Grainews field editor Lisa Guenther has been using her free time to write a book. It’s a mystery novel, set in small-town Saskatchewan. She’s finished a draft, printed it out, and now she’s been awarded second place in the Saskatchewan Writers Guild’s annual John V. Hicks contest.
If you’re not a Saskatchewan writer, you won’t know what this is. But trust me: it’s a big deal. There is fierce competition from across Saskatchewan, a cash prize and a formal dress banquet. And the best part is that the winning manuscripts generally tend to wind up as published books (finding a publisher is a big hurdle for fiction writers these days.)
I’ll keep an eye on this, and let you know when Lisa finds a publisher and we can all read her book. Until then, we’ll keep her busy writing articles for Grainews like “10 best places to hide a body on your farm” and “How decomposing human corpses will affect your canola crop’s nitrogen needs.”
On a related note, occasional Grainews contributor Anne Lazurko’s first novel Dollybird has just been published. I may be biased (Anne is a friend, and I’m on the board of the publishing company), but I love this book.
Dollybird is historical fiction, a book about the very beginning of farming in this country. It’s a story about the type of life some of my ancestors lived when they first came here. I would have been a terrible pioneer — I complain when the WiFi in our house goes down for half an hour. But the men and women who first worked this soil lived through hardships I can barely imagine. And most of them didn’t even have smart phones.
The main character of Dollybird, Moira, came to Saskatchewan in 1906. All alone. Then she became a “dollybird.”
In those days, dollybird was a slang term for women who kept house for homesteading men. And some also provided… other services.
Anne says, “Housekeeper or covert whore? A dollybird can be either or both, in the vocabulary of the times, leaving the community to draw its own conclusions about who or what Moira is in that settler’s soddy. Determined to find redemption in the midst of their derision, and to find joy despite uncertainty, Moira faces impossible choices with consequences beyond anything she ever imagined.”
Anne’s book is published by Coteau Books. Find it in your favourite bookstore or online. †