After reading the first five chapters of Anita Daher’s new book You Don’t Have to Die in the End I considered not finishing the novel because Eugenia Grimm, the teenage protagonist has such a troubled life! It was tough allowing myself to be drawn into her dark world. Her father has committed suicide and her mother has abandoned her. Eugenia’s brother and his wife, who live in a small Western Canadian town, have taken her in, but Eugenia is understandably angry and confused. She is making such bad decisions! Eugenia seems to be hurtling towards an early death but……… the title of the book You Don’t Have To Die in the End assured me she’d survive. So I kept reading.
The novel becomes much more hopeful both for the reader and our heroine Eugenia when she is arrested and qualifies for a special youth program that sends her winging up on a plane to a remote ranch in northern British Columbia. There Eugenia’s relationship with the caring but tough staff, the other kids, and the ranch horses help her begin to pull her life together. The wilderness setting is like a breath of fresh air and inspires optimism, but Eugenia still faces enough pitfalls and obstacles to keep readers intrigued with her story.
On Wednesday Anita Daher, the author of You Don’t Have To Die in the End was the featured guest for an online event sponsored by the Manitoba Writer’s Guild. Anita has fifteen published books to her credit and is the current chair of the Writers Union of Canada. It was great to be able to take advantage of her expertise and ask questions about the writing and publishing process and how to access writing grants. Anita also talked about some of the unique challenges of having your book published during a pandemic.
Anita is an enthusiastic and interesting speaker and it was so valuable for a developing children’s writer like me, to have access to the insight of an author with Anita’s experience. I hadn’t met Anita in person before, even though I have belonged to a children’s writers’ group named in her honour for many years. The Anita Factor was founded by a cohort of Winnipeg authors who had taken a writing course with Anita.
My Manitoba writer friend, Mitch Toews who used to play basketball with my husband, colourfully noted in a recent rant on his Facebook page that the path to publishing your work affords no easy lay-ups. He’s right! But……. organizations like the Writers Guild and experienced authors like Anita Daher who are generous with their advice and interest make the challenging journey a collegial meaningful learning experience that enriches the writer’s life.