I was delighted to be the guest of a book club discussing Lost on the Prairie on March 17th. The food and wine was amazing as you can see from this photo and that was just the first course. Everyone had read my book and had so many questions. The group was especially interested in the research I had done for the novel and the publishing process. One question they asked that stumped me was why I hadn’t given the chapters of my novel titles. I am not sure why I didn’t and that might be something to think about if I ever publish another book.
Have you heard of spine poetry? It involves using words on the spines of books to create a poem. Laurie Hnatiuk a librarian in Saskatoon who is one of two contributors to the book review blog Bit About Books and who co-administers the website Middle Grade Book Village created this spine poem after a March snowfall using my novel as the opening line of her poem. Thanks Laurie!
I like to keep track of where in the world copies of Lost on the Prairie have ended up. This month my cousin Julie said the copy she had sent to family in Portsmouth, England had arrived. I was in Portsmouth in 2005. I caught a ferry there to the Isle of Wight. If you’d have told me then that someday I would publish a book and people in Portsmouth would be reading it I wouldn’t have believed you.
Kathy Stinson is a giant in the world of Canadian children’s book publishing. I read her picture books to my own sons thirty years ago and recently gifted one of my grandchildren with her latest picture book The Girl Who Loved Giraffes about Canadian giraffologist Anne Innis Dagg. I reviewed the book on this blog and was so excited to receive a note from Kathy thanking me for the review and congratulating me on the success of Lost on the Prairie.
Lost on the Prairie is nearing its one year birthday so I guess it was inevitable I would soon find it for sale as a used book. That happened this month. They have only marked down the price by $1.13 though.
I was at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg yesterday and was happy to see that after ten months they are still carrying my book.
I always wonder what new things will happen regarding my novel each month. We’ll see what April brings.
You can read all the other blog posts about my book here.
I have been in Saskatoon a number of times in the last while and on one visit I popped in at the McNally Robinson Booksellers store there to pick up a gift for someone. It was neat to see my novel on the shelves and especially cool to see it placed right above the novel Tainted Amber by Gabriele Goldstone, who is a fellow member of my Winnipeg writers’ group The Anitas.
On one of my visits to Saskatoon, I was invited to give a presentation about my book to a seniors’ group in the city. It was a delight to talk to the twenty or so folks who attended and sell them copies of Lost on the Prairie and sign them.
Lost on the Prairie is in Queensland Australia, now. My friend Sharon Singh ordered a copy and when she received it last week did a lovely Facebook post about my novel. Sharon and my husband Dave and I were colleagues at an international school in Hong Kong. It was such a pleasure to get to know Sharon and her family during our time in Hong Kong. Thanks to our six years working in an international school my novel is making its way around the world to such interesting destinations.
I just can’t say enough good things about what my publisher Heritage House has done to promote my novel. Recently they included it in a series of media posts they did about Family Literacy Week.
Lost on the Prairie was also featured in the most recent newsletter of Friends of the Winnipeg Public library along with my friend Harriet Zaidman’s novel Second Chances. You can read their newsletter called NOTES here.
I am always receiving new comments from people who are continuing to buy my book and are reading it.I so appreciate everyone who takes the time to connect with me and tell me what they thought of Lost on the Prairie. Below is a sample comment from a former college classmate of mine Peggy Martens. You can read more of the comments I’ve received here.
This book was difficult to put down. It will hold the attention of younger and older readers as Peter moves from one adventure to another at a rapid pace. No need to read through chapters waiting for the next exciting escapade. It is so very well researched. I felt I was in the Minneapolis train station in 1907. I loved, loved, loved the inclusion of Mark Twain. But, what will stay with me the most, is how the book gives a central place to First Nations people. Peter sees them through eyes of wonder and curiosity as a child. He is not afraid or suspicious. The fact that they are heroes and friends in the story is wonderful. Peter sees what is similar to his own family and is respectful and appreciative of the differences. The fact that he cherishes the moccasins made by the grandmother for him speaks to this. This is how I wish adults, as well as children, could view those of different cultures to our own. This book is not only a great read but a must-read!- Peggy Martens (Altona, Manitoba)
I keep thinking that at some point there won’t be enough new things to write about my novel to do a monthly update. But it hasn’t happened yet.
You can read all of the Lost on the Prairie blog posts here.
My friend John, an amateur naturalist, said some very kind things after reading my novelLost on the Prairiebut he did point out a mistake I had made. In one chapter of the book, a pair of young boys come upon a roost of monarch butterflies. Thousands of them are covering the trees and plants in a wooded area. Joe who is a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton First Nation in South Dakota tells my hero Peter that since it is autumn the butterflies are in the midst of their journey migrating south to Mexico.
Of course, the monarchs are on a journey south to Mexico, but my discerning friend John said no one would have known that in 1907 when my book takes place. The information that monarchs went to Mexico was only made public in 1976 when a Canadian zoologist Frederick Urquhart published an article in National Geographic sharing data from a monarch research project he and his wife Norah Patterson had been working on since their marriage in 1945.
Fred and Norah wanted to know where monarchs went for winter and so they began raising thousands of butterflies in their Toronto home. They experimented with all kinds of tagging methods for the monarchs until they found one that worked.
In 1952 Norah wrote a magazine article asking for volunteers to help them with their project. Initially, twelve responded but by 1971 thousands of butterfly lovers were helping catch, tag, and release hundreds of thousands of monarchs. Nora and Fred began taking field expeditions to follow the data and it led them to the Gulf of Mexico.
In 1972 Norah wrote letters to Mexican newspapers asking for help and Ken and Cathy Brugger a pair of amateur naturalists and butterfly lovers took up the search. In 1975 thanks to a tip from some Mexican loggers, they found millions of monarchs carpeting the ground and trees on the Neovolcanic Plateau about 240 miles from Mexico City.
In 1976 Norah and Fred now in their sixties traveled to Mexico and hiked 10,000 feet up to the plateau to see the amazing reward of forty years of research they had done. They happened to be standing near a pine branch that crashed from the weight of the butterflies on it and in the cluster of monarchs at their feet, the Urquharts found one that bore one of their tags. It had been tagged in Minnesota before setting out on its trek to Mexico.
In August of 1976, an article about their research and discovery appeared in National Geographic and shared what Fred and Norah had discovered with the world. Since then more than 13 wintering sites for monarchs have been found and are protected as ecological reserves by the government of Mexico.
Fred and Norah Urquhart were given the Order of Canada in 1998 for their amazing discovery.Of course, Indigenous people in Mexico had known about the butterfly roosts for thousands of years.
In 2012 a movie called Flight of the Butterflies premiered starring Gordon Pinsent and Patricia Phillips as Fred and Norah.
So how could Joe the young boy in my story have known the butterflies were going to Mexico in 1907 if that fact wasn’t made public till 1976? Well, he probably couldn’t have.
Although I did tons of research for my book and my editor was great at helping me find historical errors we didn’t catch them all. My book has a mistake in it but I am almost glad it does because it led me to do all the research for this post and learn about Fred and Norah Urquhart, two Canadians I’d never heard of before.
I am sure I will find other mistakes as my book reaches a wider audience of discerning readersand I’m excited about what I might learn from those mistakes. Thanks, John for pointing this one out.
Initially, I was a little disappointed that my novel was going to be published in the summer. I figured the target audience for the book was school children and their teachers, and so it would be ideal for Lost on the Prairie to be published in the fall when learning had just begun and the book had a chance to become popular in classrooms, be used as a teaching resource, and thus, earn itself a long life in the education sphere.
However, I have discovered to my surprise that Lost on the Prairie has a much wider audience than I had ever imagined among people of all ages and interests, AND I have realized that one of the wonderful things about having the book published in summer is that people are having a chance to enjoy it in the great outdoors.
My niece Grace published this beautiful photo on her Instagram page recently. Grace has her master’s degree in Social Work from Wilfred Laurier University and uses yoga as an integral part of the services she offers her clients. Grace holds positions with two different professional teams that provide psychotherapy and counseling.
Grace used Lost on the Prairie in a post where she encourages people to make time in their life to recharge, reconnect and rejuvenate. She says we all need to balance the generally fast pace of our lives with times when we slow down. She suggests we might do this by drinking coffee, spending time in nature, and reading a good book like the one her aunt MaryLou Driedger just wrote. I just LOVE the fact that my niece is using my book as a part of the very important workshe does. I am so proud of her.
Many people have told me they are reading my book with nature as their background. They are reading Lost on the Prairie on their balconies, at their cottages at the lake, looking out over their gardens, on canoe trips, and on park benches.Here are just a few of the photos they have sent.
I was glad photographer and reporter Jordan Ross decided to do our interview and photo outdoors in Steve Juba Park near my home when he wrote an article about me in The Carillon.
I really like this outdoor image the team at my publisher Heritage House created to promote Lost on the Prairie.
I have realized there are advantages to having my book published in summer and one of them is that people get to read my novel in the great outdoors and that is fitting because the majority of the novel takes place outdoors. If you have read Lost on the Prairie outside I’d love to hear about it.
When my friend Erin sent me this photo of her morning coffee spot where she was reading Lost on the Prairie she said this- “Even though I was familiar with the fantastic cover design of your book, I was still surprised when I finally held it in my hands for the first time. It is such a pleasure to hold. I love its size. It is small but satisfyingly thick- not too thick-but happily substantial. I’m enjoying Peter’s voice, point of view and adventures.”
I loved that because I have to admit when I first got the book I thought it was perhaps too small- smaller than I had imagined it would be, but now Erin has made me think its size is just perfect!
Another thing that has been really special for me is that I am reading the book out loud to my Dad and despite his advancing dementia he is listening and not being distracted like he often can be. I think the story has enough action that it keeps him engaged and because it takes place in the past and that’s where his mind often is these days he can identify with the setting and time period.
One of the care aides at Dad’s personal care home heard me reading to Dad and she said the book sounded so interesting she was going to buy one and send it to her granddaughter in Toronto. She brought in her copy for me to autograph it before she sent it off. How cool is that?
I was also thrilled when Colleen Nelson a Winnipeg author with fourteen books to her credit gave Lost on the Prairie a five-star review on Good Reads. Colleen is the author of Harvey Comes Home which was named the Manitoba Book of the Year for Young People in 2021. Harvey Comes Home was also a Governor General’s Award nominee. Here is what Colleen had to sayabout my novel.
What an adventure! It starts off with a bang and the action doesn’t let up. I know lots of students in my grade 8 class who will enjoy this book. The back matter is equally fun to read because I got to learn about the author’s connection to the story and which parts were based on fact. The main character grows and changes through his adventures. Honestly, I read this book in a day because it was such fun and so hard to put down. It will be a welcome addition in any grade 4-8 classroom.
All the copies of my book atthe Saskatoon library are checked out and yesterday there were 20 holds on the copies in the Winnipeg Public Library.
Did you know I was on the CTV morning news on June 28th? My marvelous marketing manager at Heritage House Monica Miller had arranged for the interview. It was a good experience. We had prepared talking points but Michael the interviewer changed things up a bit so I had to think on my feet, but it went pretty well. I was so grateful for the opportunity to let more people know about my book.
People have continued to send me all these cool photos of my book.
Here is my friend Pearl receiving her copy. Is she excited or what?
This photo is from my friend Mitch. He said he had to stain his deck and read all the other books beneath mine before he would get to read Lost on the Prairie. But when I went to visit him on Thursday he’d already read it and told me I’d done a beautiful job.
My friend Kelly photographed my novel among her collection of books about Asia because she and I got to know each other when we worked at the same school in Hong Kong.
Kristine Scarrow, the President of the Saskatchewan chapter of CANSCAIP (The Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers) included Lost on the Prairie in this photo of her pile of summer reads. That really is exciting for me. I attended a workshop Kristine did on writing as a healing art at a conference a few years ago and it was excellent.
Vic Loewen, a college classmate of mine sent me a photoof him buying my book in Tergerson’s Store in Gimli.
There is lots more news to share, but I’ll save some for my next blog post about the book. I’ll just end with the fact that for the eighth week in a row I am on the McNally Robinson bestseller list.
Dave and I were enjoying some ice cream at Sargent Sundae last night when my phone dinged. John Toews the events coordinator for McNally Robinson Booksellers had sent an e-mail with the bestseller list that would appear on Saturday in the Winnipeg Free Press.
My novel Lost on the Prairie has been in the number two or three spot on the list for the last month and the fact that he was sending me a notice meant my book was still on the list. I was happy about that but………..I could not believe it when I opened the attachment John had sent. For the first time Lost on the Prairie was number one on the bestseller list of books for kids.
Lost on the Prairie was a project I worked on for six years and to see its story resonating now with so many people is incredibly rewarding. I received an e-mail this week from a grandmother who had read the book and then bought copies for all of her grandchildren. So many grandparents have contacted me to say they have either bought the book for their grandchildren or are reading the book together with them. Grandparents were certainly not my target market for the novel, but I think their enthusiasm for Lost on the Prairie is what’s motivating many children to read it and enjoy it.
Two grandparents who are well-established Canadian authors have written endorsements for the book and I am so grateful.
Lost on the Prairie had my attention from the first line to the last. I loved the plot, the characters, the quick pace, the details incorporated that made the time period come alive, the rich language and clever phrases that often made me chuckle… In short, I loved everything about the book. Kids and teachers are going to love it, too. and I hope the book has a long and happy life on the bestseller list where it surely belongs.
–Larry Verstraete’s seventeen books for children have garnered many awards. His latest novel Coop the Great was a 2020 honour book for the Young People’s Choice Award in Manitoba and will soon be available in Germany with Merlin Verlag Publishers.
Lost on the Prairie is a terrific read and full of great adventures. The author really lets you get inside the hero Peter’s head. I was holding my breath in so many places in the book including when Peter almost missed the train in Winnipeg. I really admired the research that was done to make the story authentic. I loved that Mark Twain is in the book as a real person. I also liked the combination of fiction and real-life and the family photos that were included. I look forward to the author’s next book.
–Beryl Young is the award-winning author of novels, picture books and biographies for children. Her latest book Show Us Where You Live Humpback was just released in May 2021 by Greystone Kids.
I am loving the fact that so many people are sending me photos of the book in different places and spaces. Randy read my book on a canoe trip.
Pam used battery-powered LED lights to finish reading the book when the power went off in Steinbach last weekend.
Perry read the book in his garden in Halifax.
I mentioned in my last post that my brother Ken was buying copies of Lost on the Prairie in Victoria and putting them into Little Free Libraries there. Now he has hired a book elf in Winnipeg to do the same thing.
My friend Debbie sent a photo of the book on the shelves at the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum in Steinbach. I am so happy that copies of the novel are now for sale in my hometown.
Erin Unger was kind enough to do one of her famous author interview sessions with me on her blog mennotoba.
Nicolien Klassen- Wiebe did a lovely piece on Lost on thePrairie inThe Canadian Mennonite.
John Longhurst from the Winnipeg Free Press interviewed me and his article about my book should be in the paper before my upcoming launch.
On WednesdayI was excited to share news about my book with nearly a hundred other children’s artists and illustrators at the June meeting of CANSCAIP a professional organization for Canadian children’s authors which I have belonged to for many years. I was thrilled when Kathy Stinson a well-known children’s author put a comment in the chat that my book sounded like a good one.
Of course,with pandemic restrictions in effect, I can’t take a photo of my book on the shelves at the Winnipeg Public Library but I did note their copies of the book have 13 holds on them so that’s encouraging.
This afternoon I will be doing a dress rehearsal for the official launch of my book online with McNally Robinson Booksellers which will be happening on Wednesday June 16th at 7 pm. I hope to see you there. You can join the event through the link on the McNally Robinson website.
I will do another post about my book in about ten days. If you want to keep up with my latest book news till then you can check out my author website maryloudriedger.com.
You can read all my posts about Lost on the Prairie here.
I am trying hard not to write too often about the publication of my new book Lost on the Prairie in these blog posts. I know people read my blogs because I write about many different things so I don’t want to focus too much on just one topic.
But……….. so much cool stuff has been happening since my novel was published that I just had to write about it even though it hasn’t been that long since I last posted news about my book.
The very best thing that has happened as far as I’m concerned is that yesterday afternoon when he got home from school my nine-year grandson who lives in Saskatoon called to talk about the book with me. His Dad has been reading Lost on the Prairie to him and his younger brother before they go to bed every night, but my older grandson was anxious to see what was going to happen next in the story so he took the book to school yesterday and read ahead.
He told me he loved the book and he had all kinds of questions to ask me about the plot. He said his teacher was surprised when he told her his Grandma had written the book he was reading. In one chapter I used a reference to an experience my grandson had with his Grandpa and he recognized it right away. No review I may get for my book will mean more than my grandson’s interest and approval.
I am completely astonished and grateful that Lost on the Prairie has made the bestseller list at McNally Robinson Booksellers for the last three weeks. On Saturday it was even the featured book pictured in the Winnipeg Free Press. There was about a 24- hour period when the book was actually sold out at McNally’s and I was getting messages from people about that, but McNallys are very good at what they do, and they had already ordered more copies and had Lost on the Prairie back out on the shelves the very next day.
I have lots of family support and I am so appreciative of that. My sons have both been on social media promoting Lost on the Prairie and it is because of them I have received my first reports about children who are reading the book and enjoying it.
My younger son put a promo for my book on his Facebook page. A follower of his on the American west coast bought the book and sent my son a message that he was reading it aloud to his six-year-old and they were both really enjoying the story.
My older son is a vice-principal and middle-gradelanguage arts teacher in a rural Saskatchewan community. He gave my book a plug on his Twitter page and then went to the McNallys in Saskatoon to buy Lost on the Prairie for his classroom. He sent me a photo of one of his students reading the book and said she was really liking it.
My husband’s support as usual is being shown in interesting ways. You probably remember the giant canvas he had made of my book cover. Now as his way of showing support he is creating an imaginary lineup of actors to play the various characters in the novel since he predicts it will eventually be turned into a movie.
I have received e-mails and phone calls from my aunties who are reading the book and cousins who have bought the book. My family in Ontario all have copies in the mail since Amazon just released the book on Friday. In fact, Amazon says they only have four copies left but more are on the way.
My brother Ken and his partner Harvey who live in Victoria have been buying copies at various bookstores there and putting them in Little Free Libraries around the city so people can enjoy them. I love that!
My church community has been supportive too. I got a phone call from my pastor saying he had read the book and he and his wife were buying copies for their grandchildren. One of the women in the seniors’ apartment affiliated with our church, said my book is very popular there. I know lots of folks from my church have been buying the book and I am very grateful.
My friends have been buying the novel too and letting me know they have purchased it. My friend Debbie even put together a marvellous little eight page book that tells the story of my journey as a writer beginning with my early love of reading and ending with a toast to my book’s success.
The members of my writers’ group, former colleagues, my blog readers and former students have all bought copies. Thanks to all of you.
I wrote a previous post about the article in The Carillon. I have given three more interviews since then and I will let you know when those stories appear in the media.
I was pleased to have my book mentioned in a recent edition of Prairie Books Now and in the newsletter of the Manitoba Writers Guild. I was also able to read an excerpt from my book at the Prairie Horizons conference for children’s writers.
I have already received indications of interest from schools, book clubs and senior’s homes to come and talk about my book once the pandemic is over. I am really looking forward to those kinds of opportunities and my brain is whirring with the different kinds of presentations I might do.
Finally, my online book launch is on June 16th at 7 pm. I will be interviewed by Winnipeg educator, book reviewer and author Harriet Zaidman. You can register here to join us. There will be a time for participants to ask questions about the book.
People are starting to write to me to let me know what they think of the book and you can read some of their responses on the review page of my website. If you have read the book I’d love to know what you thought.
As I’ve mentioned before I want to promote the work of other Manitoba writers with each of the posts I do about my book. Here are some books I have written about in the past on my blog.
A week ago I wrote about how my book had made a surprise early debut at McNally Robinson Booksellers and that created a bit of a whirlwind of a week for me. The excitement has continued.
This last week the book hit the shelves at the McNally Robinson Booksellers in Saskatoon. Before the pandemic I was a frequent visitor to Saskatoon since my children, grandchildren and many other relatives from my extended family live there. So I was happy the book would be available for them to buy.
I debuted my website. My kind and capable friend Rudy Nikkel who is a tech wizard helped me set up a website with the latest information about Lost on the Prairie. It includes an about the author section and links to my monthly newsletters and regular blog posts about the book. There is an online study guide with lots of resources so teachers, parents and children can further explore each chapter of the book.
I will keep track of events connected to my book on the website and post comments people make about the book. If you have already read my novel and could send me a sentence or two about what you thought of it, or a question you have after reading it, or a suggestion you could make for how I might have written the book differently I’d love to hear itand will include it on the review page of my website.
Another exciting thing that happened this past week is that Lost on the Prairie made the best seller list for McNally Robinson Booksellers. I was surprised and thrilled!
I am so incredibly grateful to all the people who have already bought my book and have made it possible for me to be on the bestseller list. I can’t thank you enough!
Details for my book launch were also finalized this week. It will take place on June 16th at 7 pm. John Toews who is organizing it on behalf of McNally Robinson Booksellers and Monica Miller the marketing manager at my publisher Heritage House have done a beautiful job of setting up a page on the McNally’s site advertising my launch. You need to sign up to attend and there is a registration link on the page where you can do that. At the launch you will have a chance to ask questions in the chat feature and there just may be a prize or two on offer as well.
I am thrilled that Winnipeg author, educator and book reviewer Harriet Zaidman has agreed to be my guest for the launch. Harriet also writes historical fiction for young people and following the success of her first novel City on Strike about the Winnipeg General Strike she has signed a contract for a second novel called Second Chances about the polio epidemic. Harriet also authors a very successful cooking blog called North End Nosh.
Thanks so much for following along on my writing and publishing journey. I’ll do another post about a week from now to bring you up to date on the latest Lost on the Prairie news.
Note: It doesn’t seem like Amazon Canada has released the book for shipping yet, although people who have ordered it from Amazon in other countries have received their copies. I am sure the Amazon Canada copies should start arriving after May 28th which was the original publication date of the book.
In each post about my book I want to highlightbooks by other Manitoba authors I’ve written about on my blog. Manitoba has a very supportive writing community and is one important reason my book was published. I want to be sure to do my part to support other Manitoba writers.
On Sunday I started getting texts from friends congratulating me and saying they had just received word from McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg that my novel Lost on the Prairie which they had pre-ordered was ready to be picked up.
What? I was so surprised. My book was due to be released on May 28th. Apparently it was hitting at least some bookstore shelves about three weeks earlier than anticipated.I quickly checked the McNally Robinson Booksellers site and there it was listed as in stock at their Grant Park Store.
I contacted the patient and experienced Heritage House marketing manager Monica Miller who is doing such a great job of helping me promote my book and asked all kinds of questions about the early release. She assured me it was a positive thing.
Monday was a busy day for me and I didn’t have a vehicle but my wonderfully supportive sister Kaaren headed on down to McNally’s to take photos of my book on the shelf so I could post them on social media. I think she also may have been the first person to purchase a copy of my book.
I was in tears the next few days as some two hundred people offered their approval and congratulations on my Facebook post about the book going on sale including family members, friends, members of my writers’ group, former work colleagues, fellow church members, former students, former editors I’ve worked for, Stephen Borys the director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and even Winnipeg author Colleen Nelson who had just been nominated for the Governor General’s award for her middle grade novel Harvey Holds His Own.
Then Monday evening…….. that moment all authors wait for ……my author copies of the book arrived in the mail. My husband Dave even took a video of me opening the box.
On Tuesday the efficient and organized John Toews who is coordinating my online book launch on June 16th took this photo of me signing the copies of my novel for sale at the McNally Robinson Booksellers Grant Park store. I headed over on my bike and John set me up at a table in the area where I would have had my in -store book launch had the pandemic not happened. Later my brother Ken who lives in Victoria texted the news that my novel was for sale at two independent bookstores there, Munroe Books and Bolen Books.
Wednesday I received a message from the Manitoba Writers Guild they would like to feature me in an upcoming newsletter and I got an e-mail from reporter Jordan Ross that he would like to interview me for a feature in The Carillon newspaper. I dropped off a copy of Lost on the Prairie at my children’s home here in Winnipeg and sent another one off in the mail to my children in Saskatoon.
Thursday I was able to share my exciting news with the members of the Anitas my children’s writers group when we had our regular online meeting. Without all their helpful criticism and endless encouragement Lost on the Prairie would never have been published. I should also mention that prior to the pandemic McNally Robinson Booksellers generously provided space for our writers group to meet in their store, so every chapter of my novel was read aloud there.
Friday I biked down to the Forks with Dave so he could take a photo of me with my book on the shelves of the McNally Robinson Bookseller location there and then I met Carillon reporter Jordan Ross in Steve Juba Park near my home for an interview.
Friday nightDave and I went out to celebrate my book being for sale with supper on the sunny patio of the Nonsuch Brewery just down the street from our home. We love the food there and have often ordered from their take out menu during the pandemic.
After we got home Harriet Zaidman who will be my guest at the online McNally Robinson Booksellers Lost On the Prairie launch on June 16th sent me a photo that shows her reading my book. A copy had just arrived at her home from Heritage House.
Yes it’s been a whirlwind week, and an unexpected one at that. I thought I’d be welcoming my novel to the world at the end of May and here I am doing that at the beginning of the month.
Now I am waiting in nervous anticipation to see what people will think of my book after they’ve read it.
At this point Lost on the Prairie is available for pre-order on Amazon and Indigo and my publisher is trying to make arrangements so hopefully it will be available for purchase in Steinbach shortly. I will post updates when I know more.But for now it is for sale at both McNally Robinson Bookseller locations in Winnipeg.
Other posts about my novel Lost on the Prairie can be read here.
From now on with every post I do about my book I want to provide links to posts I’ve written about the work of other Manitoba authors. I realize one of the main reasons my book is in print is because of the wonderfully supportive writing community in our province.
In my novel Lost on the Praire which is coming out in the spring of 2021 my main character Peter, is riding in a boxcar with his family’s two horses on their immigration journey to Canada. To pass the time he plays with a puzzle made by his Grandpa Hugo. It is a puzzle made from nails and he is trying to untangle it. Later the problem-solving skills he practices while doing the puzzle will come in handy when Peter needs to figure out how to open a locked door.
Hugo Bartel – photo from the Mennonite Heritage Archives
I got the ideas for Peter’s grandfather’s name and having Peter play with a nail puzzle from the visits I made to the home of Hugo Bartel when I was a child. Hugo designed and fashioned all kinds of interesting puzzles and let us play with them. Hugo, a widower, lived with his daughter Mildred Schroeder, her husband Dave and their children. Mildred was my Mom’s best friend and so we made frequent visits to their house in Winnipeg.
Hugo Bartel in his bookbinding shop- photo from the Mennonite Heritage Archives
Hugo was a bookbinder by trade and had a workshop on the campus of Canadian Mennonite University where he repaired old books.
Hugo Bartel – photo courtesy of Dorothy Sugimoto
In this photo, he poses with a hundred-year-old Bible that he repaired. Besides restoring books, Hugo had lots of hobbies and creating wire and nail puzzles was just one of them. He also made puzzles out of wood.
Some of the wire puzzles Hugo Bartel made- photo courtesy of his granddaughter Dorothy Sugimoto
I did a little research and the kind of nail and wire puzzles Hugo made are called disentanglement puzzles because you have to disentangle them or take them apart. They originally have roots in Asia and Europe but came to Canada when people immigrated here and were also known as patience puzzles.
In my novel, Grandpa Hugo slips a puzzle into his grandson Peter’s pocket when they are saying good-bye. Grandpa Hugo will remain in Newton Kansas while his grandson Peter and his family immigrate to Drake, Saskatchewan.
Nail and wire puzzles remain popular today and you can buy entire sets of them.
I am going to start writing the teacher’s guide for my novel after Christmas and will suggest that teachers have their students try to make or solving nail puzzles like the one Peter has in the novel.
So many little details in my novel relate back to memories I have from childhood and Hugo Bartel’s puzzles are one of those memories.
A big thank you to my honorary aunt Mildred Schroeder who provided me with information about her Dad’s puzzle making and to her daughter Dorothy who sent photos of her grandfather and the puzzles he made.