Local writers embrace winter with 40 Below

Like it or not, Edmontonians — along with most of their fellow Canadians — manage to get through their daily tasks, barely skipping a beat, when the mercury plummets.

A group of local writers is celebrating that with the anthology 40 Below, which officially launches Nov. 17 (2 p.m.) at Block 1912 on Whyte Avenue and Nov. 19 (7 p.m.) at Audreys Books downtown.

“It’s just celebrating the fact that in very extreme temperatures, we do the things other places do,” said Jason Lee Norman, a local writer who has spent much of the past year receiving and reviewing submissions, compiling, editing and now distributing the book.

40 Below cover
Image courtesy 40 Below Project.

“We get up and go to work and drive in our cars and shovel snow — there’s things that we do without even thinking about it, and some places would just absolutely collapse under that kind of weather or event.”

The book includes submissions from professional writers, as well as people who have never been published before, and crosses genre lines.

Norman had the idea in the spring to create the anthology, and was further encouraged by the WinterCity Edmonton launch the following October. Once he started the project, he received about 300 submissions, which he read without knowing who had written them, choosing about 50 that he thought captured the wintery state of mind best. 

“There’s some high literary stuff in this book, but there’s also some funny, silly things too,” he said. “I was also surprised that a lot of people’s pieces, they would have their own argument about why they didn’t like winter, and then they would change their own mind by the end of it. And I wondered if they were doing that on purpose, or if they really just changed their own mind and they had to rewrite it.”

Once all the stories came together, he continued, a pattern of people’s connections to the city and its places emerged.

“So when you read it, you see that this piece is just like that piece, and is kind of like that one, and is a continuation of the next one. And they didn’t know they were all going to be doing that. So to have that theme that was so strong, those are some of the cool things.”

He presented at Pecha Kucha 15 in March, where he read excerpts from the book. In the past month, he’s been delivering the books into the hands of its various contributors, and, starting Nov. 1, those who have pre-ordered 40 Below.

Norman said he was pleased he was able to draw together a community of writers to create the anthology, and since the first one turned out so well, he hasn’t ruled out creating more volumes either.

“(At the beginning), it was good to see that (WinterCity) was giving me the same message that I was already starting to think about: embrace winter. Realize that it’s something that happens, but it’s also something that’s unique. A lot of places don’t have winter.”