Jacqueline Carmichael, centre, autographs copies of her new book Tweets from the Trenches for Ucluelet locals Barbara Schramm, right, and Susan Lee at a book reading in September. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Carmichael publishes unique history book about WWI

“I hope this helps people identify with them and remember them.”

From her home in Port Alberni, author and journalist Jacqueline Carmichael reads an excerpt from her new book about the First World War Tweets from the Trenches: Little True Stories of Life & Death on the Western Front:

“Excerpted journals, James A. Jones. Richdale, Alberta. Saturday, June 2, 1917: In supports and due to go over the top on Sunday morning. This may be my last entry if among those who fall. I die firm in the belief of a crucified Christ. I want my wife to know that my only regret was on her account and die blessing her with my last breath. May God protect her.”

“I tear up,” said Carmichael. “I’m tearing up even now.”

Carmichael went on to say that the soldiers’ diary was returned to his wife, who made the final notation on June 29, 1917, “The day my darling died. Gone but never forgotten.”

This trench journal accompanies 156 pages of poetry, photography, and war letters written by Carmichael’s own grandfathers who fought in the First World War. A Tofino connection includes a poem and wartime photo of Harold Monks.

Carmichael touts her new book as a kind of flash documentary creative non-fiction. As research leading up to self-publishing the novel, she travelled to Belgium, France, and Germany, and walked portions of the Western Front.

“It has been remarkable, but a lot of work. People that think they would like to self-publish, they need to be prepared for a lot of work,” said the author and former publisher of the Westerly News.

She used Belgian photographer Steven Van Den Eynde’s photo of ‘Canada Bereft’, a dominant statue at Vimy Ridge, on the front.

“That amazing picture really summed up the regret and the sadness of the war.”

Her son Brad helped with a lot of the design aspects of the book, notes Carmichael.

“He’s a real computer guru. I couldn’t have done it without him.”

Ucluelet book dealer Susan Lee said Tweets from the Trenches is unlike any other war book because of its unique combination of poetry, pictures, and vignettes.

“This would be good for generations that are completely removed from the war,” said Lee. “The young kids that don’t have any idea of the impact it had on peoples lives, home and abroad. This is why we have Remembrance Day. The book really brings it home for youth that have no connection.”

Carmichael created Tweets from the Trenches with that very hope in mind.

“I really want people to understand. I hope readers get a sense just how much like us these people were. They weren’t black and white icons. They were just real living people that were asked to do extraordinary and sometimes terrible things,” said Carmichael. “I hope this helps people identify with them and remember them. And maybe think a little bit about the people that came before us and just be really grateful we don’t have to do that.”

Now in its second print run, paperback copies of Tweets from the Trenches are available for purchase at Blackberry Cove Marketplace in Ucluelet or online at amazon.com.

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