Thursday, April 21, 2016

Precious Cargo — Reader Questions

Hello All,

It's been a bit over a week since the book came out. I've talked to some people about it, and one question—perhaps even a concern, or a mild (or major) disappointment to some is this idea that I don't have contact with those children (now adults) anymore.

Just to set the record straight on that.

Geographically-speaking, I moved away to Toronto the summer after driving the bus. So that put some very real distance between everyone. Secondly, I was 32. Those kids were, well, kids. The bus was in a very real and vital and physical and societal way what facilitated our everyday interaction. I had a job to do. They had school to attend. Wipe those things away and you're left with a 32-year-old man hanging around with children. Which isn't in itself that weird, I never saw it that way, but from a parental perspective it could've been . . . y'know, imagine me showing up at Oliver's house that summer with a ball mitt: "Hey, Missus S, is it cool if Oliver comes out to play catch?" Maybe Missus S would've been fine with it. Maybe Missus S would've had some reservations about her kid's old bus driver wanting to still play and hang out with her 13-year-old. So it wasn't something I ever insisted on or really tried to pursue, honestly. It forecasted to be a bit of an uncomfortable situation, or it held that potential. I mean, would Oliver, as much fun as we had on the bus, really want to hang out with me that summer? What would Joey have thought about that?


I look at that experience as I'm sure a lot of people look at certain times in their lives. I've gone to summer camps. Tree planting. Summer work at at amusement park. The kind of endeavors where people come together and form a union and a unity based on certain factors: they're in the same place, for a common purpose, and spend a lot of time with each other. That forms a fierceness in terms of a bond—or it can. Doesn't always happen that way. But when the summer's over or the trees are all planted, everyone scatters to the four winds. Sometimes you stay in touch, sometimes not. I don't see the people I planted trees with anymore, and haven't for well over a decade; we're not even facebook friends. Same goes for the people I worked with at Marineland. To my mind, however, that doesn't diminish the time we spent together, our experiences, or the memories we all carry forward. Surely everyone reading this has had the same sort of thing in their own lives.


Some readers seem especially dismayed that I'm not in contact with Jake. That is something that I suppose the book's final passages must seem to indicate, based on early reader feedback—if so, that's my fault, because we are still in contact. Via email, other social media. Maybe not as much as we could be, but I don't see the use pushing Jake on that end of things—and in truth I've got a family and obligations, Jake's going to university and continuing to write, so we're busy. Last time I was in his city we went out for dinner. Though it had been years, it was like it ought to be with friends: within minutes those years melted away and it was like old times. The old jokes, the old silliness, the old stories. Jake's doing well. I'm so happy to see that. I plan to hang out with him again the next time I bomb through that town, or if Jake's ever out this way he knows my door's always open.

It's just one of those oversights I guess a writer can be prone to sometimes while writing—I know how it stands between Jake and I nowadays, and perhaps as such didn't get that properly across to the reader. I assumed, for some reason, that it would be clear we're still in contact. That said, I do wish I could see more of Jake. I hope he wishes he could see more of me. Were we closer in a geographical sense, I'd try to make sure that happened. But sometimes something as simple as sheer distance makes it tough to be as close to someone as you once were.

All best,


  1. I teach the kids that get off the little buses and they are amazing kids. I love that the kids you wrote about are real, not perfect, not romanticized kids. The kids I teach have regular personalities like anyone else and aren't perfect (disabilities aside) but I marvel at their strength and resiliency everyday. They make me laugh, cry, take teacher time outs so I don't scream, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Thank you for portraying real people. They deserve it.

  2. I have just completed your book and found it hilarious in places, and brought me to a greater understanding for these kids. Thanks for clearing up your contact with Jake, I'm glad to hear he has gone onto University.

  3. Upon reading your book Precious Cargo I was very moved by your connection with the kids on bus 3077 and your struggle to see them as kids first and then the disabilities. So much so that I filled out a form suggesting that the City of Kawartha Lakes should buy a set for their Readers’ Book Club. They did and we will be discussing it at the Coboconk Library on Feb. 8th. I felt a personal connection to your story as I’m sure you lived around the corner from us on Gladiator Rd. Your mother Jill had worked for Victoria Nurses and your father for the Royal Bank before moving to St. Catherine’s. You were a good friend to my son Andrew Brown who has always struggled with being different and not fitting in. Now his sister Margaret is the mother of a 2 yr. old special needs child. Robbie is little and very much cherished in his family who focus on all the things he can do and not the long list of what he can’t manage ( as yet.) His future is uncertain but I want it to be as Robbie friendly as possible. So I am greatly buoyed by the news that Precious Cargo is on the long list for Canada Reads 2018 with its mandate to showcase books that challenge readers to look differently at themselves, their neighbours and the world around them. I will be listening to the debates in March and rooting for you.

    All the best,

    1. Hello Gerarda, Thank you so much for reaching out. Of course I remember you, Andrew, and your house on the corner on Gladiator Road. It's lovely to hear from you, and I'll be sure to pass this on to my Mom, who will be delighted. Very best, Craig.

  4. Craig, I have a quick question for you related to your description on p 225 of how you helped calm kids when they had meltdowns. You describe touching their shoulders and then feeling an electrical current pulsing up your arm. This happened to me just once years ago when I touched the shoulder of a colleague whose daughter had died in a car accident. I have never heard anyone else describe this kind of experience, so it really caught my attention in Precious Cargo. My questions: Did this happen every time you tried to calm a kid by touching a shoulder? Has it happened to you with other people in other circumstances? I'm trying to figure out how common this experience is and whether there is a name for it. Thanks! Thoroughly enjoyed reading PC--best wishes for success on Canada Reads!

  5. I love the way you chose to live that bus driver experience so deeply. That is what I think you have to do - open yourself up to feel - if you want to write about experiences in a compelling way. In particular, the passage about hiding in the bus at night to ward off vandals resonated with me. That protector instinct can drive us to do things observers would consider over the top. And sometimes we consider them over the top ourselves in hindsight. Thanks for writing about it. I look forward to reading your new book.