My experience writing the Gill book has been surprising and quite wonderful!
Oh, there have been the usual nerves, disappointments, misdirections, worry, and insecurity, but there has been wonder and amazement as well, and fun. There has been so much positive engagement, and feedback and coincidences and so many of the 'small world' happenings that it makes me smile just to think of them.
Gordon's long time friend and "Number One Man" was Ernie Camsell, one of the well known and large family of Camsells in the NWT. Gordon worked with Ernie at NTCL and then hired him on with Northern Arc Shipbuilders as his first employee, as soon as he could. Ernie was a high school friend, a long time co-worker, and Gordon's collaborator in the Au.Nugget gold dredge. When Ernie died, too young, Gordon lost interest in the dredge and it was sold.
So imagine this scene at our first book signing (at Indigo South Edmonton Common this spring). Seated at the signing table, I was watching for people who showed the slightest interest in our posters or our book A Métis Man's Dream: From Traplines to Tugboats in Canada's North. A middle-aged woman walked into the store, glanced our way, then immediately turned to her young companion and said: "Look, they've got Gordie's book!"
Those words were music to my ears! I smiled up at Sharon, as her name turned out to be, and asked how she knew about this book. "I saw it on Beatrice's Lepine's blog, but I thought it was only in Hay River!" Well, I know of Beatrice and I was pleased she had mentioned the book, but it turned out that Sharon had no idea the book was for sale in Edmonton. She was only in town to see her daughter and on the spur of the moment thought they would drop into Indigo.
Sharon mentioned her maiden name, Norn, which turned out to be the name of people I knew and had worked with in the north, and so we had a nice chat about the old days and who had passed, and who was married to whom. You know. And then Sharon mentioned that her former husband had worked with Gordon. "Oh, who is that?" I asked. "Ernie Camsell" was her reply.
My jaw dropped and I grabbed the nearest copy of A Metis Man's Dream from the signing table and flipped it open to the photo of Ernie and Gordon (along with Number 1-A man, Glen Dersch) and showed it to Sharon. It was like a bolt of lightning, for both of us, I think. Imagine, a casual drop in, a look over at our poster, a question and boom, one of the most important connections in the book made larger by Sharon's unwitting visit. We immediately arranged a free book, and a call to Gordon. I still feel the glow.