More than 35 years ago, Patti-Kay Hamilton traded her skinning knife for a CBC microphone. This week, she’s publishing a book about it.

The book, titled Trapline to Deadline, shares experiences Hamilton feels are unique to a northern journalist – and how her broadcasting career was shaped by her time on the land.

The self-published book launches in Fort Smith, Hay River, and Yellowknife this week, and will be available in stores across the territory.

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Hamilton has always been a writer. She freelanced before working for CBC and, after her retirement in 2012, branched into creative writing – winning Canada Writes in 2014 for her short story, The Hunter and The Swan.

She has been a finalist twice for the Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story award.

Bankers’ boxes

However, Hamilton told Cabin Radio watching her sister lose herself to Alzheimer’s made it more difficult to write fiction, and so she turned to stories she had recorded in journals for decades.

“I didn’t want to lose the discipline and the rhythm of writing, so I just started going through the journals,” she said, “and some of the more interesting stories, some of the adventures, some of the crazy things that I got myself into, which are unlike other reporters’ [stories] in perhaps big cities.

“I’ve always kept a really detailed journal, it’s how I deal with my day,” she said, adding she has bankers’ boxes filled with them.

The title she writes on the cover of each journal is always “trapline to deadline” or “trading a skinning knife for a CBC microphone,” after the nearly identical “what’s it like to trade…?” questions Louie Goose of Inuvik and Peter Gzowski of CBC asked her following her career change.

Hamilton had spent 10 years on the trapline before she was “drafted” to commentate on a dog race.

“And then, like an epiphany, I just really fell in love with the power of radio to tell northern stories,” she said.

More recently, she says the media has been under attack: “It struck me that many people don’t really understand or know what it’s like to be on the other side of the microphone; what it’s like to be a journalist,” she said.

“They hear a one-minute ten-second story on radio news or read a little story on a web-based media or in a newspaper, but they have no clue what actually went into the story or what perhaps that reporter went through to get it,” Hamilton said.

“So I just wanted to give people a peek into what it’s like to be a journalist, using my own experiences.”

Three book launches

Hamilton is holding three book launches and readings.

On Thursday, she’ll be at Fort Smith’s Northern Life Museum and Cultural Centre at 7:30pm.

On Friday, she’ll be at the Hay River Centennial Library at 7pm.

Lastly, on Sunday afternoon, Hamilton will be at Yellowknife’s Book Cellar at 2pm.

Her book can be purchased at the Rusty Raven and museum gift shop in Fort Smith, Winnie’s Dene Art Gallery and Gift Shop in Enterprise, and The Book Cellar in Yellowknife.