To prove ideas for books can germinate anywhere anytime, the seed for Helena Moncrieff’s The Fruitful City: building communities through nature’s bounty (ECW Press, 2018) seemed to plant itself while she was picking fruit with an urban harvest organization in Toronto in 2013.
“Sweet apples, cherries, pears and plums are growing in cities across the country, and yet none is indigenous to Canada,” she discovered while picking. “They were brought here by immigrants who changed the landscape and connected people by planting and sharing fruit. Many continue to produce, long after their early stewards have gone.”
Moncrieff, a broadcast-journalist-turned-communications-specialist, initially wrote a magazine piece “about the people who set up the harvests and share the bounty with homeowners, pickers and communities in need.” But, she added, “I left a lot on the table… I wanted to know more about the trees: who planted them, how many generations they had fed, and how we forgot about them.”
Moncrieff decided to return to school to turn the answers to those — and other — questions into a creative nonfiction book that would also highlight our need “to start picking them again.”
She chose the University of King’s College’s two-year limited residency MFA in Creative Nonfiction to help her achieve her goal. “The flexibility of a limited residency program, mentor support on cooperative schedules and learning far beyond the walls of a lecture hall allowed me to continue my writing career while developing new insights and skills,” she explained.
“I have spent decades in corporate writing, always working with someone else’s voice. King’s mentors helped me develop my own. Their guidance was respectful, gentle and backed with their own experiences in the writing community from British Columbia to Nova Scotia. When it came time to pitch my idea, I had professional reviews from experts up to date on what publishers are looking for.”
Moncrieff graduated in May 2016 with “a manuscript well underway, a book deal and a graduate degree. Now I’m discovering you never really leave. I’m still in touch with a terrific new network of writers from across Canada and beyond.”