#94 Ann Walsh
January 28th, 2016
LOCATION: Barkerville Historic Cemetery, Reduction Road, Barkerville. Directions: Seven minutes from Wells, B.C. Proceed southwest on Pooley Street toward Barkerville, turn left onto Barkerville Highway, right onto Reduction Road. Take your bug spray.
Ann Walsh is one of the province’s leading writers of teen fiction. In her debut novel, Your Time, My time, the protagonist discovers a small gold ring beside a grave, close to the headstone of Chartres Brew (a prominent policeman venerated by Judge Begbie who wrote the inscription.)
In 1981, after completing a ten-day summer course with Robin Skelton in Wells, Ann Walsh wrote Your Time, My Time, a novel about Elizabeth Connell, a girl whose mother has taken a job as a cook at the Jack O’ Clubs Hotel in Wells. Missing her father, her brother, and her friends, Elizabeth spends time in nearby Barkerville’s cemetery, where she finds a small gold ring. By twisting it on her finger, she is carried back in time to Barkerville’s gold rush. Emergency Librarian chose Your Time My Time as the best Canadian children’s book of 1984. It is still in print, having been reprinted more than 14 times.
Ann Walsh returned to the gold rush era for the setting of three other historical fiction works: Moses, Me and Murder, The Doctor’s Apprentice, and By the Skin of His Teeth. The protagonist, idealistic and headstrong Ted MacIntosh, first appears in Moses, Me and Murder, the true story of a murder, an oddly shaped gold nugget and a hanging. In her fifth young adult novel, The Doctor’s Apprentice, Ted’s adventures continue. He is now a teenager, tormented by the ghost of the murderer James Barry, a man he helped to convict and hang. In an attempt to distract himself from his troubling dreams, he apprentices to an eccentric doctor named J.B. Wilkinson, whose dependency on opium for his patients and for his own demons reveals a past intertwined with the life and death of an enigmatic woman named Sophia Cameron. Doctor Wilkinson and Ted tend to a dying Chinese man, and as fire sweeps through Barkerville’s streets, the ghost of Ted’s past returns. Doctor Wilkinson’s grave can be found in the Barkerville cemetery.
The third of Ann Walsh’s Barkerville Mystery series, By The Skin of His Teeth. takes place in late 1870, two years after the great fire. Although many miners have left for the winter, Barkerville’s shops and restaurants are thriving; the Christmas social season is bustling with sleigh rides, dancing and carolling. Ted MacIntosh, now seventeen and working in his father’s carpentry shop, has ignored the prevailing racist attitudes towards the Chinese, disdainfully referred to as “Celestials” and has befriended a Chinese boy. When a Chinese man, Ah Mow, is stabbed to death outside his Barkerville restaurant, a white man is charged with the murder. It looks like a simple case until, between the inquest and the trial, the Chinese witnesses change their testimonies. When the all-white jury finds the accused not guilty, Judge Henry Crease, affronted by the verdict, states that the defendant has escaped Justice by the skin of his teeth.
In 2005, Ann edited Dark Times, a collection of short stories about young people’s experience of loss and grief, (Ronsdale Press, 2005). This volume includes Ann’s story about the loss of a grandmother to Alzheimer’s disease.
For younger readers, Ann Walsh has published two works: Flower Power (Orca, 2005), in which a girl’s mother chains herself to a neighbour’s tree and lives inside a treehouse in order to prevent the tree from being felled. It is in part an investigation of how a child feels when she loses someone she loves—in this case, her mother, who temporarily becomes a public figure chastised as a ‘crazy lady’ and a ‘nutzoid.’ The second novel, Horse Power (Orca, 2007) is the story of how a community works together to save a rural school from closure.
Co-authored with Kathleen Cook Waldron and featuring Bob Warick’s photography, Forestry A-Z (2008) gives a colourful depiction of modern forestry. (Did you know that the passenger vans used on back-country forestry sites are called crummies?)
In 1989, Ann Walsh represented Canada at an international book fair in Sweden. She was the convocation speaker at University College of the Cariboo in 1994. From 1992-1995, she was the community correspondent for CBC Radio’s Almanac and is included in Who’s Who In Canada. Her novels have been reprinted many times, and all are still in print. Her short story for young adults, dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, All is Calm, has been included in five anthologies or textbooks. One of her adult short stories, Getting Away From it All, has been translated and published in Germany, Italy, Sweden and Japan.
Ann is trained as a Restorative Justice facilitator; Whatever (Ronsdale Press, 2013) is about a teen who, after committing an offence and going through the RJ process, deals with the sanctions that follow the circle sentencing. The young offender learns to cook; her easy-to-follow recipes are included in an appendix.
Ann Walsh lived in South Africa and Kansas before coming to Vancouver in 1953. She trained as a teacher at UBC, completing her degree through summer sessions in 1968. Ann worked as a primary teacher, teacher-librarian and learning assistant teacher in the public school system. She also taught English, ESL and Adult Literacy at Cariboo College (the former name of Thompson Rivers University).
Ann has lived for many years in Williams Lake, but now spends part of the year in Victoria. Webpage: annwalsh.ca
Whatever (Ronsdale 2013) Shortlisted for the Bolen Book Prize 2014; Chocolate Lily nominee, 2014
Forestry A-Z [Kathleen Cook Waldron co-author] (Orca, 2008) Canadian Children’s Book Centre Best Books for Kids and Teens selection.
Flower Power (Orca, 2005) Shortlisted for The Chocolate Lily, 2006; Best Books Selection.
Horse Power (Orca, 2007) Best Books for Kids and Teens Selection.
Dark Times (Ronsdale 2005). Editor, contributor. Best Books selection.
By the Skin of His Teeth (Beach Holme, 2004, Dundurn Press edition, 2006) Canadian Children’s Book Centre ‘Our Choice’ selection.
Beginnings, Stories of Canada’s Past (Ronsdale, 2001). Editor, contributor; Short-listed for the Golden Oak Award. ‘Our Choice’ Selection.
The Doctor’s Apprentice (Beach Holme, 1998; Dundurn Press edition, 2006). YA,
Nominated for the Sheila A. Egoff B.C. Book Prize, 1999; Shortlisted for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction, 1999; Canadian Children’s Book Centre ‘Our Choice’ Award; Dundurn Press edition 2007
Winds Through Time, An Anthology of Canadian YA Historical Fiction
(Beach Holme, l998). Editor. ‘Our Choice’ Award.
Shabash! (Press Porcepic/Beach Holme, 1994). YA, Shortlisted for the
Silver Birch Award; ‘Our Choice’ Award; Dundurn Press 1994.
Across the Stillness (Press Porcepic/Beach Holme, 1993). Poetry.
The Ghost of Soda Creek (Press Porcepic/Beach Holme, 1990). YA, Canadian Library Association ‘Notable’ selection 1990; Canadian Children’s Book Centre ‘Our Choice’ selection; Dundurn Press 2009)
Moses, Me and Murder! A Story of the Cariboo Gold Rush (Pacific Educational Press, 1988.) YA, Shortlisted for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction, 1989; Our Choice Award. New edition Dundurn Press, 2013.
Your Time, My Time (Press Porcepic/Beach Holme, 1984.) YA, Shortlisted for the YA Novel Award (Sask. Librarians’ Association) 1984; ‘Our Choice’ selection; Chosen by Emergency Librarian as the best Canadian children’s book of 1984 (into 14th printing) Dundurn Press edition 2009.
Winds Through Time: Press Release
For Beach Holme’s first young adult anthology, Ann Walsh has selected fifteen captivating stories written by well-known authors from across the country. Each contributor has penned a dramatic account of a real episode in Canadian history. From mine disasters to scarlet fever epidemics, from the Great War to the Gold Rush, these writers breathe life into the tales of our ancestors and tell stories only history could have imagined. Whether it be the stubborn Nellie McClung as a young suffragette or the defiant pride of a Japanese prisoner in an internment camp, children will immediately be drawn into the rich tapestry of our past. Ideal for Language Arts or Social Studies lessons discussing periods in Canadian history or as an enjoyable and varied collection for the curious and adventurous young adult reader, this excellent panorama of talent spanning the country’s best new and established writers offers a rare gift for children who want a book that is more than the sum of its parts. Dedicated to the beloved W.O. Mitchell and bringing to life his words, these stories will give you pause to remember your own history and make you eager to seek out other works by these gifted Canadians.
ISBN 0-88878-384-1 $12.95 CDN $8.95 US
Nominated for the 1995 Silver Birch Award, Shabash! sensitively explores the differences which unite and divide, and the prejudices within, and against, minority communities. Rana wants to play hockey, but when he tries to sign up for the local minor league team, there seems to be a problem. Rana’s cold reception gives him the distinct impression that he is not wanted by the other players or their parents. As a Sikh living in a small mill town in the interior of British Columbia in 1980, Rana knows he is “different”, in fact he is the first Sikh in Dinway to join the hockey team. But what started as a whim becomes a determined struggle and so Rana persists, making the team, and meeting Les who becomes a new friend. But the small jibes from his teammates and the community members continue. Finally, just before the most important game of the season, an extraordinary event interrupts the lives of everyone in the community. Rana explodes in anger and risks his membership.
ISBN 0-88878-355-8 $8.95 CDN $5.95 US
The Ghost of Soda Creek: Press Release
Moving to Soda Creek, a former gold rush boomtown in the Cariboo region of the B.C. interior, Kelly Linden and her father try to begin their lives again after a tragic family accident. Kelly is startled and disturbed when she sees the pale ghost of a little girl standing before her with hands outstretched. She is not the only one “hallucinating.” David, a university student staying at a local commune, also claims to have seen the apparition. As the story moves into stranger and stranger territory, Kelly and David are drawn together. The other residents of the town also become involved in helping the ghost who seems to be appealing for help to escape her non-human state. As Kelly searches for the truth she also discovers new feelings and the thrill of love.
0-88878-292-6 $8.95 CDN $5.95 US
By the Skin of His Teeth (Beach Holme, $9.95) 2005
It’s November of 1870, two years after a great fire destroyed most of the town, and Barkerville has rebuilt itself. Although many miners have left for the winter, the place is thriving with shops, restaurants and a busy Christmas social season of sleigh rides, dancing and carolling with the Glee Club.
Young Ted MacIntosh, now seventeen and working in his father’s carpentry shop, has ignored the prevailing racist attitudes towards the Chinese, referred to as “Celestials,” and befriended a young Chinese boy. Then a Chinese man named Ah Mow is stabbed to death on the steps of his Barkerville restaurant.
A violent white man named Henri Tremblay is charged with the murder. It looks like a simple case until witnesses are being threatened by Tremblay and his crew to substantially change their testimonies between the inquest and the trial.
In Ann Walsh’s third volume in her Barkerville Mystery series, By the Skin of His Teeth (Beach Holme, $9.95), idealistic and headstrong Ted MacIntosh, who first appeared in Moses, Me and Murder and then again in The Doctor’s Apprentice, knows he will endanger himself and his Chinese friends if he insists on telling the truth.
When the all-white jury finds the accused is not guilty, the judge, affronted by the verdict, publicly comments on the defendant’s narrow escape from justice. Walsh, whose books have all received the Children’s Book Centre Our Choice Award, couldn’t find evidence to support her theory that witnesses must have been threatened and beaten to make them change their stories, but her latest story is otherwise based on actual events. 0-88878-448-1
Review by Louise Donnelly (2005)
In Cold Snap by Diana Aspin, Cassie, named for the constellation, discovers her star-crazy father is having an affair.
In Explaining Andrew by Gina Rozon, James loses an older brother to the paranoia and destruction of schizophrenia. He becomes someone “I wouldn’t want to meetin broad daylight, let alone after dark.”
In A Few Words For My Brother by Alison Lohan, an adopted sibling, suffering from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, goes to prison.
In Dear Family by Donna Gamache, a mother leaves for a two-week getaway and never comes back.
These are just four of the thirteen stories that Ann Walsh has edited for Dark Times (Ronsdale, $9.95), an unusual collection that makes clear that death is not the only way to lose someone we love. Divorce, mental illness, Alzheimer’s and an extramarital affair can also subject teenage characters to the “agony of loss.”
In Sisters, by Sarah Ellis, Charlotte suffers the inexplicable absence of Sophie, a ghostly, runaway sister who last phoned home five years ago. Now Sophie “floats around the house like a piece of empty air.” Whereas her parents used to argue over Sophie, now they never mention her. Sophie “settles like fog on Christmas and birthdays and memories.” Charlotte likes to escape to the apartment of her adoptive grandmothers, Mrs. Fenner and Miss Poole, where ghosts abound. There the ghosts are noisy, kept alive through endlessly recalled stories. When old Mrs. Fenner dies, there’s a funeral service, egg salad sandwiches, butter tarts, sherry and the recital of more stories. Charlotte, comforted by “voices of the not-gone” speaks of Sophie and draws her down from the shadows and into the light.
But no death is more devastating than that of a parent. “A great many Native people suffer the death of one parent or another while they are still teenagers,” says Lee Maracle. If it’s the mother who dies, fathers can “sometimes have a very hard time.” In The Canoe, a motherless boy and his silent, grieving father sidestep each other, separated by a lifetime of alienation and misunderstanding. “I’m no good at this parenting stuff,” the father says. In many ways, it’s as if the boy has lost both his mother and father until one day the father drags a cedar dugout from the shed. Carved back in the “cultural prohibition days,” the dugout is devoid of paint or any Aboriginal designs. In attempting to restore and launch the century-old canoe, the boy and his father risk more than the seaweed-slippery mudflats and six-foot-high surf. They risk taking a step towards each other.
The stories in Dark Times were compiled from more than 200 cross-Canada submissions. Although Dark Times is an unflinching look at loss in its many forms, within all thirteen stories there is a glimmer of the coming dawn, that first, hesitant, hopeful step towards reconciliation.
Dark Times 1-55380-028-1
Horse Power: Promotional Info (2007)
The first in a projected series, Flower Power dealt with a neighbourhood battle over the cutting down of a tree. According to promotional information for Horse Power,”Once again Callie is forced to take part in her mom’s latest crusade. They head into ranch country to camp—bloodthirsty mosquitoes, stinky outhouses and all—at a protest to save a rural school. Callie’s grandmother shows up with her biker buddies and the singing grannies. Callie hates camping and wants nothing to do with the protest. To make matters worse, Callie’s only possible ally, her cousin Del, is mad at her. The last time Callie visited, she was thrown from Del’s horse, Radish. Callie claimed the horse was vicious and now Del’s parents are forcing her to sell Radish. Callie wants to help her cousin, but she’s terrified of the horse. Del is just as tenacious as the rest of Callie’s family, and Callie is forced to admit that she’s not going to be allowed to go home until both the horse and the school are saved.”
Writing from the Boonies by Ann Walsh, 2007
When my first book was accepted for publication, I bored all my friends in Williams Lake with my incessant talking about its progress.
“Look at what that editor did! Here’s the cover, isn’t it great? The proofs have arrived!”
It wasn’t until the book was in print and thrust into my friends’ reluctant hands that I realized that, except for a kind librarian and a supportive bookstore owner, no one in my town knew or cared a hoot about writing and publishing.
We had a well established Art Society, a flourishing pottery club, The Woman’s Institute and a dozen churches, but there was no group for writers. So I stopped talking about my writing and went back to work at a ‘real’ job where the after-work blithering wasn’t literary, but the companionship was great.
When my second book came out, I joined the Writers’ Union of Canada and registered for the AGM—three days of meetings, workshops, socializing, dancing, listening to other authors and a windup barbecue at Pierre Berton’s home. I intend my fellow Puddlers no disrespect when I say that once I mentioned that I was going to Pierre Berton’s house, I finally became a writer in their eyes.
“Pierre, eh? I’ve seen him on TV. Say ‘hi’ for me, will you?”
Then people started asking me questions (after they’d inquired about Pierre’s state of health), including one of the toughest questions for a writer to answer: “So, when’s your next book going to be ready?” That was when I stopped talking about my current writing project. People didn’t really want to know about the rejections, the delays, the rewrites, the lengthy process from idea to book. They mostly just wanted to know about Pierre Berton.
Just as I didn’t understand much about ranching or forestry: my neighbours didn’t understand much about my new writing world.
In those days, we had no Internet or e-mail. So at the Writers’ Union AGM it was a relief to find people talking about rejections at breakfast, movie rights at lunch, and swapping stories of editors from hell during dinner. I still try to attend the AGM every year. Those yearly meetings and contacts with friends I met there have kept me going through the lonely dark winters of my early career.
I admit I am sometimes jealous of the busy schedule of the children’s writers in Vancouver who have easy access to meetings, socializing and can participate in literary events such as WOTS and the International Writers’ Festival, but if I can’t get to those meetings and events, at least now I can ‘talk’ to other writers on-line. Sometimes I even behave like the senior writer I am and offer advice!
Writing from the boonies, I’ve learned there are other writers near you, but they may still be in the closet, so you have to make an effort to do the things other writers do, even if it means buying a plane ticket or driving 500 km to go to a meeting or a conference.
Or you can form your own writers’ group. A good writers’ group is a thing of wonder where ideas flourish. My writing group keeps me focused on the fact that I am a writer, that writers write and so, in the words of my first mentor, Robin Skelton, I should stop whining and ‘get on with it.’—Ann Walsh
Interview with Ann Walsh (2008)
In his old age, Tolstoy dismissed War & Peace and Anna Karenina as bourgeois entertainment and decided it was better to write fables for children. Some authors, on the other hand, such as Ann Walsh of Williams Lake, chose to write for young readers from the outset.
After completing a 10-day summer course with Robin Skelton in 1981 in Wells, B.C., she first wrote a time-travelling tale set in Barkerville, Your Time, My Time, and returned to the gold rush era for Moses, Me and Murder, The Doctor’s Apprentice and By the Skin of His Teeth.
Ann Walsh has recently edited a collection of short stories about young people coping with loss and grief, Dark Times (Ronsdale, 2005), and written two kids’ novels about social issues, Flower Power (Orca, 2005) and Horse Power (Orca, 2007).
BC BOOKWORLD: Why did you start writing books for children?
I had a manual typewriter with sticky keys. Children’s books are shorter.
No, the real reason.
I had been a teacher for many years and I wanted to share B.C. history with young readers. I fell in love with Barkerville and I found out that a murder had been committed there in 1866, way back in the gold rush days, and the clue to the murderer’s identity was an oddly shaped gold nugget stickpin. You can hardly invent a story with a plot like that, but it’s a true story. So that became the basis for Moses, Me and Murder.
BC BOOKWORLD: What did you read growing up?
Growing up in different countries, I read what was available. The ‘Just William’ series in South Africa; my mother’s old nurse-in-love series in Kansas, and anything else I could get my hands on. As a teenager in Vancouver I discovered science fiction and read nothing but SF until I had my first baby. Then I switched to murder mysteries. I’m sure there’s no connection.
BC BOOKWORLD: Several of your books concern racism. Do you ever struggle with how overt the messages in your books should be?
All the time. It’s hard to find that fine line between plot and pulpit. As a child, I saw racism in all its ugliness, both in the American South and in South Africa. I remember ‘whites only’ signs on drinking fountains and in restaurant windows. In my writing I want to shout, “Look how ugly this is!” But shouting at readers doesn’t encourage them to finish the book. So I try to write the ugliness well, so that the readers see it for themselves.
BC BOOKWORLD: Do you think most people who write for kids lie awake nights and secretly feel hard done by because they don’t get the attention they deserve?
Well, you probably say that about almost any writer! [laughter] But, yes, Kidlit writers can and do whine. For most of us the money doesn’t pour in, the reviews are scanty and we get little respect from the rest of the literary world. We are ‘just’ children’s writers. Nearly everyone is going to write a children’s book someday, when they have a free weekend. After all, kids’ books are short, how hard can they be to write?
BC BOOKWORLD: Do you talk about this sort of thing with other Kidlit authors?
These days, most of my “talking” is done on-line. The closest children’s writer is Kathleen Cook Waldron. She’s an hour-and-a-half drive from my house. We have co-authored a book, Forestry A-Z, forthcoming in 2008, and we did this by driving 63 km to meet at a restaurant halfway between our homes. We also had a few revision sleep-overs.
BC BOOKWORLD: Our children’s book columnist Louise Donnelly gets weary of all the teenage angst novels and the onslaught of political correctness. Do you have any general perceptions of the teenage novel genre?
The PC problem is hard. I wrestled with the word ‘Chinaman’ in one of my Barkerville novels. But “Chinese gentleman” didn’t fit the language of the day, so I used the words of the era even though they made me uncomfortable. I know exactly how Louise feels. Angst well-done is great, but it’s hard to take in large doses. Most teens, however, are one huge blob of angst. I know. I raised two daughters.
BC BOOKWORLD: Why have you done nearly all your books with B.C. publishers?
My subjects have been deemed too local by many national publishers who still reject me regularly. When I started, YA [Young Adult] novels were just beginning to interest publishers. My first publisher had never done a YA novel until Robin Skelton recommended mine for its “strong sense of place.” Small, local publishers are great for keeping an active backlist and for reprinting titles. However their small size can cause financial problems. One publisher still owes me my 2005 royalties–for six titles—and is no longer answering my queries about when I can expect payment.
BC BOOKWORLD: Should we name that publisher?
We should not.
BC BOOKWORLD: We mustn’t end on that note.
BC BOOKWORLD: In Flower Power there’s a local crusade to save a neighbourhood tree. Was that based on a real incident? Like that Barkerville murder?
No, that was a case of life imitating art. Shortly after I finished writing it, I heard a news report about a woman who had chained herself to a neighbour’s tree, just like in the story.
BC BOOKWORLD: But clearly you have a personal agenda in some of your books.
Well, it’s a composite of things. My mother was a dedicated environmentalist. She belonged to SPEC which was the first recycling project in the Lower Mainland. However, Mom was too much a Southern lady to sit in a tree for days. I, on the other hand, have many, many times embarrassed my own children. I can never forget how accomplished they were at the eye-roll, the sigh, and the “Do you have to, Mum?”
So I guess Flower Power came from a blending of mothers—with my father’s sense of humour thrown in for good measure. As well, I stole the idea of having all the women in the story named after flowers from a British mystery writer. Except I didn’t use any of the same flowers she did.
BC BOOKWORLD: In the new book, Horse Power, your heroine Carrie gets herself reluctantly involved in her mother’s crusade to save a neighbourhood school. Where does that story come from?
All across North America and even in rural Scotland and Ireland, small schools are being closed. A few years ago there was a sit-it at a school at Forest Grove, near 100 Mile House. Many other schools in the Cariboo have been closed. These things don’t always percolate into the newspaper in Vancouver or Victoria, but they’re important to those of us “out here.”
BC BOOKWORLD: Does it bother you that sometimes people assume “easy-to-read” books are easy to write?
Often. Nathaniel Hawthorne said, “Easy reading is damned hard writing.” The fact that a book has an adjusted reading level to interest reluctant readers should not be taken, as it often is, as a negative. Not that I’m sensitive about this. [laughter]
Review by Eric Wilkins, 2013
As a teenager, feelings are awkward, bodies are constantly changing. The world is both against you, and revolving around you. Throw in a good dose of apathy and it can be a strained existence, even when things are going well.
Take, for instance, Darrah Patrick in Whatever (Ronsdale $11.95), by YA veteran Ann Walsh. When her epileptic little brother, Andrew, suffers a seizure, 16-year-old Darrah is enlisted by her mother to bring him to the hospital…causing her to miss a very important audition for a play. Upset, she vents her frustration by pulling a fire alarm.
Unbeknownst to Darrah, this act of frustration was caught on camera. Worse, in her haste to flee the scene, she accidentally knocked over an old woman in the stairwell. A police constable comes to the house and she is presented with two choices: prepare for court or participate in a “Restorative Justice Circle”.
Choosing the latter was a no brainer, but the repercussions are more challenging than she expected. Darrah winds up cellphone-less, computer-less, grounded, and to top it off, she is obliged to serve as a personal assistant to the injured party, Mrs. Johnson, two afternoons a week for two-and-a-half hours.
Reluctant at first, Darrah begins to discover some enjoyment in her time with “Mrs. J.” Between learning to bake powder biscuits and make stew, she becomes acquainted with Robin, Mrs. J.’s 17-year-old college-bound grandson who is easy on the eyes…
As Darrah starts to become more selfless and understanding with her family and Mrs. J., a greater problem arises: Mrs. J. is going blind. Darrah promises to keep her secret safe, but Mrs. J. knows that eventually she’ll be found out and sent to one of, “Those warehouses for old people… places to store old folk until they die…”
As Darrah navigates the quagmire of adolescence and learns the importance of family, responsibility and accountability, that casual throwaway remark common to teenagers—“Whatever”—disappears from her vocabulary.