Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad  Print this page

Fantastic flights of fancy

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 15/06) - Many authors love to blend truth into their fiction, but not many are willing to travel as far as Anita Daher has to get it.

Now based in Winnipeg, the former Northerner travelled to Norman Wells last week to research her upcoming children's book, "Racing for Diamonds," which will be set along the Canol Trail.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Winnipeg children's author and former Northerner Anita Daher jokingly poses with one of her favourite books at the Yellowknife public library. She was in town to research her upcoming book, and to run workshops for elementary school children in Yellowknife and Norman Wells. - Adam Johnson/NNSL photo

She made a similar trip to the North for her last book, "Flight From Bear Canyon," which was set (and thus researched in) the southern mouth of the Nahanni River. There, she got a feel for the setting, the history, and even the composition of the mud stuck to her shoes.

"When someone eight-to-12 years-old reads about a real place, they expect it to be true," she said.

"I just want to be correct."

But it's not all fun and games - Daher was here to teach as well as learn. She ran workshops at schools in Norman Wells and Yellowknife, where she would share her aviation knowledge and read from her books.

"I love jumping around in a flight suit," she said of her favourite teaching aid. "You can't do that every day."

Daher spent eight years working in the aviation field, including a stint as a bush radio operator in northern Saskatchewan.

There, evacuation during a major forest fire became the inspiration for her first book, "Flight From Big Tangle," where her recurring protagonist, Kaylee, must fly a float plane to escape a raging wildfire.

Like Kaylee, Daher grew up around planes and airports. Her parents were both in the Air Force, her grandfather was a navigator and her great-grandfather designed aircraft. Planes figure heavily into the plots of her first two books. Her website is even called "The Hangar."

But she shares one other trait with her character - an intense fear of flying.

"I understand it's an unreasonable fear," she said.

It's also an ironic one for someone who "has flying in her blood," and who logs as much flight time as she does.

Despite her problems with planes, Daher gets by, and even said that her landing in Yellowknife was her first one without anxiety. But it might have just been the familiarity. Daher spent several years working and writing in Yellowknife. During her time in the capital, she organized the first NWT Writers' Conference, and helped found the Territorial Writers' Association, becoming its first president.

Reflecting on her Norman Wells trip, she was amazed by the stories and documents she was able to track down. This included speaking with the soldiers who oversee the Junior Canadian Rangers, a group she plans on having her new protagonist, Jaz, join for a series of books.

"They're thin little books, but so much research goes into them," she said with a laugh.