Have you ever felt that something was just meant to be? Throughout the writing of my novel, and often when I was having doubts, I experienced several serendipitous moments that prompted me to carry on.
I, of course, wanted to represent the proud and talented Haida First Nation as accurately as I could, and therefore, embarked on extensive research. Then a secondary character, Willow Shaw, started knocking inside my head, insisting that her story be told. It became even more imperative that I not misrepresent her and her culture. I had read During My Time: Florence Edenshaw Davidson, A Haida Woman by the anthropologist Dr. Margaret Blackman. Wondering if I could somehow be in touch with her, I googled her, only to find out she is a Professor Emeritus from the College at Brockport, NY. My good friend and sister Sol Writer in Florida, Virginia Campbell, is from Brockport and had worked at the college there. Serendipity. She knew Margaret very well and helped me to connect with her. Dr. Blackman clarified some points for me, supported my project, and graciously allowed my character, Willow, to refer to her in the novel.
In a later post about art imitating life, even when one doesn’t realize it, you will read how I imagined the potential for a community college in Masset. I was delighted to discover that a campus of Northwest Community College had been established there. To find out its establishment date and how that corresponded with my fictional one, I was put in touch with Marlene Liddle, the Campus Officer. She consented to being a consultant on other questions about the area and culture. Serendipity. These two women, Margaret and Marlene, gave me the courage to write Willow’s story.
It should be noted that Marlene is a talented artist and artisan in her own right, weaving cedar bark baskets, traditional Haida chief hats, and more contemporary creations. In 2013, she was awarded the BC Creative Achievement Award for First Nations Art. She also shares her talent by teaching others the art of weaving. I encourage you to visit the websites and Facebook pages at the end of this blog to see examples of her beautiful creations and a video of Marlene demonstrating her art.
In the novel, my character Willow notes that in the past, only men were the artists and carvers, but that this had changed. Indeed, Marlene’s daughter, Cori Savard, is a talented carver and artist, having studied for eight years with the renowned Haida artist Reg Davidson. Please visit her Facebook page listed below as well.
When I began my publication journey, I was astounded to discover that one of the early contacts I had with the publisher here in the United States had a connection to Haida Gwaii. Then there were postings on Facebook about the support the Haida were giving to the Standing Rock Native Americans against a pipeline in North Dakota, where I had lived for almost forty years. Then the Royal Couple, William and Kate, made their visit last summer (2016) to Haida Gwaii, bringing the pristine and rugged beauty of these islands to the attention of the world.
These signs seemed to tell me that my book was meant to be. My friend Ginny told me I had been called to write this book. She encouraged me to read Big Magic by the acclaimed author Elizabeth Gilbert in which she describes her belief that there are stories to be told, and they land on the writer to tell them. The chosen artist must let go of fear and embrace this mysterious nature of inspiration. When I experience doubt, I call on these moments of serendipity to believe that I was called to write this book. It is my sincere hope that, in doing so, I have not in any way misrepresented this proud and talented First Nation.
Search on Facebook:
Haida Cedar Bark Weaver – Traditional and Contemporary (Marlene’s work)
Cori Savard Haida Artist (Her daughter Cori’s work)