Of books and bears – Harold Macy launches San Josef

The first time I hiked into San Josef Bay I was worried about bears. Didn’t even see a track. The second time, I woke up one morning and groggily wondered why Rick was making so much noise outside the tent.

Turns out, Rick had gone to investigate the sea stacks and a bear was wandering through camp. Luckily, all our food and toiletries were safely stowed in an improvised bear-hang.

I’ve explored San Josef two other times via the printed page. The first was at a week-long writing workshop at Strathcona Park Lodge. That’s where I met another wanna be writer, Harold Macy.

One afternoon, while Harold’s wife and two young sons went for a walk, I sat on the floor of their suite next to a stack of paper. Harold pounded away on an old IBM Selectric typewriter (computers were few and far between in 1986) as I read a draft of his work-in-progress.

I remember the evocative language and the strong sense of a wild, wet landscape and the haunted, hopeful characters that inhabited it. The manuscript began with a man in an oilskin coat rowing. For thirty some years I pondered the U.S. civil war deserter’s fate once he reached the struggling Danish settlement on northern Vancouver Island in Canada.

This summer I found out when Tidewater Press asked if I’d write a blurb for the back of San Josef. Harold’s story ignited memories of my visits to the remote bay and of the writing retreat that launched my career.

But most of all, I was struck by the development of the plot and personalities. Both had matured like a bodacious red wine. Within three pages, Harold captures the soul of a man and the landscape he finds himself in.

San Josef is a deep and sometimes dark novel where hope goes astray but is never lost. The characters are as complex as a spider’s web, the language poetic and the environment a tangible force.

Harold Macy is the author of The Four Storey Forest, As Grow the Trees, So too the Heart. His short stories have appeared in PRISM International, The Malahat Review , Orion and other publications.

On Saturday, Oct. 26 Tidewater Press and Harold Macy will launch San Josef at the Courtenay and District Museum at 2 pm. in downtown Courtenay, BC.

Admission is free; stories will be filled with Harold’s trademark humour and the history that inspired this novel.

Drawn to Sea by Yvonne Maximchuk

Drawn to Sea: Paintbrush to Chainsaw – Carving Out a life on BC’s Rugged Raincoast, by Yvonne Maximchuk is an intimate glimpse of modern day pioneering seen through an artist’s eye.

Drawn to Sea is published by Caitlin Press
Drawn to Sea is published by Caitlin Press

In the 1980s Maximchuk was a single mom living in White Rock, BC. She supported her two children by selling her paintings and pottery and teaching art. Then she met crab fisherman Al Munro. When Munro shifted to prawn fishing further up the coast, he invited Maximchuk, as well as Theda and Logan to accompany him.

Their new home – a float house only accessible by boat or seaplane – was anchored off Gilford Island in the Broughton Archipelago, a wilderness area east of northern Vancouver Island.

Maximchuk rowed her children to the to the one-room school and adjusted to life with a generator and the fact that the nearest grocery store was a two-hour boat ride away. She also soaked up the beauty and tranquility of the sparsely populated area, which soon infused her artwork.

But when Munro and Maximchuk split up, she faced a tough decision. Remain in the place she’d come to love or return to an easier life in the Lower Mainland? If she stayed, two major purchases were required: a chainsaw and a boat.

So began the challenge of being self-sufficient in an out-of-the-way pocket of the BC coast. Maximchuk was buoyed by the friendship of others living nearby including coastal icons Alexandra Morton and Billy Proctor. Proctor, with his “If I can’t do it, no one can,” attitude was especially helpful and always had whatever part was needed to fix anything and knew just how to do it.

When Maximchuk reunited with Munro, they bought land from Proctor and sweated and swore together as they built a truly handcrafted house. One that they still live in today and that now includes Maximchuk’s SeaRose Studio and a lush garden.

Drawn to Sea is an honest, affectionate story about love, the landscape and a gutsy woman finding her way in the ebb and flow of life. Maximchuk recounts the challenges and rewards of living and working in an isolated area and trolling with Proctor off the Queen Charlotte Islands. Nature and wildlife is never far away; she’s found cougars in her yard, been eye to eye with a killer whale and shared a finshake with a dolphin.

The book is funny too. I laughed out loud over the stories of Maximchuk dangling Proctor overboard in order to capture an especially large Japanese float, the kinks in her wedding day that failed to dispel the joy and one of her best Christmas gifts ever – an orange survival suit.

Maximchuk writes with a painter’s eye and a poet’s voice creating a richly rewarding sense of place, time and emotion. Drawn to Sea is a BC coastal classic that deserves a place on the shelf next to M. Wylie Blanchet’s A Curve of Time.

For more information visit www.yvonnemaximchuk.com.

Paula and Yvonne at a Drawn to Sea book signing. Photo by Theda Phoenix.
Paula and Yvonne at a Drawn to Sea book signing. Photo by Theda Phoenix.

 

Drawn to Sea by Yvonne Maximchuk

Drawn to Sea: Paintbrush to Chainsaw – Carving Out a life on BC’s Rugged Raincoast, by Yvonne Maximchuk is an intimate glimpse of modern day pioneering seen through an artist’s eye.

Drawn to Sea is published by Caitlin Press
Drawn to Sea is published by Caitlin Press

In the 1980s Maximchuk was a single mom living in White Rock, BC. She supported her two children by selling her paintings and pottery and teaching art. Then she met crab fisherman Al Munro. When Munro shifted to prawn fishing further up the coast, he invited Maximchuk, as well as Theda and Logan to accompany him.

Their new home – a float house only accessible by boat or seaplane – was anchored off Gilford Island in the Broughton Archipelago, a wilderness area east of northern Vancouver Island.

Maximchuk rowed her children to the to the one-room school and adjusted to life with a generator and the fact that the nearest grocery store was a two-hour boat ride away. She also soaked up the beauty and tranquility of the sparsely populated area, which soon infused her artwork.

But when Munro and Maximchuk split up, she faced a tough decision. Remain in the place she’d come to love or return to an easier life in the Lower Mainland? If she stayed, two major purchases were required: a chainsaw and a boat.

So began the challenge of being self-sufficient in an out-of-the-way pocket of the BC coast. Maximchuk was buoyed by the friendship of others living nearby including coastal icons Alexandra Morton and Billy Proctor. Proctor, with his “If I can’t do it, no one can,” attitude was especially helpful and always had whatever part was needed to fix anything and knew just how to do it.

When Maximchuk reunited with Munro, they bought land from Proctor and sweated and swore together as they built a truly handcrafted house. One that they still live in today and that now includes Maximchuk’s SeaRose Studio and a lush garden.

Drawn to Sea is an honest, affectionate story about love, the landscape and a gutsy woman finding her way in the ebb and flow of life. Maximchuk recounts the challenges and rewards of living and working in an isolated area and trolling with Proctor off the Queen Charlotte Islands. Nature and wildlife is never far away; she’s found cougars in her yard, been eye to eye with a killer whale and shared a finshake with a dolphin.

The book is funny too. I laughed out loud over the stories of Maximchuk dangling Proctor overboard in order to capture an especially large Japanese float, the kinks in her wedding day that failed to dispel the joy and one of her best Christmas gifts ever – an orange survival suit.

Maximchuk writes with a painter’s eye and a poet’s voice creating a richly rewarding sense of place, time and emotion. Drawn to Sea is a BC coastal classic that deserves a place on the shelf next to M. Wylie Blanchet’s A Curve of Time.

For more information visit www.yvonnemaximchuk.com.

Paula and Yvonne at a Drawn to Sea book signing. Photo by Theda Phoenix.
Paula and Yvonne at a Drawn to Sea book signing. Photo by Theda Phoenix.

 

111 West Coast Literary Portraits

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, 111 West Coast Literary Portraits is invaluable. Fifteen years in the making, it contains more than 100 photographs of B.C. authors, as well as extracts from their work or personal notes written specifically for the book.

The book is an important documentary of B.C. literature. It includes emerging, famous, as well as infamous authors and speaks to the diversity of literature, culture and the unique voice of Canada’s most western province. A work of art in its own right, the 8 x 10 heavy stock, glossy paper gives a depth and luminosity to each portrait. And the use of black and white film provides a classic, timeless quality to the images.

When Barry began photographing writers he didn’t realize he was starting a book project. He and his wife at the time, Blaise Enright, were new to the West Coast and wanted a project they could work on together while exploring their new environment. By a quirk of fate, authors became the focal point. But it wasn’t always easy.

R.W. Gray wanted to be photographed partially submerged in water. Rick and I wanted to include our dog but Bailey thought posing meant running around in circles. Stephen Reid wanted to wear a cop costume and have a gun and some money on the table in front of him. Little did Barry and Blaise know that Reid’s props would later be used in a real life drama.

But perhaps the most difficult photo shoot was of poet Al Purdy. The initial images didn’t turn out well. Soon after Purdy received the proofs Barry answered the phone to find someone screaming at him. Purdy, a character with an occasional crusty edge, demanded the photos be retaken the next day or he’d black list the photographers with every writer in B.C.

It was a scramble for Barry and Blaise to get to Victoria from Vancouver on time but they made it. Along the way, Blaise bought an assortment of squeaky toys hoping to lighten up the situation. After the shoot, Purdy said he hadn’t known whether to smile or be offended. The photo on page 158 tells it all.

As the collection of photographs grew, it was titled Lit Happens and exhibited in a variety of venues to promote literacy in B.C. A couple of years ago, Mona Fertig of Mother Tongue Publishing approached Barry about turning the photographs and accompanying text by authors into a book.

This fall, Barry has exhibited prints from the book, attended signings and participated on panels of photographers throughout the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands.

Barry’s always been passionate about black and white film. “It helps the viewer focus on the subject,” he explains. “There’s no confusing palette of colours and it seems to really highlight the subject. Also, film photographs have a depth to them that digital can’t duplicate.” As well as taking the photographs, Barry developed all the film, matted and framed the prints and even made the cardboard boxes to transport them in.

Through 2009 and 2010, Barry and I collaborated on a photo-journalism project called On the Edge, Putting a Face on Homelessness. Time and time again, I witnessed Barry’s easy-going manner help nervous folks relax, watched him guide people into natural-looking poses and admired the meticulous detail that went into the printing of film and framing of photo and text.

He’s brought the same attention to detail to 111 West Coast Literary Portraits. For more information visit www.barrypetersonphotography.com or  www.mothertonguepublishing.com.