Bit by bit

In writ­ing and in life, big things are made up of small ones

The Central Voice - - Front Page - Carolyn R. Par­sons Art and Soul

Old Christ­mas day has come and gone, the tree is down, packed in its box for an­other year, the one or­na­ment I missed in the great un­do­ing, sit­ting on the pi­ano wait­ing to go in the box next year be­cause you know I’ll never get around to tak­ing it down into the deep re­cesses of the base­ment.

I ad­mit that it feels good to break out the old Google Docs again to write, but it wasn’t nearly as en­joy­able as talk­ing to Kayla Houn­sell about her new book, First De­gree, a Nim­bus Press pub­li­ca­tion.

I caught up with Kayla dur­ing her NL book tour in Pound Cove in New Wes Val­ley, where her fa­ther’s fam­ily is from and where she lived un­til she was four, be­fore mov­ing to Gander. Now she lives in Hal­i­fax, work­ing as the CBC Na­tional re­porter for the Mar­itime prov­inces.

Her book is a true crime story based on a mur­der case she cov­ered as a jour­nal­ist. Early on, it was con­sid­ered a very sim­ple miss­ing per­sons case. It wasn’t un­til po­lice dis­cov­ered the vic­tim, Tay­lor Samp­son, was sell­ing drugs and had left his apart­ment on his last night with a sig­nif­i­cant amount of mar­i­juana in a black bag, that po­lice started look­ing deeper into his dis­ap­pear­ance.

“He went out and never came back,” Houn­sell said.

An­other un­usual as­pect of the case was that Sam­son, and the per­son even­tu­ally con­victed of his mur­der, were ac­com­plished, in­tel­li­gent stu­dents who did not fit the mold of what we con­sider to be the typ­i­cal drug dealer or killer.

Half­way through the trial, Nim­bus Pub­lish­ing ap­proached Houn­sell. She ad­mits turn­ing a story she cov­ered as a jour­nal­ist into a ful­l­length book was no easy task.

“It was over­whelm­ing,” she said, es­pe­cially since she didn’t know she was writ­ing a book un­til mid­way through the court case.

“Writ­ing a story for tele­vi­sion, which would be about two min­utes, you’re keep­ing very dif­fer­ent notes than you would be for the level of de­tail in­cluded in a project like First De­gree,” Houn­sell said.

Por­ing over hours and hours of au­dio from the court took a great deal of time. One hun­dred ex­hibits were in­cluded and re­quired re­view­ing, and Houn­sell con­ducted 20 in­ter­views for the book after the trial.

The first bat­tle, after re­search is com­plete, is start­ing.

“I sat there look­ing at that flash­ing cur­sor go­ing, ‘OK, now I have to start writ­ing this thing.’ It’s a daunt­ing task. You just have to start, take it chap­ter by chap­ter, and be­fore you know it you have a book,” she said.

The fam­ily of the vic­tim was cru­cial to the story. Houn­sell told me that his mother played a tremen­dous role in the book and says she wouldn’t have done it with­out her. Her in­put gave Samp­son an iden­tity as op­posed to him be­ing por­trayed as just an­other drug dealer.

“I don’t think there is any­thing more hum­bling for a jour­nal­ist than to be given this level of trust to write about a son’s mur­der from a mother’s per­spec­tive,” Houn­sell noted.

The con­victed killer, William San­deson, is an in­te­gral part of the story too, although his fam­ily didn’t par­tic­i­pate in the book. Houn­sell had a brief con­ver­sa­tion with his mother who says this story isn’t over yet, ref­er­enc­ing the fact that her son is ap­peal­ing this con­vic­tion.

The au­thor built her book by tak­ing all the in­for­ma­tion she had al­ready and adding to it, un­til it was a com­pleted work.

I think that’s how I’ll build my 2019. Last year had a lot of good bits and I plan to take those with me, build on them, cre­ate some­thing big­ger this year.

Vin­cent Van Gogh said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought to­gether.”

A sim­i­lar ap­proach can be made to life as well. Take small steps, and you’ll even­tu­ally be at the goal. Don’t leave any­thing be­hind, in­stead, stomp it into the ground un­der your feet so that you’re walk­ing on the firmest pos­si­ble path­way.

A full in­ter­view with Kayla Houn­sell will air on the Bridges Ra­dio pro­gram avail­able on pod­cast on all ma­jor plat­forms and at­ra­dios-show

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