Former Prince Albert resident focuses on community and canoeing with first book

Michelle Berg/Saskatoon StarPhoenix Daryl Sexsmith, canoeist and author, stands for a photo outside of the Saskatoon Canoe Club boathouse in Victoria Park in Saskatoon in December. Sexsmith will give an author reading at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library on Thursday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m.

Daryl Sexsmith never envisioned himself as a writer while growing up in Prince Albert, but as an adult it’s turned into a pleasant activity.

As a student at Carlton Comprehensive High School, Sexsmith had no desire to be an author, but that changed when he started writing weekly sermons as a United Church minister. His love for writing led to his first book, Always Another River. Sexsmith will be back in Prince Albert on Thursday to read excerpts from it at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library.

“It’s great to have it out there,” Sexsmith said during a phone interview from Saskatoon, where he now lives. “It feels like writing the book was the best canoe trip of all of them because I got to relive all the memories in terms of the process of writing it. To have it out there, I’m getting good feedback on it, not just from people who are paddlers, but other people who just like to read and say that it’s a good read and they enjoy it. That’s very affirming.”

Sexsmith was six years old when he first became interested in canoeing. He remembers canoe teams paddling across Canada to celebrate the Centennial in 1967, and has fond memories of accompanying his father, a Prince Albert teacher, on trips to drop off or pick up student canoers.

That blossomed into a lifelong love of paddling, canoeing, and the people he met along the way.

“Every trip that I’ve paddled has a story to it,” Sexsmith explained. “One trip, the story might be about the good food or it might be about the new friends or it might be about the new skills or seeing something unique. In each of the chapters I don’t write everything about what happened on every given trip, but I try to find what was unique about the trip.”

Sexsmith began writing the book after COVID-19 hit. He needed a project to fill the months of isolation, and settled on a book about his experience canoeing.

Many of the stories include anecdotes about people from the Prince Albert paddling community. He only referred to his canoeing companions by their first names, but said some will be recognizable to local residents.

“Many of the characters in the book are from Prince Albert, and that’s where I grew up, so there’s certainly many people who know me there,” Sexsmith said.

“I just wanted to share the joy of the journey, but also the friendships because I think what I’ve discovered in my life is that canoe trips, there’s a lot of synchronicity involved. I mean, the right paddling partners and the right friends just sort of come along and the canoe trip is a gift for me.”

Now retired, Sexsmith stays active in the canoeing and cross-country skiing communities. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild.

Sexsmith will read from Always Another River at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library on Thursday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m.

@kerr_jas •