What makes Fernie special to you?
I like the feeling of knowing everyone. Whether I am at a coffee shop or the grocery store or the swimming pool, I am bound to run into people I know, people I think of as friends even if I don’t find time to visit with them regularly. In those chance meetings, we’re keen to catch up on each other’s family and work and recreation. Because of the energy and enthusiasm of those visits, the kindness of those friends, the way we all share our interests and passions with each other, Fernie feels more like family than community.
Those people – their warmth and generosity, their full lives – are part of what makes me proud of my connection to this town. I love bringing visiting writers here and showing off Fernie – the natural splendour, the energetic arts scene, the world-class recreation, the kind and happy people.
What makes you proud to be Canadian?
I like the massive sprawl of it, how it is so many different things. I travel around Canada regularly (too much if you ask my family) to speak about my writing, and the variety of Canada – its landscapes, its people – is quite thrilling. Diversity is the first word that comes to mind when I read this question, and I’m proud of the recent moves Canadians are making to honour and respect this diversity.
What is your Fernie story?
My story is like so many others. I came for a holiday and stayed to live. I originally travelled to Fernie for a one-week trip. I had met Marty Hafke on the varsity swim team at University of Western Ontario. His parents had moved to Fernie – his father was an explosives inspector at the mine – and Marty had been staying with them for summers, lifeguarding at the outdoor pool in Rotary Park. He’d made some good friends so decided to do a gap year and ski in Fernie after finishing an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science. Near the end of his “gap year,” I decided to visit him for “a week.” So Marty came for one year and I came for one week, and here were are twenty years later with two kids and a mortgage. That seems to be how it happens. It does not take long to fall in love with Fernie. I remember my moment: standing in the Overwaitea parking lot, with the sunset lighting up the Three Sisters. I realized even grocery shopping was better in Fernie. I also realized that I would find a way to make a life in Fernie and stay.