Rocketfuel Ignites Imaginations, the Yukon News story on my class


Photo by Ian Stewart for the Yukon News

My most excellent class of writers is the subject of a Yukon News article below.  These writers are an awesome group of imaginateurs.  I’m impressed, especially, with how they conducted themselves in an interview–thoughtful, insightful, well-read, interesting and interested in each other.  Love to start a book club with them!  

Article is by James Munson for the Yukon News.


Zeb Berryman has some demons he’d like to share.

The 18-year-old scribe is an aficionado of the “dark side” in his literary circle, a dozen Whitehorse high school students known as Rocket Fuel.

“The darkness and violence is what makes it beautiful,” says Zeb, referring to one of his current anime reads.

Zeb’s comment elicits a few nods from his fellow science fiction enthusiasts sitting around the table in the FH Collins library.

These young adults have an encyclopedic knowledge of the fantasy genre, and can discuss the intricacies of alchemists, monsters, gods and goblins at length.

“It’s like literature discussion about a whole bunch of books you never get to hear literature discussions about,” says Jerome Stueart, a science fiction writer who started Rocket Fuel two years ago.

But more impressively, it’s their own literary creations they’re the most familiar with.

Ask any one of these students about their works, and it won’t be long before another interjects.

Franz Krabel, 12, tends to kill off his characters a lot, says Santana Berryman, Zeb’s 14-year-old sister.

Santana, for her part, has an obsession with the afterlife, says Stueart.

These writers know each other inside out.

Read the rest of the article

Fantasy-Filled Young Readers Give the Season Imagination

Rocketfuel, the youngest group of science fiction and fantasy writers in the Yukon, showcased their own writing (and art and music) Dec 4th at the Frank Slim’s Building at Shipyard’s Park.  It’s a nice venue with a roaring fireplace.  Makes it cozy.  Snacks were had, parents were entertained.  Must have been about twenty people there.  

About the readings–wow.  Okay, I know, I’m biased, but even I was blown away that night.  My boss, Mia Lee, was also amazed.  And the parents were too.  The writing was great, and fun.  We had readings about a day in the life of one of the heads of Cerberus, an alien abduction, a psychiatrist who knows a bit too much about Hell, an amulet that everyone wants, and other writings of imagination. 

Even the parents got to play when we brought out Justin Whitney’s patented Story Seeds, guaranteed to jump start a story, and starting playing the game around the room.  

I’d like to thank all those students in our Rocketfuel afterschool writing program–Franz, Hal, Santana, Zeb, Kylie, Erica, Kalyna, Renyka, Aubrey–and our emeritus writers Ashley, Bailey and Victoria.  We really do believe that writing contributes to the well-being of a young adult, and that fantasy and science fiction are part of our culture–a vivid part–that contributes to our cultural identity.  It can also change the way we see our world.  

Every culture holds dear a story that has supernatural elements in it, and this story defines and contributes to that culture.  Someone had to write about the dragon, Grendel and his mother, chomping on knights in the King’s Hall, or a Monkey to bring back the wisdom from the West, or captured a Djinn in a lamp, or brought a people across a sea split by the hand of God, and someone defined vampires, werewolves, ghosts and the Devil for a culture that enjoyed hearing the dark stories as much as the light ones….  Fiction even changed the way we celebrate Christmas. When our young writers write fantasy they are contributing to a long line of fantastical stories–to explain their world, even as they live in ours.  

The Young Author’s Conference understands this, and every summer, when the writers gather with our high schoolers, those writers read the works of our kids and at least half of them are fantasy and science fiction.  It’s important to develop a vivid and detailed imagination.  This is how adults solve problems—by imagining the solutions AND how to get there.  

Watch for the Yukon News article on Rocketfuel on Dec 23rd!  Woo-hoo!  

In January, TWO Rocketfuels start back up after school.  One at Porter Creek on Tuesdays and one at FH on Wednesdays.  If you think someone in your family might enjoy this, sign up through the Parks and Recreation, City of Whitehorse Leisure Guide or by calling Mia Lee at 668-8327.  

Treats, Beverages, and a bit of Fantasy, Shipyards Park, Fri. Dec 4

Students who are a part of Rocketfuel, the science fiction and fantasy writing group afterschool program–sponsored by the City of Whitehorse–will have a reading Friday night–TOMORROW–at Shipyards Park.  They’ll be reading from some of their current work.  There might actually be a story of Santa Claus meeting the Reaper…you never know.  


Shipyards Park

Friday Dec 4, 7-9 pm.  

Treats, goodies, beverages like tea and coffee, and a bit of Fantasy to go home with and share with your season….

If you’re free tomorrow night, come by.  We’d love to have you.

Positively Beaufort, the new Yukon term for “freakin’ cold”?


Herschel Island, a quiet pond, an old fishing boat, the old Canadian Signal Corps building--amazing photo by incredible photographer Hank Moorlag
Herschel Island, a quiet pond, an old fishing boat, the old Canadian Signal Corps building--amazing photo by incredible photographer Hank Moorlag

Meagan Grabowski didn’t know she was coming up with a catch phrase, but a visit to Herschel Island for a couple of weeks, and she was a one-woman neologist.  “It started at Pika Camp,” a remote camp for researchers a few kilometres away from the Kluane Lake Research Station.  “We were coming up with an Inuvialuktan to English to Yorkshire dictionary…for fun…and the Yorkshire term for ‘it’s very cold’ turned out to be ‘positively Baltic.'”  But when she was up for two weeks studying biomass on Herschel Island, and it got really, really cold, she slipped on the ‘baltic’ and said the weather was “positively Beaufort.”   Meaning, it doesn’t get colder than that….the wet wind off the Beaufort Sea…beats everything.


Meagan was up there as part of  International Polar Year, with a team of researchers, Scott Gilbert, Charlie and Alice Krebs, Don Reed, and others, all looking at Herschel Island as an ecosystem, finding out what made it tick, and how that information could be transferred, and compared, to other northern islands and our own Yukon high alpine tundra areas.  

Meagan Grabowski is daughter to well-known taxidermist Tony Grabowski and you can hear more of her adventures up on Herschel Island, as well as how any young Yukoner can spend a summer in a such a positively Beaufort place.  The last of my two radio shows this summer, coming Tuesday at 7:50am.  

We’re hoping the weather stays warm for a long time, but in case it drops to -40 this winter, feel free to put “positively Beaufort” into circulation.

Yukon Writers Festival: Reading, 7pm, Beringia Centre

Everyone, come hear the six Yukon Writers Festival writers read on Wednesday night at 7pm at the Beringia Centre for FREE. Part of Live Words: Yukon Writers Festival and the Young Authors Conference, these six writers will be teaching young adults to write at FH Collins–and this presentation is free and open to the public.

I’ve been asked to be the MC for the evening. As I have nothing funny to say, and you can’t be a good MC without funny material–I need six words from readers of my blog–one per person please–the first six– that I have to fit into my opening short speech. And if I get all six, I should win some sort of prize. Nothing that I couldn’t say in public please–so I won’t accept vulgar expressions.

It’s fun. And if you come, you get to see if I can fit them all in.

Live Words: Yukon Writers Festival, April 28-May 8

In conjunction with the Young Authors Conference, Live Words brings five authors up to the Yukon, and this year they are offering a few more appearances in Whitehorse and the communities for readings and workshops.  Yay!   I applaud Joyce Sward and other organizers for their efforts to bring these writers to the community.

Schedule as follows:


YUKON WRITERS’ FESTIVAL: Tues Apr 28 – Fri May 8
with writers:
Shelley Hrdlitschka, Celia McBride, Arthur Slade, Shyam Selvadurai, Candace Savage, Kenneth T. Williams

Reading: Kenneth T. Williams, Tues Apr 28, 7 pm, Blue Feather Youth Centre, free
Reading & Reception: Guest writers, Wed Apr 29, 7 pm, Beringia Centre, free
Young Authors’ Conference: Thurs Apr 30 & Fri May 1, 8:45 – 3:15, FH Collins
Lecture: Bird Brains: Inside the Lives of Ravens and Crows, Candace Savage & Sun May 3, 7:30 pm, Beringia Centre, free
Writing Workshop: Shyam Selvadurai, Mon May 4, 7 – 9 pm, Whitehorse Public Library. 667-5239 to register (limited space), free.

Readings & Music: Guest writers & music, Sat May 2, 7 pm, St. Elias Convention Centre, Haines Junction, $10 adults, $5 students, children 12 & under/seniors free.
Readings: Shyam Selvadurai -Tues May 5, 7 pm, Teslin Library; Wed May 6, 7 pm, Carcross Library; Thurs May 7, 7 pm; Carmacks Library; Fri May 8, 11am,
Faro Library, free
Lecture: Bird Brains: Inside the Lives of Ravens and Crows, Candace Savage, Mon May 4, 7:30 pm, Northern Lights Centre, Watson Lake, free

For more information call 667-5239.

And the Young Authors Conference website:

Rocketfuel: Sci-fi/Fantasy Writing for teens starting at FH Collins

Through the City of Whitehorse, with the cooperation of FH Collins Secondary School, we’re about to start a new afterschool program, RocketFuel Relaunched, for high school students who want to write Science Fiction and Fantasy stories. We’ll be meeting after school in FH Collins beginning September 17th, 3:30-5:00pm. The program is 13 weeks long, or about the length of the semester, from Sept 17 to Dec. 10th. Sign up through the City of Whitehorse’s Leisure Guide. Come with your imagination, pen, notebook, willingness to write a lot and encourage each other. Snacks will be provided. Participants are there to write and learn, and will be expected to work hard on their own writing. Be warned: Don’t come if you don’t enjoy the writing! But if you are already writing—come join everyone else who’s writing the same things! We have a great core group started, and we’re looking to add many more writers to our group.

Spread the word! If you know of teens who would be interested in this program, tell them to sign up with the City. We’ll have posters up in the schools soon. But we’d like to let everyone know it’s coming!

Contact Mia Lee through