Author dishes out dirt on tree-planting career

Author returns to her Nanaimo roots for book signing.

Charlotte Gill returns to Nanaimo Thursday (Feb. 9) to dish out the dirt on tree planting.

The author of Eating Dirt, Gill first strapped a bag of seedlings around her waist at the age of 20. She was like thousands of other adventure-seeking young people looking for a summer job that paid well.

Where most lasted a few months, Gill embraced the seasonal work and used down time for writing.

“I’m a slow writer,” she said. “During planting I’d think about what I was going to say, and then between contracts I’d put it on paper.”

The system obviously worked, her first book, Ladykiller, a collection of short fiction, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, won the B.C. Book Prize and was an Amazon Best Pick for 2005.

Her latest work shares a candid and intimate portrait of Gill’s 17-year history planting trees on Vancouver Island, including the Nanaimo Lakes area, Haida Gwaii and the Sunshine Coast.

Nominated for the Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction and short-listed for the B.C. National Award for Canadian non-fiction, Eating Dirt takes readers deep into a culture balancing precariously between loggers and environmentalists.

“Tree planters are caught in the middle,” said Gill. “I wrote this book to give an unbiased perspective, appreciating loggers who bring raw material to a global market and sharing environmental literacy about the complexity of the conifer plantations.”

Though Gill hung up her spikes in 2008, she and her husband, a fellow tree planter, like staying close to the backwoods country.

They recently moved to Powell River where Gill instructs in the University of B.C.’s  online creative writing program.

She will be reading from her book, signing copies and answeringquestions at Nanaimo Maps and Charts bookstore, 8 Church St. at 7 p.m.

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