Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Advice and a Burning Question

Gosh, here's some inspiring advice:

And here's the answer to that burning question:

As a famous celebrity, I get asked a number of the same questions all the time. “Which pet shop cut your hair?” is a common one. Or here’s another favourite: “What do you mean it’s my turn to pay for lunch, Art, I thought we were going dutch?” And third on my all time list is “Why do you always put Moose Jaw in your books?”

Well, I have 13 books and so far Moose Jaw is only mentioned in 5 of them. That’s not even 50% (see, I can do math). Moose Jaw does appear in Jolted -- in fact, most of the book is set in that lovely city. I do have a particular affinity for Moose Jaw. After all, I was born there (I actually grew up on a ranch in the Cypress Hills, and now live in Saskatoon, but that’s another story). So, I feel I owe the city something because it helped bring me into the world.

Another reason I use Moose Jaw for a setting is the name is funny -- right? I mean, Toronto, Calgary, Montreal -- not particularly funny names. Readers see Moose Jaw and they start to giggle. Everyone knows, generally, where Moose Jaw is. It’s somewhere “over there” or “up there” or “near the border.” And Moose Jaw has achieved a legendary status in the North American consciousness. I once was in New York and a librarian said, “I’m so pleased to meet you,” and I said, “Oh, really, why?” I must admit, I was posing with my best authorial face on, waiting for a wonderful compliment about my amazing prose or my scintillating plotting, but her next words were, “I’ve never met anyone from Moose Jaw before.” I was stunned. I shook her hand, of course (not bothering to explain that I was only born there and never actually lived in the city).

But that’s exactly when I realized the secret of using Moose Jaw in novels. The city itself never could make up its mind about where the name comes from. One story says the name is from a pioneer who used a moose’s jaw to fix his wagon wheel. Neat, eh? Or else it’s from the Cree word moosegaw: “warm breezes.” Apparently the breezes are warm there. Or it’s from the Native American word moosoochapiskanissippi which we all know means, “the river shaped like the jaw of a moose.” It doesn’t really matter where the name came from -- it’s magic.


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