Blog 2008 Archives

2009 Posts 2008 Archives

November 29, 2008, Norval By: Dr. Irene Gammel

Last night, on the eve of L.M. Montgomery’s birthday, I participated in Norval’s celebration of "Montgomery’s Christmas" along with Edith Smith, a redheaded professor emerita at McMaster University, and our research associate Benjamin Lefebvre. The Norval Presbyterian Church where Ewan Macdonald was a Reverend from 1926-1935, provided a beautiful setting, and talking from a pulpit gave the speeches a special flavor and conjured up L.M. Montgomery’s life here in Norval. Norval has become an important site for Montgomery scholars, as its engaged community audience has worked hard to keep Montgomery’s legacy alive. Afterwards, while I was being interviewed by Lisa Lightbourn-Lay for her documentary on Montgomery, Jean-Paul played dress-up in the church basement where the church ladies served tea and sweets. Jason Nolan captured Jean-Paul’s Anne side in memorable photos. I later met with Bob Booth who showed me his wonderful scrapbook and Luella Macdonald Veijaleinen, Montgomery’s granddaughter. Ben, Jean-Paul and I ended the evening at Shoeless Joe’s.

Click here for some photos taken by Jason Nolan
Click here for more of Jason's pictures

November 10, 2008, Toronto, ON By: Dr. Irene Gammel

In 1934, eleven-year old Bella Briansky, having moved to Northern Ontario from Poland at the age of eight and still new to the English language, longed for a friend. When imaginative Bella found her soulmate in Anne-with-an-e, she promptly wrote to L.M. Montgomery, who lived in Norval, confessing her own hopes of becoming a writer. A year later, on January 11, 1935, Bella was thrilled to receive a response from the famous author who wrote apologetically that she couldn’t write earlier because her husband had been sick. Today Bella Briansky Kalter lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where earlier this year she read the New York Times review for Looking for Anne of Green Gables, and promptly sent a heart-warming letter to me. In our ensuing email conversation, Bella told me that she would like to donate her precious letter to our MLCRC archives. Thanks to Bella’s generosity, the three-page letter, estimated to be worth $850 and signed by Montgomery with the little cat symbol at the end, has now returned home to Ontario after almost seven-and-a-half decades. The original is displayed in the Ryerson Archives from now until January 30, 2009, alongside the original Hilton Hassell Anne of Green Gables cover art work and an Anne of Green Gables edition with original annotations by Ryerson Press editor Lorne Pierce. Thank you, Bella! And thank you to David Mason for his expert input.

Click here to see the display of the letter in the Ryerson archives
Click here to read Bella's story of her correspondence with Lucy Maud Montgomery
Click here to learn more about Bella

October 18, 2008, Dublin, Ireland, By: Dr. Irene Gammel

We have been in Ireland for many days and for the first time since our arrival the rain has stopped. In the morning we head to The Church of Ireland College of Education for the Ireland Conference of IBBY, (The International Board on Books for Young People). Along with Sandra Beckett, a comparative literature scholar at Brock University, and author Tim Wynne Jones, I am one of the keynote speakers in this conference dedicated to Anne of Green Gables, Globalization and Cross-Over Fiction. The conference is energizing, as are all the presentations and the people.

Sandra Beckett talks about cross-over fiction, that is, fiction that targets both adults and children. Martina Seifert talks about Germany’s romanticizing of Canada as a land of snow and ice and rugged heroes. Tim Wynne Jones reads from “The Anne Rehearsals” in his book Lord of the Fries. It’s hilarious. At the reception we meet the Honorable Patrick Binns, formerly the premier of Prince Edward Island and now the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland. He recalls the surprise of Prince Edward Islanders when masses of tourists first arrived on PEI. When asked what made them come, they said, “Anne of Green Gables.”

October 6, 2008, Toronto, ON, By: Dr. Irene Gammel

This morning in the elevator I met Audrey Pitman, a lively, petite woman who works in Human Resources at Ryerson. Since she is also a Lucy Maud Montgomery fan, I asked if she had read the news of L.M. Montgomery’s suicide. When I arrived in my office, I found the following email from Audrey, and wanted to share it (with the permission of the author):

Hi Irene,

I just had to write you, after you shared that sad news. This immediately makes me think of Anne being in the "depths of despair". I suppose Lucy Maud would have really understood those feelings. It is especially sad to hear, after her wonderful writing has given me so much happiness while growing up, not to mention countless others whose lives she touched with her work. If only she knew the extent of it and countless new generations of people being exposed to her work.

Thanks for sharing that though. Sometimes I have a tendency to not keep up with the newspapers/media because lately it is all just sad stories and bad things happening. I do try to not let it get me down though, I guess because you just can't.

I do appreciate your letting me know and I am very grateful that you wrote your book, as I am sure many people will benefit from it as I have. It really helps to put some meaning into both the lives of Lucy Maud and Anne's.

Gratefully yours,


DATE: September 28, 2008, Toronto, ON By: Dr. Irene Gammel

The Word on the Street Festival
in Queen’s Park, Toronto, is a lively event with estimated attendance this year of 200,000. The white tents cover the entire park, and the readings are all well attended. My reading in the Great Books Marquee is chaired by Quill and Quire editor Derek Weiler. There are around 50 people in the audience. People are curious about what sparked my interest in Anne of Green Gables and I tell them about living on PEI. They want to know when I first read Anne of Green Gables and I tell them it was as an adult after watching the movie. The book signing is lively. Among others, I meet a young woman from Trinidad who read the novel at age 11 in her home country; another woman tells me that she had read Anne of Green Gables “obsessively.”

Click here to view the BlackBerry photographs taken by Jean-Paul Boudreau.

DATE: September 25, 2008, Winnipeg, MB By: Dr. Irene Gammel

It is a brilliant fall day in Winnipeg. My lecture and reading for the Thin Air Writers Festival takes place in Manitoba Hall at the University of Winnipeg. In the room filled with students, faculty, and teachers, I talk about “The Biographer as a Detective: Looking for Anne through Life Writing Sources,” tracing the intricate clues provided in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s private writing. There is despair and volition in her final note: “It must end here,” she had written just two days before her death. “May God forgive me.” Meanwhile, Montgomery’s suicidecontinues to preoccupy the national media.

After the lecture I take a tour through the Hamilton Galleria at the University of Winnipeg Library, where our Anne @ 100 Exhibit is beautifully displayed. The nine panels are hung from the industrial ceiling, with the book display under glass cases in the center and the Looking for Anne video documentary playing in the background. This is the final installation of our cross-Canada exhibit and the specially constructed Winnipeg panels will find a permanent home at the University’s Centre for Research in Young People's Texts and Cultures. After touring the exhibit, I have lunch at the Faculty Club with Mavis Reimer, Canada Research Chair in the Culture of Childhood, and MLC Research Associate Benjamin Lefebvre. At the table beside us sits the University President Lloyd Axworthy, the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, who asks about Montgomery’s suicide. In the afternoon, Benjamin Lefebvre presents a lively talk on L.M. Montgomery in a Children’s Literature class, and we end the day with a reception in the Faculty Club where I meet with the University of Winnipeg faculty. Then I’m whisked away to dinner by Gaby Divay and her husband Bob, whom I haven’t seen in ten years, and we spend the rest to the evening catching up.

DATE: September 24, 2008, Winnipeg, MB, By: Dr. Irene Gammel

On this sunny afternoon, our plane descends into Winnipeg. From the escalator leading to the baggage hall, I spot the volunteer with the Thin Air Writers Festival sign in hand. He is my friendly airport pick up. We talk while I keep an eye on the luggage runway. “There is my suitcase,” I tell him, as soon as my yellow suitcase catapults onto the moving belt. But I’ve barely uttered the words when a tall, middle-aged woman grabs the suitcase, pulls out the handle and marches toward the exit. Something in her assured swiftness keeps me from protesting and reassures me that another piece of yellow luggage must be just around the corner. When it finally does arrive, it looks different. I head to the Air Canada baggage claim, where a staff person gives me a hard time because I have no identifier in the inside pocket; I redeem myself when I tell him that my book is inside with my name on it. His tracking is successful, he pages the woman and within the hour I am in possession of my suitcase.

Meanwhile, having bonded with my Thin Air companion, I enjoy a quick tour of historic Winnipeg’s old limestone buildings, the Hudson’s Bay, the Eaton’s Building, and the Children’s Museum, before I’m deposited at the Forks Inn Hotel at the River. When I check in, the Liberal Party Election Campaign bus is parked outside, and a throng of TV journalists with notebooks and pens in hand, cameramen with large cameras and big microphones, file up the stairs. By the time I have dinner, there is a commotion outside: from my table at the window I see Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion talking animately with a woman surrounded by a crowd of reporters before he shakes hands and moves to the bus, a throng of reporters following. It’s Election time.


DATE: September 20, 2008, Toronto, ON By: Dr. Irene Gammel

In a personal essay published in the Globe and Mail today,L.M. Montgomery’s granddaughter Kate Macdonald Butler reveals a secret that has tormented her family for many years: that author L.M. Montgomery died of a drug overdose in 1942. A suicide note found by her bedside was pocketed by Montgomery’s son and Kate’s father Stuart Macdonald, a medical doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, who was also L. M. Montgomery’s literary executor. Stuart had denied for decades that his mother had been depressed in old age. Kate has come forward with this long-kept secret to draw attention to the stigma surrounding mental health issues. The suicide is consistent with the evidence I found in my research for my book Looking for Anne. The many life writing clues suggest not just a passive welcoming of death but active volition.

The disclosure is important, however, in confirming what scholars had surmised: that L.M. Montgomery had taken her life.


DATE: July 21, 2008, Leaksdale and Norval, ON By: Dr. Irene Gammel

This past week, I met the most wonderful group of women in Leaskdale and Norval, Ontario, all associated with the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario. On July 16, I gave a reading in the St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Leaskdale and loved the energy of the women, among them Kathy Wasylenky, Barbara Pratt, Melanie Whitfield, and others. They were behind the efforts of making Leaskdale an historic site, and it was fascinating to learn about the long history of this process. On July 19, I was in Norval, where Montgomery had resided from 1926 to 1935, for a book signing. I met Kathy Castle and DawnFallsand others, working on the LucyMaudMontgomeryGarden and Museum. I was impressed with their activisim in preserving their community’s heritage. Dawn summed up their motto: “We are sharing dreams and helping others bloom along the way. We use education and imagination to inspire others - or just allow them to find a few moments of joy in their days.”

here to see a photo of the book signing in Norval.


DATE: June 29, 2008, Charlottetown, PEI By: Dr. Irene Gammel

Today is my last day on Prince Edward Island. I have spent the final days attending the L. M. Montgomery International Conference at the PrinceEdwardHotel in Charlottetown, which brings together scholars and fans. In my scholarly presentation I revealed the two formula stories Lucy Ann and Charity Ann I had discovered, and whose influence Montgomery had never acknowledged. With me on the panel were Margaret Doody ( Notre DameUniversity), Carole Gerson (Simon Fraser), and Carolyn Strom Collins (author from Minnesota). The conference was a great way to round out the trip and reconnect with L. M. Montgomery scholars, as we look ahead to the future of L. M. Montgomery Studies.


DATE: June 25, 2008, Charlottetown, PEI By: Dr. Irene Gammel

Last night was the capstone event and emotional highlight of our entire cross-country tour. Our Prince Edward Island launch for Looking for Anne took place at the Arts Guild on 111 Richmond Street. Over 120 people attended, including friends, students, and many scholars from as far away as Australia, Britain, Sweden and the US. Roy Johnstone’s fiddle music provided great energy. The dignitaries included UPEI President Wade MacLauchlan, Ryerson Provost and Vice-President Academic Alan Shepard, and L. M. Montgomery’s granddaughter Kate Macdonald Butler. Among the special guests were Betsy Epperly, Mary Rubio, Elizabeth Waterston, and Gail Rutherford. We reconnected with former neighbors Susan and Morgan Fisher, family members Denise and Dave Morrissey, and friends Nicole Neatby, Henry and Pat, Bill Whelan, Wendy Shilton, and Jean Mitchell. Jennifer Long at the Arts Guild had organized the event for us with help from our own Ryerson team.

Click on
Alanna’s Photography of the Guild Launchfor some snapshots of the event.

DATE: June 20, 2008, Charlottetown, PEI By: Dr. Irene Gammel

On this very day, one hundred years ago, L. M. Montgomery received her first copy of her novel Anne of Green Gables: “mine, mine, mine,” she rejoiced. To commemorate the day, Jean-Paul and I got up at 5:30 AM, and headed downtown Charlottetown to the GreatGeorgeInn to pick up Lucy Maud Montgomery’s granddaughter Kate Macdonald Butler and her brother Deke. Together we headed to John and Jennie Macneill’s Homestead Site in Cavendish, a fifty minute drive, where the CBC’s Island Morning was launching the day in style. Radio hosts Karen Meir and Mitch Cormier interviewed all of us on the porch of the homestead bookstore. A large group of PE Islanders and visitors had gathered to celebrate the special day. By 8:00 AM the sun was warm and brilliant, breaking through the eastern fields. With the roof of our rented Mustang convertible down, we headed to a quaint little restaurant, “just around the corner.” Here, in the aptly named restaurant "The Pearl", we met Duncan MacIntosh, who has just launched the L.M. Montgomery Theatre in AvonleaVillage, and Grace Finley, the first actress to star as Anne in the Anne of Green Gables musical. It was like a family reunion. After breakfast, we returned to the Homestead for the launch of the new ANNE stamps. Eighty or so visitors and media crowded into the white tent for the Canada Post and Japan Post launch, as the lovely Ben Stahl image on the Canadian and a vividly colorful illustration on the Japanese Anne stamps were unveiled. A communal “Awww” declared the stamps a success.

Click here for shots of this special day.

DATE: June 18, 2008, Cavendish, PEI By: Dr. Irene Gammel

Our Anne of Green Gables Exhibition at the Green Gables Heritage Site is officially launched. On this moody, overcast afternoon, we gathered inside the Barn, with Roy Johnstone providing the warm ambiance with fiddle music. The dignitaries included the Hon. Carolyn Bertram, Minister of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour; the Hon. Valerie E. Docherty, Minister of Tourism; as well as Parks Canada spokesperson Sharon Larter. Our emcee for the event was Jean-Paul Boudreau. Also present were Jennie Macneill (of the neighboring Homestead Site), Mary Macdonald Rissanen (Finland), Earle Lockerby (L. M. Montgomery Society of Ontario), Mary Beth Cavert and Carolyn Strom Collins (both L. M. Montgomery Literary Society, Minnesota ), as well as delegates from UPEI including Philip Smith, Richard Kurial, Barry and Sheila Bartman, Sharon and Robin Neill, and Tsukasa Nishibori, along with many tourists who joined in the celebration.

Click on Alanna’s Photography of the Cavendish Launch for some snapshots of the event.

DATE: June 17, 2008, Cavendish, PEI By: Dr. Irene Gammel

A full day of television and radio interviews! The morning started with a CBC television interview at the Green Gables Heritage Site. We arrived in Cavendish early and the crew was already there checking out our exhibit panels. TV-host Sara Fraser suggested that I do a walk-through of the exhibition by focusing on new discoveries. It all came off without a hitch, and the interview aired that night on Compass. Click herefor some snapshots. The afternoon was devoted to radio media interviews as I sat in the Charlottetown CBC studio surrounded by microphones. This time focusing on the book Looking for Anne, I talked with CBC’s Mainstreet’s Matt Rainnie, as well as CBC hosts from Whitehorse, Regina, Quebec City, Cape Breton, Vancouver, and Victoria. Meanwhile, Mary McKay at The Guardian had written a lengthy review of the book entitled Between the Lines.


DATE: June 15, 2008 Toronto, ON By: Dr. Irene Gammel

This Sunday morning was busy as I was packing for my trip to PEI. Before flying out I was scheduled for a book signing at the Book Expo in the MetroConvention Center on Front Street, which was buzzing with hundreds of book sellers when I arrived. Key Porter staff, as well as my agent Hilary McMahon and President Jordan Fenn were ready for action in front of a large booth. In front of my desk there was also a long line up people with copies of Looking for Anne in their hands. It was great fun and I went to work right away! After the book signing, I scooted to Pearson to catch my flight. I met up with Jean-Paul Boudreau at the Charlottetown airport, and we made our way to 17 Nottingham Avenue to stay with our friends Henry and Pat Srebrnik who are helping us with our upcoming events on Prince Edward Island. We are gearing up for two major events on our tour. Stay tuned!

DATE: June 5, 2008 Ottawa, ON By: Dr. Irene Gammel

Yesterday we opened our exhibition at the Library and Archives Canada at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa. Over 130 people attended the event. Present at the vernissage were L. M. Montgomery’s grandson David Macdonald, his wife Marie, and Vivian Macdonald; Ronald Cohen, collector of L. M. Montgomery’s books; Lorraine Wright (Webb), who grew up in the Cavendish house now known worldwide as Green Gables; as well as dignitaries from the Swedish embassy and from Prince Edward Island includingM. P. Shawn Murphy. After the opening speeches, the drawing of Anne hats, and book signing for Looking for Anne were done, my co-curator June Creelman and I raised a glass with our designer Sunniva Geuer. The exhibit runs until March 2009.

For more details, visit the Library and Archives Canada's
new exhibit webpage, or read the Reuters preview “New exhibit reveals ‘Anne of Green Gables’ secrets.”

herefor photos of the LAC exhibit and the vernissage

DATE: June 1, 2008 Vancouver BC, By: Dr. Irene Gammel

On May 31, we opened our Vancouver exhibit in the Historic Lillooet Room in the Irving K. Barber Learning Center at the University of British Columbia. The exhibit unfolded and inhabited the architecturally sculpted room better than we could have imagined. Richard Cavell, the academic Convenor of the Annual HSSFC Congress, opened our Exhibit Symposium. Our round table of experts including Deirdre Baker (Toronto), Cecily Devereux (Alberta), Janice Fiamengo (Ottawa), Carole Gerson (Simon Fraser), Benjamin Lefebvre (Alberta), Mavis Reimer (Winnipeg), and Margaret Steffler (Trent) took stock of Anne of Green Gables at 100 with energy and panache. After a reading, book signing, and exhibit tour, we considered new directions in our ACCUTE panel dedicated to the novel; Benjamin (who co-organized and co-chaired the ACCUTE panel with me), Jason, Suzanne, and Jean-Paul supported the event and engaged the public.

here to see the photos.

DATE: May 14, 2008 Cavendish PEI, By: Dr. Irene Gammel

On a windy but sunny Wednesday morning, Jean Paul Boudreau and I installed our Anne of Green Gables Exhibit atGreen Gables Heritage Site in Cavendish. Greg from PEI Sign Craft anchored the elegant black steel frames in the soil with large tent spikes. It will take a hurricane to shake our nine large panels. As the colors of the panel images popped against the barn on the one side and Green Gables House on the other, the entire exhibit looked lovely and grounded, as if it had always been a part of the Green Gables landscape. A large cruise ship had arrived in the Charlottetown harbor that morning, and several buses of tourists poured into Green Gables. Within minutes they were posing beside our panels, turning them into timeless Kodak fixtures. Click
hereto view our snapshots. I would like to dedicate this Green Gables exhibit installation to our entire team and especially to Jean Paul, who pushed us to go the extra mile to make it perfect. Our vernissage is scheduled for June 18, 2:00-4:00 pm, and the invitations are about to go out. In the meantime, we gear up for our next installation in Vancouver.

Date: May 2, 2008 Toronto, ON By: Dr. Irene Gammel

On the night of May 1, over one hundred guests spilled out into the corridors of the old Victorian Spadina Museum home which was buzzing with life and energy. The occasion was the Key Porter book launch for Looking for Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed Up a Literary Classic and the inaugural vernissage for the cross-Canada exhibition Anne of Green Gables: A Literary Icon at 100. The book signing took place in the sun-room in front of the old fireplace. Special dignitaries included Ruth Gallant, the daughter of the little Nova Scotia orphan Ellen Macneill, who provided the final spark for Anne; the family of the late Hilton Hassell, the Toronto illustrator of the iconic Anne cover published by Ryerson Press in 1964; Don Harron, who wrote the lyrics for Anne of Green Gables—The Musical; and Mary Grove, the daughter-in-law of Canadian writer F. P. Grove with whom L.M. Montgomery had corresponded. Speakers included Key Porter Books Editor Linda Pruessen; Westwood Creative Artists Vice-President Hilary McMahon; L. M. Montgomery’s granddaughter Kate Macdonald Butler, and City of Toronto Heritage Co-Chair Luisa Giacometti. Ryerson University was represented by President Sheldon Levy. The event was gracefully coordinated by Suzanne Zelazo, the MLC postdoctoral fellow. It was a most special night and I am grateful to all who participated and added to the ebullience. Alison Skyrme took a few snapshots, which you can view by clicking
here. Enjoy!