PEI

These researchers want to hear how you discovered the literary world of L.M. Montgomery

People from around the globe are sharing their first encounters with the works of L.M. Montgomery. 

'So many L.M. Montgomery fans have a story that they tell of how they became an L.M. Montgomery fan'

Researchers are on the hunt for fan's stories on how they stumbled upon Lucy Maud Montgomery's work. (Parks Canada)

People from around the globe are sharing their first encounters with the works of L.M. Montgomery. 

Researchers with UPEI are compiling the stories of how people discovered the world-renowned P.E.I. author's work for what they're calling an origin project. 

The idea was derived from a scholarly article presented in 2018 by Trinna Frever, a writer and scholar from Florida, at the L.M. Montgomery Institute's 13th Biennial Conference on P.E.I.

Frever's piece explored how first encounters with Montgomery's work changed its readers. 

"My essay talked about L.M. Montgomery's depiction of readers in her books, how the characters are often readers and how they're also then often, writers and creators of other types," Frever said. 

"I stumbled on this idea of how so many L.M. Montgomery fans have a story that they tell of how they became an L.M. Montgomery fan." 

'My first contact'

The idea struck a chord with some of the attendees, including Kate Scarth, UPEI's chair of L.M. Montgomery Studies. 

The pair decided to team up and collect fans' origin stories with the aim of co-authoring a book and launching a website centred on those stories.  

Kate Scarth is UPEI's chair of L.M. Montgomery Studies.  (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

Frever said she hadn't read Montgomery's work until she was 18 and her parents gave her a copy of Anne of the Island when she was going away to university. 

"That was my first contact with L.M. Montgomery," she said. 

I actually don't remember a time when I didn't know who Anne of Green Gables and L.M. Montgomery were.— Kate Scarth, UPEI

Since the conference, Scarth and Frever have been corresponding about how to get the origin project up and running. The pair settled on launching a virtual survey to help gather as much information as possible.

While Frever has a very distinct recollection of when she stepped into Montgomery's world, Scarth said her experience with Montgomery is less distinct. 

"I actually don't remember a time when I didn't know who Anne of Green Gables and L.M. Montgomery were," Scarth said.

But she does recall giving her parents the tour of the haunted wood at Green Gables when her family first moved to the Island when she was eight years old. 

"I brought my stack of all the Anne books, which I still have and are very dog-eared now," she said.

Around the globe

Just a few weeks into the project, the pair said they've been able to collect 130 origin stories from across Europe, South Africa, New Zealand and more.

"People talk in their stories that they feel like they know P.E.I.," she said, "and of course this urge to make a literary pilgrimage to P.E.I. and to specific Montgomery sites." 

'We're looking for all kinds of Montgomery stories, like this is not just a project for scholars,' Scarth says. (National Archives of Canada/Canadian Press)

Scarth said there are some surprising things about some origin stories as well. 

"So many people, when they first read Anne of Green Gables, didn't really like it that much," Scarth said.

"For a lot of people it was coming back to it for the second time, you know, months or years later when it really resonated with them." 

Islanders interested in sharing their first discoveries of Montgomery's work can head to the project's web page. 

"We would love to have more stories from Islanders," Scarth said. "We're looking for all kinds of Montgomery stories, like this is not just a project for scholars." 

More from CBC P.E.I. 

With files from Mainstreet P.E.I.

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