Inspiration #2

Part 2 of “Inspiration for Ballad of the Northland” (part 1 can be found in the previous day’s post).

The sheer magnificent immensity of the wild bushland, and the intrepid explorers who stood the runners of their sleds and went out into the heart of it to do battle with one another until a victor was crowned in the far off gold fields of Nome. Heady stuff for an 18 year old boy; heady stuff for me now. These things were to serve as my inspiration.

But I was frustrated, even there at the beginning. The story I wanted to tell was not really about a person, or collection of people, it was much much larger than that. The story I wanted to tell was first and foremost about the Northland, and the sheer scope of the idea, and the place, overwhelmed me.

For the time being, I contented myself with writing a series of epic poems titled Northland 1, Northland 2, and so on. The first of them was written right there in that Finger Lake checkpoint by the light of my failing headlamp, while a storm of black ash rained down upon my head. I wrote those poems because at the time, I didn’t know how to tell someone a story as big as the Northland, didn’t even really know how to make it into a ‘story’ at all. See, I knew even then, that the moment I started naming drivers/characters with real names, that I gave the eventual ‘hero’ a real handle, that a big part of the magic and mystique would be lost. And this stumped me.

I have spent the last twenty years compiling notes and thoughts on this matter, and all I can tell you right now, is that the moment I figured out how to tell the story I dropped everything I was doing, sat down at the computer, and pounded it out.

Twenty years after that experience back at Finger Lake, came The Boy.

 Thanks for tuning in–more to follow….


2 Responses to “Inspiration #2”

  1. Marlene Phillips-Daniels Reply May 24, 2011 at 09:45

    I really liked how you handled not naming characters with real names. I am a fan far from the Northland here in Montana and not a musher, so it brought many smiles to my face as my many mushing friends [mostly from Alaska] tried to put real names to the characters. I think you did an awesome job, Jason.

    • I’m glad that you liked that, Marlene–I’ve found that the people who like that “labeling” aspect as opposed to the people who don’t is about 5 to 1. I had fun with it, and I’m glad that you got it!

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