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Tim, behind the scenes

Growing a growing-up story in Calgary

Most of my novel, Tim, is set in Calgary during the winter and spring of 2004. Atlas, our young hero, is very much at home there with his passion for hockey, for Calgary is a hockey-loving town. In fact, 2004 was an exciting hockey year, with the Calgary Flames going all the way to the finals. Flames fever gripped the city and Calgarians were sure that this was their year! But they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightening in game seven. The novel ends before the playoffs finished that year, but Atlas would surely have been utterly heartbroken. To date, the Flames have only won one Stanley Cup (1989), so as an adult in 2021, Atlas would still be earnestly hoping for another Flames win.

Calgary is sometimes called the Stampede City or Cowtown, because of its famed rodeo and association with ranching and livestock. It’s also an Olympic city, having hosted the winter games in 1988. That Olympics produced both the amazing Jamaican bobsleigh team and the ski jumper, Eddie the Eagle—surely some of the most memorable and colourful Olympic contenders. They’ve been memorialized in film in Cool Runnings (1993) and Eddie the Eagle (2016). I just had to put a little allusion into the book (Uncle Liron wanting to watch Cool Runnings on family movie night).

Calgary, of course, is most known as an oil town, sprawling between mountains and prairie.

That location between mountains and prairie means that the city is sometimes subject to Chinooks, something that happens in Atlas’ story. I wanted to put in a Chinook, because they’re special. There you are, enduring day after day of bitter cold, perhaps feeling a bit bitter about it, too; and then suddenly a warm wind kicks up. Suddenly things are melting, drips rain off the rows of icicles along eaves and porches as if in a race to the ground, where little rivulets form and come together and forge channels through the snow. And the air is thick with a feeling of hope and springtime! Of course, it doesn’t last long and the temperature plunges, another snowstorm blows in; but it’s a little reprieve, a little bit of magic.

Fortunately, Calgary gets 332 days of sun per year, so even when it’s cold, it’s bright. That helps. When, at the end of the story, Atlas moves to Valencia in Spain, nearly everything would have been very different for him. But sunny days? That would have been almost the same. Valencia has an average of 300 sunny days each year.

Atlas loved Calgary and now I see it through his eyes, too—a haven for an 11-year-old boy who loves hockey and his hero, Tim Horton.

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