Literacy class explores the arts

A literacy class at Okanagan College got a large dose of culture earlier this month.

Author: Gail Anderson-Dargatz speaks to an Okanagan College adult education class about writing.

Author: Gail Anderson-Dargatz speaks to an Okanagan College adult education class about writing.

A literacy class at Okanagan College got a large dose of culture earlier this month.

A group of Tracy Riley’s adult fundamental English students went to see Shuswap Theatre’s The Odd Couple, most of them attending live theatre for the first time.

Following a lively discussion in which the students shared their enthusiasm for the experience, they were introduced to award-winning author Gail Anderson-Dargatz.

Student Tyler Stefanyk raved about the “awesome” acting in The Odd Couple and Tim Anson noted he would never be able to view bus driver Fred Green the same again after seeing him in the role of fussy Felix Unger.

“The background windows made it look realistic,” said Anson of the stage set. “When they looked out the window, they looked like they were in an upper storey.”

“They made it look very realistic,” agreed Elaine August.

Former Yan’s owner Susan Fong joined the class to improve her English, having sold her restaurant and retired.

“I really enjoyed it, but the tough part was when somebody laughed,” she said, noting that while she understands the written word, she was challenged by some of the dialogue and tried to figure out what others were laughing at. “In Chinese, we laugh much too; every culture has its own humour.”

Students were delighted to switch the focus from live theatre to books, giving Anderson-Dargatz a warm welcome and rave reviews on her Literacy Learner Books they are currently engrossed in.

Stalker is the first book I enjoyed,” called out one student.

“That makes me feel really good,” replied Anderson-Dargatz, with a wide smile.

“I read all your books, I even write down the sentences I like,” added Fong.

Stefanyk called The Stalker awesome, to which a delighted Anderson-Dargatz drew sustained laughter by saying, “I want to get you to review all my books.”

The author applauded the students’ tutors, several of whom were in the classroom, explaining her own mother’s role as a tutor was the impetus behind her decision to branch out from literary to literacy writing.

“My mom had a grumpy old bastard for a father, who had a dispute with the school board and pulled her from school,” Anderson-Dargatz said, noting she never got beyond Grade 7 math. “But she could write, so she wrote, and wrote and wrote.”

Becoming a tutor gave her mom confidence in herself and her abilities.

“The biggest thing I saw was the ability her students gained to go on and tell their own stories.”

In terms of her own talent, Anderson-Dargatz describes her parents as storytellers.

“Most of Dad’s were First Nations and on my mom’s side, tall tales, ghosts in attic,” she says. “She’d take me out to Turtle Valley and Chase Creek and point and say ‘people died here, they were having an affair, somebody shot him.’”

Her mom also spoke often of her premonitions, introducing Anderson-Dargatz to the notion of magic.

The author began her storied career at the Salmon Arm Observer, and says the most important thing she learned was how to research and conduct interviews.

“A lot of people think fiction comes out of the noggin,” she says. “Writing never comes from nowhere; it comes from a seed of information in your own life, from a newspaper or book story.”

She points out that many readers want to believe what she writes actually happened.

“People come up to me all the time and say ‘I know who you’re talking about,’ but we all take our own stories into the book,” she explains. “You’re basically writing the book along with me. When you read The Stalker, it is probably very different from what was in my head.”

Anderson-Dargatz claims real stories make good inspiration for fiction but not good stories  by themselves.

Fiction, she maintains, is all about spinning, inventing, allowing your imagination to run wild.

“Writing is an act of discovery where you get to know the characters,” she says. “You throw down the dialogue and see what they’re doing and saying, all the while feeding  your subconscious with research.”

Then comes the long, long process of editing and re-writing, something Anderson-Dargatz says forms the  bulk of what a writer does.

“You put your bum on a chair and put the words on paper,” said a laughing Anderson-Dargatz in response to a question about how to become a writer.

“Experience the world; you can’t engage a reader if you don’t have experiences to draw from.”

 

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Brodie Stuart and her mom, Mikel Stuart, gather for the celebration at Parkview Elementary on June 18, 2021. (Zachary Roman - Eagle Valley News)
Three Shuswap parents honoured for combined 34 years of volunteering

Parkview Elementary parent advisory council members surprised by appreciative flash mob

Centennial Field in Blind Bay will be the site of Market by the Bay on Thursday nights starting June 24, 2021. (Columbia Shuswap Regional District photo)
Forty vendors expected for new Market by the Bay in the South Shuswap

Market starting June 24 to be situated at Centennial Field in Blind Bay

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to collect donations ahead of Kristy Handel’s 33-kilometre run for Chelaine McInroy (pictured) to cover costs for a new prosthetic leg after her June 12, 2021, surgery. (GoFundMe)
Salmon Arm woman runs to raise funds for friend’s new prosthetic leg

33-kilometre Run for Chelaine to help athlete cover medical costs from latest surgery

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Earls On Top at 211 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. (Google Maps photo)
Downtown Kelowna’s Earls ordered closed after COVID-19 transmission

Earls on Top on Bernard Avenue will be closed from June 18 to June 27

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

Dereck Donald Sears. (Contributed/Crimestoppers)
Murder charge laid in relation to suspicious Kelowna death

Dereck Donald Sears is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Darren Middleton

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Most Read