Earlier this week, we featured the first of our four Keynote Speakers series, Elizabeth Epperly. Today, we're thrilled to introduce, Jane Urquhart. Next week the LMMI presents: Mavis Reimer and Laura Robinson.
Jane Urquhart is the author of internationally acclaimed and award winning novels, including: The Whirlpool, Changing Heaven, The Underpainter, winner of the Governor General’s Award; The Stone Carvers, which was a finalist for The Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award, and longlisted for the Booker Prize; A Map of Glass, a finalist for a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book; Sanctuary Line, and, most recently, The Night Stages. She is also the author of a collection of short fiction and four books of poetry. She also published a biography of Lucy Maud Montgomery as part of Penguin’s Extraordinary Canadians series.
1) What was the most interesting thing you discovered while working on the life and work of L.M. Montgomery?
Urquhart: Many things interested me, of course, but there were two in particular. The first was the intensity of Montgomery’s fascination with her own life. I was startled to discover that, even while she was undergoing the most excruciating mental suffering, she was observing herself so that, later, she could either record the experience in her diary, or take the experience one step further and transform it into fiction.
The second thing that amazed me was that she was able to work on that same fiction during the times when either she, or Ewan, or both were in crisis. I recall that in the diaries there was a long, vivid description of a previous night’s insomnia and despair, followed by a breezy declaration that she had written the last chapter of Pat of Silver Bush that very afternoon, and had sent it off to the publishers!
2. Favourite Montgomery book and why...
Urquhart: My favourite Montgomery book used to be Emily of New Moon because it detailed the burgeoning creative life of a young Canadian woman. I still love that about the Emily books. But, now, I think my favourite would have to be Rilla of Ingleside. Not only is the character development exceptional in this novel; the intimate look at a Canadian home during the First World War is truly extraordinary.
3. Sneak Peek: Could you give us a taste of what you will be talking about at the conference?
Urquhart: I will be speaking twice: once about Montgomery’s influence on me as a writer, and once about the experience of writing the biography. I will read from my own work as well.
4. What are you most looking forward to at the conference?
Urquhart: As a writer of fiction, I very much look forward to speaking to scholars. Though I am an amateur in that regard, I enjoy intellectual discourse. And I am still so fascinated by Montgomery. It will be great to meet the people who spend their lives studying her life and work.
The LMMI's upcoming biennial conference, L.M. Montgomery and Gender June 23rd to 26th, is only a few short weeks away, so be sure to register today. Jane will be reading on Friday June 24th @ 7 PM in Studio 1 at the Confederation Centre of the Arts with a special introduction by Her Honour, Mrs. Dorothy Lewis.