And now it’s gone

Jane and I visited Nuugaatsiaq (photo: 2008) in July and August 2008, while living and working in Uummannaq, Greenland. Now, almost nine years later, much of what we saw, and even some of the people we met, is gone. A tsunami crashed into the settlement on the 18th June, bringing tragedy to one of Greenland’s prettiest and most exciting areas. It’s hard to imagine how people are coping, and suddenly, a place that is very dear to me, is very far away indeed.

My thoughts go out to the people of Nuugaatsiaq, and Uummannaq fjord.

It is possible to help through donations coordinated via the Bank of Greenland (follow link for the Danish page.)

But how many words for ice?

I was a teacher in Greenland. There were lots of highlights. Second to the amazing, and, at times, exasperating kids, was the role of external invigilator for the spoken English exams. Greenland must be one of the few places where the invigilator is flown by helicopter to schools in the remote settlements. Greenland is vast – something you understand when trying to get your head around distances – but from the air… well, Greenland can be a humbling experience. As it should be – something every invigilator should be exposed to before an exam. “You live here?” is a common thought to have when approaching the gravel landing square, marked with a rusty oil drum in each corner. Exams are one thing, but almost everything can have the flavour of a test in Greenland, and the results are not measured in grades, and they can rarely be captured in words.

You may have heard that the Inuit have a lot of words for snow. Honestly, I don’t know how many, and it is difficult to know when pop culture ends and the practicality of describing snow and ice begins. Until, that is, you’re standing on thin ice, with a kilometre or more of black sea beneath you. Then, as you begin to imagine sinking down in the black depths, I guarantee you will begin to imagine all kinds of words for ice, as if your life depends upon it, which it does, actually.

Once, when accompanying a hunter to check his long fishing line, my Western feet broke through the ice.

Despite weighing a good twenty kilos more than the hunter I was with, it wasn’t my weight that was a problem, it was my attitude, my angle of attack. Admittedly, the ice was only a centimetre or so thick – we had left the dogs behind. Apparently their attitude was similar to mine, although they were safe. No, the problem was that I didn’t glide or shush across the ice with flat feet, I walked, putting weight on my toes and breaking the ice. The hunter noticed, gave me a few words of advice, and shushed on ahead of me. I followed, pushing the sledge, skirting the bad ice, the really thin stuff, and taking a torturous route back to the village.

Rarely have I been more scared.

Rarely have I felt more alive.

If you spend time in Greenland, if you spend time on the ice, you’ll experience that feeling – that moment when you struggle to understand how you can have a cheesy grin on your face, while fighting the urge to pee, wondering if your heart is going to explode out of your chest, amazed that is hasn’t already.

Greenland, like Alaska, does that to you. Something I hope to have captured in my first Greenland thriller, and now as I edit the second.

If you’d like to know more you could try out The Ice Star – available in paperback and on Kindle or for Kindle apps from Amazon, or pre-order book two: In the Shadow of the Mountain, here:

Amazon USA

Amazon UK

Amazon Australia

Amazon Canada

A Kick in the Pants

I write all year round, but I write more each November. It’s NANOWRIMO and it’s a serious kick- in-the-pants motivator.

It’s also a lot of fun. Writing 50,000 words in a month is a challenge, to be sure, but the end result is never the end result. There’s beta-reading, editing, proofing, etc. But Nanowrimo works for me, and for many other writers, as a motivator. It doesn’t mean that the finished drafts each November are published, but it feels great having a project on the shelf, one that can be dusted off each April and July at Camp Nanowrimo.

Are you an emerging writer with the ambition of getting published, or just writing for fun? Then Nanowrimo and Camp Nanowrimo are definitely worth checking out.