Book Club Guides & Writing Workshops
My grandmother taught school in 1901 at Churubusco Public School in Indiana, with a class of 54 students in grades two and three. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been. I followed in her into the teaching profession which, for me,
From: The Star
Weekly, 9 November 1963
In the late 1970's, when I decided to stop elementary school teaching and devote myself to full time writing, I had only one regret : I would miss the children and the classroom. Eight years later, with three plays and a childrenís poetry book published, I found myself back in the classroom, reading from my own work and inspiring children to write.
I went on to teach adult creative writing classes, theatre classes, poetry classes and, most recently, novel-writing classes. Although writing is now my first love, teaching will always be a close second.
Book Club Reference Guide
I began the first draft of That Summer in Franklin in February 2000 at the Saskatchewan Writers' Winter Retreat, St. Peter's Abbey in Muenster, SK. I had two weeks there with none of those inevitable interruptions one has while writing at home.
I already had two main characters that I really liked : Colleen from my then-unpublished short story, "One Friday Night" and Hannah from another unpublished story, "Miss Purity Flour". Hannah and Colleen already knew each other as they had worked together as waitresses at the Brittania Hotel. I needed a plot to knit these two characters together, and so I began writing, not knowing exactly where the story would lead.
Writing is a strange thing. Sometimes when I begin it's like watching a movie inside my head and I simply write down what is happening, what the characters are saying, having no idea where the story is heading or how it will end
Many drafts and many years later, the novel became what you read today : a story about friendship and coming to terms with aging; about learning to accept life and all the punches it throws; about how things don't turn out the way you think they will when you are young.
I had a wonderful time, researching and reliving the fifties. As well, my research into the issues of dementia broadened my knowledge and helped me to understand my personal experiences with my mother's age-related dementia.
I hope the novel speaks to you and leads you to a broader understanding of family and friendship - the joys, the complications and the heartbreaks.Thanks for reading and send me an e-mail. [Click the "Contact the Author" button at the top of this page]
In 1955, fifteen year old Hannah Norcroft and Colleen Miller work as waitresses in small town Franklin's prestigious Britannia Hotel. Even though the owner's sixteen year old son, Larry Mourand harasses them and kitchen helper Charlie's sudden death frightens them, tips are good.
Reading Group Study Questions
1. In Hannah I, Hannah says, " No one now believes what small-town fifties life was likeónot with their smart phones and morning-after pills and rap lyrics. But it wasn't like "Leave It to Beaver" and "Happy Days" and all the other TV cardboard-cutout versions of the decade."
2. In Colleen I, we find that Colleen, without telling her dad, has already made arrangements for him to move into the local nursing home, Sunset Lodge
3. In Hannah II, from Hannah's remembered date with Gordon Ellis: "From the perspective of Fifties societal mores, anyone then would have put the blame squarely on her. He was just hoping to sow some wild oats. She thinks about her teenage moms, caught like flies on life's sticky paper. Stuck there with reality and dirt flecks. She was lucky, really, physically strong and aggressive when shoved down onto the car seat. Furious and fighting back. They came here to watch a movie, after all."
4. In the opening paragraph of Colleen II we read: "They all call it "the accident", not just Colleen, even though no one else in the family has read about denial"
5. In the hospital room, in Hannah III: "So nice of you to visit," her mother warbles, staring up at her now. Hannah is sure her mother doesn't have the slightest notion who she is. . . Social etiquette, like a fine-meshed sieve, letting everything else sift through, still there giving shape and logic to conversation".
6. In Hannah III, after Hannah's first brief interchange with Maureen dealing with Mrs. Norcroft in the hospital, Hannah muses: "Amazing how chance meetings, planned meetings, human encounters in general promote chat even conversation, but rarely communication."
7. "Never say never. In Colleen III, Colleen wonders who said that. Why is it that, so many times in life, we do exactly what we say we won't do, what we hate."
8. In Hannah IV, when Hannah is thinking about why Aunt Harriet and her husband didn't come from Winnipeg to visit her and her mom in Franklin, she thinks: " People didn't travel in the fifties, even the sixties, that much."
9. Also in Hannah IV, Hannah's mom has a Victrola to play records. It seems so antiquated by today's standards. That and the 78 records are antiques in our eyes.
10. From Britannia Then, page 104: "Female employees in the fifties had few options. Harassment was common; reprisal almost nonexistent. Whatever each girl thought about Larry, she kept to herself, neither willing to share information with such sexual overtones, not wanting to be seen as being morally loose, storing it as far back in her mind as possible. This summer job was there and each would see it through to the end, no matter what."
11. The closing words of Hannah V: "Short-term memory versus long-term memory, Hannah thinks. . .Fear of reprisal, embarrassment or both aid and abet long term memory."
12. In Hannah/Colleen I, the personality and lifestyle differences between the two women come face to face. Each woman tries to hide from the other what she perceives to be her and her parent's shortcomings.
14. At the end of Hannah/Colleen II, when Hannah returns to her mother's house after visiting Colleen and her family on Christmas Eve, she says:"Here's to Christmas Eve 1995. Here's to what we all make of our lives."
Why does she say this? Has her visit with Colleen changed her thinking about herself? How? Will this modify her reserve toward other people and, if so, how?
15. In Colleen VIII, the meeting between the two sisters is more than a little difficult. Colleen's reaction is as expected; Lillian, however, seems impervious until after they find the will.
16.Hannah spends time with Aunt Harriet in Hannah VIII and makes this observation: "So be it, Hannah thinks, and a millisecond later she feels a lightening flash of clarity, one of those forever earmarked realizations - it's all right when Harriet reacts that way. It doesn't make Hannah angry or defensive because there is no baggage attached. Harriet has a perfect right to say what she thinks. If Hannah could only sever the baggage, toss it away, she could be so much more compassionate with her mother."
17. After Allan Searp interviews Hannah and Colleen, he makes the following observation: "He's smart enough to know he can say so much and no more, not if he intends to stay here for the next five years. Franklin is still a small town; the Britannia still carries an aura of its past glory. Tarnishing that image would not, politically, be in his best interest."
18. ??????? What are your discussion points ?
Adult Workshop A: Writing as a Profession
Fee: $300 plus .35 KM mileage
Adult Workshop B: Adults Writing for Children
Fee: $300 plus .35 KM mileage
Student Writing Workshops for Schools
Workshop C1 = one 1 to 1+1/2 hour session
Fee: $300 plus .35 KM mileage
Workshop C2 = two 1 hr. to 1+1/2 hr. sessions
Fee: $500 plus .35 KM mileage
First session :
Second Session :
Adult Workshop D : Demonstration of Student Writing Workshops [C1 + C2]
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