Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Writing and Publishing Beginnings





Hi Elma, I'm trying to reconstruct the Young Cooperators Club page on Facebook since it mysteriously disappeared several months ago. Elaine Shein and I thought we should start up another one, and since the interest is there with members, we did! Here is the new Facebook page if you would like to rejoin. We'd love to see you there!

I read the message from Carol MacKay over a second time. Young Cooperators (YC) Club sounded familiar to me, but who was Carol and how did she get my contact information?  YC Club took me back many years…

The Western Producer


My dad had a subscription to the Western Producer, a weekly farm paper, when I was growing up. Since he was responsible for raising our colony’s poultry and water fowl, he was interested in most of the farm news.   My sisters and I usually just paged through each new edition, not really getting much involved in the agricultural articles. 
One day however, things changed for my sister Linda and me.  We were both avid readers and also enjoyed writing, so when we discovered the YC pages, we felt this might be where we could have our ramblings published! We sent a letter to Sister Anne, the YC editor and soon received a letter welcoming us to send in our contributions.  Both of us submitted stories, poems and also a bit of art work and were as excited as young children watching a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis when we received YC crests for our first publications and then certificates and 5th contribution stamps.  Feedback given to us by fellow YCs, (leaders or poet laureates) was another aspect that added to our enthusiasm.  For months, we anxiously waited for each weekly paper to see if our contributions had been published.
A dozen or more years later, I enrolled in Brandon University’s Bachelor of Education program.  Towards the end of the four-year program, I took a course on children’s literature.  It was here we were assigned to write a children’s book.  Immediately, I knew I wanted mine to be published!  I found an illustrator who did a fabulous job adding pictures to my words.  Although I sent query letters to numerous publishers, it took ten years for me to find the right one, or more accurately, for the right publisher to find my manuscript and me!  I’ve since published a second book and have a third one ready to be published.  Since I belong to a writers’ group, I’m always writing something, so I have a few more stories in the back burner that I hope will be published one day.

Publishing

I teach kindergarten to grade eight at Elm River Colony where I grew up and still live; therefore, when I started planning my first book, I knew I wanted it to serve three purposes:
1)    Provide my Hutterite students with a book where they could connect and identify with the characters.
2)    Offer non-Hutterite children a glimpse into my unique culture.
3)    Create something I could use in my teaching to introduce different concepts.

The main characters in my books are an inquisitive mouse named Marty and his friend Lizzie, a Hutterite girl.  The text is written in rhyme and is interspersed with words in the Hutterite dialect.  Cynthia Stahl from Odanah Colony, my illustrator, captures just the right balance of whimsy and Hutterite culture.  In the first book, Marty learns about shapes, in the second one it is colours and in the third one, he’ll learn to count.

Since our YC days, my sister Linda (Lucky Lynn) has had several books published: Linda’s gl├╝cklicher Tag, a picture book written in German and Hutterite Diaries, a collection of short stories about Hutterite life.  She’s also written articles for Herald Leader Press, Winnipeg Free Press and Manitoba Cooperator.  My books and also Linda’s are available at hbbookcentre.com.

Little did we know when we wrote our introductory letters to Sister Ann that our contributions to the YC pages would be just the beginning of our writing careers.
Thanks Carol, fellow YC contributor, for inviting me to join YC on Facebook.  Although I never met any of the YC members in person, it’s wonderful to connect and discover the writing journeys different members are taking – journeys that found their beginnings in the YC pages of The Western Producer.


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Nobody Ever Told me it Would be Like This!



Everyone I know is learning to drive this year – my cousin Sharon, my friend Ruth, my colleague Jennifer.  Even my seven year old nephew Jakobi has been begging for driving lessons.  So I may as well also join that esteemed rank.  I announce my proposal to my youngest sister Shirley who’s been driving for years.  Shirley agrees, but nobody ever told me learning to drive would be like this!
We get ready right after supper and lucky for me we’re in the season of slow summer sundowns.  “Can I come along, I’ll sit in the back,” begs Danaea, a third grader who lives next door.
“Sure, why not?”  Quick as a bunny, she hops on and we drive to the orchard, Shirley, Danaea and me.  Shirley sits in the driver seat, in case we meet someone on the way!
We switch seats at the first apple tree.  For the first round or three, Shirley’s instructions aren’t overly specific or lengthy.  Perhaps she’s too busy dodging, being swayed this way and that…
Anyway, nobody ever told me a road could be so narrow!  The orchard road is more like a fox trail than a road.  Well, twin trails with a wide swath of portulaca growing in between.  Is it even possible to keep the tires on those thin paths? On further analysis, I decide it must have been made with bike tires in mind, skinny speed bike tires, in fact!  That road has some straight sections, but I’m constantly having to turn left, right, left, right again, narrowly missing some, but not all of the natural features along the way! 
And the turns!  Nobody ever told me they could be so sharp!!  And they appear when you least expect them.  I grip the steering wheel as we approach a corner, start turning and turning and turning.  We make the turn just in time and keep turning – in circles, even though we’re already on the straight road.  Wordlessly and a bit breathlessly, Shirley grabs the steering wheel and whips us back onto the road again.  It’s a good thing I brought her along, or else, who knows how long I’d be spinning in circles.
Neither did anyone ever mention that there could be so many obstacles beside the orchard road!  Why ever would anyone make a road alongside the La Salle River with just inches between the road and the river?  So treacherous! Luckily I missed that obstacle.  I’m all for going green, but I wouldn’t want to go swimming in algae, even if I could swim. 
There are trees along one stretch.  Fortunately we miss most of them, but unfortunately ram into an apple tree.  Just one!  It whips back and forth in unison with our heads, like a wheat field during a tempest.  I guess there’ll be a few less apples to pick in autumn.  Hmm, maybe I should suggest this picking technique to the apple pickers.   
And the cornfield?  They may as well have planted that crop in the middle of the road! Let’s just say that first row wasn’t quite so lucky!  “We’re scraping the first row of corn,” Danaea warns from the back, anxiously hugging the rail opposite the cornfield.  We whip by, shaving off several sturdy stalks that tumble like a nudged row of upended dominoes.  It’s a good thing we’re growing fields and fields of them, I appease myself.  They shouldn’t miss that row. 
“Even though the road appears straight,” Shirley finally finds her voice, “you still have to gently turn from side to side periodically so you don’t displace the entire landscape.  If you turn a bit to the left, you have to turn that much to the right.  And… whatever you do, don’t over compensate!”
“Now you tell me!” I retort.
“Time for you to learn how to reverse,” Shirley suggests.
Reverse?! I’m just barely staying in the middle of the road going forward!” I mumble to myself.
“Okay,” I obediently reply, stepping on the brake at the corner. 

 A few days later my friend comes for a visit. “Catherine, do you want to take Elma on her next driving lesson?” Shirley asks hopefully.
“Why?” Catherine asks.
“Nobody ever told me teaching someone to drive would be like this.”

Please note: This story is loosely based on a true happening.