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Thursday, June 05, 2014


I JUST GOT BACK FROM CHARLOTTETOWN and PEI, which accounts for my lack of posts this week. I had an interesting time, which included the obligatory trip to Green Gables in Cavendish. I wanted to see the house that inspired much of the setting for Anne of Green Gables, written by Lucy Maud Montgomery and published in 1908. As much as I loved reading the Anne books when I was young, I knew better than to be overwhelmed by a house, especially since Green Gables was owned by Lucy Maud's cousins and she never actually lived there. Still, Green Gables is a charming place, surrounded by the lovely countryside of Cavendish. Much of Lucy Maud's descriptions, so evocatively written, reflect it. Of course, I also made the obligatory trip to the gift shop. I eschewed the typical tourist paraphernalia in favour of Montgomery's biography, written by Stan Sauerwein.

I had always thought that Anne was an exceedingly well-written character. She is, but as it turns out, Anne is much more reflective of Lucy Maud than I thought. Maud (as she liked to be known, without the 'e') had a hard, early life, feeling like much of an orphan herself. Her mother died when she was two, and her father, facing bankruptcy, left her in the care of strict grandparents who often reminded her that they took her in out of charity. Later, she endured a step-mother who treated her little better than a servant, forcing her to step in and handle both housework and child-rearing chores. Maud was a sad, lonely, and imaginative child. Her ill treatment also instilled in her a tenacity and an iron will to survive. I read the biography in tandem with re-reading Anne of Green Gables, only to quickly realize that Anne was Maud, herself.

Maud writes about wanting to be a writer for as long as she can remember. And of rejection, and how hard those initial rejections were. And her determination to succeed; I love this particular quote from her biography: "I set my teeth and said, 'I will succeed.' I believed in myself and struggled on alone.... I never told my ambitions and efforts and failures to anyone. Down, deep down, under all discouragement and rebuff, I knew I would arrive someday." As writers, I think we can all relate to that.

I also used to think that our works of fiction didn't necessarily reflect the writer. I felt that belief allowed us some distance, as in - I can write about a horrific murder or rape or what have you, and it isn't me. It's just me engaging in 'story'. I no longer think this is true. I think that whatever we write, be it fantasy, or horror, or science fiction, or paranormal - whatever - the work is us. It reflects our demons, our loves, our drives, our attitudes, what we focus on and obsess about - our voice.

Anne is Lucy Maud and Lucy Maud is Anne. They both have a deep love of the natural world, of the quaintness, and limitations, and charm of simple, every-day, down-to-earth people. They also see magic and romance in the commonest of places, which lifts them up from the common.  When you look at your own work, what does it reflect of you? For me, there is passion, darkness, cynicism, grittiness, love, hate, tenacity, and above all else, the need to survive, endure, and celebrate life in vivid, brilliant colours. 

- Susan.

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