Brenda Schmidt sits at the green table in the garden of Mackie Lake House with her notebook and coffee, breathing in the morning sunshine.
“It’s always very stimulating and generative to step into a new environment. My work is strongly influenced by place,” she said.
As the Kalamalka Institute for Working Writers writer-in-residence, Schmidt is spending two weeks at Mackie House to work on a cross-genre project, creative non-fiction, essays and prose poems, to be published by Kalamalka Press next year.
“Being here at the house is a gift to an artist, to have the time and space to allow art to happen. Being here in a time and space that is new to me is a jolt to the senses. Things happen out of that naturally,” she said.
Schmidt is at the house with her partner, Harvey Schmidt, a photographer who is preparing a slide show of the insects found on the property to be shown at the closing reception.
“We’ve never seen some of these bugs before. I’m a bird watcher and I saw my first ever pygmy nuthatch here. There was a little parade of quail here on the property, like a welcoming committee. There are distractions here but it all ends up in the work somehow,” she said.
Schmidt is the author of three books of poetry, A Haunting Sun, More Than Three Feet of Ice, and Cantos from Wolverine Creek and her work has been published, broadcast, shown and performed across Canada. She grew up in south-western Saskatchewan near a staging area for bird migration, the start of her sense of place which informs her work.
She currently lives in Creighton in northern Saskatchewan where she went in 1985 as a registered nurse.
Her work was first published in The Western Producer when she was a teen.
“It was a wonderful opportunity. A lot of kids who were first published there went on to become writers,” said Schmidt, who is also a watercolourist and appreciates the chance to see Paddy Mackie’s paintings in the house, but has decided to concentrate on writing for now and maybe do some Okanagan-inspired art in the future.
“I don’t know what my final work from here will look like. I am open to where it takes me. I think it will be bright and positive, like my experience here. The arts community here has been very welcoming and wonderful hosts,” she said.
Schmidt says she will always remember working upstairs in the house in the evenings at the little desk sitting on the chair with the red seat, imagining the people who have worked there before her.
“It has been magical to walk into this beautiful house and make ourselves comfortable. I can see why people have put so much energy into making this place what it is for the community. Every place I have ever been to has become a part of me and a part of my work in some way,” she said.
For more information about Brenda Schmidt, see her blog, Alone on a Boreal Stage, at http://birdschmidt.blogspot.com.