By Jenn Watt
Published Feb. 15 2018
The idea for Marie Gage’s first children’s book came from watching her grandchild Blake and his love of monkeys.
After retiring in 2009 the Minden Hills resident decided she’d like to focus on developing as a creative writer and over the years has been working on her craft with local writers’ groups.
During Christmas of 2016 the idea for her first book came to her: “why wouldn’t I write a special story for each of the grandchildren making it not just about that child but something all children would enjoy.”
Her book now in print is called Blake’s Monkey Adventure.
“He’s a very observant child that really likes to figure things out and so at the end of the book he kind of figures out something that his parents are surprised by” Gage says.
The book is based on her five-year-old grandson but its themes are universal.
“The benefit of being patient is a little bit of an underlying theme. The need to keep your promises is talked about in the book. There are underlying lessons for the kids. It allows them to use their imagination a bit” she says.
Gage’s intention is to write a book about each of her grandkids. She has the second book complete a story about her grandson Luke who is turning four.
On Christmas Eve she presented copies of the books and stuffed animals to the kids before anyone else had seen them. It was a special moment but one that was hard to keep under wraps.
“I called it the worst-kept secret in Haliburton County” Gage says.
“I didn’t want my adult children … and grandchildren to know but because I was sharing my story with my writing group … soon it became a bigger and bigger circle who knew about the Christmas surprise.”
Gage is an active member of the Reading-Writing Connection and the Algonquin Highlands Writers’ Circle and says she finds the support those groups provide essential to developing as a writer.
“If you don’t write you don’t learn how to write” she says. “It gives you a group to read a story to so you can figure out what changes need to be made.”
In her professional life as an occupational therapist Gage wrote academic works but that style of writing wasn’t suiting her desire to be more creative.
“I always thought I didn’t have an imagination. I just dealt with facts all the time. I’ve learned the imagination comes from reality” she says.
The first line of the book came to her one day.
“That first line ‘Blake was bored’ kept playing like a broken record in my head until some of the other pieces started to fall into place. Then I’d start writing and the next piece would fall into place” she says.
Once the story was complete she asked her sister Audrey Ramsay to do the illustrations and the design work was done by Linda Middleton.
Marie Gage and her husband Don moved to the Highlands from London Ont. in 1996 after buying Willow Beach Cottages. The couple also ran Made In Haliburton the online art store for a few years.
Gage says the arts community has been a big support for her in pursuing a new avenue in life.
“It’s interesting to stretch your competencies in retirement and strive for something that is different from what you’ve always done” she says. “There’s a very supportive community of writers here.”
Buying locally written books helps the area’s economy she points out.
“Buying from a local author supports the local community in much the same way as the ‘shop local’ campaigns work to help the local economy thrive” Gage wrote in an email following her interview.
Blake’s Monkey Adventure is $12 and is available at Master’s Bookstore in Haliburton and V&S in Minden. You can also purchase copies online by visiting the “Author Marie Gage” page on Facebook and clicking the “buy now” button.
There will be a book launch at the Haliburton Highlands Museum on Saturday March 10 from 2 to 4 p.m. You can buy a book have it signed and enjoy a reading at 3 p.m.