Sharing Stories

sunflower-in-the-burnThe theme for Canadian Storytelling Night this year is “What on Earth? Stories Rooted in Land and Nature”. While many of my storytelling colleagues across the country are performing on different stages, I have decided to invite you to my virtual venue. You can listen to my recorded version of “The Legend of the Flowers” by clicking below.

This is a story that I shared many times this year, in formal and informal settings. I told it as one of the “Stories from the Five Corners” at the Storytellers of Canada – Raconteurs du Canada annual conference in Vancouver in July, and in a tipi as part of a cultural exchange at the Year of the Saskatchewan-Ukrainian Festival in August in Regina. I have also offered it as a gift to couples celebrating anniversaries and friends and relatives celebrating birthdays.  Stories really make very portable presents!

Living in northern Saskatchewan as I do, traveling to participate in storytelling events is not always easy.  That is why I was particularly pleased to have been able to take advantage of a revision to the criteria in the Culture on the Go Event Travel Grants.  Culture on the Go is funded by the Government of Saskatchewan and administered by the Saskatchewan Arts Board through an agreement with the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport. Whereas in the past, these grants only funded out-of-province travel, now in-province travel is eligible. Thank-you!





Vibrant Volunteers

volunteer The La Ronge Arts Council held its Volunteer Recognition event this week. The vision of the Arts Council is “A Strong and Vibrant Arts Community.” This has got me thinking…

For any kind of community that wants to be strong and vibrant, the contribution of volunteers will make a big difference. Every day this week, I have personally been touched by the work of volunteers with a number of local and national organizations, including:

– The lay ministers in my faith community;
– The secretary/treasurer of the Wild Rice Writers Group;
– The president of the La Ronge and Area Music Festival Association;
– Volunteers with Development and Peace;
– Organizers of the Storytellers of Canada – Conteurs du Canada Annual Conference.
– Those who came out to weed the Lac La Ronge Food Bank garden;
– And, of course, the La Ronge Arts Council volunteer board.

That’s just this week.  Last week, the list would have been different, and next week it will be different again, but it does emphasize just what a team effort is involved in making a community successful.

I was humbled that the La Ronge Arts Council recognized me as their “Volunteer of the Year”. The photo here shows me with the Board Chair, Harmony Johnson-Harder, but I really feel it would be more representative if all the vibrant volunteers had gathered for a team photo (like they do when they win the Stanley Cup!).

I am privileged to be a volunteer, and grateful to live in a community and country where many passionate individuals give of their own time to make this world a better place!




My EFN Anniversary

JanThis month marks a year that I have been contributing as a freelance writer to Eagle Feather News. In that time, I have written stories related to business, the arts, sports, education and social issues. It’s always encouraging to see a publication interested in a variety of northern stories, not just the tragedies and disasters.

While it gives me particular pleasure to focus on the varied accomplishments of northern residents, I will admit it was also a thrill to cover the visits of some big names – Montreal Canadiens legends (including Guy Lafleur), Indspire Award winner Christian Kowalchuk, and, most recently, classical music superstar Jan Lisiecki. I wasn’t the only one who was thrilled, however. Certainly, these people made an impression on local residents, but it also seems clear that our visitors were also impressed by the northern hospitality they enjoyed – that’s something we can be proud of.

Eagle Feather News comes out in print monthly. Past issues are archived on the website, and individual stories appear on the website and linked to on their Facebook page. If you’re not familiar with it, check it out!  Here’s a link to some of my stories.

Northern Pride

Northern PrideThe newspaper business is a tough one to be in these days. Privately-owned newspapers are a rarity, so I’ve been impressed with the Northern Pride. Based in Meadow Lake, Terry and Tammy Villeneuve took a chance on expanding coverage to La Ronge in August. Unfortunately, advertising revenue from this area was not what they were hoping for, so they will be cutting back on local stories and limiting the complimentary distribution to once a month. It has been a real pleasure for me to contribute items of interest from La Ronge and area in the last few months. Many of these are stories that will never be told by the larger media outlets, and they do make a difference to a community. For example, it was very satisfying to hear that my story about the La Ronge Public Library’s English as a second language program has resulted in another volunteer tutor coming forward! That means one of the newcomers on the waiting list will now have someone to assist with language skills, which may increase the likelihood of employability – you see the ripple effect? Despite the wonderful world of technology, many people still appreciate holding an actual newspaper, and more importantly, like to see their own world reflected in its pages. Still, for newspapers to survive, they have to be profitable, so I understand their decision. It’s just too bad. There are many local stories worth sharing. But who knows? Maybe if there were more weekly advertisements coming from this area, they might reconsider. There are so many, many local stories worth sharing…


We rememberWhen I worked at Veterans Affairs Canada many years ago, we used to say, “Every day is Remembrance Day!” So even though I am posting this a week after November 11, the small display I created in my kitchen is still up, and I am still remembering those who served…and all who suffered.

Some of the lesser known aspects of WWII are told in three novels for young people by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. Stolen Child, Making Bombs for Hitler and Underground Soldier have each won recognition for the skillful use of fiction to teach us about history.

In 2004, I had the privilege of interviewing Kateryna (Kijak) Gellner and later created a radio documentary called Hungry all the Time. It recounts her experiences as a slave labourer in a factory in Nazi Germany during World War II. Whenever I listen to it, I’m reminded not to take too much for granted. I invite you to listen to it, as well.  Click here.

Telling local stories

NorthernerWith The La Ronge Northerner ceasing publication this week, I have been reminiscing about the many local stories I had the opportunity to tell in its pages as a freelance writer. In 1997, I walked into the office of editor Scott Boyes with a proposal to write a series of articles on home-based businesses in the community. That was the beginning of dozens and dozens of stories in what was then an award-winning newspaper.

It has been interesting hearing Karen Robertson’s recollections of how her father, Vern Brooks, began the paper in 1974. Past owner Gill Gracie’s comments contrast the publication she put out with what it had become in recent years.

When I was freelancing for The Northerner, I covered a wide range of events including a business forum,Paper the visit of a delegation from Mongolia studying co-ops, and artistic achievements. In 2004, I also began telling local stories under the “Life in the Community” banner.

Under the editorial leadership of Scott Boyes, The Northerner won multiple Saskatchewan Weekly Newspaper Association and Canadian Community Newspaper Awards. Around the time that Scott left the paper to work with the provincial government, I left freelancing and went to work in communications with the health region. It was never quite the same after that.

The world of media is changing, of course.  I will share this blog entry on my personal Facebook page and on my public Twitter feed. The world of print journalism is not the same as it was a decade ago, but there is still value in telling a wide range of local stories in print, not just tragedies and disasters. That is why it is so nice to see that Eagle Feather News is willing to cover good news stories from the north, in print and on their website. Now that I am freelancing again, I have been contributing to this publication, and look forward to sharing more northern Saskatchewan stories with you. Here are the links to a few recent ones:

Elder renews community interest in beading

Kikinahk hosts community graduation recognition banquet

Northern Youth Role Model hopes to inspire others





Read AloudA couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of young authors at the La Ronge Public Library. They were students at Pre-Cam Community School in La Ronge, and they were there to read the books they had written and illustrated as part of an Arts Smarts project led by local author and artist Miriam Körner. The Wild Rice Writers Group was a community partner for the project and the Library helped organize a display of a sample of publications by past and current members of the group. I have been blessed to be part of the group since I first moved to La Ronge in 1996. I told the students that we meet to share our writing with each other, to work at improving our writing, and especially to encourage each other! A big thanks to all former and current members – and keep on writing!

Of course, the La Ronge Public Library is closed until further notice as forest fires threaten our communities in northern Saskatchewan.  Grateful to all who working so hard to protect them, and hoping everyone stays safe!

My Dad, the Storyteller

My dad and IThis Father’s Day I’m remembering my Dad and the influence he had on my storytelling. He loved to tell stories. When I was growing up I didn’t always appreciate hearing the same ones over and over. Now, however, I am glad I captured some of them on tape, and enjoy hearing his voice, even though he has been gone for almost eight years. If you haven’t heard the tribute I prepared for CBC Radio in 2002 on the occasion of his 90th birthday, you can check it out on my Broadcasting page. There are two versions -the original and a shorter, edited version.

Memories of milking

When Deana Driver of DriverWorks Ink put out a call for stories for an anthology about all that was involved on prairie farms in the process of selling cream, it got me thinking – and talking to my siblings. We started reminiscing and pulling out old photos.

MilkingThe photo of me milking a cow appears on the back cover of Cream Money Stories of Prairie People, which was recently launched. Inside you will find several stories and photos from our family, along with excerpts from my father’s diaries, and a recipe my mother wrote down on the envelope from a cream cheque.

I can’t say I’m nostalgic about milking cows, but I do miss real cream, freshly churned butter, and home-made cottage cheese…