I chose Jan for Day 2 of my giveaway because I wanted to feature a debut Canadian author. I was happy Jan wanted to participate in this because her story is so compelling. This book is a memoir of Jan’s journey from adolescence to her forties. This is a fascinating story and it is told so honestly. As I say in my review the second aspect of the story that drew me in is that many of the locations mentioned in the book are near where I live so I had familiarity with them. I know I would have been fascinated by her story wherever it took place though. I originally corresponded with Jan right after finishing her book last winter and I was again impressed with how forthright she was. So here are some questions I had for her the other day. As you will see she is also very open in her answers here.
1. What made you decide to tell your story? Have you always wanted to write the book or did you decide to in the last few years?
I partly wanted to tell my story to end unhealthy cycles in my family. I especially did not want my daughter to end up making lunches for a logger. And I wanted my son to know that women are to be treated with respect. That meant they had to know my story. I’ve wanted to tell it ever since I got out of my first marriage about sixteen years ago. I was so stuck for so long I felt it was important to analyze and truly understand how I became unstuck so that’d I’d never get in that situation again.
2. You have had friendships or been an acquaintance of many well known people in the climbing community. What has been their reaction to the book and are you still in contact with them?
I’m in contact with most of them, yes. Some have been a bit chilly. Some just polite. Not everyone understands the impulse to tell a very personal story, especially when many of the people I’m writing about are still alive. Most have been very receptive though, the women especially.
3. After you got your teaching degree where did you go for your first teaching jobs?
I went right back to Golden to teach. It was always the plan. I went into the French Immersion stream knowing there was a better chance of getting a job in my home town that way. My community was there. I did a maternity leave right away full time for half a year, a grade 2/3 split, French Immersion. It was a bit like being dropped into a tank full of piranhas. I somehow survived and kept getting the same classroom back until I had a continuing contract, grade 3. It took about five years to feel like a good teacher and then a few years later I quit to write. I do still miss the kids.
4. You went on to further your education. Where did you go for further education?
I ended up getting more education at UBC to increase my education degree to five years to get on a higher pay scale as a teacher, but I ended up just subbing and tutoring, then going into writing. In 2013-15 I did my master’s in creative writing at UBC. Best educational decision I’ve made. It’s opened so many doors and increased my confidence as a writer. It was also a big step toward publishing my memoir.
5. Do you still climb?
Yes, and getting into it more and more. I’ve been mostly mountain biking the past few years but I keep injuring myself so I’m trying to tone it down on the technical downhill and do more climbing. It’s easier on the body. We have a Sprinter van now so we load it up with climbing gear and bikes and head south and alternate sports. They compliment each other well.
6. Do your children climb?
My son is a natural climber but never really got into it, but it is my daughter’s main passion. It’s her lifestyle. She teaches, paints landscapes, does yoga, and climbs. And she’s a very strong climber. Surpassed anything I’ve ever done quite some time ago. I’m very proud of her.
7. Would you change any of your decisions you made during your climbing years?
Yes, I would have stuck with climbing with women. I always climbed better, and was never tempted to give up the lead. I also wish I’d learned early on how to fall on lead safely. I ended up climbing to avoid a fall instead of climbing to climb. But it probably has something to do with where we climbed: loose terrifying limestone in the Rockies, like Yamnuska. It was much better NOT to fall.
8. I think this is a powerful book for woman to see what you accomplished under tough situations. Moving your children to the city and attending school as a single mother is a tough struggle. Have you heard from any women who have been inspired from your story?
I have heard from so many women. And surprisingly, so many men too. People I know have sent me beautiful emails, but also many strangers. Women with small children in the middle of divorce, people who feel the same fear and self-doubt climbing, people writing memoirs who are afraid of criticism. Anytime I feel too vulnerable with this story out in the world, I think of the effect my writing has had on people and I’m reminded why I had to publish, not just write.
9. Do you have any plans for more books?
Yes, too many plans for too many books. The most obvious one would be to do a coming-of-age memoir because I have eight childhood chapters that I took out of End of the Rope. But I’m not sure I’m ready to plunge into that just yet.
I think I’ll go into my ancestors’ pasts next. I’m writing about my matriline, in particular about my grandmother. My big question is Why do I climb mountains? I found a photo of my grandmother at age nineteen, a well-to-do daughter of a businessman from Westmount, Quebec, climbing in the Rockies. I started climbing at nineteen myself. The photos were taken in 1913 at the Alpine Club of Canada's general mountaineering camp at Berg Lake below Mount Robson. That was the time Conrad Kain did the first ascent of Robson, so this is big history. She must have met him. I have no idea why she was there, but the more I research her, and the women before her who came from Scotland, I see a I’ve inherited strengths from these women, not just dysfunctions. I’m hoping to create a story and connect a few dots. It’s a complicated project with many characters so it’ll be a challenge. I’m an avid genealogist though, so I can combine a few passions.
10. What are your plans for Canada Day?
Most likely I’ll go for a nice long mountain bike ride in the sun and be very aware of what a privilege it is to live beside the ocean in the mountains with trails taking off from my backyard.