Friday, October 12, 2007

What a Week!

Vicki Here.

Only a week since I last posted? I've done enough to fit into a month.

First, my visit to McLaughlin School in Anchorage was a wonderful experience. It's a juvenile correction facility, barbed wire surrounding the property, all dorrs locked, quiet, well-behaved kids forming neat lines. I had a short time in the secuire part of the facility where the students all wore prison garb. I talked about the writing life as it applies to me. I only had a short time with them, and could have used more. The boys (all boys) were very enthusiastic listening to me. They asked lots of good quetions. When I mentioned something about the Constable in my books, one boy spoke up and suggested that some of the others might not know what a constable is. I was impressed that he wanted to be sure everyone was included in the discussion.

I didn't have nearly enough time with them before I was taken to what they call the cottage, where it is more like a school, except for the locked doors. They brought in about 40 kids and several teachers and staff to the library to hear me. in this group there were some girls, sitting in the front tow. The only time the boys and girls are allowed to be in the same room is when when they have a guest speaker. I thought that I had two forty-five minute classes, but it was one ninty-minute period. That would normally present quite a problem, but with this bunch the questions were so good and the discussion so active, that I easily filled the time. It was by far and away the best time I've had giving a talk. The kids were polite (they have to be polite) but also attentive and very engaged. The questions and comments were far better, in quality and quantity, than I've had in regular high schools. When I was finished, I handed out some of my bookmarkds and postcards and they all rushed me for an autograph. That was fun!

I was most imporessed with the school, with the dedication of the staff I met, the facilities and the programs they have for troubled kids. I was told that their re-offender rate is about 30% and I thought that was pretty good!

I decided to drive back to Canada via Fairbanks because I had a bit of time to spare and I wanted to see Denali. The clouds cleared enough that I got a glimpse of some of the closer mountains, at least. About a hundred miles outside of Fairbanks, I ran into a sudden snow storm. And off the road.

Into the ditch. In the middle of nowhere, Alaska, I took out two mailboxes on my way past. The mailboxes knocked out the back window and the left tail light and punched a couple of holes in the bodywork. The car came to a halt against a tree, but there was no damage to the front, so I suspect the mailboxes slowed me down just enough. It migh te a cliche, but I was lucky - I'd passed a cliff about fifty feet earlier.

I stood on the side of the highway trying to flag someone down and two cars drove right past me. I couldn't believe it. But then a nice young couple stopped and placed a call on their call phone. They stayed with me until the police (what they call in Alaska the 'trooper') arrived. I didn't get their names, and I'm sorry I can't write to say thanks.

The tow truck arrived, dragged me out of the ditch and put on the spare tire. With a hefty cheque and a wave, I was on my way.

On the bright side I sold the tropper a copy of In the Shadow of the Glacier. If he happens to go to my web page and follows the link to this blog, many thanks for your help.

I could continue writing about the challenges of winter driving in the mountains, but that would take up too much space. Let me just say that I'm beginning to get some idea of the incredible amount of wilderness in Canada. I've driven for days without cell phone reception, hundreds of kilometers without seeing a house or driveway. or farm, fifteen or twenty minutes at a time wiotht passing another car. And that's on the highway beyond which there is even less all the way to the North Pole.

I'm in Edmonton today, for a brief rest before heading back to Nelson. Then it's off again, this time to the US west coast on my book tour.

I'm sure I'll be having more adventures.

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