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Author | Photo Ross MacDonald

Well Read: Sandra Perron, Author of ‘Out Standing in the Field’

The Word On The Street Festival touches down in less than a month, and in anticipation, we’re rolling out a series of interviews with authors we know you’ll love.

In her revealing and moving memoir, Sandra Perron, Canada’s first female infantry officer and a member of the Royal 22e Régiment — the legendary “Van Doos” — describes her fight against a system of institutional sexism. Out Standing in the Field is the story of a soldier who refused to let her comrades or her country down, even while serving a military institution that failed her repeatedly.

SDTC: Walk us through a typical day in your life, from getting up until going to bed.

SP: I have a great life! I’m an early bird, up at 5 and running or hiking in the Gatineau Hills by 5:30 or 6. I normally like to have a Tim Horton’s on my way there, just to make sure my eyes are open enough to watch out for bears. They usually couldn’t care less about me, but I figure I might as well be alert and in a great mood when I do come across them. Lucky for me, coffee does both.

Once I’m back home, my day consists of developing and updating course materials for some of the training I do with A New Dynamic Enterprise (ANDE), where I am a senior partner. (I like to brag that I have the best boss in the world, which happens to be ME!) I tailor and design each course for the specific audience and will conduct hours of research so that my information is pertinent to that field of work. I occasionally have lunch meetings with former military colleagues, or new acquaintances in Ottawa. I also sit on a few Boards of Directors (Commissionnaires du Quebec and the Perley & Rideau Veteran’s Health Center Foundation), so I occasionally have meetings with them, or help out various non-profit organizations. I enjoy peeling carrots and potatoes at Shepherds of Good Hope or the Ottawa Mission whenever they can use my help.

During the summer months, at 4:30 p.m., I gather my courage to go play a round of cards with my mom and share an apple cider with my dad. During the spring and summer, they live only five doors down the street from me and I get to enjoy their company for six months, while my youngest sister Nancy, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, has them for the winter months. Nancy and I joke that we have shared custody of my parents.

My mom fattens me up all summer in provision for the winter and then inflicts her irresistible cooking on my sister while I try to trim down. Some people have fat clothes, I have “Mom’s in town clothes.” After supper, I normally go for a walk and meditate, talk on the phone with my best friends or sisters, do push-ups or the plank for as long as I can and then read a little before going to bed at 9:30 p.m. I often end the day writing in my journal.

Okay, so it sounds like a pretty normal life after all. But I feel blessed every day.

Describe your education/career trajectory. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I never wanted to be a writer but I completed a Masters of Science in International Relations from University College of Dublin in Ireland in 2010 and realized that I excelled in writing. I had always thought that one day I would find the courage to tell my story, and my time writing a billion dissertations convinced me that perhaps now I had the confidence to do so. It took me another four years to finally find the courage to share my well-kept secrets.

Best advice to other young women wanting to get their work published?

Just write. Don’t worry about how it will all come together. When you are ready, the right people will appear on your path to make it happen (publisher, agent, editors, etc). Get started. The fear won’t go away until you start.

What literary trends are you loving? 

I am loving all these women empowerment books: Lean-In, Wild, I am Malala, etc.

What should we be paying more attention to?

Canadian Publishers!!!

What is your next project?

I want to work with veterans who have suffered Post Traumatic Stress injuries, particularly women. I’m not sure how, and what form that will take, but I know I can make an impact there.

Out Standing in the Field is being translated into French, so I will be busy with that book launch in early 2018. We’ve also received some interest in producing a movie of my book, so I’m very excited about that!

And of course, I’m hoping to be the best carrot peeler the Ottawa Mission has ever had. And maybe I can finally beat my mom at cards…

It’s the little things.

Meet Sandra and other fascinating authors at this year’s Word On The Street Festival on Sunday September 24th from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Get more information here.

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