Interview with Alberte Villeneuve,
Author and Columnist

for Riverview Park Arts Report, March 2018

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Good afternoon, Alberte! We met a few years ago at Arts Night, 30 Cleary Ave, when you were the guest literary artist. I was very impressed with your delivery, and courage to describe how you became a writer.

Q: Would you say your childhood was happy?
A: Yes! I was I was raised on a farm in Beckett’s Creek near Cumberland. The eldest of four children, I enjoyed farm life. I have always been close to nature and I preferred working outdoors in the garden or the fields. I became very good at working with machinery. Some called me my “dad’s hired hand”. Our school, St-Jean Baptiste, was a one-room francophone school in Beckett’s Creek. This is where I honed my love of reading and developed a desire to teach one day.

Q: From your CV, I’ve gleaned that your really enjoyed academic subjects. You also enjoyed being a teacher. Your life challenges began when your first husband was diagnosed as bipolar. Was he cruel to you and your daughter? What within you helped you through those difficult times and enabled you to separate from him?
A: First, he used emotional control, then financial control, but before we married, I warned him, that if he ever was violent toward her, that would automatically end our marriage. His bipolar condition progressed so intensely that he became violent, lost control completely, and I had to obtain a separation. Less than two weeks later, he committed suicide. This is described in my novel: “The Neglected Garden”

Q: What compelled you to write “Le jardin négligé”? was it successful?
A: Seven years later, I started writing “Le jardin négligé” and sent it to the “Salon du livre de l’Outaouais” writers’s contest in 1988. My daughter wrote a story also and submitted it in the 12+ category. As luck would have it, we both won first prize. “Le jardin négligé” was published in 1990 by one of Montreal’s largest publishing houses, “Le Méridien”. The launch was the biggest one of “Le Salon du livre de l’Outaouais” that year. Following the launch, I was invited to make presentations to women’s groups and talk about violence against women. I then decided to translate my novel, “The Neglected Garden” and write another French one, “Une prière pour Hélène”. It is during those years that I met a wonderful man who would become my husband, Brian Sinclair. Brian was the love of my life and a wonderful father for Adèle who went on to be published twice in youth anthologies. We did TV and radio interviews, separately and together. Adèle married in 2003 and my loving Brian died of lung cancer in 2004.

Q: How did you become a columnist?
A: A member of OIW (Ottawa Independent Writers), l’AAOF (Association des auteurs/auteures de l’Ontario français) and AOE (Arts Ottawa East), Carl Dow asked me to write articles for his internet newspaper “True North Perspective”. Then, Patrick Meikle asked if he could carry some of my articles in his “Canaan Connexion” newspaper and finally, after a presentation at the Q: “Muséoparc Vanier”, Christian Marcoux asked me to write for “Perspectives Vanier”. During those years, I also gave writing workshops and one of them was at the local school in Vars where my granddaughter, Lea who loved writing, went to school. The six girls in the group had decided to write about bullying and the story turned out so well, I decided we would have it published in 2011. The book has been very popular in school presentations on the subject and Lea and I translated and published “Le génie de Jessie” in English at Baico’s in 2013.

During those years, I have often participated in French and English anthologies, the latest being “Ottawa One Five O”. I had been toying with the idea of publishing my own anthology featuring some of my articles. “Muses from the Blue Shack” is now a reality – a first compilation of some of my favourite articles. There will be a launch at the Russell Library on March 24th at 2 pm, a presentation at the VAWBN “Vars & Area Women’s Business Network” on March 28th at 7:15 pm and a book signing session at Books on Beechwood on April 7th from noon till 2 pm.

Q: My son-in-law and daughter have six children: Brice, Lea, Logan, Nathan, Spencer and Jessie. They are my pride and joy as you will see in the book “Muses from the Blue Shack” My last question is: many of us who excel in an art form are also reasonably competent in one or more additional forms. What is yours?
A: (Alberte blushes slightly from surprise). I’m also a visual artist. I use oils, acrylics, and sometimes, water paints, but the first two are my favorites. I design my own book covers.

Thank you very much, for allowing me to interview you. In the past I’ve enjoyed sharing my thoughts on writing, but now enjoying even more your sharing your courage and strength to conquer the dark experiences from your past, and achieving success in publishing and visual art. Please keep in touch.

© Diane S. Schmolka, March 2018
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