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L.M. Montgomery’s original manuscript reveals P.E.I. author's creative process

Carolyn Strom Collins, left, signs a copy of her new book, "Anne of Green Gables: The Original Manuscript", during the launch event at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown on Aug. 1. Dressed as the book’s main characters, Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, are Nadia Milewski and Rilla Bruce.
Carolyn Strom Collins, left, signs a copy of her new book, Anne of Green Gables: The Original Manuscript, during the launch event at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown on Aug. 1. Dressed as the book’s main characters, Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, are Nadia Milewski and Rilla Bruce.
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

When Lucy Maud Montgomery sat down to start writing "Anne of Green Gables" in 1905, the P.E.I. author had to dip her pen in a bottle of ink every few lines, said author Carolyn Strom Collins.

“She worked in odd moments and perhaps late into the night,” said Strom Collins, also a scholar, from South Carolina. 

During her first draft, Montgomery would brainstorm revisions or new ideas to add in later. She’d jot down notes on whatever was nearby, like the backs of old letters and records.

“She didn’t want to waste any paper.”

Then, she’d add reference codes into the main manuscript, so she would know what needed to be added and where. 

One of Montgomery’s bigger changes to the story was the raspberry cordial scene – originally, it was much shorter. Another change was the name of Anne’s friend, who Montgomery first considered naming Laura or Gertrude before settling on Diana.    

By the time the book was published, her manuscript included over 500 notes, Collins said.

“Montgomery kept her manuscript with her all her life.”

Since the 1960s, it has been safely stowed at the Confederation Centre of the Arts (CCOA) in Charlottetown. Collins, having grown up on the Anne books when she was young, wanted her daughter to read it.

“I decided I would read it right along with her.”

Her daughter didn’t always understand the cultural differences between her and Anne’s time, so Collins started taking notes to help explain them. The more she delved into Montgomery’s work and life, the wider her interest grew.

“Before you know it you have a 30-year career.”

Collins has researched, edited and released many Anne-related books since. She launched her latest, "Anne of Green Gables: The Original Manuscript", during an event at CCOA on Aug. 1.

Collins’ book, published by Nimbus Publishing, is 348 pages long and has two columns on each page, one with Montgomery’s original manuscript, the other with her notes.

“What’s really fascinating about that is the little details that changed," said Emily MacKinnon, an editor with Nimbus.

Collins was excited when she got permission to take photos of Montgomery’s manuscript with her ipad. It took her several months to transcribe the text, which was not always easy.

“Her handwriting is quite challenging at times.”

This book will give fans of the series insight into Montgomery’s creative process, Collins said.
 

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