Portrait Photography

  • Shelley Banks
    Shelley Banks in Regina, SK, Canada
    Shelley Banks

    Poet, editor, journalist, creative writer and photographer; poetry collection, Exile on a Grid Road (Thistledown Press).

    Birds and nature
    Poetry collection
  • Canadian Literature Review: Exile on a Grid Road

    What a lovely surprise to see a review of my poetry collection, Exile on a Grid Road, in the journal Canadian Literature this week!

    Canadian Literature reviews Exile on a Grid Road.
    Canadian Literature reviews Exile on a Grid Road.

    It made me happy, so I’m happy to share! (Exile is available from the publisher, Thistledown Press, as well as online booksellers such as McNally Robinson, Chapters and Amazon.ca.

    Thanks, Canadian Literature, and reviewer, Natalie Boldt!


  • A Sale With My Name On It…
    Exile on a Grid Road
    Exile on a Grid Road, featured in this year’s poetry week sale by Thistledown Books.

    My poetry collection, Exile on a Grid Road, is among books featured at Thistledown Press.

    It’s on sale through the publisher this week only (until Dec. 11), and at 30% off, that makes it a bargain at only $9 and change.

    (And I am in amazing company for this sale…)

    See http://www.thistledownpress.com/ for more info, and to order online.






  • Beer and Books
    bushwakker books
    Join us for the launch!

    A local brewpub, The Bushwakkers, has decided to set up a Writers Corner, featuring new books by local authors.

    I’ve donated a copy of Exile on a Grid Roadand have been asked to take part in the launch of the library, er, shelf this weekend.

    Here are the details, from the Saskatchewan Writers Guild website:

    Bushwakker Saskatchewan Library Launch

    TIME: 3:00 p.m. — 6:00 p.m.
    LOCATION: Bushwakker Brewpub, 2206 Dewdney Ave, Regina

    Bushwakker Brewpub, in conjunction with the Saskatchewan Poet Laureate Program, will be unveiling a new space dedicated to celebrating the recent works of Saskatchewan published authors. What will begin as one shelf will hopefully grow into a large library showcasing our province’s wordsmiths. Pub patrons are encouraged to peruse a copy whilst enjoying a pint. Enjoy select readings from some of Bushwakker’s patron writers.

    Event Emcees will be Saskatchewan Poet Laureate Gerry Hill and Tracy Hamon, the SWG Program Manager. With presentations from:

    • Shelley Banks
    • Linda Biasotto
    • Tara Gereaux
    • Brenda Niskala
    • Bruce Rice
    • Edward Willett
    • and friends,

    Those interested in donating a copy of their books to the Bushwakker Library can contact the Bushwakker Bar Manager, Grant Frew.

    (And all are welcome – no charge, but drinking age only, please. I mean, it’s bar…)


  • Selling books at the local grocery store
    Poster for author appearance
    Poster for author appearance, courtesy of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild.

    Selling books — or trying to — can be both fun and frustrating, as recently came home to me (again) when I joined a pilot book table project at a Regina grocery store.

    On the positive side, it was mildly entertaining watching the shoppers pass by, and counting the ways they tried to avoid eye contact with this unexpected specimen between the nuts and flowers, a local poet.

    (Simple aversion of glance; sudden rapid movement towards sale items; furtive checking of shopping lists; intense conversations with partners, staff or random shoppers…)

    On the negative, well, let’s just say it isn’t quite right yet as a venue. From my experience, at least.

    Small display by local writer, Shelley Banks
    Aisle display by local writer, Shelley Banks

    I have ideas, though, on how I might have better promoted my wares to compete with those in stock at the store.

    View from the author's small display
    View from the author’s small display

    Let’s see:

    • A bright SALE sign, with much more use of red and yellow (vibrant AWAKE colours), and less of my cover’s restful blue.
    • Or one highlighting the value: UNIQUE AUTOGRAPHED GIFT!
    • Or perhaps the portable nature of my slim volume of poetry: QUICK, EASY-TO-CARRY READ!
    • How about a new slogan — in all caps, of course, as that seems required: POETRY! IT’S THE REAL THINGS!
    • Or maybe just more soft drinks or household products on my table, as props?

    Ideas, welcome. (You know how to reach me…)


  • Words in the Park in the Theatre
    Shelley Banks, reading at Regina's Words in the Park
    Shelley Banks, reading at Regina’s Words in the Park.

    Last week, I read at the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild’s Words in the Park series — except that a thunderstorm moved in, and so we read in the Regina Public Library theatre, instead.

    It was fun to meet and share the stage with local writers Bob Friedrich and Cat Abenstein. 

    This reading series is held once a week at lunchtime, throughout the summer in Regina, usually in Victoria Park. It’s a good chance to get out and get fresh air — and a hit of local literature, too.

    Cat Abenstein
    Bob Friedrich


  • Canadian culture, identity and literature
    Good luck with this project, Sutina!
    Good luck with this project, Sutina!

    This week, I met in Regina with Sutina Chou, who is going Coast to Coast, interviewing writers about their work and their thoughts on national literature and identity.

    Sutina is a student at McMaster University — and as I am a Mac grad myself (Hons English and Spanish), it was interesting to hear news about the old campus and school direction.

    This project is funded by an award that aims to facilitate interdisciplinary exchange. I’m looking forward to reading Sutina’s findings.

  • Remembering Poetry and a Pint

    The recent Poetry and a Pint event at Bushwakkers Brew Pub was a great idea from Saskatchewan’s current Poet Laureate, Gerald Hill. At least, that’s what I’ve heard from many of the people who dropped by to have a drink and listen to local Regina writers read their new work.

    And so, in memory of the event (I’m in the process of updating my writing blog, so yes, I am remembering all of this), my favourite photo. Of me, at least. Even if it isn’t really a photo of me.

    Eric Greenway, a prose writer, reading at Poetry and a Pint. (I’m the one with the pint in the background.)


  • Prairie Crocuses in bloom
    Photo of spring Prairie Crocus flowers
    A pair of Prairie Crocuses, along a hillside in the Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan.

    If you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll know I have passion for Prairie wildflowers and birds. Spring is the time for new sightings of both: the birds are migrating north, and the Prairie Crocuses — one of our first flowers — are blooming again on our hillsides.

    (Yes, we have hills in this part of Saskatchewan; they fall down the sides of our glacier-scrubbed valleys, instead of going up from the flat land, they way they do in other parts of the world.)

    I often wish I knew more about our flora and fauna; I get frequent requests for identifications, and would love to be more helpful! But my interest stems from a love of photography — and an enjoyment of rambling outdoors.

    I have a camera, a bunch of reference books, and many blog posts documenting what I’ve seen, and that’s about all. I’m not a botanist or biologist, but you don’t need to be either to enjoy nature.

    I’ll be posting new photographs of flowers, birds and other wildlife on PrairieNature.blogspot.ca and PrairieWildflowers.blogspot.ca.  Drop by, if you’re interested. Winter is gone — it’s time to get and explore!


  • New Voices: SWG Mentorship
    Apprentice Reading 2016
    Join us, for readings by some of the best new Saskatchewan writers!

    The New Voices reading, with apprentices in the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild 2016 Mentorship Program, is one of my favourite literary events.

    This year, I am honoured to host the Apprentice Readings.

    When: April 28, 2016, at 7:30 p.m.
    Where: The Artesian, 2627 13th Avenue, Regina.
    Who: Jason Heit, Ashleigh Mattern, Katerina Nakutnyy, and Dora Mushka.

    Heit, Mattern, Nakutnyy and Mushka have all been working for four months with professional mentors. I’m really looking forward to hearing them!

    This event is always fun because it’s a chance to hear very new work and gain fresh insights into the direction that writing in Saskatchewan may take in the near future. It’s also a chance to meet new and established writers, so if you live in Regina and have been wondering what this writing world is all about, please drop by and say hi!

    I was in the SWG Mentorship Program several years ago, and worked on short fiction with Dave Margoshes, a Saskatchewan writer whose path first crossed mine way back when we were both staff reporters with The Sun in Vancouver, B.C. (I would have been very surprised then if someone had looked in a crystal ball and told me that I’d move from the realm of ‘just-the-facts’ to ‘whatever makes a good story’… And yes, I do have a collection of short stories that I plan to expand and send out to greet the world in print…. One day…)

    The New Voices reading is FREE, and all are welcome. For more information, click the poster at right, or visit skwriter.com


  • Marketing for Writers
    The Launch banner for Exile on a Grid Road, and Thistledown Press's other New Leaf books.
    The Launch banner we designed and made for Exile on a Grid Road, and Thistledown Press’s other New Leaf books.

    Regina, SK, writers — there are still a few spots left in the Marketing for Writers Workshop I’m leading this week.

    It’s hosted by the Regina Public Library as part of the RPL’s Writes of Spring!

    That’s this Wednesday — April 6, 2016 — from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., at the Regent Place branch on north Albert Street.

    I’ve talked to more than a dozen writers from emerging to established (and several publishers, too) to gather tips on marketing — and those will all be shared.

    Here’s what the blurb in the Library events guide says:

    “Get started promoting your writing — and yourself as a writer. This two-hour workshop, led by a writer with an MFA in Creative Writing and a background in communications, marketing and freelance writing, will help you to identify your strengths, create strong pitches for your work, and write your own personal marketing plan. We’ll also discuss tips and tools for effective promotion. Registration required. Teens welcome.”

    Register on line, at: http://www.reginalibrary.ca/events/booking.php?id=4142

    Please share, or come and join the fun!


  • Poetry and a Pint!

    Saskatchewan Poet Laureate’s Poetry & Pints

    Bushwakker: Poetry and a Pint on May 21, 2016.
    Bushwakker -great poetry will be on offer with great beer at Poetry and a Pint, May 21, 2016.

    Join the Saskatchewan Poet Laureate, Gerald Hill, as he MCs an afternoon of poetry and pints as part of Bushwakker’s 25th Anniversary celebrations.

    Hosted by Gerald Hill, this event also features readings by Shelley Banks, Courtney Bates-Hardy, Eric Greenway, Brenda Niskala and Coby Stephenson, who will take to the stage to share their electrifying work.

    Admission is free, though you’ll have to buy your own beer. Join us for a pint and poetry!

    When: Saturday May 21, 3:00 pm
    Where: Bushwakker Brew Pub, 2206 Dewdney Ave, Regina.

  • Reading at the Humboldt Gallery

    When I was at the writing retreat in mid-February, I had the opportunity to read at the Humboldt District Gallery with other retreating writers.

    The event marked the opening of an art exhibition by students of St. Peter’s College instructors, artists Clint Hunker and Grant McConnell, and included a reading by St. Peter’s College writing instructor, Barbara Langhorst.

    And what a great idea, to blend visual and literary, images and words. (And song, too, from Tara.)

    My thanks to the organizers, and to all who attended. (And to Caelan for taking a close-up shot of me before the readings began… We took many to test the lighting, and still faced challenges. Flash-free galleries can be fun…)

    Reading at the Humboldt District Gallery: Barbara Langhorst, Shelley Banks and Bruce Rice; introductions by St. Peter's College art instructors (l&r) Grant McConnell and Clint Hunker; welcome by gallery representative (c).
    Reading at the Humboldt District Gallery: Barbara Langhorst, Shelley Banks and Bruce Rice; introductions by St. Peter’s College art instructors (l&r) Grant McConnell and Clint Hunker; welcome by gallery representative (c).
    Writers David Carpenter and Tara Dawn Solheim (top), with Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild representative Caelan Reilly (bottom).


  • Looking forward to reading tonight at Regina’s Vertigo Series!

    I’m looking forward to reading tonight, Feb. 8, 2016, at the Vertigo Series in Regina, Saskatchewan! I’ll post some pix of the event on LatitudeDrifts.blogspot.ca later this week… For now, here’s the poster:

    February 8, 2016: Regina, SK, reading
    There are always talented writers reading and talented musicians playing at the Regina Vertigo Series. If you live in the city, watch for posting on Facebook, and drop by! It will be fun!


  • Guest Blogger for Gail Anderson-Dargatz
    Featured on Gail Anderson-Dargatz's blog
    Shelley Banks, and the writing of Exile on a Grid Road: Featured on Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s blog

    I’m delighted to share that I’m the current guest blogger featured on the website of Canadian writer and mentor Gail Anderson-Dargatz!

    Drop by, and read my thoughts on the Writer’s Eye, versus the I of the Writer.

    I worked with Gail when I was studying for my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of B.C., and have kept contact with her since. (I’m looking forward to reading her new novel, The Spawning Ground, which will be published by Knopf Canada this fall.)

    It was fun to connect via her website, as part of the community of writers. (Thanks, Gail!)

  • All Lit Up with Exile on a Grid Road

    I’m keeping track of references to Exile on a Grid Road, and so I’m pleased to share the link to All Lit Up, from the Literary Press Group.

    Exile on a Grid Road, on All Lit Up. Click to open and read the larger screen shot about this poetry collection.

    More about LPG and ALU, from the site:

    On All Lit Up, readers of emerging, quirky, and unabashedly Canadian literature can find and purchase the best books this country’s independent publishers have to offer. Curious readers can also browse through our exclusive behind-the-scenes content about the books, authors, and publishers whose work is available on our site. Additionally, All Lit Up serves as a community bookstore for readers with no local option, ensuring every Canadian has access to the literature produced by Canadian independent publishers.


  • Exile available through McMaster University Bookstore

    I’m delighted to say that my first alma mater, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, now lists my book, Exile on a Grid Road, in the Books by Alumni section of its website — and offers it for sale through the Mac online bookstore (General Books, McMaster Authors).

    Screenshot of McMaster Alumni webpage featuring my book, Exile on a Grid Road.

    I have fond memories of studying at McMaster back when I was a young undergraduate in the English and Spanish departments — and, especially, of my Canadian and West Indian friends there, so this is a thrill!

    You never know who checks what pages, or who finds what where, but it would be great to connect to past classmates, library pals and fellow partiers, if any should stumble over this listing!

  • Thanks to the Saskatchewan Writers Guild for the mention of Exile on a Grid Road

    My thanks to the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild for the mention of Exile on a Grid Road in the current issue of their member magazine, Freelance! 

    Torn fragment from the SWG magazine, promoting a blurb about Shelley Banks’s poetry collection, Exile on a Grid Road.
  • Exile on a Grid Road – Reviewed in the LeaderPost and StarPhoenix

    This morning, my book Exile on a Grid Road (Thistledown Press) was reviewed in both the Regina LeaderPost and StarPhoenix!

    Exile on a Grid Road, reviewed

    For more, please see my Reviews page.

  • Exile on a Grid Road: In the Spotlight in the Regina LeaderPost and Saskatoon StarPhoenix
    My book, Exile on a Grid Road, in the Spotlight in the Regina Leader Post
    My book, Exile on a Grid Road, in the Spotlight in the Regina Leader Post

    Saturday mornings, for me, are a time to lie in and ignore the sounds around me…

    Footsteps on the stairs. Coffee beans being ground. The front door opened and closed as the morning newspapers are retrieved.

    My goal is to stay asleep — or at least, pretend to be asleep and pretend that I hear nothing — for as long as I can. And that works, on some Saturday mornings.

    But this morning, when my partner went downstairs to make coffee and get the newspapers, he discovered that my book was showcased in the Regina LeaderPost.

    “You really want to get up,” he said.

    “No, I don’t.”

    “Yes, you do — your book is in the newspaper.”

    Fastest emergence ever of Shelley in the morning.

    What an unexpected delight to see my book, Exile on a Grid Road, along with Tara Gereaux’s Size of a Fist and Jan Wood’s Love is Not Anonymous profiled in print!

    My thanks to Thistledown Press, the StarPhoenix (where the review originated), and writer Bill Robertson for his thoughtful read.


  • Exile at Chapters-Indigo in Regina, SK

    This week, I found copies of my poetry collection, Exile on a Grid Road, at the Chapters-Indigo bookstore in Regina, SK.

    Exile on a Grid Road on the Canadian Poetry shelf at Chapters, Regina.

    Exile is shelved at the start of the Canadian Poetry section in fabulous company with Lorna Crozier’s The Wrong Cat, and others.

    (And yes, I know Banks should fall between Acorn and Crozier, and moved my books there after this shot… Although perhaps someone had a very special reason for earlier placing mine right beside Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring?) 

  • Exile in great company at Chapters-Indigo, Regina

    On our visit to the Chapters bookstore in Regina, SK, this week, my companion pointed out that the computer showed three copies of Exile on a Grid Road on the shelves.

    Canadian Poetry, at Chapters-Indigo in Regina
    Exile on a Grid Road, in Canadian Poetry, at Chapters-Indigo in Regina

    I found them at the beginning of the Canadian Poetry section.

    And yes, I know Banks comes after Acorn in the alphabet, though that may be news to some. So when I reshelved my poetry collection after this iPhone photo, I placed all of the copies in a somewhat more traditional alpha-order… Right between Milton Acorn and Lorna Crozier. How cool is that!

    Then again, my poems were originally nestling up against a hard cover edition of Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, which is pretty cool, too…

    (And yes, I also know Crozier’ The Wrong Cat is also out of sequence, but I didn’t feel like reorganizing the entire shelf.)

    But look at the other names here!

    I’m delighted to see Shelley Banks also sharing space on this Canadian Poetry shelf with Ken Babstock, Christian Bok, Ann Carson, Leonard Cohen, Robert Curry, Michael Crummy, Gerald Hill, Jeanette Lynes, Peter Midgley, Dennis Lee, Marilyn Dumont, Lynda Monahan, Cassidy McFadzean and Jane Munro! (Someone seriously doesn’t know their alphabet if they are placing books — Lee’s and Dumont’s — together by colour in the midst of the Ms! But I’m taking this to mean that poetry books in Regina are very well browsed, and that’s a lovely thing!)

    On the shelf above, there are books about/by Chaucer, Dracula, Hunter S. Thompson and Tolkein, with Angelou, Baudelaire, Berryman, Bukowski, Breckt, Dante, Rumi and the Epic of Gilgamesh on the shelf below.

    Now that’s great company!

  • My books in the window at Thistledown Press

    While we were in Saskatoon, we dropped by the publisher’s — Thistledown Press — and what a delight to see copies of my book, Exile on a Grid Road, in the window! (Thanks Jackie, Al and Stephanie!)

    Yes, there it is… Exile on a Grid Road, in the bottom of the left display.
    The poster for our reading, also in the window – and way over at the left, my book, half hidden…
  • Reading Exile on a Grid Road in Saskatoon

    And now, pictures from our readings in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in early November… (Shelley Banks with Exile on a Grid Road, Tara Gereaux with Size of a Fist and Jan Wood, Love is not Anonymous.)

    My thanks to everyone who came out to McNally Robinson Booksellers for the reading — what a great crowd!

    Shelley Banks (Thanks, Gord Hunter!)
    Jan Wood (Love is not Anonymous)
    Tara Gereaux (Size of a Fist)
    Marcy Hildebrand, of McNally Robinson Booksellers
    Shelley Banks, with Saskatoon writers and friends, Theodora Ofosuhima and Danica Lorer
    Saskatoon writers and friends, dee Hobsbawn-Smith and Dave Margoshes
    The audience! They had to keep bringing more chairs!
    At the signing table… At left, Tara talks to Stephanie of Thistledown Press.
    Tara Gereaux, Jan Wood and Shelley Banks
    Okay, I confess — this is the first time I have even been featured on a menu
    McNally Robinson’s display of featured authors.
  • The Future is Always Beginning

    the-future-is-beginningI am honoured to be asked to participate in the new “Poet Laureate Emerging Writers Reading” on November 25 at 7 p.m., at the Art Gallery of Regina, 2420 Elphinstone Street.

    My thanks to Saskatchewan’s poet laureate, Judith Krause, for hosting “The Future is Always Beginning”!

    I’ll be reading with Cassidy McFadzean, dee Hobsbawn-Smith and Jim McLean. For an insight into the range of work you’ll hear, here are short bios, from the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild.

    Shelley Banks was born in a small town in the BC Rockies, and raised in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Shelley has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC, and her first collection of poetry, Exile on a Grid Road, was published this fall by Thistledown Press. Her current writing includes photography blogs about Prairie wildflowers and birds, as well as poetry and fiction projects. Shelley lives in Regina, Saskatchewan.

    Poet, essayist, fiction writer and journalist dee Hobsbawn-Smith is the 35th Writer in Residence at the Saskatoon Public Library. She holds an MFA in Writing. Her writing appears in Canadian, Scottish and American literary journals, anthologies, newspapers and magazines. Her most recent books are What Can’t Be Undone: Stories; Wildness Rushing In, [a finalist for SK Book Awards’ 2015 Best Poetry Collection and Book of the Year]; and Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet.

    Cassidy McFadzean was born in Regina, received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and now teaches at Luther College. She released her first collection of poems Hacker Packer with McClelland & Stewart this past April, and has published poems in magazines across Canada with new work in Prelude, The Puritan, and The Walrus. She is currently at work on a Saskatchewan Arts Board-funded poetry collection, Drolleries, named for grotesque figures found in Medieval manuscripts. Two poems from Drolleries are long-listed for the 2015 CBC Poetry Prize.

    Jim McLean had a long career with Canadian Pacific Railway and with Transport Canada, living and working in various Canadian locations. He is an original member of the Moose Jaw Movement poetry group, and his work has appeared in magazines and anthologies and on CBC Radio. He is the author of The Secret Life of Railroaders and co-author of Wildflowers Across the Prairies. His illustrations have appeared on book covers and in several literary and scientific publications. Coteau Books will publish his poetry manuscript tentatively titled 1957, in early 2017.

    AND! For any flower fans in Saskatchewan, I would like to point out that Jim’s book, Wildflowers Across the Prairiesis simply awesome. This is the best guide I have found, and I’ve searched many for my PrairieWildflowers blog! Seriously! You might have to hunt to find it, but copies are out there…

  • Risks and Reading: Exile in Big River, Saskatchewan

    Reading in Big River, Saskatchewan, was an adventure for several reasons. First, I’ve never been to that part of the province. Then, there were friends I hadn’t seen for some time. And finally, I took the risk of reading “Kiss of Knives,” a suite of poem about breast cancer from Exile on a Grid Road. And  yes, that was a risk.

    It’s always good to take risks as a writer, to push yourself further and into new material. But reading that material can be another matter…

    Some scenes from the Big River reading, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, which featured Jan Wood’s launch of Love is not Anonymous, with readings by Tara Gereaux (Size of a Fist) and Shelley Banks (Exile on a Grid Road), all from Thistledown Press.

    Writers in Big River – from Regina, Big River, Prince Albert: Lynda Monahan, Laurie Muirhead, Veryl Coghill, Carla Braidek, Tara Gereaux, Shelley Banks, and Jan Wood.
    The audience at the Big River Library, while Jan Wood reads.
    MC Carla Braidek.
    Shelley Banks, with moving book
    Tara Geraux
    Jan Wood
    Gord Hunter and Grant Wood
    Veryl and Carla
    Carla and Shelley
    Tara and Gord
  • 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…)

  • Saskatoon readings – Friday at McNally Robinson
    More about our reading in Saskatoon on November 6, 2015 — with thanks to McNally Robinson!
    Handout information from McNally Robinson Booksellers about Exile on a Grid Road and other new Thistledown Press books.


  • Regina Launch: Exile on a Grid Road, Shelley Banks

    Yeah! Exile on a Grid Road is now officially launched! I had a great time Thursday night at Bushwakkers, with a capacity crowd in the Arizona Room joining me, fellow writers/launchers Jan Wood and Tara Gereau, along with MC Eric Greenway.

    We read, we laughed, we ate. Cake! (Thank you, Anne McDonald!) My thanks too, to Thistledown for support with the event — and the books!

    Shelley Banks with Anne McDonald, purveyor of Happy Book Birthday cakes!
    Shelley Banks, with the event banner we made.
    MC Eric Greenway
    Tara Gereaux, reading from her novella Size of a Fist
    Jan Wood, reading from her collection, Love is Not Anonymous
    Shelley Banks, finding her place in Exile on a Grid Road
    Close-up of the Exile cake! (Thanks, Anne!)

    (There are more event pix on LatitudeDrifts, and a few here on my ShelleyBanks.ca blog.) 

  • Exile on a Grid Road officially launched
    Shelley Banks, with Exile on a Grid Road book and banner.
    Shelley Banks, with Exile on a Grid Road book and banner..

    Book launch? Check. Finished. Official.

    All done but all the things still yet to do. And the readings this week I’m looking forward to in Big River and Saskatoon, SK.

    But now, a moment just to celebrate! My manuscript has become a book, and I read from it to a packed room at Bushwakkers in Regina last week, along with co-launchers Tara Gereaux and Jan Wood.


    It was fun, if stressful, getting ready. One of my friends persuaded me that having a banner of my book cover would be fun, so I arranged that.

    And then another friend arranged for a cake featuring the book cover, too!

    It was a wonderful time and I’m happy to be surrounded by such great friends.

    Happy Book Birthday, to me!


  • A new book banner

    My thanks to Gerald Hill for his endorsement of my book!

    Banner promoting Exile on a Grid Road, from Thistledown’s Facebook page
  • New books, new books!

    I’m so glad that small publishers — in Saskatchewan, we are fortunate to have several, including Hagios, Coteau and Thistledown — encourage new and established writers and share their words!

    Here’s a look at a few new books, published at the same time as mine, Exile on a Grid Road, as part of the New Leaf Series.

    Exile on a Grid Road, with Love is Not Anonymous, Questions for Wolf, and Size of a Fist, (from the Thistledown Press Facebook page.)
  • Yes, I really do have Exile on a Grid Road

    It was like my birthday opening that box of copies of Exile on a Grid Road — but please, those of you who know when my birthday really is, you’re not exempt from celebrating again! So here I am, book and bookmark in hand.

    Great feeling to hold an actual copy of my new book.
  • My box of books has arrived

    No unwrapping video here, but I can’t help sharing a picture of my box of Exile on a Grid Road books that arrived this morning! I’m delighted to see these — and love the rich colour of the cover. That’s our blue Prairie sky and landscape, in a photograph I took in the Qu’Appelle Valley near Regina.

    Books, books, books – and bookmarks, too! What a great feeling to see a box of Exile on a Grid Road books!
  • Creating a site icon
    Blue-eyed Grass — a larger view of the little icon that appears (for me, at least) on the page tabs of this site.
    Blue-eyed Grass — a slightly larger view of the little icon that appears (for me, at least) on page tabs when viewing this site.

    Wow — that wasn’t so hard!

    (Or maybe it was, what with my computer locking up last night, but that had nothing to do with the process of creating a site icon.)

    I’ve been wondering lately why my website pages show only a white square on browser tabs, while corporate and other pages display distinctive logos. Ditto, when I save a page from my site to the home screen of my iPhone.

    How do they create site icons, I wondered. And today, I discovered that it’s really simple with Photoshop and WordPress.

    I thought the star shape of a flower I photographed last year would work well as an icon, so here it is, post-posterizing! I now have a blue-purple starflower logo for my site. (A version of this image is also included in the muted rotating flower images at the left on my desktop site.)

    The flower is Blue-eyed Grass, a lovely and very tiny summer Prairie wildflower. It can be difficult to see, as the flowers nestle close to the ground, beneath stalks of other grasses and flowers. But so lovely, up close. (I have a few pictures on my Prairie Wildflower blog.)

  • Exile on a Grid Road: Book launch in Regina

    I’m very excited to announce that my book Exile on a Grid Road (Thistledown Press) with be launched in Regina on October 29, 2015, with Tara Gereaux and Jan Wood.

    We’ll also be reading in Big River (November 5) and in Saskatoon (November 6).

    Here’s the poster for the Thistledown Press readings that will include poems from Exile on a Grid Road.
  • More about Exile on a Grid Road, aka, the back cover

    After all of the work that goes into producing a book, I thought I should share the back cover of Exile on a Grid Road — and that way, Gord also gets to see his photo credit. Again. (And yes, my hair is very long.)

    The back cover comes out of hiding… Here’s the back text and information from Exile on a Grid Road, “the poetry of observation where all the senses are employed in the fullness of intimacy or the emptiness of solitude. Each poem becomes a single step in the process of discovery where what nourishes us unfolds subtly, while life in the workplace or the mysteries of human love roar with overt distraction.”
  • The 2015 New Leaf Series

    Exile on a Grid Road is part of the Thistledown Press 2015 New Leaf Series, which features work by four writers:

    Left: Exile on a Grid Road; Right: Top – Love is Not Anonymous; Middle – Questions for Wolf; Lower – Size of a Fist. (image from Thistledown’s Facebook Album)
  • It’s official: Exile on a Grid Road now available to order

    It’s official! Exile on a Grid Road is now offered in the Thistledown Press Fall 2015 catalogue:

    An early view of Exile on a Grid Road, in the publisher’s catalogue.
  • Savannah Sparrow in flight

    Savannah Sparrows are fairly common brown streaked birds with a beauty mark worth looking for — a bright yellow spot before their eyes.

    Savannah Sparrow; copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    A Savannah Sparrow swoops off a Saskatchewan fence post and soars into flight.


  • Cedar Waxwing Posing in Sunlight

    Sometimes it feels as if birds are curiously watching our human actions. This Cedar Waxwing looks unafraid. Not ready to fly.

    Cedar Waxwing, crisp orange and gold against the brilliant blue Prairie sky


  • Two-grooved Milk Vetch, Grasslands

    Brilliant crimson, purple and blue flowers of Two-grooved Milk Vetch bloom above Prairie grasses.

    Two-grooved Milk Vetch; copyright Shelley Banks; all rights reserved.
    Two-grooved Milk Vetch, a Prairie grassland flower



  • Ox-eye Daisy at Sunset on the Farm

    Late evening on a Saskatchewan farm, this Ox-eye Daisy faces the setting sun.

    Ox-eye Daisy, in a field near sunset.



  • Talking writing and Exile on CJTR: Local radio
    Shelley Banks, on air at Regina’s CJTR Radio, discussing writing and life.

    Context would be helpful for this post with a photo of me in a radio studio, which I found as an orphan while rearranging my site.

    This was taken when I spoke on our local Regina CJTR community radio about my writing, my new book Exile on a Grid Road.

    We also spoke about the value of the writing retreats that I have attended over the years.

    Thanks to host Jeanne Alexander from the books program for inviting me!


  • New Poetry Collection:
    Exile on a Grid Road
    Poetry, by Shelley Banks
    Exile on a Grid Road, a new poetry collection, by Shelley Banks

    I’m delighted to announce that my poetry collection, Exile on a Grid Road, is slated for publication by Thistledown Press on October 15, 2015!

    My collection is part of Thistledown’s 12th New Leaf Series — Canada’s most well-established first-book program with a focus on Saskatchewan authors.

    For more info on book launch and tour dates, check my site or Twitter feed (@ShelleyBanks) or follow Thistledown’s Facebook or Twitter feed (@ReadThistledown).

    The full list for this year’s New Leaf series:

    You can order any or all of these online.

    Happy reading!

  • My poem is read at Government House

    What a treat! At the Poetry Month reading at Government House on Wednesday, Saskatchewan Poet Laureate Judith Krause read one of my poems!

    Saskatchewan Poet Laureate with fellow poets Bruce Rice and dee Hobsbawn-Smith, greeting Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield.
    Saskatchewan Poet Laureate with fellow poets and Saskatchewan Book Awards/Poetry nominees Bruce Rice and dee Hobsbawn-Smith, greeting Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield.

    Judy also very graciously told the audience about… Surprise! My forthcoming poetry collection, Exile on a Grid Road, to be published by Thistledown Press in Fall 2015!

    What a treat, indeed! (And the readings by Judith Krause, Bruce Rice and dee Hobsbawn-Smith were wonderful! Good luck to all at the Saskatchewan Book Awards next Saturday.)

    More on my book to come…


  • Prairie Crocus in Full Flower

    A second look at a Prairie Crocus, a beautiful symbol of spring. (And first wildflower I’ve seen this year.)

    Prairie Crocus, near Regina, Saskatchewan
  • Spring, with Prairie Crocus!

    A treat today to find my first Prairie Crocuses of the year! There will be more in the next few days, as the ground warms under the April sun.

    Prairie Crocus Bud.

  • Shelley Banks — the Beach
    Standing on the beach with my name
    High tide at the beach with my name. Shelley Banks, at Dublin’s Shelley Banks (or Shellybanks) Beach

    Across the harbour from Dublin, there is a beach with my name. The Shelley Banks, or Shellybanks.

    I hadn’t realized I was a landform — or that I was perhaps named for one, so I’ll accept it as a coincidence of history and geography that we found this in Ireland, my great-grandparents’ homeland.

    “I am a rock,” sings Paul Simon.

    I am a beach.

    We visited on a rainy October day, when the tide was high and Kittwakes and red-billed Oyster Catchers clustered on thin strips of sand, feathers fluffed and bodies turned against the wind.

  • 2015 Sage Hill Writing Experience Deadlines

    The deadline to apply for the Sage Hill Writing Experience summer session is getting closer—March 23, 2015. This is a great program, which this summer will feature classes by Canadian writers Steven Heighton, Alissa York, Miriam Toews, Denise Chong, Wayson Choy, Merilyn Simonds and Wayne Grady.

    And, for any poets who want to work with Don McKay at Sage Hill this spring, that deadline is March 6, 2015. Friday. This week.

    The Sage Hill Writing Experience offers small classes with time to write and network. Past instructors include Lawrence Hill (The Book of Negroes), who visited Saskatchewan last fall a for Sage Hill fundraiser. (A few of my photos from that event appear below.)

    This year, the program is moving to Cedar Lodge on Blackstrap Lake near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. For details on how to apply,  see the Sage Hill Writing website.


  • Retreating to Write at a Writing Retreat
    Bench at the Abbey
    Find a bench and write. (Or, if it’s this cold, stay inside – but write!)

    I’m home after a long weekend at a Facilitated Writing Retreat in Muenster, Saskatchewan.

    Organized by the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, this retreat is for emerging writers and features a Writer-in-Residence to provide insights and editorial guidance.  (This fall, the WiR was Reg Silvester; last fall, Kelley Jo Burke; next fall, who knows? The call for applications for the SWG WiR will go out in Summer 2015, and I’m sure someone great will again be chosen.)

    I was lucky to be there as the weekend
    coordinator, to help with logistics and welcome participants to our Saskatchewan writing community. And yes, I did some writing, too. And I took many photographs.

    I also encouraged my fellow writers to apply to the upcoming Winter (February) and Summer (July) Writers/Artists Retreats, which focus on independent work.  (No teaching or editorial guidance, just lots of time to create.)

    Retreats are a wonderful opportunity to network with other visual and literary artists. They also enable participants to share in social events and informal discussions about writing, arts and what matters most in life. But most important, retreats provide a chance for writers and artists to benefit from the luxury of private time and space to produce creative work.

    Our Writers and Artists Retreats in Saskatchewan have been held for — well, more than 30 years, as I remember once being told — and I’ve attended off and on for the past 12 years. During my time, I’ve met participants from this province and the rest of Canada, as well as from the U.S. And, in this time, I’ve written short stories and poems (many later published), and I’ve revised my poetry manuscript. (More on that another time…)

    I’m sometimes asked: Why go to a Writers’ Retreat to write, if you can — and do — write at home? Here’s what I say:

    • At retreats, my time is my own. If I’m deep into writing, I don’t even have to talk to anyone. (Not that I’m really anti-social, but if you’re in another world, it can be challenging to talk to those not living in your fiction…)
    • At retreats, I don’t have to be alone. If I’m going stir-crazy, there’s always someone around in the evening who understands the frustrations and joys of writing.
    • At retreats, I write. Really. Actually. Write. A change of place can be slightly unsettling, and that’s good for creativity. (And I take photographs, too…. St. Peter’s Abbey, where the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild’s Writers/Artists Retreats are held, is rich with winter, summer and migratory birds, and spring, summer and fall wildflowers.)
    • Retreats are also a chance to connect — with myself, as a writer, and with a strong writing community.

    So yes, I’m a fan.

    To learn more about the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild Retreat Program, visit http://www.skwriter.com/sk-writers-artists-retreats/writers-artists-retreats.


  • Stumbling Across the Berlin Wall
    Section of the Berlin Wall with bright graffiti, Montreal. © SB

    Six years ago, while wandering through the underground shopping and business concourses of Montreal, I stumbled across the Berlin Wall.

    I hadn’t realized a section of the Berlin Wall had been given to Montreal, or that it had been set up in its Centre de Commerce Mondial.

    But there it was — one side grey with crude markings, the other bright with 1960s student graffitti, an eerie reminder of the divided city, one ignored (that day, at least) by the stream of underground shoppers and stockbrokers rushing by.

    There were several plaques with this fragment of the wall.

    On one, this text was written in English, French and German:

    The other side of the Berlin Wall. © SB

    Berlin Wall

    This section of the wall is the blade of a knife
    that sliced a heart in two.

    This fragment of rock is the remains of a dungeon whose walls tore life asunder.

    This piece of debris is a triumph
    over terror and tyranny.

    This piece of concrete bears a message:
    The freedom of a people cannot be divided.


    The wall fell 25 years ago today.

  • Sunset on the Night of the July Supermoon

    Some nights, you will see beauty in all directions… Behind me, the July Supermoon was rising; before me, peachy pink clouds silhouetted the Abbey church against the sky.

    St. Peter's Abbey, Muenster, SK; Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    St. Peter’s Abbey, Muenster, SK
  • ShelleyBanks.ca – or ShelleyBanks.com
    Shelley, at Shelley, B.C.
    Shelley, at Shelley, B.C.

    Well, this is exciting — for me, if perhaps for few others…

    My website can now be reached through either ShelleyBanks.ca (the host site) or ShelleyBanks.com (the site with the at-least-for-now redirect).

    My name, by either domain.

    And one day soon, I shall write about my name…

    Till then, here’s a shot of Shelley, at Shelley.

    B.C., that is.

    (And yes, that’s me. And yes, that’s is a real railway whistlestop sign, somewhere east of Prince George, somewhere west of my mountain birthplace.)


  • Sunset on the Lake

    As the sun sets, the water glows with apricot lightning over the pale moss of rippling waves.

    Sunset on the Water; copyright Shelley Banks; all rights reserved.
    Sunset on the Water
  • Ginger – my favourite dog model

    Ah, Ginger was a lovely and loving dog.

    Ginger. Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.


  • Prairie Crocus on the Hillside
    Because it’s still Spring, even though the Prairie Crocuses have stopped blooming for another season…
    Prairie Crocus. Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Prairie Crocus
  • Male and Female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks

    New to our bird feeders this year: Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.

    Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak; Copyright Shelley Banks; all rights reserved.
    Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak
    Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak; Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
    Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Ring-billed Gull on a Rock

    Spring, and the birds are returning north — and Ring-billed Gulls are flocking to Wascana Lake.

    Ring-billed Gull
    Ring-billed Gull

    There have been times in the past when gulls have seemed merely annoying, with their screeching, squawking, food-stealing gall… But they, too, are a sign of spring. A welcome one.


  • Regina Glory:
    Seen on Landing at YQR

    All the way from Vancouver — over the Rocky Mountain and across the Prairies  — a glory shone in front of our plane.

    And when we approached for landing at the Regina International Airport, that glory turned sunset pink and gold.

    I’d seen the same phenomenon on the way West, when the glory hovered below the propellers of the plane during the approach and descent into the Calgary Airport.

    But this, my January landing in Regina, was magical. The glory was a circular sunset rainbow along the horizon — so beautiful, I wasn’t even sure if it was real… But I had the pictures. And it was a rare, sunset glory.

    My flight back from Vancouver to Regina was changed at the last minute to accommodate other passengers and other flights, and as I’d recently learned about glories, I was delighted to learn that in my new seat, I’d be sitting on the north side of the plane, opposite the sun.

    I didn’t realize until after I boarded that I would also be sitting with Air Canada crew members — a flight attendant beside me, a pilot across from her, and a pilot (or two?) behind us.

    I took pictures, yes — but with my cell phone… I had my real camera, but no wide angle lens.

    My seat mate was intrigued by my intent focus on something just out of sight (for her) outside the window. I tried to explain it. I showed her my phone. She showed it to the pilots.

    But neither the flight attendant nor the pilots, with all their hours in the sky, had heard of glories or remembered seeing them. (She said she’s too busy working to look outside.)

    And so, consider this: How do you really, seriously, manage to convince any unknown flying companions — especially those with extensive in-air experience — that you are looking outside the airplane window at something shining in the clouds, and that this something you’re looking at is something they’ve never heard of: A GLORY!

    Explain it, that is, without having them think you are some kind of potential religious/other freak? (As a minister’s daughter, even I could hear the words and music: Mine eyes have seen the glory…) 

    Yet, flight crews do see these, I’m happy to report. When I told Les Cowley of Atmospheric Optics about my experience, he told me he often gets pix from pilots. (Yeah! I’m so glad they can see!!!)

    Anyway, I sent a few pix to Les, who I correspond with every so often about Saskatchewan’s amazing icy sky winter sights — the solar halos, the sundogs and multiple rings, the sun pillars beneath the sun. (He featured a photo of solar halos and sundogs at Wascana Park a few years ago.)

    To my delight, he has now featured the glory (far) above the Regina International Airport on his site. Which is fantastic, as Atoptics.co.uk is a great place to learn about atmospheric optics, effects, and all that. Please visit: you’ll see not only my #YQR glory, but lots of other glory photos.

    And the larger version of my photo (with details and text) of the glory I saw while landing at the Regina International Airport, is now at Atmospheric Optics, at http://www.atoptics.co.uk/fz993.htm.  (Thanks, Les!)


    The next time I fly, I will:

    • Book a seat on the north side of the plane.
    • Take a wide angle lens on the camera when I fly… And (with apologies to my usual flying companion who loves looking out the window),
    • Claim the window seat!


  • Christmas Eve
    Many years ago, I found glass reindeer ornaments in a gift shop in Seattle. They reminded me of the small glass reindeer that hung on our family Christmas tree when I was very young. I bought a pair and every year since, they’ve glowed high on my tree, above  cats’ playful paws and dogs’ wagging tails. One day, perhaps my kids will see reindeer ornaments for sale in a dusty corner of yet another gift shop, and remember this tree.
    Christmas Reindeer; Copyright Shelley Banks; all rights reserved.
    Christmas Reindeer


  • Looking for Posts about Regina Book Launches?

    Just a reminder that if you’re here looking for posts about book launches or other literary events in Regina, Saskatchewan, those are housed on my LatitudeDrifts blog.

    If you’d like to use or download a photograph that’s featured there, send me a note. (And if it’s of you, I’ll be especially happy to share.)

    Happy reading!

  • Rite of Passage: The Graffiti Barn

    Graduation Graffiti Barn, somewhere near Mankota, Saskatchewan.

    Graffiti Barn ; copyright Shelley Banks; all rights reserved.
    Graffiti Barn


  • Saskatchewan Birds in Paraguay
    A Saskatchewan Meadowlark - in Paraguay's Urutau magazine.
    A Saskatchewan Meadowlark – in Paraguay’s Urutau magazine.

    Recently, I shared a series of my photographs of Saskatchewan birds with Dr. Alberto Yanosky, the biologist who heads BirdLife International affiliate, Guyra Paraguay.

    The photos were to illustrate Dr. Yanosky’s article about his visit to Saskatchewan, the importance of protecting biodiversity and habitat, and the migratory birds shared by our two countries, Canada and Paraguay.

    “We say that they decided to breed here, but they are our birds, that we lend them to you,” he explained when I met him in June.

    “And you think that it is on the other side, that they are your birds, and they go south to avoid winter here.”

    Shared birds. It continues to amaze me that our Prairie birds travel that far.

    And what fun to receive an e-mailed copy of the July 2013 issue of Urutau Electrónico featuring the Alberto Yanosky / Shelley Banks collaboration!

    Conservationists and Horned Lark
    and Horned Lark

    The first page of our article, at top, features my photograph of a Western Meadowlark on a fence post along a quiet rural Saskatchewan road. (There is a slough in the background, creating that soft blue haze.)

    Next, at right, my picture of a (Saskatchewan) Horned Lark and a shot of the group that visited Saskatchewan pastures in June 2013. And finally, below, my (Saskatchewan — or might these really all be Paraguayan???) photographs of an Upland Sandpiper and Barn Swallow  — and BirdLife International birdwatchers,  Margaret Atwood, Graeme Gibson, Ian Davidson, Alberto Yanosky, and others. (With Yanosky’s text along the way…)

    During the visit, we saw more than 90 bird species, including several that travel between Saskatchewan and Paraguay: the Common Nighthawk – añapero boreal en español – (Chordeiles minor); the Upland Sandpiper – batitú- (Bartramia longicauda); the Bobolink – charlatán – (Dolichonyx oryziborus); and Wilson’s Phalarope – falaropo tricolor – (Phalaropus tricolor).

    Page Three of the Urutau article
    Upland Sandpiper
    Margaret Atwood, Graeme Gibson, Alberto Yanosky and others,
    Barn Swallow

    Other species in common mentioned in the article include Barn Swallows -golondrina tijerita – (Hirundo rustica), Grasshopper Sparrows – cachilo ceja amarilla – (Ammodramus humenalis), Eastern Kingbirds – suirirí boreal – (Tyrannus tyrannus), and Purple Martins – golondrina purpúrea – (Progne subis). (Sí, puedo leer español…) 

    Yanosky, recently named the 2013 Latin American winner of the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation, was in Saskatchewan for the June Prairie Passages Tour of our publicly owned grasslands.

    For more on that visit, see My Braid and Margaret Atwood, pictures on my LatitudeDrifts blog, or bird photos on my Prairie Nature blog.

    You can also read the entire current issue of Urutau Electrónico — along with other issues — on Guyra Paraguay’s site, http://www.guyra.org.py, to learn more about birds and habitat conservation in Paraguay. (Click Publicaciones, then you’ll find the July 2013 edition of Urutau Electrónico. Yes, it’s all in Spanish — a bonus! Language practice!)

  • Western Kingbird on Barbed Wire Fence

    I love the prairie birds of summer, gliding to rest on the grass or a fence. Lately, I’ve seen several Western Kingbirds around Regina. Here’s one of those lemon yellow and grey flycatchers; it landed on barbed wire and watched until I drove on.

    Western Kingbird
    Western Kingbird


  • Aurora Man in the Northern Lights

    A favourite shot from one of last fall’s Northern Lights displays… Aurora Man!

    Aurora Man; copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Aurora Man


  • My braid and Margaret Atwood
    Shelley Banks, with Margaret Atwood
    Shelley Banks, with Margaret Atwood

    There is a story behind every photograph — including this one…

    But I’m not yet sure how to tell it, except by saying that yes, I spent several days with Margaret Atwood in Val Marie, Saskatchewan, early this summer.

    What a trip.

    First, what amazing company.

    Margaret Atwood, yes, and also her partner Graeme Gibson, along with Ian Davidson (Nature Canada), Alberto Yanosky (BirdLife International Affiliate Guyra Paraguay), Saskatchewan writer/naturalist Trevor Herriot and others.

    And what an awesome chance to learn about the fragile prairie ecosytem, and the symbiotic relationships between our grazing animals and the grassland birds we love. (Birds we saw included a Baird’s Sparrow; an Upland Sandpiper and a Bobolink, both of which migrate all the way between Paraguay and Saskatchewan; a Common NighthawkChestnut-collared Longspurs and Long-billed Curlews.)

    I’ve posted other pictures from this Prairie Passages tour on my Latitude Drifts blog, with photographs of prairie wildflowers and photographs of birds and bison on my nature and flower blogs.

    As for this photograph…

    Well, yes, I do have a very long braid…

    And my thanks to Colin Hubick of Red Hat Studios for capturing the moment… (At least, I think I’m grateful…)

  • Prairie Crocus: A Sign of Spring in Prairie Hills

    On prairie hillsides in Saskatchewan, the Prairie Crocus has finally come into bloom. I’m glad these delicate flowers didn’t surface in the midst of our snow! It’s lovely to see their fresh, unmarked petals.


    Prairie Crocus; copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Leaning to the ground, this Prairie Crocus listens for summer. (What a great fur coat it wears!) © SB
    The many shades of the Prairie Crocus, from deep purple through light to white. © SB Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    The many shades of the Prairie Crocus, from deep purple through light to white. © SB


  • “High Wire”: My poem in The Society
    The 2013 edition of The Society, from St. Peter's College, Muenster.
    The 2013 edition of The Society, from St. Peter’s College, Muenster.

    I love getting mail, especially when it’s a large brown envelope with a magazine that’s published my work. And so this week, I was delighted to find a copy of The Society on the table by the door.

    The Society is published annually by St. Peter’s College in Muenster, Saskatchewan, to celebrate “extraordinary work by both established and emerging artists and writers from across Canada.” Whee! Great description! And amazing contributors. (I share a page with Dave Margoshes — what more can I say?)

    St. Peter’s College is on the same site as the writing retreat I attend every year or so — I was last there in February for a very productive re-immersion from daily life into the writing life.

    And The Society is overseen by an editorial team that include Barbara Langhorst, the 2013 winner of the Saskatchewan Book Award for Poetry. So I’m triply or maybe even quadruply happy about this.

    As for my poem, “High Wire” can be read in the online version of The Society; it’s about eight pages in, on the top left… (Or, at least at time of posting this was online… Please, don’t try to read the image below – your eyes will burn! It’s there for illustration only.)

    The page with my poem, "High Wire" in The Society, 2013.
    The page with my poem, “High Wire” in The Society, 2013.
  • Sharp-tailed Grouse: Saskatchewan’s Provincial Bird

    The mating displays of the Sharp-tailed Grouse, Saskatchewan’s provincial bird, are highly entertaining to watch. They dance, they prance, they leap, strut, pout… They rattle their feathers and gobble.

    I’m so happy I had a chance this year to visit the lek (location of these dominance displays, and the displays themselves), to watch this! (I have a short video, too, on my Prairie Nature blog.)

    Sharp-tailed Grouse showing neck patch    © SB  Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Sharp-tailed Grouse showing neck patch © SB
    Sharp-tailed Grouse displaying feathers  © SB , Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Sharp-tailed Grouse displaying feathers © SB
    Sharp-tailed Grouse - leaping at another  © SB  Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Sharp-tailed Grouse – leaping at another © SB


  • Writers and Writing

    My 2012-13 literary project: To attend and document as many Regina writing events (readings, launches, celebrations, etc.) as I can, and post pictures of the writers on my LatitudeDrifts blog.

    To date, I have perhaps a 70 per cent success rate…  There are far more book-related events in Regina than I realised when I set myself this personal challenge, and scheduling literature and life at times gets complicated.

    However, I believe writers — and the Arts in general — are crucial for our cities, communities and culture. I also believe that they are vastly under-valued and under-promoted… (As an example, the local media rarely attend literary events.)

    And so I’m still aiming to record as many as I can.

    Note: If you’re visiting this page because I’ve taken your picture at a local reading, my thanks for dropping by! And, to show my appreciation, any images you find of yourself on LatitudeDrifts are yours to use… (But please, let me know if you are using them, so that I can also link back to your websites, blogs, etc.)

  • Stained Glass at Charlevoix Metro, Montreal

    Two more iPhone Metro pictures, also from the Charlevoix station in Montreal. This metro is not only one of the deepest on the system, it’s also one of the most beautiful, with stunning stained glass windows that spill multi-colour abstract lights onto the upper escalators — as long as you’re there at the right time of day.

    Rider in the light   © SB  Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Rider in the light © SB
    Late afternoon sun spilling colours down the escalator.  © SB   Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
    Late afternoon sun spilling colours down the escalator. © SB


  • iPhone Photos of Montreal Metro Stations

    It’s the person behind the lens, not the camera equipment, that creates the photograph — although using different equipment can lead to different effects. As much as I love my Nikon DSLR, I was delighted to find a series I took in Montreal last spring, to remember how much fun it was to take pictures there — with my phone.

    Some of those photographs, which were also tweaked on my phone, focus on the interiors of two Metro stations, with their vibrant red and yellow mosaics, stained glass windows, and long, steep escalators.

    Escalator into the depths of the Metro. © SB Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Escalator into the depths of the Metro. © SB

    I am intrigued by street photography, and in a city like Montreal, a small phone is a handy, unobtrusive way to get colourful shots — and process them on the spot, too.

    I also like the rough edges of some phone photographs: the graininess in low light, the blurs… The quick focus, the immediacy, the wide angle. All free me from technical issues, so I can just enjoy the language of light.


  • Pink shoes, blue shoes, steel-toed working shoes

    Pink shoes, blue shoes, orange shoes, too… Running shoes, working shoes, sandals and boots.

    Sounds like the start of a children’s rhyme!

    It’s also a summary of the shoes stacked in my front hall during a recent mini-renovation in our house. Mine, my husband’s, our son’s. (Though mainly the former and latter, I see; we must be the messy people who leave all their shoes by the door. Well, good to know that someone is neat!)

    Can you guess which shoes belong to me? © SB   Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Can you guess which shoes belong to me? © SB


  • Spring Migrations
    Mountain Bluebird
    Mountain Bluebird in the Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, Canada  © SB

    Snow and freezing rain today, but I know spring is here because migration is beginning, and hibernation ending.

    This past week, I’ve seen a gopher (Richardson’s Ground Squirrel) — albeit on a snow bank, with a snowball in his paw.

    I’ve fed an American Tree Sparrow at our backyard feeders and watched hundreds of Horned Larks swirl over grid roads near Regina.

    And I’ve photographed the magically iridescent flashes of Mountain Bluebirds along the sun-warmed slopes of the Qu’Appelle Valley.

    Spring. Migration. Movement, new beginnings. Every year at this time, I wonder what change is on the wing, what beauty it will bring.

  • Rainbow of Light and Droplet on CD

    No trickery, only common objects: One CD, one light source, one drop of water.

    When CDs first came out, I was amazed by their reflective glow and the rainbows that shimmered across their surfaces when I tilted them into, and then away from, the light. I’m still fascinated by these properties. The sun, a flashlight, or even a beam from an overhead lamp will charge the surface with magic.

    A rainbow streaks across a dark pool, reflected from an orb along the side.   © SB   Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    A rainbow streaks across a dark pool, reflected from an orb along the side. © SB


  • Hoar Frost on Seed Head

    The magic of morning ice transforms dried seeds into a confection of lace, crisp crystals cresting from the husk, the stalk and other crystals. Hoar frost. White frost. Winter magic.

    Winter lace: White hoar frost © SB Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Winter lace: White hoar frost © SB


  • Macro: Hoar Frost Crystals with Hoar Frost Shadow

    As winter moves into spring, mornings come when the air and ground differ so much in temperature that ice fog forms, draping a white mantle of hoar frost over the Prairies until the sun rises high enough to burn through the fog and melt the delicate crystals. A prosaic, somewhat scientific explanation for the  truly magical.

    A twig, glittering with hoar frost crystals © SB Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    A twig, glittering with hoar frost crystals © SB


  • Water Drops Frozen by Flash

    A highly entertaining weekend project: Research freezing motion with flash, and test ways to capture water droplets in a dimly lit sub-ground room. Experiment with colour — the red below comes from the surroundings, not the water itself. (That is, no food colouring was used in this project. There was enough mess without that!)

    A series of water droplets spiral down in this freeze-motion flash capture. © SB   Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    A series of water droplets spiral down in this freeze-motion flash capture. © SB


  • Knit, Purl, Nupp: Estonian Lace, Canadian Wool

    A section of a lace scarf in light olive green, a colour that reminds me of delicate spring buds in the rain.

    I’m knitting this on teeny needles, following an Estonian pattern that features nupps, scallops and a garter stitch edging. It’s narrow, but slow going… Luckily, the wool is wonderfully fine and soft (and Canadian, too), so it remains an interesting project.

    Once finished and blocked, the lace pattern will magically appear in what I hope will be exquisitely fine detail. (Lace knitting is an act of faith, trusting that the finished work will look like more than a muddle of yarn.)

    For now, a photograph of this art/craft in progress:

    Inching to the end of a delicate lace wool scarf.   © SB  Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Inching to the end of a delicate lace wool scarf. © SB


  • Common Redpoll on a Wire

    A Common Redpoll, part of a large flock of Redpolls wintering on a farm near Muenster, Saskatchewan. The colours caught my attention, and the dynamic lines of the wire and building behind.

    Common Redpoll - a female, by the lack of chest patch - on a wire.   © SB  Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Common Redpoll – a female, by the lack of chest patch – on a wire. © SB


  • Scallop Shells and Creativity
    Scallop shell, detail, from an old tin trunk.
    Scallop shell, detail,
    from an old tin trunk. © SB

    While looking for a small image for business cards, I remembered the antique trunk decorated with strips of scallop-shell embossed tin that I’d photographed a few weeks ago.

    I have a strong fondness for scallop shells, not only because of my name…

    These symmetrical beauties have a long symbolic history, linked — among other things — to fertility, the feminine, the setting sun, pilgrimage, death, new life, and love.

    Celtic. Greek. Christian. The Goddess and the Saint: Aphrodite and Santiago de Compostella. (As a former Spanish major, I’ve long wanted to trek the Camino, and Venus/Aphrodite has her own appeal…)

    In all of these, I see links to creativity.

    And so, I’ve cropped a small detail from that embossed tin image, and placed it on my cards.

    Apart from the symbolism, I like the image itself and I remain delighted by my find — an old trunk in a room full of sunlight. (There’s a larger image of the scallops on my photo blog.)

  • Detail: Swirls of Scallops on Antique Tin Trunk

    Found, at the back of a wonderful old room that’s now used for yoga by those who love the full light that streams in through windows on three of its four walls: An antique, tin-decorated trunk.

    Swirls of scallops circle and repeat across the tin strips on the lid, a dance of four shells times eight, times 36, and more… I offer a sampling of their dance, in this detail from the trunk.

    Scallop shell patterns repeat across decorative tin, in this detail of an old trunk. © SB Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Scallop shell patterns repeat across decorative tin, in this detail of an old trunk. © SB

    Some time after editing this photo, I was looking for an image to place on business cards, and came back to these scallops, which feel symbolic of life and creativity to me.


  • Talking Fresh 11 – Writing Canada, eh?

    I’ll be moderating the panel Friday afternoon, March 8, 2013, at Talking Fresh 11, the free festival of writing and writers hosted by the Saskatchewan Writers Guild.

    It should be fun, with panelists Noah Richler, Kimmy Beach, Joel Thomas Hynes and Chrystene Ells sharing their perspectives on writing in Canada, with specific focus on writing location.

    The panel runs from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Artesian, 2627-13th Avenue, Regina, Saskatchewan. It’s followed by a reception at 6 p.m., with readings at 7:30 p.m. The presenters’ books will be on sale; no charge to attend.

    The full list of events for the weekend — which actually starts Thursday night with a screening of Ells film, Sisu: The Death of Tom Sukanen at the Sask Film Pool — is on the SWG website. This includes the launch of David Carpenter’s new book, Volume One of The Literary History of Saskatchewan.

    Join us. Buy books, hear stories, meet writers, talk writing… Have fun!

    Talking Fresh was created with support from the City of Regina, Luther College, Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative, Canada Council, Saskatchewan Arts Board, Saskatchewan Lotteries and SaskCulture.

  • Shiny Red Electric Guitar

    I tried to learn to play the guitar once, and failed somewhat miserably. I couldn’t get my fingers to draw music from the strings and instead, produced only a dull, painful thudding.

    Others in my household are more guitar-gifted. Like my son, the owner of this shiny red electric guitar. (He has at least one other guitar, and his father seems to have a few, too… I can’t keep track, but only know there are many cases in the basement, and several instruments freed from all constraints, playing on the living room sofa and chairs.)

    Strong dynamic lines of a red guitar.    Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Strong dynamic lines of a red guitar.


  • On Self Portraits…
    Shelley-Banks, Self-Portrait, 2013
    Self-Portrait, 2013

    A friend recently e-mailed about the photograph I’d been using in thumbnail on my blogs. She wondered when it was taken — five years ago, I realized, so time for a refresh.

    As I’ve been putting other people through the fun (or annoyance?) of portrait posing, I decided it was also time to start taking pictures of myself.

    Self-portraits are an exercise in patience, a meditation on the self, an illustration of the gap between what we’d like to see in the mirror and the face we wake up to.

    They are also a way of seeing what’s it’s like on the other side of the camera. And I know which side I prefer. (Hint: I like testing the light, squinting into the viewfinder, planning the shot…)

  • Under the Bridge: Repeating Lines

    Under the bridge, the lines repeat as the columns recede, down the hill and across the river, bearing cars, buses and pedestrians to the other side of the South Saskatchewan.

    Perspective diminishes into dirt on the riverbank. Pilings pull sight sideways into lines and shadows, dark angles repeating right under the bridge.

    Bridge over the South Saskatchewan River, Saskatoon,  © SB  Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Bridge over the South Saskatchewan River, Saskatoon, © SB


  • Writing on Retreat
    Black-capped Chickadee saluting winter. Photo: Shelley Banks
    Black-capped Chickadee saluting winter.
    Photo: Shelley Banks

    I’m fortunate to be attending a writers and artists retreat at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, Saskatchewan.

    The retreat is a joint program of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild and CARFAC Saskatchewan, and it attracts a wide range of talented people from across Canada.

    I’m in my second week, focusing on poetry — I’ve finally wrapped up my first manuscript, and have started on a second project.

    I’m also working on a few short fiction pieces and, in the breaks from writing, I’m exploring the great photo ops. (So far in this wonderful place, I’ve seen deer and Great Horned Owls, heard coyotes, and taken pictures of chickadees, redpolls, nuthatches and White-winged Crossbills.)

    Three more days. A short time left, but I know I’m very lucky to have this luxury of time to write — and explore.

  • Portobello Mushroom: Close-up of brown gills

    Confession: I am more a fan of photographing mushrooms than of eating them, though I will make some exceptions for fried mushrooms with steak and Portobello mushrooms stuffed with crab or other delights.

    But I’m in awe of the undersides of fresh mushrooms, the crisp lines of gills, the soft rounded skin…

    For looking, not cooking. Enjoy!

    Portobello Mushroom © SB Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Portobello Mushroom © SB


  • Chickadee on Barbed Wire Fence

    Chickadees. Snow. A barbed wire fence. Simple clear lines and the cold — could winter be anything more than this? (Yes, of course it can. But here’s the chickadee, anyway.)

    Chickadee perched on barbed wire © SB   Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Chickadee perched on barbed wire © SB


  • Early Snow: Muted Colours on Red Branches

    Late last year, when the leaves still glowed with orange and red colours, I captured this image of snow gently dusting a branch beside a local park. This image reminds me of the transience of life and seasons, and the artificial boundaries we place between things. Like Winter. And Fall.

    Fall Snow on Red Branches © SB Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Fall Snow on Red Branches © SB


  • Lime Soda on Ice: Cold colours, bubbles

    A memory of summer — a cool drink of lime soda on ice.

    Lime Soda: photo by Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.


  • Preparing for Spring – and wildflowers
    Coral Paintbrush in the Cypress Hills © SB
    Coral Paintbrush in the Cypress Hills
    © SB

    In the midst of this long Prairie winter, I’m longing for spring.

    The snow won’t be gone for months — at least through the end of March — but I can dream, and so I am updating my Prairie Wildflowers blog.

    Because wildflowers only bloom in Saskatchewan in spring and summer, this blog is an image collection, not a diary of my excursions to see and photograph flowers.

    Each entry lists the name, location and date of the each photo, so it’s a great reference for seasonal prairie flowers — and a reminder to myself that spring will soon be here.

    For more on the Paintbrush image at left, see: Slender Coral Paintbrush.

  • Lake of the Plains School: Saskatchewan

    One summer day, I drove the backyards around Last Mountain Lake and came across this old, abandoned school building. Most of the old rural schools have now been torn down or converted to other uses, so this was, for me, a treasure. And perhaps the lake left with the students? The land all around was dry, as far as I could see…

    Lake of the Plains School, Saskatchewan © SB Copyright Shelley Banks, All Rights Reserved.
    Lake of the Plains School, Saskatchewan © SB


  • Winter: Hoar Frost in the Qu’Appelle Valley

    Driving into the Qu’Appelle Valley north of Regina, Saskatchewan, I saw this tree and stopped.

    Graceful and covered in hoar frost, it grows by a drop-off into the valley with blue hills behind. A single furrow of deer tracks led across the road, through the field towards it, and coyote tracks also stamped the nearby snow. Or perhaps those came from a dog wandering the snow, far from any house.

    Winter has its own (cold) beauty.

    Winter Frost. © SB Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Winter Frost. © SB
  • Prairie Creek in the Qu’Appelle Valley

    This swerving, curving prairie creek — not far from Regina, Saskatchewan — is one of many streams that flow into the Qu’Appelle River.

    This picture was taken from a bridge near the town of Lumsden.

    What caught my interest were the soft fall colours, receding into the distant hills, and the gentle curve of the creek.

    Near Lumsden, Saskatchewan: The creek curves through gold, deep orange/red and green.  © SB Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Near Lumsden, Saskatchewan: The creek curves through gold, deep orange/red and green. © SB


  • Doorway to the Past: Kedleston, Saskatchewan

    Kedleston, Saskatchewan, thrived from 1910 until the 1970s. Its last residents left in 1988 when a fire swept through. Today, a historical plaque marks the townsite.

    All that remains are sidewalks through tall grasses and in the fields, abandoned homes.

    Doorway, Kedleston, Saskatchewan.   © SB   Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Doorway, Kedleston, Saskatchewan. © SB


  • Saskatoon Railway Bridge: Ship at Sea

    This old railway bridge in downtown Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, reminds me of an old ocean-going vessel — a pirate’s ship, listing in rough waves as it crosses the river.

    Lights glow on the old railway bridge... or... imagine this a ship at sea. © SB   Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Lights glow on the old railway bridge… or… imagine this a ship at sea. © SB


  • Red, Yellow, Blue: Saskatchewan Hot Air Balloon

    Whee! This photo is all about colour — brilliant yellows, reds and blues against a vibrant early evening sky.

    It was captured in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in September 2012, during an after-dinner walk from my hotel. (I was in town for the Professional Writers Association of Canada’s Prairies Fall Conference. If you’re interested in freelance writing, check out PWAC!)

    Riding high in a hot air balloon  — it's all about colour! © SB   Copyright Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
    Riding high in a hot air balloon — it’s all about colour! © SB