Witers’ Forum: Why Do I Write?

Judi Merle lives in Switzerville. She is a writer, editor and genealogist. Judi has written Wabanang an Anishinaabe Granddaughters Search for the Truth. Her new book Whispered Secrets That kokum Told Me will be released September 2024. 

Why do I write?

I grew up during an era when everyone wrote something. It might have been a letter to a friend, a birthday card to a grandchild, a quatrain in an autograph book or a late-night entry in a private diary which locked with a tiny silver key.

So it was natural for me to write stories about our ancestors, little-known quirks like how their great-grandmother wore a ring on her little finger, things no living person would remember, but they were important to me.

As a genealogist, I have spent hours digging through dusty library shelves, roles of microfilm and quiet country graveyards, uncovering our family history, unearthing more stories. What was the purpose for this file cabinet of dry facts and photocopied maps? In 2019 I joined a writing class. Ms. Baxter, a retired English teacher, asked us to write a paragraph about anything that came to mind. The following week when Ms. Baxter informed us that we would take that paragraph and create a novel. My first thought: not going to happen, don’t have time, don’t want to …. but being a diligent student, I worked on the assignment when I had a spare minute.  Eventually, I arrived at 30,000 words. Assignment complete.

Not quite. That’s when I found out that a novel needs to be 70-75,000 words. That’s when that filing cabinet full of dusty papers found a purpose.  I wrote about a young girl searching for her family roots, digging into the past that no one wanted to talk about and discovering her own place in the world. I incorporated the research about my ancestors, family stories, dreams and nightmares of my own making. I wrote about snowy winter days and bright summer sunshine, joyful reunions and bitter disappointments. I named this novel ‘Wabanang, A Granddaughter’s Search’.

Why do I write? What began as a challenge has become an obsession. With the support and encouragement of the Napanee Writers’ Forum, I have completed my second manuscript, ‘Whispered Secrets’, almost finished the third and thinking about the next one. Stories that entertain, make you think, teach you something you might not have considered. And perhaps, challenge you to write your own story.

Judii Merle

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