Kay McCracken has lived on a commune in the Kootenays and has been in love more times than she cares to remember. In 1993, she moved to Salmon Arm from Vancouver and decided to open a bookstore called Reflections. She quickly vowed to write a book about her experiences as a bookseller. Eventually her memoir A Raven in My Heart: Reflections of a Bookseller (Gracesprings Collective) was launched in Salmon Arm at the SAGA Public Art Gallery on June 13, 2009.

Appearing with McCracken at the launch were two other members of Gracesprings Collective: Alex Forbes, poet, author, creative writing/literature professor at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops (Rumours of Bees and The Bill Miner Road Show) and Deanna Kawatski, author of Wilderness Mother, Clara and Me, and Burning Man, Slaying Dragon.

Live music was provided by the Dust Puppets, a four piece acoustic band who play folk, blues, gospel & country music. The band included Garth Baumann on mandolin & vocals, David King on vocals & guitar, Elda Firth on the stand up wash tub bass (the "gut bucket") and vocals, and Ken Firth on harmonica, vocals, and guitar, whistles and percussion. They are from the Sunnybrae/Tappen area of the Shuswap.


McCracken wouldn't consider living anywhere else now but when she left Vancouver in 1993 to open a bookstore named "Reflections"; in the interior of British Columbia-a town with the distinctive name of Salmon Arm-what followed gave her cause for concern.

As Kay approached middle age, everything felt wrong: the chafe of her skin, her marriage, her job, everything. She was no longer young and irresponsible and not yet a wise woman. Caught in mid-transformation, an unfamiliar and uncomfortable place to be, McCracken's confusion and restlessness drove her to make a bold change.

Determined to create a meaningful life for herself, she set out on a journey, travelling to an enchanting, and possibly enchanted, part of British Columbia known as the Shuswap, a place she knew next to nothing about. It's there she encountered the spirit of Trickster. In mythology he's the figure who embodies paradox and change. He also represents the state of "becoming"; and with that energy dogging her, she careened from one adventure, one mystery, to the next.


Memory can also be a trickster as most of us know but when I consider that I am my father's daughter, my imagination also played into the telling of this tale. My father was a storyteller; the glint in his blue eyes told you that; it may even have been his spirit that called me to the Shuswap. In honouring Dad's memory, I was compelled to tell the whole story-the good, bad, and the ugly. I didn't do this to shame our family name but to tell the story of his redemption, which ultimately is a story we can all live by.


Alex Forbes calls A Raven in My Heart superbly written and said, "I congratulate you on powerful writing. Few writers are courageous enough as you have been, to confront the sadness of losses, and talk about their responses truthfully.";

Caroline Woodward writes:

"Opening an independent bookstore is a dream for many who want to contribute to a literate, creative and open-minded community. A Raven in My Heart is about the life and death of such a dream, a story of personal courage and hard-earned life experience. The bookstore founder and author discovers her idyllic B.C. town has a sinister white supremacist element and that their fundamentalist handmaidens actually pray out on the sidewalk after-hours for her store to close. White crosses were painted on her store windows while inside the building lurked a well-documented ghost. A less determined and spiritually-inclined soul than Kay McCracken would have packed up in year one. But this book is also about how many others in the vibrant cultural community welcomed the store and its owner's abiding efforts to support local artists and writers. It's also a frankly revealing portrait of an adventurous woman in mid-life who made some wonderfully inspired life decisions, and some painful choices as well, in a life undermined by a sad childhood secret but strengthened by her own spiritual quest. ";

Caroline Woodward is a former bookseller, owner of Motherlode Bookstore, New Denver, British Columbia.

Deanna Kawatski writes:

When Kay McCracken decided to fulfill a dream by opening a bookstore in Salmon Arm, B.C. little did she know what calamities awaited her. But rather than being defeated by what seemed to be a trickster energy that wreaked havoc with her life, the hardship compelled her to delve deeply into the world of symbolism and mythology. Here she found some astonishing answers. Told through a series of evocative scenes, A Raven in My Heart will mesmerize its readers and linger with them long after they've read the last page.

A Raven in My Heart is published by Gracesprings Collective. www.gracespringscollective.ca


Beyond the Blue Door: a writer's journey (Gracesprings Collective 2018) $24.95 9780994990235.

A Raven in My Heart (Gracesprings Collective 2009)

[BCBW 2018]