MELFORT— Vera Pezer read excerpts to a full library from her newly published book The Little Community That Could, the story of her own hometown, Meskanaw.
“It’s the history of the community where I was raised,” Pezer said. “I talk about how the community has started and the early people that settled there, who were primarily English.”
Then when Saskatchewan opened up to settlement from more European countries, there was a wave of Ukrainians, Hungarians and French coming to the town.
When the Great Depression hit, even more people settled in the area, which had better conditions than other parts of the province.
“We ended up with a settlement there and it led to things like churches – the church was the first form of people getting together.”
Pezer said along with churches were mixed farming, stores, restaurants and pubs.
“Then the railroad came through, we got elevators,” she said. “It became easier to move grain and livestock and so on. So the town just grows and became really successful.”
That then leads to schools, halls, recreation and sports.
“All of that just grew as a result of that settlement.”
The crowd was at the Melfort Public Library on May 2, with more than 40 people.
Lori Hrynkiw, the assistant librarian, said it was the largest author reading the library has ever had.
“We knew that because there was a local author that we expected at least 30 people, but we were very surprised by the amount,” Hrynkiw said. “So we’re just really happy everyone showed up.”
The book was published a month before, on April 1.
For research in writing the piece, Pezer said she used existing history books and interviews with local residents.
“When I talked to people I would put my thoughts about what they had said and then I would have them look at it and say, ‘Am I accurate?’” she said. “You got to make sure you’ve reflected accurately what people are telling you. And so that’s how I would do that.”
The Little Community That Could is Pezer’s third book, with her writing career beginning after retirement when she found she had spare time. Her previous job was as a physiologist.
The first book she wrote was history of curling on the prairies, and then her second was on the physiology of curling.
“I had a university professor tell us, ‘If you’re ever going to write, write about what you know’. So I’ve written about sports I know, I’ve written about the community I know. I followed his advice.”
Pezer decided to tell this story based off the influence Meskanaw had on her growing up.
“I felt the community was a very strong influence on me, so this is my way of thanking and paying back the community.”
She said she has to have a topic that interests her to write about it because otherwise her heart isn’t in it.
“My favorite part of the community of Meskanaw was the chance to have a really fun life there growing up.”
She recommends aspiring writers should find something they’re passionate about, like she did.
“I’ve written a lot of things I’m not passionate about,” Pezer said. “When I was at the university I had to write a lot of reports and so on. I don’t feel very passionate about those. They’re harder. Find something that you’re passionate about then go with it. Lay out a plan and go with it.”
Her advice to the broader community is that if they don’t know about Meskanaw, find out about it, as well as cherish all of the province’s smaller communities.
“They should cherish their small communities, because they’re wonderful places.”