How About This presents Anne Marie Beattie
An interview with a writer with deep roots in Atlantic Canada
Periodically I feature interviews with writers and other creative people, with a special focus on people who reside in, or have strong ties to, the Atlantic Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. Today I’m featuring an interview with Anne Marie Beattie, an Ontario based writer originally from New Brunswick who returns to visit as often as she can. Her current work in progress is being written with the working title of 100 WONDERFUL WOMEN OF WESTERN NEW BRUNSWICK.
As a side note, during the course of our interviewing I learned that Anne Marie and I are related and that she knows my father! Small world!
Here’s Anne Marie!
When you were a teenager, what did you want to become when you grew up?
Growing up, I knew I wanted something involving kids. I was an only child and spent a lifetime looking for kids. Every place I went with my parents, I searched out new surroundings for kids. I knew at a young age I wanted to read to kids, talk to them, understand them, teach them, and develop MY OWN social skills through children. I went into teaching, graduating from NB Teachers' College, followed by classes at UNB, before graduating from Trent University in Ontario.
What has changed about the teaching profession from when you started teaching until the present day (or until you stopped teaching)?
I will not be giving a compare-and-contrast in teaching. I will tell you what it was like when I was teaching.
The teacher was still a revered entity.
Parents not only accepted their judgment but sought their advice.
Parents completely supported the teacher. In very few instances, the parent was angry enough to go over the head of the classroom teacher
The community at large bestowed gifts on the teacher - apples to the generation before me, and later, pastries, cookies, sweets, treats
Frequently parents would invite the teacher to their home. Teachers usually did not accept, but the invitation was there.
There was a great deal of freedom in teaching the curriculum. With the full support of parents and administration, I was able to :
“build” a Haunted House,
bring in a live Christmas tree after walking 45 minutes both ways to the tree lot and dragging it back on a toboggan,
hold a Bobbing for Apples Contest,
conduct a Glider Competition, and a few more unorthodox activities.
I retired early, so I am not qualified to know what happens in today’s classrooms.
Do you prefer writing by keyboard, do you prefer pen and paper, or do you have another favorite method?
For me, the writing process involves the head, paper, and keyboard. The most important of the three is the head. If it isn’t in the writers head , it is harder to make a start. For me, writing begins with an idea. It can be one sentence, a thought, an idea, a plan planted by someone else.
Once a writer gets an idea, the next step is getting it from the head to paper. I usually involve pen and paper if I am on the road or have to wait somewhere - no sense wasting time - might get a half chapter written in wait-time. Sooner or later, it has to be committed to a Word document because I usually have plans for what I'm writing.
Do you have a feel for how much writing you cut out of your finished works? 50%? 75%? I seem to remember a quote attributed to Hemmingway saying that for every hundred pages he wrote he got 7 pages of usable material.
I am currently working on WOMEN OF WESTERN NEW BRUNSWICK. One “‘lady” takes about ¾ of a day – researching, writing, checking, and editing. If one begins at 8 am, the story should be finished by about 3 pm. Yesterday is a perfect example: I wrote about one of my ladies two weeks ago. I reread it yesterday and hit DELETE. Started all over again. Another 6 or 7 hours. I know other writers that would spend two or three days on one lady. I just don’t have that luxury.
What's the story of how you came to publish your first written work (fiction or non-fiction, it could be a work in progress as well)?
My first publication. My childhood home is Canterbury [ED: a village in western New Brunswick] which I move heaven and hell to return every year. One of the older women in the village had helped me sell my father's home after his death, and I always wrote her and visited her when I was home. At that time, her and my family went back three generations of friendship . Her grandmother was very kind and generous to my grandparents.
During one of my visits, she mentioned her childhood and a childhood trauma from which she really never recovered. Her grandmother brought her up because her birth mother had married and was living in the state of Maine. Her mother always returned to NB every year - until she didn't. She had disappeared . I couldn't get the story out of my head, and after I went back to Ontario, I wrote and asked her if she'd like to get her story out there. She gave the go-ahead, and her story became THE BLUEBERRY PLAINS and was published in the Telegraph Journal. She and I split the cheque. That was 25 years ago.
Having grown up in Canterbury (New Brunswick) do you have any feelings about the community being renamed to Lakeland Ridges?
Lakeland Ridges is a good name as it includes three aspects of that area – land, the ridges of the ground, and the lake systems of the Spednic and Chippineticook. Ridges has a well thought out connotation, because, located in the area, is Carroll Ridge, Pemberton Ridge, and any number of ‘mountains’ - Green Mountain, Brown’s Mountain, which I think are part of the Appalachian chain, and ‘as the crow flies’ not too far from Mount Katahdin.
What's one thing about being an author that most people don't understand?
Nobody understands why you need to write. People think, well, it's only a hobby anyway, work it in when you 'got nothin' else to do'; it's not like you're John Grisham or something. It isn't easy to get people to take you and, more importantly, your work seriously. And this applies to family. If a writer said, I've been nominated for the Giller, a family member might say," Gee, that's great! So Mom, can you take our cat this weekend? We're going to Great Wolf Lodge ."
Did you ever use a typewriter (electric or manual)? Any feelings about that?
My father acquired an old Remington manual typewriter. He set it up out in the shed for me because he couldn’t stand the racket of clacking from a hunt-and-peck method.
I took the Academic course in high school. Had I taken the commercial course, I could have learned how to type correctly.
Do you do any writing exercises or other work to further develop your writing skills?
Writing exercises. I really don't have time to do exercises of any kind. I write every single day. And what do I write ? If I am between books, I submit articles to magazines, educational journals, and, years ago, newspapers ( not for a long time ). I submit entries to contests and have been fortunate to garner awards from the National Writing Contest of Canada and the WFNB. However, lately, within the last seven years, I have concentrated on Books.
In October of 2021, I published THE WHEELCHAIR WARRIOR. Before that, I published a blog with individual installments of a fictional YA, Penobscot Girl. Before that, I posted a fiction based on fact, THE HORSE DOCTOR. Working on a book gives a writer no time to write articles, short stories, or worse, conduct the networking to market them.
I am currently at work on a book that began with the ambitious title ONE HUNDRED WONDERFUL WOMEN OF WESTERN NEW BRUNSWICK. I am thinking of cutting it to WOMEN OF WESTERN NEW BRUNSWICK. It takes my every waking moment that I am doing light housework or instructing a class I teach each week.
Pretend you wake up one morning to learn that the Internet has been destroyed. What's the first thing that you do?
RACE FOR MY HARD COPY! There isn’t much that is important to me on my computer. I’m from the generation that had ONLY paper.
Thanks to Anne Marie Beattie for agreeing to be interviewed!
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