After years of patient planning, a St. Norbert family physician has self-published her first novel, Fast for My Feet.
Ann E. Loewen, 50, is a family and emergency doctor in Morris and lives down the street from where she grew up in St. Norbert. Loewen finished Fast for My Feet in early 2013, but started it while she was completing her mental residency over 20 years ago in Newfoundland.
"It’s actually been a long time coming," Loewen said. "I actually had the idea, jotted a chapter or two or three down, put it aside and periodically, over the years, new ideas would come to me. I think I saw the whole plot but life carried on in its busy way."
Loewen’s busy life included moving home to Winnipeg, having two daughters, and continuing to practise medicine in Morris.
"There were many times where I thought, well, don’t bother," Loewen said. "But writing is obsessive."
The ideas for the coming-of-age tale continued to come to Loewen. The novel is about a 15-year-old girl named Lena whose 19-year-old brother is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Through Lena feels driven away from her family due to the diagnosis, she must learn to cope with her brother’s illness while taking on the everyday challenges of being a teenager.
Loewen said the stereotypes surrounding schizophrenia are subtly addressed in the novel.
"I’m cautious about being too preachy or lesson-oriented, I didn’t want it to be like that," Loewen said. "I believe that good writing and good literature takes you to a place, and enlightens you, and makes you, the reader, someone that you weren’t necessarily before you read it."
To help train and hone her writing, Loewen took many courses in creative writing through the University of Regina, the Canadian Mennonite University, and Humber College in Toronto, Ont.
She said the courses, especially the one from Humber, were very constructive for her writing.
"Let’s just say you don’t do it to boost your self-esteem," Loewen laughed. "They are assuming you actually want to be a better writer so most of the feedback is actually negative in the sense that ‘This is what you need to do to get better,’ but you have to be ready to get that kind of feedback and work on it."
After the courses, reviewing the book over and over, she finally started to look into self-publishing in February last year. Now the book is available in ebook, hardcover and paperback forms. It can be found at McNally Robinson Booksellers, Shoppers Drug Mart on St. Anne’s Road, in Morris at the Valley Super Thrifty Pharmacy, as well as online through Amazon.ca, Chapters-Indigo, and Barnes & Noble.
Though it was a long time coming, Loewen said she learned a lot about her writing and herself. Her advice for new writers is to have a vision, believe in it, but be ready to modify it.
"Always strive for improvement," Loewen said. "It’s a little bit of a paradox. You can strive for excellence but don’t be so much of a perfectionist that you never get anywhere."