Canadian Women in the Literary Marketplace Across a Century: L.M.Montgomery and Patti Larsen

by Christine Chettle

L.M.Montgomery’s Emily trilogy, in exploring the struggles of a developing writer (Emily Byrd Starr), examines the issue of balancing the international literary marketplace and the writer-heroine’s Canadian (and particularly PEI) identity. Though in Emily Climbs, New York-based journalist Janet Royal invites Emily to move to New York because ‘You mustn’t waste your life here [ . . .] You must have the [ . . .] training that only a great city can give.’ (303) Emily decides to stay in PEI, partly because she chooses to be ‘among her own people’, and partly because her independent nature rebels against the suggestion that she needs outside help to write. (313) In the final book, Emily’s Quest, Emily’s decision is validated when she achieves literary success with a book strongly rooted in the PEI community, and Janet Royal acknowledges that Emily’s independent instincts were right.

When attending a conference in PEI on L.M.Montgomery last summer (L.M.Montgomery and Cultural Memory), I talked to a modern PEI author about her experience of autonomy in the literary marketplace today. This conversation made me intrigued by the different ways in which two PEI authors have handled autonomy in the literary marketplace across a century through taking action towards independence, branding, and community.  Patti Larsen is an award-winning author who has made use of the independent literary industry to gain success. L.M. Montgomery had her own struggles in the literary marketplace. By the time the Emily trilogy appeared (1923-1927), she had enjoyed continual success following the publication of Anne of Green Gables (1908), had been celebrated as a Canadian literary star, and then mocked as an old-fashioned writer of sentimental girls’ stories.

Autographed photogragh of L.M.Montgomery

Autographed photogragh of L.M.Montgomery

    Frustrated with the traditional publishing industry’s focus on financial, rather than aesthetic, potential, Larsen looked for other ways to negotiate the marketplace. Rejecting publishing co-ops and self-publishers (which often operate as a vanity press), she decided to form an independent company. She explains, ‘‘I am a publisher. I am a business. I assign isbns to my books, and hire editors, proof-readers, marketers etc.’ Though she hires editors and proof-readers, she works with them on a basis of partnership: ‘We all work together as a team on each project and are like any other small business’.  Montgomery drew on her own independent nature in fighting, and eventually winning, a long-standing lawsuit against her original American publishers (L.C.Page). As Carole Gerson explores in her essay “’Dragged at Anne’s Chariot Wheels’: The Triangle of Author, Publisher, and Fictional Character’, Montgomery’s choice to publish Anne of Green Gables with an American company was likely prompted by the fact that, at the turn of the twentieth century, Canadian writers struggled to support themselves through Canada’s smaller population and bookmarket; in addition, Canadian publishers had difficulty accessing American markets because of copyright restrictions. Gerson suggests that Montgomery chose L.C. Page because this American company had published other Maritime authors.  (Gerson 52) When Montgomery, like other Canadian authors, became frustrated with Page’s aesthetic control and shady copyright dealings, she balanced her Canadian identity with the demands of the international marketplace by choosing the Canadian publisher John McClelland as a literary agent who could help her negotiate a partnership with a better American firm (Frederick Stokes).  (Gerson 58)

Promotional photograph of Patti Larsen

Promotional photograph of Patti Larsen

Larsen creates a brand for herself in the literary marketplace through her readers’ affection for her texts:  ‘I use my characters’ words as taglines.’ This affection transcends age boundaries. Her novels are paranormal young adult fiction, but both mothers and daughters read and share them, leading to fan comments like ‘I’m a 33 year old and I’m addicted; I took them from my daughter’so she describes them as being for ‘girls of all ages’,. Montgomery found that literary branding had both positive and negative resonances. Though she disliked the idea of only writing sequels to Anne(as Page wanted), Gerson notes that Montgomery’s internationally successful Anne ‘brand’ allowed her to negotiate good terms with her new publishers, McClelland and Stokes. Montgomery was, however, afraid of being overtaken by this brand, commenting in 1916 that, ‘I am always haunted by the fear that I shall find myself “written out”. (quoted in Gerson 59) But the possibility of creating new connections of textual affection with her readers helped her to overcome some of these complications, as she wrote in 1920: ‘Today I wrote the last chapter of [ . . .] the Anne series. I am done with Anne forever – I swear it as a dark and deadly vow. I want to create a new heroine now – she is already in embryo in my mind – she has been christened for years. Her name is Emily. She has black hair and purplish gray eyes. I want to tell folks about her.’ (Selected Journals II: 390) Montgomery’s brand has also shifted over the years, as another Montgomery critic, Benjamin Lefebvre, has explored: though in her time, her books were presented as being for both adults and children, today they are often pigeonholed as being only for teenage girls (I can only feel such pigeonholing to be an unfortunate error of judgement) .

Larsen has a strong affection for her PEI community: ‘PEI offers an amazing artistic community, simply breeding creativity. There is a micro-cosm of every creative venture. The PEI community does not just look to the government for assistance, but creates industry for itself by enabling artists to promote themselves.’ However, as a twenty-first-century author, Larsen also roots herself in an online community. She has become a recognisable name in young adult fiction through guest posting, images, and interviews; ‘I communicate with my readers through my blog, online discussion, facebook fan pages, and through the behind-the-scenes pages in my books. I’m also extremely diligent in answering fanmail!’’ Of course, an online community brings its own complications: she has to be on guard for stalkers or trolls, but refuses to engage with such communication. Larsen also supports local writers, including young emerging writers, and recently facilitated the creation of a short story anthology with a local school. In a world without the instant communication that the internet offers, Montgomery created her own supportive writing communities, starting from her hometown of Cavendish, PEI, and then moving outwards. Montgomery-the-young-writer was active in the Cavendish Literary Society from the age of fifteen.  Francis Bolger observes that she interacted with the society in a number of ways, through delivering recitations and papers, making use of the Society’s circulating library, and editing the Society’s journal from 1905-1906. (Bolger 178) When she moved to Ontario following her minister-husband’s posting to an Ontario town, Montgomery-the-successful-author found new supportive writing communities. She was active in the Canadian Authors’ Association, as E.Holly Pike observes:  ‘Montgomery [ . . ] visited other women writers on her trips to Toronto[ . . ] she was one of the team of writers who organized Canadian Book Week in November 1921 [ . . .] she wrote letters and publicity materials for the event [ . . .] Montgomery was a popular figure at Canadian Book Week events, among the writers as well as with the public.’ (Pike 66) Despite her move to Ontario, Montgomery maintained – and still maintains – a strong PEI identity.

Lucy Maud Montgomery would have been thrilled with the increased potential for independence in the modern publishing marketplace, Larsen believes:  ‘I really think that Montgomery would have had her own company in a heartbeat.’ Whether or not Montgomery would have preferred the twenty-first century publishing world to that of her own, a comparison of the two authors suggests that Montgomery would find her insightful skills in managing her contemporary literary marketplace extremely relevant today.

You can find out more about Lucy Maud Montgomery  at the Lucy Maud Montgomery Research Centre and at the L.M.Montgomery Research Group. You can find out more about Patti Larsen at her website (http://www.pattilarsen.com/).

Bolger, Francis, The Years Before ‘Anne’. Halifax, N.S.: Nimbus, 1991.

 Gerson, Carole,“‘Dragged at Anne’s Chariot Wheels’: The Triangle of Author, Publisher, and Fictional Character,” in L.M. Montgomery and Canadian Culture, edited by Irene Gammel and Elizabeth Epperly, 49–63. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999.

 Larsen, Patti, Unpublished Interview, 24th June, 2012.

Lefebvre, Benjamin ‘Reviews of L.M. Montgomery 1908-1939: A Forgotten Public Narrative’ Conference Paper presented at L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory, University of PEI, June 2012

 Montgomery, L.M. Emily Climbs. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1989, and

Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volume II, 1910-1921. Toronto:Oxford University Press, 1985-1998.

 Pike,  E. Holly, “(Re)Producing Canadian Literature: L.M. Montgomery’s Emily Novels.” In L.M. Montgomery and Canadian Culture, edited by Irene Gammel and Elizabeth Epperly, 64–76. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999.

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Only in Canada: Maple Syrup Mafia

By Andrew Bailey

Caught sticky-fingered: liquid gold

Caught sticky-fingered: liquid gold

Firstly, Home for a Rest Apologises for the recent lack of posts: we have all been very busy, and a concerted effort will be made in the new year to get back up to our old speed.

Secondly, the story in question: you really couldn’t make it up. Proving just how lucrative (and desirable) Québec’s sweet stuff really is, 18 people have been arrested on suspicion of stealing 2.7 million kilograms of maple syrup (worth $18 million CAD) from Saint Louis-de-Blandford in the Arthabaska region of Québec.

The full story can be found at the National Post:

http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/12/20/maple-syrup-mafia-quebec-police-arrest-18-people-in-massive-maple-syrup-heist/

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“Québec Studies in the UK: A Balance Sheet”

By Andrew Bailey

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of going to the School of Advanced Study at the University of London to attend the “Québec Studies in the UK: A Balance Sheet” day conference, an event organised to celebrate the establishment of the Centre for Québec and French-Canadian Studies within the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies. The idea for this particular Quebec Studies gathering arose in the context of 2012’s being the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Québec Delegation office in London.

The conference consisted of a whistle-stop tour of current Québécois and French-Canadian research projects currently being carried out by professors and PhD students within the UK and in continental Europe. Québécois cinema, literature, theatre, language policy and politics were all presented and discussed, provoking some lively debate.

The day concluded with a consideration of the future of French-Canadian studies, with positive ideas emerging on how to increase both co-operation and dialogue and, more specifically, how to move forward with the Centre for Québec and French-Canadian Studies.

The icing on the cake was the launch of Ceri Morgan’s book Mindscapes of Montreal: Quebec’s Urban Novel, 1960-2005, at a wine reception kindly provided by the Québec Delegation in London.

The day, led by Professor Bill Marshall, was a great opportunity to network, to take stock of the great work going on in Québécois and French-Canadian Studies in the UK and Europe, and to consider what the future holds for the field. The day would not have been possible without the hard work of Bill and other québéciste colleagues, and the Centre would not be possible without the generous donation made by the Foundation for Canadian Studies in the UK.

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Kaiman versus Kenney: Which Canada Wins?

By Andrew Bailey

Image

Canada: where would it be without immigrants?

An article written by Jonathan Kaiman featured in the british newspaper The Guardian this September, an article that may make us question Canada’s reputation as the friendliest place on earth.

Harper’s supposed tougher line on immigration, relaxation of environmental protection laws, the exploitation of tar sands, the election of Marois’ Parti Quebecois and the mistreatment of Canada’s First Nations are all examples held up by Kaiman as proof of the emergence of a more right-wing, less eco-friendly and more divided Canada.

13 days later, a certain Jason Kenney replied to the allegations made by Kaiman about Canada’s apparent social and political changes (for the worse) in an attempt to counteract and shut down these negative view points.

I will leave it up to you, the reader, to decide who you agree with…

Kaiman’s article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/14/maple-leaf-what-ails-canada

Kenney’s article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/27/response-canada-immigration-jason-kenney

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Canada in the International Community: the Harper Government and sanctions on Syria

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! In honour of this holiday, we are posting the winning entry for our online article competition, ‘Canada in the International Community’. This entry was written by David Ahluwalia. David is now in his his 4th and final year studying BA International Relations at the University of Leeds, having spent the 2011/12 year on exchange at the University of Calgary. He took the opportunity that his exchange year offered to travel around Canada, and also took a module in Canadian Politics which gave him the idea of writing about their role in foreign affairs.

“Harper administration enhances sanctions on Syrian government – but to what effect?”

Since March 15th 2011 as part of the ‘Arab Spring’ demonstrations that swept across the Middle East, we have seen the protests that took place in Syria escalate into a brutal civil war, with some sources reporting that the death toll may be as high as 28,000 as of July 2012. Women and children have not been spared, as President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces have undertaken launching devastating attacks on villages and towns across the county, as well as implementing vicious torture on innocent civilians. Those who have decided to fight back against the army (including defected soldiers) have been labelled as ‘domestic terrorists’ by Assad, in order to justify these acts of brutality.

Canada, along with many other members of the international community, has strongly condemned the actions and catastrophic events in Syria. On May 24th 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper released a statement stressing his “grave concern at the excessive use of force by the Syrian regime against it’s own people”. In turn, he announced various sanctions to be implemented, including a travel ban into Canada on all those associated with the Syrian government, freezing assets of those individuals and entities involved in the administrations’ violence, and a suspension of all bilateral cooperation agreements with Syria. These sanctions have been gradually increasing in severity as the violence has shown few signs of ending over the past 16 months. Foreign Minister Baird declared on October 4th 2011 that the importation of petroleum products from Syria, as well as providing financial aid for new investment in the oil industry in Syria, was now prohibited. Baird added “Canada stands with the Syrian people in their efforts to secure freedom and democracy. We look forward to a new Syria that respects the rights of its people, and lives in peace with its neighbours.” Further escalation of these sanctions came over the Christmas period, when a ban on all imports from Syria (except food for human consumption) was put into place.

As the atrocities continued into 2012, the Canadian government felt it necessary to further expand on the sanctions that had already been set against the oppressive Syrian regime. March 5th 2012 saw Baird declaring that the financial ban previously directed at the petroleum sector in Syria would be broadened to now include all financial and other service sectors from within Syria. The Central Bank of Syria along with further individuals also saw their assets frozen by the Canadian government. By the end of the month, the death toll figure was at just under 10,000 civilians. One of the stumbling blocks in any major sanctions or action from the international community being able to take place was that Russia, a key ally of Syria’s, was refusing to budge on their stance to not deploy sanctions against the regime. The fact that this was the sixth round of sanctions that had been administered by the Canadian government highlighted the belief that their view that Assad must be removed was still very much the case – but some have argued against the real significance of the sanctions.

Canada’s decision to impose sanctions on Syria hardly made international news — such was the amount of other states that decided to punish Syria in this way. To put it bluntly, Canada is simply not regarded as a key player in the international community. When listing the current major states in the international community, Canada may well struggle to feature in the top 10. Therefore if we were to take a somewhat cynical point of view concerning the sanctions put against Syria by the Harper government, there is a strong case that these sanctions are more symbolic rather than significant, in the sense of the sanctions from the Canadians are doing little to alleviate the situation in a noticeable manner. Obviously the repercussions of not imposing such sanctions would be far more noticeable from the rest of the international community, but this does not mean that the Harper administration is implementing such sanctions solely to keep a clean reputation over the matter. The debate therefore unfolds when we ask if the sanctioning of an oppressive regime is following a new fashion to little effect, or rather if it is reaffirming the Canadian government and nation’s belief in democracy and human rights along with the rest of the international community. The fact that prior to the sanctions Canada barely exported over $60million to Syria may well answer the question over how significant a block on financial transactions are.

Even as the violence continues and the Harper government may well undertake further sanctions, it is quite likely that until Canadian troops are deployed to Syria, Canada’s actions towards the crisis will largely go unnoticed – outside of Canada itself.

David Ahluwalia

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Image Competition Photos: Camilla Hills

Today is Light Night in Leeds. Light Night is a local city-wide arts festival and a celebration of the work of any artists, professional or not, in Leeds. The Leeds Centre for Canadian Studies is taking part, offering an event entitled ‘Leeds in the Light of Canada’, based around photographic work focussed on Canada by students at the University of Leeds. The Centre has a history of encouraging students to develop their visual talents, particularly through its Annual Image Competition.

So, as an accompaniment to the visual display at Light Night, we’re showcasing the work of this year’s competition winner, Camilla Hills. Camilla is a recent graduate of the University of Leeds, who spent a year abroad in Ontario — and this is the result.

Enjoy!

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Student Competitions: Watch This Space

This is just a quick notification about Leeds student work, in belated celebration of Labour Day. The Leeds Centre for Canadian Studies has been running some competitions to promote the work of University of Leeds students with reference to Canada. There’s been an essay prize, won by our own Andrew Bailey, which I’m sure he’ll disseminate in due course. We’ve also held our annual image competition, which was won by Ms. Camilla Hills, a University of Leeds student who went on exchange to Canada in 2011-2012. We’ll be posting this on October 5th, to fit in with our ‘Leeds in the Light of Canada’ event for Leeds Light Night (also featuring photographs of Canada). Finally, we’ve held our Inaugural Online Article competition which was won by Mr. David Ahluwalia, another Leeds student who went on exchange in 2011-2012. Catch his article here on October 8th, in honour of Canadian Thanksgiving.

Christine

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