Azuba Steps from the Mists

August 2007 Beth 0825-GrandmananAugust07-25-1

AUGUST, 2007

Welcome to my first newsletter! I’ll be sending these every so often, perhaps every other month. Many of you have written, asking for news of my next book. I’m very happy to tell you that I’ve just signed a contract with Knopf Canada for a new novel. In this newsletter, I’ll tell you about the novel – how it came to be, what it’s about – and keep you in touch with my life as the novel evolves.

THE NEW NOVEL

My husband Peter took this photograph of me on Grand Manan Island. That’s Swallowtail Light behind me. Every year, we go to the Hole-in-the-Wall campground for a week at the end of August to rest, read, and watch whales. This year, it was particularly appropriate, since my new novel is about the sea.

Aug 2007 sailing ships

Its working (and perhaps final) title is Azuba. It is about a young woman, Azuba, who marries a sea captain. It’s the middle of the 19th century, the age of sail. Azuba and her husband live in a shipbuilding village on the New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy. I don’t want to give away the plot, but a hint for you is that much of the book takes place at sea.

After publishing The Hatbox Letters and Edge Seasons, I began researching the life of my maternal grandmother. As I read the letters of my great-great grandmother, I realized what a lonely child my grandmother had been, and began thinking about abandonment. This led to the idea of a novel about a little girl whose parents leave her for the summer with an unmarried aunt, a biologist living on the Bay of Fundy. Ah, but the aunt was living in a sea-captain’s house! I began to wonder about the past, began to see the sea captain’s wife, wondered if she might have been as lonely as my contemporary child character. And so you can see how novels grow – for the ghost of Azuba stepped from the mists and took over my mind.

SUMMER EVENTS – FROM WORKSHOPS TO KINGFISHERS

Here’s a bit of what else is going on in my life. In July, my artist husband Peter and I opened Sackville’s “Festival by the Marsh.” I read, he showed images of his work, we interviewed each other on stage, and entertained questions from the audience. In August, at the Grand Manan Public Library, I gave a public reading, and a one-day workshop with a lively, creative group of people, who decided to start a writer’s group on Grand Manan.

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Right now, it’s a bit crazy in our peaceful valley. After reading “Heat”, by George Monbiot, and “The Weather Makers,” by Tim Flannery, we are doing our own bit to combat climate change. We had an energy audit done on our 19th century farmhouse, and realized that even after many efforts to tighten it up, it was still too leaky. We initiated a two stage program. Last summer, we insulated the walls of our stone cellar, and rebuilt our uninsulated pantry, turning it into a little kitchen galley; and this summer, (as I write!), we have a crew of 5 men working on the house. My flower gardens are (sadly) being lost beneath piles of dusty shingles, but in the end, the house will be re-insulated, have new siding and triple glazed windows, as well as solar panels to heat our water. Here’s a picture of our house with its clapboards missing.

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In the midst of these flying shingles and pounding hammers, I’m harvesting the garden. I’ve pulled the onions and laid them on pallets to dry in the barn. (One of my ponies takes snatches of the onion tops as he passes them!) Garlic is braided and hung, lovely against the white plaster kitchen wall. I’m drying basil and summer savoury, and today will freeze a year’s worth of corn and chard. It’s a gorgeous time of year, crickety and hot, with a sense of fulfillment. The ditches are filled with ragwort, blue and white aster, steeplebush, and goldenrod. Out at our pond, a kingfisher sits on the diving board, and a young moose prowls the fields, as fascinated with us as we are by her.

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UPCOMING PUBLICATIONS

For those of you in the U.S., check out the latest issue of “Catholic Digest.” They’ve reprinted an article of mine on being a grandmother that first appeared in “Chatelaine.” For my Canadian readers, I have an upcoming article in the October issue of “Chatelaine,” about hearing loss; and a brief column in the next issue of “Home and Country.”

LAST WORDS

Thanks to all of you who have spurred me on with your encouragement. My editor, Angelika Glover, is about to send me her detailed notes, and then I’ll be up in my writing cabin, away from phone and computer, until cold weather brings me back down to the house.

Please let me know if you don’t want to receive this newsletter and I’ll take you off my list. And if you know someone who would like to receive it, let me know that, too! I’ll be happy to answer emails – you can write me at beth@powning.com. If there is anything you’d like me to include in my newsletter, do let me know.

With warmest best wishes,

Beth