Tomorrow, I'm driving 5 hours north to my home town of Athabasca, Alberta to do a few readings for The Penny Tree. A lot has changed since I lived there in the 80s -- the Athabasca University, which enjoys a great reputation, was built outside of town in '84, and Alberta Pacific Forest Industries, now one of the regions biggest employers, officially began operating in '93.
And yet much has stayed the same as well. The Burger Bar, highlighted in my debut novel, The Tin Box, is still there, as is Ken's Confectionary and the Hillside Motel and a handful of other businesses that haven't changed a lot over the years. The town itself is a little more than an hour north of Edmonton, built in the river valley. It's not big (approx 2500 people) but it's a peaceful, inviting place. Most of my family still lives there -- my dad, my sister and her husband, two of my brothers and their wives, and my mom, who lives in the hamlet of Rochester.
I'm looking forward to going. A few days later, I'll be off to Chicago, and then Winnipeg and Edmonton and a whole list of other places. But there's something special about starting my readings in Athabasca, probably because I know I'll never find the same kind of heartfelt cheerleading anywhere else -- which is why I'll always call it 'home'.