More water for thirsty souls from Gracesprings

Local literary collective authors visit

Locally based Gracesprings Collective has borne new fruit - a first novel and a memoir - both of which ought to enrich the Interior's literary landscape.

Deanna Barnhardt Kawatski, whose published memoirs from years past established her reputation in nonfiction, has released her fiction debut, Stalking the Wild Heart.

Her previous books, Wilderness Mother (1994) and Clara and Me (1996), are considered minor classics in the canon of Canadian wilderness writing.

Kay McCracken, one of three other B.C. writers mutually supporting one another in the collective, has published her experience of opening an alternative bookstore in Salmon Arm.

While the subject may seem less than compelling, McCracken weaves an intriguing tale of a disenchanted urbanite who finds mythological meaning and natural bonds in the streets of small-town B.C.

Both authors will be in Kamloops (Kawatski grew up here and now lives on Garland Gracesprings farm near Celista) on Saturday, signing copies of their books at Bookland at Fortune Centre Mall from noon to 2 p.m. Kawatski was mentored by novelist/playwright George Ryga (The Ecstasy of Rita Joe), whose literary legacy of social consciousness is honoured annually by George Ryga Week, Nov. 1-7, and the Ryga Award.

Stalking the Wild Heart is a story of an enduring bond between two girlhood friends, one of whom remains to homestead in the 1970s near the isolated mining town where they grew up as the other ventures out into the world. Emily is confronted by an abusive marriage and corporate greed as she tries to reconcile a tragic past at Loon Lake.

While venturing into a fictional realm, Kawatski never strays far from the wilderness and a passionate feel for nature that distinguish her earlier nonfiction. This a tale hewn from the rural substance of regional identity but set firmly in a contemporary context that lends it a rewarding depth.

Relationships, past and present, also play prominently in A Raven in My Heart. McCracken was searching for a new life when she left Vancouver in 1993 to open Reflections, a bookstore stocked with the sort of material that spoke to her poetic soul. Her trials and tribulations - including two car accidents and mysterious ghostly encounters - draw the reader along this journey.

The characters McCracken encounters along the way make for a heartwarming story and affirm that she made the right choice even if commercial success is elusive. On another level, she explores the current - ancient mythology, aboriginal belief and regional history - that runs just beneath the surface of a middle-aged slice of life.

Gracesprings Collective also includes TRU English instructor Alexander Forbes and Tofino-based author Caroline Woodward. For more on their work, see www.gracespringscollective.org.

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