Showcase: Positively Canadian
A personal approach to mastering English grammar, Canadian-style
Meet a proud Canuck who was inspired to pen an entertaining and effective guide to learning and perfecting English, Canadian-style!
Ihave loved reading from the day I “decoded” the squiggles on the page. Bedridden for a year at age eight, I discovered many book friends—the Anne and Rebecca series, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, to name a few. Winning an essay contest in elementary school, and while writing essays in high school and poetry in university, I never dreamed that 60 years later, I’d be writing my own book.
My father, a commercial traveller—a salesman for lumber mill machinery—was cleverly committed to rewarding good grades by taking me with him on trips around the Maritimes. Imagine how thrilled I was to walk through Anne of Green Gables’ house in Prince Edward Island. Most trips ended in Nova Scotia, where I spent the summers in Dartmouth taking day trips to clamber over the rocks at Peggy’s Cove. After a trip to Ottawa and Montreal, I desperately wished I could speak French. Little did I know that desire would be realized in Grade 12, thanks to a noon-hour French group with our memorable, exuberant teacher, Aurora Bourque. To this day, when I speak French, I see her expansive gestures urging on the proper pronunciation of Aller! Venir! Descendre! Monter!
A DREAM JOB
Realizing my dream of becoming a nurse at the University of New Brunswick preceded being married to my best friend, Gary. We quickly moved to SeptÎles, Que., where, working in the hospital there, my French was sorely tested. However, I was soon able to deliver les bébés and to speak with patients in passable French.
In 1971, Gary was hired by the Pacific Great Eastern Railway and we finally found Squamish, B.C., on a map. In Squamish, as compared to northern Quebec, at least we could speak more English. Imagine our chagrin when, after driving 3,471 miles, the first person to speak to us in Squamish said, “Pardonez moi, monsieur, mais est-ce que…?” Gary, with a wink, whispered to me, “I think I made a wrong turn!”
With a love for working in the community, and a dream to teach nursing, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Master’s degree in adult education in 1992. In 2002, because of my long-term community health experience, I was hired by the University of Victoria into my dream job—to teach in the third and fourth years of the bachelor of science in nursing program.
Being in the classroom with students, I noticed that holding their interest was paramount. In one class, discussing the beginnings of our health care system, interest was waning in a video showing how instrumental Tommy Douglas was when, as premier, he passed universal health care into law in
Saskatchewan. The class came alive when Kiefer Sutherland flashed onto the screen. Whoa! Who knew Kiefer was the grandson of Tommy Douglas? Then, the class listened with rapt attention.
The part of my job that I liked least—the hours of marking assignments—demonstrated that many student nurses had difficulty writing. I was surprised that they came to third-year university with such a poor level of grammar. Also, many of them, even though having been born in Canada, knew very little about their country. From that tidbit of insight, the idea to write something to help students hone their grammar skills—and to do it with all-canadian content—was born.
In a writing seminar I attended, we were told that if you want to write a book, you have to write about something which you are passionate. One of my passions was definitely “everything Canadian.” As my two children and six grandchildren will attest, my other passion was encouraging people to use proper English. With a template in mind, I held a few focus groups in ESL schools in Vancouver. Many students wanted to know “weird” things that even Canadians might not know. So, I included a chapter on weird Canadian words— such as what a hoodie is called in Saskatchewan— and a chapter on idioms, which are always difficult to learn. As my book idea began to take shape, I created a dream team, which included a friend and business coach who kept my feet to the fire, and an indispensable AAA group of Aspiring Artists and Authors, which met for ongoing mutual support and inspiration. From these involvements came the idea of using my friend Jane Crosby’s watercolour flowers in the book, which would help to make it unique, and I know writing errors were kept to a minimum because of the scrutiny of my AAA friends. Gary also rose to the challenge of checking revisions and finding pictures. My learning curve of understanding the publishing world was helped via the patience of Erin, my publishing coordinator. Taking more than four months to receive copyrights for my 64 selected pictures meant missing the 2016 publication date. However, I chose to see this not as an obstacle but as an opportunity to publish in 2017—and to dedicate my book to Canada’s 150th birthday. I look forward to future travel in Canada, especially to the only places I have not yet visited, Yukon and Nunavut. Bonne Fête,Fête Canada!
Heather’s book takes a friendly, informal look at Canadian history and cultural makeup from coast to coast, while offering readers ample opportunity to practice and improve their Englishlanguage skills.
Positively Canadian: A Fun Guide to Canadian Language, Culture and History by Heather Ann Pattullo is available on amazon.com. You can view more of Jane Crosby’s beautiful artwork at www.janecrosby.com.