A member of Lambton Writers Association, Ann Towell is a talented author who belongs to several professional organizations.
Ann was co-finalist, with her husband, world-renowned photographer Larry Towell, for the Dorothea Lange/Paul Taylor Award for work on the Mennonites, a segment that appeared in the 1994 summer edition of Descant magazine.
Her first children’s novel, The Hollow Locust Trees, published by Black Moss Press in 1998, was followed in 2010 by Grease Town, published by Tundra Books.
Gloria: Was there a time, Ann, when you first knew you were a writer?
Ann: I dreamed about it when I was about ten but really forgot about it until I was in my 40s. Oh, sometimes I’d think about it but mostly life took over with the raising of children and working with my husband.
G: How do your previous work and/or life experiences influence your writing?
A: I have always been interested in social justice issues. When I was pregnant with my second child our little family went to the states to work in soup kitchens during the Reagan era. My husband, as a photojournalist, works on social issues and when I process his film and make work prints I am struck by the injustice around the world. My second book is based on a racial incident that occurred in Oil Springs in 1863. Some whites in the community burnt down the black settlement on Crooked Road.
G: What are the genres in which you write? Do you have a preferred one?
A: I write for children. I am working on some picture book ideas and a novel for children. I would like to extend my experience into the Y/A category. I have one PB manuscript with a publisher and am re-working a manuscript that was recently rejected. It’s a story about the Potato Famine in Ireland. I’m changing the narrative to first person.
G: Do you have a particular setting for your writing?
A: No I don’t, though I do like local history.
G: What kinds of books do you read?
A: I’m a chronic reader. I read all kinds of books… mystery, literary fiction, Y/A, children’s books, comic books and even non-fiction though I prefer fiction.
G: Do you wish to share anything about your personal life?
A: Not really.
G: Have you participated in writing contests?
A: One time I tried out for the CBC Canada Writes contest.
G: What works have you published to date?
A: The Hollow Locust Trees (Black Moss Press) and Grease Town (Tundra).
G: What are your thoughts on traditional vs indie publishing?
A: I should turn that question back to you since you have experience in both areas. Enlighten me. But I can mention here that The Writers’ Union of Canada is accepting self-published authors. The applicants must go through a peer review, though, in order to join. Some do not get past that process. It’s still about quality.
G: I didn’t know that about the Writers’ Union of Canada, Ann. Is there anything else you wish to elaborate on?
A: Writing is enjoyable but the writer must be willing to be patient to see their work in print. Recently I saw a meme on Facebook on the Lambton Writers’ Association page. There was a photo of a young man and underneath this photo were the words, “Manuscript Submitted”. Next to this photo was a picture of an elderly man with the words “Manuscript Accepted”. It is a long drawn out process. A writer must also be willing to face rejection more than once, or twice, or… a writer must persevere in order to get published.
It’s encouraging to be reminded that the road to publication is tedious for all writers even when it’s not the first time around. Continued success to you!