In my research to get reacquainted with the former Queen Charlotte Islands, I was amazed to discover the evidence of events, programs, or businesses that I had imagined in my first draft had actually come to fruition. It became obvious that art does imitate life even when the creator is unaware that it is doing so.
In my earlier post “Serendipity,” I noted that while writing early drafts of my novel, I imagined that Masset had potential for a small community college to assist in new skills for trades and businesses in the absence of the military. It could also be a beginning step for local students seeking higher education. I wove these goals into my novel, and much to my delight, after discovering a community college affiliated campus had been established in Masset, further research revealed that course offerings included the trades and aboriginal cultural classes in response to the needs of the community. Students from the mainland could also spend a semester on the islands to learn Haida culture. My vision for Willow and her role in educating the outside world about her culture worked right into what is happening in real life.
In conjunction with the importance of education theme running through the novel, I was also pleased to learn the School District #50 on the islands has a mentorship program for students; therefore, the educational philosophy and practices of Corbin, the new principal at the high school, are reflected in reality.
Willow promotes the local art of her Haida culture in her gift shop Raven’s Nook. Unknown to me, gift shops have been established in Masset and Old Massett such as the Haida Raven Gallery, Sarah’s Haida Arts and Jewelry, and Gin Kuyaas-Haida Art Studio and Gifts.
Connor builds a cedar log lodge for his personal residence on the Tlell River. I recently found the picture of a lodge Haida House at Tllaal, a luxury fishing, tourist and conference lodge on the Tlell River. Although a larger commercial building, the structural design of it very much resembles the vision I had of Connor’s personal lodge.
Because hockey plays a significant role in Part II of the novel, I had wondered whether the islands had developed any ice rinks. An Internet search revealed that there was a committee looking into the feasibility of synthetic ice. I have since learned that this committee disbanded and the only outdoor rink in Masset is for roller skating and roller hockey.
Also in Part II, I had to find a circumstance that would allow the accidental reunion of Deacon and Sheryl. In cruising the Internet, lo and behold, I found an article that described the Canucks going on a team building trip to northern British Columbia, including Haida Gwaii in September 2013. Serendipity! I was able to incorporate that event fictitiously within my story and its time frame.
When Corbin first encounters Willow in Part III, her beautiful scarlet dress is made from a fabric adorned with a Raven pattern in Haida style. I was unsure whether the Haida used their mythical motifs in clothing and whether it was appropriate for me to do so. I then discovered that Reg Davidson, the renowned Haida artist, has collaborated with fashion designer Wendy Van Riesen of Dahlia Drive Designs to create fabrics with Haida motifs for her fashions.
Dr. Shirlee’sBooks’n’Brew plays a significant role in the novel as a gathering place where many important discussions between the characters take place. Research revealed that many cafes and restaurants, including coffee shops, have been established in both Masset and Old Massett. These establishments were not in existence during our time there. One such coffee shop is the Ground Coffee and Gallery. I recently discovered a description of it as a community gathering place on the website lovehaidagwaii.com. It amazingly sounds a lot like Books’n’Brew, except it displays local works of art rather than selling books. Even the photo of the building would be perfect for my fictional one. When we visit Masset this July (2017), I look forward to sipping a latte at the Ground Coffee and Gallery.
Our trip will be an exciting journey of discovery, revealing the parallels or the dissonance between my art and the reality of the Misty Isles.