Thursday, September 1, 2011


When you read this I will have climbed into a zodiac and left the shore at
Kugluktok (once called Coppermine) in Nunavut to board the Clipper Adventurer for a 17 day cruise out of the Northwest Passage, north along the coast of Ellesmere island to Grise Fiord, our most northerly civilian community, across Davis Strait and Baffin sea and down the coast of Greenland stopping in at several sites. I love the Arctic and am lucky enough to be able to afford to be making my third visit. Will I set a mystery here? Given my past record it seems unlikely and I don’t know why.

Three years ago I visited Spitzbergen, one of the most northern communities in the world, a place where every individual who leaves the townsite of Longyearben is legally obliged to carry a rifle to protect herself from polar bears. In the hotel a sign instructs everyone to park their rifles in the hotel safe as there is no danger of bears within the building. I wondered if this focus on the danger of bears might be an exaggeration until recently when a bear attacked a number of young men from the UK and killed one of them. I did attempt a short story about this wonderful island and to do it I did internet research and discovered all kinds of interesting things that made me want to return but not necessarily to write any more about it.

This summer the regular contributors to this blog are travelling to far flung parts of Canada and abroad. The question - will these trips influence their writing?

It’s a good question. I think everything in your life contributes in one way or another to your writing. You may not refer directly to what you’ve seen in an outport in Newfoundland, the food you’ve eaten in a French bistro, the chill of the sea you’ve felt swimming in the North Atlantic or the smell of a convivial pile of walrus snorting and socializing between dives for shellfish.

But you will internalize the experiences. If you’re an author like Vicki Delaney, Barbara Fradkin or Robin Harlick you will capture the essence of your trips in a book. In her short stories set in the Rideau Lakes Sue Pike reveals her detailed knowledge not only of the flora and fauna but also her love of the area. Early next year we’ll look forward to learning more about Alabama when we read the first in Linda Wiken’s trilogy.

Books must be set somewhere and the degree to which location influences the ambiance and plot development vary from writer to writer. Each author must decide how important location will be to the work. Whether or not I will ever set a short story or book in the Arctic remains a mystery. My question - does foreign travel stimulate you or do you prefer well known, non-exotic locations?

Joan Boswell is a member of the Ladies Killing Circle and co-edited four of their short story anthologies: Fit toDie, Bone Dance, Boomers Go Bad and Going Out With a Bang. Her three mysteries, Cut Off His Tale, Cut to the Quick and Cut and Run were published in 2005, 2006 and 2007. In 2000 she won the $10,000 Toronto Star’s short story contest. Joan lives in Toronto with three flat-coated retrievers.

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