Yukon Eighth Grader Published Her Second Book And Writing Many More

Ursula and Rachel Westfall with their newest book

Ursula Westfall is a Yukon 8th grade student with a very bright future ahead. She’s co-written two books with her mother Rachel Westfall and has plans for many more.

The Westfall ladies are a Whitehorse-based daughter-and-mother team. They’ve successfully collaborated on their second published work, which is the book, A Trail of Dreams. This work was published in autumn of 2015. Before they wrote A Trail of Dreams, this team published their first book, which is titled, Estella of Halftree Village.

Rachel Westfall has a Ph.D. in Ethnobotany from the University of Victoria in B.C. and her daughter, Ursula Westfall, is a student in the city of Whitehorse. Rachel now works with the Yukon government as a senior statistician.

I met young Ursula and her mother, Rachel, in Whitehorse’s Starbucks coffee shop during the month of December 2015 for a conversation about their newest book.

Rachel introduced the book by giving a quick and fascinating summary, which actually included information about both published novels:

“The main characters in both of these stories are the residents of a village which is an intentional community living in the wilderness. They’re people who have rejected modern society, which in the story is quite dysfunctional. It’s a bit of a dystopia. And, in A Trail of Dreams, one of the residents of the village starts having dreams that something terrible is going to happen to the village and she thinks that it’s coming from the direction of the city, but she can’t figure out what it is.

So, she goes on a journey to try to figure out what the threat is and whether she can do anything about it. So she gets to the city and meets a bunch of very strange characters, finds out what the threat is, but she can’t actually do anything about it. So she has to go back to the village and in the village there’s been some drama going on involving a Sasquatch who has befriended some of the villagers. But other villagers don’t know the Sasquatch exists. So there’s some funny scenes there. And then a solution comes their way.

So both stories have that tension between nature and city life, there’s that tension that really sets the stage for the stories.”

Rachel and Ursula’s second book is a stand-alone story as well, so if you haven’t read the first book, the second book will still makes sense. However, the same characters appear in both novels and they also share the same setting. So, this new story is interconnected with the last tale, but it’s still an independent story.

Rachel told that they did most of the writing over a period of about a year, off and on, after they published the first book in 2014. They got the second book published in the fall of 2015 through the publisher, Createspace. This book is also available at Amazon and in hardcover as well.

“Finishing one story, we were inspired with ideas for the next story,” Rachel mentioned that she and her daughter were inspired by the first book. “And it’s the same with the third story that we’re working on now. As soon as we finished the second story, we got inspired to write another one. And you get a lot of energy from finishing a project. And it gave us— I guess we felt encouraged that we could write more.”

“I usually write every evening in my free time, like I set aside some time for writing,” remarked the accomplished Ursula, after she was asked to explain how she balances school work and writing. She said she wrote non-stop, even on Saturday and Sundays, and, to date, she has written a lot of fantasy tales. The subjects of Ursula’s fantasy writings are things like dragons, with a lot of complex lore. She creates the lore and creatures and realms and loves creating fantasy stories which may be classified as “dragon fantasy”.

Ursula said that they were planning to make three books in the series and they would complete the whole story in the third book. They are expecting to complete their third book in the fall of 2016.

The Cover of Ursula and Rachel Westfall ‘s Book
The Cover of Ursula and Rachel Westfall ‘s Book

On the question of next projects after the third book is written, Rachel said that her daughter Ursula has got a number of novels that she’s working on right now and some short stories as well:

“If we decide to do another collaborative project, that would be great, too, but right now we’re just trying to get the third book…that’s what we’re focusing on right now, is the third book in the Halftree Village series. And then we’ll see after that.”

Rachel is originally from Victoria BC and grew up in Quesnel, in central B.C. She has lived in Vancouver and Victoria and she moved to Whitehorse ten years ago. So, Ursula’s really grown up in Whitehorse.

Rachel said she also had a passion for writing since childhood. However, most of the writing she did as an adult has been technical writing, which is a more academic type of writing. In addition, she wrote quite a lot of poetry as well. However, writing fiction is fairly new for her:

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. And Ursula’s really opened that door for me because of her passion for fiction.”

On the question of challenges of collaborating with immediate family, Rachel said that they teamed up really well, “I think if we didn’t we would not have been able to finish these books. There’s no way we could have if we were arguing about what was going to happen or how we were going to write it. It wouldn’t have worked.”

Equally excited, Ursula concluded, “We urge each other on.”

Rachel further elaborated how her family is working as a team to make writing a family affair. She told me that her son is also involved, as a proofreader.

“Where he’s involved is we bounce off a lot of ideas off of him. He helped proofread the new book. We all read it out loud together as our bedtime story over a period of a few evenings and he helped to go through that process and we cleaned up a lot of things that didn’t make sense at that time.”

On the question of hobbies other than writing, Ursula said, “When I am not writing I am usually playing music or reading. I also play the piano and the flute.”

“When I am not writing, I am busy raising my new baby,” Rachel added. “I like gardening, silversmithing, music. I also play the piano and things like that. I have more interests than I have time for. Right now I’m focusing on the writing.”

Photos: The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance

The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band's Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
The BIG Band’s Silver Anniversary Dance | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher

Yukon’s Big Band organized its silver anniversary dance at Mount MacIntyre Recreation Centre on May 23, 2015. An estimated 200 people gathered to enjoy elegant music and dancing. Local famous singers Fawn Fritzen and Rebekah Bell entertained the audience for 5 hours.

Over two hundred and fifty people gathered to enjoy Emma Barr’s fine art

Emma Barr at her event "My Best Work Yet" on Thursday. | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher

By: Gurdeep Pandher

November 13, 2014 – Whitehorse based renowned painter organized an exhibition of her new work at the waterfront station in Whitehorse to celebrate 10 years of her painting career. She organized an event “My Best Work Yet” and over two hundred and fifty people visited very first day to take a glimpse of her work. She unveiled over a dozen new original oil paintings created in the studio over the last 12 months.

“We had a lot more visitors than we thought,” said Emma. “A lot of people have been watching me for ten years and so they got to see what ten years does to somebody that they support. I think everyone is pretty excited.”

While providing details about her show, Emma said, “It was a pop-up gallery in a location that nobody knew about and it was very kind of sneaky the way I did the advertising, I didn’t really do typical media release or posters or hand out invites, I used the guests list that I had developed over ten years. I invited four hundred people and two fifty came so that’s really good.”

The event was well organized. There were many things like live music, champagne, artist interview, photography, filming, etc. While talking to the Yukon Times, Emma explained scenes behind the scenes, “We just knew that we wanted to have an event that was done really nicely kind of like a business after hours but turning it in to the art scenes, like a patron appreciation and celebration of the ten year journey of an artist and then showing my best work and the most mature work that I have. Now we just decided to do so many things that were untraditional in terms of having an art show and we didn’t do it with the gallery we made our own gallery. We didn’t have any power or lights so we set up lights like we didn’t have. I don’t know we didn’t have the typical artist talk where the artist is standing behind the mike and we pulled Terry McCarthy and because she’s a friend and we did an interview and it was such a special event that I got my other friend Jessica Hall to film it all and I had another friend photograph everything properly.”

Art lovers gathered at Waterfront Station to watch new paintings by Emma Barr | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
Art lovers gathered at Waterfront Station to watch new paintings by Emma Barr | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher

Emma described she had to rely on a huge amount of people, infrastructure, and volunteers. For her, it was also an emotional journey that also required a lot of patience.

“It was also bringing together a huge amount of working support and volunteers, and to make it like because it was a posh event you show up and you got champagne and you got some food and you got some wine, it cost a lot of money I mean, it was a blank space with nothing in it, not even any power outlets. Then I had to hire lights, I had to hire a van, I had to hire somebody for tables and drinks. I had to hire the alcohol it was just nuts but then we figured out a way to pay for the event because there was no guarantee ever that we’re going to sell any arts there never is, you don’t when it’s going to happen and it’s an emotional reaction,” she said.

Creating art involves money and there is no guarantee if the creator can recover his/her costs. Emma detailed her plans, “We designed it so that the workshop that I’m doing tomorrow and the next day would pay for the costs of the party if we had enough registration and then the back up plan as if we didn’t have enough registration that we would ask some sponsorship. We did all of that and we came in our budget as a cost neutral event so then in the fact that I did sell paintings that was all profit and I was actually get paid for once.”

Emma was very clear from a very young age that those were her linings were to the artistic side and primarily painting or drawing and creating from her hands. Once she was in grade school she was always stronger in Communication and Arts.

“I was a little bit okay with sports but not really like I wasn’t really that interested, I had to be really pushed into doing with the test program with cross-country skiing and stuff but then not helped me love the outdoors more and be able to live outdoors in all the different elements,” she said.

After graduating from Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson, BC., Emma decided that she was going to start a studio practice and made a ten year plan. Her ten year plan included working in the arts field and did different art related jobs. She sold advertising, did graphic design, etc.

“I did that for the first five or seven years and then it was time like I had it was like one day I just couldn’t do my job at the newspaper anymore, I was just like into it I was into like I got to start this business.” Emma recalled her those days.

“Five years ago I work full time and I launched Emma Barr Fine Art and Design and I did a lot of design works still within my studio.”

Thursday was first day of four days events with a 10th year anniversary party. There was school group and other public visits on Friday and workshops about colour theory and planning and executing a landscape painting on site Saturday and Sunday.

Photo: Chadden Lake, Whitehorse, Yukon

Chadden Lake, Whitehorse, Yukon | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
Chadden Lake, Whitehorse, Yukon | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
Chadden Lake, Whitehorse, Yukon | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
Chadden Lake, Whitehorse, Yukon | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher
Chadden Lake, Whitehorse, Yukon | Photo: Gurdeep Pandher

Chadden Lake is another Yukon beauty which is very close to the city of Whitehorse. It is reached from the Chadburn Lake Road in the Riverdale subdivision, across the bridge from downtown Whitehorse.