About Heather

Heather has lived on a Canadian Gulf Island for most of her life, but when she was ten or so she lived on a farm in Southern Ontario and that experience is fictionalized in the Patti Stories. However, many of Patti's experiences are a blend of that setting and of raising her own family of three girls in a rural setting on Saltspring Island. These stories draw on the realities of both places and it is this that gives Heather's writing that extra ring of truth.

Heather has been a teacher, a CUSO volunteer in South America, and has sailed the Pacific in a wooden schooner. She has two BA s from the University of Victoria, in English and Psychology and in Creative Writing. She has also published poetry and magazine articles.

She is presently writing an adult novel set on the West Coast.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Writing 'Joan's Summer'.

The first draft of Joan's Summer was written in Australia while our schooner 'Shiriri' was tied up in the yacht basin in Manley, just south of Brisbane. Each day for several months we would spend some time writing and painting before going for a walk or visiting the library.

Joan as a character in the two previous books ( at that time in the process of being published by Penguin in Canada) popped in and out, mostly as an annoying presence for Patti because Joan had little time to play. We visited Joan's little grey house near the crossroads and saw the poor mother with the weak heart and younger children and realized that Joan was the one who played the adult role at home. We saw that Patti's parents and her teacher did their best to support this obviously intelligent girl who came complete with attitude. And what an attitude! Joan, unlike Patti, did not seem to care what people thought of her in her raggedy clothing. She came from an even poorer background than Patti and her school friends and for us readers this is a interesting contrast to the supportive world of caring parents and close knit community that surrounds Patti.

Heather wanted to explore who Joan was and where she was going, because in reality many kids from difficult circumstances slide downhill and never get the chance to discover who they can be. And so she began to write.

This is a story of struggle; for Joan after her mother dies, and for Patti when Joan comes to live with her family for the summer ( and shares her bedroom.!) What saves the day is camping in the woodlot and building a log cabin together, a project that involves co-operation, diplomacy and learning new skills. This book could have been subtitled “Building a Life” because the cabin represents for Joan a home of her own. She is literally building her life as she builds the cabin. The personality that Joan brings to the project, her life skills and experience is what is needed to make all this work. We see her blossom as the book progresses and finally understand that building the cabin is secondary to Joan's own development.

This book, like the other two in the series presents us with hard realities; the death of the mother, the dissolution of Joan's family group and responsibilities, and the difficulties for Patti of living with someone who is hurting and lost. We walk in Joan's shoes and that is a good experience to have, for us readers and for Patti who does a lot of maturing over the course of the summer holidays.

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