Tuesday, 6 November 2012

American Election 1864

In the fall of 1864, Canada’s Fathers of Confederation took along their unmarried daughters and sisters to the Quebec conference and tour to promote Confederation to, well, to promote union of a different sort. Mercy Ann Coles, the charming, beautiful, and intelligent twenty-six year old unmarried daughter of the Prince Edward Island Father of Confederation George Coles, kept a diary of her travels and the events, balls, banquets, people, and whirlwind of social happenings and political manoeuvrings as they impacted her and her desires.
The Coles family travelled back to PEI through the United States at an important time in American history too – the Presidential re-election of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, people fleeing the South, and the oil boom and oil speculation in the Northern States.
The diary is everything one is supposed to be: part gossip, part travelogue, part social commentary. No diary by any of the other women is known to exist and Mercy’s one gives us new insight into this seminal time period in Canadian – and American history.

I used Mercy Coles’ diary to help me create Mercy’s character and structure my novel To the Edge of the Sea. You can read more of that here and more on the United States here
On Election Day Mercy and her family were in the United States visiting with her mother’s relatives. Mercy writes:

“Tuesday, Nov 8th, 1864
We drove to Uncle William’s yesterday [Bloomfield, Ohio] and arrived just in time for dinner. [Many people came over, there was singing and a fun time it sounds like.] Uncle took us to his mill where he grinds corn and wheat. Ma and I were weighed. Ma [unclear]. Mine 138. Aunt Elizabeth 194. Aunt Sarah is as stout as Ma but she does not weigh as much. The Presidential Election came off to day. Uncle William and Pa went to the Poll. I think they were pretty much all the same way, very few seats for Mr. [George B.] McClellan. We left Uncle Williams ... ” [Emphasis mine. Abraham Lincoln was re-elected, getting 212 of the 233 seats.]

Mercy and her family travelled from Niagara Falls to Buffalo, on to Cleaveland, to Warren, Ohio and from there the 16 ½ miles north to Bloomfield. From Bloomfield they travelled to New York City to start their return to Prince Edward Island. On their way they passed through the cities and towns that were booming with oil.
She writes: “We are now at Corry Pennsylvania the great city for oil. They are building everywhere. ... Such a splendid lot of oil they [run?] 1500 barrels of oil a day. Making money as fast as they do in California.”

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Word on the Street

The Word on the Street in Saskatoon is happening next Sunday September 23, 2012 from 11:00 am to 5 pm.

There are 30 authors reading, 4 tents including a kids and teen tent, music, booksellers and a marketplace - what more could a reader, writer - or savvy Christmas shopper want!

I'll be there reading from my award winning novel. To the Edge of the Sea, set during the Confederation Conferences of 1864 - where the sun is shining, island breezes (Prince Edward Island that is) are blowing, $13,000 worth of champagne is being poured, the circus is in town, and John A, the John A, is falling in love ... and so the story of Canada begins.
     Who knew Canadian history was so fascinating - tightrope walkers, the circus, champagne and love!

Some comments from judges, reviews and readers:

In the mid-19th century, three young Prince Edward Islanders explore their disparate futures at home and away, in a debut novel that is lyrical and precise in its descriptions of land, sea and people, and powerful in its accounts of both personal and political histories of the province and country.
Sask Book Award judges Joan Barfoot, Christine Cowley and Katherine Gordon

"Prince Edward Island is also a character in the story.  Seldom has any writer conveyed its essence so well.  And the beautifully constructed sentences and paragraphs flow like water, read like a prolonged dream, and would be worth reading aloud slowly ..."  Elizabeth Cran for the Charlottetown Guardian

"Anne weaves such an imaginative, descriptive spell in this wonderful story bringing life to Canadian history. It is so suspenseful that I found myself eager to hurry to each subsequent page to see what would happen next. This book is brilliantly written, and ranks with some of Canada's esteemed authors. It has such a poetic quality to it while being a superb narrative. A beautiful piece of writing!"  a reader in Ottawa

Friday, 10 August 2012

Summer reading - historical fiction The Town that Drowned

The summer is flying by - I've been camping, reading, beaching, writing, working  -
 Here is a jaunty little blue boat sitting a little too high to actually make it into Lake Diefenbaker just outside of Elbow, Saskatchewan and here we are on our way home - from Elbow to ... Eyebrow, yet to pass through Moose Jaw.
     Lake Diefenbaker was created by damming the South Saskatchewan River - construction of the Gardiner Dam started in 1959 and the lake was filled in 1967. My reading while there, very appropriately - The Town that Drowned by Riel Nason, a novel (it just won the Commonwealth Book Prize Canada and Europe) about a town in New Brunswick that was 'drowned' by the creation of a dam in Canada's Centennial year also. It was a great read and I'm more curious than ever about both Lake Diefenbaker and New Brunswick's St. John River valley and Mactaquac Dam.
You can read more about Lake Diefenbaker here and here as well as Riel Nason  and the Mactaquac Dam
Lake Diefenbaker, Saskatchewan

Mactaquac Dam, New Brunswick

Monday, 30 April 2012

Judges comments for To the Edge of the Sea First Book Award winner

To the Edge of the Sea won the First Book Award at the Saskatchewan Book Awards this past weekend! It has been a long journey from researching to writing to getting published and promoting a first novel. It is great and wonderful and more to have this acknowledgement. Here are the judges comments and John A and I have a wee dram of champagne, Gord Hunter pours.

Joan Barfoot, Christine Cowley and Katherine Gordon

      In the mid-19th century, three young Prince Edward Islanders explore their disparate futures at home and away, in a debut novel that is lyrical and precise in its descriptions of land, sea and people, and powerful in its accounts of both personal and political histories of the province and country. 

 Much thanks to Shelley Banks for the pictures. You can see more of Shelley's work at Latitude Drifts

You can also see my friend Gord Hunter's (who won the gorgeous raffle prize basket with all the winning books, wine, and Prairie Cherry chocolates from  Over the Hill Orchards) blog posts here at Life is too short to drink cheap wine

Sunday, 29 April 2012

To the Edge of the Sea wins Saskatchewan Book Award

Last night at the Saskatchewan Book Awards Gala my novel To the Edge of the Sea, set during the Confederation conferences of 1864 in Charlottetown and Quebec won First Book Award!

You can read the Leader Post article  here

I'll add more on what the jury said and some of the great photos in a bit - John A gets his own glass of champagne, and then he shares it with Curtis McManus who won the non-fiction prize for his book Happyland A History of the "Dirty Thirties" in Saskatchewan, 1914 - 1937.

A pretty nice night.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Canadian Bookworm Book Review

A lovely review of To the Edge of the Sea by librarian Shonna

see her Review and Blog here

To The Edge of the Sea

Finished March 16
To the Edge of the Sea by Anne McDonald
This short novel is lyrical and flows between four characters. Set in the summer and fall of 1864, this book begins in PEI and takes us across the Canadas to Niagara Falls. Two young men in PEI, brothers, Alex and Reggie are very different. Reggie, the oldest, is seasick every time he goes out on his father's fishing boat, yet he is the responsible one, the one who asks before he acts. Alex is impulsive and a natural fisherman. When a circus comes to the island, Alex leaves in the night to go to town to see it. He is drawn to the actions of the highwire performers and follows them beyond his island home. Reggie is changed by Alex's disappearance and makes choices in his own life that change his life forever.

At the same time, the leaders of Upper and Lower Canada come to PEI to try to get agreement to form a nation. This is the start of a road trip from the island across the Canadas and we see things from the eyes of John A Macdonald himself and the eyes of Mercy, daughter of PEI delegate George Coles, a young woman both drawn and repelled by John A.
This is a journey, and a discovery and a leaving.
Mercy leaves behind her younger, more innocent self. John A leaves behind part of himself as a cost to forming a new country. Alex leaves behind his island home and family. Reggie leaves a life he was born into, but not without cost. From Canadian history to the famous Farinis, this novel explores change and a sense of inevitability. Very enjoyable.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Saskatchewan Book Award Shortlist

To the Edge of the Sea has just been shortlisted for a Saskatchewan Book Award!

The big gala is Saturday April 28, 2012 in Regina.

Find all the info on the shortlist and the gala here.

I'll be participating in the Sask Book Awards Shortlist Reading in Moose Jaw on Wed April 4 - more info at the same link above.

And at interview with short listed Regina writers, including me
here and below.

The Sask. Book Awards recognize writers of poetry, scholarly works, fiction, non-fiction, children's literature and aboriginal books, along with publishers. The award ceremony is scheduled for April 28 at the Conexus Arts Centre.
       Awards Chair Barbara Shourounis stressed the importance of recognizing authors from Saskatchewan.
    "Having your counterparts, your fellow writers, choose your work as the best is a very rewarding experience," she said.
"I think there's something about Saskatchewan that brings out introspection and the creative process, because we do have a lot of very successful writers from this province.
"It also gives young writers something to look forward to."
      Anne McDonald, who moved to Regina from Toronto 12 years ago, said Saskatchewan has positively influenced her writing career. 
    McDonald's book, To The Edge of the Sea, is nominated in the First Book Award category. It is set during the Canadian Confederation conferences of 1864, including intertwining stories.
"When I came here there were all of these writers and artists that were living their lives as writers and artists," McDonald said.
For a full list of nominees, visit www.leaderpost.com.
Mark Cronlund Anderson and Carmen L. Robertson (scholarly writing, aboriginal writing, Regina book, non-fiction); Wilfred Burton and Anne Patton (Regina book); Edward Willett (Regina book); Britt Holmstrom (Regina book, fiction); Alison Lohans (Regina book, children's literature); David Sauchyn, Harry Diaz and Suren Kulshreshtha (scholarly writing); Adam Pottle (poetry, first book); Judith Silverthorne (children's literature); Timothy Long (non-fiction); CPRC Press/University of Regina (publishing, aboriginal publishing, education publishing); Coteau Books (publishing, education publishing); Haglos Press (publishing); Nature Saskatchewan (publishing).

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

More Upcoming Readings

Upcoming Events and Readings include the

Weyburn, Sk Public Library Tues Feb 28, 2012,

Signature Reading Series for the Saskatchewan Writers Guild, Regina March 29

Pelican Bay Literary Arts Festival at St Peter's College in Muenster April 2

Saskatchewan Book Awards Shortlist Reading at Java Express in Moose Jaw Wed Apr 4

see the Upcoming Events page for more info!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

It's John A Macdonald's Birthday

John A is nearly 200 - 3 more years and he'll be there! In the meantime, he, I, and Richard Gwyn have had a great year.

Gwyn's 2nd volume of his biography of John A was released this year - as was my novel based around Confederation which features John A as one of the main characters (tricky, very tricky having a real person set in a real historical time - and fun to play with and explore).

In Today in Canadian History they have a wonderful 2 part interview with Gwyn. Before they speak with Gwyn they say the start of Canada was boring - I disagree with that! Read my novel; listen to Gwyn; just the plain facts tell us more than that.

Gwyn refers to Joseph Pope who became John A's secretary - and stayed in Wilfred Laurier's cabinet as he was so knowledgeable and so good at his job. Roy MacSkimming writes brilliantly of both Laurier and Pope in his novel Laurier in Love. For my part, I have a piece with Joseph Pope in To the Edge of the Sea - Joseph was the son of William Pope, one of the PEI delegates for Confederation, and the only one who went to meet the Fathers of Confederation on their steamship the Queen Victoria ... meanwhile, remember the circus was on ... Here is my fictional account of Joseph:

Joseph Pope sat in a tree in the yard, half way up and
hidden by the summer leaves, waiting for his father. He’d
been waiting two hours already. It didn’t matter anymore; the
show had started and still he waited. Today, he’d promised,
today they would go. Joseph took a twig and held it against
the trunk of the tree. Two black ants crawled onto the stick.
They walked up it and he pretended they were the acrobats. He
turned the stick upside down as the ants, unconcerned, went
up and down. He held it so that one ant crawled into his palm,
circled it, searching for what? Joseph sighed. He’d barely eaten
any lunch he was so excited and now it was nearly tea time.
     He shifted, the bark pressed uncomfortably against his
legs. He watched the ant on his palm, felt the slight tickling
of it as it walked. Joseph looked back at the road. Nothing,
no one coming. Holding the twig loosely in his other hand,
he watched the single ant crawl along it and then he held it
out over the open ground and dropped it. He watched as it
hit the ground, the acrobat falling, the crowd below gasping.
Joseph gasping too, as if it were real. Pretending to himself,
wanting the game. He looked back at his palm and reached
his finger out to touch the other ant. So small it tried to crawl
onto his finger. It struggled, then caught hold. With his thumb
he brushed against it, so small he could barely feel it, could
pretend it wasn’t there. He brushed harder, and then pressed
the ant between his finger and thumb. Opened his hand and
looked, only a smudge of black remaining.

Gwyn quotes Pope, "(Macdonald) knew every chord of the human heart."
Richard Gwyn will be reading and signing at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon this coming Mon Jan 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm.
Happy Birthday John A - and my Aunt Fran from Prince Edward Island, who sent me so much history on PEI and was a writer too.