Author P.S. Duffy, left, talks to Debra Cook before a discussion on her book, “The Cartographer of No Man’s Land,” Thursday night at the Austin Public Library.  Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Author P.S. Duffy, left, talks to Debra Cook before a discussion on her book, “The Cartographer of No Man’s Land,” Thursday night at the Austin Public Library.
Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Archived Story

Rochester author a success at annual Page Turners event

Published 10:16am Friday, April 4, 2014

When P.S. Duffy first found herself wanting to write a book, she had to ease into it.

She always got encouragement to try creative writing from her husband, who saw her talent. After all, she has spent years writing about neurological sciences for Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Yet a few short stories and a 2001 memoir prompted her to try her hand at writing fiction.

That was how her novel, “The Cartographer of No Man’s Land,” came to be.

Still, the process wasn’t always easy for someone who wrote so much.

“When I wrote this book, I was reluctant to let it go, actually,” Duffy told an audience Thursday night at the Austin Public Library. “I knew I wanted it published, but to actually send it off…”

Author P.S. Duffy starts the discussion for her book, “The Cartographer of of No Man’s Land.”
Author P.S. Duffy starts the discussion for her book, “The Cartographer of of No Man’s Land.”

Duffy shared her experiences in writing, research and in the way she became a writer with dozens of area residents Thursday as part of the annual Austin Page Turners book discussion. Duffy was all too happy to be a part of this year’s Page Turners event, which included speaking to students at Austin High School and meeting with area groups before a large discussion at the library.

“I love it,” she said. “I think a citywide read is a wonderful idea. We used to have one in Rochester.”

Though the citywide reading event is in its 13th year, the event is still well-attended and is growing, thanks to the increased emphasis on arts in Austin over the past few years.

“It’s so fun once you’ve read a book to meet the person who’s written it,” said Bonnie Rietz, chairwoman of the Austin Page Turners.

Rietz said the event is making ties to other artistic movements, such as the Austin ArtWorks Festival. Duffy, this year’s author, will also be a part of that event this August.

“It kind of all feeds off one another and makes it better,” she said.

For Duffy, writing a book like “The Cartographer of No Man’s Land,” set during World War I, required a lot of research and even more writing time. She actually wrote 250 pages of what she called “a very bad book” involving a tense scene at sea at the beginning before scrapping the project and restarting, emphasizing on the war time during the 1910s.

“The Cartographer of No Man’s Land” has roots in Duffy’s childhood. Her family owned a summer house in Nova Scotia, where Duffy spent many summers sailing. From the first time she visited, Duffy said she felt like she’d been there before. She also remembers feeling completely at ease sailing.

The book involves a Nova Scotia man who initially wants to become a cartographer in the war, but gets drafted into the infantry. Yet despite the somewhat grizzly topic, the book isn’t just about war, according to Duffy.

“It’s really about relationships, and the relationships we have with ourselves and the relationships we have with others,” she said.


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