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Tag: Melanie J. Fishbane

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.

L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory: Day 2

Guest post by Melanie Fishbane

My name is Melanie Fishbane and I am thrilled to be writing my first blog post for the L.M. Montgomery Research Group. I’ll be giving you my impressions of the second day of the L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory Conference. By the way, if you want a more in-depth play-by-play of the day’s events, do follow the #lmmi2012 or #lmmipei hashtags on Twitter.

Alas, I was a little behind today with my tweeting, having walked to the conference with my travel companion and roommate and was a little late for the first speaker. Those who know me know that I am not a morning person. Getting anywhere for 9 AM is a feat in itself. But arrive we did and listened to papers that both stimulated and stirred our imaginations.

The first special panel was on Memory, Communities and Readers.  From memories of family vacations that led to lobster trap coffee tables, to finding that rare edition in the most unlikely of places,  Davida Mackay, Christy Woster, Jeanne Kaye Speight and Mary Beth Cavert recounted how L.M. Montgomery’s works had influenced their lives.

The Keynote panel that followed was a mixture of sadness and joy for us.  Because of a recent death in the family, one of the rockstars of Montgomery scholarship, Elizabeth Waterston, was unable to attend the conference. However, her editorial buddy and dear friend, Mary Rubio, read Waterston’s paper, “L.M. Montgomery’s Journals: Changes in Cultural Landscape, 1982–2012” out loud, providing her own commentary as well. I shall not lie: when Rubio held up the newly revised The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1889–1900, I did a little jig in my seat. I simply cannot wait until tomorrow when there will be a book release party with Rubio signing copies of the new edition. The geek girl in me is squealing.

Elizabeth (Betsy) Epperly followed with a brilliant discussion on “Remembering Home: Memory, Meaning and Metaphor in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Ingleside,” which was so amazing that it made me want to run home and read it right away. Also, just when she started to talk about the last two paragraphs of the last novel that Montgomery published in her lifetime, the lights went out.

The afternoon panel discussions continued to delight us as we discussed concepts of memory, re-interpreting truths, and asking ourselves “what is Montgomery’s ‘true voice’?”  Vappu Kannas discussed versions of memory while editing Montgomery’s selected journals and William Thompson explored social resistance and psychic re-visioning in the Emily books. While Cynthia Sugars talked about hauntings and ghost stories in The Story Girl, giving me pause when thinking about this morning’s “electric failure.”

The final panel of the afternoon were two fascinating papers by Andrea McKenzie and Yoshiko Akamatsu about Montgomery’s posthumously published novel, The Blythes Are Quoted. And our blogger from yesterday, Vanessa Brown, did an excellent job describing her detective work in finding a ledger that is connected to Montgomery’s suicide note. (See, Vanessa? No reason not to be kind!) These insightful papers give us much to ponder about Montgomery’s last novel and her final days.

Then we all brown bagged it and hopped on the bus to Belfast for a quick visit to the Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead,  where Montgomery once visited and met Canada’s Governor General, Earl Grey—the story has to do with them sitting on the steps of an outhouse and people avoiding it as they didn’t want to disturb the GG in his discussion.  We really wanted to know where that outhouse was, but there were way too many mosquitos out tonight to do an adequate search of the property.

The night ended with an intimate evening of music at St. Paul’s Church for the Festival of Small Halls, a local musical festival where musicians from Atlantic Canada play at local small venues. Built in 1824, the church still had some of its original markings. It was beautiful and the sound was incredible. Dylan Guthro, Irish Mythen, Nathan Wiley and Matt Minglewood charmed the audience with their folk and blues medleys and good humour. L.M. Montgomery conference attendees were specifically welcomed by the organizers who mentioned that Montgomery’s husband, Ewan Macdonald, had lived in the area before they were married  and that one of the members of the church actually lived in the house!

I cannot wait for tomorrow which not only includes a silent auction and our banquet, but more informative and interesting papers on this fascinating topic of Montgomery and cultural memory.