The giant Santa Claus at Watson, Saskatchewan

The Road to Big River, Saskatchewan

Last week, we drove to Big River, Saskatchewan, to join Jan Wood for her launch of Love is not Anonymous. (We, being Tara Gereaux with Size of a Fist, and me, Shelley Banks, with Exile on a Grid Road, along with my partner.)

It was a mini-reading tour that also included Regina and Saskatoon, planned to celebrate our books that were published at the same time.

I’ve never been to Big River. Never been further north in Saskatchewan than Batoche. And so the drive was both familiar and new…

Familiar, because we drove north on Highway 6, the route I usually take to the Saskatchewan Writers/Artists Retreat in Muenster. That meant we passed through Watson, Home of the Original Santa Claus Day. (Started in 1932, according to the town website.) We stopped for perogies, borscht and pictures.

New, because we saw a Bald Eagle perched high in the tree along the road.

New, too, because of the different landscapes we drove through, the bush and marshes that looked like — and were posted for — moose. Hidden moose, which can be a good thing, I guess, even though my camera was at the ready for a shot.

And new, because of the risks of reading new material at the library in Big River. Materials I hadn’t read in its full format from my book before.

I’m not sure how writers on long tours manage to read the same material, night after night, each time bringing fresh excitement and enthusiasm to the performance. Acting lessons would help for this, I suspect, as for so much of life…

As for me, I guess I’m too easily bored and I wanted to tackle different pieces than what I’d read in Regina, and without thinking too much about it, dived into “Kiss of Knives,” a suite of poems about dealing with treatments for breast cancer.

Difficult to go through; difficult to read. But the feedback was positive — and I’m happy I took the risk. (And happy I didn’t over think this at the time, or I likely would have read something that would make me feel at the time, less vulnerable, and in the end, less strong…)

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Shelley Banks

Writer, editor, photographer.