Writing conversation: writing ‘little history’ ….

Start writing – whatever comes to mind. Don’t plan and stifle yourself (not yet, anyway!). This will probably not be at all what you find on your finished page. It will help to clear your mind, sort out your thoughts and find your own rhythm. Writing helps to clarify your thinking. What you see on the page at first will not necessarily be at all what your final result will be.
This will be fun. You will work hard and probably laugh a lot, and you will feel lighter in spirit – trust me !
Catharine McKenty

Writing “little history”….

For over 30 years I have been a teacher and principal in Ontario. I am also Neil’s nephew and from an early admired the ease with which he was able to put words together both on paper and in conversation.  For me the process of writing has more to do, as they say, with perspiration rather than inspiration.

Although since my retirement from education I’ve produced three books, I still don’t actually consider myself to actually be a writer. I see myself as more of a collector. It’s something I’ve been for most of my life, collecting everything from old metal signs to old tin toys.

These days I collect bits and pieces of what I call “little history” – glimpses of the past as found in the everyday lives of ordinary people – service station operators, hardware store owners, factory workers and mailmen. It’s not the stuff of which legends are made, but, I believe, it’s the stuff of which history is made – www.wheelsgonebye.com

As I collect these bits and pieces of the past, rather than put them in a shoe-box, I put them in my computer. It’s a wonderful place to store things, because I can add things, move things, arrange things and so on. When I look at what I’ve put there, I eventually ask myself if there’s a thread that ties them all together. If not, then what I have is a series of reminiscences, a series of vignettes. And that’s OK. But for me it’s not a book.

If I find among the memories I’ve collected that there is a connecting link, that there is a story to be told, then I begin to put them together piece by piece, bit by bit. In the beginning I do not think of it in terms of a book, but rather in terms of chapters which I build paragraph by paragraph. In the end I endeavour to ensure that the whole thing has cohesiveness to it. That it all goes together. If there’s anything that doesn’t fit, I move it or simply take it out.

It’s amazing how quickly this process turns into a book. A few years ago, I was doing research on the brothers who operated the hardware store in my hometown. As I did, I kept coming across old ads for CCM bikes, skates and hockey equipment. Before long I had gathered enough information and illustrations to produce a history of the company entitled Canada Cycle & Motor: The CCM Story.


Nowadays I do a number of presentations on CCM and maintain an active website on the same topic at www.vintageccm.com.

Maclean’s Magazine August 3, 2012

Upcoming presentations on CCM:

Apr. 11  Heritage Mississauga                                     7:00 p.m.             Mississauga Central Library

Apr. 16  Peterborough Historical Society                7:00 p.m.             Peterborough Public Library

Apr. 20 Innisfil Historical Society                                2:00 p.m.             Knock School Heritage Site

Apr. 24 North Toronto Historical Society                7:30 p.m.             Northern District Library

Apr. 28 Prince Edward County H. S.                          2:00 p.m.             Wellington Library

May 2   North Grenville District Library                    1:30 p.m.             Kemptville

May 9    Beckwith Historical Society                          7:00 p.m.             Carleton Place Public Library

May 23 Uxbridge Historical Society                           7:00 p.m.             Uxbridge Historical Centre

Sep. 21 Word on the Street Festival                        9:00 a.m.              Kitchener

Sep. 24 Waterloo Historical Society                          7:00 p.m.             Waterloo

Oct. 16 Oakville Historical Society                              7:30 p.m.            St. John’s United Church

Oct. 25 Historical Society of Ottawa                          1:00 p.m.             Routhier Community Centre

1 Comment »

  1. 1
    Stéphanie Pagano Says:

    Wow !! Another McKenty bestseller !! If three books doesn’t make you a author what does !! I am impressed. Even if you collected lots of info the fact that you are creating something news with them makes it special and creative. A new way of looking at thing and making it interesting and inspiring !!

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