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Lynda Archer: Keep On Writing... And Writing... And Writing

Humber School for Writers Program Director Antanas Sileika always says that writing is a marathon and not a sprint. Sometimes it takes a very long time to develop a manuscript, and determination is often the deciding factor. Lynda Archer, whose first book Tears in the Grass is coming out in March, is a perfect example of this principle.

The Humber Years: 

I can credit Humber's School for Writers for giving me a wonderful foundation from which to complete an MFA in Creative Writing, publish a few short stories, and now my debut novel. After a great summer workshop in 1999 with Nino Ricci, I went on to do two, year-long correspondence courses in 2000 and 2002, one with Sarah Sheard, the other with DM Thomas. Both were encouraging and insightful, and both wrote generous references that facilitated my acceptance into the MFA Writing Program at Spalding University in Kentucky.

A Persistent Character:

The main character in my debut novel, Tears in the Grass, is a feisty and wise 90-year-old Saskatchewan Cree woman. A residential school survivor, Elinor is desperate, before she dies, to find the child she bore in that school, a child taken from her within hours of her birth.

I started writing Tears in the Grass over ten years ago. Shortly after I completed the manuscript I was fortunate to secure a literary agent who, despite positive feedback from editors at several publishing houses, was not able to sell it. In that version of the book Elinor died half way through.

I put Elinor’s story aside, returned to some short stories and the novel I had begun with DM Thomas. A year passed, then Elinor came calling; she was not content to be left in a drawer. So we hooked up again. I made several changes to the manuscript, and was fortunate to have writers and non-writers read the manuscript in its entirety. The most significant change I made was to resurrect Elinor, and keep her around until the end of the book. While not the only reason, I believe a key reason I finished that book was because Elinor would not let me go.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Persistence. Persistence. Persistence. 
  2. Readers. Have others read your work, discerning readers who not only praise your work, but can challenge you to take another look and possibly do further revision. This has been invaluable to me. I can’t imagine writing without this kind of feedback. 
  3. Hold on to that character with the strongest voice, the deepest desire. Don’t kill her off half way through!

What’s next? I’m finishing the novel I started with DM Thomas. I still have the feedback he gave to me.

You can meet Elinor, and learn more about her journey, at Lynda's website,, and on her Facebook Author page at LyndaArcher . Lynda is also a Goodreads Author.

Lynda Archer

Lynda Archer, Tears in the Grass