Weyburn writer Jean Fahlman was awarded an honourary life membership in the Saskatchewan Writers Guild as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations held on Oct. 18.
This caps a long career of writing that began with an invitation by Weyburn Review publisher Ernie Neufeld to be a features writer.
Since then, she wrote for the newspaper for 12 years doing feature stories and her column, “Jean’s Jargon”, before she left to be a freelance writer.
The request for her writing services arose after she had submitted a story about 4-H activities in the Griffin area, and he approached her at graduation exercises for the Weyburn Collegiate, where her daughter was senior pin.
“He wanted someone who was more mature and had some knowledge of the farming community. There was no school of journalism at the time (at the university),” said Fahlman, noting the news editor was Mary Greer when she began working there.
Her husband’s farm reached the point where her help was needed at home and she felt she couldn’t commit to doing work both at the Review and on the farm.
As a freelance writer, she sold stories to the Regina Leader-Post, Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, CBC Radio and to Western People magazine, which was put out by the Western Producer farm paper, as well as to other publications.
“There was a big market for all of us,” said Fahlman, referring to the community of freelance writers around the province.
She also spent three years on the board of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild, from 1989 to 1991, and three years on the member relations committee of the guild. Through this organization, she also was paid as a guest speaker in any community that requested a writer to come and do readings.
“I think my market was for the common people. People would say to me, ‘you say what I would like to say, but don’t know how’,” said Fahlman, noting she later did her Jean’s Jargon column for the Weyburn This Week publication when it started up, and today she still writes her column for the monthly Senior Living publication.
One tradition she is well-known for in Weyburn is presenting the Communithon poem at the opening ceremonies each year. She noted Clara Hughes did the poem the first year of the United Way fundraiser, and then Fahlman was asked to do one. Her poem at this year’s Communithon was the 23rd consecutive poem she has read.
“I love the fact of Communithon, so it’s always a pleasure to be able to write the poem,” said Fahlman.
She enjoyed being associated with the Writers Guild, along with the Weyburn Writers Group, because through it she was able to meet writers of all kinds from all over the province, including the province’s first poet laureate.
When she was told she would be receiving the honourary life membership, she said, “I was so pleased to have my name included in such company, surprised and pleased. The honour was quite a surprise and rewarding.”
Fahlman noted that Saskatchewan was the first province to have a writers guild, and is proud that they support and promote both current and past writers and poets.
“I can’t say enough about the support they gave to us. I still sometimes sell to them, for their freelance magazine,” she said.