25th Trillium Award

On Writing, with Glenda Ferguson Tippins

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Glenda Ferguson Tippins

Glenda Ferguson Tippins has recently released her new novel, Wynn (General Store Publishing House). In her edition of On Writing, Glenda tells Open Book: Ontario about her new novel and describes her ideal writing environment. Notorious for not talking about her work, you won't find out what she's working on now — but read on to find out more about Glenda and Wynn!

Open Book:

Tell us about your new book, Wynn.

Glenda Ferguson Tippins:

Wynn is the story of Bridget Ellis, the only child of Frank Ellis, owner of the Ellis Paper Company. The story starts in 1930 when Bridget is eighteen years old. Her childhood friend is being courted by a young intern who came to Lennox to work with her father, the only doctor in town, and because of that, Bridget is left to her own devices and feels alone and alienated. Her sheltered life changes when she sees a caravan of gypsies pass by her door and seeks out the fortune teller, whom is among the travelers. The future she is told is not what she envisioned, and despite warnings from her friends and family, she listens to the fortune teller and begins a journey that will change her life in more way she could ever imagine.


Why did you decide to set the novel in Lennox, Ontario?


The town of Lennox, Ontario was not intended to be the town in Northern Ontario, but a fictitious town.


Tell us about the main character, Bridget Ellis. How did she come to be the focus of your novel, and how did she develop as you worked on this project?


The story of Wynn is not only Bridge Ellis's story but the story of Wynn as well. Bridget leads a sheltered and catered life until she meets with the fortune teller and then immediately after meets Henry Kennedy. Henry is an unsavoury character that most young women would be leery of but Bridget, in her naivety, believes everything she is told. The life she knew is left behind as she follows her new husband into a world she never knew existed. With strength, hope and determination she tries desperately to fit into her new husband's lifestyle. It was at the darkest time of her life that Wynn, a rail-rider, appears at her door looking for an odd job and something to eat. They become friends and in the end, it is Wynn who helps her when there was no one else.


What was the biggest challenge you experience in the writing of Wynn?


The biggest challenge I faced while writing Wynn was the authentic feel of the rails and the lingo that was common place among the campfires. I wanted Wynn and all the other hobos to be believable. It was also necessary to know the markings made by the hobos for each other indicating: warnings, safe places and messages.


Describe your ideal writing environment.


I am a creature of habit and follow the same ritual every day when I write. I enjoy mornings the most but sometimes the morning passes by so quickly that the whole day is gone. I write in my office in front of the window where I can glance out across the fields. The most important thing is that there can be no one in the house, as I find it distracting if I hear movement, or get interrupted by someone talking. It has to be quiet and the only time I leave the office is to replenish my coffee.


Which writers have had the greatest influence on your work?


My favourite book is Jubilee by Margaret Walker, and just lately I have become a fan of Mary McGarry Morris and am reading Songs in Ordinary Times. Both these wonderful authors write as if you are standing right beside them and know their characters as if they were your own people. Like both these authors, I enjoy 'the common people'.


What are you working on now?


I am notorious for not talking about my work. I am currently working in the very early stages of a new book but have yet to decide how to proceed. I think about it for a time until I get to know my characters and then when I start to write the story it seems to take on a life of its own and some of my early ideas are left by the wayside. When these changes are made, I never go back and change them back to my original idea, and my story seems to be better because of it.

Glenda Ferguson Tippins has always felt a sentimental attachment to the tracks — and to the lonesome whistle of a train in the dead of night.

She lives with her husband on their farm in Castleford, Ontario.

For more information about Wynn please visit the GSPH website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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