Author encourages writers to ‘write with intention’
Ruth E. Walker, an Oshawa-based author, welcomes a group of writers at an intimate gathering at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre with a powerful statement – that even she didn’t know she was a writer until the age of 40.
The event was organized by Haliburton Highlands Writers’ and Editors’ Network, and according to Walker, is “a broad brushstroke from inspiration through execution – ending with publication.”
Walker is no stranger to achieving publishing success with a manuscript. She is the author of Living Underground, a novel published by Seraphim Editions in 2012.
The dual-narrative story is centred around a woman who is reacquainted with a lover from her youth, amid accusations about his association with the Nazis. The book has since gone into its second printing, an unusual feat for a debut author with a small press.
“Whether you self-publish or whether you find an agent or you get a publisher there’s definitely agony involved in your work,” she says. “It took me 12 years to get published. Talk about agony.”
Many in the group are keen to explore their writing interests, which range from memoir writing, to poetry, to stories featuring animals. Regardless, Walker gives the same sage advice to each of them.
“Do you write with intention?” Walker asks. “When you write with intention, you’re a writer. A lot of people say they do it as a hobby or for my family – and that’s fine – but that’s your intention as a writer.”
Now, Walker’s second book, a science-fiction fantasy for young adults, is in the hands of a literary agent. She first started writing it at the Muskoka Novel Marathon – a fundraiser for literacy in the area – where it won best young adult novel manuscript.
She says her success in writing wasn’t without its challenges.
After dropping out of high school, she began working a professional job in human resources. It wasn’t until she tried to get back into the workforce after having a family that she realized it would be difficult without a university education. She decided it was time to go back to school and she signed up for a writing course at Trent University’s Durham campus.
It was there that a professor told Walker she had a strong narrative voice, and that’s when something clicked.
“That’s when I knew! It was insane – up until that point I liked to write but I had only just started,” she says.
In 1996, Walker submitted a short story to Canadian Living for their short story contest. The piece won first place, along with $1,000 and publication in the magazine.
As Walker became more involved in Durham’s writing community, people began telling her she should run writing workshops. She eventually started Writescape, a company specializing in writing workshops, retreats, and editing services. This year, Writescape is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Despite workshops that led Walker zigzagging across the province, Walker frequently finds herself back in Haliburton.
“My heart is getting more and more caught up with being here as a cottager,” she says.
Walker has also joined the Haliburton Highlands Arts Council. Thanks to a grant from the Haliburton County Development Corporation, Haliburton will have its own writer-in-residence this fall.
Walker says the council is looking for a writer who can best address the needs of writers in the area. She’s excited for the new writerly opportunities in Haliburton.
“I’m very proud of this stuff,” she says with a smile. “Very proud.”