Upcoming book brings journalist back to Battlefords

A long-time journalist returned to North Battleford recently with news that she has signed a book deal.

Earlier this year Elinor Florence signed a contract with Dundurn Press of Toronto for her book, Bird's Eye View.

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The plan is for the book to be published and in stores in October of 2014. Florence expects it will be in bookstores across Canada and available at Chapters/Indigo and Amazon.com, among other outlets.

The book, she says, is set in the fictional town of Touchwood, which she says is loosely modeled on the Battlefords.

"Anyone reading the book will know what town I'm talking about," she said, although "it's meant to represent any small prairie town on the prairie provinces."

The story is about an 18-year-old girl working as a newspaper reporter who is "fired by patriotism when her town becomes a British Commonwealth air training base," which, she noted, North Battleford was in the 1940s.

Florence says in the story, her character heads overseas and joins the British women's air force as an interpreter of aerial photographs.

"They had hundreds of people doing that, but it was top secret," said Florence. They had studied all the aerial photographs the planes took on their bombing missions, she said, and then had to ID where the bomb targets were, a tricky job since the Germans often camouflaged those targets.

There is also a strong Saskatchewan connection to the story as her mom writes letters to her keeping her informed of what is going on back in the home front. 

Florence was back in the Battlefords Sept. 13 to spread the word about her book project in the community. Included was a visit to the Battlefords News-Optimist/Regional Optimist newsroom and plant on 104th Street - a familiar building to her.

She had started her journalism career in the Battlefords in the building as a reporter for the Advertiser-Post in 1973.

"I came in the door and asked Bill Warwick for a job and he made me the paper's first reporter," said Florence. The paper was just converting from being an advertising flyer.

She had grown up on a farm near Brada and had earned an English degree from the University of Saskatchewan. She stayed at the Battlefords paper for a year and a half before eventually returning to Carleton University for a journalism degree.

She then came back to Saskatchewan to work for the Western Producer before moving on to the Red Deer Advocate, Winnipeg Sun and Vancouver Province.

After settling down in Invermere, B.C. with her family, she went on to write for the Readers Digest for eight years and took over ownership of a local independent newspaper there that was recently sold.

It was in the process of that sale in 2010 that Florence came across an old manuscript she had written about 10 years earlier.

Florence looked at that effort and thought she could fix it up, she said. "[I] revised the whole thing," she said, and sent it to Dundurn Press in Toronto.

In March of this year she got an acceptance letter and contract from them.

Florence says she is "just amazed" at the number of people on Facebook interested in military history and noted she belongs to a few of those groups herself. She noted one such group was devoted to the Lancaster aircraft and the bombing raids they conducted.

She anticipates there will be local interest in the book, given the military and Second World War themes.

"For anyone interested in our history, it hopefully will be a good read," said Florence.

Although it is fiction, Florence said she wrote it in a way so "that everything that I wrote about could have happened that way. So it's not science fiction, it's heavily fact based fiction."

People can expect to see Bird's Eye View in 2014. Those seeking more information or wanting to be notified when the book will be published can email Florence at elinor1@telus.net.

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