Shelagh's Summer Specials: Northwords

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Shelagh Rogers interviewed many fabulous authors this past season on The Next Chapter. Every now and then, she would have a conversation so compelling, juicy, riveting or fascinating that it deserved more time than the radio show could allow. So, The Next Chapter has offered up extended versions of those conversations as special webisodes and podcasts.

Every Thursday in July and August, CBC Books will bring you Shelagh's Summer Specials, an encore presentation of those great full-length conversations.

Shelagh's Summer Special this week is her special presentation of Northwords. In the summer of 2011, Shelagh plucked five well-known Canadian writers from their urban and suburban homes and brought them to Torngat Mountains National Park in Northern Labrador. Their mission: to soak in the place and then channel it into a piece of writing.

This episode originally aired on Monday, November 22, 2011, and in June 2012, Northwords won a bronze medal at the New York Festivals International Radio Awards.

We hope you enjoy!

You can hear The Next Chapter on CBC Radio One every Monday at 1 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m. (a half hour later in Newfoundland).

In the summer of 2011, Parks Canada (the Canadian National Parks system) was celebrating its 100th anniversary. Shelagh Rogers, host of CBC's The Next Chapter and wilderness lover, wanted to commemorate this in some way. Her idea? To get a group of writers together -- writers who identified with urban and suburban Canada -- and bring them to a remote place in Canada for one week. They'd have seven days to live outside their comfort zone, connect with the Canadian wilderness and write a story about it all.

Thanks to Shelagh's friend and parks expert, Jeff Anderson, she knew just the spot: the Torngat Mountains National Park in northern Labrador, 10,000 square kilometres of the most remote and northern parcel of public land in Canada. The following writers agreed to come along:

Joseph Boyden, whose book Through Black Spruce won the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Sarah Leavitt, author of the Writers' Trust-nominated graphic novel, Tangles, which is a chronicle of her mother's experience with Alzheimer's.

Rabindranath Maharaj, best known for the novel The Amazing Absorbing Boy, which won the Toronto Book Award in 2011.

Alissa York, winner of the 1999 Bronwen Wallace Award. Her debut novel, Effigy, was nominated for the 2007 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Noah Richler, a journalist, critic, broadcaster and author whose books include Literary Atlas of Canada and What We Talk About When We Talk About War.

The group stayed at a place called "Base Camp," a small community on the very edge of the park where scientists, adventurers and aboriginal people lived together as they explored, studied or connected with the land. They took day trips, including one to the community of Hebron. (In 1989, the Inuit living there were relocated by the provincial government.) 

The experiences they had — travelling in a small plane, seeing icebergs, connecting with the scientists who study the land and interacting with the aboriignal community who calls it home — resonated deeply with Shelagh and her five guests. At the end of the week, each writer performed their story.

In the audio player above, you can listen to their journey from when they first arrived, unsure and overwhelmed, to when they said good-bye, awestruck and forever changed.

See pictures from the trip in the photo gallery below. For more photos, check out The Next Chapter on Facebook.

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