Finding Inspiration at the Banff Mountain Book Festival

Considering the quantity of sold out events this year at the Banff Mountain Book Festival, I think it’s safe to say that it is no longer a best-kept secret, and no longer the ‘little sister’ to the Banff Mountain Film Festival. On a more personal note, the book festival has always been my favourite part of the festivals – not only because it offers a more intimate experience, but also because words are my medium of choice, the way I process information, my lifeline.

As a writer, the Banff Mountain Book Festival encourages me to dig deeper, to find the story really worth telling and to continue sharpening my skills so that perhaps one year it will be me up on that stage presenting my own book. But for now I’m content to learn from others, to absorb from a seat in the audience, and bring the stories of others to you.

I can’t recap the entire book festival, but the events today offered a particularly good mix of topics and styles. They also brought with them lessons we can apply to our own lives, which I’ll summarize here:

The Calling.Barry Blanchard kicked off the with the presentation of his book, The Calling: A Life Rocked by Mountains. I was familiar with his book, having reviewed it for The Campsite a few weeks ago, but it was refreshing to hear him reading his own words. In fact, the book read better aloud than it did in my head, and listening to Barry gave the stories new life and the audience an opportunity to laugh. It is clear the crowd – a home crowd for Barry – simply loves this man, and that spoke as loud as his words. One thing I learned from Barry, both through his climbing stories and his account of challenges writing the book, is the importance of perseverance. If you eventually want to see something in print, you need to work away at it, letter by letter, word by word.

Paddlenorth.Next, author Jennifer Kingsley presented her book, Paddlenorth – an account of a 54-day, 1100-kilometre journey she made with friends on the Baillie and Back Rivers in Nunavut. While she didn’t intend to write a book about the trip, the experience motivated her to do so. She didn’t reveal too much about her book (I’ll have to read it!), however a few things she said caught my attention. First, she made a comment about how modern travel allows you to get from one destination to another very quickly, but that does not mean that you have caught up emotionally and psychologically. This also ties into a comment she made about returning home from such a voyage: “This is the kind of trip that when I got home, it wouldn’t lie down,” she said. Having been on a few longer stints of travel, I can relate to both of these comments – to needing time to catch up to my destination and needing time to unravel the threads of the experience once I’m home.

Great Bear Wild.Finally, photographer, conservationist, and author of Great Bear Wild, Ian McAllister, took the stand. I was familiar with McAllister’s incredible photographs, just not the stories behind them. Walking the audience through the backstories of his images, McAllister conveyed a deeper understanding of these magnificent creatures. By explaining their contexts through human analogies, I could relate to the wildlife in a way I never had before. I appreciated these stories because these are the creatures and habitats (alongside First Nations communities) under threat due to the plans to build the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Through McAllister I learned that the Great Bear Rainforest is actually an area that is seeing regeneration and a resurgence of life. It would be a shame to see that compromised. Be sure to check out PacificWild.org for more information on what you can do about that.

The festival doesn’t wrap up until Sunday night, so be sure to check out the Banff Mountain Festivals to snag any remaining tickets.

Keep following along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for dispatches from the field!

Where Are the Women? Pretty Faces Teaser

Feature photo Top of the world, somewhere in Alaska. Photo by Scott Dickerson.

I have attended the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival each year since 2007, save for one year when I was trekking through Nepal. Being the biggest film fest of its kind in the world, the Banff Festival offers a good barometer on a variety of industries, mainly outdoor gear, adventure film, sponsored athletics and publishing. I know for a fact that despite the considerable presence of women in sports, including skiing, they are poorly represented in most of these industries. Ski and snowboard films may show a ‘token female’, but otherwise women are usually left out of the picture.

This is problematic for a number of reasons. It isn’t an accurate representation, for one. It also leaves young girls without positive female role models in the area of outdoor sports, which promotes healthy body image, good self-esteem, and a ‘can do’ attitude. Instead these girls are left flipping through magazines and observing the lives of celebrities as if their representation in the media is actually true. As the mother of a young daughter, I hope she grows up to be inspired by women in a variety of arenas. She doesn’t need to admire them – that can often lead to comparison and a feeling of inferiority – but I do hope she sees all the possibilities for her future.

Lynsey Dyer has created a ski film about women called Pretty Faces, produced by Unicorn Picnic, with the goal of inspiring “girls of all ages to pursue their dreams, walk the path less traveled, and reach their fullest potential, whatever path they choose” (a quote from their Kickstarter campaign). Their Kickstarter campaign also offers some interesting statistics. Despite women’s presence in about 40% of the skiing population and about 30% of adventure sports film viewership, only 14% of athletes in major ski films were female this past season. Of most interest to me, they also say that many girls drop out of sports around the age of 11-15 years. These young teen years are so vulnerable for girls, and if we can give them positive female role models to look up to, I hope they’ll be inspired to stay active and healthy through sports (whatever those sports may be).

I’ll admit I’m not a fan of the title of the film, Pretty Faces. I get it: it’s a play on words, describing the mountain faces these women are skiing. But take a good look at the teaser of the film and you’ll see a bunch of, well, pretty faces. Does it take good looks to also be successful in your industry or sport? Or to make it into a ski film? Do we need beauty to sell even the concept of women being capable and feeling empowered? Beauty is a powerful, wonderful thing. But I fear we’re walking down the same worn path if it is being used once again to sell an idea and give it legitimacy.

I’m of course pleased to see an all-women ski film on the film circuit, and I’m all for the goal of inspiring young girls. I hope it has the positive impact the producers are looking for. I hope it comes to the Banff Festival so that the crowd here can benefit from seeing more women represented. Finally, I hope the trend continues and that this is just the beginning.

For more information, head on over to Unicorn Picnic.

Check out the trailer here:

New Short Film: Eye of the Beholder

I have collaborated again with the Mountains in Motion team on another short film, Eye of the Beholder (a Staff Pick on Vimeo!). Featuring an array of scenes from the North American landscape, this short film encourages the viewer to shed previous conceptions and ideas about the world, and return to a place of wonderment and awe.

Shot on location in the High Sierra Nevada, Canadian Rockies and Southern Appalachians.

The film text was inspired by my five-month-old daughter, Mistaya, and the work of Eckhart Tolle in “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.”

Enjoy! (Press the four-way arrows to view fullscreen).

How To Create an Inspiring Workspace

Some days I sit down to work and I’m distracted by the piles of papers on my desk – invoices, notes from interviews, brochures from travels and Post-It notes of all colours. Books from a random array of topics have accumulated from research for various projects, leaving just enough room for my laptop. As a writer, I have to say that these kinds of distractions really affect my productivity and often send me to places like Starbucks, where I can work on a table that is clutter-free.

Inspired to make some changes, I called on the services of Margarita Ibbott of Downshifting: Professional Organizing Solutions in London, Ontario, to help me work my way out of my mess. Margarita gave me a virtual consultation and some tips to finding my desk again. After our call I set to work. Her tips turned out to be easy to follow and have proven to be completely sustainable. Weeks later, I am still enjoying a clean workspace.

Upon her recommendation, I also removed my wall calendar where I used to keep track of due dates (they are now in my Google Calendar). In its place I have put up some inspiring quotes, cards and photos – things to keep me focused and excited about life and my job.

You can read all about these improvements in my latest article, Calling the De-Clutter Therapist, on tujawellness.com.

Thanks Margarita!