Martyn Godfrey Remembered
I was reading Nathan's blog about young adult fiction, which stirred me to think about the fiction I loved when I was young. I was absolutely in love with the books by St. Albert author Martyn Godfrey. Some of these books included the "Ms Teeny Wonderful" series about a tomboy who becomes Ms Tenny Wonderful by her BMX jumping talent. He also wrote other books such as, "Can you teach me to pick my nose". He visited our school many many times, and inspired to me to write, which was one of my favourite hobbies, second only to reading. (That's what happens when your mom managers a book store for 17 years.) He always took time after his readings / lectures to answer my questions, and I always happily missed my entire recess or lunch break to use up his time asking those questions. I also remember signing up for his lectures at all the writing conferences over the years. And somewhere, from a newsletter, I have a picture of him shaking my hand.. I will have to find that.
I looked him up on the web only to find out that he passed away suddenly at the age of 51 in the year 2000. SO young! I have no idea how he died, and am sad that I have only heard of his death now. He was the president of the Writer's Guild of Alberta for a while. Here's an interested read about the WGA if you are interested:
Remembering My Friend
A eulogy was delivered by Frank O’Keeffe at a memorial service for Martyn Godfrey on March 17, 2000. This condensed version is published with permission from Frank O’Keeffe and Martyn Godfrey’s family, Carolyn, Marcus and Selby.
Martyn Godfrey was born in Birmingham, England, on April 17, 1949 and emigrated to Canada with his family when he was eight. He became one of Canada’s most popular children’s authors, selling millions of books in the English-speaking world. He wrote more than 40 books and received many awards for his work. He was a founding member of the award-winning 3,2,1 Write: An Edmonton Young Writers’ Conference organized by the Edmonton Public Library, among others, and was the Library’s writer-in-residence in 1989.
- by Frank O'Keeffe
You remember when we sometimes did readings together at the same school, you’d kid me about wearing a tie and not looking cool. Next time I wouldn’t wear a tie and you would, and you’d be sure to say, “Hey! Where’s your tie. You should have a tie.” Today I’m wearing a shirt and tie and today is St. Patrick’s Day but later I’ll change into the T-shirt you gave me that reads, “You can always tell an Irishman. But you can’t tell ’em much.” You always had a knack for finding just the right gift.
We all have our memories of you. Mine are of laughter. I’m sure many of the people here today have similar memories of you. We laughed a lot, you and I -at little things which sometimes got woven into a children’s book. We always accused each other of stealing each other’s ideas. You remember how in restaurants you always scribbled down, on the paper napkins, anything funny I said. I know you would laugh about that too.
My memories of you go back to 1982 when you came to teach at Pine Grove School in Edson, where I was also teaching. We became friends almost immediately. You had just had your second children’s book published. I was the editor of a teacher’s newsletter and I tried to make it funny. You laughed at some of the stuff I wrote and challenged me to write a children’s book. You gave me three months to write it, or, you said, “I’ll steal your idea.” I got it written in long hand in three months. You read it and Carolyn typed it up for me and I sold it. After my second book, also written long hand, I bought a computer. I had to buy the same computer as yours because I needed to phone you up all the time to ask you what keys to hit when I couldn’t figure it out. I still have that computer and I wrote this tribute on it. Actually that’s not quite true. The prolific writer that you were, you wore your computer out long ago and when mine began to break down we were able to salvage enough of the two systems to make one. I used your old keyboard … or maybe your hand on the keys.
We co-authored a book together, There’s a Cow in My Swimming Pool and when we did readings at various schools we both used the same jokes. It was always dangerous to go to a school six months or a year after you had been there, because when question period came kids would raise their hands and ambush me with questions that began, “Is it true that you and Martyn Godfrey...” Whatever you had told them before I got there, they always remembered. There were various versions at schools of how we came to write the book together. One was that it was a calf that had fallen into the pool and when you and I were waist deep in the pool trying to heave it over the side, you had this brilliant idea. There were many surprising versions as to how the calf got in the pool, and many versions of how we got it out.
Sometimes, when one of your books came out, I found myself featured as a character in the book, not always in a very complimentary manner but our friendship was such that no matter what we said to, or about, each other, we could always laugh about it. You were the teacher, Mr. Martin, in my first book. In 1986 your book The Last War was published. The dedication reads, “To my children, Marcus and Selby. May they never inherit the world in this book.” It’s not one of your humourous books but when the book came out, in the back under “Acknowledgements,” to my surprise, I found my name listed: “Mr. Frank O’Keeffe, spokesperson for Citizens for Nuclear Disarmament.” I’d never heard of this group. When I asked you what that was all about and what was I supposed to say if I was asked for a comment by a reporter, you said, “Just tell them you quit. You’re no longer on the committee. Don’t worry about it. It sounds good.”
We went to Mazatlan, Mexico, together in 1989. It was at this time of year. We got into conversation with a couple of Mexican ladies. It wasn’t much of a conversation as my Spanish was limited to a few words and you, Martyn, knew none at all. Ever trying to be helpful, you jogged down the street to a corner store and came back with a Spanish/English phrase book. Now this phrase book covered all of Latin America and included all sorts of recreational activities. You’d even taken the trouble to underline some of the phrases I should try. You had helpfully underlined, “Is this hotel near the ski lift?”
Yes there was a lot of laughter. In one edition of The Membership Directory of the Writers Union of Canada under “causes you support,” you couldn’t resist writing -“Saving the North for blood sucking insects.” Under “Awards Won,” you boldly stated: “I will never win an award.” You did, but winning awards was not one of your goals. You were much more concerned with writing books that were entertaining for the kids who read them. And entertain them you did. Very few authors have succeeded in entertaining readers to the same extent as you. And those teachers and kids who have been privileged to be at a presentation by you will know what I mean by entertaining. From stories about a kid with a raisin up his nose or his head stuck in his desk, you captivated those audiences.
You were a good teacher and you were well liked by your students. You were gentle and kind and always gave your advice freely. Besides your teaching and writing careers and the fun, you were a very caring person. You cared deeply about your family and, like most parents, worried about your children, Marcus and Selby. They’ll be fine, Martyn.
Martyn, you will be remembered by thousands of school kids across this country and in the United States, wherever your books are read, wherever you’ve given readings and by countless teachers and librarians who have hosted your presentations and laughed long with you. You will forever be in their hearts as you are in mine.
You will forever be in my heart.