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Pat Mestern's work re-published 40 years later

'I was quite surprised. It had been written so long ago,' says Fergus author

Author Pat Mestern is pleasantly surprised by the recent uptick of interest in her work.

Forty years after Anna: Child of the Poor House first went to print, it’s been picked up by an American publisher and is experiencing a new life in print, with discussions underway that could see it turned into a movie or tv series.

“You really have to be kidding,” Mestern recalls thinking when she first learned Dudley Court Press wanted to re-release Anna in traditional form. “I was quite surprised. It had been written so long ago.”

Based in Wellington County, Anna tells the tale of a girl born in 1904 into the local house of industry and refuge, generally known as the “poor house,” and adopted by a wealthy Toronto family. Later in life she returns to the community in hopes of learning how her mother ended up at the poor house and along the way meets a variety of local characters, finds romance, mystery and more.

It’s based on a true story, Mestern stresses. The inspiration came from files in the Wellington County Museum and Archives, which took over the poor house building, where she worked at the time. 

Mestern said she’d never written before that, but felt Anna’s story needed to be told ... with names changed to protect people's identity.

The right to sell e-book copies of Anna and most of Mestern’s other works made their way to Dudley Court Press through a variety of closures and mergers in the publishing industry, though she retained the print rights after the book’s initial run.

“People kept asking for the book. I think over the years I printed 20,000 copies,” she said. “They’re still selling extremely well.”

For years, Mestern had been attending craft shows and other gatherings with copies to sell, along with keeping bookstores throughout the area supplied. However, when officials at Dudley read Anna, they wanted to see it return to printed book form.

“We really like Pat’s writing … and her stories that are based on real environments,” said Gail Woodard, president and CEO of Dudley Court Press. “Lots of people like to hold a book in their hands and (Anna) is one that felt good to us to produce as a paperback.”

Depending how sales of Anna go, Woodard said the company would be interested in re-publishing other books by Mestern.

The life-long Fergus said she received her first republished copy in August. Most sales are done through Amazon, though there is a distribution network in the United States and in Canada, to a lesser extent.

“It’s had really good sales,” the 80-year-old author said of the re-published work, noting she’ll find out how good the sales have been at the end of the year when she receives her annual royalties payment.

With Mestern’s husband, Teddy, living in a long-term care home in nearby Elmira, those royalties will help cover the cost, she said, adding there are “discussions ongoing” that could see the book turned into a movie or tv series as well.

It could take years to come to fruition, she noted, adding it’ll be her children who benefit from any financial compensation from that.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed it’s going to happen and it’s going to be good,” Mestern said, noting she doesn’t expect to have any say over the script. “I would love to see it as a Canadian movie, as a Canadian production.”

With all this going on, there’s been interest in a third installment of the story, Mestern said, explaining Rachel’s Legacy was the sequel to Anna’s story.

“I’m thinking about it,” she said. “I’ll have to acquaint myself with the characters.”

Mestern is also considering writing a fictionalized biography of her husband’s life, as well as an autobiography.

“I’d have to leave town,” she said with a chuckle. “I know too much.”

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