Poor Farm

A Novel About Autism in Nineteenth Century Nova Scotia

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A Night To Remember

Signing Books At The Old Triangle

As a new author, the prospect of a book launch is a fraught one: Will people come? Will I mess up the reading? In this time of Covid-19, there is the added complication of cancellation due to lockdown restrictions. We weren’t really sure if an in-person event could go ahead until the day before.

In fact, the night was everything I dreamed and hoped for: we sold out of tickets and books and the audience asked wonderful and insightful questions. It was truly a night to remember for the rest of my life. Especially since my son Martin (along with my wife and the rest of my family) were there to share it with me⁠—the best Father’s day present I’ve ever had.

See below for video and photos from the event. Thanks again to my family and friends for coming and helping out; to Erik and Brian at The Old Triangle; to PLT for all their support; Niki Davison for the photography; and Brenda Thomson from Moose House Press. This could never have happened without you.

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Press Release

Moose House Publications

O’DRISCOLL’S SECOND BOOK TELLS THE STORY OF AN AUTISTIC BOY’S FORMATIVE YEARS SPENT ON A POOR FARM

(Granville Ferry, NS): Ronan O’Driscoll couldn’t have predicted that one of his daily walks with his son could serve as the catalyst for his second book, Poor Farm, published by Moose House Publications.

O’Driscoll, author of Chief O’Neill, recalls taking the stroll with his Autistic son when they came across an abandoned graveyard for inmates of a former poor farm nearby. Touring the land, O’Driscoll was forced to contemplate how his son would have been treated in the days of poor farms, which inevitably led to the crafting of a searing and uplifting tale of the poor farm, its staff and its inmates.

“Our own journey with our son has allowed us to merge his Autistic experience, and our experience as caregivers, into the story of an Autistic boy residing on a poor farm,” says O’Driscoll. “Writing this work was an exceptionally moving journey, and my hope is that Poor Farm will be a novel that others can connect with on a similarly deep level.”

O’Driscoll’s second literary venture, which will donate a portion of sales to Playing and Learning Together – a non-profit after-school and support program for children and young adults on the Autism Spectrum, is already receiving accolades from his peers.

“The first chapter grabs one’s attention so strongly and is written so heartbreakingly beautifully,” says Clary Croft, author of Witchcraft, Helen Creighton: Canada’s First Lady of Folkore. “The reader is immediately drawn in.”

“Ronan O’Driscoll is a marvellous talent whose words strum and pluck the truest of notes with an honesty that reverberates,” says Gerald Collins, author of The Hush Sisters and Fintan Moon.

A socially distanced book launch will be hosted at The Old Triangle in Halifax, where O’Driscoll’s books will be available for purchase. Registration will be capped at 40 people to adhere to public health protocols. A virtual event will be scheduled for a future date for those unable to make it in-person. To register, visit Ronan O’Driscoll Book Launch Tickets, Thu, 17 Jun 2021 at 6:30 PM

Readers can find Poor Farm at independent bookstores across Nova Scotia, from Chapters, Coles and on Amazon. Copies can also be purchased online from Moosehousepress.com. Digital copies are available from all major e-book outlets.


For additional information:
Brenda Thompson, Moose House Publications
brenda@moosehousepress.com
(902) 308-0881.

Poor Farm Book Launch June 17th

Atlantic Books Today No. 93 (May 2021) – p. 46

Thanks to Atlantic Books Today for including details of Poor Farm in their latest issue. It is very exciting to see my book up there with other great fiction from around our region.

In other news: we are hoping to have a book launch on June 17th at The Old Triangle in Halifax! The details are yet to be finalized but, fingers crossed, we will have an in-person socially-distanced event on the Thursday night before Father’s day. I will make a donation from any books sold on the night to PLT: Playing and Learning Together – a non-profit Autism after-school support program I am on the board of.

Watch this blog for more details as they become available!

Irish Times Article

Photo of Ronan O’Driscoll [Credit: https://www.snickerdoodle.ca/]

I got the opportunity to write an article for the Irish Times about the stress of balancing life and work while under lockdown. I also talk a little about how the experience led to the writing of Poor Farm. I hope it will be of interest to readers of this blog. Here is the link to the the Irish Times Article.

The Inventor

Alexander Graham Bell - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Graham_Bell#/media/File:Alexander_Graham_Bell_and_family.jpg
Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell helped shape the modern world. Famed for the telephone, he had a broad range of interests that spawned a number of inventions: spanning airplanes and kites, to deaf education and artificial respiration. His legacy is so ubiquitous that the Bell telephone company founded by his brother-in-law is still around today.

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First Copy

Author holding copy of Poor Farm
The first copy of Poor Farm

Look what I just got a hold of! That grinning idiot above is me holding the first proof copy of the novel. There’s a lot of hard work goes into a novel, so you have to savour actually getting your hands on the (almost final) product. This has always been a dream of mine and I can’t believe it is finally coming through. Thanks to Moose House Publications for believing in me and this story.

Helen Creighton

Helen Creighton [Nova Scotia Archives]

Helen Creighton (1899 – 1989) was born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia— a time and place near to the action of Poor Farm. Her life is full of interesting stories but she is primarily remembered as a folklorist. She collected over 4,000 traditional songs and stories in a career spanning several decades, publishing many books and articles on Nova Scotia folk songs. Much of the music featured in Poor Farm is from the Helen Creighton Collection.

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Looking For eliza

Katy Jean searches grave markers at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Digby. (Courtesy Halifax Examiner)

Suzanne Rent, a journalist with the Halifax Examiner, has an excellent piece today on one woman’s search for an ancestor who died at a Nova Scotia poor farm. You can read the full article here. I particularly appreciated Katy Jean’s reflection on how horribly Eliza was treated by her own relatives.

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Abandoned

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/photographer-quest-abandoned-cemeteries-1.5866319
Mount Hanly Cemetery (Courtesy CBC News)

The image above is from a recent CBC news article on one man’s quest to preserve Nova Scotia’s abandoned cemeteries. Steve Skafte, a Bridgetown poet and photographer, has created an online map of the forgotten graveyards that dot the province. I felt the same impulse to record the history around one of these sites when out walking with my son and we stumbled upon the Poor Farm burial ground. This became the opening chapter of my novel, Poor Farm.

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Hello

Poor Farm Cover
Working Cover for Upcoming Novel Poor Farm

Welcome to the Poor Farm blog! I will post updates about the novel here, along with longer background pieces. As outlined on the Welcome page: this novel is about an autistic character in nineteenth century Nova Scotia. Why? There are a lot of books on autism but few that imagine what it was like for people on the spectrum in previous times. That’s one reason. The bigger reason is I wrote it for my autistic son.

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