By Chadd Cawson
There will be a free genealogy writing workshop, led by journalist and three-time author Vanessa Farnsworth, to learn how to shape and write the stories of your own family tree on Apr. 9 at the Radium Hot Springs Public Library. Farnsworth will be combining her love of genealogy and writing as she leads the workshop, which will start at 10:15 a.m.
This will be her second out of a five-workshop series, beginning at the Sparwood Public Library on Apr. 5 and finishing on May 4 at the Okanagan Regional Library in Revelstoke. She will also be making stops at the public libraries in Nakusp and Golden on April 13 and 21 respectively. All workshops, except the one in Radium, will be offered in the evening at 6 or 7 p.m. depending on the location.
Farnsworth first applied for funding for these workshops back in 2019. “Just before I was approved, the pandemic struck,” she said. “We were scheduled to have this same event back in October. Everything was arranged, publicity was being done, then the public health orders came in making it impossible to go forward.” It is Farnsworth’s third attempt at executing this series of workshops because of public health restrictions that were initiated due to COVID. This will also be the first live-in-person workshop for the Radium Hot Springs Public Library since the start of the pandemic. “We’re thrilled! We’re really excited to have Vanessa come,” said Library Director Jaqueline Kozak. “We’ve had to reschedule it a few times due to COVID, so we’re just excited to be able to offer this to our patrons.”
Farnsworth, both a fiction and non-fiction writer since the early 90s has noticed that a huge number of people, not just in the Kootenays, but across Canada are doing a lot of research into genealogy. She describes her workshop as more of a writing workshop based on genealogy information.
She also shares that people who are doing the research are fascinated by everything, but the challenge lies in having others find interest in your family’s history and stories. “The idea behind this workshop is that you can get people interested in it, if you tell the stories in a way that the stories need to be told,” says Farnsworth. “What I’m going to be teaching at this workshop is the techniques that writers use to tell their stories to a wider audience.”
Farnsworth has been fascinated with genealogy since the mid 1990s when her grandmother told her tales of a murder that happened in her own family lineage back in 1877 on Manitoulin Island, Northern Ontario. “At that point I became very interested in my family history for obvious reasons,” said Farnsworth. “Something that extraordinary happens, and you start to wonder who these people were and how they relate to you. How many generations does it go back? By starting all the research you learn fascinating things.”
Since Library Director Jaqueline Kozak has been involved with the Radium Hot Springs Public Library, she shares that this is the first author, and workshop to cover genealogy. “It’s a new area that we get to explore, and it’s very exciting,” said Kozak. Through the exploration of her own family tree, Farnsworth went through various documents and archives relating to the1877 murder on Manitoulin Island to create her latest historical novel The Haweaters.
“It was a story basically handed down through my family, this murder story that took place on Manitoulin Island is extremely well known, it’s just not well known off of the island,” said Farnsworth. “I felt it was a story that deserved to have some attention paid to it.” Farnsworth wrote The Haweaters as a historical fictional novel because even with going through all the family history, and every article, and document she could find related to that 1877 murder, no matter how she spun it, parts of the story would have to be made up to fill in the gaps.
“Having a background in journalism, as soon as I start making up parts of a story, I’m not going to call it non-fiction anymore,” said Farnsworth. Farnsworth’s third novel “The Haweaters” has been short-listed for the 2021 Fred Kerner Award which is awarded annually to Canadians who had the best overall book published the previous calendar year. “I was absolutely thrilled when I heard that, that was wonderful,” shared Farnsworth. “Success for this book for me, was to just tell the story in the most compelling way possible. You don’t think about awards when you’re writing, what you think about is the audience, and how they are going to enjoy the book.”
If you want to find success in your own writing and shaping the stories of your own family history. You can learn more about this free genealogy writing workshop offered in different areas of the Kootenays with journalist, and author Vanessa Farnsworth at https://www.vanessafarnsworth.com/events.