WELLESLEY ISLAND, N.Y. (WWTI) — Storytelling has always been a part of Local Author Tom French’s life. It is what drove him to start his career in writing, complete 35 years of teaching middle school English, and now, is a twice published author.
French grew up on Wellesley Island on the St. Lawrence River and spent year listening, recording and writing down his grandfathers stories of his time on the river.
“My grandfather and grandmother lived down the street, so we spent a lot of time with them and he was a storyteller,” shared French. “I started recording him, probably in the late seventies, just because I knew that he wouldn’t be around forever and the stories were really good. And I think that his storytelling nature, I think I inherited that to some degree.”
This storytelling ability is now seen publicly.
French has two published books. One a historical, non-fiction book titled River Views– A History of the 1000 Islands in 3-D, which includes hundreds of old photographs along the St. Lawrence River.
The second is a collection of short stories set in the Thousand Islands titled, Wind Water Waves. Although fiction, French shared how they are based on experiences he, and his grandfather have had on the River.
With that, he also compared his experiences to his grandfathers, noting that their times on the River were much different.
“So my experience has come from a different place than my grandfather. And I think that dichotomy between the two experiences is also a part of what makes those stories in the book work,” he said.
Adding, “I think for me, there was a kernel of truth where the story begins. And that might be the emotional element that you’re trying to grab a hold of, but then you can work with the story to bring in the elements of fiction, but maintaining that kernel.”
Wind Water Waves is currently a finalist for the 2021 Indie Book Awards. This is the world’s largest book awards program for independent publishers and self-published authors.
“To know that people looked at the book who are not from this area and read some of the stories, maybe all of the stories, and felt that whatever I was saying spoke to them. That I connected to them in a way that made them realize that what I’m doing here is important and in a broader sense,” stated French.
And compared to his first book that documented previous life on the River, French expressed that his collection of short stories has connected an audience on a different level through emotion and language.
Noting, “for me, and I think for others who have read the book and enjoyed the book, it reaches down into sort of the spiritual depth of a connection to this place.”
Previously French’s River Views was awarded a Silver Medal for Best Regional Non-Fiction in the Northeast in the Independent Publishers Book Awards of 2012.
Wind Water Waves will be featured in the Indie Book Awards Ceremony on June 25, where both winners and finalists will be announced.