Saturday, November 19, 2011

Heritage House Author's Celebration

As all of you know, the Heritage House Author's Celebration was held on Thursday, November 17, at The Maritime Museum of British Columbia, Bastion Square.
There were six speakers in the first part of the evening, and then we enjoyed a half hour break when we "nibbled, sipped and mingled."
Most of the people who were coming to see me arrived at that time, so I was busy meeting and greeting my own friends.

I was the last speaker in the second section of the program, and it was after nine o'clock when I got up onto the spectacular podium they have -- the raised platform on which Judge Matthew Begbie Bailey sat in judgement.
You will remember, I hope, that I told you this was an old courtroom -- one of the first in the country (was this where Alexander Caulfield Anderson stood when he told the prosecuting attorney that he lied, I wonder?)
Have I got your curiosity? Read the book.

Bob Griffin spoke just before me -- he is the Royal British Columbia Museum curator who is in charge of the Latin Bible and various other Alexander Caulfield Anderson items stored in the Museum.
He wrote a book on some of the Museum's artifacts, which should be interesting feeding. The book's title is "Feeding the Family."

Here is my speech, for those of you unable to make it to the Celebration:

"Good evening, everyone. My name is Nancy Marguerite Anderson, and I am the author of The Pathfinder: A.C. Anderson's Journeys in the West.

"His full name (and one he almost always used) was Alexander Caulfield Anderson.

"He was the Hudson's Bay Company fur trader who, in the mid-1800's, threaded his way through mountain passes and down rapid-filled rivers in search of a horse-friendly trail through the rugged country that separated the Kamloops fort from Fort Langley, on the lower Fraser River.

"Over the summers of 1846 and 1847, Anderson made four expeditions to and from Fort Langley and discovered two possible routes -- both of which passed the canyons and rapids that, years before, had foiled both Alexander Mackenzie (in 1793) and Simon Fraser (in 1808).

"His work should have been done at this point -- but in 1848, Native uprisings on the Columbia River -- the fur traders' traditional route to Fort Vancouver, in modern day Washington state -- forced them to bring their furs out to Fort Langley by one of Anderson's unfinished horse trails.

"The journey out to Fort Langley was a chaotic disaster -- the return journey to Kamloops no better. Horses fell from cliff tops carrying valuable trade goods with them, and frustrated fur traders had fist fights while voyageurs deserted Fort Langley for an easier life in the California gold fields, and one man took his own life rather than tackle the return journey home!

"The following year proved equally difficult, and three or fours years passed before the fur traders had a reasonable, if not entirely satisfactory, trail into the interior forts from Fort Langley.

"Anderson was there. He lived and worked through these turbulent years and he left a written record of those difficult times in his various post journals and in the private letters he wrote to the Governor of the company.

"He was a writer and historian; even as a young man in the fur trade he wrote manuscripts for publication that recorded historical details not written elsewhere...

"He was an artist who painted images of the Kamloops fort and of the Fraser River; he drew maps on which he marked all the old trails the Hudson's Bay Company men travelled.

"Because Anderson left behind such a comprehensive record of the turbulent years he lived through, he is considered by historians to be a significant figure in early British Columbia history.

"Derek Pethick noted that, without Anderson's explorations, British Columbia could hardly have come into being. "His discovery of an all-British artery for the fur trade was to have a profound effect on the history of not only British Columbia, but also of Canada itself."

[Pause] "Alexander Caulfield Anderson was my great-grandfather, and I wanted to know who he was. It took me ten years to research his story; I accessed archives in Australia, in Scotland, and across the North American continent (and of course the Hudson's Bay Company archives in Winnipeg.)

"As I wrote the book, I learned things that threatened to destroy the historic and heroic fur trade figure that lived inside my head.

"There were many occasions when I flinched -- but I think those "flinches" transformed Anderson into a man, with quirks and flaws and character and kindness and a "poetic courtesy" -- an extraordinary human being.

"I loved the long journey of uncovering Alexander Caulfield Anderson, the man -- I hope that you, too, will discover this complex, intelligent, and talented man for yourself -- that you, too, will take pleasure in plumbing the depths of this man's story, which is also British Columbia's history."

My speech took five minutes, and I think it sold the book rather than the opposite.
My sister said she cried; the woman next to her touched her arm and told her "she's wonderful!"
I was -- except for a little muffle at the beginning I was word perfect!
I was word perfect because I wrote a speech, and followed it -- I was calm because I wolfed down a big pasta meal beforehand.
Two tricks that reeeeaaally work...

I also wrote a good speech because I spent at least two weeks writing it.
Good speeches take work.

When I finished the talk I looked at my speech and thought -- yes, that really is why I wrote the book.
I wanted to discover the man behind the history.
I have had so much trouble in writing a strong "statement of story and theme" for interviewers.
The first line was fine -- but how to end it?
Now I know.

Thanks everyone for your support. It was too bad that the foul weather -- miserable cold, hard rain and threat of snow -- kept so many people away from the event.
But when I left the hall I noticed that no more of my books were left on the Heritage House table, and I presume they sold all they brought.
I know I signed quite a few.
I signed one book (before it was paid for) to the man who told me that Anderson was the most significant figure in British Columbia history, and I saw his eyes light up when he saw the coloured illustrations in the middle of the book.
If he liked what he saw, I think you will, too.

Now I have to get to work and finish writing the speech I am giving in front of the Victoria Historical Society in five days!
I have only the closing to write, and the rest of the speech to perfect.
Then the power point images to prepare.
Almost done.

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