Mary Beth Cavert has been attending the biennial L.M. Montgomery conferences since 1994. A collector, scholar and writer, Beth joins us today to reminisce about what it was like to attend those early conferences and how much the community has meant to her.
Beth is an independent Montgomery scholar, has an M.A. in Educational Administration, and specializes in the personal, historical, and literary context of Montgomery’s kinship ties. Her research can be seen in The Journals of L.M. Montgomery; she has published chapters in L.M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys: The Intimate Life of L.M. Montgomery, and The Lucy Maud Montgomery Album. She publishes, edits, and writes The Shining Scroll, and the L.M. Montgomery Literary Society internet and social media outlets. Her ongoing projects are editing the complete letters of L.M. Montgomery to George B. Macmillan and a manuscript about Montgomery’s book dedications. She is a co-founder of the Friends of the L.M. Montgomery Institute and is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies. Follow the L.M. Montgomery Literary Society on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.
“The customary border between ‘fan’ and ‘scholar’ can be meaningless concerning the study of Montgomery’s writing and life. Some begin as fans and become scholars; others are scholars and become fans. Scholars paid and unpaid work together. For example, one of the most conspicuously creative long-time fan clubs, based in Minnesota, is also now providing invaluable scholarship. The L.M. Montgomery Literary Society host the informative Shining Scroll website.” 2014 Foreword to The Fragrance of Sweet-Grass, Elizabeth R. Epperly.
I was pulled into the L.M. Montgomery universe (Anniverse?) not as a young reader, but as a late-bloomer, the mother of a little girl with red hair. “Oh, look at her gorgeous hair! You must read Anne of Green Gables!”
So, I began this poetical journey in the 1980s during a heyday of Montgomery interest: movies, paperback editions of all her books, publication of The Selected Journals and Kindred Spirits Magazine, the comradeship of the L.M. Montgomery Literary Society, and a 1992 tour to P.E.I, with my daughter, led by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson (Yes, think Johann Wyss).
I came to the first conference in 1994 (in the Veterinary Building) and Dr. Elizabeth Epperly charged us to share thoughts on the writing and times of this celebrated Canadian author to bring forward new readings, and question our assumptions about how we read Montgomery.
And so, I did.
Since then I have attended every conference and made life-long friends who enrich and nourish my life. They include both the conference participants and advocates at the Montgomery sites on the Island and in Ontario. It is my family reunion.
I have had the honour to make plenary presentations over the years, but the most deeply rewarding part of the conference is to listen and soak up all the fascinating perspectives, surprises, questions and answers revealed by the variety of speakers and responses from the audience.
Knowing more, or “too much,” about Montgomery’s life, texts, art, and times has always buttressed my enjoyment and appreciation of her creativity. I have always learned remarkable things at the conferences, but more importantly I laugh, with “soul-satisfying” whole-heartedness. Everyone does. Who does not appreciate Montgomery’s humour, or the joyousness and hospitality of her fans?
Please go back and read the posts by Michaela Wipond, Rachel McMillan, and Caroline Jones, who have truly captured the spirit of our L.M. Montgomery Institute family. The LMMI and its programs welcome all—arms wide open!
The Institute will always have a special place in my heart and memory and I am so glad to see its contribution to the legacy of a truly brilliant Islander and author flourish for all generations to enjoy!
Below is a photo from the first Montgomery symposium at the Anne of Green Gables Museum in Park Corner. copyright, Mary Beth Cavert.