patio chairs, and took a much-battered day lily, still in its pot, back into the safety of the house.

And the waves. From now on, whenever I need to describe the whitest white, I shall think of whitecaps. Our neighbour has a boat secured to a buoy several metres off shore, and it seems a small miracle the thing hasn't flipped, for at times, when a great breaker chucks beneath it, it seems to stand almost vertically.

The seagulls and surfbirds are having a blast (oh, the advertising copywriter in me can't resist the occasional  pun). Good day to be a seagull or a kite. 

But I hadn't meant to talk about the above. What I really wanted to share was a few takes from three earlier events: my prairie book tour; our sailing experience, on Mother's Day, with friend Claude; and our May long weekend trip to Powell River, Lund, Savary Island, and Texada Island.

1. Book Tour

My first event was at Shelf Life Books, in Calgary, which is owned and operated by my friend and fellow writer JoAnn McCaig, and I hope everyone who reads this supports independent book sellers over Coles, etc.

Joanne and I met at the Emma Lake Artists Colony in 1996; we were both swimmers and Scrabble players. We even played Scrabble on the beach (when introducing me at the reading, she shared that I had a reputation as a major Scrabble shark). I was fairly new to long distance running at that time, and thus was a bit of a maniac about it. I dropped 30 pounds in a month (and had to have my gallbladder removed as a result of the quick weightloss, but that's a story for another time).

Shelley, age 32, on the beach at the Emma Lake Artists Colony, Emma Lake, SK, circa 1996.
[I run just as much now (approximately 50K a week), and probably get even more exercise overall, but I'll never look
as fit as I did at that time, so please humour the inclusion of the single photo I can actually tolerate of my swimsuitted self.]  

One never knows which of the friends they e-mail about an event will show up. I lived in Calgary for a time. I have family and friend in High River, just south of Calgary. I told anyone who asked that 10 people at a poetry event would be considered a good turnout. I think I had about 18 attend in Calgary, and was so pleased to have my friends Barbara Scott and Ken Hanley join me in the musical version of one of my poems.

Here are a few photos from the event, taken on my brother Kirby's phone.

Book launches are a tricky and highly emotional enterprise. Often times I've slipped into something akin to post partum depression in the days following a launch. It's a great surprise to see who will show up -- and, as in Calgary and Edmonton, I'm so often pleasantly surprised -- but it can also prove a major disappointment. When friends say "I'll be there for sure ... wouldn't miss it for the world," and then they don't show up, and never call or write to let you know why they didn't come, it rattles you. Okay, it rattles me.  

And when it's not your first or second book -- let's say it's your ninth or tenth -- you need the support just as much as you did at the beginning, if not more. I have writer friends who so abhor the book launch ordeal they don't even do launches any more. 

In Calgary I had a friend from high school attend, a long-ago neighbour from Saskatoon, writer friends, and a fellow Masters swimmer friend from the old days in Saskatoon. I had my brother and sister-in-law, and some of their friends. Hell, there were even a few strangers! So yes, successful launch, kudos to JoAnn, and many thanks to those who attended.  

After Calgary I was on to Edmonton Poetry Festival events (readings with my friend Anna Marie Sewell, and several others), and my May 1st launch at Audrey's Books in Edmonton. Again, a diverse group of friends, from an elementary school friend to former and current tenants; writer friends and neighbourhood friends. And how does one thank a friend who buys not one or two, but TEN copies of her book? That Tian ... she really gets it.

2. Sailing

It has the aura of "rich and famous," does it not? It's Kennedy-esque. And the great clothes: white pants, navy, stripes, canvas shoes. I assembled what I thought might be proper sailing attire from my wardrobe (I shop almost exlusively in thrift stores, and practise the something new comes in, something old goes out method of clothes-control ... I thrive on change and that includes clothing, so I wouldn't dream of "investing" in anything I'd feel obligated to keep in my closet for too long).

I packed a lunch (apparently this is sailing etiquette .., guests provide the food and drink). Deli meat on kaiser buns, strawberries, etc. We met tillicum Claude and his friends Jack and Sheila at the Secret Cove marina, and soon we were manuevering out into the open water. Oh, my. I joined Sheila in sitting on the bow of the 40' boat (see previous post); she told me that this is "what girls do on boats" -- a phrase that would make a great title for a short story. It wasn't the windiest day, but the sails were set, Claude let both Greg and Jack spend a goodly amount of time at the helm, and we hit some heart-racing speeds (and one accidental about-face akin to a hairpin curve on a rollercoaster .... I'm surprised we didn't all pitch into the sea.)
(on Claude's sailboat)

Claude sailed us past the la-de-dah homes along Halfmoon Bay, including former BC premiere Gordon Campbell's home. (It occurs to me that I've done much coveting whilst living on the Sunshine Coast: ooh, I could be happy forever if I lived in that house ... or that one, or maybe one of those over there, on the rocky outcrop, facing the evening sun ...). 

You just can't beat these ocean, mountain, cove and forest vistas.
3. May Long Weekend
This trip was meant to be my birthday present and take place in April, but my ankle sprain threw a proverbial wrench into that, and I'm glad we waited until I could run again, and the weather was a whole month and a half better.

I met Greg at his school and we had to race north to Earl's Cove to catch the ferry. I'm sure all coasters -- or indeed anyone who has ferried -- can relate to those tremulous moments when the thing is filling up and you're thinking, Will we ...? won't we ...? then, VICTORY, you're the second last vehicle waved on).

Greg on Earl's Cove to Saltery Bay ferry.

Shelley on the ferry

We've now been here long enough to see someone we know any time we take a ferry. That's half the fun of it. This trip was an hour of pristine landscapes and sheer joy: what would Powell River, Texada Island, and Savary Island be like?

Well, Powell River and Lund were, in our opinion, pretty, quaint, welcoming, and far more affordable that Sechelt.
We stayed at the Old Courthouse Inn in Powell River proper (I didn't realize that what many people consider Powell River, or at least where the greatest population exists, is actually a community called Westview).

We wanted to stay at this inn partly because we were intrigued: it really is the old courthouse, and it is for sale: $475,000, all in. And it is filled with gorgeous antiques and period-style rooms. Whoever buys this place will get a gem. Hollywood could set a horror film here. Or a romance. And it would make for a great game of hide-and-go seek.

We won't be buying it, but Powell River \ Lund may be worth another look in the future.

The next morning we water taxied to Savary Island. 

The water taxi was one of those neat ones, where you can sit on the roof. I was reminded of a trip to Lembongan Island (Bali) on a public ferry, where I also sat on the roof. And indeed, Savary Island itself very much evoked memories of Lembongan (except there was no cock-fighting match taking place).

Shell and Greg on the Lund Water Taxi to Savary Island

Savary Island's white sand beaches.
Greg with running clothes (and no lunch) arriving on Savary Island. 
We were prepared for a long run around this sublime island, thinking we would then have lunch at the restaurant and relax on the Caribbean-style beach for a bit before heading back to Powell River.

The first thing to do was pitch our gym bag in the bushes along the beach. No public washrooms on Savary, so I took the opportunity to, ahem, use nature's facilities, and nearly squatted on a snake!

The run part was utterly fantastic. We ran 16K along sun-dappled lanes and hard-packed sand, and as often is the case when a long run is also a new run in a well-above-average landscape, it was easy. It was, in fact, one of my best long runs ever

After the jaunt (and ever more real estate and lifestyle coveting), we hitchhiked. A man driving a flatbed stopped for us, and we piled in beside him. "We're going to the restaurant," Greg said. We received a weird look. After a few moments I said, "The restaurant is open, right?" And the amiable driver said no, it wasn't, and nor was the grocery store ... not until Canada Day.

Wow, we were so ready to eat, and still had hours left on the island. It had been a hot morning, and the temperature was quickly climbing. Fortunately we'd pocketed two granola bars from the Old Courthouse Inn's hostel-style breakfast room, and we had two oranges and one warm bottle of water.

The beach? About as glorious as a beach can be. I'm not one to sit for very long, even on a white sand beach after a long run, but Greg and I both had good novels to read (his: Stephen King's 11\22\63 (about Kennedy's assassination) and mine: Lynn Coady's Mean Boy), and we hardly even noticed that we were getting scorched (forgot the sunblock). All in all, a 10 out of 10 day (even with the sunburn).

Our final excursion was to Texada Island. Now perhaps I'm a tad idealistic, but I always figure that when 'Island' appears in a name, said place is going to be great. Texada didn't live up. The ferry docks below an abandoned limestone quarry: it resembles a post-apocalpytic event. A gaping bite out of the land, rusting machinery, muy eerie ghost-town.

I'm sure another time I'd feel entirely differenty, but on this trip I just was not feeling Texada Island. As often happens when I travel, I am transported to other locations. Texada was reminscent of a) a willy-nilly Newfoundland outport  b) Bristol, Virginia (scary!) and c) some Saskatchewan Reserves I have known.

We had planned to stay over, but after a hike (in which I was bitten by stinging nettle and we temporarily lost Greg's school cellphone, so backtracked -- through the stinging nettle treachery -- only to find the phone camouflaged in his car) we decided that with a hard rain on the forecast, we'd head back to Sechelt.  

We did, it was fab to be back home, and bonus: Monday was a "free" day. 

I *&^$#$%^ adore this part of the Sunshine Coast.

Please stay tuned.    

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Greetings, friends. Yes, yes. It's been a long time.

(Taylor took this photo ... these beauties are everywhere.)

I stopped blogging when my daughter came for a visit, and I just couldn't get back on the blog wagon. Excuses? I could name several, ie: I wrecked my camera while kayaking and haven't had it fixed yet. Or: I had a dizzying tour in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and have another forthcoming in ... (checking calendar) ... twelve days. Or: I've been busy with the edits of my forthcoming book, Listen, Honey. Or: it's spring, damn it! I want to be outside soaking the season in, not sitting inside at my desk.

(arbutus ... my favourite tree)

Hightlights of Taylor's visit included numerous hikes (including this one, up Pender Hill ) and six hours of kayaking. We watched sea lions large as polar bears splash into the water not far from our tiny kayaks, and we paddled to and hiked on one of the Trail Islands. On the return trip, the wind came up, and it was a chore getting across the water from the islands to our house. I was more than a little fearful for Taylor's sake. At one point I yelled:

"Don't stop paddling, or you'll quickly lose all the distance you've gained."

Taylor shouted back that her arms were killing her.

I yelled: "Pretend you're in labour and you can't stop, regardless of how difficult it is!"

She screamed back: "Mom, I can't relate to that!"

 (You can barely see our blue kayaks in this photo ... glad we pulled them up high onto the beach, as the tides here are Bay of Fundy-ish).

We threw the crab nets off Davis Bay wharf, and

I took Taylor to my favourite local coffee shop, Strait Coffee, and  ...
she took photos non-stop ...

of marvellous things, like light ....

After a few nights in Sechelt, mother and daughter drove to High River, Alberta together. I hadn't seen my daughter for nearly a year. Far, far too long.