Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book signing event featuring local authors held at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village

Farley S. Wuth, up close and personal
Josh Davis

On Thursday November 5 Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village hosted a book signing event. Local authors were gathered around a festive tree, presenting their works to the public and signing them. Authors in attendance included Joey Ambrosi, Tyler Trafford, Doug Rawling, Peter Brouwer, Pat Moskaluk, Farley Wuth, Christopher Hoare, Jane Harris, Gord Tolton, and Wendy Davies. Colleen Casey Cyr also showed off the museum's improved gift shop, which was redesigned last spring.

Joey Ambrosi
Joey Ambrosi

Frank Slide Interpretive Centre historian Joey Ambrosi attended, showcasing his book on nearby hiking trails, Southern Rockies Trail Guide, which includes areas not normally covered in trail guides. “I’ve written three hiking books, and two fishing books, but I’m a historian by trade,” explained Ambrosi. “This is kind of spare time stuff.” Every trail in Ambrosi’s guide has an elevation graph, taken from topographic maps. His fishing books include secret lakes. “I’ve always liked that when you write a book you tell everything,” he explained. “I want to see this area promoted. Pincher Creek, Waterton, and the Crowsnest Pass for sure. This is one way to do that, because there’s not a lot of guides on this area, but there’s so much wonderful hiking in it.” The current hiking trail book is the third produced by Ambrosi. “One back in the 80s started by following the roots of explorers. We’d go back to the explorer’s journals and do some of the pass as they did, like the North Kootenai Pass.” In addition to his hiking and fishing books he has written a book on the history of the Blairmore Courthouse, and the rum-running that was done out of it, and has worked with artist Claude St. Aubin on a series of comic books about the Frank Slide.

Link - Joey Ambrosi's Amazon page.

Tyler Trafford

Tyler Trafford spoke with me about his book Almost a Great Escape, which chronicles the story of his mother’s lover, a Norwegian fighter pilot, and his escape from Stalag Luft III, the famous German POW camp. Trafford discovered this story from letters his mother had left behind following her passing. “I inherited this cardboard box, and inside this box was this really beautiful photo album. And the album was full of these letters.” The pilot was one of only three people to ever escape from Stalag Luft III. “She never said what happened,” said Trafford. “And it took me three years to figure out what had happened.”

 “I was a journalist. So when I got these letters, I just started to take notes and try and keep track of things. Trying to find out about my mother’s family, why wouldn’t she have married this guy, how to find him. I wrote it in less than a year, and then I put it away. And then I gave it to a friend, and he said it was really good, so I got it published. Trafford previously wrote the Sun of the Mountain Series, a story about a family from Philadelphia who married into the Blackfoot tribe. Trafford brought copies of all three books in the series to Kootenai Brown.  Almost a Great Escape won the 2014 Alberta Readers' Choice Award (worth $10,000), the Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction, and the City of Calgary's W.O. Mitchell Prize .

Link - Tyler Trafford's Amazon page

Authors Doug Rawling (left) and Tyler Trafford (right) chat at book signing event

Doug Rawling
Next I spoke with Doug Rawling, an author and songwriter who has written a series of western themed fiction novels. Each novel is a stand-alone. Rawling has been writing since childhood, and painted the covers for each of his novels. “When I was a little kid I started writing songs and poetry, just for my enjoyment. Over the years I start two or three books, get three or four chapters written, and then put it away and forget about it. But when I wrote this one, I decided I’m just going to treat it like a job and finish it. And then the more I got into it the harder it was to focus on other things because I was really starting to enjoy it.” His newest novel, The Bronc Stomper, took him a little over a year to write. “I think the first one I had on the go for about three years before I could publish it.”

Link - Doug Rawling's Amazon page

Peter Brouwer with his comic The March on Fort Whoop-Up
Peter Brouwer

Peter Brouwer was signing his comic book The March on Fort Whoop-Up, illustrated by Claude St. Aubin, a comic book artist for Marvel who lives in Raymond, Alberta. Brouwer had always been interested in making a comic. “This comic depicts the creation of the Northwest Mounted Police in 1873,” he explained, “and the following year, 1874, they came to for Whoop-Up. Lots of books have been written about the history of the Northwest Mounted Police, but this is the only comic book.” Brouwer is quite proud of the comic, which is being used as a teaching tool across southern Alberta. A carpenter by trade, Brouwer does work on St. Aubin’s house, who in turn works on Brouwer's projects. The two first met at a comic convention in Calgary about a decade ago. “I was always interested in making a comic, because I collect comics. I have a lot of westerns from the 50s. But it had to be something I was interested in. And then they had this enactment of a trek, going from Manitoba to Fort Macleod in 1999, and I thought ‘Hey, that would make a good comic’. So that’s how it started.” Brouwer was inspired by comic book artist Dan Spiegle, and is currently working on acquiring the rights to produce a Hardy Boys comic in the future. When asked what advice he would give to anybody aspiring to create comics, Brouwer said “You have to have something different.”

Pat Moskaluk
Pat Moskaluk

Pat Moskaluk presented two works: one on the history of Saint Michael’s Parish, and another on the history of the North Fork School. “There wasn’t anybody else to write the book,” said Moskaluk. “The book on the North Fork school I wrote simply because all of the materials were disappearing, and the schools were disappearing, and the information is housed in the Glenbow in Calgary. And in my opinion it should be housed here. I just felt that it was being lost, and I wanted to write it. So that was the first one, and then for the second one there was an appeal for somebody to write the history of Saint Michael’s Parish, because it had never been done as well.” Moskaluk personally attended the North Fork School as a child, and spent a year researching and writing the book on it. She spent almost two years writing about Saint Michael’s Parish, and she spent time at the Provincial Archives of Alberta researching it. “All of the records that were here were sent to Edmonton for safekeeping.” She said one of the more interesting parts of researching the book was meeting the people who had been living in Pincher Creek during the years of Saint Michael’s Parish. ”Had I grown up here I probably would have absorbed some of the history, like you do. But when you don’t, and you’re going in with a blank piece of paper it does take a lot of work.”

Farley Wuth with Prairie Grass to Mountain Pass (file photo)
Farley Wuth

Farley Wuth, the long-time curator at Kootenai Brown, was also presenting his own work, The History That Almost Wasn’t, which tells the story of railroad development in the early days of Pincher Creek. “It was a hotly debated issues, very controversial back then,” explained Farley. “All of the railways companies came out to the prairies, but did not do what the early pioneers wanted them to do, in terms of where they sent to routes, and what would come in on them. And that was particularly true for the Pincher Creek area, because Pincher Creek actually predates the arrival of the railways by twenty years, a full generation.” A big issue was that the railway completely bypassed Pincher Creek. “The pioneers tried in vain for many years to get the CPR to change its route, to build a spur line into Pincher Creek, or to get some other rail line to come into town, but it never materialized." Farley explained that although local ranchers were able to market their livestock to other communities, the lack of a rail connection within town was a sore issue for the developing Town of Pincher Creek. "The only other rail line that got built in this area, after lobbying from the town Mayor and Council of the times, was the Kootenai and Alberta line which went out to Beaver Mines." Farley explained that he used the local archives to research the book, along with back issues of local newspapers and local recollections to complete the book. "One of the people that worked on the railway was Kootenai Brown himself." said Farley, explaining that the man was a freighter, bringing in supplies during the constructing period. "It was quite a massive project to put together," said Farley on the work involved with developing the book. "Nothing's been written on the railway industry in this area before." He had another book on display, Prairie Grass to Mountain Pass, which is a recently revisedhistory book for the entire Pincher Creek area.

Finding Home in the Promised Land by Jane Harris
Lastly I spoke with Jane Harris about her memoir, Finding Home in the Promised Land. This was her second book with her publisher. It touches upon 19th century poverty compared to poverty in the modern world, and details her own personal struggles. "I'm actually a journalist, so I'm not usually in my own stories," said Harris. "Its a completely different experience writing a memoir than writing an article." Her other book, chronicling eugenics in Alberta, titled Eugenics and the Firewall, is a creative non-fiction, differing from the more personal outlook of Finding Home.“I like to create scenes,” she explained, "And this was going to be another book just like Eugenics and the Firewall. I wasn't  supposed to be in it. But something wasn't working well in that book, and I didn't know why until June 22, 2013.  Everybody in Alberta has a flood story, and this is mine. On that day my husband went mad, and he tried to kill me." Following the incident Harris suffered a brain injury, which effected her daily life. "I couldn't write, I was facing homelessness, and I couldn't look after myself. Most of our friends seemed more concerned that he was going to jail than that I was headed towards homelessness." She explained that her publisher encouraged her to publish the story. And she said, "I know what's wrong with the book. I wasn't home yet. At that point I traced the poverty industry, and I was horrified to find our that we were doing a worse job than they were." 

"We have a lot of social exiles" Harris explained. "I had to deal with my own suffering, but I had to make it bigger. I had to make it worth something," she said. "On the one hand is my story. But on the other hand is our nations story, We can't keep doing what we're doing. It's costing us millions. It keeps people poor." Her novel combines the stories of her great great grandmother and her own struggle to demonstrate the dichotomy between traditional poverty, and the struggle within the modern world. "We took a lot more care than my last book, because its a literary book," explained Harris, discussing the prose of the final chapter.

Chris Hoare

Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to interview Lundbreck's Chris Hoare, who has authored fantasy and fictionalized history books (click here for a 2013 story about Hoare).  We'll be featuring his work again soon.  Hoare has been working on improved publications of his novels, now 12 in number.  Also, visit his website at .

Coleen Casey Cyr showing Kootenai Brown's copper bathtub display in the gift shop

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