For Weyburn writer Anne Lazurko, her first full-length fiction novel has been a long time in coming, but the time and effort has been worth it. She will be holding a Weyburn launch for her book, entitled “Dollybird”, on Friday, Oct. 4 at the South Weyburn Community Centre, starting at 7 p.m.
Published by Coteau Books, the 223-page volume is historic fiction set in Moose Jaw and in the area of Ibsen in southeast Saskatchewan in 1906.
The title of her novel, “Dollybird”, was a reference of the time to a woman who acted as a housekeeper for a homesteader or pioneer settler. In the case of this story, the main character, Moira, is 20 years old and is pregnant out of wedlock, so she was sent from her home in the Maritimes to Saskatchewan to deal with her pregnancy.
“She is a different cat … and needs to navigate her way through this landscape and the judgement of others to show everyone who she really is,” said Lazurko, noting her character has some training as a medical doctor, and is called upon from time to time to help people with their medical issues.
The story is also from the point-of-view of the young man who is the homesteader, “who has his own story to tell, and these two young people try to navigate this landscape together,” said Lazurko, adding quickly that it is not a love story.
Lazurko has been a writer for many years, and has published short stories and works of poetry, but this is her first full-length novel, a work that has been about eight years in development.
She initially got interested in developing this story after doing some research and coming across the term “dollybird”. She also did some research by looking through old cemeteries, such as at McTaggart, and seeing the number of babies and children who died at a young age. She did research into the kind of medical issues that would have arisen in 1906, not to mention research into the atittudes of the time.
After doing a number of drafts of her story, Lazurko did an eight-month course on-line on writing through Humber College in Toronto, where she worked with author Sara Sheard on developing her fiction-writing; she did another draft of her novel during this course. Deciding to send it to two publishers, Coteau Books had it for about a year before they sent it back to her; they indicated interest in the manuscript, but sent about six pages worth of notes of changes that they wanted made to the book.
She undertook the suggested revisions, taking about six months to do those, and sent it back, getting word in January of this year that Coteau had accepted her manuscript.
She was assigned author Sandra Birdsell as her editor, and over the next few months she made the final edits and revisions to the story. Lazurko was able to spend a time at St. Peter’s retreat at Muenster to work on the suggested edits from Birdsell.
“It was fantastic working with her. I learned as much working with her as I did working in other programs. I found it really involved and challenging, and quite interesting,” said Lazurko, saying she felt this was some of the most valuable experience she gained in the whole process.
“Now I know more about the craft of writing,” she added, hoping to apply these lessons to her second novel, which she currently has in development.
Some of the valuable lessons she learned included how to do story structure and plot development, and noted the Humber College program helped her also to focus and give her stories a better structure.
“All along the way, I had really good comments about my writing, so that kept me going,” said Lazurko.
Other events which have been arranged to help her launch the book’s publication include a reception at McNally’s in Saskatoon on Monday, Sept. 30; a reading at the Weyburn Public Library on Tuesday, Oct. 15, and on Oct. 17 in Regina.
Anne and husband Dave farm west of Weyburn, and have raised three children; she has a political science degree, and works as a freelance writer.