Yesterday ,I left the beautiful Kingston Peninsula on a Saturday,something I seldom do , to go to the city. I was attending the Dear Author reception at the Saint John Public Library. A few weeks ago I participated in the judging of Dear Author letters that had been submitted by Grade 9 students in the area. They wrote to an author whose book had impacted their lives. We selected ten winners and yesterday we met to give out the awards and hear the students read their moving letters. Congratulations to the winners! In preparing for my remarks I chose to write to an author that has influenced my life. I read the following letter.
Dear Lucy Maud Montgomery,
I would imagine that you have received thousands of letters from readers since your book Anne of Green Gables was first published in 1908.Today, I am writing one more and telling you how that book, your writing and your life has influenced me.
I will begin with the book. I have probably read Anne of Green Gables at least twenty times ;so many times that as I read it I can predict what is on the next page and could probably recite most of the dialogue. As most readers did, I fell in love with the chatty, imaginative, resilient character of Anne, the generous, loving and insightful Matthew and the practical, cautious and caring Marilla. For me though, I think my passion for the book was deeper than just the love of the characters. For me, one of the things I loved about it the most was the words. I still thrill while reading some of the long beautifully crafted sentences and the wonderfully unfamiliar words. There is such music and rhythm in the words.
In my first book The Year Mrs. Montague Cried , Taylor writes in her journal about her experience with the sentences and words she encounters when she starts to read Anne of Green Gables.
The Year Mrs. Montague Cried Pg. 47 November 22
For me, the other powerful aspect of the book Anne of Green Gables is its sense of place. From Anne’s small bedroom , the farm of Green Gables, the Haunted Wood, the Lake of Shining Water, the school house, Avonlea, and PEI itself ; I saw such beautiful, secure, and predictable places. For a young girl who moved too many times and too often, I found in the pages of this book something I so longed for ; staying put, putting down roots that wouldn’t be yanked up, being known in and being connected to a place. The Kingston Peninsula ,where I summered as a child and on which my family finally stayed put when I was in grade seven, became this place for me. It was my Avonlea. I happily chose to raise my four children there and still call the peninsula home.
I read about Anne’s experiences in a one room schoolhouse , her differences with the stern Mr. Philips that ends with the smashing of her slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head after Gilbert makes his teasing “Carrots” remark. I saw Anne love going to school again when a new teacher , Miss Stacy comes to Avonlea. This firmly implanted my desire to become a teacher.
I greatly admire you as a writer. Despite a life that provided many challenges and little encouragement, you sat down and wrote. After the writing , you set about to get published and even after rejection and discouragement , persevered to become one of the most well known Canadian and international writers of your time. Anne’s love of telling and writing stories throughout the series of Anne books also led me toward wanting to be a writer. In my second book Ten Thousand Truths I included an acknowledgement to you.
I am one of the world’s hugest Anne of Green Gables fans and hold Lucy Maud Montgomery in high esteem. Rachel is my Anne Shirley and Amelia Walton is my Marilla Cuthbert. I applaud the author’s determination and tenacity and feel honored to join her in the ranks od Atlantic Canadian authors. May some young reader care about Rachel Garnham as much as I cared about Lucy Maud Montgomery’s famous red haired character.
Thank you , Lucy Maud Montgomery for writing your books, and sharing your life with the readers of the early 1900’s and the readers of the generations that followed. Thank you for giving a little girl in the 1960’s a book to love and dreams to dream.