Emerging Writers Intensive at the Banff Centre

 

Katie Welch will be attending the Emerging Writers Intensive program at the Banff Centre, November 19-27, 2016. Eight emerging writers will attend workshops and get individual feedback from four distinguished Canadian writers. Katie is overjoyed and grateful to have this unique opportunity to work on her current adult fiction manuscript, and develop her writing skills.

Early, Ingenuous Days

There was a field beside the half house in Ottawa where we lived. I was the chief engineer and reigning monarch in this field. In the summer I trampled down all its paths, thoroughfares winding from our backyard to the neighbouring yards. Intimately acquainted with the long grasses, I could recognize them by their scent alone, the tallish one that looked like wheat and smelled like cereal, the bunchy one with wide, flat, wet blades that had a swampy stink. I could map the anthills. I knew the holes where creatures might live, mice or snakes. I never saw them, but I knew they were there. Occasionally someone dropped a candy wrapper or a waxy coffee cup, usually on the East and South sides which abutted busy roads. These instances of littering offended me.

In the winter I created whole edifices of ice in the field, sanctuaries where I reclined on a three-cushioned snow couch, or checked to see if there was anything tasty in the icebox. After a fresh snowfall – in Ottawa, there was a fresh snowfall every other day – I tamped down the pathways with my plastic-bottomed boots after school, road maintenance before homework and TV.

I knew exactly how the veins splayed out on the surface of a maple leaf. I understand dandelions with botanical precision, dandelions in all their vicissitudes, from the tight little button-buds of their yet-to-be-blossoms, through the bright yellow glory of their flowering into miniature suns, staining fingers and cheeks. I knew the hollowness of their green stalks, the milky substance secreted inside those long, tender shoots. And of course I knew their eminently enjoyable reproductive technique – thousands of tiny, fluffy white parasols, freed from their moorings with a puff of breath, floating so gently on the barest of breezes, defying gravity.

I was six, seven, eight years old, and I was part of nature. The stale air and cheap furniture inside our half house was the foreign country, the strange prison to where my parents said I had to return in the evenings. Outside, my body recognized all the other carbon-based life forms as family.

Retrospective Diary of a Writer’s Environmental Angst

I have written three novels. The first of these, Resurrection Tour, is an unedited manuscript on my hard drive. There are also ten photocopied, cerlox-bound copies extant, distributed to my most literature-loving friends.

I self-published my second novel, The Bears, through Amazon’s CreateSpace platform. The Bears was inspired by a politico-ecological crisis in my backyard, and I use the term ‘backyard’ in the Canadian sense, our vast and glorious provinces encompassing broad tracts of varied wilderness. The impetus I felt to write became an imperative in the face of an environmental threat, a pipeline proposal to transfer Alberta tar sands crude bitumen through pristine, precious coastal rainforest, then on to China via a preposterously dangerous tanker route.

I wanted to slap the greedy faces of everyone responsible for hatching this colossally stupid plan. I wanted to show them exactly how their plan would impoverish us – not just our species, but every living thing on Earth. The more I thought about it, the more presumptuous it seemed for a few corporations to risk the homes of so many living things, all for filthy lucre.

I’m working on my third novel. It’s about bees, and vanishing acts.

I write about nature suffering from the meddling hands of humans.