Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Village of Many Hats: First Excerpt

The Village of Many Hats is is a novella for 7-10 year olds which is told from the point of view of a nine year old character, Gina. She and her family live in Silverado, a mountain village which used to be prosperous but which has now fallen on hard economic times. Silverado is more than just the name brand of a truck! For me, it combines one of the early names for present-day New Denver, El Dorado, and Silverton, another lovely village on the shores of Slocan Lake, only five kilometres to the south of New Denver.
I began this story early in the morning on January 1, 1999 with the urge to create a lovely picture book but as the drafts and the years went by, I realized that I wanted to incorporate too many things that were, supposedly, beyond the comprehension of little picture book readers, things like unemployment and how that stressful fact affects families, helpful adults and how they step up to support families and children going through tough times, life-threatening illness and how difficult it is for people who live far away from major medical centres to get timely, excellent care, and how smart and aware kids can be encouraged by smart and aware adults to take a meaningful role and make a difference in their own community. 
I remain inspired by the work of so many talented and generous community organizers and artists I've met, collaborated with and still sing the praises of in The Village of Many Hats. I lived for eighteen years in the Kootenays: on the lovely north shore of Kootenay Lake, attending the visionary, late, still-lamented David Thompson University Centre in Nelson, in rural Winlaw for some of the years I worked in various capacities at the brilliant, late and much-lamented Polestar Press with Julian Ross and Ruth Porter, and finally, with my partner, Jeff George, opening and running the Motherlode Bookstore in New Denver for eight of those eighteen years. Theatre, music, festivals, summer schools of the arts, authors on tour, writing workshops, galleries, bookstore launches, collaborating with others to create magical events with shoestring budgets but fantastically talented people--- all these richly creative experiences I've enjoyed doing are thanks to the wealth of creative people living and touring in the Kootenays. I haven't even begun to pay homage to the abandoned railway tracks, the glorious hot springs, the cold, clean lakes and river swimming holes, the plentiful mountain ranges with acres of wild flowers on their slopes for six weeks and fantastic skiing the rest of the year... Did I say that I intend to live in the Kootenays again? Well, I do!
One important thing about the book and the excerpts which will be posted: five brave souls responded to my fundraising challenge to support the New Denver Reading Centre which had 100% of its provincial government funding cut. Mayor Gary Wright (now retired and writing his own books) auctioned off these roles and a rare copy of one of my books with resounding success and raised over $900 for the Centre. However, this is a work of fiction and these 'real' names are used in an entirely fictitious manner: Heather Fox, Dr. Jamie Barber, Judi Gardiner, Wendy Harlock, and Francie Oldham. Bless them all and I look forward to presenting them with a book in front of a cheering audience in the Bosun Hall in New Denver in May 26, 2012 from 3:30 - 5 pm. The muse for Madame D'Oiseaux is the multi-talented milliner and fabric artist, Rosalie Bird, who still lives in New Denver. 
All the content in this blog is copyright by Caroline Woodward and may not be excerpted or reposted except as a link to this blog.
Chapter 2
        I walked away from Glacier View School, on the side of the highway past the gas station, before turning right on Main Street. I decided to take my time, going down one side and up the other before going home.
I wish I could cheer up. But there is nothing for me to do and nobody to have fun with anymore. I feel that hot, hard feeling in my chest like I need to yell or cry. It won’t do any good. Nobody feels sorry for me. I’m not the sick girl. Besides, Sara needs me to be funny and to cheer her up.
Every day after school I go to her room and tell her what I did at school and what I saw on the way home and I try to make it interesting somehow.  Something more than saying Silverado has five hundred and twenty-six people and about one hundred dogs and cats. Plus a few chickens.
          There were pumpkins in the wheelbarrow outside the Glacier Lake Hardware Store. Halloween ghosts and witches hung in their big window. 
“Oh, hello, wait, hello! Gina, is that you?”
I stopped and turned around until Connie Barker from the Hardware Store trotted up to me.
“How is little Sara doing?” she asked, hugging her arms around herself because she was wearing her usual blue cotton coveralls but no coat.
“We’re still waiting to hear when she can go to the special hospital for kids in Vancouver,” I said. “She’s resting a lot.”
“Well, you give your mom my best wishes, okay?”
She patted me on the shoulder and hurried back to her store.
Next door, the Sweet Apple CafĂ© was closed for renovations for two weeks. I could see a step-ladder, several cans of white paint, paint brushes and rollers inside. I could hear the rumble of men’s voices from the back but there was no sign of Roberto and no yummy smells of coffee and blueberry muffins floating down the street either.
Even though it was hardly even October, it was getting gloomy and dark already. When I looked up, I saw a towering grumpy-grey cloud smothering the sun. I heard a motor and a long black limo roared down Main Street. It didn’t even stop for the crosswalk where Heather Fox, with four dogs on leashes, was about to step out. I stared at it because we hardly ever have them in Silverado except for some weddings and last year’s grad parade but those were always white. I saw a man with sunglasses at the wheel and a woman with red and black hair and a high spotted fur collar in the passenger seat. She was talking and waving one red gloved hand while the other hand held a big cigar, like my Grandpa Andrews used to smoke.
Oh, it’s that Francie Oldham millionaire lady who bought the biggest, nicest house in Silverado this summer and then left after only two weeks. She drove her own big silver car then. Dad said it was a Cougar or Jaguar or something. Panther? Well, this is news, sort of…
The white fairy lights in the lilac hedge beside the Village Bookstore came on just as I was walking by. Ms. Elliott waved at me from the doorway. I waved back and wanted, for the hundredth time, to go in just to look at all the books. But Mom had warned me not to bother the bookstore people until I had money to spend. 
When our class went on a field trip to the bookstore, Mr. George and Ms. Elliott told us we were welcome to browse in their store anytime. They had an armchair where their white and orange cat slept, surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of wonderful new books. Lucky cat!
The bell in the steeple of the small white church was silent. There was one truck outside the bank and that was it for traffic. Main Street was only three blocks long. My dad often said, ‘You could fire a cannon down our Main Street and not harm a soul.’
          The wind was fierce with the sharp smell of snow in it from blowing across all the white-capped mountains. It tore straight through my old coat. Two icy drops of rain smacked my face and then I ran.
I ran past the Grubstake Grocery Store and the Antique Junque Store.
Chuck Mills pulled into his driveway with his green truck loaded down with firewood so I dodged around behind him. I ran as fast as I could past the two old buildings with peeling paint and their windows covered in brown paper. One used to be the Village Bakery and the other was once Faye’s Fashions. They both closed when the last silver mine shut down, when I was in grade one.          
At the corner of Main Street and Bosun Mine Avenue, I could see the maple leaves blowing in a big flurry of burgundy and flame red from the two huge trees beside our Community Hall. I could see that black limo parked in front of it too. Hmmm. Maybe Francie Oldham had a wedding or a funeral to organize. Everything happened at the Hall: the Seniors Suppers, musicals, plays, the Fall Fair, auctions, May Day teas, weddings, funerals, everything.