Anne McDonald

 McDonald is an award winning author whose novel, To the Edge of the Sea, won the Saskatchewan Book Award for First Book (2012) and was First Alternate for the John Hicks Award. Her play, Lullabies and Cautions, was showcased at the Spring Festival of New Plays, in 2016 and an excerpt from it premiered at the Short Cuts Play Festival in Saskatoon in 2014. “The Daughters of Confederation” was featured in Canada’s History Magazine (fall 2014). Her short fiction has been nominated for the Journey Prize and has appeared in Descant Magazine, and the Society Journal. The prologue from To the Edge of the Sea aired nationally on CBC radio. Her latest non-fiction work, Miss Confederation: The Diary of Mercy Anne Coles, is forthcoming summer 2017 with Dundurn Press.     
       McDonald studied at Second City, Humber College’s creative writing program, Sage Hill’s Fiction Workshop, the Sage Hill Poetry Colloquium and she has participated in numerous voice and theatre workshops. She teaches theatre improvisation for Education students at the Gabriel Dumont Institute, and theatre classes for the Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance at the University of Regina. She teaches creative writing to a number of groups, from inner city youth, to newcomers to Canada, to participants in creative writing courses.  McDonald also facilitates workshops for organizations interested in collaborative communication and creativity. 

About To the Edge of the Sea (novel)
To the Edge of the Sea won the Brenda MacDonald Riches First Book Award for 2011 in April 2012.
      Anne McDonald’s first novel To the Edge of the Sea, released by Thistledown Press Spring 2011, explores the formation of Canada during the Confederation conferences of 1864. Themes of home and away, loss, love, belief and deception run throughout the story of John A Macdonald, Mercy Ann Coles, and Alex and Reggie, two PE Island brothers caught up in the times of the day – the circus and the Tenant’s League.
     Anne values the evocation of time and place and loves researching and finding the story behind the story – the reading between the lines of history. Her short story “The Pull of the Moon” based on the true story of the German spy landed on the Bay of Fundy coast, was submitted by Descant for the Journey Prize and her novel To the Edge of the Sea (original title The Coincidence of Water and Air) was awarded First Alternate for the John Hicks Award.

“Writ large, the country takes shape beneath a nurturing hand. We’re given Sir John A and the people of a groundbreaking time. We’re given writing that is evocative, genuine and eye-opening. A worthy chair by the fire sort of read.” 
Richard Wagamese Juror for the Hicks Award

In the mid-19th century, three young Prince Edward Islanders explore their disparate futures at home and away, in a debut novel that is lyrical and precise in its descriptions of land, sea and people, and powerful in its accounts of both personal and political histories of the province and country.
Saskatchewan Book Award judges Joan Barfoot, Christine Cowley and Katherine Gordon for Best First Book

I value the evocation of place and time in writing and have always enjoyed writing that explores history. I like to examine how the present affects our interpretation of the past and how our stories become history. Themes of home and away are often present in my work as well as considerations of loss, love, belief and deception.

The style of this writing in portraying this time period in history – full of water, rain, and Niagara Falls, is what I hope engages people. I want you to feel the pull of the water through the pace and style of the writing. I’m also exploring the ideas of the impetuosity and passion of youth.

I love researching and finding the story behind the story, or the reading between the lines of fact, of history.

The story of this story:
One hot and sleepy July day in Toronto I was teaching my English as a Second Language class and decided to watch a video celebrating Canada’s 125th birthday, a video that my mother had sent to my sister who had been teaching in Africa. In it there was a line drawing of William Pope rowing himself out to the Queen Victoria in the Charlottetown harbour to meet the Fathers of Confederation. He was the only one there and was in a small and insignificant boat because the first circus in twenty years was in Charlottetown. There was no one else to meet them, no boats or carriages to bring them ashore. This intrigued me and started my research into the story of Canada’s formation – one that had always seemed so quiet, so inconsequential. 

I spent many hours in the Toronto Reference Library reading histories of the circus and of the Confederation Conferences in Charlottetown and Quebec. In the Baldwin Room of the library I was able to read an original copy of Edward Whelan’s The Union of the British Provinces, published with his own money in 1865. It compiled the speeches of the delegates, after the fact, as no recordings were allowed during the Conferences themselves, and it helped me understand more of the politics, the delegates, and the events. 

Another invaluable resource was Mercy Coles’s unpublished diary of the Quebec Conference and tour of the Canadas. It is available in the National Archives in Ottawa. I first heard of it in Christopher Moore’s book, 1867 How the Fathers Made a Deal (1997) which was incredibly helpful as it describes the politics, people and events of the Conferences and what led up to Confederation and the formation of Canada. The Prince Edward Island Provincial Archives was a useful resource and the staff were very helpful in finding newspaper accounts of the circus and of the events of the conference. Shane Peacock’s book, The Great Farini (1995) was a valuable resource as well.

My Aunt Frances Griffith sent me essays, stories and material of Prince Edward Island’s history such as the story of the Tenant’s League and Fletcher’s Field, outmigration in PEI, and many other topics. I can’t thank her enough. These are just some of the resources that I used in the writing of this book. Again, I have played with the known facts and timelines, making up my own intents and this novel is my fictional telling of the formation of Canada. 

Anne McDonald has an MA in Psychology, has studied improv at Second City in Toronto, and has attended Sage Hill (Poetry Colloquium, Fiction Workshop) and the Humber School for writers. She facilitates creative writing and theatre workshops and also provides training in collaboration, communication, and creativity for organizations across the country. For more information on Anne's training workshops see Collaboration Works. Anne is a published author whose work has been produced by CBC radio. Her novel To the Edge of the Sea was published with Thistledown Press in March 2011.