Father, daughter have a new story to tell
The sound of a child’s laugh resonates through the old mansion.
It’s a sound that has been heard many times on the grounds of the property, where families have played games of croquet and picnics have been consumed overlooking the azure of Kalamalka Lake.
But this laugh lingers -- it has brought life back to the stillness of the night inside the home that once belonged to the Mackie family and the late Paddy Mackie. That’s because one of its latest residents, an aspiring writer, is only 11 years old.
Camille Jordan is on a new adventure joining her father, Saskatoon-based scribe Terry Jordan, who is the Mackie Lake House’s latest writer in residence.
They are the first family to stay at the historical home in Coldstream as part of the writer’s residency program, established in 2003 as a partnership initiative between the Mackie Lake House Foundation and Okanagan College through the auspices of Kalamalka Press.
“We’re following in the tradition of families who used to stay at the house as guests of Paddy’s,” said Christine Kashuba, Mackie house manager. “Paddy really enjoyed young people and as he was a school teacher, he would have loved the idea of children staying here and learning about the area.”
“It’s really nice here. It has a nice view and the people are friendly. We even have our own beach,” said Camille, who has already started Grade 7 classes at Kidston Elementary School while her dad is putting the finishing touches on his latest novel and making connections with the local community, including English and creative writing students enrolled at Okanagan College and local secondary schools.
Besides exploring their surroundings, father and daughter have embarked on a few projects together. There is no television at the house, so they’ve started writing a children’s book called Bob the Biting Cucumber.
Camille is also working on two novels –– one is a book of ghost stories –– and she also has a movie in the works.
“I am making an iMovie. It’s a scary movie called Murder at the Mackie House. I plan to show it at school for a Friday show and tell.”
Although the residency at the Mackie house is not a traditional writer’s residency, at only two weeks, Terry says he would still like to meet with people who have a story they want to tell.
“One of the main things I consider when I write is the idea of story. Story exists as the world exists. Everything, every thing we can touch or imagine, is involved in various levels of at least one story. Books included. The process of writing them will contain stories, the text and spirit of them also, of course. It’s just one of the reasons we read, but we, all of us, are storytellers to some extent,” he said. “Often, what we find most interesting in other people are their stories and their ability to tell them. Different cultures give and receive stories as gifts. Writers do, too. One of our responsibilities as writers is to tell our stories (by that I mean everyone’s stories) as well as we can. Part of what a writer in residence does is to help people do the same with their stories.”
A playwright, novelist, script writer and musician, Terry attended and taught creative writing at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont. He was the first Margaret Laurence Fellow at Trent in 1996, and his award-winning plays, Reunion, Movie Dust and Close Your Eyes have been produced across the country.
His book of stories, It’s a Hard Cow, won a Saskatchewan Book Award and was nominated for a Commonwealth Book Prize, while his first novel, Beneath That Starry Place, was published internationally and was nominated for two Saskatchewan Book Awards and the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award.
“I’ve worked at various jobs. I built post-and-beam houses in the Kootenays and played music in between,” said Terry. “I went back to university, originally for law, but quit school to work on films. As a writer, I started late in life, but I’m glad I did as it comes back to story. It’s like becoming a parent later in life.”
Terry has spent the past few years working on his latest novel, which follows the Acadian people after their expulsion from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to the southern U.S. and parts of Europe.
“It’s to do with my adopted mother’s ancestry,” he said. “It’s a love story, with a mystery-murder thrown in. I’ve been building it up like fiddle lines on a violin.”
This is not the first residency for Terry. He spent the past year as writer in residence at the Winnipeg Public Library. Previous to that he was at the Regina and Saskatoon public libraries.
While in Winnipeg, Terry met up with Vernon author John Lent, former regional dean and writing professor at Okanagan College, who told him about the Mackie house residency.
“John has been doing the final edits on my book. He’s very in depth and has been helping me with the emotion, when to dig in and when to hold back,” said Terry.
For his part, Lent says Terry is a powerful and singular writer.
“When I first read It’s A Hard Cow, I was mesmerized by the muscle in his lyrical voice and his dark sense of humour. And his novel, Beneath That Starry Place, is one of the strongest Canadian novels published in the last 15 years. It still haunts me. We’re so very lucky to have him here.”
The two men have also been sharing their love of music and Terry hints that some impromptu performances may be in store.
That will most likely happen as the Jordans have decided to stay in the area after the Mackie house residency is over. They are currently looking for a place to live.
“We decided to stay because of the people, and this being a cultural community,” said Terry. “I also like the fact that people smile to you on the street here.”
Anyone who has a place in mind can contact Terry, or meet him in person when the Mackie Lake House Foundation holds a public reception for him and Camille at the Mackie house on Sunday, Sept. 30 at 2 p.m.
Further queries regarding Terry Jordan’s writing residency can be made by calling Kashuba at 250-545-1019 or Jane Lister, regional dean of Okanagan College, at 250-545-7291.