A show of hands: How many of you have visited the regional section in your library? If you have, good for you! What are some of your favorite reads?
If you have not, I encourage you to check out some regional books. I recently borrowed eight novels by provincial authors. Four are for juveniles and are for young adults.
Will I like any of my selections? Will the fiction teach me anything about my heritage? Let the reading adventures begin!
This weekend, I will feature a round-up of those readings. For my teasers during the week, I will post mini-biographies of the authors. Save the dates: July 30-31!
Joan Clark: Born in Nova Scotia, Joan Clark has lived in various Canadian provinces. One of those places is Alberta. After studying education at University of Alberta, she taught, became the founding member of the Alberta Writers Guild, and co-founded the literary journal Dandelion. When she eventually returned to Atlantic Canada, she settled in Newfoundland and Labrador where she is now a full-time fiction writer. She has written over ten books, several of which have won awards. I read one of her most recent, Word for Home, which won the 2002 Geoffrey Bilson Award for the best juvenile historical fiction novel of the year by a Canadian.
Ed Kavanagh: “If, on some bright May morning in 1963, Miss Hynes had announced to our grade-four class that an author was coming to visit, I’m sure we wouldn’t have known how to react …One of our first questions would probably have been, ‘What’s an author?’ When told that authors were people who wrote books, we would have stared at each other incredulously. People? People wrote books?” This is a quote from the article Bridget and the White Rose on Ed Kavanagh‘s website, where he talks about his experiences has an author amongst school children.
If you check out Ed Kavanagh’s, you will find other interesting biographical information too. For example, he has held a wide variety of jobs such as actor, musician, theatre director, university lecturer, editor, and writer. He has probably written just as diverse of selection of literature for young people and adults, including stories, essays, dramatic scripts, and poetry, some of which have earned awards in the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Competition. I read his most recent book, The Amanda Greenleaf Complete Adventures, which is a one-volume collection of three of his previously published fantasy stories about Amanda Greenleaf and for the first time the concluding story.
Kevin Major: “I get bored, and rather irritable, when I can’t write. As work goes, it’s the thing I enjoy doing the most. And it’s probably what I do best (although I do make a mean Orange-almond cake). There is something immensely satisfying about creating a world that has never been created before, seeing it reach thousands of people, and knowing that some of them have found reading it a worthwhile way to spend part of their day.” This is a quote from the Frequently Asked Questions page on Kevin Major‘s website, where he talks about his life as a writer.
Born September 1949, just five months after Newfoundland became the tenth province of Canada, Kevin Major grew up reading and writing but did not originally envision becoming a writer. In elementary school he wrote some poetry and in high school a teacher predicted that Kevin would write a book. Yet after high school, he applied to medical school. Then despite being accepted for the program, Kevin Major dropped out to see the world. At the age many young people would be attending university, he spent his time sleeping on a beach in Barbados, skiing in Switzerland, and visiting the Gauguins in Paris.
When Kevin Major returned to academic studies, he studied education and subsequently taught in various rural communities. Struck by the lack of material in the English curriculum that reflected Newfoundland and Labrador culture, he turned to editing an anthology of provincial writing. Eventually, he gave up teaching full-time to concentrate on his own writing. His early novels are known for exploring issues of adolescence and the family. They were usually set in Newfoundland and Labrador. I read his first book Hold Fast, which won five awards.
Jill McLean: Born in England, Jill MacLean lived most of her life in the Maritimes. In the 1970′s, she wrote several romances under a pseudonym to avoid the local public knowing that the chaplain’s wife wrote romances. Around the same time, under her own name, she wrote a historical novel about Jean Pierre Roma who founded a settlement in 1732 in Trois Rivières which is near present-day Brudenell in Prince Edward Island. Proving that it’s never to late to try something new, Jill Maclean wrote her first children’s book in 2003 in response to a request from her grandson.
What is her connection to Newfoundland and Labrador? Her son and his family have lived in Newfoundland for nineteen years. During that time, she visited them often. An outdoors person, she canoed, kayaked, hiked, snowmobiled. She also visited offshore islands, stayed in outports, ate scallops and mussels fresh from the ocean, stayed in a lighthouse keeper’s home, and even got “screeched” in on a freight boat. When her grandson asked her to write a book with hockey and snowmobiles in it, it seemed natural to her to set in an imaginary coastal community in the province. The result was the book I read, The Nine Lives of Travis Keating, and has a sequel.
Michael McCarthy: Born and raised in Newfoundland, Mike McCarthy taught in a number of provincial communities, and served as a librarian, until his retirement. Besides writing for magazines, newspapers, radio, and television, he has co-authored nonfiction books about the island, and is the author of three novels for young people. I read The Journey Home.
Janet McNaughton: Born in Ontario, Janet McNaughton was fifteen when she began to write her first book. Although she didn’t finish her attempt at a historical novel, she did discover that she loved finding out how people lived and thought in the past. This brought Janet McNaughton to Newfoundland and Labrador, where she studied folklore in university. Here, she continued to do some creative writing, but then she stopped during her graduate studies.
While attending university, Janet McNaughton also married and had a baby. After graduation, she began to write for magazines. Her first articles were about gardening and environmental issues. When a friend decided to enter medical school, she asked if Janet McNaughton if wanted to take over her newspaper column of reviewing children’s books. When the paper went out of business a couple of years later, Janet McNaughton didn’t want to stop reviewing children’s books, and so sent samples of my work to Quill & Quire who hired her as a reviewer. With this freelance job, she learned a lot about what’s good and what wasn’t good in children’s literature.
With the successful reception of her reviews, Janet McNaughton was asked to become an executive of the Writer’s Alliance of Newfoundland. Feeling that in this position she should attempt to write novels, she started writing a historical one for young people. After failing to find a publisher for it, she put it away. I read her second try, Catch Me Once, Catch Me Twice, which was published in 1994. I also read her first book for younger readers: The Saltbox Sweater.
Today Janet McNaughton is a reviewer, a writer, and an editor. She also sometimes writes essays for adult literacy education and gives radio commentary. By writing each morning and aiming for ten pages a week, she normally produces a novel for young people every two years.
Alice Walsh: Born and raised in Newfoundland, Alice Walsh now lives and writes full-time in Nova Scotia. She wrote several books, including six novels for young people, all of which have been nominated for or have won literary awards. I read the historical novel A Sky Black with Crows.