First novel serendipitous for Albernian

Alberni author writes what she knows in tea tale.

Author Michelle VanNice shares a cup of tea with a guest while discussing her first novel

The writing of Michelle VanNice’s first novel, SerendipiTEA, could be called a serendipitous meeting of some of her best dreams.

VanNice—her pen name is Thelma—grew up in Vanderhoof, B.C., and spent summers on her grandparents’ Century Farm in Sheridan, Ore. She once worked as a proofreader at the Nechako Chronicle, and spent 12 years teaching adult students at the College of New Caledonia Prince George campus.

Now an English teacher in Port Alberni, VanNice has always dreamed of writing a book about stories. After taking an aboriginal storytelling course, she set about creating her own reality.

“Through telling stories we can get to know each other. Even if those stories aren’t about yourself,” she said.

What goes hand in hand with reading a good book but a steaming cup of tea? And that is another of VanNice’s passions. A bit of a purest, she prefers boiling fresh water and pouring it over loose leaf tea.

“I love tea too. It’s a mysterious, exotic, crazy drink,” she said.

Tea is a focal point in SerendipiTEA, set in the fictitious town of Wolfton. Most of the action takes place in the tea house as well as the bookstore next door, Dragonfly Tales.

The book starts out slowly, something VanNice is quick to point out herself. However, there is a rhythm to it, and once you catch on the story wends its way nicely from chapter to chapter. The lives of Wolfton’s characters are revealed bit by bit as they meet at a tea house/ bookstore for weekly storytelling classes.

VanNice is adept at mixing eclectic pairings of people in her tale. “I always noticed in small towns there’s such a variety of people…and we’re all just at the co-op buying our milk,” she said. “You just got together and did things because you had to.”

Some of the characters are loosely based on people in VanNice’s life, and a couple of her own tales have made it into the book, albeit disguised.

Readers with an appreciation for tea will love the sections where VanNice writes about the history of certain teas, and how they are made. A favourite part for me was her description of a blooming art tea—both how teas with names like Dragon Lily and Tiffany Rose Melody are assembled, and the process they undergo as they unfurl in a teapot or teacup.

VanNice accomplishes her storytelling goal by having each character’s story published in the Wolfton Howler newspaper.

VanNice is selling her books at the Harbour Quay Farmer’s Market, sharing a table with Angie and Gord Blake of Harbour Quay Teas—an appropriate pairing.

VanNice is also working on her second novel, and promises some of the characters from Serendipitea will appear.

“I can’t seem to help myself,” she said. “I miss my ‘people’.”

editor@albernivalleynews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Port Alberni writer featured at Alberni Valley Words on Fire

Vicki Drybrough’s poetry and short stories have been published in anthologies and literary journals

Tour de Rock alumni ride through Port Alberni

Event was scaled down this year in response to COVID-19

Third brewery on the way for Port Alberni

Alberni Brewing Company hopes to open in early 2021

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Port Alberni long-term care home gets new bath chair

Westhaven residents say thanks to WCGH Foundation for donation

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

B.C. marriage annulled because husband was unable to have sex with wife

Husband did not disclose any sexual health concerns to his wife prior to marriage

White Rock’s namesake spray-painted with Black Lives Matter slogan

Vandalism occurred sometime between Friday and Saturday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. VOTES 2020: B.C. Liberals vow to eliminate sales tax for a year

From 7% to zero, then back in at 3% to stimulate economy

Vancouver Island couple’s sheep farm dream disrupted by high lumber price

The solar powered farm project in Sayward will be set back by three years if the lumber price continues to remain high

The holiday everyone needs this year: Vote for your favourite in Fat Bear Week 2020

Voters will get to decide who gets to take home this year’s most coveted prize

Most Read