A first-time Oak Bay author shares her life adventures spanning nearly a century in a book originally intended for family.
Fay Pettapiece kept hearing and reading stories of tough upbringings in other countries. As someone who grew up in a variety of communities around B.C., she countered with stories of her own, reflecting on nearly a century of living in B.C.
“Basically I wrote it for my children and grandchildren,” Pettapiece said.
The Carlton House resident published The Years Between late last year, and expects it will be in the 2023 Emerging Local Author Collection at the Greater Victoria Public Library officially launching later this year.
Now 92, she started sharing her colourful life experiences about 15 years ago, writing bits for a writing group she belonged to.
She first started writing after university where she studied everything but writing.
“I felt I got a degree but didn’t get an education,” Pettapiece said.
The new author returned to storytelling more wholeheartedly later in life, joining a writing group at the Monterey Recreation Centre. A breakaway group formed where the writers shared work and critiqued each other’s pieces. That group dwindled as nature took its course.
But she still wanted to put together the bite-sized pieces of memoirs for her children and grandchildren and sought outside help. Both the editor and illustrator she sourced recommended publishing it wider than family, suggesting it fit the memoir, humour and history genres.
The longtime Oak Bay resident grew up and worked in various towns across the province, studied sciences at UBC and worked as a dietitian in Victoria.
“I have attempted to incorporate some of the fascinating historical details of the transitional years between the pioneer days of our ancestors in Western Canada and life as we know it in the 21st century. My life adventures are a reflection of the changes we have experienced in the years between,” she notes in the preface.
So far it’s a hit.
“I don’t know whether people are being kind,” Pettapiece said.
At about 250 pages, the book is broken into chapters that follow her life’s timeline, yet are consumable in any order, complete with a table of contents.
Stories include her childhood in an impoverished Vancouver, such as the cast of colourful characters that paraded through the “upstairs room” of the family home. Each character well-defined from her perspective at that age.
For example, Rena.
“She and her husband, Horace, were having marital problems and she wanted to leave him. He was a large, loud, belligerent man who smoked smelly cigars, and Rena came to stay in our upstairs room to get away from him.
Although Horace threatened my father many times, Dad, who was a very slim five-foot-seven, was not intimidated by anyone, large or small.”
Spoiler alert, though murder was threatened, no death occurred – at least in that story.
The Years Between: My Experiences in British Columbia Reflecting a Century of Change is available online at amazon.ca and at Ivy’s Bookshop in Oak Bay and Bolen Books in Victoria.