But right until the end of the period, all Katie could think about was Mindemoya. What a funny name! It sounded like the sort of place where strange things could happen. –Norma West Linder*
For over fifty years, Canadian writer Norma West Linder has surrounded herself with words. Books spill from shelves in her living room. Tabletops hold magazines and other reading material. Not only is she an avid reader but she has produced an impressive and diverse portfolio of literature during her prolific writing career. Her contributions to the literary community include 5 novels, 14 collections of poetry, a biography on the former Ontario Lieutenant-Governor. Pauline McGibbon, a one-act play, a children’s book and a memoir on Manitoulin Island. She also taught English and Creative Writing for 24 years at Lambton College in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada and wrote a monthly column for The Sarnia Observer for 7 years.
Retirement is far from her mind. In fact, her latest book The Pastel Planet (Hidden Brook Press, 2015) is a 77-page ‘chapter book’ that transports her back to her youth, to Manitoulin Island where she spent her formative years, long before she settled in Sarnia.
It’s the same setting she showcased in Morels and Maple Syrup: A Memoir of Manitoulin Island (Vesta Publications, 1977) and in her poetry chapbook Magical Manitoulin (Beret Days Press, 2006). This love for her childhood haunt is reinforced in her poem “Going Back” where she states: “when I was twelve/we moved from Manitoulin/yet somehow I remained an Island girl/and each time I go back I live again/those carefree days**”
Linder’s imagination soars with her latest novel. Marketed for children ages 8 to 10, the book follows the fictional story of Caleb Larkin and his step-sister Katie Lambert who witness a spaceship landing on the island. Her chapters are beautifully enhanced with 10 full-colour images by Calgary resident and artist Afsheadeh Abbasnezhad.
According to poet, publisher, literary judge and reviewer Katherine L. Gordon, “Norma West Linder has written a tale imbued with the historic magic of Manitoulin, a place alive from the ancient of days with spirit power. A perfect setting for adventure and self-discovery.”
The Pastel Planet will be officially launched Saturday, January 16 starting at 2 p.m. at The Book Keeper, Northgate Plaza, in Sarnia. James Deahl, Linder’s biggest fan and significant other will also be reading from his new poetry book Unbroken Lines: Collected Poetic Prose 1990-2015 (LUMMOX Press, 2015). More details about Deahl’s book appears here.
Additional details about Linder’s The Pastel Planet appear here.
Below is an interview conducted with Linder earlier this month:
1) Describe your new book The Pastel Planet. What inspired you to write it?
My book takes two youngsters, Katie and Caleb, on space trips over Manitoulin Island with friendly aliens who resemble huge Gumbo babies. I wanted to write another novel for children because my first one about our family dog was well received.***
2) How does your work differ from other writers? What makes it unique and special?
Even though it’s said there’s nothing new under the sun, each writer has his or her own voice and a unique way of seeing the world, as unique as our fingerprints.
3) What is your writing process? And why do you write the way that you do?
I’m erratic in my writing habits; some days I’m at it for hours, other days I accomplish nothing. But if I’m not writing, I’m usually thinking about it.
4) What are your plans for promoting your book?
The Book Keeper in Sarnia will do a launch for me on January 16th at 2 o’clock, when James Deahl, my Significant Other, launches his book of poetic prose pieces, Unbroken Lines.
5) Who are/were your mentors and why did they inspire you?
Other writers inspired me, novelists like Margaret Laurence and Ernest Buckler, and poets like Ray Souster. James inspires me on a daily basis.
6) You are a prolific writer. What advice would you give to a young writer just starting his/her career as a writer?
The best advice I can give beginning writers is to know everything there is to know about your characters in short stories or novels. For poems, it’s a good idea to put the first draft away for a day or two, let it get cold, then revise if necessary. Oddly enough, you may have to discard the very line that prompted you to write the poem in the first place.
7) What are some of the challenges facing writers today?
For writers of short stories, a form I’ve always enjoyed doing, the market today is lamentably small. When I was able to sell stories to Chatelaine, the pay was good, and often the stories would be picked up for publication in England and Australia, again, with substantial payment. Much of what is written today appears only online with minimal payment or none at all. To me, that is less satisfying than holding a magazine or book in my hands.
8) What future writing project will you be working on following/during your tour?
I’ve written articles, essays, stories, novels and plays. However, the publication of poetry has given me the most satisfaction, although the reward is not a monetary one. But unlike other kinds of writing, one has to wait for Erato, the poetic Muse, to come to call. And she can stop calling for long stretches when you might think she has abandoned you. Just wait. She always comes again.
Thank you for sharing your comments. I wish you continued success with your writing!
*epigraph is from the end of Chapter 1 of The Pastel Planet (Hidden Brook Press, 2015). Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2015 Norma West Linder
**from the poem “Going Back”, Magical Manitoulin (Beret Days Press, 2006). Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright @2006 Norma West Linder
***Linder’s first children’s book was titled Corey (Vesta Publications, 1979). It was 91 pages long and was illustrated by K. Herb Linder.
Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.