Marianne Perry is a seasoned world traveler, optimist and family oriented Northern Ontario, Canadian author.
A second generation Canadian-Italian, Marianne’s interest in her Calabrian-Sicilian roots has fuelled her genealogical research to solve family mysteries. Along with researching family history, Marianne’s writing reflects her extensive traveling, a passion for adventure, an interest in establishing connections and a yearning to understand our world.
“What matters the most in life are the people you love and the adventures you have.”
– Marianne Perry
An extensive resume…
I wanted to be a writer from the time I entered a contest in elementary school and wrote speeches for oratorical competitions at Mount St. Joseph College. I’ve had many jobs over the years but kept this intent alive until I could begin writing full-time. I inherited my family’s work ethic and helped my mother hang towels on the clothesline outside and polish the hardwood floors in our house as a young girl. My first job during high school was making popcorn at the drive-in theatre. I read family sagas and historical fiction as a teenager and decided that these were the books I’d write someday. My Grade 13 English teacher encouraged my writing and I majored in English at university. I worked as a department store cashier to help cover costs and also made television commercials, wrote scripts and hosted shows at community events to enhance my writing skills.
After I graduated, I wanted to broaden my life perspective in order to become a more informed writer. I became an English and Dramatic Arts teacher so that I could interact with others from different backgrounds, have opportunities to diversify my writing skills in a classroom environment as well as time to travel. I attended teacher’s college in Toronto where my mother’s family lived then taught at a junior high school for two years before returning home to honour family commitments. I worked for twenty-five years in education, communications and public relations in Sault Ste. Marie at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels. My mother volunteered for The Parent Teacher Association at the elementary school I attended and both my parents supported our church. I continued the tradition and volunteered in communications for many organizations. I also served on the Board of Trustees for The National Arts Centre Corporation in Ottawa; a position, which advanced my communication skills.
I refocused my career after I served as Project Director for Sault Ste. Marie Naturally Gifted, the official book of our city’s 1998 HomeComing Celebrations. I continued working but also concentrated on genealogical research and drafting potential storylines. I completed The Inheritance a few years ago and am now a full-time writer and working on my next novel, Angels and Backpackers. My varied career has taught me much about our world and, hopefully, helped me become the writer I have always wanted to be.
Passion for Geneology
A family fuelled passion
Family history matters to me and my need to know more about my Calabrian grandparents fuelled my genealogical research and gave me context to write The Inheritance. I wanted to learn about the circumstances that had shaped their lives in the early 1900s to understand why they’d left southern Italy and immigrated to North America. I’d always planned to write about family dynamics and genealogical research helped me develop realistic characters confronting relevant issues in an authentic setting for my book.
I was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. My mother’s parents were from neighbouring towns near Palermo, Sicily. They came to Canada in the early 1900s; my grandfather met my grandmother in Ottawa and they settled in Toronto where they had four children. My father’s parents were born in Cosenza and Catanzaro, different provinces in Calabria, southern Italy. They came to Canada in the early 1900s; met in Sault Ste. Marie, married and raised a family of nine children.
Family has always been the center of my life and my family dynamics reflect my grandparents and parents. I was raised with the understanding that family is multi-generational and had a close relationship with my grandparents. As I grew older, I realized that connecting to the past would give me a stronger identity. I started asking questions but when I encountered very few answers, I became interested in Italian genealogy. I love Canada and honour my citizenship but I also cherish my ancestral roots and made a commitment to discover more about my heritage.
Solving family mysteries is important to me and learning about my grandparents’ early lives would give my children a more complete picture of their family tree. My children also had a close relationship with their grandparents. They’d inherited my family dynamics and I wanted them to have this as well. My genealogical research is an ongoing process and Angels and Backpackers, the book I am currently writing, was inspired by a hundred-year-old Calabrian land deed I discovered while investigating my family history. If you want to learn how to find your grandparents’ stories, my genealogical blogs may give you some tips.
A well seasoned World Traveler
I value authenticity as a writer and my books are set in places I have explored. Traveling deepens my understanding of people, culture and place. It strengthens my connection and helps me craft stories resonating with universal truths.
I dreamt of being a travel writer for The National Geographic Magazine as a girl. My parents subscribed to the magazine and my first trips were vicarious adventures. I grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario on a country lot along the TransCanada highway and I remember watching vehicles drive past our house. Where was everybody going, I asked myself, and why can’t I go somewhere, too?
Over time, I vowed to visit every continent. My first trip was with my family to ‘Expo 67, the World’s Fair in Montreal, Quebec and as opportunities surfaced, I traveled with those who had experience.
My novel, The Inheritance, is set in Calabria, southern Italy and I nitially went to Italy as a university student on a cultural exchange trip organized by the late Professor Vincent Mancinelli. I have returned to Italy often and The Inheritance is threaded with information acquired from these experiences.
I traveled to Spain, Guatemala and Costa Rica on trips organized by Professor Richard McCutcheon, a geographer who used maps to teach us about our itinerary. Calabria is not well-known and I have included a map in The Inheritance to help the reader.
My husband and I explored the Galapagos Islands and journeyed down a tributary of the Amazon River on our honeymoon. Our adventures have also taken us to Australia, New Zealand, Africa, India, China, Vietnam and Antarctica. Angels and Backpackers, the book I am currently writing, has settings that include Switzerland and Argentina, countries where I’ve been. I have visited every continent yet I yearn to see more. And I still read The National Geographic Magazine; the only difference now is that it’s on my iPad.
Learning is integral to Marianne
My parents valued education and expected me to achieve good grades and attend a post-secondary institution. In addition, I was also expected to master domestic skills and learned how to cook and take care of a house at a young age. World War Two had prevented my mother from finishing school and becoming a dietician so she did everything she could to support me. I remember sitting at the kitchen table doing homework in elementary school while she prepared dinner. She regularly checked what I was doing and if I had a big test, she’d let me skip washing dishes to study.
My father was a voracious reader and he took us to the library. I fell in love with historical fiction as a teenager and when I told him that my English teacher at Mount St. Joseph College encouraged me to write, he found an old Remington typewriter for me to use. I majored in English at university to broaden my scope and enhance my skills then decided to pursue a career in education so that I could be immersed in a learning environment.
I have always looked for every opportunity to develop as a writer. I learned much about theatrical techniques, for example, by completing a Specialist in Dramatic Arts at the University of Toronto then teaching this subject to students at various levels. In addition, by studying “Curriculum Planning” when I completed a Master of Education Degree with The University of Western Ontario, I gained insight into another dimension of writing. A number of years ago when I wanted to strengthen my commitment to writing fiction, I enrolled at Humber College and completed a Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing.
The world is diverse and global communications have enabled us to make connections regardless of where we live. We must commit to continuing education in order to maximize the opportunities around us. Learning is a lifelong pursuit and my most recent project is studying the art of stained glass.