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Bridgewater septuagenarian Martin releases debut novel

Bridgewater author Annette Martin never intended to publish a book — she just wanted to write.

“I don’t enjoy travelling, as many retired people do. I have a flying phobia,” explains Martin. “So I had to fill my time with something I did enjoy.”

She retired from Bridgewater High School more than 20 years ago, where she’d worked as their guidance counsellor since moving to Nova Scotia in 1977. Martin says she’d always loved to write, and retirement gave her the time to actually work on her craft.

“I just started having some ideas and would work away at them here and there, but I didn’t start working intensely on the story until five or six years ago,” says Martin.

The idea for her novel, The Alder Bed, came from Martin’s tiny hometown of New Perlican, N.L. — “No one’s ever heard of it,” she chuckles — where history is taken very seriously. Growing up, Martin was fascinated by the First World War and wore forget-me-nots every July 1 to pay tribute to the 700+ Newfoundlanders killed or wounded at Beaumont-Hamel.

She was inspired to write about the difficulty man men had settling back into life after the war, and the ripple effect of emotional damage through the years. She summarizes The Alder Bed as “a complex story of loss and heartache” that demonstrates the fortitude of three generations of women “living harsh lives with men either literally absent or emotionally bankrupt.”

The book tells the stories of five characters over nearly 50 years, from 1914 through 1962. Martin says she loved writing about the ’60s since it was a special time in her life, and she did a lot of research to be able to describe life in the ’20s and ’30s. Some days, she’d write for as long as five hours.

She self-published with B.C. company FriesenPress, which included hiring editors to pare her 500-page book down to its final 288 pages. Martin says she chose the pay-to-publish route because she wasn’t known in the publishing industry, and adds that it was helpful to have professionals helping her every step of the way.

After years of work, The Alder Bed was finally ready for release at the end of October, and Martin is selling copies herself. They’re also available for sale at Coles in Bridgewater Mall and A Novel Idea in Mahone Bay. Her sister and two brothers back home in Newfoundland are helping to sell copies there.

“It was sort of funny to hold it in my hands and think, ‘Well now, here it is,’” says Martin. “A book is so permanent. Almost every day, I think of a part I would like to change or expand on, but you just have to let that go.”

Martin says she’s well-known throughout Bridgewater because many of her former students are in their 40s and 50s — and often their parents still remember her, as well. She’s hoping they decide to buy her book, even just out of curiosity.

“I think my former students might be wondering what on earth I would write about,” says Martin. “They might be thinking ‘What does she have to say?’”

She isn’t sure whether or not she’s got another novel in her, but she admits to feeling “a little antsy” and says anything’s possible.

“The right idea would have to come to me -- something I was interested in exploring,” says Martin. “Of course, I’m in my 70s now, so I would hope that if an idea is going to come, it’s going to come soon!”

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