Friday, June 30, 2017

Consider the Sunflowers, YesterCanada, Saskatoon, & points north

North-of-Saskatoon, SK communities Warman, Martensville, Hepburn, Dalmeny, Langham, Rosthern, & others regularly appear in the paper Clark's Crossing Gazette. The Gazette just ran the following article about my most recent books. Thanks! The books are available online & in stores including Whimsy on 33rd Street in Saskatoon.


Prairie life and Russian past inspire love story

Posted on June 29, 2017

In “Consider the Sunflowers,” Tina Janz finds the guitar-playing half-gypsy Frank Warkentin much more exciting than the “boring as turnips” man her devout Mennonite parents want her to marry. She leaves her job in Vancouver to launch a campaign to get Frank to the altar. That done, life on Frank’s farm in the prairie community of Coyote, Saskatchewan turns bliss to loneliness.

Schemenauer’s grandmother, Agatha Siemens Martens some years after emigrating to Saskatchewan


Their love story was written by author Elma Schemenauer, who was born and raised in the Elbow-Loreburn area of Saskatchewan. Those prairie roots and the experience of some of her Russian forbears inspired Schemenauer to write the 1940s-era novel.

“As I was growing up in our little Mennonite community, I heard many stories from my grandparents and other Mennonite relatives,” she said. Those relatives were tremendous storytellers and when they got together, they told stories of what happened in the old country of Russia, what happened on the ship coming over, and what happened in their new life in Canada.

Schemenauer earned a B.A. at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Toronto. In Toronto, she moved into a publishing career and wrote 75 books including Yesterstories and Native Canadians Today. Today, Elma and her husband live in Kamloops, BC, where she writes and blogs.

Schemenauer started out writing her own memories. She began with a child’s point of view, but later wanted to look at those early years from an adult point of view. “My childhood meant a lot to me on the farm because we were very isolated out there. We were a long way from town and just being on the bald flat prairie made a huge impression on me in those early years.” Those memories and stories from Russia form the backdrop for Consider the Sunflowers.

Tina is crazy about Frank. “I know what its like to be crazy about somebody,” said Schemenauer. Tina’s parents want her to marry dependable and rich Roland Fast, a church-going guy with a good background, whose family had an estate back in Russia. Many Russian Mennonite immigrants left behind large estates to escape the Russian revolution beginning in 1917, and the Civil War.
The book traces the first seven years of Frank and Tina’s marriage. The influence of World War II is felt on the home front. Britain suffered from food shortages, and a lot of food – pork, beef, wheat – was sent over from Canada, Schemenauer said.

The unorthodox Frank has mixed parentage, a troubled background and doesn’t fit the mold. He was abandoned by his brother back in Russia and is haunted by the experience. The character grew out of Schemenauer’s knowledge of her father. “He never felt at home in the Mennonite community. I could never figure out why.”

Schemenauer’s mother went to work as a maid in Saskatoon in the 1930s, which was not uncommon for Mennonite women of that time, to earn extra income. She had an aunt there and when this aunt went to Vancouver, her mom went along. She enjoyed the nice weather, the fruit trees and always had a boyfriend in the back of her mind. The Tina character in the book is modeled after Schemenauer’s Mom. Tina moves to Vancouver and works as a secretary for a physician. She visits Saskatchewan periodically and gives up her Vancouver job to be with Frank. Schemeauer ends her novel in a realistic way.

Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Elma Schemenauer drew on her prairie childhood and the stories she heard from Russian relatives who emigrated to Canada, to write “Consider the Sunflowers.”

“I’m after real life. I like to show life the way it really is. It’s not idealized.”

Schemenauer has given workshops and written an article on “Fictionalizing Real Life.”
She loves Canada and its history, and channeled that love into a book celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary, YesterCanada: Historical Tales of Mystery and Adventure. From her ‘sagebrush-dotted’ hillside in Kamloops, she uncovers mysteries of Canada’s past and identifies adventurers like Dr. Elizabeth Scott Matheson of Onion Lake, Saskatchewan.

Interest in the Canada 150 book has generated renewed interest in Consider the Sunflowers, released in 2014. It contains a Mennonite history timeline in the back. Besides Russian Mennonites, some history of Swiss and Southern German Mennonites is also included.
Consider the Sunflowers can be found at the Waldheim library, at the Whimsy Store on 33rd in Saskatoon, and at the Station Arts Centre in Rosthern.



book swag

I just learned a new term, book swag. I gather it refers to objects, posters, etc. used to help sell books in a bookstore. I think it could be extended to things authors use personally to help sell books. For example, when I speak about my historical book/s CONSIDER THE SUNFLOWERS and YESTERCANADA, I sometimes bring along historical pictures, an old lantern, a washboard, old license plates, etc. This article discusses book swag from a booksellers’ viewpoint: . It may give us ideas.


Monday, June 26, 2017

CITXW NLAKA’PAMUX ASSEMBLY Youth Multi-Media & Arts Conference - Summer School

From: Victoria Weller []
Sent: June-26-17 3:58 PM
Subject: CITXW NLAKA'PAMUX ASSEMBLY Youth Multi-Media & Arts Conference - Summer School


Hello Secwepemc & Nlaka'pamux First Nations stakeholders and Friendship Centres, TNRD Libraries, Arts Councils and for information, TNRD Directors, Filmmakers & Theatre Companies and other motion picture stakeholders,


Please print and post the poster, or share info in newsletters and social media.

Please distribute this email to persons who you believe may be interested.


2nd Annual Youth Multi-media & Arts Conference (summer school)

·       Tuesday, August 8 – Friday, August 18, 2017

·       Ages 10 - 18

·       Premiere of Films: Sunday, August 20, 2017


·       Where: Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (Dorm rooms available)


The Multimedia & Arts Conference is an outstanding opportunity for First Nation youth to engage and be mentored by successful artists, filmmakers, actors, writers, directors and elders in exploring and expressing their culture, history and universal themes through filmmaking, art and other mediums. A screening of youth films will take place after the conference, on Sunday, August 20.


For registration forms or further information please contact CITXW NLAKA'PAMUX ASSEMBLY at 250-378-1864 or go to


Friday, June 23, 2017

basic formatting issues in Microsoft Word

Some authors try to use a computer like a typewriter. This can result in some basic formatting issues discussed in this article:

Deadline extended to July 22, 2017 for 55-pus writing award

Strathcona Place





Deadline now July 22 for award for writers 55-plus


The deadline for entries for the 2017 edition of the John W. Bilsland Award has been extended to July 22. The award was inaugurated in 2015 by the Strathcona Place Seniors Society of Edmonton to celebrate and foster the creativity of older writers.


Writers aged 55 years and older who live throughout Western Canada are eligible to submit work to be considered for this year's award.  Prizes of $500 will be awarded in each of three categories: short fiction, short non-fiction and poetry.


The deadline for award submissions is July 22, 2017.


For entry rules and regulations, and to download an entry form, go to Entry forms are also available at the Strathcona Place Senior Centre, 10831 University Avenue. For further information email


The late John W. Bilsland, MA (British Columbia), PhD. (Toronto), was Professor of English at the University of Alberta. In addition to his 30-year professional teaching career, as a volunteer he taught creative writing at the Strathcona Place Senior Centre for more than 25 years. During that time seniors who attended his classes produced more than 20 publications, including books.


Strathcona Place Seniors Centre has been serving older adults in south Edmonton for 43 years, providing a range of social and recreational programs.


Please publish in your newsletter and/or circulate to your membership.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

first lines of a story

How do you capture reader attention with your story starter? This article gives many examples. Which ones do you like? Which give you useful ideas?


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

On memoirs & editors: Robert L. Bacon

I’m reading and enjoying TOO CLOSE TO THE FALLS, a memoir by Toronto psychologist Catherine Gildiner. That made me pay special attention to the following comments by a long-time online friend, editor/writer Robert L. Bacon, regarding his experiences with editing memoirs. I’m not sure about his contention that “memoirs are impossible to sell to a bona fide royalty publisher unless the author is a celebrity or a Holocaust survivor,” but his comments are still interesting and useful.


During the past year I've received a spate of memoirs to either edit or to critique.  Just recently, someone even phoned me to present material deemed worthy of the "life coaching" tag as a result of this person's "worldly" experiences.  I've often explained in my Newsletters that memoirs are impossible to sell to a bona fide royalty publisher unless the author is a celebrity or a Holocaust survivor, and I continue to stand by this contention.  My stance is not based on a bias against someone's wanting to tell the story of his or her own life, but the reality that this sort of narrative doesn't lend itself to much of any form of editing beyond correcting basic grammar.  To support this contention, I've also learned that memoir writers don't want their material revised beyond copyediting, so what is a developmental editor such as myself supposed to provide?  

To elaborate on that point, it's no different from when a character is "real" and I haven't been told this upfront by the author.  I edited a book some years ago in which a character was an absurdly despicable brat who was patently unlikable.  Yet this child carried a crucial story thread that ran throughout, and in the end was to "save the day."  The character was so unredemptive in every way that by the story's finish no reader would possibly care one way or the other.  I had no choice but to soften this child's rough edges.  However, the author was upset at my revision even though I'd discussed the suggested changes in considerable detail beforehand.  I later learned that this character was a relative whom the author always believed could do no wrong.  The writer ultimately "returned" this character to original form and, in my opinion, reduced the entire narrative to little more than pedestrian mishmash.

I've turned down memoirs by some really accomplished writers because of what I just discussed.  I had my first encounter with author "adamancy" when I changed the dropping of a plate of food at someone's feet to dropping the plate and the food on the other person's feet.  I was told in no uncertain terms that the physical plate had never touched Aunt Edna's feet, only the mashed potatoes.  (I altered this scene to protect the integrity of the client/author relationship even though in this case there is no nondisclosure agreement in force.)  I still laugh at this.  The primary issue involves what an editor can provide a memoir writer.  My answer is not much beyond correcting basic grammar and punctuation, and no one needs me for this.

Longtime editor Peter Ginna's book, "What Editors Do," is a compilation of material provided by more than two dozen respected editors.  I don't know if it's any better than what highly regarded editor Jerry Gross (who sadly recently passed away) wrote some years ago.  Any writer who's worked with a credible editor recognizes what the job entails.  In the simplest of terms, editing is the ability to make a story fluent from the perspective of continuity.  Accomplishing this, however, is anything but simple, and why I often spend a couple of hundred hours on a client's narrative.  Ignoring my drivel, Mr. Ginna's book might be worth a look, should anyone be on the fence regarding hiring an editor, and this has nothing to do with my being one of these unholy creatures.


Robert L. (Rob) Bacon, Founder

The Perfect Write®


Please contact me with any questions or comments, and let me
know if there is anything in the field of professional writing you
would like addressed in a future Newsletter.

For authors, The Perfect Write® is now providing

FREE 3-PAGE LINE-EDIT (if applicable).  Paste your material
(up to 5,000 words) to (no attachments).

For Authors, The Perfect Write® is continuing to offer

Paste your query to (no attachments).
and visit the Sample Letters Page for examples of successful queries.


The Perfect Write® offers comprehensive editing services, from

manuscript critiques to complete revisions, including substantive editing,

line-editing, and copyediting along with query letter design and composition. 

For pricing, send your project requirements to

Monday, June 19, 2017

writing & reading opportunity: uplifting stories

I don’t know anything about the new online site storiesfromtheheart. However, it sounds like an interesting opportunity to write and/or read uplifting stories and maybe even winning a prize. Here’s the link:

Monday, June 12, 2017

Mennonite background & YesterCanada

The following article about my Mennonite background & my book YesterCanada appeared in QC [Regina Leader] & Bridges [Saskatoon Star Phoenix] Feb 10, 2017.




“Who wants to move to Canada?” asked my grandfather, Jacob Peter Martens. He glanced around the table at his wife and five children. Were they willing to leave their familiar Mennonite village in Russia and sail across the Atlantic to the new land?


“Yes, Canada!” the children said. Their mother shook her head. The majority won and the Martens arrived in Saskatchewan in May 1926. At first, they lived with relatives in the Swift Current-Herbert area. Later, they settled in the Elbow-Loreburn area, where I was born and grew up.


Life in the new land was challenging, but my relatives’ prevailing attitude was “Yes, Canada!” That’s my attitude, too. Love for this country and its history inspired my new book YesterCanada: Historical Tales of Mystery and Adventure.


Published by Borealis Press of Ottawa, the book presents 30 historical tales spanning this great land and the centuries from the 1200s to the 1900s.


Some of the mysteries in YesterCanada involve eccentrics whose motives puzzle people to this day. One was a Finnish farmer who built an ocean-going ship near Macrorie, Saskatchewan, far from any ocean. Another was a hermit obsessed with the beauties of Niagara Falls.
Elma (Martens) Schemenauer, author of YesterCanada: Historical Tales of Mystery and Adventure.


Other mysteries in the book involve the supernatural, or seem to. For example, who rang the chapel bell in Tadoussac, Quebec one foggy April night in 1782? What mysterious power told an Atlantic Sea captain to change course and “sail to the nor’west?” Who put a jinx on Alberta’s lost Lemon Mine?


I’ve always been interested in faith, values, and the adventures they inspire. Stories in YesterCanada that especially reflect such themes include “Dr. Elizabeth of Onion Lake, Saskatchewan,” “A Nova Scotia Noah and His Ark,” “Lily of the Peace River,” and “Abigail Becker, Heroine of Lake Erie.”


I’m also interested in animals. Among those in the book are Manitoba’s haunted horse, the ten-armed monster of Newfoundland, and the camels of British Columbia’s Cariboo gold rush.


The narratives in YesterCanada are based on Canadian history, biography, folklore, and Aboriginal traditions. The bibliography in the back of the book lists my sources for each story.


YesterCanada: Historical Tales of Mystery and Adventure is a 248-page paperback with 30 illustrations, $19.95, ISBN 978-0-88887-650-8. Ask for it in a store or library. You can also order it online from Amazon, Chapters Indigo, or Borealis Press. For more information, please visit .






opportunity: short stories about community, ON THE PREMISES, deadline Sept 1. 2017

The online publication ON THE PREMISES is running another short story contest. Here’s their announcement:

Short Story Contest #30

It's time for another short story contest!


They say it takes a village to raise a child, but that's just one example of a kind of community and just one way a community can affect your life. There are plenty of others--good, bad, and otherwise. So for this contest, write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which the idea of community (or some kind of community) plays an important role.

One entry per author. No fee for entering. Maximum length of 5,000 words and minimum length of 1,000.

Deadline: Friday, September 1, 2017, 11:59 PM Eastern Time.

Hyphenated Words: If the hyphenated word is generally considered a single word, it counts as one word. (Like "twenty-five" or "jack-o-lantern.") Otherwise each part of the hyphenated word counts separately.

Prizes: $220 for first, $160 for second, $120 for third, $60 for honorable mentions. We will publish between one and three honorable mentions.

To submit, use this link  and follow the instructions. If you don't already have a (free) Submittable account, you'll be prompted to make one.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Calling homeschoolers, parents, & other educators

Lisa Marie Fletcher publishes The Canadian Homeschooler, which is chock-full of useful information. Here’s her review of my historical book YesterCanada.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

poetry opportunity & website about BC literary landscape

A new poetry magazine, Nourish, invites submissions of poetry and haiku. Info at

The Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia (ABPBC) announces a new website that focuses on the authors, publishers, bookstores, and libraries that make up the province’s literary landscape. It’s here: