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Gwen Tuinman

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Delving Deeper

Winter Pastimes for Pioneers

Early settlers in Upper Canada, particularly those living in rural areas, sought ways to break the isolation and monotony of long winters and heavy snows. Dog sleds and snow shoes that we regard as entertainment today were common 1800s instruments of travel over frozen lakes and rivers. So what did pioneers do for fun?

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Trip to a Goat Farm

Oh my gosh—goats! Since choosing to incorporate a small herd into the novel (in progress), I’ve become completely enamoured with the little scamps. My curiosity was fully lit after a call out to my Facebook community garnered anecdotes and recommendations on where to learn more. I’m continually grateful for the anecdotes and facts they shared, many of which will colour the pages of my story.

“When they are happy, they do a little ‘corkscrew’ dance/prance which is very comical.” ~ Mila

 “The goat, unhappy at being left alone, would invariably open the field gate with her horns and strike out for company, joining us companionably for the duration of the walk.” ~ Aisha

“Merlin is so sweet & loving, & so smart! He loves to come up to you and let out a quiet maa, waiting for a leg or head massage.” ~ Hanna

Part of acquiring context and developing authenticity in writing can involve field research. I took that term quite literally when my husband Eric and I recently visited friends, Candice and Ken at their farm in Northumberland County. They introduced their herd of Lamancha goats and acquainted me with the basics of their behaviour and care. After growing up with fairy tales and children’s stories featuring billy goats, nanny goats and kids, it’s going to take some practise to refer to them as a buck and a females as a doe, and a youngster as a buckling or doeling.

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Canadian Women During WW1: New Freedoms and Old Pressures

My keen interest in the lives of Canadian women during WW1 stems from the novel I’m currently writing set in that same era. Prior to the war, women of middle- and upper-class families were monitored by chaperones. Working-class women, in whom I’m most interested, were unchaperoned but constrained by what society deemed “good” behaviour. The status quo took a drastic turn when, starting in 1914, the number of young women moving far from home began to climb. More women earned their own money, spent at their individual discretion. The sight of women smoking and drinking in pubs caused an uproar among traditionalists who were further shocked with changes to fashion. With so many women in the workplace finding long hair unsafe and dresses impractical, hairstyles grew shorter (and masculine in the view of some), hemlines continued to rise, and trousers became common.

Many shared concerns that the women flooding the workforce would result in the erosion of morality, a quality equated with patriotism. Anxieties rose around concerns of sexual impropriety and the sanctity of marriage.

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