BC Book Prize author tours through valley

The prized story about a racehorse overcoming an incredible obstacle course has galloped into the limelight.

The prized story about a racehorse overcoming an incredible obstacle course has galloped into the limelight.

BC Book Prizes author Kevin Chong was a nominee for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize for his book Northern Dancer: The Legendary Horse that Inspired a Nation. As part of the BC Book Prizes On Tour, he travelled through the southern leg of BC between April 20th and 24th, during which time he met with students in Invermere.

Chong offered a private reading of the tale to students at David Thompson Secondary School and JA Laird Elementary on April 22nd.

“We had an enthusiastic bunch,” said Chong. “Invermere is my sixth stop so far, and it’s definitely one of the highlights because sometimes we get groups where people are fidgeting with their phones and talking, but I don’t think that happened with this group. I really appreciate it because it’s hard to be a teenager and pay attention to somebody talking about something that happened a really long time ago.”

‘Northern Dancer: The Legendary Horse that Inspired a Nation’ is a historical book featuring an undersized horse becoming a success story.

“It’s about an underdog,” said Chong. “I teach creative writing at UBC in Vancouver and I like talking to students who would like to study creative writing; or to go to UBC and let them know it’s an option for them even though Vancouver sometimes feels very, very far away.”

Chong visited students in Hope Merritt, Sicamous, Revelstoke, Golden, Cranbrook, Kimberley, Creston and Castlegar during the nomination period.

“I think it’s great when students can be exposed to different experiences and different people,” said Chong. “It helps them learn and grow.”

The hardest part of pursuing a passion, he added, is making the time to write.

“We have to overcome our own insecurities and our own laziness,” he added. “And the daunting blank page or blank screen because writing is a great experience. Dorothy Parker once said, ‘I like having written,’ which means she likes to put a book out and labour over it, but she doesn’t like the work of writing — but I actually like the work of writing. It’s just a matter of finding the time to do it.”

BC Book Prizes author Heather Tekavec was nominated for the Christine Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize for her book, Stop, Thief! visited Eileen Madson Primary School to offer students a private reading of her book during the nomination period.

The duo travelled together for the tour, but split up the responsibility of readings.

“I’ve been going to a lot of the high schools and it’s pretty interesting to see all of the different communities,” explained Chong. “There are a lot of places that I’ve driven through on a cross-Canada trip in 2014… in other communities, I’ve spent zero time, so it’s nice to actually meet people from some of these communities and learn a little bit about them.”

He was impressed by the Kootenay Culture, as he delved deeper into the culturally vibrant region on the book tour.

“It’s my first trip to Invermere,” Chong said, with a smile creeping across his cheeks. “I’ve only been to the school and we went for a lunch at a grill across the street from the Toby Theatre.”

He was curious to know what the theatre’s fate would hold in light of the signage to marks its closure in 2014.

“It has the sign saying it closed, but what are they doing with it and why is it still lingering around there,” he queried. “The downtown stretch is really cute and it’s really nice to see how vibrant all of these (communities) in southeastern B.C. are… People here are very active and engaged with the natural world.”