Natasha M. Freeman (nee Rolfes) graduated from Hay Lakes High School in 1993 and received her BA in English at Augustana before travelling to Australia in 1998. After living in the UK and South Africa, she moved to New Zealand in 2005 and began writing The Story of Q, which is now up for the Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust Book Award.
“Moving away from the Camrose and Hay Lakes area was very natural for me,” said Freeman.
“I always felt a different aspect of life calling me away from those places – ending up in New Zealand was a great surprise, it was a wonderful place to grow as a writer. In order to write about the topics covered in The Story of Q, I needed to be away from home, given the breadth and space to grow emotionally, physically and psychologically through the topics as I wrote in order to create the story as I envisioned it.”
“Coming home to Alberta though always feels good. I always return to the AUC campus and visit my profs and will do so again next year, book in hand, to pay homage to the place where my wonderful education in English, political science, and women’s studies began.”
Freeman describes The Story of Q as the tale of four people who come to know the difference between religion and God when they uncover the meaning of an ancient document known as Q, a notoriously elusive historical document that contained the original sayings and parables of Jesus.
Including research, it took her six years to complete the book.
“Publishing a book is no small task – I had received numerous rejection letters from agents in North America and the UK,” she said.
The Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust Book Award recognizes writers whose work embodies the mind, body and spirit genre and the winner is awarded a cash prize of $10,000.
“It was a lovely moment for me when I received the news about the Ashton Wylie – a sweet validation – I felt very proud that four or so months after publication the book was nominated for one of New Zealand’s most prestigious literary awards.
“The competition is very distinguished and past winners are world renowned for their work. I am humbled and thrilled that my book is being recognized alongside other incredible works.”
Despite the book’s religious themes and the questions it raises about God, Freeman said she is reluctant to share her own spirituality, which she said is irrelevant to the story.
“I don’t answer questions about my faith very willingly because I think the discussion raised by The Story of Q. is far more important than anything I might or might not believe or any church or temple I might or might not attend,” she said.
“Life itself was the inspiration – contemplations and observations about the effect of religion in our lives, on the human psyche, upon the human family, tearing us apart, bringing us together.
“Also, quite simply, contemplations about the experience of being human – reality, science, religion, there’s enough there to last several lifetimes of thought and wonder. The Story of Q. is my small contribution to that enormous and wonder filled conversation.”
The awards ceremony for the Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust Book Award is to be held August 19 in Aukland, New Zealand.