M. D. Meyer has two items in Hot Apple Cider. The first, on page 147, is a delicate memoir called "Shards of Silence, Seasons of Hope,"which documents the healing of a woman who has been sexually abused as a child. The second is the lyric essay, “On Writing with Passion and Integrity,” which explores Dorene's reasons for writing—or rather the impossibility of not writing.
M. D. (Dorene) Meyer is the award-winning author of six novels for adults, teens, and children. Her titles include Jasmine, The Little Ones, and Deep Waters for adults; Colin’s Choice for teens; and Pilot Error and Get Lost! for children. She also wrote the non-fiction book, Meet Manitoba Children’s Authors.
In addition, Dorene is the editor and publisher of nine anthologies: Prairie Writers, volumes 1, 2, 3, Northern Writers, volume 1 and 2, The Voice Behind the Mask, Isle of Mirage, Remember Me, and Squirrel Tales and Rabbit Trails. Her work also appears in the best-selling anthology, Hot Apple Cider.
Her many other writing credits include editorials, reviews, news, feature articles, profiles, scripts and poetry.
Using this wide variety of writing experience, she teaches classes that provide encouragement and practical help to writers of all genres.
Dorene currently resides in Norway House, Manitoba, where she is a part-time instructor at University College of the North.
1. Hot Apple Cider came together in a rather unusual way. What made you want to have your work in it?
I really liked the idea of a book that would promote Canadian authors. Many of us have a voice in the region where we live, but our voice is not heard throughout the rest of Canada. Hot Apple Cider is like one mighty shout that reverberates across the nation, proclaiming, “Here we are!”
I also felt very privileged to have my writing in a book with such established writers as: Sheila Wray Gregoire, Grace Fox, Paul Boge and Keith Clemons (to name a few).
2. This book is 100% Canadian. Canadian authors, publisher, printer—everything. Is that important to you?
Yes, very important. There are so many really great authors in Canada, but they have been largely unknown – not for lack of talent but because of lack of promotion. We, as Canadians, often look to the USA for any expert help we need (publishing, printing, agents, etc) because we feel that if it is Canadian, it is somehow inferior. As a country, we need to get over our inferiority complex!!
3. In her foreword for Hot Apple Cider, Janette Oke mentions that writers are often asked, “Why do you write?” Your lyric essay in Hot Apple Cider, “On Writing with Passion and Integrity,” answered that in depth, but for anyone who hasn’t read it, can you sum up your thoughts here?
Through the years, I have so often struggled with this question: why do I write? Or more pertinently, why do I keep on writing? It’s a difficult, lonely journey most of the time; a journey littered with rejection slips, but also with a few small successes. We crest the top of one hill only to see that the next hill is steeper. Ultimately, I suppose I do it for the same reason many other Christians continue to “run the race” – for the prize which lies before us – the “well-done, thou good and faithful servant.” The reward at the end of the journey is knowing we have pleased our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
On a smaller scale, though it’s still part of the larger picture described above, it is my desire to be a voice for those who are voiceless. There is a man who has been an alcoholic living on the streets for 20 years. Jesus has changed his life. Now he has been sober for over 20 years and he wants to tell the world! I have the tools in my hand to help him do that.
I guess that’s another way that I look at it. What has God placed in my hand? I open my hand and I see this thing that he has given me. How can I not use it?
4. Your other piece in Hot Apple Cider, “Shards of Silence/Seasons of Hope,” is written from the perspective of someone who has been sexually abused as a child, and eventually recovered. My understanding is that this was based on your own experiences. How difficult was this to write?
To come to the point of writing this piece was extremely difficult. When I started writing, though, it just flowed out of me. Then I was afraid to share it with anyone. This is just not something that is comfortable to talk about – or to hear. But it is so essential that we do talk about it because there are so many people carrying this secret shame – and they feel so alone. They need to know that there are others who have walked this path – and who have arrived at a place of hope and even joy, as they allow themselves to be held in the Father’s loving arms.
5. Do you feel that writing about traumatic events in our lives can help us in the healing process, or do we need to first be healed and then write about them?
Wow, what a good question. I guess I’d have to say, both. Sometimes, it seems there needs to be a bit of distance between the event and writing about the event. But when I looked back to see the date I had written the original draft of Deep Waters, it was just a few months after my father died – and in that book, Joshua has to work through the grief of his father’s death.
Maybe the difference is that I’m not purposely writing about my own experiences; I’m actually striving to tell the stories of others. My own experiences do come in, but they are not my main focus. Rather, they give me a point of contact, a place to start, as I then move on to empathetically tell the stories of others who have suffered much more than me.
6. Some people say that writing about personal traumatic experiences is fine, provided we do it in our journals or for our therapists, but publishing our work is a bit like going out in public with one’s slip showing. That the writer comes across as whiny and navel-gazing. After all, we all have problems, so deal with it! Other say that by allowing others to read our true stories we’re choosing to become vulnerable, and that it actually empowers us. What is your feeling on this?
I guess I feel that it’s not about me. It’s about others who may feel very alone. Using the less intimidating vehicle of fiction, I can demonstrate to hurting people that they are not alone; there are others who are also on this journey.
Regarding the slip showing, yeah, I guess I worry about that sometimes. People may feel that I am less worthy in some way when I relate my experiences. But for me, it’s worth it because there are others out there who also have slips showing and they need someone to come alongside and say, “it’s okay; you’re okay; you are accepted and loved by your Creator.”
“We all have problems, so deal with it!” Oh, that we could. If it was that easy, do you think we wouldn’t have done so by now? I remember so many times asking the Lord for joy – I saw others laughing and carefree – and I wanted that. What I didn’t realize was that I needed to lift off the cement pad that I’d built over my emotions as a young child. It was a protective mechanism, necessary at the time; but as an adult, it was hindering me from experiencing love and joy in my life.
I recently attended a grief and loss seminar by Dr. Alan Wolfelt. He said that you need to go backward to move forward. It’s called “catch-up mourning.” If the child had support at the time of the trauma, this may not be necessary, but for many of us, there was no such support.
7. Your books to date have all featured First Nations people in the fictional community of Rabbit Lake. Can you briefly explain why you have chosen to write about First Nations people?
I spent the first four years of my life in a First Nations community. After that, my mom was a single foster parent to hundreds of First Nations children.
I didn’t set off to write about First Nations people but came to it as a comfort zone of sorts. Hard to explain since I am not of First Nations ancestry, but it’s just where I feel most comfortable.
8. Your first book was one for young people, Colin’s Choice, which won an Award of Merit in 2006. Can you tell us a little about the book, and why you wrote it?
I started off to write a trilogy: Rachel’s Children, Deep Waters and The Little Ones. I got the first two written, but couldn’t write the third; it was just too difficult emotionally because I felt the Lord telling me that in this book, the main character had to forgive the person who had abused him. I couldn’t write that. So I procrastinated by making the trilogy into a 7-book series and took a break from writing some of the more intense stuff with a couple of children’s books (Get Lost! and Pilot Error) and two young adult books: (Jessie’s Secret and Colin’s Choice). When it came time to write The Little Ones, I was ready.
Colin’s Choice begins the story of Colin and Sarah, which continues on in Deep Waters and The Little Ones. I guess it’s a sort of prequel to Deep Waters.
9. Your books for adults, Deep Waters and The Little Ones, are set in the same community and have some of the same characters. Can you tell us a little about these?
In Deep Waters, the reader is invited to journey with Sarah as she is reunited with her birth mother, Gracie, a residential school survivor, and discover with Sarah why Gracie still has so many struggles in her life, even after she becomes a Christian.
In The Little Ones, Colin must not only learn to forgive his abuser but also the man who abused his precious little foster girls, Emmeline and Verena. The Little Ones is an exploration of the issues of mercy and justice.
10. You also have two chapter books for children ages 8-12, called Get Lost! and Pilot Error. Get Lost! won the best children’s book award in 2007. Can you tell me something about these two books?
I am so excited about the new audio book and illustrated version of Pilot Error. I am hoping to also have an audio book and illustrated soft cover version of Get Lost! by spring.
So many children who have English as a second language struggle with reading. Both Pilot Error and Get Lost! are high adventure and have a male protagonist so many boys in this age group will be eager to read (and listen to) these books.
11. How difficult is it to switch between writing a book for children and one for teens or adults?
It’s not strictly accurate to say that one is work and the other is play but sometimes, I feel like that. I’m contemplating a children’s picture book series and it just makes me smile to think about it. With my adult/teen books, there’s a lot more soul wrenching and protest. Sort of like when God told Moses what he needed to do: “I’m unworthy. I’m not qualified to write about that! What will people say? What will people think? Look, here’s my brother Aaron…”
12. What are you working on now?
My newest book, Jasmine, is due to be released this month – thanks for asking! It is being distributed by Word Alive Press in bookstores across Canada with their Canadian Author Autoship Program – Word Alive Press titles prominently displayed in bookstores with Canadian Author signage.
Jasmine marks the beginning of a new series, one that chronicles the healing journey of seven young people in the fictional First Nations community of Rabbit Lake. The first step in the healing journey is to courageously “face the problem.”
Jasmine Peters is doing everything in her power to avoid talking about, or dealing with, what happened to her. But when the past interfaces with the future, Jasmine not only puts herself at risk but also endangers the life of newly commissioned RCMP constable, Andrew Martin.
13. In addition to writing and publishing your own books, you’ve formed a publishing company, Goldrock Press, and edited and published a number of other books. What motivated you to do this?
I strongly believe that everyone has a story that is worth hearing, and that there should exist an opportunity for everyone to have a voice. We are all richer for hearing the stories of others who have walked a different path than us.
As a teacher of writing classes, I found myself frustrated that some of my students were unable to get published; not because their work was inferior but because they were coming from a smaller regional or cultural perspective that was not deemed worthy of recognition by the large mechanizations of the publishing industry. Even some smaller niche publishers were interested in just promoting their region or their particular language or culture. I saw a niche that needed to be filled. It was actually something I was already doing and I just made it official when I established Goldrock Press as a business entity.
14. I’m assuming you get feedback from a lot of people because of the nature of your books, and feedback is great for the author—you know someone is actually reading your words! But I’m wondering if you’ve learned anything from your readers that you could share with us?
Yes! The cards and emails I get from people are what keep me going! They make me feel as though I’m moving in the right direction.
One thing that people have said is that they appreciate that my books are not “graphic” but more “generic” – I do this for two reasons. Primarily, I don’t want people to be “revictimized” again; I don’t want them to once again go through the horrors of the abuse. I just put in enough information so that they know I understand what they have gone through, and then I take them on a journey towards hope.
Secondly, I purposely want to leave it open so that many people can relate what the character has experienced to their own very unique situations. A reader wrote: “It made me cry; it’s like you took a look into my life; just a glance.” Another reader wrote: “It touched me because of the long (forgotten?) pain in my own life, especially the part of wounds not treated and healing very slowly.”
15. Aside from your own pieces, is there a particular piece or thought in Hot Apple Cider that stood out for you?
I just loved Bonnie Grove’s short story, "Stuckville Café." What a talent she has for creating wonderfully believable and memorable characters! I look forward to reading more of her work.
16. A lot of people want to share their stories in order to help others. What advice do you have for someone who wants to write but doesn’t know how to begin?
Come to Write! Canada – June 17-19, 2010 (www.writecanada.org). There are workshops and classes for all skill levels, and opportunities to meet authors, editors and agents. You will learn lots and go away strengthened and encouraged.
For those who think they might like to write but haven’t started yet, don’t put it off another minute! The hardest thing is to put that first word down on that first piece of paper. Just do it! The next hardest step is to share your work with someone. You want to be sure that person will not stomp all over your dreams. Joining a writing circle is a good first step because everyone is in the same boat. If you come to Write! Canada, you will meet a lot of people who have been where you are right now.
17. What is your prayer for the readers of Hot Apple Cider?
My prayer is that you will see the love of God shining through all of our writings. His arms are open wide waiting for you to run into them. Don’t hesitate. The God who made you and sent His Son to save you, is waiting to heal your broken heart. Trust Him today.