I’m delighted to present new literary material, inspired by a painting by Gibsons artist Paula O’Brien, at the inaugural Arts & Words event in Davis Bay on Aug. 12 and 13. My Aug. 12 reading, in the 10:30 to noon time slot, is generously sponsored by Canada Council through the Writers’ Union of Canada. The event features at least a dozen local artists, each teamed up with a different local writer. Come on out to Mission Point House, see an exhibition of original art by our talented locals, and hear the literary works that they inspired.
My Aug. 13 event is part of the 4:30 to 6 pm group time slot. I’ll also be starting the Open Mic event at 4:30 pm on Sunday. My readings will include creative nonfiction regarding my 1990 travels in Kashmir, India under curfew and rocket launcher conditions, and poetry, old and new.
I profiled and photographed Candace Campo, co-founder of Talaysay Tours and a shishalh Nation member, for the winter 2022 issue of Sunshine Coast Life Magazine. Each year, her First Nations ecotour company hosts visitors from around the globe, introducing them to Pacific Northwest Indigenous culture, history, ancestors, local flora and fauna, and the spiritual significance of all of them.
Click here to read the feature and see photos.
— Talaysay Tours photo
Rocket launchers blast through a night sky as clashing rebel groups exchange fire in India’s contentious Kashmir region. My then-partner and I huddle on the bow of a cozy houseboat on Dal Lake. Find out what it was like to be there under curfew in my travel essay Two Realities. It appears in the debut issue of a new online literary anthology published by the Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society. Click here and then scroll down to read.
It was a delight to profile Jessica Silvey, who’s shíshálh and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) with the ancestral name Kwahama Kwatleematt, and has been weaving cedar baskets, hats, and décor for more than 30 years. I profiled her, the owner of Red Cedar Woman studio, as the cover story for the winter 2021 issue of Sunshine Coast Life Magazine.
Click here to read the feature and see photos.
— Heather Conn photo
I am delighted to have worked as an editor on a new series of interpretive signs for the Community Health Trail on Mt. Elphinstone on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. As part of an initiative by Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF), the signs highlight the importance of old-growth forests and their flora and fauna. With himus (Calvin Craigan), a shíshálh Nation knowledge-keeper as consultant, we included shíshálh words on each sign and the First Nations medicinal use of various plants and trees.
I learned a lot on this project, which reinforced how the shíshálh Nation, for many centuries, has lived in harmony with these forests, making full use of bark, berries, trees, and plants to sustain their lives and culture, while today’s non-Indigenous industries seem bent on destroying these lands.
This four-kilometre stretch of trail, designated by ELF, traverses a low-elevation, emerging old-growth forest on the slopes of Mt. Elphinstone. It connects two isolated parcels of Mt. Elphinstone Provincial Park and ELF hopes that the park will expand around it. These small areas face possible destruction by adjacent development and logging.
Did you know that some residents of Churchill, Manitoba consider Thanadelthur, an early 1700s Chipewyan guide and peace negotiator, the founder of their town? That is one of the many fascinating historical facts I learned while writing profiles of accomplished Métis, Indigenous, and Inuit people for Canadian Encyclopedia.
I discovered the many achievements of politicians like Romeo Saganash, Quebec’s first Indigenous MP, and Jody Wilson-Reybauld, Canada’s former attorney-general, and the struggles behind precedent-setting Métis laws. I learned that Louis Riel’s sister, Sara, worked as a mediator between conflicting groups in the late 1800s in the Red River Colony (later Manitoba).
What struck me repeatedly while researching these fascinating lives is that these notable Canadians excelled despite phenomenal racism, setbacks, and government neglect or indifference. I kept thinking that their resilience and successes should have made them household names in this country, but due to systemic racism, many remain unknown or little known in our nation’s history.
Read my roughly three dozen Canadian Encyclopedia profiles here.
(From left): Heather Blackwood and Rosemary Hoare, SCHS’s first two volunteer coordinators with long-time volunteer Karen Falk
Want to know what hospice has done on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast for the past 30 years? Come to an Oct. 5 event in Sechelt and see the video that I wrote, produced, and directed called “Legacy of Love: 30 Years of Compassionate Care on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, 1987 – 2017.”
The seven-minute documentary includes two poignant stories and an overview, by decade, of the achievements of the Sunshine Coast Hospice Society (SCHS). You’ll see historic pix and meet some of the founders of hospice plus board members, donors, a patient and more.
The video is part of a project commissioned to celebrate the 30th anniversary of SCHS.It will be screened at a special event to honour current and past hospice volunteers and donors. The event starts at 6:45 pm on Thursday, Oct. 5 at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt.
Besides making the video, shot and edited by Arthur Le and Jordan Williams, I researched and wrote a lot of original content for the 30th anniversary: a detailed chronology, and nine web features with interviews and photos that reveal key highlights of local hospice history.
Author Heather Conn (centre) with friend Merrily Corder and Orlando in Santa Lucia, Cuba
Few people realize how much the Mafia shaped the economy of Havana for more than 30 years. While visiting Cuba’s capital in October-November 2016, I relished the chance to learn more about the country’s illegal past.
My December 9, 2016 travel feature Havana Travel article 2016 (Coast Reporter) reveals some tidbits of Havana’s Mafia history, along with some shocking environmental realities.
Have you always wanted to write a family history but felt overwhelmed? Thought of writing a memoir but didn’t know how to start? Would you like to document the highlights of your organization’s past?
I’ll be sharing both practical and inspirational tips — and how to avoid research pitfalls — in my new Vancouver School of Writing workshop Writing History: Passions, Pitfalls & the Process (Non-Fiction).
This is a 90-minute to 2-hour LIVE and LIVE VIRTUAL course so you can be in class or have access to it anywhere and ask the instructor questions. Can’t make the date? All Vancouver School of Writing workshops are recorded; you can receive a link to view the course later, or access it in a few weeks in our archive of courses.
Here’s just some of what you’ll learn:
• Posing questions you don’t have the answers to
• Researching: where and how
• Getting beyond myths and stereotypes
• Handling conflicting opinions and sensitivities
• Making smart choices for structuring
• Discovering the hidden stories
The class begins at 6:30 PST in downtown Vancouver. Cost is $59 + GST.
To register and for more information, see Vancouver School of Writing.
Most Canadians consider Sir John A. Macdonald, the nation’s first prime minister, as “the Father of Confederation.” But this crusty politician, an ancestor of mine on my mother’s side, might well be called “father of residential schools.”
Co-authors Constance Brissenden and Larry Loyie, a residential school survivor, display my Edmonton Journal opinion piece.
Want to learn how his policies launched aboriginal children into decades of forced assimilation and abuse? Read my opinion piece “Macdonald’s legacy not entirely golden,” published Feb. 20, 2015 in the Edmonton Journal. It addresses the new book Residential Schools: With the Words and Images of Survivors, by Larry Loyie and Constance Brissenden, which I edited.
Here is how the piece reads in the Edmonton Journal: Residential Schools op ed piece Edmonton Journal.
This article also appears on my blog, with readers’ comments, under the title “Bicentennial Redux: Sir John A. Macdonald Father of Residential Schools.”
Click here to read.