Winner of the Alberta Culture/Macmillan of Canada 1977 Search-for-a-New-Novelist Competition
“The night folded around them with a sweetness and poignancy heightened by the new pale stars that prickled silver fire in the water of the lily ponds, by the scented winds, and by the nearness of each other.”
She ruled not only as Queen but as Pharaoh thirty-five centuries ago. Yet her name – Hatshepsut – did not appear in dynastic rolls, nor is her reign celebrated on monuments.
Prejudice against a female on the throne was so intense that successors, especially her step-nephew Thothmes III, tried to erase all trace of her regime. Records and monuments were destroyed, the tombs of faithful ministers defiled, and the commemorative walls of the huge and magnificent temple erected for her at Deir-el Bahri by her royal architect and lover were similarly defaced. And yet her story has endured; the temple is now rebuilt and recently her mummy has been positively identified.
In Child of the Morning Pauline has told the fascinating story of this amazing woman from girlhood through her reign, during which she mastered the arts of war and government and extended Egypt’s empire.
As in all her novels of Ancient Egypt, Pauline Gedge brings us that long-ago civilization and its people to vivid, breathing life.
“Gedge sets her living, breathing Queen against a beautifully detailed Egypt that we see it as it must have been so long ago.” – Publishers Weekly
“…splendor, splendor everywhere…” – Kirkus Reviews
“This is as fine a novel as anyone would want to read.” – Columbus Dispatch
“…a compelling and human story without a single dramatic lapse…” – San Francisco Examiner
“Pauline Gedge creates her characters currents and counter-currents which are as complex and unfathomable as the ever-changing flow of the Nile… remarkable emotional immediacy… Her research is impeccable. But beyond the knowledge of an embalmed civilization, Miss Gedge has the talent to resurrect it and give it life in all its barbaric brilliance.” – Bridgeport, Connecticut Post
“…epic accounts of feasts and festivals, and a steady flow of details related to life in ancient Thebes…the sunny, sweating world of (Egypt) in filmic splendour.” – The Vancouver Sun
“…a glorious book, a triumph for the author, and a memorable treat for the reader.” – St. Louis Globe Democrat
“…a rich pageant, satisfying on more levels than simply that of narrative…” – The Wall Street Journal
“The author’s strong sense of time and place is evident in every scene. A superb portrait of a powerful but very human queen.” – Library Journal
“…combines ancient artifacts, timeless psychology and sure pacing…” – The Globe and Mail
Pauline’s notes on Child
In the 1970s the culture department of the Alberta government decided to inaugurate a writing competition for amateur novelists together with the publisher Macmillan of Canada. A monetary prize from the Alberta government and a contract and advance from Macmillan were offered to the top three entries. I was unaware of the competition until my mother read about it in the Edmonton Journal newspaper and suggested to me that I should produce an entry.
I had written poetry sporadically over the years but had not attempted anything serious in prose. However, I had nothing to lose so I borrowed her typewriter and wrote what I later learned was a typical first novel – something autobiographical. In that first year there were ninety-eight entries submitted to the judges, a fact that floored everyone involved. Who would have thought that one province could contain so much artistic talent? My novel came in fourth so I was encouraged to enter again the following year. Having decided that I had learned everything I needed to know about novel writing I was crushed to find that my manuscript had not placed anywhere in the seventy-or-so submissions. I began a third attempt, but thirty pages into it I knew that it was not worth reading and would fail to attract any attention. Obviously I had learned SOMETHING from my two previous endeavours!
I was staying with my sister in Calgary at this time, feeling depressed and desperate.
The entrance to her apartment was from a set of stairs against an outer wall. I forget where I had been that morning, but I vividly remember standing at the foot of those steps, looking up towards her door, and feeling as though my life had no purpose. I began to climb. By the time I came to the top a miracle had taken place in me. I knew exactly what I was going to write about – or rather, who – an ancient Egyptian woman I had studied about and admired since I was eleven. It was an experience that every writer longs for once in a career, that flash of inspiration, and for me it happened at the moment when my future seemed darkest.
I went on to write the story of Hatshepsut, my Child of the Morning, in a scant six weeks, won the Search-for-a-New-Novelist Competition, and embarked on the career that has given me the purpose I doubted that I had.
Child of the Morning has been translated into French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Finnish, Turkish, Norwegian, Danish, Portuguese, Greek, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian and Russian.
The Slow Road to Perfection
One of the questions I used to be asked a lot when Child of the Morning was first published was: “What does it feel like to be an overnight success?”
Anyone serious about writing must smile, as I did, at the idea that success in any area of creative work comes quickly or easily. Behind my winning novel stretched twenty years of writing, years I would not have wanted to throw away in exchange for any ‘overnight success’. I did not realize it at the time, but I was undergoing an apprenticeship, one that enabled me to build a writing career on a solid foundation of gradually learned self-discipline, the slow and always continuous honing of writing skills, and the accumulation of life experiences on which to draw.
There are no shortcuts; indeed, shortcuts would be dangerous, circumventing the very necessary maturing process that in the end produces good fiction and a steady output. A writer learns by doing.
Most of us are no strangers to the story or novel that won’t work and has been started umpteen times, the resignation to disappointment when the mailman comes, the realization that writing is one-tenth good times of inspiration and nine-tenths sheer drudgery.
This may seem like cold comfort to those who are struggling towards completion of a first novel or story and regard publication as the pot of gold at the end of a very long rainbow, but any writer who writes regularly can look back and see his own growth. The longer he has been writing, the greater the accumulation of evidence that indeed, he is ripening. One cannot keep writing without improvement. It is impossible.
One learns to live, not from the highs of expectation to the lows of despair at yet another failure, but on the deeper level of personal growth in one’s work and the more enduring satisfaction it brings.
It will also bring publication in the end. I am convinced that perseverance, genuine commitment to the art, quiet plodding, take us inevitably to the goal.
I remember the many times, while actually writing Child of the Morning, I was overcome with fear. I would stop tapping away and suddenly see myself as I really was, a foolish woman with two children and no money who instead of being out trying to find a job was wasting time chasing a dream I had failed to bring to reality twice before.
I think the same fear attacks many writers, particularly those who have not yet been published. If it is not exactly the fear I had, it is similar – the fear of ultimate failure, of ‘wasting time’, of ‘being selfish’. I know there are many people in our province tucked away on farms, in small towns, and in the cities, who are closet writers wrestling with the bogies of loneliness and discouragement. I would like to remind them that ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ may be a worn old cliché, but it is only worn because it states something very true. Gritting one’s teeth and getting on with the job is the only route to eventual success. If I have learned anything from twenty-eight years of writing, it is the value of sheer, cold determination.
But the picture for Alberta authors is sunnier than for many.
We need not, unless we choose to, face the prospect of pushing our finished manuscripts out into a void. We have an accessible goal in the Alberta Novelist Competition. It is something concrete to work towards, and that should give us all great hope. I know that without it the course of my own life would have been very different. We may submit work to it and fail, as I did twice before I offered Child of the Morning, but how comforting to know that even if we fail it is still there to receive each new attempt. It cannot give us faith in ourselves but I do think it provides that little extra edge of encouragement for those in the doldrums, and everyone knows that writers need all the encouragement they can get.