From tree planter to creative writer to literary mentor – Charlotte Gill has not followed a conventional career path. The British Columbia author’s 1988 decision to trade her urban undergraduate lifestyle for a summer spent planting trees in northern Ontario was a crucial turning point in her life. It led to 17 years work as a seasonal tree planter and, ultimately, to a best-selling book. It also, curiously, led to The Banff Centre.
Gill’s Eating Dirt – a personal exploration of both the lived experience and the science of tree planting – won the 2012 BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and the CBA Libris Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award. Gill sat down with Inspired to talk about her journey from the clear cut to the printed page.
What came first, tree planting or writing?
I am sometimes described as a tree planter turned writer, but more accurately those two things mutually evolved. I began tree planting when I was 19, and I also began writing when I was 19. My first book [Ladykiller] was published in 2005 when I was well into my planting career, so in a way I feel that tree planting was an excellent psychic training ground for me as a writer. As a tree planter, you spend a lot of hours by yourself trying to accomplish something large that is composed of a series of very tiny pieces. In a way, that is not dissimilar to writing a book – one word at a time, one sentence at a time. Continue Reading →