Local resident Virginia Lynn has an engaging way of capturing all kinds of day-to-day experiences via the written word.
She has released a book entitled The Iron Petunia that contains selected columns she wrote over an eight-year span back in the 1980s for the Wainwright Star Chronicle.
Topics run the gamut from personal experiences to those magical and unexpected moments we often encounter in everyday life. Her style is warm, witty, insightful, and consistently compelling.
Lynn’s passion for writing was sparked when her family was living in Africa. Her kids were at boarding school, so she decided to take a writing class and something clicked.
On the family’s return to Canada and ultimately settling in Wainwright as pastors, she decided to ask the local paper’s editor if she could submit weekly columns.
He gave her the go-ahead, and Lynn’s literary skills blossomed – showcasing a knack for being a keen observer of an enormous number of topics.
But whatever she penned, it was done from a positive perspective – which she said was intentional.
“I promised the editor that the columns would be non-political, non-partisan, and of general interest,” she explained. “I had enough interest and curiosity that I would write about anything that I thought was interesting,” she added.
“You name it – the weather, glasses, people’s chins! People really liked it – the columns were funny, and it was good for me too as a pastor’s wife because sometimes, your life can be a little bit restricted. It was just really wonderful. And it fed my creativity, so I was very thankful for that,” she said. “You look around, and you see all kinds of things that could be interesting to write about.”
She later relocated to just outside of Sylvan Lake and moved on with other projects including the establishment of a retreat centre.
Eventually, she started thinking about those columns from years back and how maybe someday her kids would like to have them in a collection of sorts.
”When I read over them I would have these flashbacks – ‘Oh yes! I remember that time when this or that happened’. So this is a compilation.”
As for the name of the book, Lynn noted that the inspiration for it came during a time when she was taking a chaplaincy course in Florida.
One day, she was chatting with a patient in a Tampa hospital who was asking her about her life.
“He said, ‘You remind me of the iron petunias!’ I didn’t know what he meant,” she said with a laugh.
“He said, ‘You know, that movie – where the women had a lot of problems and the men were kind of crabby’. I said, do you mean Steel Magnolias?”
They had a good laugh about the mix-up, but the phrase ‘iron petunia’ stuck.
She started to see parallels in her own journey – that through the years she had coped with challenging and even tragic seasons in her life, but maintained a kind of strength and resilience just the same.
“It just seemed like a natural title,” she said.
These days, Lynn is delving into another creative means of legacy-building.
“I’m working on another legacy project because, since 1998, I ran a retreat for people with broken hearts,” she said.
“It was my ministry, and I poured my life into serving others and helping them to know that it’s not the end of the world if you’ve been fired, or have experienced a broken relationship or whatever.”
To best help those who would book time at her home, she did plenty of research and writing in preparation over a span of 14 years.
“It’s good stuff and I would use it repeatedly if there was an incident where this illustration or prayer could be used for another person,” she explained.
Much of this material could be used to help – in book form – other personal retreat centers down the road, she explained. Ultimately, she wants to continue to help.
“The secret of healing is an interior thing, but sometimes people just need a little nudge – and to be asked, ‘Have you thought of this?’”
“So at this stage of my life, it’s all working together – I see a pattern.”