Members had the option of logging into the Zoom meeting at 1:40 so that they could catch up with each other or meet new friends in small break out social meetings before the start of the meeting.
President Sandy Dreger called the first meeting of 2021 to order at 2:00 and thanked everyone for adapting to our new Covid normal of meeting electronically. She shared that rather than be consumed with all the challenges of the pandemic she is focusing on how fortunate she is to remain healthy while living in such a beautiful place as Vancouver Island. Despite recent rain storms it is still possible to get outside and enjoy our surroundings. Sandy also directed our attention to the obituary in this weeks Comox Valley Record of member Ron Watkins who passed away in December. Ron was an active member of the club serving as Membership Director for 4 years. Our sympathies are extended to Nancy and the rest of Ron's family.
Elaine Brown spent a few minutes providing some "Zoom" tips around screen names, video feeds, background screens, etc.
Steve Ray introduced our first speaker, club member Ian Thompson. Ian has done extensive research on Sidney "Dusty" D'Esterre who was so important to the development of Comox. Ian traced his life from his birth in Plymouth England, through his travels to Victoria where he was a barrister and teacher. Mr. D'Esterre then purchased the Elks Hotel in Comox adjacent to Comox harbour. He also, through a consortium, purchased a large tract of land. These lands were all ceded to the Town of Comox after his death - the Comox golf course is located on this land. The Comox Council Chambers and the Senior's recreation named D'Esterre House are also located on land once owned by Mr D'Esterre. Lorne Meyer thanked Ian for sharing his research into the history of this man who contributed so much to the growth of Comox.
Steve next introduced Amanda Hale, a writer from Hornby Island who has published three novels, two collections of linked fictions set in the Cuban town of Baracoa, and two poetry chapbooks. She won the Prism International prize for creative non-fiction for The Death of Pedro Iván, and has twice been a finalist for the Relit Fiction award. Her novels and Cuban stories have been translated into Spanish; Sondeando la sangre was presented at the 2017 Havana International Book Fair. Hale is the librettist for Pomegranate, an opera set in ancient Pompeii, premiered in Toronto in 2019.
Amanda shared with us the process of writing creative non-fiction. Her fourth novel is "Mad Hatter" a story based on her personal family history, She explained how writing the novel helped her come to terms with a troubled family history. Her father was James Battersby a British fascist and pacifist, and a member of the Battersby family of hatmakers of Stockport, Greater Manchester, England. He was a disciple of the fascist politics of Oswald Mosley. He was forced to retire from the family firm due to his politics and was interned by the British government during the Second World War along with other British fascists. She revealed that she started Mad Hatter in 2000, in a pub in London UK, writing with a fountain pen in her notebook, with a glass of red wine at her side. It was an appropriate place to begin because the story of Mad Hatter takes place in England, centred around World War II, spanning the 1930s to the 1950s.She continued to add to those notes over many years of research and plumbing of memory until, in 2012, she came to a decision to write the story as a fiction, based on the facts of her research, and upon the life of her family in WW2 England. While the pandemic has caused many much hardship it provided Amanda with the time to record the audio version of her book.
Amanda read a selection of her book told in the voice of the main narrator, Mary Byrne, an Irish lass who has come to England to keep house for the family of a hat maker. Amanda's training as an actress and dramatist brought the character to life. "Mad Hatter" is available at Laughing Oyster books in Courtenay, as an audio book from Audible Books or as an eBook or print book from her publisher Guernica Editions.
Next up was John McGinn who shared a humourous story.
Dorothy McGinn announced that the February 4 meeting will include selections from a surprise musical guest and speaker Judy Millar who is a Canadian writer, humourist and professional speaker who entertains with hilarious, original stories, often based on her own life experiences. She has had her work published in Reader's Digest, the Writer's Digest and other collections. She lives in Nanaimo.
The winners of the $25.00 gift certificates from Laughing Oyster Books are: Sandy Dreger, Heather Crites, Tony and Tricia Nicol and Lynne Ray.