The Charles Camsell Indian Hospital: From Haunting to Understanding

I was walking around my new neighbourhood here in Houston, Texas, and all the pumpkins, witches and ghosts decorating homes got me thinking about the Charles Camsell Hospital and how far we’ve come.

In 2014, when I first started researching the Camsell in earnest, most news stories and internet hits talked about its status as a haunted building. There were “Top 10 Edmonton Haunted Sites” lists and shivery stories about breaking in after dark. But, as I’ve been learning, urban legends keep knowledge shallow. They keep us from looking into the complex nature of places and experiences, and the roles we play in them.

To read the full post on my Ghosts of Camsell site, please go to


City Hall School – Citizenship Fair 2014

I hadn’t heard of Edmonton’s City Hall School program until instructor and coordinator Linda Hut contacted me this spring. Now I’m a huge fan – especially after getting to take part in a session earlier this month. On Friday, June 13, I got to attend the wrap-up event and was inspired by the student reps and all the kids (and grownups) who came out to mark their achievements this year. Here are a few photos from the celebration!





Mayor Iveson gave a great speech in his “casual Friday” best, and acknowledged that City Hall School classes were his place to get centred during the early days of his mayoralty.


School Trustee for Ward H, Nathan Ip, got my attention when he mentioned there are 87,000 kids in Edmonton’s schools – and that the school system has a budget of $1 billion annually!


Instructor and coordinator Linda Hut, who was recognized for her hard work with this lovely (surprise) bouquet of flowers.


World War II veteran Maurice White and his wife, Elsie, came to the festivities. Maurice is an active volunteer with City Hall School when they come visit the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum at the Prince of Wales Armouries.



Named to Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40

I am incredibly honoured to be included in Avenue Edmonton Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 for 2012! This past Thursday, they hosted an event at MKT on Whyte Avenue to launch the issue. Standing in line waiting for my name to be called, I got chatting with the women on either side of me alphabetically. I was blown away: here I was, making small talk with a highly successful cancer research fundraiser and a neuro-surgeon. The rest of the “Class of 2012” includes community organizers, artists, chefs, entrepreneurs (including one of my good friends, Dana DiTomaso), and academics.

What a thrill! And what pressure to continue earning my right to be counted among them…


Here’s the link to a quick video they did of the event. And the picture was taken by amazing Edmonton-based photographer Aaron Pedersen.

Alberta Votes 2012

Election season is upon us here in Alberta, and as this is my first provincial election as an Albertan, I am paying particular attention to the platforms and candidates. The parties have staked their lawn signs and their members are putting the word out, but it can still be difficult to track messages, policies, and make a final decision come election day on April 23rd.

Here are a few resources I’ve found useful generally, but also specifically for writers and others engaged in the ‘arts economy’ here in the Sunshine Province:

Regardless of how you choose to vote, I just hope you’ll take the time to do so. Apparently the turnout at the last provincial election was an abysmal 40%… If you can do it with as much awareness as possible, all the better!

Mill Woods Artists Collective: Building Community Through Art

In November 2011, a new arts initiative in Edmonton’s SouthEast was born: the Mill Woods Artists Collective.

Jannie Edwards

Canadian Authors Association writer-in-residence and poet, Jannie Edwards, and poet/hip hopper/NDP candidate Rod Loyola (also known as Rosouljah) began organizing monthly meetings to connect artists of all genres, get new projects off the ground, and contribute to the local community.

I’ve been involved with this as much as possible given my other work and life commitments, and am excited about the projects and events that are underway (or upcoming). Right now the main project is being headed up by historian Catherine Cole and video/theatre producer Don Bouzek. They are  collecting the stories of the people and the vision of this community—from the aboriginal presence on this land , to the unique urban plan of the early 1970s, to the waves of immigration that give Mill Woods its sense of vibrant diversity. The first phase of this work will be a six-panel exhibit to be launched at the Mill Woods Canada Day celebrations. The exhibit will then travel around the community to schools and community leagues.

Rod Loyola

Other upcoming events include:

  • Artists Cabaret to be held June 1st at the Southwood Community Hall
  • Public art creation
  • Monthly coffee houses

If you live or work in Mill Woods and are a creative person at any stage of your “artistic journey” (i.e. enthusiasts to professionals are welcome!), please email You can also ‘like’ our Facebook page!

Making Aviation History Sexy: The 2011 CAHS Conference

Aviation history – indeed history in general – is often seen as a little dull by the general public. While there are those who love lists of dates, facts, and might even have a footnote fetish like I do, most people do not. I think most of us do like humour, gripping stories, and special events that highlight the adventure and romance of of bygone eras.

Me with Alberta Aviation Museum exec director, Tom Hinderks, leaning on their 5/8 scale Hurricane

So this is what I focused on for the 2011 Canadian Aviation Historical Society Convention, and why I was excited to partner up with the Alberta Aviation Museum for their swing dance, bush pilot dinner, and AirFest.

CAHS Convention-goers checking out the aircraft at AirFest (Photo: Richard Goette)

Here’s some more photographic proof that aviation history can be a ripping good time (for more, please check out the photo gallery at!

Convention attendees joined forces with the Alberta Aviation Museum’s volunteers for a bush pilot dinner – no cold beans in a can for us, though…. (photo: John Chalmers)

Who doesn’t like playing dress-up?! (Photo: John Chalmers)

…or shooting down the enemy from the mid-upper turret of a Lancaster movie mock-up on loan from Bomber Command Museum?

…or getting to shoot the breeze with visitors to AirFest (and getting to eat delicious treats from Enjoy Cupcakes, set up next to us!)?

Snowpocalypse 2: Return of the Blizzard

This week has seen a steady stream of cold temps (by southern Canadian standards, my Yukon friends keep reminding me) and snow. For the most part it’s just been a few centimetre here and there, then yesterday it decided to dump on us. Again.

This morning I woke up to at least another 10 cm and the snow is still falling. As the one who works from home, the shovelling has largely fallen to me (except for Saturday when Doug did it and a snowblower-bearing neighbour came to help him. Lucky!). The shovelling has become particularly onerous since I now have to propel it over four-foot high embankments, or carry it several feet in either direction to dump. We’re simply running out of room!

So far the roof is holding, but much more and rooftop snow removal companies are going to be in major demand around the city. If they can reach the houses, that is: our cul-de-sac still hasn’t been plowed since the initial storm, making it nearly impossible for anything but the most rugged of SUVs and pickup trucks. The Mini Cooper has certainly been garage-bound for the week…

Now we come to a great Canadian game called “name that snowdrift!” If you can tell what’s under those blobs of snow by Riker in the photos below you will win the grand prize – a trip to Cuba via the U.S. of A.*

*This is obviously a joke… but I’d still love to know what you think is buried under all that snow!

Snowpocalypse 2011: Edmonton Edition

On Friday afternoon the snow started falling… and falling… and falling…

By Saturday morning there was a good 20 cm of fresh powder. Even though motorists were advised to stay off the roads, they didn’t look that bad in our area yet and so we piled the dog into the Honda Element (with snow tires) and headed for a hearty breakfast at Cora’s. Then off to the dog park with our snowshoes.

We certainly weren’t the only ones braving the snow and Riker had a good romp with some other dogs. As you can see above, the snow was already skimming the bottom of the park bench, and the storm was only half over!
Yesterday we didn’t attempt to take the vehicle out, and on our walks with Riker we strapped on our snowshoes at the end of the laneway!

Riker is just loving all this snow (he dives into drifts and banks head first) and we like how much the chest-high powder tires him out.

The city is slowly digging itself out this morning, but for some, rescue might not come until spring. Yes, that is a small pickup truck facing the sedan…

The big hit is done, but the weather network promises a few more flurries in the coming days even as the temperature plummets and the wind picks up. I feel pretty lucky, though – working from home I don’t have to battle the roads and I’m still acclimatized to the cold from my time up north…

Berton House thermometer during December cold snap

A Literary Weekend

This weekend was Alberta Arts Days, the time of year when the Texas of the north proves to the rest of Canada it is not a cultural sinkhole. That it is more than just tarsand and delicious beef.

Actually, I don’t think the province cares what the rest of the country thinks – they do this for the sheer enjoyment of it.

And there is plenty to be enjoyed. Friday evening I was sipping wine and noshing at the Telus Centre Atrium at U of A while listening to several Governor General’s Award-winning authors. The Canadian Literature Centre sure knows how to host adult storytime.

First to read was Greg Hollingshead who chose “The Appraiser” from his collection of short stories, The Roaring Girl. I got the chance to chat with Greg quite a bit and I’m sure our paths will cross again at the Banff Centre, where he’s director of the literary arts program.

Next came Gloria Sawai, who read “The Dolphins” from A Song for Nettie Johnson.

Finally Rudy Wiebe took to the podium, reading excerpts from two of his novels, The Temptations of Big Bear and The Discovery of Strangers.
One of the best parts of the night was meeting Carol and two of her book club buddies, who are a writer’s dream: intelligent, generous readers who just adore books. I can only hope that someday my fiction falls into hands like those. And that one (or more?) of my books ends up in the hands of generous GG Awards jurors!
* * *
Sunday afternoon I braved the cold and rain to attend the launch of the Writer’s Guild of Alberta’s Isabel Miller anthology. In this case I was the juror, and it was such a pleasure to meet the talented young writers I helped select for this anthology and for the writing competition’s top prizes.
It was standing-room only in the Stanley Milner library, as winners and family members (and a few curious members of the public) gathered for the event.

After several readings by honorable mentions, third-place winner Sabrina Dahl, 14, read her “exquisitely simple” poem, “The Dancer.”

Next came Laura Hon, 15, who won second place with a “devastatingly true” short story, “Good Enough.” Her reading brought several sniffles to the audience…
Here is first-place winner, Stephanie Li, 17, who penned a riveting short story called “What Comes Between” about a war photographer during the Vietnam War. Next to her (about to eat her cookie) is Erinne Sevigny, Edmonton teen writing group mentor for the WGA, and Rita Espeschit, WGA Program Director.
You can get the whole anthology online by clicking here.

My Secret Life

I can finally reveal my deep, dark secret life: I was a juror for the Isabel Miller Young Writers Award. Whew! There, now you know.

It was very hard for me to keep this secret for so long. Back in May I was approached by the Writers Guild of Alberta and my mission, if I chose to accept it, was to sit on a jury and judge hundreds of submissions of poetry and prose from 12 to 18 year olds. “Sure!” I said without a moment’s hesitation. “I love to judge people!”

But there was one caveat: I couldn’t tell anyone I was on this jury. “Not even my mom?” I asked, incredulous. The WGA rep laughed. “Okay, you can tell your mom – if she can be trusted!”

The need for all this secrecy is understandable. I mean, you wouldn’t want the entrants to know where to send gifts of chocolate, money, or cars. The Isabel Miller Award, after all, is arguably the top prize for young writers in Alberta. They’re in it to win it!

And this attitude showed in the high quality of submissions I received in June. The winner, Stephanie Li, blew me away (no pun intended) with her piece on a war photographer during the Vietnam War, “What Comes Between.” I read it over and over, marvelling at her talent.

The other winners, honorable mentions, and writers chosen for the anthology were similarly inspiring. And they are no hacks: Deana Freitas, 17, has a blog and has been involved in writing and the visual arts for quite some time. Janeen “Simply Jane” Dittmann is another blogster and writer in the making.

Now that the winners have been announced I can cast off my double-identity and tell the world about the talented writers here in Alberta. And I can look forward to meeting-and-greeting many of them September 19th at the launch at the Stanley Milner Library here in Edmonton.

But first I need to get back to work so I can keep pace with these up-and-comers!

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.