New Star Blogs

Making Mudflat Dreaming a Reality



It’s not unusu­al for a book to start out as one thing when the author sits down and begins writ­ing, and end up tak­ing the writer some­where they nev­er planned on. Jean Walton’s Mud­flat Dream­ing is one of those books.
“Orig­i­nal­ly, I just want­ed to write some­thing set in the time and place where I came of age, in the sev­en­ties in the vicin­i­ty of Vancouver—partly because I loved the idea of com­bin­ing fam­i­ly vis­its with research for a cre­ative project,” Jean Wal­ton explains. Though the book went through var­i­ous incar­na­tions over the last decade, includ­ing a nov­el, the author was con­ti­nous­ly draw­ing from her own life expe­ri­ence. “ I had drawn from my own teen diaries,” Wal­ton explains.  Even­tu­al­ly the project became a hybrid of mem­oiris­tic mate­r­i­al from the author’s own life in Sur­rey, plus the sto­ries of the north shore squat­ters and the Bridgeview com­mu­ni­ty. Enter New Star Books pub­lished Rolf Mau­r­er. “He was very excit­ed about the his­to­ry of the Mud­flats on the North Shore,” Wal­ton explains.

After some con­ver­sa­tion with Mau­r­er, Wal­ton reshaped the mate­r­i­al to focus on the dual his­to­ry of those squat­ters and the work­ing class com­mu­ni­ty in Bridgeview,  and the oth­er side of the sto­ry of fringe com­mu­ni­ties on Vancouver’s water­front locales. “As I went about research­ing the Van­cou­ver project, I want­ed to bring to it the same skills I had devel­oped as a read­er of films, but also as a lover of archival research—I want­ed the project to be deeply and accu­rate­ly researched, and yet to have a light touch where the writ­ing itself was con­cerned. I couldn’t be mak­ing the very com­pli­cat­ed the­o­ret­i­cal argu­ments I was used to mount­ing in my aca­d­e­m­ic work—and yet, I didn’t want to “dumb down” the issues I was treat­ing either, since I think any audi­ence can under­stand the com­plex­i­ty of any issue if it is nar­rat­ed with some hon­esty and cre­ativ­i­ty.”

One notion that tru­ly piqued Walton’s inter­est was the ques­tion of water. “How it trav­els in a rainy, moun­tain­ous locale with a seri­ous riv­er delta that has been diked and dammed over decades; how waste-water is dis­posed and how it comes back to haunt you under the wrong con­di­tions; how tidal water can work as a metaphor for how a per­son might want to live in “sus­pen­sion” above var­i­ous kinds of social and polit­i­cal con­straints; how whole pop­u­la­tions, pri­or to col­o­niza­tion, lived in con­cert with ris­ing and falling of water lev­els; how resource extrac­tion uses water to float the province’s rich­es out for sale to the high­est bid­der.”

As Dan Fran­cis puts it, Jean Wal­ton has “res­cued two of these com­munties from obscu­ri­ty in her vivid and thought­ful account.” Mud­flat Dream­ing will be launch­ing in Octo­ber in Van­cou­ver. Stay close to these pages for fur­ther updates on launch­es, sign­ings and spe­cial events.

Look for #Mud­flat­Dream­ing hash­tag on social media for best results.