Former CBC radio host launches book: From Trapline to Deadline

Patti-Kay Hamilton is launching her new book in the Northwest Territories this week. It's the story of how she, a trapper, became a host for the CBC radio show Bush Radio.

Hamilton started at CBC in about 1981, and left in 2012 to start writing creatively. She had success early on in her efforts, she published stories in magazines and in 2014 she won the Canada Writes creative non fiction contest.

But after her sister, who has Down Syndrome, developed Alzheimer's, fiction didn't make sense for her anymore.

"It just became impossible," said Hamilton.

Her sister, who used to be a chatterbox, was suddenly silenced. She couldn't speak and she didn't know who Hamilton was anymore. "I can see it in her eyes when she's struggling to try to tell me something and she can't find words."

Tessa MacIntosh
Tessa MacIntosh

"But she seemed to take a lot of comfort from hearing my voice," said Hamilton. Her struggle was that it was difficult to have a one-sided conversation. So she would tell her stories about life on the trapline and life at CBC.

But something had changed for Hamilton.

"It was really difficult to watch her psychic pain and the terrible experience she was having and come home and write stories that I was making up, write fiction."

But her sister seemed to be comforted by the sound of Hamilton's voice.

Her son suggested she start writing about her life on the trap line. "It was wonderful."

From short stories to a book

Submitted by Patti-Kay Hamilton
Submitted by Patti-Kay Hamilton

Hamilton would write a short story about life on the trapline for about two hours a day. And those stories eventually segued into how she started working at CBC.

They turned into her new book: From Trapline to Deadline.

She said part of the reason that she thought it was important to write the book is because she is seeing hateful comments from people on Facebook "flogging" journalists. She said she even has a friend who works at CBC who is considering leaving for this reason.

"It struck me that so many people who listen to the radio or read a newspaper don't really know what it's like to be a reporter," said Hamilton.

She said that with some of the tougher stories she's done over the years "do still haunt me."

"You're so busy taking notes paying attention, listening that you don't recognize how the painful things you're hearing are affecting you and that they will stay in your heart and soul forever."

The book has launched in Fort Smith and Hay River, and will be launching in Yellowknife on Sunday.