Richmond writer overcame critique by Green Gables author

Ninety-two-year-old author and publisher Patricia Stanyer still remembers the first article she ever wrote for print.

Stanyer, who lives in Richmond but spent most of her growing-up years on Prince Edward Island, was 12 or 13 years old when she wrote a short story for her school newspaper. The topic was the Marco Polo, once acclaimed “Fastest Ship in the World,” which launched from Saint John, N.B., in 1851 and ran aground on P.E.I. shores 32 years later.

Stanyer’s grandfather, then a young man, had been on the water that stormy day in 1883. He told the story many times and Stanyer, whose keen interest in family history and Canadian lore has not wavered since, decided to write up his memories and submit the article to her school’s paper.

Little did she know the article would be read by a famous Canadian author who took exception to some of what Stanyer wrote.

Lucy Maud Montgomery, the Canadian novelist best known for the Anne of Green Gables books, wrote a letter to the editor saying some of Stanyer’s details were inaccurate.

“So I was wrong in my story,” said Stanyer with a chuckle. “So here I am, 12 or 13 years old, writing for the high school paper, and getting called down by this famous writer!”

Stanyer never tried to contact Montgomery or explain that she’d simply recorded her grandfather’s memory of the events, and she remains a fan of Montgomery’s work. It’s a well-known fact Montgomery (who died a few years after that encounter) drew inspiration for Anne of Green Gables from real people and places in the Maritimes. Stanyer does the same, though she prefers to stick to non-fiction as she expresses her love for Canadian people and culture.

“I’ve thought about writing novels, but I was never into that. I could never seem to wrap my head around plots and things,” said Stanyer. “So, I thought I’ll just write about my own life. I’ve read other peoples’ stories and enjoyed them, and I thought people might (enjoy mine).”

Stanyer has been writing, co-authoring, and publishing books since the 1980s. Through her company, Tabor Publishing, she has distributed more than 10,000 copies of books about Canadian history, language, family life, and folklore, with titles like Try the Goose Grease; and Trailblazer, the Legendary “Big Jim” Pendergast .

Stanyer has lived on Canada’s East and West coasts and enjoys sharing stories about the famous people and places she’s connected with on the way. For example, her father, “Big Jim” Pendergast, was a boxer recognized in the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, her husband’s uncle was apparently a hired mechanic for Russ Baker, a pilot instrumental in early airline history and whom any local driver will recognize thanks to the street named after him near Vancouver International Airport.

Bookstores literally from coast to coast – from Richmond to Charlottetown – sell Stanyer’s books and have welcomed her for book signings. Her latest work, published in 2018, was her autobiography: A Time to Remember.

“The joy of family life” was one of the main things Stanyer wanted to share in her own personal story. She was born the second of 10 children and studied at Saint Dunstan’s University in P.E.I.

Trained as a school teacher, Stanyer travelled across the country to teach and met her husband in Kitimat. She married him at age 27 and spent 20 years working as a substitute teacher and leading night classes in English as a second language while raising their five children. 

Stanyer enjoys writing about “the joy of family life” with some Canadian history sprinkled in.

Stanyer enjoys writing about “the joy of family life” with some Canadian history sprinkled in.

In 1981, she edited a book written by her mother, titled A Good Time Was Had by All, and has been writing and publishing books since.

The name Tabor Publishing “appealed to me” because of the connection to Mount Tabor, where Jesus was transfigured in a flood of light, she said. “I thought that was a good name for the company. Hopefully it will bring light to somebody.”

Stanyer, who spends her summers at her cottage in P.E.I. and the rest of the year at her home in Richmond, said when she’s not writing or visiting family she’s travelling (with a particular interest in Europe and Asia) or serving at St. Joseph the Worker Parish. There, she’s a longtime member of the Catholic Women’s League and the local Right to Life Society.

Her latest book is available at Indigo in Richmond, Black Bond Books in Ladner, and Albany Books in Tsawwassen.

“This has been a hobby for me,” said the cheerful 92-year-old. “I don’t make any money; I’m happy if it pays for publishing!”

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