Hutsell-Manning has decades of writing credits
Fiction for all ages — novels, novelettes and even plays — local author Linda Hutsell-Manning has done it all. Next month, her play A Certain Singing Teacher will be debuted by VOS Theatre. CECILIA NASMITH/Northumberland Today
Hamilton Township author Linda Hutsell-Manning is about to see her play A Certain Singing Teacher produced in Cobourg by VOS Theatre Feb. 10 and 11 — but you couldn't exactly characterize her as a playwright.
At least, you can't only characterize her as a playwright. Hutsell-Manning has decades of writing credits, with books and plays for all ages that have entertained generations.
Interviewed recently, she noted that her current project might be termed historical fiction, a book based on her own experiences of teaching at a little one-room schoolhouse called SS #2 Hamilton Township from 1963 to 1965.
“My students are now in their 60s,” Hutsell-Manning remarked. “I'm working on a memoir of those two years, a creative-fiction memoir.”
This involves a lot of research, because not much remains from that period in the way of documentation. Fortunately, she did make up a sort of homemade yearbook her first year, with individual pictures of students, group photos and a record of notable events like their trip to the Thousand Islands.
Hutsell-Manning has begun interviewing former students wherever she can.
“They are telling me things I didn't know about, which is just lovely — maybe it wouldn't have been lovely at the time,” she allowed.
The little schoolhouse was terribly isolated, located amid vacant fields on the south side of County Road 2 near Theatre Road. It had two chemical toilets in the back, a wood stove as a heat source, and no hot water or storm windows.
She had about 32 students in 10 families and — though many of them came from homes with running water, flush toilets and central heating — they didn't seem to mind attending classes in a building that would not have been vastly different from a one-room schoolhouse at the turn of the century. The time-warp aspect leads her to call her work-in-progress Two Years Out of Time.
She has been researching world events and Canadian events during that time period. She will have to resort to the Cobourg Public Library to research local events, but the accuracy is important to her.
“I want to be able to weave all that in,” she said.
Hutsell-Manning is philosophical about the completed novel and novella she has been sending out to publishers, but confident of their quality.
The novel The Tangling of the Years is about financial elder abuse, which is a timely subject. And the novella Heads I Win, Tails You Lose made the short list in the Quattro Books novella competition in 2014.
“I know they are both worthy of being published,” she said. “I don't get frantic. It's just not worth it.
“A friend of mine says we are midlist authors. They publish new ones and established ones, but the midlist ones get lost. But I have never let something like that stop me because you never know.”
Her 1993 children's book Dinosaur Days is a case in point. It was published by Stoddard Press, then became part of the inventory sold to Fitzhenry and Whiteside when Stoddard went out of business.
Then, last week, she got a letter with a cheque in it. It turns out McGraw Hill has bought rights and permissions to use Dinosaur Days in a language-arts textbook.
“You never know. All of a sudden, something will happen. So you keep throwing stuff out, keep pitching, keep working at it.”
Hutsell-Manning has spoken to professional director Bea Quarrie about getting A Certain Singing Teacher done in other community theatres once it has its February run at the Victoria Hall Concert Hall.
“At this point, I am just going to concentrate on community theatre, and approach professional theatres later – I need a track record,” she said.
On the back burner, should A Certain Singing Teacher prove so successful that another play seems warranted, there is the possibility of sharing some of the experiences she and her husband James enjoyed during the years they were running a bed-and-breakfast.
But for now, that idea is just a twinkle in her eye.