VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS – Stories & Poems about Life in BC’s Interior

VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS  – Stories  & Poems about Life in BC’s Interior

Compiled & Edited by Jodie Renner

$18.95 CAD

All net proceeds go to DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS Canada (MSF)

Available in independent bookstores in BC, from Salmon Arm through the Okanagan to Osoyoos and Keremeos. Wholesale from Red Tuque Books and Cobalt Books. info@CobaltBooks.net.

To go to a PDF with excerpts from Voices from the Valleys, click: VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS – EXCERPTS

Contributors, in alphabetical order by last name:

John Arendt, Howard Baker, Michelle Barker, Della Barrett, Clayton Campbell, Fern G.Z. Carr, Virginia Carraway Stark, Danell Clay, Linda Crosfield, Debra Crow, Shirley Bigelow DeKelver, Keith Dixon, Elaine Durst, Bernie Fandrich, Beverly Fox, R.M. Greenaway, Sterling Haynes, Dianne Hildebrand, Norma J. Hill, Eileen Hopkins, Yasmin John-Thorpe, Chris Kempling, Denise King, Linda Kirbyson, Virginia Laveau, Loreena M. Lee, Denise Little, Alan Longworth, Ken Ludwig, Jeanine Manji, Katie Marti, Kate McDonough, Herb Moore, Janice Notland, Sylvia Olson, James Osborne, Vic Parsons, L.M. Patrick, William S. Peckham, Anita Perry, Seth Raymond, Jodie Renner, Seanah Roper, Ron B. Saunders, Paul Seesequasis, Wendy Squire, Kristina Stanley, Tony Stark, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, Mahada Thomas, Ross Urquhart

Cover photograph and interior photos by Murphy Shewchuk. Additional photos by Mike Biden and others. Drawings by various contributors.

This high-quality anthology features entertaining short stories, fascinating memoirs, and thought-provoking poetry by 51 talented BC writers, depicting experiences, real and fictional, in every region of the interior of British Columbia, Canada, from the ’50s to today.

Peruse the pages and you’ll find stories about challenging experiences in remote areas, encounters with BC’s deer, bears, moose, wolves, eagles, and other wildlife; harrowing experiences with forest fires, exciting adventures such as white-water rafting, humorous people-watching stories, touching memoirs, stories about relationships, and funny-only-in-hindsight true stories.

If you enjoy reading short memoirs and other creative nonfiction, you’ll find stories about: life as a young boy in a remote coal-mining town, a community tragedy involving a young boy, a close call of a family snowmobiling on an ice-covered lake, two frightening run-ins with angry moose and others with grizzly bears, the resourcefulness and ingenuity of a settler and farmer, the efforts of determined isolated ranchers to build a road to civilization, struggles of a doctor in the 50s and 60s in the Chilcotin, and various experiences with nature.

If you like immersing yourself in compelling fiction, you’ll enjoy reading about a family’s harrowing escape from a forest fire, coming-of-age stories, sassy and humorous fictional stories, romance involving “snowbirds,” a family intervention and rescue of a troubled brother, a 40s remote ranching story, a story about remote wives in the 70s, and more.

You’ll find beautiful, thought-provoking poetry about early ranching life, rock climbing, a beloved motorcycle, the loss of orchards, prospecting, experiences with forest fires, encounters with wildlife, and special moments with loved ones and in nature, from various regions in BC.

Drawings and colour photos of various regions of BC enhance this high-quality memoir.

All net proceeds from sales go to Doctors Without Borders Canada (Médecins Sans Frontières), www.msf.ca.

Published by Cobalt Books, Penticton, BC, 2015, ISBN 978-0-993700439

Released in e-book form Nov. 15, 2015 on all Amazon sites. Amazon.com: $3.65 USD; $4.86 CAD. Find it here on Amazon.ca.

Available in trade paperback in late November 2015 from Amazon, Cobalt Books, Red Tuque Books, and elsewhere. $16.95 USD, $18.95 CAD.

www.CobaltBooks.net; info@CobaltBooks.net; 250-493-6838

Published by Cobalt Books, Penticton, and organized and edited by Jodie Renner, editor and award-winning author.

To go to a PDF with excerpts from Voices from the Valleys, click: VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS – EXCERPTS

TO PURCHASE BOOKS: For information on where and how to purchase any of Jodie Renner’s books, please visit Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, or Red Tuque Books, or email info@JodieRenner.com or info@CobaltBooks.net.





~ Deirdre Hunting Season – fiction © Kristina Stanley

~ Swirl of Finches – poem © Janice Notland

~ Dragonflies and the Great Blue Heron – creative nonfiction © James Osborne

~ Fences – poem © Linda Crosfield

~ Keene Hill – fiction © R.M. Greenaway

~ The Look of Cold – poem © Janice Notland

~ Seth’s Goodbyes – memoir vignettes © Seth Raymond

~ When Talking Ends – poem © Linda Crosfield

~ Night Noise – poem © Janice Notland


South Okanagan – Similkameen Valleys (Penticton, Summerland, Oliver, Okanagan Falls, Osoyoos, Keremeos, etc.): 

~ A Life Reclaimed – fiction © Della Barrett

~ Similkameen Valley Memories – memoir © Debra Crow

~ Whiskey Jack and the Lone Miner – poem © Della Barrett

~ Snowbird Melting – fiction © Eileen Hopkins

~ Standing Rock, Similkameen – poem © Della Barrett

~ Cornered in the Orchard – fiction © L.M. Patrick

~ Okanagan Raven – poem © Paul Seesequasis

~ One Hundred and Sixty Acres – memoir © Virginia Laveau

~ Elegy for the Orchard – poem © Michelle Barker

~ Naramata Cycle of Life – fiction © Ron B. Saunders

~ Log Cabin above Penticton – poem © Norma Hill

~ Ramblings of an Old, Old Soul – musings © Mahada Thomas

~ Quails in the Garden – nonfiction © Yasmin John-Thorpe

~ Providence Crematorium – poem © Michelle Barker

~ Risking it All – fiction © Linda Kirbyson

Central and North Okanagan Valleys, Shuswap (Peachland, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Vernon, Salmon Arm, etc.):

~ Return to Sender – poem © Fern G.Z. Carr

~ Firestorm – short fiction © William S. Peckham

~ Forest Fire (Kelowna 2013) – poem © Fern G.Z. Carr

~ The Chokerman – memoir © Denise King

~ Oh Deer – poem © Fern G.Z. Carr

~ The Salmon Run – nonfiction © Sylvia Olson

~ Myra Canyon – poem © Fern G.Z. Carr

~ Sweet Dreams – fiction © Cheryl Kaye Tardif

~ Visitors to Our New Suburban Lot –poem © Dianne Hildebrand

~ Nature’s Precious Gift – nonfiction © Shirley Bigelow DeKelver


~ Snowy Day in the Saddle on the Thompson-Fraser Divide – memoir © Ross Urquhart

~ Nicola Wind Surfers – poem © Howard Baker

~ The Silence of the Forest – nonfiction © Keith Dixon

~ ’53 Indian – poem © Chris Kempling

~ Captivated by Whitewater Rafting – nonfiction © Bernie Fandrich


~ The Blockade – fiction © John Arendt

~ Snowstorm on Jackass Mountain – memoir © Loreena Lee

~ A Child Gone Missing – creative nonfiction © Jodie Renner

~ High-Grade Gold in Honeymoon Hollow – memoir © Clayton Campbell


100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Anahim Lake, Quesnel area:

~ Cabin Fever – fiction © Herb Moore

~ Chilled in Chilcotin – poem © Alan Longworth

~ The Freedom Road – historical nonfiction © Sterling Haynes

~ Bella Coola Bureaucrat – creative nonfiction © Ken Ludwig

~ The Grizzly Bear Whisperer – creative nonfiction © Kate McDonough

~ Chilcotin Crash – creative nonfiction (memoir) © Sterling Haynes

~ Last Little Night Music – creative nonfiction © Ken Ludwig

~ Driving South from Prince George – poem © Dianne Hildebrand

~ Agreement at Beaver Creek – fiction © Anita Perry

~ Wedding Crasher Cougar – creative nonfiction © Chris Kempling

~ The Cache ­– poem © Elaine Durst

~ True North Strong – fiction © Katie Marti


Prince George, Houston, Smithers, Terrace, Hazelton areas:

~ Big City Hunter – creative nonfiction © Denise Little

~ A Snowball’s Chance – fiction © Jeanine Manji

~ Tangle with an Angry Moose – fiction © Danell Clay

~ Close Call on an Icy Northern Lake – memoir © Wendy Squire

~ The Grizzly’s Claws – creative nonfiction © Tony Stark

~ McBride Lake – poem © Vic Parsons

~ Wolverine – memoir © Virginia Carraway Stark

~ Bear Lake Logging Camp – creative nonfiction © Beverly Fox

Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Alaska Highway area:

~ One Smart Moose – creative nonfiction © Virginia Carraway

~ The Fire’s Path – poem © Seanah Roper


“When I sat down to review Voices from the Valleys, I was prepared to be entertained. Instead I was enthralled with a lively range of fiction and non-fiction stories and poems about towns and valleys and characters that rang so true to my own experiences, growing up in, and returning as an adult to my hometown of Lillooet and Southern British Columbia. This anthology belongs on the bookshelves of anyone fascinated by the history, colour, and texture of rural BC. Supplemented with amazing photographs and sketches, the authors have brought my favourite places to life.”

Christ’l Roshard, former mayor of Lillooet, former editor of Bridge River – Lillooet News

Voices from the Valleys reflects the uniqueness, diversity and cultural richness that exists in BC’s interior. This wonderful collection of stories and poems is a treat for anyone.”

Gary Doi, former school superintendent and creator of the Inspiring Hope book series

“What truly captures the unique beauty of a region are the people who live there. Voices from the Valleys, a creative and special collection from passionate and talented authors, is a delightful read.”

Dan Albas, MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola

“A visual artist might use canvas, oil, or watercolour to capture the tones and textures of our vivid interior valleys. My delight with Voices from the Valleys is the spirit and emotion of our regions’ stories expressed in the words of poets and authors: art in a written form. A wonderful and moving read.”

Craig Henderson, Naramata author, historian and broadcaster

“Congratulations to Jodie Renner for bringing together such a stimulating collection of writing in Voices from the Valleys! This collective literary project showcases the diversity of BC experiences through a delightful variety of expressions.”

Jane Shaak, Executive Director, Shatford Centre, Penticton, BC

“Written by some of British Columbia’s finest writers, Voices from the Valleys is a delightful collection of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Well worth picking up and hard to put down, many of the stories slide the reader into the unique and beautiful geography of BC’s Interior. Though many of the topics are familiar, the skillful writing makes them new and intriguing.”

Coco Aders-Weremczuk, President, Federation of BC Writers

Voices of the Valleys is an absolute treasure, a tapestry of talent. I have always known the Shuswap Okanagan was a treasure trove of gifted writers. Jodie Renner has now provided the showcase proving this to be true. I found the variety of writing to be energizing and a delight to read.”

Kay Johnston, President of The Shuswap Association of Writers, Chair of Word on the Lake Writers’ Festival, author of the best-seller Spirit of Powwow

Voices from the Valleys is a thoroughly captivating collection of stories and poetry. I found myself travelling through time and places, experiencing the authors’ amusement, surprise, wisdom, and delight along the way.”

Connie Denesiuk, former president of the B.C. School Trustees Association and director of the Canadian School Board Association

“The level of skill in these writers is par to bestselling authors. Well worth a cuddle-up in a comfy chair for an evening of reading. Thank you to all of the authors who took the time to entertain, teach, and engage their audience.”

Janice Perrino, executive director of the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation


To go to a PDF with excerpts from Voices from the Valleys, click VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS – EXCERPTS

Excerpt from

KEENE HILL, fiction by RM Greenaway

Clare recalls the whispers and wails of the nonstop wind that summer. The heavens would rumble days on end over the East Kootenays, but rarely unleash into a full-on storm. The rain came down in spatters, warm as tears, but evaporated on impact. From the back porch of her house on Keene Hill, the skies and fields spread out south to north. She can remember standing uneasy and depressed, watching purple clouds bunch up in the west, heavy and slow one day, the next day steamrolling fast toward the Purcells. Mostly she recalled the omens.

The animals that roamed Keene Hill delivered signs of their own that summer, and had she paid heed, she’d have picked up and left. But she would also have lost, in the end. That’s the way of fate-twists.

The grasshoppers tried to warn her. They were thick in the grasses that summer, and loud like castanets, and when they took flight they seemed to aim for the face like hard, leggy pea-shot. There was also the black horse that broke into the fenced five acres where Clare and Eric’s rental house sat, and went charging about in the June dusk till it broke out again, a horse she’d never seen before or since.

And the deer. Before the omens began, she’d take her coffee outside at about five in the morning to watch them graze their way past, till finally they would leap with fantastic grace over the fence, one by one, and wander off into the mist. In a normal year the deer would ignore her, and scatter if she so much as shifted her cup from one hand to the other, but that summer of signs they stood poised on the western boundary, staring toward her even when she lost nerve and cried at them to take off.

The signs got so bad she no longer went outside in the morning, but took to staying inside and turning on the TV instead. […]

See Voices from the Valleys for the rest of this story.

* * *



“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night

stays these couriers from the swift completion

of their appointed rounds.”

Post Office Motto


No snow, no rain, no heat, no gloom of night –

just good old-fashioned sunshine enveloped

the mail truck as it dog-ged-ly

grappled its way to the summit

passing conifers and homes nudged

slightly askew by their mountain host

on a glorious Okanagan morning –

flowers a-bloomin’ and birds a-tweetin’.


The postmistress steered her van with one hand

while she sorted mail with the other,

experienced eyes darting back and forth –

road, mail, road, mail, road, mail

until the road got lost in the mail

and she found herself being returned to sender,

truck plummeting into the azure lake below.

A splash. Silence. Eternity….


Now she is but an anecdote stamped into memory –

local folklore shared with tourists on lazy summer days.


For more poetry by Fern G.Z. Carr, see Voices from the Valleys. 

* * *

Excerpt from the middle of FIRESTORM, fiction by William S. Peckham

A blinding flash of white light lit up the yard. A bolt of lightning split the old elm tree in the yard, sending it hurtling down onto the barn.

“Omigod!” Annie screamed.

A crash of ear-splitting thunder announced the onslaught of a devastating storm. Dry leaves on the old elm tree began to smolder, then burst into flames. Fanned by the heavy winds, they soon engulfed the roof of the barn.

“Tara!” Annie started for the cabin.

Carl ran after her and grabbed her by the shoulders.

“Hold it, Annie. I’ll go to the cabin. You call 911,” Carl shouted above the roar of the storm. “Tommy, you get the hose from the shed.”

Another flash of blinding white light, and the tinder-dry pine needles and cones on the slope above the house erupted into a line of yellow-red flames and licked voraciously at the edge of the clearing.

Tommy turned the hose on; water just dribbled out.

“Forget the hose. Go get your mother,” Carl called frantically. “I’m headed for the cabin.”

Carl faced the wind-fed flames alone. The ever-building inferno crept up the slope towards the cabin.

I’ve gotta get to the cabin before the flames. “Tara, I’m coming!” he bellowed.

He charged towards the all-consuming flames. Terror ripped at his heart; the adrenaline surged through his body. Carl grabbed a shovel and beat his way into the spreading flames. Smoke and searing heat tore at his lungs as ashes and pieces of burning tree limbs crashed around him. He plunged on, blindly scraping his shins on logs and rocks. Blood trickled down his legs.

“She’s gotta be in the cabin. Lord, please help me save my baby,” Carl implored of the God he worshiped every day.

His powerful shoulder shattered the flimsy panels of the cabin door. It flew open with an ear-splitting crash–door, frame and trim flying everywhere.

“Tara! Tara!” Carl screamed above the thunder of the all-consuming flames outside.

“Daddy,” a frightened little voice whimpered.

She’s alive! Thank God.

Tara was huddled in the corner of the cabin, arms around herself, her eyes wide with terror. Carl snatched her up and charged out the doorway just as a flaming pine tree hit the roof. A flood of flame covered the grass and candled to the top of the trees. The way to the bottom of the slope was blocked.

For the first time, Carl felt death lapping at his heels.

“There’s gotta be a way down. There’s just gotta be!” he screamed.

With his daughter held tightly in his arms, racing against time, Carl headed for the all-consuming wall of fire. A tree crashed down, opening up a path, and he stumbled through it. As he charged down the slope, he stubbed his toes on sharp rocks and burned his hands on red-hot branches. They both coughed and choked on the smoke.

Carl stumbled through the swirling wall of smoke into the yard, Tara clutched tightly in his arms.

Annie was waiting for them. “Tara, Tara my baby! Are you all right? she screamed. Hot tears ran like rivers down her blackened soot-smudged face. “Tommy, get the hose.” …

For the rest of this short story, see Voices from the Valleys