I am constantly intrigued to learn about people from our community and the fantastic accomplishments they have made during their life. Many such individuals remain anonymous, so it is gratifying to share some undertakings made by people among us.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Lucy Black, an educator, an author and an extremely interesting person. Lucy is responsible for penning several very successful books, as well as a number of short stories.
I first met Lucy Black around the turn of the century when I was taking piano lessons at the same school as her son. It was not until 15 or so years later, that our paths crossed again.
Lucy had written a book, which had just been published, and I was intrigued by the subject. The book is called The Marzipan Fruit Basket, a collection of most of Lucy’s short stories written over the past 20 years.
Lucy grew up in Willowdale and started her career as a corporate trainer. “During university, companies would come to the school to educate students on potential jobs in different industries,” Lucy explained. “I was offered a position with Sears, as a management trainee, which led to training.”
Lucy thoroughly enjoyed the training element of her position, and consequently, bridged into teaching. After continuing and completing her education, she began her teaching career at Port Perry High School.
It was a time when the Durham School Board was hiring, and Lucy decided to try it for a year. That was 30 years ago. “I totally fell in love with the community, and we, my husband and I, decided to move here.”
Lucy went on to explain how much she loved the students and the classroom, and found it a privilege to be able to teach.
Lucy and her husband bought their first house in Nestleton Station. They made the purchase on a Saturday morning and told no one, not even their parents. “The only people who knew, were our lawyer and real estate agent.”
“The following Monday, I was teaching a class, and that afternoon a group of students came to my desk. They heard I had bought a house.” Lucy explained how shocked she was. “The girls went on to say, their mothers were wondering what church I would be attending.” Welcome to small-town living.
Lucy taught English and business, and her career led her to become a vice principal in south Oshawa. After nine years, she became a principal in Uxbridge for four years, followed by another four years in Cannington.
I asked Lucy where the name of her first book came from because Marzipan Fruit Basket is not a common phrase. She went on to explain, it was the name of one of the short stories in the book.
The story is about a little girl, who is taken to the Netherlands by her mother, who is trying to decide if she will live there permanently. On a train trip, the girl is given a marzipan fruit basket. Of course, being Dutch myself, I have a great affection for marzipan.
The short stories in the book have a common thread. They are all about women going through a major life crisis. Many of the stories have been published in journals and magazines, and it was because a friend, Lucy, decided to compile them into a book.
Lucy’s next novel was Eleanor Courtown. A story about an Irish woman who decided to immigrate to Canada, and make a new life here. The book is based on a true story of a poisoning that took place in Blackstock. Lucy turned it into a historical novel, and it is an extremely interesting read.
The most recent book Lucy wrote, is called Stella’s Carpet. It is the story of a young woman, whose parents split up, and she lives with her mother, a very selfish and extremely high-maintenance woman.
She is close to her grandparents, who are Polish immigrants scarred by the horrific events of World War 2. Stella’s father has a keen interest in carpets from the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent, and that passion is etched in Stella.
I will not give away anything else, but I would recommend getting a copy of the book, and checking it out yourself.
The story is written in an interesting way and delves into intergenerational trauma, an area Lucy wanted to explore. I asked if the characters were based on actual people in her life, and the answer was yes. It is easy to understand how certain personality traits, penned by Lucy, are impossible to create without real-life experiences.
Lucy Black continues to write constantly and teaches the art of writing at Scugog Arts. If writing a book is in your future, and you do not know how to go about it, drop by Scugog Arts and find out more about one of our very talented, homegrown authors.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.