Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Settling in at Berton House

by Rob - July 13th, 2007.
Filed under: Berton House.

Carolyn and I have been here as sole occupants of the Berton House Writers’ Retreat for ten days now, and it’s high time I posted some pictures!

Berton House is a tourist attraction, with four historic signs for people to read outside. Here I am at the viewing platform, with three of the historic signs (yes, when tourists are there looking at the house, I feel a bit like Captain Pike in “The Menagerie” — but, then again, I always feel like I’m in some classic Trek episode, and at least I don’t have a flying parasite clamped to my back …).

Tourists come to read the fourth sign, which is attached to the side of the house, and I can see them clearly through the living-room window — they’re only about a dozen paces away from me as I sit in my chair, but they can’t see in, really, because it’s so much brighter outside. I’m getting used to it, although today someone did come right up to the window! (Of course, I could draw the blind — but I like the view and the fresh air.)

Visitors aren’t allowed to come in the house:

But I’ll let you sneak in … Berton House is bigger than I’d thought it would be: Carolyn and I often lose track of where the other is. Carolyn has set herself up in the very nice office (those are little busts of Shakespeare on the antique desktop):

I’ve set up my own little writing space in the living room:

For those who think we must be freezing this far north (we’re just 165 miles / 266 km south of the Arctic Circle — same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska), remember, it’s the middle of July, and it never gets dark here. The house sits on permafrost, but as you can see the days are balmy — or even hot (the thermometer is showing 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 32 degrees Celsius):

In this lovely weather (although it does rain and thunder a lot!), our flower boxes are doing fine:

But it is awfully far north — it’s cool to see satellite dishes aimed downward:

Dawson City has a population of 2,000 — mixed between the First Nations people and those who have come here from Outside (as it’s called here, with a capital O). We’re 1,050 feet or 320 metres above sea level, at the confluence of two mighty rivers, the Yukon and the Klondike:

The town tries to preserve its historic character, and along Front Street the buildings still have the false fronts that were in style during the Gold Rush days:

There are eight streets in Dawson: Front, Second, Third, etc. — Berton House is on Eighth Street, the farthest from the rivers. We’re right across the street from the Robert Service cabin, where dramatic poetry recitals are held twice every day, and just down the street from the Jack London cabin; it’s called “Writers Road” here, and Berton House is part of what draws the tourists. Tour buses and travelers in RVs stop by frequently, and every morning the charming covered-wagon town tour comes by:

Carolyn and I are enjoying it here. The pace is slow compared to the hustle and bustle of our lives in Toronto, but we’re relaxing (much needed!). I’m reading some very good books that have been submitted to my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint, and Carolyn just finished Janet Evanovich’s first “Stephanie Plum” novel, which she really liked, and she’s enjoying Pierre Berton’s Klondike (there’s a full set of Pierre’s books here, natch). Oh, and in the evening we’ve been watching some TV shows on DVDs we brought along: some Corner Gas, a couple of episodes of Gilmore Girls, and two episodes of Boston Legal.

But mostly, we’re working — me on my novel Wake, and Carolyn on poetry. After all, that’s what this three-month-long writers’ retreat is all about …

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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