Mel’s New Website

Happy Spring! A time for new beginnings. And my life right now is certainly about embracing the new.

  1. New House –moving in May
  2. New Book! –  Maud is releasing on April 25th! I know…
  3. New Website! In celebration of the “new,” my blog is growing up to a full-fledged website: melaniefishbane.com 

melaniefishbane.com will still have my blog, but it will also be showcasing many new features, such as “Maud’s World.” Special thanks to Neel Modi, who helped to create the look and feel of the website. You can check him out here: http://neelmodi.com.

I invite you check out my new website and please let me know what you think.

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Posted in Blogging, L.M. Montgomery, Maud, Writing Life | 5 Comments

Happy 150th Birthday, Bess!

 

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My very well-loved, well-read copies of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I have known Laura Ingalls Wilder since I was seven years old when my parents purchased the entire set for me for my birthday. It was in a big brown box and I remember opening it around the old fireplace in the dining room with the large swordfish my dad and caught and hung on the wall and the needlepoint of a woman sewing that my mom maid handing over the fireplace. (I wonder what happened to both of these things.)

At first I didn’t know what it was and my mother had to explain to me the connection to the TV show. Then I got very excited, for I often imagined to be like Melissa Gilbert as Laura.

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Never quite grew out of it.

 

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What began was a life long interest in historical fiction, women’s history, social history, and a fascination with adaptations. The thing is about Wilder is that you want to keep going. In today’s New York Times, Maria Russo describes the political and historical questions around her work and how she also unifies people on both sides of the political spectrum. She does make us uncomfortable and also right at home. But the thing that I recognized most was how Russo couldn’t just stop at the books, she read many of the work about Wilder.  That’s because you cannot just stop at the books. Meeting Laura, you need to learn more.

 

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It is because of the Little House series I learned to read on my own. It was the first series where I hid under the blankets with a flashlight to finish one and then go right in the next. I read them and continue to read them when I’m going through a difficult time.

It was the first time I learned that there was a writer behind those stories and I needed to 12509506_10156475446585338_9072761426887953167_nknow more about her. It is because of Laura Ingalls Wilder that I travelled the same path with L.M. Montgomery. It is why I write historical fiction and studied English and History in school.

 

I read Donald Zochert’s biography–with truly the longest title in history and truly genius in marketing on behalf of the book designer–when I was about nine (my copy is still in very good condition).

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Check out  the really “historically accurate” photo of a hunky Almanzo and young Laura (with a little bit of cleavage showing) gazing at each other on the back cover.

Backcover Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder

There were real pictures of a real person and I began to understand that there were inconsistencies between the books, the show, and her life. Weirdly, I was okay with this. And when my parents went to visit friends when I was a teenager, they brought back for me booklets by a William Anderson and postcards from the homesteads and I put these into a scrapbook. (Never said that I was a painter…)

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Wilder saved me when I my best friend moved away when I was 7, when I was transitioning from high school to university, and when I went back to school. Wilder saved me when boyfriends didn’t turn out to be like Almanzo Wilder, or when one is told they have to move because the landlord is selling their house.

Wilder saved me when I was feeling sorry for myself, or believed that it was too late to live my dream.LittleHouseBigWoods1George Eliot said, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”  And for Wilder this was certainly true. She had been writing articles for the Missouri Ruralist for most of her life and quietly working away on her autobiography. Little House in the Big Woods was not published until she was 65 years old.

I always wanted to know more. I still do. Now that I’ve road tripped to most of the places she lived (didn’t make it to Kansas), and stepped in Plum Creek, I continue to discover new things about her. With the publication of the surprise bestseller, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography (the manuscript Wilder failed to sell in the 1930s but would eventually become the groundwork for the Little House series), Wilder is part of a rich history of women writers. 

Today marks Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 150th birthday!!!

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There are stories about the Little House on the Prairie reunion with its stars writing cookbooks and autobiographies, and pop cultural references, such as this week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory featuring Little House fan fiction.

There are many events happening across the U.S., as well as the biennial conference, Laurapalooza, where fans and scholars of the author and the series come together to discuss all things Wilder. I went in 2015 and it was an incredible experience. I’m hoping the universe will conspire so I can go again. I have sent in a proposal to do a talk with my partner on the road, Caroline Jones, about the often forgotten sister, Grace. They’re supposed to let us know today.

Any opportunity to have a positive discussion where we can learn about ourselves and our history is worthy of exploration

Isn’t it amazing that at 150 years, Wilder continues to teach us something about what it means to be human, to be women and to have the ability to create. We are beginning to understand how she connected her life to her fiction, how she became a writer, and how as a frontier woman she stepping out in front of history to define  herself and women of her generation.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Google Doodle

*The original post is from 2015 with some updates.

Posted in Authors, Children's Literature, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Writing, Writing Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mel’s Week of Unplanned Symmetry

The writer life is weird and wonderful. One week there could be a series of events converging at the same time and you try believing in your incredible luck and the next…a silence so quiet that you wonder if you’re any good and why you’re bothering to do it in the first place.

This week was a lucky week. A grateful week. A week where I’m doing my best to celebrate success, without feeling guilty and also being comfortable with being out in the world.

TUESDAY: I talked about this and my path to publication on Cynthia Leitich Smith’s most excellent blog, Cynsations. It was the first time I wrote about the experience writing and working on MAUD and it was fun to share pictures of the process.  

WEDNESDAY: With the various Anne of Green Gables adaptations releasing, there is a growing interest in the difference between the movies and the source material. So I wrote this short history of the adaptations, highlighting what Montgomery had said about the early ones and thoughts on what comes next.

WEDNESDAY/THURSDAY: A successful RT to Win Campaign: As you know, this week was L.M. Montgomery’s birthday and so I had planned a RT to Win MAUD ARC on Wednesday. I hadn’t done something like that in a long time and it was thrilled (if not also a bit overwhelmed) by how excited people are about it. I had announced the winner on Thursday and in the complete random number generator kind of way of the universe, an author who shares a book birthday with me, Katie Bayerl (A Psalm for a Lost Girl) won.

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FRIDAY: My first short story was published!! Zoetic Press had a call for submissions for their NonBinary Review issue of Anne of Green Gables and my short story, “The New Girl,” was accepted. I didn’t know it would be out so soon, but it released yesterday. The issue features poetry, flash fiction, and art inspired by the novel. My story is about a young man name Gilbert Blythe who cannot get the new girl to even look at him, but he has a plan to get her attention.

You can buy it on the Zoetic NonBinary website. It is available as a PDF, epub and Kindle.

AND….THIS WEEKEND…TOMORROW, SUNDAY: I’m going to be on CBC Radio! It is the first time being interview in a studio. Eli Glasner is guest hosting “Fresh Air,” a show that features lifestyle and arts events in Ontario on the weekends from 6AM to 9AM, and he asked me if I would come on and talk about MAUD, and Anne of Green Gables and all things Montgomery. And because I need to be brave, I said, “Yes!” I’ve been told it will air during the later half of the show on CBC Radio One 99.1FM.

But you know that the life of a writer and teacher means that I keep working and writing…and grading. Keeping my feet firmly planted on the ground. But it is very exciting when things come together in perfect symmetry. It inspires one to keep going during the quiet weeks.

 

 

Posted in Anne of Green Gables, Blogging, Children's Literature, Inspiration, L.M. Montgomery, Maud, Talented Friends, VCFA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

RT to Win a Signed ARC of MAUD

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November 30th is L.M. Montgomery’s 142nd Birthday and to celebrate I’ve decided to give away ONE signed ARC of Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery on Twitter!

I know! It is very exciting.

 

 

What to do:

  1. Head over to my Twitter profile and RT this post, which will be on top of my profile all day today.

or

2. RT anytime I mention Montgomery or MAUD today (and given her birthday that will be a lot.)

then

3. Spread the word, tell your friends, and if you don’t follow me yet, please do so we can connect.

The winner will be announced sometime tomorrow, December 1st.

Happy Birthday, MAUD!

copyright University of Guelph LMM Archives

copyright University of Guelph LMM Archives

 

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A Response: Write! Create!

I don’t tend to talk politics on this blog, mostly because it is meant to focus on writing, the creative process and what is happening in the life of Mel. But the ramifications of what has happened in the American election has forced me to reassess my position on this and how I plan to combat misogyny, homophobia and xenophobia. In Canada we’ve had the dial move in the opposite direction, (thank goodness) but there are still some politicians, particularly on the right, who want to bring these ideologies north. And I am like, NO!

My response is the only thing I know how to do:

WRITE! CREATE! 

For the past year or so, my current WIP explores the second wave women’s movement, issues of consent, and the decision to rise up, stand for something. That’s all I will say about it for now as I don’t want to spoil the fun, but in the fog of yesterday writing this story was the only thing I found that made me feel like I had some control. And from what I’ve been seeing on my social media feeds, many artists are turning to their creative self for solace, to create stories and art that will nurture and speak to a possible, more hopeful, future.

Consider this Toni Morrison quote I saw in my feed yesterday:

“In times of dread, an artist must never choose to stay silent.” 

This connects to my “Writer’s Manifesto” that I wrote at a VCFA workshop last year, particularly #1.

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With MAUD slowly coming in the world, about an ambitious young woman who wants to be educated and pursue her dreams of publications, a young woman who has to choose between love and her craft, I hope that it contributes to this conversation.

I invite you to find your creative muse.

Ask yourself:

What can you create today that will help fuel this movement of artistic expression to bring light to the world?

How can you tell stories of those in history who have been silenced, who are no longer here to tell it themselves?

What is the story you need to tell where you felt like you were silenced?  

How can you support those who want their stories heard?

Whose story do you need to tell?

Maybe…it is your own…

 

Posted in Writing Life | 4 Comments

MAUD Cover Reveal on Bustle.com

Today is a VERY exciting day because I can finally tell you something that I had to keep to myself for almost two months!

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The good news is, if you ever need me to keep a secret, know that I am a good keeper of the secrets. (I didn’t even tell my family…that is how secret I kept this).

Bustle.com has the exclusive cover reveal for MAUD!

I am so thrilled that they wanted to support the book because they talk about things I love AND my book has bustles in it! I know…like all things Montgomery, things just happen in a beautiful, magical way.

I wrote a special piece for them, talking about why I love L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, and decided to do this project.  Please check out Bustle and let me know what you think!

 

 

 

Posted in Anne of Green Gables, Children's Literature, L.M. Montgomery, Maud, Teen lit, Writing, Writing Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Writing in Motion

Monday I sent the proofs of MAUD to my editor. Today I cut many inches off my hair.

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For over two years I’ve kept it long because it helped me get into the body of Maud’s character. As I explained it to my hairdresser (who nodded like she understood, but I  suspect she was a little concerned for me), I needed to be able to put it up in a bun or some other concoction.

The same thing happened when I was writing Oy! and  I cut my hair short, (by my last hairdresser. I’m loyal to my new person who understands me completely now.) At the time, my advisor lovingly said, “You method writers.”

My hairdresser was so excited to finally be able to cut my hair. And, as she cut away the strands of this past few years, I felt like I was saying goodbye. Hair can be biblical. Hair can be political. Like the song, “Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta of My Hair” , it can signify the end of something.

This past summer I had the opportunity to focus on writing and creating. A taste on what it could be like if I could craft my own schedule, move and shift in my natural rhythm (night owl, late to mid morning riser), and the freedom to travel.

You must understand this was a very bold move for me. Since I was fourteen (not counting when I worked in the corporate world) I worked every summer. I never did the whole summer in Europe (although there was a three week trip to Greece with a then boyfriend when I was 17 which I still can’t believe my mother let me go on). In other words, I always banked on some kind of work that gave me a paycheque every two weeks, the dependability of that. This summer I banked on the idea that my savings and whatever freelance work I had would somehow get me through the four months before I went back to teaching. And, yes, I do have my partner so I’m very fortunate that I have that cushion, but there was a certain element of trust at play that everything would somehow work out. In gratitude it has.

The thing I’ve learned most about my creative process is how well I work in motion.On the road in New Brunswick Planes, trains, cars and buses,  I sit with a pen or my computer and my brain/body understands that it is time to work. This might have something to do with writing on the bus during my early morning commutes when I worked full time.

So when my friend and fellow Dystropian, Sheryl Scarborough* author of the forthcoming thriller To Catch a Killer, suggested I come out West and write with her in her new house a little outside of Portland. I decided that if I could find a cheap flight, I would. I found one.

It is all about mountains and/or water for me.

It is all about mountains and/or water for me.

And then more generosity of friends emerged. One of my best friends from high school had moved out to Seattle, so I got see his life out there. Doing some work in the mornings and then visiting in the afternoon, there is also something rejuvenating about writing in a space that is completely new. And spending four days writing with a view like this, certainly nurtured the creative spirit.

I also got to visit other VCFA friends and went to the Beverly Cleary statues and play with Ramona and Henry. **

IMG_2257There was also a trip to Powell’s bookstore, where of course I had to check all of the Montgomery books. They had about four shelves! And, yes, I held back.

On my way home I visited with another generous friend in Vancouver who suggested that I take the train from Portland. It was long, but the view would be spectacular. I revised and looked at the window and ate my snacks. She was so right. It was perfect.

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On the flight home, I finished the round of revisions. The following day, I slept. And then the mourning process began. In the gratitude of getting to write this story, see things like covers and back matter, there is this weird panic that also comes in, as well as a sadness I couldn’t quite articulate.

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In June, I went East. I had submitted the edits of the latest draft to my editor and was now working on my talk for the L.M. Montgomery and Gender Conference, which also included practicing what would be my first public reading of MAUD. To say that I was nervous about this would be putting it mildly. Petrified would be more accurate.

VCFA was having their annual alumni-mini-rez and so I stayed with another generous friend in Montreal (which included a road trip with my dad listening to Hamilton), and then staying with another dear friend in Montpellier,  helped out where I could and went to the lectures, which included a Master’s class by Francisco Stork. This was exactly what I needed to rekindle my passion for my neglected novel, as well as put the fire under my you-know-what to find an agent.

My road tripping friend from Texas joined me up and we hung out in Montpelier, writing and working on our essays. VCFA and LMM worlds merged and it was glorious. C and I then made a pitstop at the Almanzo Wilder homestead, because of course…

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And then we were on the road again, making our way to PEI.

In PEI Rachel McMillan, author of the Herringford and Watt mystery novels, and I listened tocopyright Sarah Goff Hamilton–as one doesand we drove around the Island. I coordinated the social media for the conference and so didn’t sleep for about a week. But that is part of the fun. There was also another Anne & Gilbert musical moment where I got to hang out with the actress who plays “Anne.”***

It was standing room only for our session and when I read MAUD for the first time at the banquet, I held onto my glass so tightly because I was shaking so much. People were very kind and laughed (not at me, but the scene) and clapped.

When I returned from PEI the copyedits were ready for my approval and thus began the next stage of the editorial process. I moved my office around so I could look out the window and tried to remain calm. More emotions. The idea that we are indeed nearing the end. Again the mixture gratitude, fatigue and terror. I won’t be able to protect her anymore. Grief. Panic. Joy. All of the emotions.

Then, Maud got an actual pub date: May 16, 2017.

I squealed, panicked and got back to work.

The boyfriend and I left for a week in Quebec City at the beginning of August where I did no writing at all. Not even journal writing. I gave myself permission for a complete break.

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And when we came home, I worked on two essays due on the same day with very different style guides (so that wasn’t confusing at all.) What was fun about that was being able to switch brains and focus my theories on the Perfect Man Archetype to something much more specific. Cross your fingers that these will be accepted.

 

Then, Maud showed up on goodreads.

I squealed, panicked, and then went back to work.

The proofs came. I faced them. I knew this was it. Seeing it in a font that isn’t WORD changes everything. And, as I tried not to over think every single sentence, I had to come to the conclusion that I’ve done the best that I could. I only hope that it will be good enough. Give her the story she deserves, that she needed me to tell.

After almost four and a half years I now have to let Maud out into the world. There was an anxiety dream that involved a dear friend shaking her head and saying, “Terrible.” There has been a lot of late nights rewatching period miniseries and movies, romance comedies and Hallmark movies like this one, and (as of late) Gilmore Girls (in preparation of the reunion show in November).

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I’ve read all of the books that I wanted from the library. I’ve stayed away from violent or heavy TV, movies and books. I’ve looked to things that made me laugh and saw my family and friends. I took long walks, did yoga, and hung out with my next door neighbour.

And then, moments after I had sent the proofs to my editor on Monday morning, my friend messaged me that he saw Maud on amazon.ca.

I squealed, panicked, and went back to work.

The same day Netflix announced it would be streaming the new CBC Anne miniseries next year, and a friend told me Anne of Green Gables was featured on Stranger Things.

All of these things could work in my favour, or they could mean absolutely nothing at all. I can tell you that I’ve squealed, panicked and (with a bit of procrastinating) gotten back to work, because it is the only thing I can do.

In coming months, you’ll probably see more updates from me about the book, a new website, and I’m hoping to get back to talking up some of the brilliant work being done in the creative community.  I’ve recently updated my “about” section to reflect the next stage in this process.

I’m also going to be giving a lecture on the role of bad boys in YA lit for Humber’s Liberal Arts and Sciences Interdisciplinary Conference, and then something about L.M. Montgomery’s early poetry in Leaskdale for their L.M. Montgomery Day.

There is also the new novel and finding an agent, plus the teaching, so I’ll keep myself out of trouble.

Next week I end the summer with a week-long writing retreat in Nova Scotia where another generous friend kindly invited me to participate. After a summer of writing and traveling, it seems fitting to start something new.

 

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*In my recounting of events I may drop names of people who have books releasing because, as you are aware, I enjoy connecting creative people. And there are books you might want to know about and read.

**The literary road trips was also a theme of the summer, something I hope to revisit soon.

***There will be more on this in the future as I think I know where all of the Anne & Gilbert is going. Finally. 🙂

Posted in Anne of Green Gables, Inspiration, L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Literary Book Boyfriends, Teen lit, VCFA, Writing, Writing Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments