Monday, October 18, 2010

Ahhh... I am back in Quesnel and back to tranquility

Saw the Vancouver Opera production of Lillian Alling on Saturday night. I must say I identify with the Irene MacDonald character: having a yearning for the wilderness and a wariness of the city.

I did have a nice time in Vancouver, but once I reached the sage-covered hills of the Cache Creek/Ashcroft area, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was back home in the Cariboo.

I left the Sylvia Hotel at 7 am, and arrived home at 4 pm. A long drive, but at least it was warm and sunny. I always overlay a huge historical map on top of the territory I'm driving through. I love looking for physical remnants of the past. I was thinking of Jean Caux, Cataline. He was first headquartered in Yale, circa 1858, then when Ashcroft got connected to the railway in the late 1880s, Cataline moved his headquarters to there. But he was all over the whole of the Cariboo and up north, too. I had a good time at VPL looking at the old newspapers and magazines. Next year, I'll visit his old trading and wintering spots and take some photos and soak in the atmosphere. I'm so intrigued by him.

I'll be back at the Lillian Alling writing in a few days (I need to go to PG tomorrow to pick up a van).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beautiful day in Vancouver

It's sunny and warm in Vancouver. I am staying at The Sylvia Hotel, which is fabulous... a heritage building right on the beach  in the West End.

Spent the afternoon at Vancouver Public Library, doing a bit of background research for a future project on the esteemed packer Jean Caux (also known as Cataline).

I am homesick for Quesnel and looking forward to getting home. I'm also looking forward to finishing my book on Lillian Alling, and sending it off to the publisher.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Website Stats

I should mention that my website is getting double the hits this month compared to last month. This is due to the Vancouver Opera production of Lillian Alling, so that's very cool. Thanks, Vancouver Opera!

My website:

What do we know about Lillian Alling's time in British Columbia and Yukon? Quite a lot, actually

My book's focus is about Lillian Alling's time in British Columbia and Yukon. From both primary documents and secondary sources, we can begin to built quite an interesting picture of both her personality and how she spent her time.

Yes, Lillian's origins are mysterious, but doesn't that make it all the more interesting? Not everything in this Google-world has a ready-made answer or an easy conclusion.

After all, aren't all the world's great mysteries great just because they remain mysteries? Oak Island and the Money Pit, for example. For a great example of how some mysteries remain unsolved, check out William Shatner's "Weird or What" show. They solve some mysteries, but others remain (duh) MYSTERIES.

Lillian Alling was known as "the mystery woman" during her time in British Columbia and Yukon. While I've been able to dig out some great anecdotes about her time in Canada, her life before and after that is shadowy. Will we eventually be able to illuminate those shadows? Maybe. Maybe not.

For an article in the Globe and Mail about the Lillian Alling book, click here:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

So many chapters before I can go to the opera

I am finally beginning to enjoy the process of getting the chapters ready. Dividing the massive chapters into smaller, more focused chunks has really helped. I've been so lucky to have some wonderful friends help me with editing. I sent the same three chapters off to three different people, and am getting their comments back now. It's helpful beyond measure. I am so fogged in by my own writing, I need someone else to give feedback.

It's also very encouraging to get back the comments and corrections and suggestions, because not only do I feel happy that my friends are helping me, it also makes me feel just that little bit more closer to THE END as we know it.

I want to get as much done and sent off before I head down to Vancouver to see the Lillian Alling opera on 16 October. That way, I can enjoy someone else's interpretation of the Lillian Alling story, rather than feeling guilty for not having completed MY version of Lillian Alling's journey.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Wires in the Wilderness" by Bill Miller

I'm just re-reading certain parts of this book, and remembering again how much I loved the history of the Telegraph Trail. If you've never read 'Wires in the Wildnerness' which is about the Yukon Telegraph in Canada, you should. It's well-researched, well-written and great old photos.

It gives insight into an era of British Columbia's history that is now mostly forgotten.

He has two chapters on numerous people who walked the Telegraph Trail from Hazelton to various places up north in British Columbia and the Yukon. Lillian Alling is one of those people.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The heritage of the Telegraph Trail

The Regional District of kitimat-Stikine has a wonderful page on their website about the Telegraph Trail. There is historical background, plus some great photographs. Here is the link:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Interest in Lillian Alling from researchers in Belarus

I found an excellent website/forum last week.
There is a lively discussion about Lillian Alling and about other adventurers/travellers of the 1920s and 1930s.
To go directly to the page that discusses Lillian, go to:;action=display;threadid=20820

and scroll down to the bottom of the page for the latest entries.
The site is written in Russian, but can easily be translated using Google language tools.
Thanks to Aliaksandr for the great information and conversation via email, and for the link to his site.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Storytelling is like a puzzle

"I see storytelling like a puzzle: you arrange details for people until you get them in just the right order." - Malcolm Gladwell

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Looking forward to Lillian Alling, the Opera

I am quite excited about Lillian Alling, the Opera, which is being put on by Vancouver Opera. My book will be off to the publishers by then, and it'll be nice to see how someone else interprets Lillian.
And, although Lillian wasn't exactly a Canadian so to speak, I feel she embodies a great Canadian spirit or energy.
I've heard some of the Lillian Alling opera's music, and it sounds wonderful.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Writing and thinking

My mind is whirling, and my fingers are pounding the keys. I've kept up the pace of 1,000 words (or more) per weekday, but have also started doing more organizing and a bit more reading and research. It seems I cannot just write. I can't separate what I'm writing from what I still need to know. As I write, I am constantly adding notes to myself on items to follow up on, books to order, points of history to check.

I feel this symbiotic approach to be working well, with a few more clues learned, and my mind connecting the dots. I feel I am getting a better understanding of Lillian's motives, and the more I write, the more I learn.

Lillian Alling was not just a wonder because of how far she walked, though that certainly was a unique achievement. It was how determined she was to follow through on her decision that has made the biggest impression on me. DDid she never get discouraged or sad? Each day I look forward to getting up and working on this book. Though I will be very happy when it's finished and published, I will be sad when it's over because I will miss Lillian Alling and how she and I met each day to follow her journey.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Walking Across Canada, again

I was working on the Walking Across Canada chapter again today. Lillian Alling walked more than 4,000 miles from New York to Alaska, and the majority of that walk was through Canada. Though her time in British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska is fairly well-documented, her time through the rest of Canada is not. Yet with a few interesting clues, and some historical knowledge, we can get a pretty good picture of what her time walking across Canada would have been like. I'm loving writing this chapter, because it allows me to ask myself questions about Lillian's journey, and to learn more about my own country and its history. Wrote 1,010 words today, and looking forward to doing more on this chapter tomorrow.

I also enjoyed tidying up my To Do file, which fell on the floor, emptied itself, and disgracefully collected dustballs from behind the filing cabinet.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

walking across Canada

I am now working on the "Walking Across Canada" chapter in my book about Lillian Alling. I wrote 1,000+ words today trying to figure out her route, the timing and her motivation. I have few clues, but I hope that my speculations will provide enough food for thought for the readers. Lots more to think about and write on this chapter.

It is my hope that once my book is published, and read by thousands (?) of people, some of those people will contact me with their ideas and thoughts on how we can continue to search for Lillian Alling, and conclude the story in either a revised version of the book, or at least a Volume II.

Plugging away

Finished the draft of one chapter, it's 18 pages. Is that too long? I'm sure it needs a drastic amount of editing. And I'm sure there are gaps in the information. However, I'm pleased with the fact that it's done for now, and I'll look forward to editing it next week.

I've sorted all my loose research papers into their respective chapter files, and am in the process of dividing the gigantic British Columbia file into the years of 1927 and 1928.

I'm writing about Lillian Alling's arrest now, and will finish that tomorrow.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A new year, a new energy

The writing is going well. I did another 1,000+ words today on the BC 1928 chapters, and did a whole bunch of organizing and moving things around.

I read over my synopsis. I am liking it. I need to get a few people to look at it with a critical eye.

I was re-reading some references to Lillian Alling in an old newspaper. Seems like where ever she went, she made a lasting impression.

Here's hoping the book will do her justice.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A tricky chapter almost finished

I had a great day of writing today. Wrote 2,000 + words (ok 2,217 to be accurate) and resolved a tricky problem in a chapter. Sometimes explaining why Lillian did things is a bit like putting words into someone's mouth. I mean, it did happen more than 80 years ago, so I do have to speculate about some things, but I always want to give as many possibilities as I can, so the reader can pick and choose which one they think is best.

Sometimes the evidence of Lillian's trail is so strong and so concrete, there is no need for multiple possibilities or speculations. But other times, she simply "arrives" at a place in time (backed up by historical evidence, I mean) and I need to fill in the gaps.

Lillian Alling, the search for the lost legend.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Going rogue - Lillian Alling full-time all the time

Now that I'm gainfully unemployed (having left my editing job) I will have a bit more time to write. I'm setting aside time per day, and making sure I get a certain amount of words done per day. Plus, I'll edit each day, as well, on paper.

One thing I'm wrestling with right now is I have so much information, so I want to get it all in. But putting EVERYTHING in would not only be boring, the book would be too long. So I'm having to self-edit as I go.

Another tricky thing, is that there are so many unaswered questions about Lillian Alling. Where did she come from? What really happened to her? I don't want to fictionalize, but I am going to have to make some speculative, educated guesses. I also think that some of the questions could be answered with more research, but I won't be doing any more in-depth research until the publisher has received the first batch of chapters.