Putting the pen down was never an option for Rossland writer Rosa Jordan, especially once the Monashee Mountains further crept into her creativity over three decades ago.
“What Rossland did do was give me the stability of a place that finally felt like home and also felt free,” said Jordan. “It was that stability that allowed me to sit still (and enjoy it) enough to write books.”
The 71-year-old began her career as a journalist and travel writer before moving to Canada from Florida and finding her home in 1974. One drive through Rossland – a town she’d never heard of – and Jordan bought a house the next morning.
“My writing and environmental work reflects an internationalist sensibility,” says Jordan, whose two most recent books were set in Arkansas and the South Pacific, while the next one will be rooted in Cuba.
“But I belong here. This is the best place I’ve ever been. Living in the Kootenays with Derek (Choukalos) is as good as it gets.”
Her first adult novel, “Far From Botany Bay,” is now being reprinted since less than 10 copies exist after it was published three years ago.
“‘Far From Botany Bay’ just happened to be a historical novel – although I think much of what the protagonist (a real person) faced in liberating herself isn’t all that different from what women worldwide may face today,” she said of the story of Mary Bryant, a Cornish convict sent to Australia in 1787. “Her story, exotic as it is, has elements that resonate with all of us.”
With a bachelor of arts in political science and an master’s in creative writing, Jordan began her career as a travel writer.
“Both helped me as a writer because I had to write to fulfill the requirements, but neither taught me how to write. Nor am I a natural,” she said.
“In a way, writing is no different from skiing: if you love it, you want to be good at it. To be good at it, you have to do it a lot and for a very long time.”
In the mid ‘80s, she and Choukalos started a biweekly newspaper called the Rossland Reporter, which they published for two years. But it wasn’t until 1996, by which time they had built a home near Red Mountain, that she began writing books.
The couple co-authored “Rossland: the First One Hundred Years” and a few years later, “Cycling Cuba.”
By 1997, Jordan’s non-fiction book, “Dangerous Places: Travels on the Edge,” came out, as well as an award-winning TV movie, “The Sweetest Gift.”
She then broke into middle-level reads, producing a trilogy: “Lost Goat Lane,” “The Goatnappers,” and “The Last Wild Place.” Set in the Florida Everglades where she grew up, the books have earned a string of honours in Canada and the U.S.
Her most recent novel, “Wild Spirits,” was released last year.
“I have always been a subsistence writer, the way my parents were subsistence farmers; that is to say, rarely earning enough to live on and having to work at other things, too,” said Jordan. “But there’s no way I’d quit writing. It’s part of my essential being.”
But writing is not her only passion. An environmental and social justice activist, Jordan has worked with the Canadian-founded, Malibu-based EarthWays Foundation for 20 years.
She facilitated the development of an organic agriculture project in a Mayan village in the mountains of Guatemala, and a jungle cat reserve in Ecuador’s tropical rainforest.
“I love travel and love animals. I believe in social justice and environmental activism,” she said. “I guess you could say that’s who I am, and why all that comes through in my writing.”
“Far From Botany Bay” can be purchased at Café Books West in Rossland.
To learn more about Jordan, visit www.rosajordan.com