© Diane Crocker
Marie Iams chats with author Joan Sullivan about her book “In the Field” at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. The book is about Iams’ great-uncle Stephen Norris.
CORNER BROOK — As two dozen people listened intently to Joan Sullivan read from her book “In the Field” on Monday, the story rang true for one of them.
The book tells the story of Stephen Norris, a young Newfoundland soldier from Three Arms Island in Notre Dame Bay who was lost in the First World War. Sitting in the audience listening to Sullivan read was Norris’ great-niece Marie Iams, of Pynn’s Brook.
“I was familiar with it,” said Iams of her great uncle’s experience in the war, following the reading in the foresty centre. “The First World War, was a topic in our family we spoke about a lot,” she said. “It’s been part of our family for as long as I remember.”
When asked about Sullivan’s depiction she said “she probably knows as much about it as I do.” That’s because much of the information used by Sullivan came from Iam’s cousin John Wheeler, the family’s historian.
Iams has had the book since it was first published by Breakwater Books in 2012.
“I found it really interesting,” she said, adding she was “thrilled” to find out that Sullivan would be visiting the city and reading from the book.
Sullivan describes the book as a work of creative non-fiction.
“The creative side, I think, comes in the way it’s assembled. And I think my own strength of it is in kind of getting out of its way,” she said of the way the story unfolded.
The book grew out of a newspaper article she wrote for The Globe and Mail about a group of students at Gonzaga High School in St. John’s who were doing a musical on Norris.
“And there was something so resonate about that story and something indicative of how much that conflict cost Newfoundland.”
She said she never forgot it and always thought it had legs to be something longer than a newspaper article.
Sullivan is also the managing editor of the Newfoundland Quarterly magazine and while in the city she’ll be spending time with some creative writing and theatre classes a Grenfell.
She’ll also be doing a reading at Swirsky’s on Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. and a book signing at Coles on Thursday evening.