Prairie life and Russian past inspire love story

In “Consider the Sunflowers,” Tina Janz finds the guitar-playing half-gypsy Frank Warkentin much more exciting than the “boring as turnips” man her devout Mennonite parents want her to marry. She leaves her job in Vancouver to launch a campaign to get Frank to the altar. That done, life on Frank’s farm in the prairie community of Coyote, Saskatchewan turns bliss to loneliness.

Schemenauer’s grandmother, Agatha Siemens Martens some years after emigrating to Saskatchewan

Their love story was written by author Elma Schemenauer, who was born and raised in the Elbow-Loreburn area of Saskatchewan. Those prairie roots and the experience of some of her Russian forbears inspired Schemenauer to write the 1940s-era novel.
“As I was growing up in our little Mennonite community, I heard many stories from my grandparents and other Mennonite relatives,” she said. Those relatives were tremendous storytellers and when they got together, they told stories of what happened in the old country of Russia, what happened on the ship coming over, and what happened in their new life in Canada.
Schemenauer earned a B.A. at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Toronto. In Toronto, she moved into a publishing career and wrote 75 books including Yesterstories and Native Canadians Today. Today, Elma and her husband live in Kamloops, BC, where she writes and blogs
Schemenauer started out writing her own memories. She began with a child’s point of view, but later wanted to look at those early years from an adult point of view. “My childhood meant a lot to me on the farm because we were very isolated out there. We were a long way from town and just being on the bald flat prairie made a huge impression on me in those early years.” Those memories and stories from Russia form the backdrop for Consider the Sunflowers. Continue reading “Prairie life and Russian past inspire love story”