Local author Cecily Ross writing a pioneer’s diary

November 3, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Take a lady, born in the United Kingdom, who lived from early 1800’s to the mid-1880’s, an energetic person who by the 1830’s finds herself living with her four children in the Canadian backwoods.

Since her late teens, she has been writing and publishing and making a name for herself in the literary world. Now, notwithstanding her circumstances, she continued to pursue her career. Later, her book Roughing it in the Bush is still produced today.

Her life is an adventure not only in the life itself but also in her occupation as a writer. Imagine if she had kept a diary of the contrasts and adventures of that life. However, none such exists.

Until now.

Cecily Ross has given the British/Canadian pioneer poet and writer Susanna Moodie the diary that was never written, in her first novel, The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie.

“I started reading her work, with Roughing it in the Bush,” Ms. Ross began about her interest in Susanna Moodie.

Ms. Ross’ own life seemed to keep bumping into Susanna’s. She was first a journalist in Coburg where Susanna had lived.

She said, “I lived on a farm in  Port Hope. Across the road there was a blue plague saying that this had been the Moodie farm in 1832. If this were the United States, she’d be as famous as Daniel Boone.”

Writing about Susanna “had been a long time on my mind. I waited until I was retired from the Globe and Mail. So I had time to find my head space. The only reason it finally happened was that I finally took myself seriously enough to take the time to sit down every day to do it.”

Ms. Ross’ husband has been a big supporter of the project; he pushed her to it, telling her “you’ve been talking about it for ages – why don’t you just get on with it…”

She said, “He even makes tea for me.”

“It wasn’t great at first at first, I was still working,” she explained, “and editing the magazine Food in the Hills – which didn’t last very long.”

Then, having dropped some of the distractions, she settled into it, writing for three hours a day.

She told us, “If I write three hours, that’s enough for me. You have to say no to people. They think you’re retired so you have lots of time for things.”

Remarking about what spurs a writer on, “There’s nothing like a deadline to focus you and the older you get, the tougher the deadline – like the end of your life…”

Even though Ms. Ross reckons all she knows how to do is to write, she feels some envy for her painter friends: “Every painting and hang it on a wall. As a fiction writer, you have to wait for someone to read it.”

Of Susanna Moodie, she claims real similarities, “I identified closely with her. About the third draft, my agent said, ‘It’s coming along but it has to be as good as it can be before we can send it into a publisher. You only get one chance.”

That began the work with an editor, for whom Ms. Ross had high praise,  but the work to adjust, re-write and eliminate was both extensive and rewarding.

“She did a page by page critique; I took some of the advice and not others.”

She has been to book clubs where the people inviting her to talk have read the book. Laughing, she told us, “People asked me, ‘Where did you find these diaries?’”

Naturally, Ms. Ross wants her imagined Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie to do well.

As she told us, “I’m proud of this book.”

Cecily Ross is joining Bianca Marais and  Dan Needles for the last Authors on Stage at Theatre Orangeville on Thursday, November 16 at 7:00 p.m.

You can meet her there, buy the book and ask her to sign it.

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