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Category Archives: Personal History

Move on Over Writers, the Next Generation is on the Way!

From time to time I meet writers. Not surprising because there are a lot of us around these days. That’s amazing in itself.

Because of the world I grew up in, where being inside the box was mandatory if we wanted to succeed, my creative side has mostly bloomed since three things happened:

  1. My children grew into their own lives and their own homes.
  2. I retired from teaching.
  3. Computers took over from telephones and televisions as the next lifestyle changing revolution.

That third one is the most interesting. Did you know writers used to actually write? On paper, with pens (or quills), and without ergonomically correct work spaces? And that meant hours of painstaking toil, especially in revising and rewriting the whole thing out over and over again. My brain hurts and my writing hand is locked in a permanent claw just thinking about it.

Certainly today many more people follow their need for self-expression and take the writing plunge. Just look at the number of blogs which stream by on Blogger or WordPress or any of the other user-friendly (there’s a word from the past!) blogging sites. Hundreds of thousands seek self-expression where two hundred years ago you would have seen a lot fewer zeroes in those numbers.

With the plethora of writers flexing their fingers and their brains it seems self-evident that a huge number of them would be young. I don’t just mean twenty or thirty somethings, I mean teenagers or even younger. In my volunteer job in an eight-hundred-strong group who gather to hear speakers and youth speakers every month, I had the pleasure of securing and introducing an eight-year-old author who was selling her book to help children in Ghana. Imagine! And she was already planning her next book and where its proceeds would go.

Nassem

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of reading a column written by a fourteen-year-old about my book, The Loyalist’s Wife. He loved it. Even though he does not fit my intended audience Nassem Al-Mehairi enjoyed my book enough to review it and, a few days later, to interview me on his blog. Take a look at his links for a taste of what a young teenager can do.

I started my formal writing career only a few years ago. I am awed by the thought of what Nassem will do by the time he is my age. Consider leaving a comment on my blog or on Nassem’s or even tweet, Facebook, or whatever other social media thing you want to let the world know about Nassem. He’s coming!

 
 

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The Truth and Nothing But the Truth?

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Here is a painting which hangs in my office just waiting for me to take a break and sit at the table. I run my fingers over the crisp cloth and smile expectantly as I wait for the server to appear. Ah, a cool beverage, perhaps with a couple of berries or cherries or even mint leaves to garnish it.

Oh, but it’s not reality, you say, only a painting. That makes me wonder about just what the painter saw. Was the reality exactly like this? Or did the painter create his/her own idea of the truth?

Perhaps this started as a camera photo from which some clever person painted what hangs in my office. Were  young lovers sitting at the table, or an old man alone with his thoughts? Was there only one door and one building and the steps simple and square?

What we see here is the result of what our minds and our talents can do, whether with paints or words. The pink pops of flowers, maybe bougainvillea, might have been a broken down string of parched ivy. We don’t know.

We do this in writing, don’t we? Historical fiction is an excellent example. We strip out most of the story we remember and just use parts. Our rendition will not be the truth as far as reporting a certain incident but it will shine with its own truth in the context of our story. My great great great great grandfather is listed as having fought with Butler’s Rangers in the American Revolutionary War. Further research shows this may or may not be true. For The Loyalist’s Wife I have chosen to make it true. Of course nothing else about John Garner in the novel is true but the details of that war are.

A good rule to use in historical fiction is to stick to the actual events as much as possible but weave fictional characters into them in a compelling way. John and Lucy are part of the mass movement of loyalist settlers who fought for the British King and ultimately lost. They represent all the real people who may have had similar experiences but are themselves creations of my imagination.

I have added details to round out the picture, just as the painter who created my painting could have done. How have you used truth and fiction in your writing?

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The Loyalist's Wife_cover_Mar18.inddPurchase The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon here.

 

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Her Story Grows and Blossoms

Donna Garner photo

Donna Garner

She was only a teenager when she performed the irascible Aunt Eller in Oklahoma and, while that part is usually played by someone longer in the tooth, Donna Garner owned it. I was Music Director for that show and several of my family and friends were in that production, an energetic group who started what turned out to be a small but mighty local theatre in our area.

My youngest sister, Donna, went on to become a thoroughly professional talent on the North American theatre scene. She sings, plays piano plus a host of other instruments, and catches your eye every time she walks on stage in a character role. She is funny. As Vi Petty in The Buddy Holly Story at the Charlottetown Festival her performance rang with authenticity, talent, and just plain fun. I’ll never forget the vision of her playing a rollicking keyboard number, her body lying back almost flat, away from the keyboard, and the sound just a-cookin’. It was great.

Last Saturday my husband and I caught Donna in Once at the Royal Alex theatre in Toronto. Part of a year-long tour this off-Broadway show is visiting spots all across North America. Here is the link.

As the audience trickles into the theatre they have the option of going up on stage, buying a drink at the bar which is part of the set and hanging out there as the actors saunter in, grab their instruments, and begin to play. I suppose I could have joined the singing if I wanted, the atmosphere was just that comfortable and real. But I didn’t. Instead I stood on the stage and watched my sister, Baruska in the show, who, when she saw me, raised her eyebrows completely in character but just for me. I had not seen her since early August.

The show was cleverly written, lively, and well-performed on the adaptable stage. We loved it. Afterwards we waited for Donna before going for an early dinner so that she could get back and do the Saturday night show. And in the restaurant she was recognized! It was all thrilling. We so wished Mom was alive to see it.

Here are some pictures:

1. Donna as Fairy Godmother on Disney ship.

Donna Garner fairy godmother

2. Donna at one the the jazz concerts she often performs.

Donna Garner at mic

3. The poster outside the theatre with Donna in the picture. They have several, each one sporting different major characters.

Donna Garner in Once poster

4. My treasured program with my sister’s bio in it.

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5. Donna after one of her jazz concerts this past summer in Toronto. Some of our family had gone to hear the performance. It was awesome.

Donna Garner and rest of us

Today’s post is a little far off the track for an historical fiction author but I know you’ll forgive me for praising my sister, just this one time. If you can, go see the show, Once, in a city near you. It’s a great story and will fill up your creative reserves, for sure.

Donna’s alma mater, Western University in London, is proud of her, too.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2013 in Just For Fun, Personal History

 

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