Next month, Krista Foss's debut novel Smoke River will burst out of the starting gates, delivering on the promise that this Hamilton writer has dangled before audiences for years. Krista's writing has been published in journals across the country and her stories have twice been shortlisted for the prestigious Journey Prize. Her long-awaited first book examines tensions between old ways and new, reservations and subdivisions, and considers how identity and belonging are tied deeply to place. Today, Krista looks at her own familiar places and the stories that might be hovering there, just below the surface. Learn Krista's favourite route, below, and then mount up and ride as a Page Turner. If you do it today, you could win a copy of Smoke River, and find out what all the fuss is about.
This photo was snapped on a rainy day while riding my bike through Iroquois Heights, a small conservation area that sits atop Hamilton’s escarpment and is bound by a suburban neighborhood and busy highways.
It’s an almost forgettable landscape in transit between the trail systems that take you into the city and those that take you out of it.
But I’m smitten by this parcel of dirt because of how it holds up under so many simultaneous tensions: birdsong and traffic, cyclists and dog walkers, wildflowers and tossed coffee cups.
It also reminds me of John Terpstra (more on that in a second.)
Go a little deeper into the Iroquois Heights woods and there are mountain bike trails, where on occasion I test my knee joints and nerve. Here I might encounter one of the area’s many deer (themselves a significant source of tension with suburban gardeners) or a crumbling fieldstone wall, falling back into the earth with its unremembered stories. I can imagine a whole novel taking place in this setting -- how it would echo the characters’ disappointments and compromises, as well as their moments of sublimity and grace.
And this is precisely what I love about Project Bookmark Canada. It honors such imagining by putting excerpts of the works of Canadian writers in the actual physical locations that inspired their texts.
Here’s where John Terpstra comes in. He’s a Hamilton poet – a bit of a civic hero actually – and two years ago, his poem “Giants” became Bookmark #9. It can be found on a beautiful perch at the top of the escarpment in Hamilton’s Sam Lawrence Park. That same poem appeared in Terpstra’s non-fiction work Falling Into Place (page 45 to be exact) a book that awakened me to the drama and majesty of local geography I took for granted.
Seeing a city street or back lot, a mountain or even some over-stressed parkland, through the imagination of a poet, novelist or short fiction writer enriches our experience of those geographies. It also allows us to do some imagining of our own about places we might otherwise barrel past on our bikes, in our cars or by foot.
I’m a Page Turner in the hopes you will donate to Project Bookmark Canada (and if you do it today, you have a chance to win a copy of my novel, Smoke River.) A $20 donation helps ensure more such bookmarks will show up all over this country - maybe in the very spot that already excites your imagination. Or is about to soon.