Wednesday.

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Things are going really well. I finished the last series of edits on my story, had a last read through, and then submitted it. Fingers hugely crossed.

It’s been snowing today, off and on, and the mountains have been shrouded by cloud and snow.

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It’s quite beautiful and mysterious, and very silent.

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I went for a walk today and saw a deer in the distance, and stood and marvelled at it.

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It feels like the experience has really started to click…I’ve forgotten what day it is, went to a performance exhibit where we were all invited to make noise by hitting the sculptures with mallets, and watched a deer. Last night, I went to a flute concert. It’s all been rejuvenating and quite wonderful. I’ve got a couple more days left, and I’m going to shift gears and stop editing and get back to writing what I think will turn out to be a novella.

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Hugs and kisses from Banff. I’m so glad I’m here.


Monday.

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Banff

Well. I had a lovely sleep last night in the hotel, which was unexpected. The night was quite silent and the pillow comfortable, but isn’t it always a shock when you wake up in a hotel room in the morning and realize that you’ve had a good sleep?

Me and ice sculpture.

I went out for a walk in the morning, and happened across another lone tourist trying to take a photo by an ice sculpture, we swapped cameras. It’s the code of single female travellers: when we see one of our number taking a photo, offer to do a picture.

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I also bought myself an agate necklace and some earrings. Because when in Banff, buy something to remind you of Banff months later, when you need it the most. I asked the hotel if I might have a half hour extension on the check out, and they kindly agreed, so it gave me time to have that last bit of wander around. Then up the hill to the Banff Centre!

The room is lovely and spacious, and though there is a large desk against the wall, I have settled into a table by the window. I called a florist in town and ordered myself flowers (something alpine, please, I told them, and no lilies) and they arrived later in the afternoon. It’s a lovely big arrangement with pussy willows and pine sprigs, so I get a whiff of pine from time to time as I work.

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It took a chunk of the afternoon to get unpacked and settled and then to set up my desk for work. I’ve got a plan for the week. Thursday is ‘starry night walk and bonfire’ night, according to Community Services, so I’ve signed up for that, too. Bonfire in the mountains? Oh, yes, please!

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Hopefully this is the start of a really productive week. Now – to dinner!


A lovely day at the museum.

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Another lovely day in Banff. I’ve been waking up at the crack of dawn…well, quite a bit before it, actually. For some reason, I keep waking up around 3:30 or 3:45 and thinking that it’s time to get up. I’m not sure why. Maybe there are security staff doing rounds then? I go back to sleep, and then I’m up around 7:15ish. Which is fine, because the ginormous breakfast buffet starts at 7:30.

Same thing today. I had a very nice breakfast and sat and talked with two other writers. Then back to the studio to sit and work on revisions. It’s been quite incredible to see things clicking into place with this novel – I’m quite surprised at how nicely it’s coming together. Then to lunch (I am starving hungry while I am here, and not for lack of food. I think it’s the altitude…).

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After lunch, I went down to the town to the Whyte Museum. There’s an exhibition of landscape and wildlife painting and sculpture spanning Yellowstone to the Yukon, and it closes after Thursday. It was lovely! Pictures were allowed – no flash, but it was a pleasant surprise to discover that I could take pictures at all. There were a lot of different artists represented, but I found myself drawn to paintings done by Carl Runguis again and again:

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

I think what I like best about Rungius’ paintings is that he uses bold, vibrant colour. There were a number of paintings by Dwayne Harty, but they tended to be too pastel for my liking…too soft, I think, and when they were near or next to the Rungius paintings, they seemed washed out by them. There’s something that feels very vital and alive about the Rungius pictures. I spent quite a lot of time looking at them. Rungius kept a studio in Banff and painted here every year until he died, and apparently his ashes were scattered on Tunnel Mountain (which is where the Banff Centre is now) because he so liked the view.

I can definitely understand that. I really love the view here, too.

After that? I went for a walk around the town. I stopped into the Christmas store (there is one) and spotted a really nice tree skirt. And on sale, too! Then wandered around, and as I was heading back, stopped – on impulse – into the Atmosphere store. I’ve been trying to keep an eye out for decent snow pants. They’re awfully hard to find. There are a great many pairs of snow pants available for purchase in Banff, but quite a lot of them are for skiing, and they’re not meant to be worn over work pants (as I plan to). And they are really, really expensive. Imagine my surprise and delight to find real, honest-to-goodness snow pants that are meant to be worn over something at the Atmosphere store! Frankly, I’m surprised that I didn’t start jumping up and down. They were on sale, too, which just made the find that much better. I am so, so pleased. Really pleased. So pleased that I’ve already tried them on twice this evening, just to admire them.

And that was the day. Lamb shoulder for dinner with a bacon au jus (it was incredible) and garlic mashed potatoes. And the Banff Centre chef made me a special bowl of zucchini, as the buffet dish had been cooked with onion in it. I’m quite grateful to them – this is the second time I’ve has to ask for special vegetable at dinner, on account of a food intolerance. Both times, I expected to be given plain, steamed zucchini, and both times, I’ve been quite surprised: tonight was zucchini that had been sauteed and then grilled, and the other time, zucchini with lemon pepper seasoning and a little bit of oil. And both times, they’ve been very cheerful and pleased to help and haven’t treated the request like a bother. It’s quite a relief for me.

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Tomorrow? A writing day. I’m near the end of this residency, so I will spend the next couple of days working on the novel manuscript. Taking it easy for a few days, though, and having a break for the wildlife safari tour yesterday and the museum today was a very good idea.


Wildlife safari.

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With the revisions I’d planned to do while I was here done, I opted for a light work day. As in a mostly non working day. As in a ‘I purchased a ticket on the ‘wildlife safari’ tour day.’ I did. I totally did.

Discover Banff Tours runs these. The tour bus comes to pick you up, and then you drive around the back roads of Banff for two hours, hoping to spot wildlife. The tour guide also gives you a talk about wildlife management in Banff, the history of Parks Canada, and things like predator control and the wacky things bears get up to (sometimes bad things, just so we’re clear).

It’s quite nice, actually. We drove around and saw an elk:

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He was very busy eating and did not look at us.

Some very photogenic deer:

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Then we drove up Mount Norquay (the road up there is kind of scary, so I tried not to look down or imagine the tour bus plunging off the side of the mountain). The view was totally worth it. So pretty! The whole town of Banff is laid out in front of you, and there is a long, long view of the valley.

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And there were bighorn sheep. Lots of them:

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The talk given by the guide was great. Apparently bears are very persistent: if they find human food (garbage or sandwiches or what have you), they will keep coming back to the same spot for up to thirty days just to see if they can find more. And if they do, they will forget their regular foraging habits and decide to just keep on looking for food where they’ve found it before…which is quite a problem, as it brings them into contact with people and can create a dangerous situation for them. I had no idea bears were so determined, but apparently so.




I had a very nice time today!

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Mission accomplished.

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Tracy’s gone home, but not before we posed for a picture (this was last night):

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She also left me a box of crackers and a tub of hummus. She was here to work on her own novel, and managed to finish the first draft just before she left. And the cereal bowl she had to buy…very sadly, it did not fit in her luggage. So I have the bowl now, and with the bowl comes great responsibility.

Did I mention that I finished the first round of revisions today? I did.

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I made it through the first pass of the manuscript. I’m going to go back and start adding in scenes that are just point form notes on a pad of paper at the moment, but I read the draft manuscript from start to finish, and I revised as I went through it. It’s a weird feeling. A good feeling, but a weird feeling.

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The residency isn’t finished yet, but the bit thing I had wanted to do is. As Tracy says, everything I write for the rest of the week is a bonus. That’s a nice way to see it, actually. I’m going to write for a little bit longer tonight, and then I’m going to settle in with a book. The musicians think that plan isn’t enough of a celebration, but it’s more than enough for me. Give me a good story and my flannel pajamas, and that’s enough of a party.

Mission accomplished, yo.


The Saturday report.

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The sun goes down behind Sulphur Mountain just around 2:37 now. It was closer to three a little while ago, but it was something of a surprise to find that I was opening the drapes so soon after lunch.

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The campus slides into shadow astonishingly fast.

A very chilly day today, too. I stayed in my room in my pajamas for the morning (I brought some packets of instant oatmeal with me, and bought a bottle of apple juice when I first arrived). Went and got a sandwich for lunch and brought it back to the room. I had the heat up, slippers on (my feet are close to the patio door, and there’s a chill coming off the glass).

The view from my desk.

The work is going well. A bit slower today than it has been…for no particular reason, really. I’m into the last stretch of the first pass through the book. I’ve got a scene to go back and rewrite, and a couple of additions that need to go in – something to add to the prologue (which will become chapter one), a scene to write, that sort of thing. I think I may be finished with the first pass fairly soon…maybe tomorrow?

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I don’t think this will mean that the book is done, but it will be closer to being done than it has been for some time. I like the direction it’s taking. I feel good about it (though I still have fretful moments over it).

This evening, I took a break and had dinner with Tracy Isaacs, another writer who has been here for the last couple of weeks. She’s leaving tomorrow, which is sad…she’s an excellent dinner companion, and we’ve really enjoyed each other’s company this past week. So we had a nice dinner this evening, and I’ll say goodbye tomorrow at lunch.

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That’s how it goes. People coming and going, arriving for new residencies and wrapping residencies up. Hard to believe that I’m into the second half of my own residency…I’ll be packing up and doing laundry on Thursday night, and taking the bus back to Calgary on Friday morning. Just like that.


A nice Friday.

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Hard to believe that I’ve been here a week. I had breakfast with Sarah and Mark from the Registrar’s Office at the Banff Centre. They are lovely people, and great fun to share a meal with. There is another writer here from Ireland – Oliver – and he joined us as well. It made for a really nice time!

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After breakfast? Looked at some revisions, worked through some. But there’s a book I’d been thinking about getting – it’s something I saw at the Whyte Museum gift shop last week, and I had held off getting it (a little pricey – it’s a lovely copy of Among the Selkirk Glaciers by William Spotswood Green. It’s a special reproduction of the 1890 edition, and it’s beautifully bound. A collector’s edition, really. I’ve been thinking about it through the week, and decided to go down today and buy it. I don’t often buy fancy books, but this one is quite lovely, and it will have a connection to think residency for me. And I’ve had quite an interest in exploration narratives since doing that reading course on them last summer.

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So I marched down to Banff proper. Which takes a bit of doing today, as it’s actually quite cold: we’ve had quite a bit of snow, and the temperature dropped. And there was a windchill. And quite a lot of slippery ice on the road. I was the first through the door promptly at 10 am, which, I think, startled the volunteers. I don’t think they have too many people hankering to get in the moment they open. I made a beeline for the books and found what I wanted – breathed a sigh of relief that it hadn’t been bought up while I thought about it. Fortunately not.

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There is a good exhibit there that I will go back to see next week – ‘Yellowstone to Yukon: the Journey of Wildlife and Art.’ The gift shop lady told me that it’s quite good, and I would like to go back to see it. Without worrying about whether or not the book I wanted is still there.

The writing is going quite well. Revisions are progressing at a very good pace. I keep discovering strange continuity errors…a fireplace that is up close and then far away. And then up close again. Extra children. Characters who apparently answer to several names. So I’m weeding those out, and taking out about a bajillion ‘she felt as though’ and ‘it seemed as if’ type statements. Some of it is quite humorous, though I’m shaking my head and wondering how they made it into the first draft at all.

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Tomorrow will be quite cold. The windchill is expected to reach -29 by the evening. I think I can safely say that I will spend most of the day tucked up in my studio, writing. I went out for a walk later in the afternoon today and came back a bit frozen…it’s damper here than it is in Calgary, so I feel colder. Not that I mind!