Category Archives: Lost on the Prairie

Lost on the Prairie Arrives in Hong Kong

Every month or so I like to do a little update on cool stuff that is happening with my novel Lost on the Prairie. January marks eight months since it was released to the public.

Huge thanks to Laurie Hnatiuk from the fabulous blog Bit About Books who put Lost on the Prairie on one of her Must Read Shelves for 2022.

In December Lost on the Prairie was part of the Heritage House Christmas card that featured all the books they published in 2021. Can you spot it?

My friend Kelly, an author herself, reads voraciously. She chose only eight of the 58 books she read in 2021 to keep on her bookshelf. I was thrilled Lost on the Prairie was one of them.

My mother Dorothy and her sisters Leila and Viola in 1934.

On January 12 I visited with a Winnipeg book club via Zoom. The women in this book club have been meeting together for nearly thirty years. They were very interested in the research I’d done for the book and asked such good questions.

One woman asked me why I had chosen to have three talkative and interesting daughters in the family my hero stays with for a brief time. I had never thought about that. As I chatted about it with the book club members I realized I had probably been influenced by the fact that there were three girls in my mothers’ family. They were very close to each other and such interesting women.

I love how I always gain new insights into my book when I talk with people who have read it.

Lunching on an Exchange District patio with my friend Billie in September

My friend Billie told me she gave Lost on the Prairie to her great-nieces and nephews for Christmas along with a story she had written about their family history. What a terrific idea!

I was so pleased Heritage House added a McNally Robinson Bookseller button to the page about my book on their website. They wanted to acknowledge the wonderful way the store has supported the sales of Lost on the Prairie.

My book pictured in the January 2022 newsletter from Heritage House

I want to acknowledge my publisher Heritage House for the absolutely AMAZING job they have been doing of promoting my novel.

My friend Darren’s Facebook post about Lost on the Prairie

My friend Darren in Hong Kong just received a copy of my book which I autographed for him. Darren is a former international school colleague of mine and is now a professor at the Education University in Hong Kong. He plans to read my novel over the Chinese New Year. I know my friend Meena in Hong Kong also has a copy of Lost on the Prairie but I would be curious to know if any of my other Hong Kong friends and former colleagues or students have one.

I noted recently all four copies of my book at the Winnipeg Library are out and there is a waiting list to read them. They have also added an electronic version of the book. So happy for this support from my local library system.

My publisher Heritage House featured Lost on the Prairie in their advertisement in the latest issue of Canadian Children’s Book News. Congratulations to Nadine Neema, another Heritage House author whose book Journey of A Traveling Girl launched just before mine and has been nominated for multiple awards.

February is I Love To Read Month and if there are any teachers out there who would like me to visit their class virtually to read from my novel or talk about reading and books I’d be thrilled to do that!

You can take a look at all the other posts I’ve done about Lost on the Prairie here.

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Lost on the Prairie Fetching Top Dollar

Such good news arrived last week from my publisher Heritage House. Each year The Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia chooses a selection of children’s books to feature in a print catalog that is sent out to some 2,500 schools in their province.

Guess what? They’ve included Lost on the Prairie in the catalog along with a lovely review and a note about areas of the curriculum where teachers could use it as a teaching resource. I’d love to start visiting schools either virtually or in-person in the new year and being in this catalog will be an important step in getting the word out about my book to teachers and students.

Thanks, Heritage House for submitting my book.

And a marvelous teacher Lori Emilson from Ashern Manitoba has used my book and the resource guide I’ve included in order to create a novel study for her students! It’s amazing. You can check it out on Lori’s Instagram page here.

I realized the other day I had never seen how my novel looks on Kindle so I downloaded it and really like how it displays on the screen. I wonder how many people have read it in that format?

As you can see I have been having lots of fun fooling around with festive Bit Moji images about my book and posting them on social media. I hope people will consider buying my novel as Christmas gifts. It is available at McNally Robinson Booksellers, the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum Gift Shop in Steinbach, and Common Word Bookstore on the Canadian Mennonite University campus.

You can also purchase my book on Amazon for $14.95 and I’ve just discovered there is an American outlet called Books Unplugged that advertises on Amazon and for some reason, they are selling Lost on the Prairie for $41.80. Not sure why anyone would buy it for that price.

I am grateful to my publisher Heritage House who created this cool little video as a sales promotion. My novel is the first one they feature.

My friend Harriet Zaidman sent me this photo of my book displayed at McNally Robinson Booksellers on the same table as her novel Second Chances which debuted recently. I am happy to be in such good company. You may remember that Harriet hosted the launch of my novel and did such a great job. I just reviewed Harriet’s novel on Good Reads. You can read what I had to say here.

I received an e-mail yesterday from a set of grandparents who just finished reading Lost on the Prairie. Each year when they get together with their grandchildren and children for Christmas they do a family read-aloud of a novel and this year they have chosen Lost on the Prairie. They are putting copies into everyone’s stockings. Thanks so much!

In case you missed it the Fall Newsletter for Lost on the Prairie is on my website now.

And………… this week I got my first royalty check for Lost on the Prairie. Although I didn’t write the book for financial gain it still made me feel like a ‘real’ author to get paid for my work.

I always vow I am not going to write about my novel for at least a month and then interesting stuff happens and I just can’t help myself.

I will try and curb my enthusiasm till 2022.

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Pantser or Plotter?

At the Christmas market in Steinbach. People who stopped at my display were interested when I talked about being a pantster. Photo thanks to my friend Debbie Jackson. I only took off my mask for the photo.

In my recent talks to various groups about my book I have explained how I wrote my novel Lost on the Prairie in pantster fashion. A pantser is someone who writes in a way ‘by the seat of their pants’. They just start writing and discover as they go what will happen to their characters.

A plotter has their entire book planned before they begin writing it.  They know what will happen to their character in each chapter or scene of the book and they plot that out with a story line graph or charts or a myriad of notecards with different scenes and events on them.  

I had the general idea for my novel before I started to write it. I knew a boy would be lost- have adventures- and then would be found. But that was it.

One day I simply sat down and started writing the first chapter of my book. My book is historical fiction so often when I was researching a certain place I’d get ideas for what the next event in my book would be. It was kind of exciting to discover what direction my story would take next. On the other hand it sometimes led me to places where I got stuck and I had to wait for inspiration, look for inspiration or ask others what to do.

There are advantages to being both a plotter and a pantster. And truth be told I think most writers are a little of both. A plantster perhaps?

Here I am working on writing a history book for the school where we taught in Hong Kong. When I am writing non-fiction I am definitely a plotter and a detailed planner as you can see from the charts and notes in my office.

Other posts……..

How Did You Become A Writer?

A Million Views

We Never Stop Talking

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To Market To Market

I’ve worked hard this week to prepare for having a table at the Christmas Market at the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum. I was so excited when the museum offered me a spot at the fair to advertise my book which is for sale in their gift shop. I hope my being there and talking to folks about Lost on the Prairie can generate lots of sales for the museum.

I am so pleased that everyone selling their items and all the visitors who attend the market will have to present proof of vaccination and that everyone will be masked.

I was also glad to hear that the museum’s exhibition about Mennonites At War is being held over. I haven’t had a chance to see it yet and I am looking forward to that.

I’ve assembled a display of photos and personal items that belonged to my grandparents who inspired the story in my novel. I have sample copies of my newsletter and some signage with reviews and sales achievements.

Everyone told me before I published my book that you have to work just as hard if not harder to promote and sell your novel as you do writing it. I think they were right. Luckily talking about my book and meeting people are two of my favorite things so I am looking forward to today.

I’d love to see you there if you can make it.

Other posts………

This Christmas Will Be Different

To Market In Mexico

Hong Kong Wet Market

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More Lost on the Prairie News

I did a talk at the Community Centre in Drake Saskatchewan about my novel last Wednesday. Some thirty folks were there and many of them were related to my mother’s family in some way and so they had memories of my mother and my grandparents to share with me. It was great to connect with them and talk about Lost on the Prairie. I sold twenty copies of my novel and signed quite a few more for people who had purchased the book previously at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Saskatoon. Thanks to my cousin Loraine and the Drake Library for organizing this event.

My novel was featured in the latest alumni news bulletin from my alma mater the University of Manitoba. Thanks to my marvellous marketing manager Monica Miller from Heritage House for facilitating this.

I had a nice visit with a group of seniors at the Community Centre in Headingly yesterday. They wanted me to talk about the process of writing historical fiction. I appreciated their comments and questions.

On November 13th I will be promoting Lost on the Prairie at the Christmas market at the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum.

On November 17th I will be giving a talk about Lost on the Prairie to a women’s study group in Carmen. I spoke to the group a couple of years ago and I am delighted I will have a chance to visit them again.

On November 24th I will be giving a talk about Lost on the Prairie at the Starbuck Community Centre.

Here are a few comments I’ve received recently about Lost on the Prairie.

My love for Canadian authors knows no bounds, and this book is one reason why. Love the adventurous perspective of the young protagonist as he is accidentally abandoned on the prairies in 1907. Highly recommend!

– Lori Emilson- curriculum support teacher- Ashern, Manitoba

I can recommend to you MaryLou Driedger’s  Lost on the Prairie, a middle-grade historical fiction novel about a young Mennonite boy travelling from the US midwest to Saskatchewan in 1907. It is a sensitively told adventure, meticulously researched and based on her family history, that pre-teens/young teens will enjoy but that their parents can also! 

 Zilla Jones- winner of The Malahat Review Open Season Fiction Contest

Congratulations on your book “Lost on the Prairie”.  I read it on a nice sunny afternoon and found it very entertaining.  I love “historical fiction” or “fiction based on fact”, and this was certainly in that vein.  I also enjoy reading about the times in which our grandparents and great-grandparents lived.  I am a nostalgic person!   I will give your book to my middle-school-aged grandchildren, emphasizing that they think about the fact that if the 11-year-old Peter can overcome such adversity and challenges, so can they!  And there are many good people around who want to help those in need.  

– Garry Austman (Steinbach, Manitoba)

I just finished reading Lost on the Prairie and I wanted to send you a note. I couldn’t put it down. I especially resonated with your portrayal of Peter’s relationship with his horses.  For me, it brought me back to my own relationship with our ponies when I was a kid.  Also, the rodents, snakes were all animals I encountered, and so I could imagine a picture in my mind’s eye when you described certain scenes.  

Perhaps you are so in tune with boys that age because you raised two of your own, but I thought you really captured that young boy spirit in your book.  It certainly was action-packed and I thought of the movie “Forest Gump”. He seemed to be present at so many important points in history.  Peter’s experiences were wide-ranging and dramatic too.  

Your book invites readers into a different time and into a rural culture, but especially it invites us into the story, which I think is what storytelling is supposed to do.  Anyway, thank you!  I really enjoyed your work! You tell a good story.

-John Braun (Winnipeg, Manitoba)

My novel is continuing to keep me busy and hearing from folks who have read it and enjoyed it remains exciting and rewarding.

Other posts………

Exciting Things Happening With My Novel

My Novel on the Thanksgiving Table- A Mystery

There’s A Mistake In My Novel

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What A Library!

I had heard the Calgary Library was something really special and so I wanted to pay a visit. The outside design of the building is certainly unique.

and the architecture inside is no less spectacular.

There are four floors full of light and space. Nothing felt crowded, except perhaps the playground in the children’s section which was filled with kids having a wonderful time. For privacy considerations, I didn’t take photos but it was clear the area is very popular.

I loved these colorful theme-specific book carts in the children’s area.

There are so many beautiful and unique kinds of areas to sit and read you’d have to visit the library dozens of times to try them all out.

And the views of the Calgary skyline through the library windows are fantastic.

There are art pieces throughout the library almost all of them from the Indigenous community. This piece, a bison made from alphabet letters was called Education is the New Buffalo.

There are special sections in the library for every age with unique features designed especially for that group in mind.

The Calgary Library is a special place, no doubt about it and……… something that made it extra special for me………. was discovering they have three copies of my book Lost on the Prairie in their catalog. How great is that?

Other posts…………

Winnipeg’s Millenium Library

The Library of Ever

A Waterfall on the Library

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Exciting Things Happening With My Novel

It was such a privilege to be able to visit with Heritage House editorial director Lara Kordic while I was in Victoria. I had communicated with Lara so often but had never talked with her in person. Lara offered me the publishing contract for my novel Lost on the Prairie. I was so pleased Lara took the time from her busy schedule to share a drink and a late lunch with me.

She answered all my curious questions about how the decision was made to publish my book and filled me in on possible future sales plans for the novel. I found out a little about her family background and we discussed some other manuscripts I have been working on. I was glad I was able to personally thank Lara for publishing my book and tell her how much I appreciated the help of her staff- editor Nandini Thaker, marketing and publicity coordinator Monica Miller, and designer Jacqui Thomas. How fortunate I’ve been to have my first novel published with the help of such a great team.

A big thank you to Kari Tanaka the assistant manager of the University of Lethbridge Bookstore for this lovely tweet about Lost on the Prairie.

My friend Patty sent me this sketch her grandson did while she was reading him my book. It brings to life in such detail the chapter in the novel where my hero Peter almost drowns. Thanks so much for your picture, Ben. I LOVE it!

Did you know I’m a local BC author? I noticed recently my book Lost on the Prairie was part of a promotion called Fascinating Fiction From BC.

I loved the introduction to the piece…..

There is nothing quite like the feeling of being so completely absorbed in a story that all sense of time is lost. Whether it keeps you up past midnight or demands to be read on the bus, here are some truly gripping fiction books from BC’s masters of storytelling.

They had included a nice description of my book and a link to BC bookshops where it was available. The tweet they did about Lost on the Prairie said it was full of cliffhangers.

My publisher Heritage House is located in Victoria British Columbia so my book really is a BC book. But it just so happened that on October 19th, when the article was published about my book I was holidaying in British Columbia. So right at that moment, I suppose I was a BC author or at the very least ………. an author in BC.

I am very thankful for the publicity for my novel.

A former teaching colleague sent this photo of her granddaughter’s happy face when she opened a gift from her Grandma, a copy of my novel. Thanks so much for the photo Lorraine and for buying my book.

Caroline Starr Rose

I was just thrilled to be the featured author on the blog of historical children’s writer Caroline Starr Rose. She interviewed me about my writing and research process. It was a great opportunity for me to think more about how I wrote my book and all the background material I needed to collect over the years I worked on it. Thanks so much, Caroline.

A big thank you to Aria Klassen a student at the St. Anne Collegiate whose review of my book appeared in The Heritage Posting a publication of the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society.

Lost on the Prairie was mentioned in the spring and summer issue of Prairie Books Now.

I am learning when you publish a book that’s only the beginning. Five months later there are still lots of exciting things happening with the novel and I am sure more are to come.

You can learn all about recent events involving Lost on the Prairie, reviews and news on my website maryloudriedger.com

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Meeting My Second Cousin for the First Time

I was delighted during my time in Vancouver to have lunch with Wendy Whalen who is my second cousin. We had never met before. She is the granddaughter of Alma Schmidt Neufeld who was my grandfather Peter Schmidt’s youngest sister. Alma’s memoir which she dictated to her granddaughter Wendy inspired my novel Lost on the Prairie. I found Wendy on social media when I was looking for more information about my grandparents, Peter and Annie Schmidt.

Wendy is an amateur historian, although one hesitates to use the word amateur because it was evident from the detailed genealogical charts, photo collections, and carefully preserved family letters Wendy brought to our quayside luncheon to show me, that she takes her search for her family’s history very seriously. Wendy had some interesting pieces of family memorabilia for me to see.

Just two weeks ago I found my great grandparents’ tombstone in a Drake, Saskatchewan cemetery. They were my Grandpa Peter’s parents Peter and Marie Schmidt.

Wendy had a copy of their August 9, 1879 marriage certificate. She also had a record that showed my great grandfather Peter had immigrated to the United States in 1874 at age 19 on the ship the S.S. Nederland. He was travelling with his parents Heinrich and Catherine, his younger brother Johann and his grandmother Susana Schmidt. My great grandfather who was born in Poland sailed to the United States from Antwerp and landed in Philadelphia on November 28th, 1874. From there his family made their way to Kansas.

Wendy had a photo of my great grandparents Peter and Marie Schmidt. They are standing farthest to the right in this picture.

I also found the grave of my Great Uncle Alvin Schmidt in the Drake cemetery two weeks ago. Great Uncle Alvin was blind and had epilepsy.

Wendy had a photo of him with his three siblings who were closest in age to him. Wendy’s grandmother Alma is in the back and Alvin is below her and to her left.

Wendy also had a photo of my Grandma Annie Jantz Schmidt in a bathing costume on a beach that was probably taken in the early 1920s.

Another item in Wendy’s collection I found interesting was this telegram her grandmother received when her older brother, my grandfather Peter died as a result of injuries from a pedestrian-car accident while he was visiting Calgary in 1961.

My time with Wendy was all too short since Dave and I had to catch the ferry to Vancouver Island. I need to visit her again and learn more about my family history. I was so pleased she agreed to meet me during my quick visit to Vancouver and so appreciative of the help she provided via e-mail when I was doing research for my novel.

Other posts……….

History Hunting in the Cemetery

Family Tree

Thanks Great Aunt Alma

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My Novel On The Thanksgiving Table-A Mystery

Yesterday around noon in Vancouver my phone dinged. I had an email from my friend Bruno. Bruno had sent me a photo. The only words in his accompanying e-mail were The Charleswood Thanksgiving Display.

Charleswood Mennonite is the church my friend Bruno and his wife Carolyn attend so I knew the table in the photo must be located there. The photo showed my novel Lost on the Prairie displayed on a lovely green patchwork cloth on a table with fresh garden produce, fall leaves, orange flowers, and other items. What was my book doing in that Thanksgiving display and who had put it there? Bruno didn’t say. It was a mystery.

It wasn’t too much later that my phone dinged again. This time it was a message from Lisa who is one of the pastors at Charleswood Mennonite Church. Lisa had sent photos of the Thanksgiving display along with a message.

Hi MaryLou. Happy Thanksgiving! I just wanted to tell you that I read your book this week and THOROUGHLY enjoyed it! What a great story, and so well-done. And then, I wanted to tell you that at Charleswood this morning, we had our Thanksgiving table up at the front, and people were to bring things they are thankful for and put them up on the display, and someone brought your book and put it up there! I took a picture to show you…

So now I knew that my book was on the table because someone was thankful it had been published. But who was that? I have quite a number of family members and friends who attend Charleswood Church. Which one of them had chosen to use my book as a symbol of gratitude? It remained a mystery.

Just then my phone dinged again and it was an e-mail from my Aunt Nettie, my father’s youngest sister. She too had sent photos of the Thanksgiving table featuring my novel along with a message.

I brought your book  for our Thanksgiving church display. Someone set some tomatoes in front of it!
We were asked to bring something for our display for which we were grateful!
Your book came to mind immediately- grateful for your ability as a writer, for getting a publisher and  for making the bestseller list for so many weeks at McNally’s and not least for the pleasure of reading your first novel!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Mystery solved. My thoughtful and supportive aunt had placed the book on the table.

Me with my Aunt Nettie on the occasion of her 80th birthday

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am especially thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given to share a story inspired by my grandfather’s life. I am thankful for my family who supported me in all kinds of ways as I wrote the book. I am thankful for my writers’ group the Anitas who gave me such great encouragement and advice. I am thankful for the good folks at Heritage House who bought my manuscript and published it. I am thankful for the wonderful staff at McNally Robinson Booksellers who helped me promote my book and sell it and……. most of all I am thankful to ALL the people who have bought my book and read it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Other posts……..

Aunts

15 Reasons I am Thankful to Live in Canada

A Thankful Weekend

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History Hunting in the Cemetery

I visited a cemetery in Drake Saskatchewan that is across the road from the site of the former North Star Mennonite Church. I found the gravestone of my great grandparents Peter and Marie Schmidt. Peter was the father of my grandfather Peter M. Schmidt whose immigration story was the inspiration for my novel Lost on the Prairie. Peter and Marie are characters in the novel as well.

I have a photo of my great grandfather Peter H. Schmidt which I inherited from my mother. I have not been able to find a photo of my great-grandmother Marie or my grandfather as a child.

According to the gravestone my great grandfather Peter was born in 1856 and died in 1923. My great-grandmother Marie was born in 1858 and died about a year and a half after her husband did.

This is consistent with the data found in the Schmidt Family Tree book I have.

Right next to my great grandparents is the grave of their son Alvin. Alvin had epilepsy and was blind. After my great grandparents died he moved in with my grandparents and lived with them. My mother said he helped with work on the farm and in the house and he did leatherwork. Alvin is also a character in my novel.

Besides Alvin, my great-grandparents had nine other children. Five of them William, Herman, Emelia, Anna, and Lottie predeceased them. The five that survived them were Katie, Peter (my grandfather) Martha, Alma, and Alvin.

From a memoir written by my Great Aunt Alma, I know my great grandparents lived in a sod house when they first came to Canada and worked very hard. Eventually, they were able to build a wooden house and some buildings for their farm equipment. One of those buildings burned when it was struck by lightning. My great grandfather loved to sing and after a hard day of work would sit in his rocking chair and sing one hymn after another. He died on the same day in 1923 that three of his sons had gone to the train station in Rosthern, Saskatchewan to help transport some 750 Mennonite refugees who had just come to Canada from Ukraine.

My grandparents are buried in the North Star Church cemetery as well. My grandfather died in an accident in 1961 when he was 71 years old. My grandmother lived for thirteen years more in Saskatoon with her daughter, my Aunt Viola, although Grandma was a frequent visitor to our home in Steinbach, Manitoba. I have Peter and Annie meet for the first time in my novel.

My grandparents Peter and Annie Schmidt on their wedding day
My Grandma Annie came to visit us in Steinbach when my youngest brother Mark was born

My visit to the old church cemetery in Drake helped me learn some new things about family and also raised a bunch of questions about their lives that I am going to try and answer with more research. The photos I took at the graveyard will make a valuable addition to the presentations I will do about my novel.

Other posts………

Sai Wan War Cemetery

The Catacombs- Myth and Reality

Anatomy of a Photograph

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