Living the 'pan-Canadian dream': Michelle Ferguson publishes her first book

First aired on Daybreak Alberta (8/1/12)

Anyone who has toiled on the manuscript of a novel secretly (or not-so-secretly) dreams of seeing their book on a shelf in a store one day. For Edmonton writer Michelle Ferguson, that dream has finally come true with the publication of her first novel From Away. She spoke about juggling writing and the rest of her life with Daybreak Alberta host Russell Bowers.

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Ferguson has a lengthy CV that includes such descriptors as "hockey mom," "mother of five," "soccer coach," "federal prosecutor" and "author." So where does she even find the time to write?

"It was a careful negotiation," she explained. "I have a very supportive husband, and we negotiated what would be realistic within our schedules. I negotiated three hours of solid time per week that is MY writing time. I'd skedaddle off to a coffee shop, open my computer and write for three hours, or sometimes I hole up in my bedroom and lock the door."

Working at home, though, she does face the occasional (if adorable) interruption. "Whenever my kids stick their head in the door I tell them, 'You're wrecking my mojo, go ask your dad,'" Ferguson laughed. "So I'm typing away one morning and my then four-year-old pops his head into my room and says 'Mummy, I'm sorry to wreck your mojo but I was wondering if I could have a hug.'" Who could say no to that?

With only three hours of guaranteed writing time per week, it's important to make that time count. "I [didn't] ever really keep track of it, but I would hope to get a chapter written [in that time], that's always my goal," said Ferguson. "I'm not a word-count kind of person, but I wanted to get the basis of a chapter written in that three hours."

Despite the myriad aspects of her life, the first draft of her novel came together in just four months. Writing is a lifelong passion for Ferguson; she wrote short stories throughout high school, and sometimes she would even go into bookstores and find the place on the shelf where her book would be. What finally made her get serious about her writerly ambitions was the thing that takes the most time away from writing: becoming a mother. When she had kids she thought, "If I'm going to encourage them to follow their dreams, I better hop to it and follow my own!"

Still, with so much else on her plate, it wasn't easy for Ferguson to carve out the hours it would take to follow her dream. "That daunting thought of 'I'll never have the time to get this done, I'll never have the time to work and write and raise a family' — that was the biggest hurdle."

Ferguson considers herself "pan-Canadian," a fact that informs From Away, which is about a girl from Alberta who goes to spend time in an East Coast fishing village. "My father's family comes from Nova Scotia, and I spent a great deal of my childhood back and forth between east and west," she explained. "There's probably a bit of me in most of the parts...every character is sort of born out of a seed of someone I had met or seen in the past." She says the East and West coasts of Canada have more in common than they think. "The smaller towns have more in common with that 'if it doesn't get done today, it'll get done tomorrow' attitude."




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From Away

by Michelle Ferguson



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From the publisher:

"'Oh my God," I whimpered. "Oh my God, I've been shot." Marion Mackenzie´s dream of solitude in Lupin´s Point is shattered when Schooner Button spots her near his fishing boat and pegs her as a lobster thief. Clinging to the timbers beneath the dock, Marion realizes this is not the sleepy cove she imagined. With people like Alice Lupin, Schooner Button and Crazy Hal, life in quirky Lupin´s Point promises to be anything but quiet..."

Read more at Borealis Press.