Tag Archives: History

Sarnia-Lambton’s Sesquicentennial Celebration – A Literary Reflection

Some people stuff history into a closet. I can attest to that.

Any time I opened a history book in high school, all those dates/figures/names would cobweb my eyes and lull me to sleep at my desk. I’m surprised I even passed the course.

Sesquicentennial Reading Featured books photo 1 - August 22, 2017

History is all around us: a sample of featured books on display during Sarnia-Lambton’s Sesquicentennial Celebration held August 22, 2017.

When all the neighbors pulled out their Canadian flags and other memorabilia to celebrate the country’s 150th anniversary of its Confederation, I felt the urge to de-clutter my office and clear my mind of all the festive noise and streamers. Seriously, how does one erase the controversial rental cost ($120,000) and image of the world’s largest (six-storey, 30,000-ton) rubber duck that made its official Canadian debut at the Toronto harbour during the Canada Day weekend?

That’s when it hit me, as I tugged on a box of unsorted literary magazines, moved a pile of photo albums onto a shelf, and opened a small blue/white/gold cardboard box labelled “The Spirit of ’70: 1870 Manitoba Centennial 1970” .

Decluttering - 47-year-old box

De-cluttering can unearth some historic or memorable treasures.

 

History is someone’s memories. It doesn’t have to be about politics and war. It can be closer to home, even tucked in a drawer inside your own desk.

Why else was I saving this 47-year-old Souvenir Cake Box? I certainly don’t remember the taste or style of the miniature cake or the Centennial event in which I received it. Yet, for all these years, it housed approximately 30 little pencils from my childhood.

Sesquicentennial Reading - Group Photo - August 22, 2017

Featured readers at Sarnia-Lambton’s Sesquicentennial Celebration: (from left to right): Bob McCarthy, John B. Lee, Lynn Tait, Patrick Connors, Norma West Linder, and James Deahl.

Memories matter!

Last Tuesday, several writers gathered for Sarnia-Lambton’s Sesquicentennial Celebration! The audience appeared smaller than normal but similar to the dwindling attendance at other literary events I’ve attended this summer. The emcee (Sarnia poet James Deahl) wondered whether the event would have attracted more people if it had been advertised as a literary versus an historic event. I wondered if people were just overwhelmed by busy summer schedules and are just taking a much needed break.

For those who missed this local August 22nd celebration below are some snapshots spotlighting the six featured readers!

Each of the presentations was thought-provoking and inspiring.

Historian Bob McCarthy shared a moving (and humourous) story about the time his parents forgot to tell him that his family had moved to a different home. The story is part of his memoir collection The Book of Bob to be released November 2017.

Poet/photographer Lynn Tait read six poems including a new creation titled “The Bird Watcher’s Daughter” with the memorable line my heart flies with the cardinal and the powerful poem “Strip” with its hard-hitting line the punishment never fits the crime.

Out-of-town poet Patrick Connors read 8 poems including the poem “Madness” which won third prize in Big Pond Rumours’s Winter 2015 contest: Einstein defined insanity/as doing the same thing//over and over again, while/expecting different results.

Deahl shared work from his new book Red Haws to Light the Field (Guernica Editions, 2017) including the poem “Adoration & Prayer” with its lines Let my tongue be the stonemason’s hammer/let red haws light the field.

Prolific Sarnia writer Norma West Linder shared five poems from her book Adder’s-tongues (Aeolus House, 2012). In her humourous poem “Chokecherries” she reflected on her memories of Manitoulin Island and how her mother sprayed: crimson juice/across the spotless bosom/of her astonished hostess.

The evening concluded with six poems by the prolific out-of-town poet John B. Lee. From his book In the Muddy Shoes of Morning (Hidden Brook Press, 2010), from the poem “Vantage” he provided more sustenance for future thought: I grip at ghosts/and rise like mist in heat/where memory sets heaven/in a bowl of bone….

Sesquicentennial Reading Featured books photo 2 - August 22, 2017

John B. Lee often writes about the history and memory of farming in his poetry books. Most poets will include some form of history or current events in their work.

 

Thanks for the memories….for sharing what matters to you….for teaching me that history plays a vital role in everyone’s life.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE FEATURED READERS:

Patrick Connors: author of Scarborough Songs and Part-Time Contemplative (See Q & A here.) 

James Deahl: launched his 25th poetry title Red Haws to Light the Field (See Q & A here.)

John B. Lee: author of over 60 books and twice winner of both the Milton Acorn Memorial People’s Poetry Award and the CBC’s Canadian Literary Award 

Norma West Linder: author of 25 literary titles and contributor to From This Day Forward (Sarnia-Lambton’s sesquicentennial anthology) (See more info here and here.)

Bob McCarthy: Lambton historian and author of a Lambton Shield’s series of 150 videos celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday year. (See more info here.)

Lynn Tait: award-winning photographer and author of Breaking Away

Interested in attending a future literary event in the Ontario? Check my partial list of upcoming public events, updated weekly or as time permits.

Follow this blog for future Canadian author profiles.

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A Canadian Author Profile: Bob McCarthy – A Fascination with Lambton County History

In a hushed voice, she said, “Now, imagine that the woman on trial today is your own mother or your own sister. Try to picture in your mind your own mother or sister being mistreated, suffering for so many years, forced to accept such abuse almost from the day of her birth. If you or no one else did anything to prevent this, would not your mother or sister, forced to live under these conditions, eventually break and knowingly or unknowingly act or react in order to protect the children involved, to break out of this horrible cycle.” – Bob McCarthy

Early Days of Oil Springs/Black Springs Abbey is a double-book, a tête-beche published by Quinn Riley Press, 2015.

Early Days of Oil Springs/Black Springs Abbey is a double-book, a tête-beche published by Quinn Riley Press, 2015.

Sarnia’s historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy writes and publishes books faster than I can read them. With 11 self-published books behind him, he’ll soon be launching Generations, a new historical novella. However, first he will be touring numerous Lambton County libraries, sharing his historical knowledge and promoting his most recent project, a reprint of Early Days in Oil Springs, a commemorative edition celebrating the sesquicentennial of The Village of Oil Springs. The double-book also includes a novel Black Springs Abbey by Petrolia-author Gloria Pearson-Vasey. (Her profile will be shared in the near future.)

Local historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy is touring the Lambton County area with his commemorative edition of his historical novel Early Days in Oil Springs.

Local historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy is touring the Lambton County area with his commemorative edition of his historical novel Early Days in Oil Springs.

Before I continue, I need to disclose that McCarthy and I have been writing friends for almost a decade. Although he is not a poet and my interest in history was soured by the dry presentations of my high school history teachers, we have a mutual respect for each other’s work.

“I only like rhyming poetry,” he admits with a big grin on his face. I laugh because it’s a standing joke between us. I seldom include end rhymes in my work. He often injects humour into his conversations and presentations.

As a retired high school teacher turned writer, McCarthy makes history (especially Lambton County facts) come alive. Although he is best known as a regional writer, he wrote his book Case 666 – Travesty of Justice – The Elizabeth Workman Story to appeal to a wider audience. As stated in this book: “The story of Elizabeth Workman is of national interest, a story about the only woman in Canadian history to be executed after being found guilty of a crime, even though the jury strongly recommended clemency.”

One of McCarthy’s strengths is his ability to promote his work and the work of other writers. He cares about people and recently created a new writers’ workshop group “Writers Helping Writers (WHW)” held Monday afternoons at the Point Edward Library. The open group is composed of writers who are serious about having their work torn apart and edited by fellow scribes. Mutual respect and laughter is encouraged.

He is also a regular reader at Sarnia’s Spoken Word event held the last Friday of every month at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts.

Earlier this month, Bob was one of four featured readers at the Saturday, October 3rd Bluewater Reading Series event.

Bob McCarthy’s book tour included a double-book signing, Saturday, May 9, 2015 at The Book Keeper. Additional presentations are planned for the fall 2015

Bob McCarthy’s book tour included a double-book signing, Saturday, May 9, 2015 at The Book Keeper. Additional presentations are planned for the fall 2015

Future joint presentations with Pearson-Vasey have been scheduled for five Lambton County Librairies:

Point Edward -Wednesday, October 7 at 10 a.m.

Petrolia – Thursday, October 15 at 11 a.m.

Wyoming – Wednesday, November 18 at 1:30 p.m.

Courtright – Wednesday, November 18 at 7 p.m.

Watford – Monday, February 29 at 1:30 p.m.

I asked McCarthy to share his thoughts on his writing process. Below are his responses:          

(1) Describe your book. Why did you publish it?   

This year is the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of the Village of Oil Springs. I wondered what it was like in the mid 1800’s in the mosquito ridden swamps of Enniskillen, who I might have met in the bog a century and a half ago? Early Days in Oil Springs is a retelling of the years from 1858 to 1863, the era of the Tripp brothers, James Miller Williams, Hugh Nixon Shaw, John Shaw, John Henry Fairbank, Robert McBride and others. I wanted to narrate a novel about the first days of oil, a story about the lives of real people who were a part of the historical past of Lambton County.

Since 2001, Bob McCarthy has self-published 11 books including two illustrated short-story anthologies by Lambton County children and Early Days of Oil Springs/Black Springs Abbey the double-book recently leased with Gloria Pearson-Vasey

Since 2001, Bob McCarthy has self-published 11 books including two illustrated short-story anthologies by Lambton County children and Early Days of Oil Springs/Black Springs Abbey the double-book recently released with Gloria Pearson-Vasey

Early Days in Oil Springs is an account based on a few facts and a gusher of imagination.

Why did you decide to publish it as a double book with another author?

When I found out Gloria (Pearson-Vasey) was writing a fantasy about Oil Springs, we decided to combine our two stories into one book, a double-book, a tête-beche, to commemorate the sesquicentennial of Oil Springs.

(2) What are you currently working on?

CASE 666-Travesty of Justice, a novel I wrote in 2013, is the story of a woman convicted of murdering her husband. Elizabeth Workman, a battered woman, was hanged, in spite of the jury’s strong recommendation for mercy. While trying to locate living descendants, I found a great-great-great-granddaughter, also a battered woman, sexually abused as a child and subjected to both mental and physical abuse as a wife.

My next book, Generations, written as historical fiction, will explore a possible story of the impact of nature and nurture on the descendants of Elizabeth Workman’s two children.

Bob McCarthy writes and publishes books faster than I can read them.

Bob McCarthy writes and publishes books faster than I can read them.

(3) How does your work differ from other authors?

When I am writing a story, I gather known facts, lore or legend and try to imagine how they came about. Then I create characters to hopefully present these facts in an entertaining, interesting and informative manner. I usually write by dictating through Dragon Naturally Speaking, letting my imaginary characters take over and tell the story. Then, it’s on to editing.

Thanks Bob for the interview.

 Additional information about Bob McCarthy can be found on his website.

*from the book CASE 666 – Travesty of Justice – The Elizabeth Workman Story (Quinn Riley Press, 2013) page 164. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2013 Bob McCarthy

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author Profiles including one on Gloria Pearson-Vasey. Her website/blog appears here.