Then this happened

I’m very honoured to have had Inheriting Violet, the sequel to my debut novel, Small Reckonings, chosen for the 2022 John V. Hicks Long Manuscript Award for Fiction. It’s a surreal full circle with the debut novel winning the prize in 2019. Congratulations to the other winners on the Fiction podium: Kate O’Gorman for May I Myself Not be Lost and Other Stories, and Byrna Barclay for Everything is Under Control: Birdy and Jock-o Short Stories. More about the authors here. I’m looking forward to celebrating with them at the SWG Annual Conference in Regina in October, and also excited to meet one of the judges, Kagiso Lesego Molope, who will be there. Here’s what the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild sent me and I’ve had to keep under wraps for several days:

Congratulations on winning first place in the 2022 John V. Hicks Long Manuscript Award in Fiction for your submission Inheriting Violet.

The judges offered the following comments on your manuscript:

A generational prairie epic that follows a family of homesteaders in rural Saskatchewan as they strive for survival and happiness in a hard but often beautiful place. Throughout this novel, the titular protagonist, Violet, is treated with great respect and care by the author. Those in Violet’s orbit carry the weight of their troubled histories, sorrow and heartache, in a way that demands the reader’s empathy, and explores the complicated dynamics of family and community. Difficult subject matter is presented with both ease and great sensitivity by this promising author, and the jury looks forward to reading more of her work.

Our jury consisted of Canadian fiction writers Kevin Hardcastle and Kagiso Lesego Molope. Here are the jury bios:

Kevin Hardcastle is a fiction writer from Simcoe County, Ontario. He is the author of the novel In the Cage and the short story collection Debris, which won the Trillium Book Award and the ReLit Award for Short Fiction. His writing has been published widely in Canada and the US, with translations published in French, German, and Italian. He lives and works in Toronto.

Kagiso Lesego Molope is an Indigenous South African, an award-winning novelist and playwright. She writes post-apartheid, feminist and resistance literature. Her work centres the history and experiences of indigenous South Africans and tackles issues of race, class, sexuality and identity, and her books are read in schools across South Africa as well as in parts of Europe. Her published novels are Dancing in the Dust, The Mending Season, This Book Betrays my Brother, and Such a Lonely, Lovely Road. Her play, Maya Angelou: Black Woman Rising, has been produced and staged at Oslo’s Nordic Black Theatre. She became the first indigenous South African writer to be on the IBBY List in 2006 and to win the Patrick Fitzpatrick Award for Young Adult Literature. In 2019, she won both the Ottawa Book Award and the Inaugural Pius Adesanmi Memorial Award for her third and fourth books respectively. She has been living in Canada for the past two decades.



Upon hearing about the death of Queen Elizabeth, I dug around in the basement and rifled through my old work files and collectibles. I found the press ID tag for my first big official assignment as a reporter for the Fairview Post in July 1978. I had just turned 19, and after a thorough police check, I was handed my badge and sent off to cover the visit by the Queen and Prince Phillip. If I recall, they were opening a provincial park in northern Alberta as part of their Canadian visit. There were only a few reporters allowed and we were posted behind a rope to await the arrival of the Royal Couple. Dignitaries waited to greet them. I was short, and couldn’t see very well so when they did emerge from the car, I ducked under the rope, got a better vantage point and took photos. It was a second later, a hand gripped my elbow and a security officer asked me what I was doing. “Taking pictures.” I was ushered firmly but politely back to my spot behind the rope. It’s not like I had a digital camera and could check the image I hoped I had, but back in the darkroom at the newspaper, there it was: Her Majesty greeting Fairview Mayor Jim Reynolds, and the Queen shaking the hand of the mayor’s wife Doris as she curtsied. There was Premier Peter Loughheed and his wife Jeanne following on the carpet. Not great, but it did make the front page.

I remember, too, after being put back in place, listening to the Royals chat to the people lined up along the path. One included a very excited little girl who stood beside me. As the Queen approached, I thought the little girl might just levitate and float, she was that thrilled. The Queen stopped and asked her where she lived. “Hines Creek!” the girl gushed. “Hines Creek,” the Queen said. “How wonderful. Do you like living there?” “Oh yes!” “That is lovely. It is important to love your home.”

As I remembered that exchange, I also thought of the occasion in Saskatoon when then Prince Charles came to walk along the Meewasin Trail down at the weir. 2001, I think. There were speeches, and he was presented with a willow walking staff. The future King accepted it graciously and said, “Oh, a stick! How wonderful!”

In May 2005, my husband Rick, son Jim and I walked over to the University of Saskatchewan campus to see the Queen and Prince Phillip as they toured the new Canadian Light Source. We were struck yet again to think how much the Queen and Rick’s mother looked alike in later years. We miss them both as dependable constants in our lives.

Back home again in Indiana

Last month, Rick, Jim and I donned masks and made our way back to his birthplace for the 76th Annual Schwier Reunion. Yep, they’ve been getting together for green bean casserole, German potato salad, fried chicken and jello salads for that long! This year, 225 made the trek to Greendale, Indiana, each branch of the original Schwiers decked out in the same family colours we wore to the 50th. We got special mention for being the only foreigners from Canada, but got beat out for the longest-travelled Schwiers to get to the event. The California cousins won that prize. A copy of my novel was raffled off and won by Cousin Linda, who jumped to it when her ticket number was announced by Cousin Becky with the Bullhorn. A fitting prize for the day since my late father-in-law Fred Schwier shared a lot of old farm stories with details that helped colour the setting and characters.

HOME again

The fall issue of Saskatoon HOME magazine is out and about. It’s starting to appear in subscriber mailboxes and in racks for pickup throughout Saskatoon and area. This is another fun issue with stories about living with urban wildlife (we’ve all seen those moose videos), the phenomenon that is the Little Free Libraries movement, and you can take a peek inside a jaw-dropping custom home at Blackstrap Lake. And if you have always wondered about how the Bessborough Hotel came to be, City Archivist Jeff O’Brien takes us through the grand old castle on the river. There be ghosts, too! If you’re thinking your house or garage looks a little off kilter lately, or cracks are showing up where they shouldn’t be, let contractor Bert Poth explain the ways home builders need to appease Mother Nature. And just in the for those cooler autumn evenings, let Maureen Haddock show you how to bake a delicious, soul-warming phyllo pastry vegetable pie.