Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hello Saskatchewan!

Hello, Saskatchewan?

I have to admit, I am not much of a reader.

Unless you show me a writer that really connects with me.

Then I will voraciously devour any and all works that he or she ever produced.

Such was the case in 1993, when I encountered an author named Wallace Stegner.

I had just gotten back from a vacation in the Rockies (Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Idaho) and found an obituary for an old novelist, whom had won a Pulitzer decades ago and was on his way to a lecture, when he died in an automobile accident in New Mexico. He wrote a book called "The Big Rock Candy Mountain."

I was intrigued by the title, and I could almost picture that mountain he described.

So I read the book. A heart-breaking story about a boy living in Saskatchewan with his fragile mother and his strong willed, down trodden father (whom had built the house they actually lived in real life) during the depression.

It was the early 20th Century, and all of the sweet deals were already taken in the westward expansion. "Whitemud" Sakatchewan was a made-up town. The real town is called Eastend, and is close to the Montana/Alberta border in Southwestern Saskatchewan.

It's a bitter cold land in the winter, and the summers are often dry and scorching hot.

Back in the Pioneer Days: It was cheap land and there was a need for people who could work in such hard conditions.

It wasn't a very happy story, and it didn't end well. The boy grew up in a hurry, but certainly was prepared to face life as an adult, after all he was forced to go through as a child.

He had a poet's sense of place and landscape, and you can feel as if you are standing in his shoes, visualizing what he was writing about.

I grew up in the well-sheltered Connecticut suburbs, and could barely relate to such a harsh tale. But the author was so painfully vivid in his accounts of the land I had just been to (and been mesmerized by) that he pulled me into his life and his struggles.

The adult writer's accounts of a young boy's vision of those mountains struck a chord with me.

So I read the book, and most of his other books as well.

Fast Forward 15 years: I had written a song about one of his books ("All The Little Live Things") and my band Mambo Sons recorded and released it on our second CD. Through some creative promotion by our guitar player, the author's foundation found out and contacted me, wanting a copy of the lyrics. I sent them right away.

Today: They asked me if I was interested in applying for a writer's residency, for 2 weeks to a month, in Saskatchewan. Eastend, Saskatchewan.

In the former boyhood home of Wallace Stegner.

More to come?