A writer, editor, and farmer in west-central Saskatchewan, I specialize in local, rural, and environmental history. I’m also a board member of the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation, where I work with a team from across the province to support Saskatchewan’s heritage.
I am passionate about the history of small places, and fascinated by the power of local history. It can transform how people feel about who they are. Local history bolsters pride, and generates incredible community spirit. Local history is deeply rooted in place, and the environment is an important part of that.
My first book, 36 Steps on the Road to Medicare, was co-written with C. Stuart Houston, a legend in Saskatchewan medical and ornithological history. It was published by McGill-Queen’s University Press and tells the story of the many ‘steps’ that led to Medicare, which came first in Saskatchewan.
My second book, Forest Prairie Edge from University of Manitoba Press, is a deep time history of the Paddockwood/Lakeland region north of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Through deep time (where I study many layers of human occupation within this space over thousands of years), I compare and contrast different ways of knowing and using the landscape. In my view, the landscape is an active character in the story — always changing, always present, not as the backdrop but as another personae that you must know and understand and plan for. The book explodes the ‘prairie’ myth and tells why a girl can be from Saskatchewan, but most decidedly NOT from the prairie.
I’m co-authoring another book with Stuart Houston about Saskatchewan’s first female Lieutenant Governor, Sylvia Fedoruk — who, in addition to this accolade, was a world-renowned cancer physicist at the University of Saskatchewan and a tremendous athlete, competing at the local, provincial, western Canadian and national level in multiple sports: curling, basketball, volleyball, track and field, golf, and fastball, among others. Biographies are amazing. I’m learning as much about myself and my writing process as I am about Sylvia!
I am enjoying researching two new books, when I take time off from Sylvia and other great things in my life. One tells stories about The Great Trek — when thousands of Great Depression refugees moved from the prairies north to the forest fringe. See the December 2012/January 2013 issue of Canada’s History Magazine to find a preview of that story. The second is a coffee-table book full of stories and photographs from overland freighters, who stitched the agricultural south with the resource north across Canada, using horse-trains and later, caterpillar tractors, moving goods in both directions. That one is a work in progress with my friend Les Oystryk.
As I settle into authorship, I hold as my motto a suggestion from late Canadian history journalist Pierre Berton: don’t just tell them what happened; tell them what it was like.