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I am a retired schoolteacher but as John Burroughs said: "I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see." I would add to that - all the words I want to write, and all the time I want to re- create.
You never quit learning - discovering - My life will never be long enough to write all I want even if it never gets published!
For years I put my writing on hold while I pursued other interests and duties. Family and Home comes first. Then the job. Then church and community - service and commitment. Then personal pursuits and interests: music, entertaining, dancing, and physical activity. Personal fulfillment such as hiking, travelling, bowling, reading.
The publishing part was more difficult for a time. I got a catalogue of publishers from The Book Publishers Association and started writing letters and sending sample chapters of my book as the library book I'd read had suggested. It also said to be prepared for refusals but to persevere. I did, and got many polite refusals.
Then I came upon a publisher/editor who steered me towards self publishing and I joined a group of seven authors who formed The Independent Publishers Association. It has been a much harder route to take, many times more demanding - but very rewarding! I became a business woman, president, secretary, publisher, shipping clerk, advertising and marketing agent, graphics designer, sales and distribution co-ordinator as well as author. Sometimes I ended up in tears of frustration - I can't do this!
What was originally meant to be one book and only a family document ended up being a trilogy - 3 books of over 1000 pages. Urged by my editor it became a novel. I wanted to keep all the names of characters, places, times and incidents the same. I wanted it to be non-fiction but since I was not there to know the conversation, how they thought and felt - the intimate detail, it became a mixture of fiction and non-fiction or as The Book Publishers of Canada terms it - Creative Non-Fiction! The characters came alive on my computer screen as their lives unfolded before me. At times it became scary because people who were still alive might not like me opening up their lives for people to scrutinize. I was scared to death that relatives of Mrs. Fox on the prairies and Mr. Rasmussen in Stanger would approach me and say: �I don�t like what you send about my grandma - or my great uncle.� �That�s the danger of telling it like it was - at least telling it like you heard it was. The first thing I discovered when I started interviewing people was that no two people remembered the incident quite the same.
Thirty years or more ago my family started a continuing family letter. Each member reminisced about the past, then passed it on to the next. I collected them and promised myself I would set it all down. Years went by, members of the family died without me getting necessary information.
Writing by hand was lying around in a disorganized fashion in boxes and drawers. Then I bought the computer and it began to take shape. I wrote the stories as they had told them to me and put them together into a book - a novel, so that any who read could get inside the lives and really know what it was like in those days. But I had to research in local history documents to find out what else was going on in the community, country - the world at that time. They didn�t live in a vacuum - what happened to them was a direct result of what was going on politically, economically - the weather and climatic changes had a profound affect on their lives. What I found out fascinated me, amazed and astounded me. For instance:
|1.||Did you know that in the Criminal Code - there is an Act instated in 1892 saying that the �Sale of Condoms� for birth control was restricted by criminal law. Birth Control was considered obscene, tending to corrupt morals! �(I quote!�|
my parents had no control on the size of their family - the government did. My Family Tree reads like a page out of
Genesis! One young lady asked me in all innocence: �Why did your mother
decide to stop at thirteen - did she just decide that
|2.||Had you ever wondered why there were so many English, Scottish, Germans and later Ukrainian that settled on the land out here first?� Not many Chinese, Japanese, Africans no Negroes, Moslems, Bhuddists- -.� The homesteaders were part of the government�s first lottery. They had a $10 bet with the government. They had to clear thirty acres of the land they claimed, cultivate, build a house and fence in three years or he�d lose that bet with the government. The government was desperate to influence the right kind of people to come west but they gave them no training or inclination as to what it was really like. As a result they couldn�t cope with the drought, the dust storms when their land blew away and the epidemics - Influenza, pneumonia.|
|3.||So my story was meant to educate as well as to interest, amuse and help the reader get to know those first settlers as they never had before. I started with my family because I knew more about them, but their neighbors, friends, fellow settlers etc. also found a place in the story. There were the economic conditions- people learned frugality. In the thirties, The Bennett Buggy Era there was no gas - no cash, - only essentials came into the household. What ten things would you consider essential in your household? How would you �make do� with what you had? Then came the war when their sons were called away possibly to their death.|
|4.||The historical re-telling of events grew into a novel to help the reader experience the joys, the sorrows, the ambitions, the regrets, the guilt, the fears, and the petty jealousies.|
|5.||I had to describe the scenes so that you would feel that you were there, (Page 119 The Gentle Gamblers �After the cattle�) tell conversations, thoughts, and feelings of people while trying to get inside the situation and the minds. (So often people glossed over the hard times, how they felt, what was said.) For instance in the May 3rd blizzard of 1919 when 3 feet of snow came down on the prairies, cattle wandered off and froze to death, people were trapped in their little cabins with little fuel for the stoves, no supplies, no radio. Would you want them to pass that off as though it had been a bit of a storm but nothing any red-blooded settler worth his salt couldn�t cope with?|
How did they cope with no electricity? No indoor plumbing at forty below? Lack of water? Prairie or bush fires? Loneliness? The Heat - 100 degrees or more in a crowded little cabin? Floods? How did they treat ailments, infections? Bleeding? With no doctor or hospital? Not even an aspirin? Burns? (One seven-year-old in �The Tender Years� after being badly burned was wrapped in flour and a sheet and lay on the kitchen table in terrible pain for days.)
What�s more - how do you keep your faith through adversity, death, poverty and heartache? I quote from Alberta in The Twentieth Century - �In the 20�s the church was the social glue that held the province together.� This family came from a devoutly religious background in PEI with stern reactions to: Catholics (the history brought with them from The British Isles). Donald used to read to the children from the Bible every Sunday and said grace before each meal.
�Their traditions would not allow non-religious activities on Sunday such as dancing, singing songs other than hymns, playing cards and they were not a minority in that belief. The provincial government also had civil laws that prohibited non-essential work on Sunday. Many farmers were arrested for putting up hay on Sunday even if they were sure it was going to rain the next day! And a Saturday night dance ended at midnight on pain of a fine. It was not that many years ago that that law came off the books.
Still there was a relaxed attitude in the West and over the years Sundays became the same as any other day. Once people drove in horse and buggy for miles to church, the highlight of their whole week. Now as church attendance falls off, people can�t make it out of bed on a Sunday morning to walk down the street to church. Now, many times more money is spent on gambling machines and entertainment than their church. But that�s another story.
Aberhart, who back in the early thirties, brought evangelical Christianity and Social Credit economics together into a political party that stayed in power for many years was my mother�s idol. (Page 297 AFH) She used to listen to his sermon on the radio for 2 hours on a Sunday afternoon when they got the radio. My father was devout CCF and I heard many a lively argument back in the early forties as they went to the poles and cancelled each other�s votes.
But they did keep their faith in spite of it all!� (Read from The Tender Years)
But the times were not all hard or sad - just as people were not all good or bad. Sadie, even though she was as close to a saint as any of us ever aspired to, showed that she wasn't immune to the evils of the times. (Read from A Full House Page 308, top 309).
I found that the reality of writing non-fiction, for me, is a lot more fascinating and worthwhile reading than fiction. And besides that I'd like to tell the young people of 'This Star Wars Generation' these are the people who left their legacy behind - for us! Because of them we have won a new independence - a new freedom to think, feel and decide for ourselves. Or have we?