Holeman, Linda 1949-
Holeman, Linda 1949-
PERSONAL: Born Linda Freeman, December 24, 1949, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; children: Zalie, Brenna, Kitt. Education: University of Winnipeg, B.A. (sociology and psychology), 1972; University of Manitoba, B.Ed., 1975, M.Ed., 1982. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, traveling, gardening, cycling.
CAREER: Novelist and short story writer. Frontier School Division, South Indian Lake, Manitoba, Canada, classroom and resource teacher, 1974-76; Ryerson School, Fort Garry School Division, Winnipeg, Manitoba, classroom and resource teacher, 1977-84; Continuing Education Division, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, creative writing instructor, beginning 1996; Winnipeg Public Library, Winnipeg, Manitoba, writer-in-residence, 1999-2000. Conducts courses, workshops, and seminars on writing.
MEMBER: Canadian Children’s Book Centre, Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators, and Performers (CANSCAIP), Writers’ Union of Canada, Manitoba Writers’ Guild, International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY).
AWARDS, HONORS: Winner, Canadian Living Annual Writing Competition, 1991, for “Sweet Bird of Youth”; winner, Winnipeg Free Press/Canadian Authors Association Annual Nonfiction Contest, 1993, for “On the Road Again”; winner, Thistledown Press Second National Young Adult Short Story Competition, 1995, for “How to Tell Renata”; “Our Choic” Award, Canadian Children’s Book Centre, 1995-96, for Saying Good-bye; “Our Choice” Award, Canadian Children’s Book Centre, 1997-98, Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, 1998, and Young Adult Canadian Ho-nour Book Award, Canadian Library Association, 1998, all for Promise Song; Vicky Metcalf Short Story Editor Award, Canadian Authors Association, 1999; Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, 1999, for Mercy’s Birds; “Our Choice” Award, Canadian Children’s Book Centre, 2000-01, McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award, 2001, Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, 2002, Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Honour Book, 2002, and Best One Hundred Books for Children’s and Teens selection, Toronto Public Library, 2003, all for Raspberry House Blues; Larry Turner Award for Nonfiction, Valley Writers Guild, 2001; winner, Poetry in Motion 2002, Manitoba Writers’ Guild; McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award, 2003, Young Adult Canadian Honour Book Award, Canadian Library Association, 2003, and Top Ten Books for Teens selection, Calgary Public Library, all for Search of the Moon King’s Daughter; McNally Robinson Book of the Year nomination and Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction nomination, both 2007, both for The Moonlit Cage.
Flying to Yellow (stories), Turnstone Press (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), 1996.
Devil’s Darning Needle (stories), Porcupine’s Quill (Erin, Ontario, Canada), 1999.
The Linnet Bird (novel), Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2005.
The Moonlit Cage (novel), Three Rivers Press (New York, NY), 2006.
FOR YOUNG ADULTS
Saying Good-bye (stories), Lester Publishing (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995, published as Toxic Love, (stories), Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
Frankie on the Run (chapter book), illustrated by Heather Collins, Boardwalk Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.
Promise Song (novel), Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997.
Mercy’s Birds (novel), Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
Raspberry House Blues (novel), Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
Search of the Moon King’s Daughter (novel), Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
Also author of short stories for adults and young adults, poems, and articles that have appeared in newspapers, magazines, journals, and anthologies, including The Blue Jean Collection, Thistledown Press, 1992; Success Stories for the 90’s, Institute of Children’s Literature, 1994; Notes across the Aisle, Thistledown Press, 1995; Journey Prize Anthology 8, 1996; Due West, Turnstone Press, 1996; Winds through Time, Beach Holme Press, 1998; Sight Lines, Prentice Hall, 1999; Close Ups, Red Deer Press, 2000; and Girls Own, Penguin, 2001. Contributor to Canadian Materials, 1989-94.
SIDELIGHTS: Linda Holeman is the author of award-winning novels and short stories for adults and adolescents, including Saying Good-bye and The Moonlit Cage. “I’m always looking for a way to find the vital connection between inarticulate feelings and the written word,” Holeman noted on her Web site.
When she was growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, reading and books were Holeman’s world. She kept a diary and scribbled stories and story ideas in journals and scrapbooks, and a story she wrote in the fifth grade was selected for broadcast on CBC Radio’s Story Broadcast Journal. Still, as much as she thought about becoming a writer, Holeman never really believed she could do it. “As a young reader, I dreamed of being a writer in England,” she told Dave Jenkinson in Resource Links, “because I didn’t really think there were any Canadian writers, let alone writers in Winnipeg.” As a result, Holeman pushed her dream to the back of her mind and became a teacher.
When her second daughter was born in 1984, Holeman left teaching to stay home with her children and her thoughts turned to writing again. But five years passed before she woke up one morning and declared that she would start writing in earnest. Keeping her word to herself, she turned out her first manuscript, a seven-hundred-page historical novel for adults that involved a great deal of research. Though Holeman has never tried to have this book published, she believes that writing it was an important exercise. It introduced her to the craft of writing and helped her realize that she needed to learn more.
In 1990, Holeman enrolled in a weekend workshop in writing for children at the University of Manitoba. The piece she took with her to the workshop eventually became “Starlight, Star Bright,” the first story in Saying Good-bye, her collection for young adults. Holeman and some of the other women she had met at the workshop formed a writing group, which forced her to continue turning out work. Her first taste of success came when she submitted “Sweet Bird of Youth” to Canadian Living magazine’s annual writing contest. She has said she will never forget the wonderful feeling that washed over her when she found out she had won. A year later, “Saying Good-bye” was the runner-up in a young adult short story competition sponsored by Thistledown Press.
In 1992 Holeman selected three of her stories and sent them to publishers. Lester Publishing was the first to show interest, and eventually published a collection for young adults titled Saying Good-bye. “Each story focuses on a critical time in the life of a young person,” according to an essayist for the St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers. Reviewing the collection in the Toronto Globe & Mail, Elizabeth MacCallum wrote: “At her best, [Holeman] creates characters so familiar that it’s almost impossible not to place yourself right in the story. This is a writer who can weave such a spell that a dilemma can become your dilemma and your gut tightens with the stress.” The volume was re-released in 2003 as Toxic Love. The tales “collectively offer a kind of lament for the human condition,” Margaret Mackey remarked in Resource Links, and Kliatt reviewer Lynne Remick stated: “Holeman delivers her stories with a hard, resounding punch that will not soon be forgotten.”
Buoyed by her early success and the praise garnered by her first collection, Holeman gained the confidence to start thinking of herself as a writer. Her next book, Frankie on the Run, was a chapter book for young readers. Based on a true story about a hog named Francis who had escaped from a slaughterhouse and was living wild in Red Deer, Alberta, the book started as a story for Holeman’s younger daughter, Brenna. Eager to find out what happened to Frankie, Brenna encouraged her mom to finish the story. A Quill & Quire critic called the work a “straightforward and entertaining story… with a comfortably happy ending.”
At about the same time, Holeman enrolled in the mentor program sponsored by the Manitoba Writers’ Guild and found a way to express her adult voice. The result was Flying to Yellow, a collection of fourteen short stories for adults. Though intended for an older audience than the stories in Saying Good-bye, Flying to Yellow explores many of the same themes—family, relationships, love, loss, and change—and received similar critical praise.
After focusing on short stories, Holeman was inspired to write her first novel for young adults when she came across a reference to home boys in Annie Proulx’s prizewinning tale The Shipping News. Intrigued, she started digging into the story and discovered that from 1868 to 1925, orphanages in Britain sent abandoned children to Canada to provide farmers with cheap labor. Though the idea behind the scheme was to improve the lot of these orphans, many of them were shamefully mistreated in their new homes. The research sparked Holeman’s imagination, and the result was Promise Song, the story of fourteen-year-old Rosetta Westley, who is separated from her six-year-old sister, Flora, and sent to work for a mean-spirited farmer. “While Rosetta’s concern about her promise to Flora remains before readers,” the essayist for the St. James Guide to Young Adults Writers explained, “the plot really revolves about the happenings at the Thomas farm as Rosetta gradually uncovers the sources of the couple’s seemingly loveless relationship.” As the story unfolds, readers learn the heartbreaking story of the farmer’s wife, Gudrun. She was given to Thomas when her sister, his betrothed, ran away with another man. At the time of Rosetta’s arrival, Gudrun is pregnant, but very worried because she has already lost a number of children, either to miscarriage or to infant death. Rosetta agrees to stay with Gudrun until the baby arrives, and the baby’s early arrival and Gudrun’s ill health afterwards adds suspense to the story. The St. James Guide to Young Adults Writers contributor noted: “While Rosetta has found a form of sisterhood with Gudrun, she ultimately fulfills her promise to Flora, and the book concludes, possibly unsatisfactorily for those who want ‘tidy’ endings, with the two sisters again meeting. Subplots include an emerging romance between Rosetta and a neighbour lad, plus Rosetta’s having to deal with the unwanted, ‘nasty’ attentions of Eli, the hired hand.”
The novel Mercy’s Birds tells of fifteen-year-old Mercy, a new girl in high school who dresses in black and keeps to herself. But her seeming aloofness hides a troubled home life; her mother suffers from depression and her aunt is an alcoholic. Mercy must work in a flower shop to help her family make ends meet. Shelle Rosenfeld wrote in Booklist: “In lyrical, descriptive prose, the poignant novel effectively portrays a young girl’s despair and her process of healing.… Eloquent and impacting, Mercy’s story is an engrossing one, charged with emotional depth.”
Raspberry House Blues focuses on another troubled teen, sixteen-year-old Poppy. When her adoptive mother leaves the country and places Poppy with a guardian, Poppy moves in instead with her adoptive hippie father and begins a search to find her birth mother. Holeman, according to a critic for Publishers Weekly, “manages to keep the mystery of Poppy’s biological mother involving while maintaining a focus on the protagonist’s personal growth.”
Holeman’s next book for a young adult audience, a work of historical fiction titled Search of the Moon King’s Daughter, concerns fifteen-year-old Emmaline Roke, who lives with her penniless family in an English mill town during the Industrial Revolution. After Emmaline’s mother is injured in a factory accident and becomes addicted to laudanum, she sells her youngest son, Tommy, into servitude as a chimney sweep. Determined to rescue her brother, Emmaline ventures to London where she finds work as a scullery maid for a wealthy family. Search of the Moon King’s Daughter “does a good job of portraying the realities of life in village, factory-town, and city in early nineteenth-century England,” observed Resource Links contributor K.V. Johansen, who added: “The bleak details of how so many of our ancestors lived not too long ago always fascinate, and here they are neither romanticized nor over-worked.” Readers will gain a memorable glimpse into the lives of a variety of workers at this time,” Kliatt reviewer Mary Melaugh similarly noted, and Shelle Rosenfeld, writing in Booklist, called Holeman’s work “a compelling story of hard times, worse times, and hope for better times to come.”
The Linnet Bird, Holeman’s first novel for adults, is “a lively, quite readable Victorian pastiche,” according to a critic in Kirkus Reviews. Set during the 1820s and 1830s, the work centers on Linny Gow, a young woman from the slums of Liverpool whose stepfather employs her as a prostitute. With the help of a young anatomy student, Linny flees to Calcutta, India, where she is blackmailed into a stifling marriage of convenience with Somers Ingram, an abusive homosexual. “Holeman creates vividly realistic characters, writes crisp dialogue and delineates her several period milieus in memorably full detail,” noted the Kirkus Reviews contributor. Linny’s “compelling story holds center stage and drives readers forward,” noted Library Journal reviewer Kathy Piehl, and Marta Segal, writing in Booklist, commented that the author’s “descriptions are so vivid that the book becomes a page-turner.”
The Moonlit Cage, a 2006 historical romance, focuses on Darya, an adventurous Muslim girl in nineteenth-century Afghanistan. Sold to a group of nomads, Darya endures her marriage to a cruel tribesman until she is rescued by David Ingram, a Englishman who takes her to Bombay and then to London. “The choice of Darya as narrator provides needed unity and elicits reader empathy,” noted a Kirkus Reviews critic, and Marika Zemke, writing in Library Journal, commented that Holeman “portrays women of the Victorian era as three-dimensional characters with desires, strengths, and flaws.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Booklist, December 15, 1998, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Mercy’s Birds, p. 748; December 15, 2002, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Search of the Moon King’s Daughter, p. 753; March 15, 2003, review of Search of the Moon King’s Daughter, p. 1296; April 1, 2005, Marta Segal Block, review of The Linnet Bird, p. 1343.
Books in Canada, December, 2002, Julia Glazier, review of Search of the Moon King’s Daughter, p. 46.
Canadian Materials, September 6, 2002, review of Search of the Moon King’s Daughter; April 11, 2003, review of Toxic Love.
Children’s Bookwatch, February, 2004, James A. Cox, review of Search of the Moon King’s Daughter, p. 3.
Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), April 15, 1995, Elizabeth MacCallum, review of Saying Good-bye.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of Search of the Moon King’s Daughter, p. 1694; March 15, 2005, review of The Linnet Bird, p. 306; January 15, 2007, review of The Moonlit Cage, p. 43.
Kliatt, September, 2003, Lynne Remick, review of Toxic Love, p. 30; March, 2004, Mary Melaugh, review of Search of the Moon King’s Daughter, p. 20.
Library Journal, May 1, 2005, Kathy Piehl, review of The Linnet Bird, p. 74; March 15, 2007, Marika Zemke, review of The Moonlit Cage, p. 58.
Publishers Weekly, December 18, 2000, review of Raspberry House Blues, p. 79; December 4, 2006, review of The Moonlit Cage, p. 32.
Quill & Quire, December, 1995, review of Frankie on the Run, p. 39.
Resource Links, October, 1996, Dave Jenkinson, interview with Linda Holeman, pp. 8-11; October, 2002, K.V. Johansen, review of Search of the Moon King’s Daughter, p. 35; June, 2003, Margaret Mackey, review of Toxic Love, p. 26.
School Library Journal, March, 2003, Kristen Oravec, review of Search of the Moon King’s Daughter, p. 234.
Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 2003, review of Search of the Moon King’s Daughter, p. 476; October, 2003, review of Toxic Love, p. 306.
Linda Holeman’s Home Page,http://www.lindaholeman.com (September 25, 2007).
Manitoba Author Publication Index,http://www.mbwriter.mb.ca/mapindex/ (September 25, 2007), “Linda Holeman.”*