Regina Leader-Post

Author inspired by the prairie


I was born Elma Mary Martens. As a child I loved to hear coyotes howl on our family farm 19 kilometres east of Elbow.

I enjoyed riding on my father’s hay rack, taming half-wild cats in the barn, and attending our country Mennonite Church in a white dress made from my mother’s wedding gown. A trip to Outlook was a rare treat. Visiting Saskatoon or Regina was even more amazing.

My prairie childhood made a lasting impression on me. That’s why I set my 1940s-era novel Consider the Sunflowers in a similar Saskatchew­an location.

The main characters in the story, Tina Janz and Frank Warkentin, enter into a marriage that’s troubled from the beginning. She’s a transplant­ed Vancouveri­te who feels lonesome with nothing but open pastures and fields around her; just a few trees around the house would help. But Frank doesn’t want trees. They’d make him feel trapped. He needs to be able to see the whole sky, uncluttere­d.

That’s just one example of what Tina and Frank argue about. She wants to attend the local Mennonite church and socialize with Mennonites. He shuns Mennonites because some of them scorn his mixed parentage, which is Russian, Mennonite and Gypsy. He prefers to socialize with his Scandinavi­an and British friends, who “don’t carry all that Russian baggage.”

Tina and Frank’s relationsh­ip-deteriorat­es as the story progresses. He resents the fact that she neglects her daily chores to paint pictures. She begrudges the time he spends with his Norwegian bachelor buddies. When she tries to convert him to her Christian faith, he says she should accept him as he is, not try to change him.

The birth of Tina and Frank’s son draws them closer together. Then the infant’s death from a blood ailment drives them apart again. Frank, mourning his lost son and discourage­d about his marriage, escapes to work in a copper mine in Montana. In his absence, Tina rediscover­s feelings for a former Vancouver boyfriend.

Is there any hope for Tina and Frank’s relationsh­ip? You’ll need to read my book to find out!

Consider the Sunflowers is $19.95 and in paperback; publisher Borealis Press of Ottawa; ISBN 978-088887-575-4; order it through a bookstore or library. You can also order online from Chapters,, or Borealis Press, www.borealispr­

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Elma Schemenaue­r

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