Join Us for The Spirit of Canada (Leaskdale, 20–22 October 2017)

Please join us next month for The Spirit of Canada: Celebrating a Canadian Literary Patriot, L.M. Montgomery, to be held at Leaskdale Manse National Historic Site (home of L.M. Montgomery from 1911 to 1926) on 20–22 October 2017.

Keynote speakers include Elizabeth Rollins Epperly (“Capturing Canada: L.M. Montgomery’s Career of Creating Place”) and Benjamin Lefebvre (“The Upward Climb to Heights Sublime: Private and Public Narratives in L.M. Montgomery’s ‘The Alpine Path'”).

The program also features presentations by Ted Barris, Rita Bode, Lesley D. Clement, Melanie J. Fishbane, Andrea McKenzie, Jen Rubio, Kate Scarth, and Emily Woster.

For more information, including a detailed agenda and a registration form, please visit the website for the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario.

New L.M. Montgomery-Related Books This Spring

Today marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of L.M. Montgomery’s death, at her home in Toronto, at the age of sixty-seven. I have written before about the circumstances of her death and how it was written about in the form of obituaries and tributes (many of which are included in The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1), and so today, I wanted instead to draw your attention to four exciting new books that are set to be published in the next five weeks, each of which will add considerably to our understanding of Montgomery’s life, work, and legacy.

Maud, by Melanie J. FishbaneMaud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery is the debut novel of Toronto author Melanie J. Fishbane. This work of historical fiction tells the story of fourteen-year-old Maud Montgomery, who dreams of becoming a writer like her beloved Louisa May Alcott but who must contend with the narrow expectations of the adults in her family: her maternal grandparents in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, as well as her father and her stepmother in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Fishbane, who contributed a chapter to L.M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys: The Ontario Years, 1911–1942 (2015), has drawn judiciously from Montgomery’s published and unpublished writings as well as extensive fieldwork in both Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan to create her novel. She has presented several papers in Charlottetown and Leaskdale about Montgomery as a teen writer. This book will be published tomorrow by Penguin Teen Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada. For more about this author and this book, see Fishbane’s personal website.

L.M. Montgomery and War is a collection of essays edited and introduced by Andrea McKenzie (co-editor of a restored and annotated edition of Rilla of Ingleside) and Jane Ledwell (co-editor of the collection of essays Anne around the World: L.M. Montgomery and Her Classic). Emerging out of an international conference held at the University of Prince Edward Island in June 2014, the volume seeks to resituate Montgomery as a major war writer. It features original scholarship by Elizabeth Epperly, Susan Fisher, Maureen O. Gallagher, Irene Gammel, Sarah Glassford, Caroline E. Jones, Andrea McKenzie, E. Holly Pike, Laura M. Robinson, and Jonathan F. Vance. It will be published by McGill–Queen’s University Press early in May.

L.M. Montgomery’s Complete Journals: The Ontario Years, 1918–1921, edited by Jen Rubio, reproduces journal entries that Montgomery wrote between the ages of forty-three and forty-seven and follows on the heels of last year’s volume covering the years 1911 to 1917. Featuring an introduction by Elizabeth Epperly, this volume marks some major changes in Montgomery’s life, including the end of the Great War, a lawsuit against her exploitative first publisher, and the devastating loss of a relative whom she referred to as “my more than sister.” It will be published by Rock’s Mills Press in May.

Finally, at the end of May, Nimbus Publishing of Halifax will release After Many Years, a collection of twenty-one of Montgomery’s short stories selected and introduced by Carolyn Strom Collins and the late Christy Woster. These stories, which were originally published in North American periodicals between 1900 and 1939, were rediscovered by collectors only recently. My personal favourite of these stories is “Tomorrow Comes,” which anticipates both Little Elizabeth in Anne of Windy Poplars and Jane in Jane of Lantern Hill.

The publication of these four titles, particularly at a time when two sets of adaptations of Anne of Green Gables are airing worldwide, shows that interest in Montgomery’s work shows no signs of tapering off. Stay tuned in the coming months for a sneak preview of what’s due out this fall!

30 November 1874

L.M. Montgomery in her early forties, 1917
L.M. Montgomery in her early forties, 1917

Today, on what would have been L.M. Montgomery’s 141st birthday (she was born on 30 November 1874), I would like to share with you an extract from a journal entry dated exactly 101 years ago, on the occasion of Montgomery’s fortieth birthday:

Once I thought forty must be the end of everything. But it isn’t! I don’t feel any older today than yesterday—when I was only 39! Or the day before yesterday when I was—19! Thank God we don’t feel old. Life is much richer, fuller, happier, more comfortable for me now than it was when I was twenty. I have won the success I resolved to win twenty years ago. It is worth the struggle—but I would not wish to be twenty again with the struggle still before me.

Poster for L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, produced by Breakthrough Entertainment
Poster for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, produced by Breakthrough Entertainment

Montgomery is trending on the Internet as I write this, due in large part to several Google Doodles paying tribute to Anne of Green Gables. And as Melanie J. Fishbane has pointed out in a blog post published earlier this afternoon, this is an exciting time for Montgomery and especially for Anne, thanks to the upcoming new telefilm version of Anne of Green Gables, a shout-out about the novel in a recent episode of The Simpsons, and numerous celebrity mentions. A list of “Five Fast Facts You Need to Know” about Montgomery was also published today, on the website Heavy, and mentions her rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted.

I’m glad, because all this media attention reflects the continued relevance and the persistent quality of Montgomery’s writing, not only as works of literature but also as the basis for an enduring popular culture icon and a set of new Anne texts for stage and screen. I’m looking forward to delving back into the novel Anne of Green Gables next term, when I  teach the book in an undergraduate children’s literature course at Wilfrid Laurier University, as an example of a crossover text that continues to appeal to both adults and children.

L.M. Montgomery Day 2015 in Leaskdale

Please join us in Leaskdale, Ontario, on Saturday, 24 October 2015, for the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario’s annual L.M. Montgomery Day, which commemorates Montgomery’s arrival in Leaskdale as a minister’s wife in October 1911.

This year’s theme is Maud’s Landscapes: The Effect of Nature on Her Writing, and the schedule of events is as follows:

8:45 a.m.: Coffee and Registration

9:30 a.m.: Melanie Whitfield, President, LMMSO, Welcome; Gwen Layton, LMMSO, “Maud in the Garden: L.M. Montgomery’s Sense of Place in Her Leaskdale Literary Landscape”

10:00 a.m.: Melanie Fishbane, “Fairy Slopes and Phantom Shadows: L.M. Montgomery as Teen Poet”

10:35 a.m.: Vanessa Brown, “Hester Gray’s Garden”

11:10 a.m.: Break

11:25 a.m.: Benjamin Lefebvre, “In Lands Afar: L.M. Montgomery and the Re-creation of Prince Edward Island in Ontario”

12:00 p.m.: Lunch

1:00 p.m.: Kate Macdonald Butler, “Reflections on Filming Anne of Green Gables in 2015”

1:30 p.m.: Launch of L.M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys: The Ontario Years, 1911–1942, including remarks by editors Rita Bode and Lesley D. Clement

3:00 p.m.: Book signing and refreshments

4:00 p.m.: Walk to Rainbow Valley and Tour of the Leaskdale Manse

To obtain more information and to register, please visit the website for the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario.

L.M. Montgomery Reader Cover Montage

My friend Melanie Fishbane, upon receiving her copy of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review last week, took a couple of photos of the three volumes on her shelf, edited them through some sort of Photoshop/Instagram rinse, and then posted them on Facebook. The arrangement looked so neat that I asked her permission to repost it, which she graciously gave. Thanks, Mel!

Montage of covers of /The L.M. Montgomery Reader/

TPL Event on L.M. Montgomery’s Reflections on War

As I mentioned in my blog post last week, I will be speaking at an event called The  Canadian Home Front: L.M. Montgomery’s Reflections on War at the North York Central Library concourse next Tuesday evening, 27 January 2015. I’ll be talking about the responses Montgomery’s books published or set during the First World War received by reviewers (an aspect of Montgomery’s career that is covered in The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review) alongside Laura M. Robinson and Melanie J. Fishbane. Here is a poster with all the details. Hope to see you there!

Flyer for The Canadian Home Front: L.M. Montgomery’s Reflections on War

L.M. Montgomery around the Web: July 2014

Here are some of the ways in which L.M. Montgomery and her work made news throughout July:

 

L.M. Montgomery YA Novel Set for 2015

Last week, a press release announced that Penguin Canada had acquired a young adult novel based on the adolescent life of L.M. Montgomery. Its author, Melanie J. Fishbane, recently received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has also blogged on this site before (and she knows more about YA fiction than anyone else I know!). The novel will be published under Penguin Canada’s Razorbill imprint in 2015, with the support of L.M. Montgomery’s heirs.

This is a very exciting project. Although Montgomery’s fiction has been reimagined, extended, and transformed in innumerable ways—prequels, adaptations for stage and screen, parodies, and abridgements—her own life is far less known to most readers of her books. Yet many readers of her journals and letters find her own life story just as fascinating and compelling—if not more so—as her fiction. In fact, so far her life story has been dramatized solely for the stage: Don Hannah’s The Wooden Hill (1994), Anne Kathleen McLaughlin’s Maud of Cavendish (2004), Leo Marchildon and Adam-Michael James’s The Nine Lives of L.M. Montgomery (2008), and Maud of Leaskdale (2012). This will be the first time that Montgomery’s own life story is tackled in print outside the genre of biography, and it will also be the first such project to focus exclusively on Montgomery’s young life as an adolescent.

I’m very much looking forward to this exciting project, which will introduce a new take of Montgomery’s life to an audience of readers who will likely discover, as have readers of her life writing already, that she is just as compelling a protagonist as her best-known characters.

The “Buxom Blonde” Controversy of 2013

Guest post by Melanie Fishbane

“Yes, it’s red,” she said resignedly. “Now you see why I can’t be perfectly happy. Nobody could who had red hair…I cannot imagine that red hair away…It will be my lifelong sorrow.”

Well, even if Anne had been happier as a “buxom blonde,” it seems that her fans have a definite opinion about her lifelong sorrow.

When Josie Leavitt’s piece on how the cover on a recent Anne of Green Gables e-book collection could ruin a book went viral, it caused an international reaction that was so intense that it might have had Anne rethink her stand on red hair. The new edition, released in November under Amazon’s CreateSpace self-publishing operation, featured a blonde woman probably in her early 20s, dressed like a farm girl out of a 1980s jeans ad, and leaning over provocatively.

CBC Radio was one of the first to pick up the story on their show “As it Happens,” which aired on the 6 February, and featured Mary Beth Cavert, who had some interesting things to say about how Montgomery felt about the cover. I loved it when she joked about meeting Gilbert behind the hay stacks and if Montgomery had had an iPhone she would have “pitched it.”

After that everything from the local newspaper to the evening news, you couldn’t escape this story. Even This Hour Has 22 Minutes (a satirical news hour program on CBC) wrote a hilarious sketch that led to some troubling hair dye issues. It even drowned out another amusing anecdotal story on Boing Boing that suggested that a middle-aged Anne of Ingleside had herpes. (A week later CBC tried to rekindle the flame, but it seems that being blonde was more controversial than having an STD.)

Interestingly, this cover is just one of many odd Anne covers surfacing online through digital channels. Many of Montgomery’s books are now in the public domain so any e-book publisher can slap on a cover and use it. I suspect that CreateSpace didn’t make a conscious decision about what cover to use, but was most likely blind merchandising without awareness of what kind of kerfuffle it could create. Perhaps it just so happened that the blonde beat out the three-year-old in the red-poppied garden because it just made a better news story.

At the last Montgomery conference, L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory, there was a lot of discussion around how Montgomery and Anne are remembered as part of our cultural Canadian consciousness. And while some articles, such as The Toronto Star, used a stock photo from Kevin Sullivan’s version of Anne played by Megan Follows as a way to compare our collectively approved version of Anne to the blasphemous one, what seems clear is that the public has a very specific idea of who Anne Shirley is and woe betide anyone that re-imagines her otherwise.

The public wants the image of a red-headed dreamy and deviant orphan girl looking out to the precipices of what will be, because that is the Anne people remember from their childhood. And memory is more precious than e-book sales.