Guest Blog by Emily-Jane Hills-Orford

Cover Personal Notes

Creative nonfiction is basically a memoir told like a story. Since I come from a long line of storytellers, I believe that the best way to tell my stories, my memoirs and my family stories, is to write them like a story instead of a dry biography, a list of one’s accomplishments. Both my grandmother’s story, Personal Notes (Moosehide Books, 2008), and my mother’s story, F-Stop: A Life in Pictures (Baico Publishing, 2011), are written in first person, revealing the true character and allowing the story to unfold from the main character’s perspective.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000044_00021]Emily-Jane Hills Orford author photo

It worked so well that I chose this same format, creative nonfiction in first person, to write my most recent novel, To Be a Duke (Christine F. Anderson Publishing, 2014). To Be a Duke is a dog story, basically, but it’s also more than just that. I wanted to tell our dogs’ stories in the hopes of encouraging and influencing people to show more respect and care for dogs (and other animals/pets).

Duke, and our first dog, Misty (who also appears in the story), were rescued from shelters, having suffered abuse and neglect in their earlier homes. I didn’t want my story to promote the ‘me’ part of it, but to rather promote the ‘love of dogs’. There are countless rescue stories all around us that deserve, and often do receive considerable recognition. Duke’s message is about love and respect. And he is all of that and much more.

To Be a Duke is told from Duke’s point of view. He’s telling his story. I usually tell people, jokingly, that Duke dictated his story to me; I just typed it up and edited it. He is a good muse, though. Our daily walks inspire some great ideas for both his stories and many of my other stories.

It is always reassuring to receive positive feedback, to realize that your intent, your message, is coming through in the story. Here’s what some reviewers have written:

Mamta Madhavan wrote for Readers’ Favorite: “It is a story with a message that tells us how love can bring out the best in not only humans but also animals.”

Also from Readers’ Favorite, Faridah Nassozi wrote: “The choice to let Duke tell his story was excellent and made the story even more touching as he narrated his experiences in the different homes. It is a really emotional narration that will make you think twice about your actions towards dogs, narration that will make you think twice about your actions towards dogs, and all animals in general. You do not know the inner workings of the mind of a puppy until you have read To Be A Duke.”

And Gisela Dixon also wrote for Readers’ Favorite: “I hope that this book will serve as an inspiration to other people and motivate them to help dogs and animals in general.”

I believe the message is slowly getting across. People who read my stories are commenting positively on the style, the format and the subject itself. Favorable reviews are helping, but awards certainly boost the book’s prestige. Both F-Stop: A Life in Pictures and To Be a Duke were named Finalists in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards (2012 and 2015 respectively).

Telling a story effectively and getting the message across – that’s only part of my goal. I also want and hope to encourage others to write their stories, their family stories, their special animal/pet stories. After all, everyone has a story to tell. All a good story needs is a writer to write it.

Many of Emily-Jane’s stories and novels reflect her national pride. She loves writing about Canada and the extra-ordinary Canadians who have made Canada a great nation. Emily-Jane’s stories have appeared in History Magazine, Canadian Stories Magazine, The Curious Tourist Guide, and Western People. She has written several fiction and non-fiction books: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Ukulele Yukon, Letters From Inside, The Creative Spirit, It Happened in Canada (Books 1, 2, and 3), Personal Notes, The Whistling Bishop, Songs of the Voyageurs, F-Stop: A Life in Pictures, Still Delicious, Amazingly Extra-Ordinary Women and To Be a Duke. An award-winning author, she was named a Finalist for the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards with her book, The Whistling Bishop, Finalist in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards with her book, F-Stop: A Life in Pictures, and again Finalist in the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards for her book, To Be a Duke. (

Emily-Jane has a Masters degree in Canadian Studies from Carleton University, and a strong academic background in Canadian music and art history. She is a much sought after speaker who often draws upon her stories about extra-ordinary Canadians and extra-ordinary people around the world, particularly women. She also teaches both music and creative writing to people of all ages, but particularly enjoys working with creative young writers. For more information, check out Emily-Jane’s website:

About Catina Noble

I am a writer, author, teacher and traveler.
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1 Response to Guest Blog by Emily-Jane Hills-Orford

  1. David says:

    That’s a very original and fun way to write stories! 🙂

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