About the Author
Born in Cumbria, England, Katie Bickell immigrated to Alberta, Canada in 1991 when she was six years old. Growing up in a rural Northern Region of the province, Katie spent her early adulthood as a Family Resource Worker, an experience that opened her eyes to the vast discrepancies suffered by Alberta’s most impoverished. Katie began writing of those experiences during her first pregnancy, during which she moved to Sherwood Park, a large hamlet outside of Edmonton, Alberta. Her first literary effort, an essay titled “The Joy of Being Kicked,” was chosen by The Birth House author Ami McKay as a winner of Erica Ehm’s YMC Voices of Motherhood 2011 Writing Contest.
Navigating to fiction, Katie’s work was then featured throughout North America and Great Britain in such publications as Tahoma Literary Review, Alberta Views, Herizons Magazine, Bare Fiction Magazine, and more. Her work has won the 2017 Writer’s Guild of Alberta Youth / Emerging Writer Award, the 2015 Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Fiction, and the 2014 Alberta Views Award (guest judged by Giller Prize Finalist Marina Endicott, author of Close to Hugh).
But for the Streetlamp and the Moon and All the Stars
Her linked short fiction collection, But For the Streetlamp and the Moon and All the Stars, is currently seeking representation. The work has been praised for its literary merit, engaging storylines, and fresh depiction of complex female characters in a province where men outnumber women by Canada’s largest discrepancy.
Set in Edmonton, Alberta, the book follows a cast of characters through 1990 to 2016. Characters from previous stories play both instrumental and small roles in the lives and events explored in the next.
Canadian history is subtly reflected in its pages: a doctor negotiates a skeleton-staffed hospital during the government austerity strike of 1994; a First Nations folk singer grapples with the loss her Kokum (grandmother) experienced when her children were taken in the Canadian government’s Sixties Scoop; a business owner aims her contempt at the temporary foreign worker program before considering what it is to really be trapped; a gynaecologist is assaulted in an extension of online misogyny; a young man guides a cancer patient through the last weeks of life amidst the Tragically Hip’s 2016 farewell tour. Secrets are exposed while the almost thirty-year span transforms the casts’ lives as gradually and as dramatically as the era transforms the country itself.
Each story is dated with the year in which it takes place, allowing the reader to note the progression of time with its corresponding historical context. The characters reflect populous and socioeconomic demographics, creating a recognizably and undeniably Albertan cast: the over-invested hockey mom and the laid-back millennial, the eccentric liberal arts teacher and the evangelist’s rebellious child, the overworked foreign doctor and the bored-to-cocaine rigger, the labor standards skirting business owner and the foster care runaway, the unemployed practical nurse and her hockey-obsessed truck-driver husband, the determined college kid and his pessimistic naysayer.
While the themes are heavy, the book is not without humor: a man’s marriage almost falls apart during the 2006 Oiler’s playoff season without his noticing; a young man’s first phone sex experience unknowingly occurs with the high-pitched voice of his girlfriend’s father, a homemaker considers selling “inspirational” embroidered pillows to working mothers: Drop the hair straightener and find the glue gun! Make crafts, not conference calls! Ultimately, hard-nosed attitudes give way to a new generation of Canadians: starry-eyed Millennials with no interest in reliving history or resurrecting past intolerances and wrongdoings.
In essence, the book represents a unique time in Canada’s history. It tells a story of how we have moved from then to now – to a place so different and yet so familiar: a place of contradiction, of optimism despite growing pains, of progress both despite and because of economic, social, and political change. It also highlights the issues we have yet to better address as a people, calling to action more effective and sincere approaches to mental health, gender discrimination, homelessness and poverty, social care, and Indigenous relations. It is not only as a fictionalized preservation of recent history, but also an agent of compassion. It is a reminder of who we were, who we are, and who we can be.
Katie is currently working on her first novel, Excruciating Miracles.