The same article slightly longer : April newsletter: Article submitted by Leslie Corbay, Manitoba Public Library Accessibility Consultant, Manitoba Public Services Branch
How do you tell a family’s story? How to write, publish, and share it with your family, or anyone else for that matter? Such was the dilemma, and the beginning of a 12 year journey for Oriole Veldhuis, author of For Elise: Unveiling the Forgotten Woman on the Criddle Homestead.
For Elise, tells the story of Elise Vane, as Oriole affectionately points out, be sure to pronounce the second “e” in Elise; there are no silent vowels in German, the longtime servant and one time mistress of Percy Criddle. Criddle was an the eccentric early homesteader who arrived to settle a farm outside of Brandon near what is now the Canadian Forces Base, Shilo. For Oriole, writing the story has been a life-long journey,
first promising her father in 1977 to write it. In retirement, Oriole was finally able to sit down and keep her promise, tackling the project with an amazing sense of humour and
adventure. Oriole began the project with a letter-writing campaign to possible relatives
in Germany. Oriole struck genealogy gold when she found long lost relatives that had
no idea that they had family in Canada. During three trips to Germany, Oriole was able
to learn more about her family history and to have letters translated. The translated letters would prove critical for shaping the story, and understanding the relationship
between Elise and her family.
Throughout the project libraries played an important role in helping her complete her research, write the many drafts necessary to develop the narrative, and eventually self publish. Western Manitoba Regional Library, with its oral history collection and collection of early newspapers played an important role in helping her piece together the
otherwise invisible life of Elise Vane. Since Percy and Elise’s early life took place in
England, interlibrary loan also played an important part in helping her piece together a part of their life that was otherwise inaccessible from Southern Manitoba.
The Writer in Residence Program at Winnipeg Public Library, helped to drive her creativity with the ongoing feedback received through the writing process. After completing early drafts, Oriole shared it with Doug Whiteway and Maurice Mierau two Winnipeg Public Library writers in residence while drafting the book. Mierau worked closely with Oriole to establish what publishers expect. With the help of Mierau, Oriole
learned that self-publishing was the route she wanted to take. In addition to understanding how to get her tome published, there was the work of deciding what kind
of novel it would be. After deciding it was not a Romance, and not entirely Horror nor History, she decided upon Creative Non-Fiction (with a genealogical twist).
It takes a community to self-publish a work as detailed and well-researched as For Elise. To make sure every aspect of the novel was true to its subject matter, Oriole
was sure to elicit the feedback of experts in the field including: a social worker, an
agriculturalist, an ordained minister, and a naturalist, as well as family members for
names, dates, and spellings. Her husband and a friend also played an important role in
the editing process as she re-wrote the novel countless times to get it just right for her
family members, and out of respect for Elise.
The success of the book is in many ways a product of the professionalism with which it was produced, having been edited by a professional copy editor and having the cover designed by a graphic designer. The cover features a water-colour painted by Elise Vane herself, and is framed by the cover of a book of poetry book she owned. An ISBN number was obtained and Friesens worked closely with Oriole on the printing of completed work. As for the printing itself, “It was a most exciting event to see the pages glide past our eyes after 12 years of slow and painstaking labour,” writes Oriole in an email interview after an authors’ reading at Western Manitoba Regional Library.
Oriole is enjoying the book’s success, now in its third printing, as she shares Elise’s story at author readings across the province. Her presentation is filled with humor as she recounts the tragic tale of Elise’s exploitation in rural Manitoba. She shares anecdotes about the process of researching one’s genealogy, as well as actually writing the book – all 512 pages with photographs, contemporaneous advertisements and copies of letters written between Elise and her family in Austria. For Elise is perfect for any Manitoba library looking to add a piece of women’s pioneer history to their collection.