I’m just home from a trip to Newfoundland. I’ve long wanted to visit Canada’s most easterly province. At one time I naively thought I could “do” the Maritimes all in one sweep. Once I got my geography straight, I realized that our oldest settlement (St. John’s, 1583) and newest province warranted a trip all by itself. For the purists among you, Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, as Canada’s tenth province. Nunavut, created in 1999 is a territory.
The island is nicknamed “The Rock,” and I certainly learned why during our 3000 km journey. Rocks and trees and lakes, for miles and miles and miles, although in NL they use the word pond. Only a couple of very large inland bodies of water got the lake designation. Oddly, once I’d adjusted my West Coast expectations, the landscape began to feel familiar. I grew up on the Canadian Shield in Northern Ontario, so Precambrian rock and glaciations are home turf for me. I felt at ease in this wilderness.
We journeyed to L’Anse aux Meadows, away at the northern most tip of the island, to see the remains of the Viking village that was established there five hundred years before Columbus “sailed the ocean blue.” Here we learned that some vegetation like Lingonberries (Partridge berries in Newfoundland vernacular) were also found in Norway. The area also contains bog iron, a necessary ingredient for forging, and a staple in the Norse culture. Those adventurous seafarers chose to build a village in a place that reminded them of home.
One of the most striking features of Newfoundland culture, is the people’s attachment to their homeland. Economic hard times have meant droves of Newfoundlanders have had to leave home in search of work, but no matter where they find themselves in the world, their deep desire is to return to “the Rock.”
For myself, I enjoyed my explorations, but I felt a lift of the heart when I started for home. I craved the comfort and ease and familiarity of my own place and my own things and my own people.
As writers, we can use that longing for home to give our readers an uplifting journey that, takes them to new places, excites them, frightens them, teaches them, and eventually brings them home with a smile. We can instil that sense of familiarity and safety with the author’s voice, the type of story, and the core truth of our tales.
When a reader picks up a book by Alice Valdal, she has certain expectations. It’s my job to make sure those expectations are met. When the same reader delves into a novel by Cora Seton, the expectations are different, and Ms Seton must work hard to satisfy her reader, too.
Readers love to venture into new places, new situations, different times, but, I believe, they want to come home safely at the end. That desire is a powerful tool for the writer. Use it wisely, make your readers happy, and watch your sales grow.