Strug­gles and suc­cesses

Cor­ner Brook na­tive writ­ing about the strug­gles, suc­cesses of New­found­lan­ders af­ter the cod mora­to­rium

The Western Star - - FRONT PAGE - BY DIANE CROCKER [email protected]­ern­ Twit­ter: WS_DianeCrock­er

Cor­ner Brook na­tive Jen­nifer Thorn­hill Verma is writ­ing her first book, “Salt­wa­ter Cow­boys: What Hap­pened to New­found­lan­ders When the Cod Fish­ery Closed.”

Jen­nifer Thorn­hill Verma has lived in Ot­tawa for the last decade, but home to her is still New­found­land.

The Cor­ner Brook na­tive said New­found­lan­ders have a pas­sion for home that she doesn’t see in peo­ple that she meets from else­where. That pas­sion is what draws her home, to where her par­ents Pauline and Don Thorn­hill and sis­ter An­gelina Thorn­hill still live, as of­ten as pos­si­ble.

She’s ex­plor­ing a bit of that pas­sion, and the strug­gles and suc­cesses of New­found­lan­ders as she writes her first book, “Salt­wa­ter Cow­boys: What Hap­pened to New­found­lan­ders When the Cod Fish­ery Closed.”

Hal­i­fax-based Nim­bus Pub­lish­ing plans to re­lease the book in fall 2019.

“I wanted to write a book about the cod mora­to­rium that was about peo­ple first,” said Thorn­hill Verma. “It re­ally shares the strug­gles and suc­cesses of New­found­lan­ders, in­clud­ing my own fam­ily dur­ing and since that time.”

Once fin­ished the book will be a bit of a mem­oir, have sto­ries from other peo­ple, in­clude some his­tory and will touch on the re­vival in the fish­ery.

It’s about fam­i­lies who ei­ther left the fish­ery, or out­port New­found­land or both.

This sum­mer Thorn­hill Verma has trav­elled all over the prov­ince talk­ing to peo­ple and do­ing re­search for the book.

Her trav­els took her to the place where her fam­ily’s con­nec­tion with the fish­ery be­gan, Lit­tle Bay East on the Burin Penin­sula.

Her grand­fa­ther Regi­nald Thorn­hill was born in 1913 and started fish­ing a year af­ter the 1929 tsunami hit the penin­sula.

He fished from a dory on the Grand Banks and later worked on coastal ves­sels.

But the fam­ily fish­ing legacy goes back beyond him.

Thorn­hill Verma is writ­ing the book as she com­pletes a mas­ters in fine arts de­gree in cre­ative non-fic­tion through the Univer­sity of King’s Col­lege in Hal­i­fax.

She grad­u­ated from the univer­sity in 2002 with a de­gree in jour­nal­ism and later com­pleted a mas­ters of sci­ence de­gree in medicine at Me­mo­rial Univer­sity in St. John’s.

When she moved to Ot­tawa about 10 years ago she started work­ing for the not-for-profit Cana­dian Foun­da­tion for Health Care Im­prove­ment as a se­nior direc­tor in pro­gram­ming.

As her ca­reer grew and she and her hus­band, Ra­man Verma, a physi­cian in Ot­tawa, grew their fam­ily with the ad­di­tion of daugh­ter Navya Verma, writ­ing was al­ways some­thing she wanted to pur­sue more.

About two years ago she wrote a story about her grand­fa­ther that was pub­lished in Down­home Mag­a­zine.

It was that story that got her to think­ing about writ­ing the book.

But, even though she trained as a jour­nal­ist, Thorn­hill Verma didn’t think it was some­thing she could do with­out some guid­ance and men­tor­ship.

She’s found that in the cre­ative writ­ing pro­gram at King’s. She started the pro­gram last Au­gust when she was six and a half months preg­nant with Navya. Now nine months old, Navya is part of the rea­son she wanted to write the book.

She didn’t want to risk it be­ing lost and not be­ing able to share it.

She be­lieves the story is also for a lot more peo­ple, who want to learn about that his­tory.

The cre­ative writ­ing mas­ter pro­gram is set up such that par­tic­i­pants com­plete four res­i­den­cies, two at the univer­sity and one each in Toronto and New York. In be­tween the res­i­den­cies there are as­sign­ments to work on at home and Thorn­hill Verma also works with a men­tor, au­thor Ken McGoogan.

She won’t com­plete the pro­gram un­til May 2019, so to have al­ready have a deal to have the book pub­lished has Thorn­hill Verma feel­ing pretty good. She said she wanted to see it on a book­shelf one day, she didn’t en­vi­sion it hap­pen­ing so soon.


Cor­ner Brook na­tive Jen­nifer Thorn­hill Verma trav­elled to Lit­tle Bay East on the Burin Penin­sula to con­duct re­search for her up­com­ing book “Salt­wa­ter Cow­boys: What Hap­pened to New­found­lan­ders When the Cod Fish­ery Closed.” The house in the back­ground was once owned by her grand­fa­ther.

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