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Dear Reader,

     Questions are for the asking. 

Stories are for the telling. 

"Who are you?"  

"What are you doing?"  

Let me tell you my story.

  

Q: Can you tell me more about what you're working on?

    A: I’m writing about the romance, mystery, and mischief of four peculiar women in a small town in historic Nova Scotia. They unite forces in a women’s missionary society called “The Female Society for Propagating the Gospel & Other Religious Purposes.” Each has a reason for joining and each has a problem they’re hoping it will fix. Time will tell if the “Other Purposes” to this Female Society will come to fruition or just catapult them deeper into misadventure. At the moment, I’m writing it as a series of short stories told in poems, yet this could change as the story develops.

    "Seaman Universalist Church" to be used for all Protestant denominations in historic Minudie

    Q: What exactly is “The Female Society for Propagating the Gospel & Other Religious Purposes” and how did you come up with that name?

    A: In my story, this sisterhood is a women’s missionary aid society in Minudie, Nova Scotia. They are passionate about the cultivation of the Gospel in near and foreign lands. They theoretically raise funds for a local missionary and take care of the needy people in their community. But their well-meaning work often doubles for being busy bodies, bringing them smack dab into intrigue, match-making, and mysteries in their village.

    I was inspired by my discovery of the Baptist missionary societies started by Hannah Norris in Nova Scotia in 1870. Hannah was a spunky, unmarried missionary that rallied Nova Scotian women to unite like never before to support missionary work. Women all over the Atlantic provinces soon took an active role in spreading the gospel, even if it was selling extra chicken eggs or vegetables to donate funds. “The Female Society for Propagating the Gospel & Other Religious Purposes” is an actual name of a women’s Methodist missionary society in Prince Edward Island in the 1800’s. I loved the name and borrowed it.

    Q: Who are your main characters?
    Ann Louisa

    The minister's wife, who's optimistic and honest to a fault, but has a deep, unspoken need.

    Frances

    The postmaster's wife, who knows everyone and everything going on, except her own heart.

    Jane

    The illustrious matriarch of the town, who's losing her battle with dementia and her doctor.

    Elida "Birdie"

    Jane's attendant, who's spirited, witty, wounded, and not all what  she seems.

    "Grindstone Castle" in historic Minudie

    Q: What inspired you to write about this?

    A: When I was a teenager, I traveled to Avondale, Nova Scotia with my family on a rainy, yet sunny, summer day. There, on a green hill, was a historic white mansion with stained glass windows and an old oak door. The sight of it captured my imagination and sprung possibilities to life. I began keeping a little journal where I scribbled imagery that seemed to go with the mansion—a wonder-struck, naïve servant; an older woman with a troubled yet hidden past; and an angry, dangerous man. 

    Whispers of a story wafted through my high school, university, and adult years. In my university fiction class, I connected this mansion to the story of my ancestor Elida, that my grandfather passed down to me as a young girl. Elida was said to be a young native girl, orphaned by smallpox and adopted into a white home. After I got married and was working, I read about “Grindstone Castle,” a mansion on a hill, occupied by Jane Seaman, a woman troubled with mental illness, near to where Elida lived. 

    This story keeps drawing me in and developing as I pass through life, but still that old white mansion on a green hill remains deep inside me, waiting for me to open the door.

    Q: Why did you pick a poetry format for your project?

    A: Poetry is my “first language” in creative writing. Poetry breathes through me more naturally than prose. When in university, I was first introduced to the breath-taking form of the novel-in-verse. Put simply, it’s a novel told in poems. When I worked in public libraries, I read mainstream novels-in-verse as they grew more popular, and told myself that someday I would write one too. 

     

    Q: Is this your first serious writing project?

    A: No. I wrote my first real novel as an English student at Crandall University in their Creative Writing Concentration. It also was in the novel-in-verse, or poetry, format. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the process, this novel is not yet ready to see the world. I learned invaluable lessons of what to do and what not to do, that will serve me well. Someday I may rework this older novel, but for now, this current project is my focus. 


    Q: Is this your only writing project?

    A: No. I have several projects on the go. My aim is to produce many smaller pieces of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and creative nonfiction that I can submit to writing markets. This approach will improve my writing and provide more credibility in the publishing world.

     
    Q: What are some of your influences as a writer? Do you have any favorite author or series of books?

    A: I have always loved the classics, especially the novels and short stories of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, G. K. Chesterton, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and George MacDonald. More of my contemporary influences are Jan Karon’s Mitford Series, Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series, L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series, and Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.

    Q: How historical is Elida's story?

    A: My grandfather handed down the story of my great-great grandmother Elida, and my project is a fictional reimagining of that handed down story. When I conducted the historical research, the story itself did not quite line up with fact, and to me, that is interesting and okay, as perception and mistakes are a natural part of our collective memory. This project is almost purely a work of fiction, with a historical setting and a few historical characters. But that does not make it less “true” in the larger sense of the word. This story is true to my inner child, captivated all those years ago when my grandfather told me about Elida across a spitting campfire, under a full moon. Whether or not the facts are true, I believe that writing out of what captivates your heart and imagination will give birth to the most authentic stories. 

    Q: Where has your research led you so far?

    A: I have called up long-lost relatives, scoured the Internet’s genealogical and historical sites, and conducted field trips to gather more information. My two favourite field trips were to the Amos Seaman School Museum in Minudie, Nova Scotia, with some of the most supportive people in this story’s development. One was with my parents, Connie and Andy Bokma, who have long nurtured my writing gift. Another trip there was with Selina and Sarah, my writing friends. We form a writer’s group called the Vinegar Hill Writing and Reading Companions. Viewing the historical artifacts in this museum was invaluable, and just to see the River Hebert and the rolling hills of Minudie I so long dreamed of was awe-inspiring.

    Q: What has your writing process been like for this project?

    A: I work on my story every day, often with a cup of coffee and my cat sleeping somewhere nearby. I usually write in my home office, in my reading chair, or on my porch. Anywhere really that is comfy and provides a snack. I work on it in the evenings and weekends after my full-time work at my local public library. I track my daily writing output, writing habits, and monthly goals. The Vinegar Hill Writing and Reading Companions meet regularly to go over these goals to keep us all accountable. I also have a writing mentor named Janet Sketchley, who faithfully encourages and advises me along the way. I could not attempt this story in isolation, and their feedback lights the way as only good friends can.


    Q: Are you almost finished?

    A: Not yet. A robust story, like a fine wine, takes time to develop its full flavor. I am taking the time with this project and others to learn the writing craft and become more knowledgeable about the publishing industry. Although it may take a little longer using a slow and steady approach, I believe the final product will be better for it and my writing career stronger because I have invested in a thorough understanding of the fundamentals.


    Q: How can I keep up connected to you and up to date for when your finished products are ready?

    A: Follow me on Facebook and Instagram @LauraAliese for regular posts, so you won’t miss out. My monthly newsletter will keep you up to date on the progress of my work.

    What other questions can I answer for you?   

    Email me at lauraaliese@gmail.com. 

    Stay tuned for your next Letter from Laura, 

    delivered with love on the first of the month.

    Yours in word and in life,
    Yours in word and in life,
    Laura Aliese Miedema

    20 Willow Street, Truro
    Nova Scotia B2N 4Z4 Canada

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