Friday, January 24, 2020

Canadian Authors Past and Present by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey--Alberta

Canadian Authors Past and Present
Canada celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2017. To commemorate the occasion my publisher, Books We Love, Ltd (BWL) brought out the Canadian Historical Brides Series during 2017 and 2018. There are twelve books, one about each province, one about the Yukon, and one combining the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Each book was written by a BWL Canadian author or co-authored by a Canadian and an international BWL author.
Each province and territory of Canada has spawned many well-known authors and my series of posts this year will be about them-one or two from the past and one or two from the present, the present-day ones being the authors of the Brides book for the corresponding province or territory. The posts are in the order that the books were published.


Henrietta Louise Muir was born in Montreal on December 18, 1849, into a middle class family. When she was twenty-six-years old she and her sister founded a Working Girls’ Association to provide meals, reading rooms, and study class for young women. It became one of the first Young Women’s Christian Associations (YWCA) in Canada. Henrietta and her sister also published a periodical titled The Working Women of Canada. It highlighted the terrible working conditions of women in Montreal. The two young women financed these two projects from money they earned as artists.
     Henrietta married Dr. Oliver C. Edwards in 1876 and in 1883 they and their three children moved to Indian Head, Northwest Territories, now the province of Saskatchewan. She continued to advocate for women’s rights and when Dr. Edwards became ill in 1890, they moved to Ottawa, Ontario. There, Henrietta took up the cause of female prisoners. In 1893, she worked with the wife of the Governor General of Canada, Lady Aberdeen, to establish the National Council of Women of Canada. They also founded the Victoria Order of Nurses (VON) in 1897.
     Dr. Edwards was posted as the medical officer to the Blood Tribe in 1904 and they moved to Fort Macleod, Northwest Territories, now Alberta. She wrote Legal Status of Canadian Women (1908) about the legal problems she was trying to overcome for women. Near the end of the First World War, 1914-1918, when supplies and moral were low, the Government of Canada selected Henrietta Muir Edwards, as the only woman to be on an advisory committee on how to bring in stricter conservation measures. This was the first time that a woman had been appointed to review public policy with the government.
     Henrietta joined four other women’s rights activists, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung, and Emily Murphy, to lobby the Alberta government for dower and matrimonial property rights for women. They became known as The Famous Five. Henrietta wrote and had her second book published, Legal Status of Women in Alberta in 1921.
     The Famous Five joined together again to fight the Persons Case in the late 1920s. Until then, women did not have the same rights as men to hold positions of political power. The case, officially known as Edwards v. A. G. of Canada, fought for the right of women to be appointed to the Senate. In 1928, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that women were not considered ‘persons’ according to the British North America Act and therefore could not be appointed to the Senate. The women took their appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, England. The council reversed the Court’s decision in 1929 and this opened the Senate to women, enabling them to work in both the House of Commons and the Upper House.
     Henrietta died on November 10, 1931 and was buried in Mount Pleasant Municipal Cemetery, Edmonton. For some reason the memorial erected in her honour lists her death as Nov 9.

William Patrick "W. P." Kinsella was born on May 25, 1935, in Edmonton, Alberta. His first ten years were spent on a homestead west of the city where he was homeschooled. His family moved into Edmonton when he was ten and he started school in the fifth grade. His first story won a YMCA contest when he was fourteen. After high school he worked at various jobs in Edmonton, then moved to Victoria in 1967 where he drove taxi and ran a pizza restaurant. Three years later he enrolled in writing courses at the University of Victoria and received his Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing in 1974. He moved to Iowa and earned his Master of Fine Arts in English from the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1978.
     Kinsella’s two favourite subjects for his stories were Indigenous peoples and baseball. While in Iowa, Dance Me Outside, a collection of stories as told by a young Cree boy, was published in 1977. It describes life on a native reserve in Alberta. W.P. returned to Alberta and taught English at the University of Calgary until his writing career took off. In the mid-1980’s, he moved to White Rock, B.C.
     Kinsella won the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship award and the Books in Canada First Novel Award for his most famous baseball novel, Shoeless Joe (1982). It was also made into a movie titled, Field of Dreams in 1989 starring Kevin Costner. Another collection of Indigenous short stories, The Fencepost Chronicles, (1986) earned W.P. the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour in 1987.
     Box Socials (1991) combines baseball and life in rural Alberta in the 1940s. That same year Kinsella received an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from the University of Victoria. In 1993, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. Kinsella's eight books of short stories about life on reserves were the basis for the 1994 movie Dance Me Outside and the CBC television series The Rez, which aired on CBC Television from 1996 to 1998.
     In 1997, W.P. Kinsella was struck by a car and suffered a head injury. He lost his ability to concentrate as well as his sense of taste and smell. Unable to write his own stories he did keep in the writing community by writing book reviews. He was awarded the Order of British Columbia in 2005 and was presented with the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
     In March 2010, Kinsella’s unpublished manuscript, Butterfly Winter, won Winnipeg publisher, Enfield and Wizenty’, Colophon award. They published the novel in September, 2011, fourteen years after his accident.
     Kinsella spent the last years of his life in Yale, a small village along the Fraser River northeast of Vancouver. He had suffered from diabetes since the 1980s and in failing health he opted for the assisted dying provisions of Bill C-14. He passed away on Friday 16, 2016 at 12:05pm.

Book 1 of the Canadian Historical Brides Series: Brides of Banff Springs (Alberta) - Victoria Chatham - January 2017
Victoria (Vicki) Chatham was born in Bristol, England and now lives near Calgary, Alberta. She grew up in an area rife with the elegance of Regency architecture. This, along with the novels of Georgette Heyer, engendered in her an abiding interest in the period with its style and manners and is one where she feels most at home.
     Vicki mostly writes historical novels but now and again will tinker with contemporary romance. Her stories are laced with a little mystery to keep her characters on their toes and, of course, in the end love has to conquer all. Cold Gold (2012), On Borrowed Time (2014) and Shell Shocked (2014) are the three books in her Buxton Chronicles series set in the early 1900s. She switched time eras for her next book Loving That Cowboy (2015) which is a contemporary novel that takes place in Calgary during the Calgary Stampede.
     Apart from her writing, Victoria is an avid reader of anything that catches her interest, but especially Regency romance. She also teaches introductory creative writing. Her love of horses gets her away from her computer to volunteer at Spruce Meadows, a world class equestrian centre near Calgary. She goes to movies often and visits her family in England when she can.
     She is a long time member of Romance Writers of America and her local RWA chapter, CaRWA, the Calgary Association of Romance Writers of America.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Canadian TV I've Loved

I -- American and predictably insular -- became fully aware of the huge pool of creative talent to the north when I became a fan of Due South and it's star, Paul Gross. My mother was the one who insisted that I watch. She fell for Mr. Gross's good looks and the faithful wolf/dog who kept the noble Mountie hero company. She was always a sucker for a  romantic tale with a handsome hero. Eventually I, her daughter, fell for the whole thing too.

At this juncture in my mother's life, the dog hero was more important than Paul Gross and his pretty face. Mom had always been a big fan of dogs and they reliably loved her back. When the four-footed actor who portrayed the fierce and faithful beast Diefenbaker, was changed three times in the course of the four year series, it upset her no end.

Newman, the dog actor in the pilot, was a genuine wolf/dog cross. The dogs in seasons 1-2 (Lincoln) and 3-4 (Draco) were both Siberian Huskies. Mom knew when they changed up dogs and made sure to tell me how different the dogs looked. She also said that she, for one, had not been fooled by the swap.

I loved to relax into Due South's (almost) Happily Ever After World. There was the cross-cultural slant in that the Mountie, just a guy-from-Nunavut-exiled to work with and for brash noisy Chicagoans. Due South told stories that were environmentally smart and politically edgy and they took stands on important issues. I probably sound like a conspiracy theorist, but perhaps their principled storytelling had an adverse effect on the way the show was marketed--or rather not marketed--by CBS, who kept changing the time slot until the audience gave up.

The limited series, Slings & Arrows*, which was first seen in U.S. on our PBS , was in my book at least, is a perfect example of what I think of as engaging T.V. The characters are, by turns, witty, erudite, cynical, honorable, ignoble, passionate, and even occasionally ecstatic. The mood from theater low to theater high kept shifting, much like the Shakespearean plays the cast is shown struggling to get on stage.

Anyone who has ever been in a theater group of any size knows how the personalities clash in such an ego-packed artistic environment. Interpersonal dramas - contemporary culture wars too, came in from the outside world - and charged each episode. Sometimes the show was just Punch & Judy hilarious. The opener, set in a rundown theater's grotty loo, will either turn you off or (literally) suck you in.

Orphan Black, a modern day Toronto set S/F series, became my next t.v. obsession.  In the first episode, Sarah, the troubled, larcenous heroine discovers that she has a twin, but the truth which she begins to unravel proves to be even stranger than that. Sarah eventually discovers twelve (?) lookalikes, who are all the result of illegal human cloning. As the story proceeds, a sinister corporate plot with nightmarish global implications gradually comes to light.

Nurture has overcome Nature in each of these clones, so that although they are all tough cookies, like our heroine Sarah, each one is also different in a host of ways--there is a yuppie, a scientist, a homicidal maniac, a computer hacker, a privileged criminal mastermind, a party girl, etc. Tatiana Maslany is a sensation in each and every role, and was subsequently nominated for both Golden Globes and Sag Awards. She won a Prime Time Emmy award, and was the first Canadian actor in a major dramatic category in a Canadian series to do so. I was happy to hear it, because Maslany had certainly earned recognition after this marathon feat of multiple characterization.

Canadian's do great comedy, too. More recently than the all time dramatic favs above, I've enjoyed the heart-warming Kim's Convenience Store, the quirky, philosophical The Sensitive Skin, and the black humor of Schitt's Creek

Since publishing Fly Away Snow Goose with John Wisdomkeeper, I've been writing blogs for BWL Canadian Historical Brides and learning a whole lot about Canada, America's big neighbor to the north, a country which has its own history, its own art, and its own special national character. I have also gained a healthy appreciation for the talent of my Canadian fellow writers at BWL, as we work together to tell a series of historical stories about each province. 

~Juliet Waldron

* "Whether this nobler  in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them." From the To Be or Not To Be soliloquy in Hamlet.