Earthquake mayhem

“Frances Peck (l.) spent 7 years on her novel about the impact of an earthquake, “The Broken Places” due out in April. Here she talks about the research done and the characters she created to tell the story.” FULL STORY




February 03rd, 2012

About a week before Christmas, find 2010, illness Van Andruss released Volume 10 of his annual literary journal, decease Lived Experience. He initiated this series of writings from authors, poets and essayists “from the mountains of British Columbia” in 2001, and hasn’t missed a year since.
If you are into the Christmas marketing hype like most sellers of books and vendors great and small hoping to cash in on Western society’s momentous gift-buying frenzy, you would shake your head and offer Van your sympathies.
But Van shrugs. He doesn’t do Christmas anyway.
Not that he’s above positioning himself in the glut with folks looking for that “special something” for “someone special.”
It’s just that it didn’t work out that way, what with computer glitches and waiting, waiting, for copy from his stable of contributors.
But it happened eventually in its own time. Volume 10 emerged, blue and beautiful, graced by another stunning cover illustration by Luther Brigman, and is now on bookshelves from Lillooet to Wells/Barkerville.
Van Andruss has 22 writers contributing to LE10, including three Cariboo scribes: McLeese Lake poet Lorne Dufour, Gloria Atamanenko from 150 Mile House, and yours truly, Sage Birchwater.
John Schreiber, from Victoria, also fits the Cariboo Chilcotin mold. He tells his tale of Larry Emile’s Drum, which is also a chapter in his recent book, Old Lives in the Chilcotin Backcountry (Caitlin Press 2011).
I had the privilege of witnessing the birth pangs of Schreiber’s story before he penned it.
Three years ago he published his first collection of anecdotes of the Chilcotin in his book Stranger Wycott’s Place (New Star Books 2008). Stranger Wycott was the first post master at Dog Creek, and built a homestead up behind Gang Ranch. Schreiber has long been attracted to that far-off-the-beaten-track corner of the Cariboo Chilcotin inhabited by First Nations people, cowboys and outback residents like Chilco Choate. In the spring of 2010, Schreiber was out there again, snooping around Churn Creek as he likes to say, checking out Stanger Wycott’s turf, and uncovering the magic of the place as he likes to do, when he ran into a family of First Nations people from Canoe Creek.
A day earlier his friend, Don Logan from Clinton, had given him a special, limited edition book he had just published about the families of the Clinton, Dog Creek and Gang Ranch country. Logan only produced three or four copies of the book, and had one especially for Schreiber.
For whatever reason, Schreiber felt compelled to give his treasured copy to these virtual strangers he just met in the wilderness because it contained many photographs and stories about their family. Schreiber is like that.
Then before they parted ways, one of the men, Larry Emile, bequeathed to Schreiber a hand drum he had just finished, and a woman in the group gave him a container of frozen fish.
Later that day Schreiber showed up at my place in Williams Lake and told me the story. After showing me his drum and leaving the fish with me, I encouraged him to write that story.
Schreiber was pondering what to send Van Andruss for the Volume 10 edition of Lived Experience, so telling about Larry Emile’s drum seemed like the perfect fit.
A month or so later I thawed out the container of frozen fish and they were indeed delicious — sweet and delectable as any bounty from this land I have tasted.
Many of you know Lorne Dufour. His friends call him Lornie and he is a fine poet from these parts.
He describes poetry as “prose without clothes”, though Lornie does both prose and poetry equally well.
In LE10 he writes a delightful prose piece of the time he worked as a teamster with the Caravan Stage Company that toured all over British Columbia during that magic time in the early 1970s, putting on theatrical performances in such out-of-the-way places as Williams Lake, 100 Mile House and Quesnel. For some reason time moved more slowly then, and Lornie learned his love of big horses then. It’s a habit he hasn’t given up yet either.
At 70 years old he still logs with behemoth Clydesdales at McLeese Lake.
Of course, a submission by Lornie wouldn’t be complete without a couple of poems. One titled Embarking is a tribute to his beloved work horses, and the other, Jacob’s Funeral, speaks of his friend Jacob Roper, who once saved Lornie’s life and who inspired his acclaimed book, Jacob’s Prayer, nominated for a BC Book Prize in 2010.
You won’t find a more caring individual in this world than Gloria Atamanenko. Her essay, Breaking with Convention in the New World, speaks of the time in her youth, growing up in an immigrant settlement in northern Alberta during the 1930s and 40s.
She offers insightful sketches into personalities struggling to find their place. She herself emerged, borne up by the wings of her Ukrainian parents’ hopes and dreams, unfettered by old conventions that might have hamstrung her.
My own offering, Trapline, is a continuation of autobiographical sketches I have compiled for other volumes of Lived Experience, describing my journey from quaint Victoria, British Columbia in 1971, to the Cariboo Chilcotin in 1973.
In 1975 I bought a trapline in the Chilcotin and built a homestead there with my partner Yarrow, a.k.a. Christine Peters. This is a story Van Andruss kept insisting I tell, and to keep gentle Van from hounding me to death, I penned the first part of my trapline experience for LE10.
The gods and muses willing, more excerpts of the Trapline story will appear in LE11, scheduled to be produced later this year, probably sometime just before Christmas. So if you have any last minute shopping to do, keep this in mind…
Van Andruss describes himself as an “elder hippy.”
He became a grandfather for the first time in 2010, and this has ushered in a whole new dimension to his life that is quite breathtaking. In LE10 he writes about this amazing unfolding for him and life partner, Eleanor.
Van writes and encourages others to write about those amazing days of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, depicting the inspiration of our alternative generation. Through Lived Experience he gives us a venue for our voices to be heard.
Copies of the Lived Experience series are available at various locations in the Cariboo and can be obtained by contacting Van Andruss online at

Essay Date: 2011

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