“This is a book and it is a journey. It is carefully crafted with the feel of white archive gloves and parchment and tweezers, but the urgency of the writing and the creativity of the hybrid text lifts the stories out of the yellowed pages of history and right into your social media feed.”
– AUTUMN PHILLIPS, THE CHARLESTON POST & COURIER
“A remarkable voice from 100 years ago speaking to us today with exceptional power and emotion.”
– GRAHAM THOMSON, COLUMNIST/EDMONTON JOURNAL
The trench letters of my paternal grandfather, Oklahoma and Alberta farmer George “Black Jack” Vowel, were turned into a radio piece on CBC years ago, & then returned to the family by the daughter of Louisa “Bebe” Watson Small Peat, who corresponded Black Jack in the Great War and kept his letters. She & her husband, war hero Harold Peat, included Black Jack in their wartime books, Private Peat & Mrs. Private Peat. Transcribing those letters, & Black Jack’s journals, started me on a research odyssey. The Tweets from the Trenches: Little True Stories of Love & Death on the Western Front project started with a social media experiment on Twitter & Facebook as I envisioned my grandfather, @BlackJackVowel or #AlbertaWorldWarISoldier, “hunkered down under a hunk of tin” amidst pouring rain and artillery fire, desperately trying to be safe, while using a smartphone to communicate with loved ones a world away.
Articles and media attention about that experiment – & walking on Europe’s Western Front in their bootprints in 2016 & 2017 – eventually lead to this hybrid literary project, written in what I consider “flash documentary creative non-fiction.” I have generally labelled pieces drawn specifically from his journals with “BLACK JACK” at the beginning of the title, and have italicized his words within those pieces.
My research broadened as I read hundreds of letters & journals from others like him. I have included some larger excerpts from letters & memoirs, giving them proper credit & a “drop cap” treatment (large first letter) to help distinguish them. There are so many stories … millions of them. This is just a tiny sampling. As inclusive as possible, but by no means exhaustive. I have chosen to tell of ordinary people/not of leaders with their glories & their blunderings. I make no claim to the studied skills of professional battlefield guides and history experts. I’m just a writer trying to understand the past in my own eclectic way.
The e-edition of Tweets From the Trenches is now available! Read on your Kindle or Kindle-compatible computer or mobile device! Take 100 Little Stories with you wherever you go!
In TWEETS FROM THE TRENCHES, author Jacqueline Carmichael presents a marvellously inventive look at the First World War experiences of her grandfather ... A remarkable voice from 100 years ago speaking to us today with exceptional power and emotion. “I look like a loose button on an overcoat,” says Black Jack after four years of war. “Most of the boys I came with are gone.” His words are at times mingled with those of the author who displays her own poetic talents as she explores the impact of the war on Black Jack and his family.
Carmichael has spent years dissecting, digesting, curating and puzzling over the journals of George Anderson “Black Jack” Vowel. With this book, she offers a touching treatise of what she learned from about how we communicate and how we tell stories and how the telling shapes the way we remember. She writes: “Smell the TNT / Hear the whistle of the shell’s arc / Feel the panic slip in the mud underfoot / Hashtag that.” This is a book and it is a journey. It is carefully crafted with the feel of white archive gloves and parchment and tweezers, but the urgency of the writing and the creativity of the hybrid text lifts the stories out of the yellowed pages of history and right into your social media feed.
Tweets From the Trenches by J.L. Carmichael is a genre-bending look at one of the most significant periods of world history. In this project, Carmichael is in communication with one of the newest forms of communication -- social media -- yet is firmly rooted in the oldest form of communication -- the splendour of poetry. It's an innovative mind that can re-think such possibilities for history, and Carmichael's is a project brimming with vibrancy.
‘”Lest we forget” takes on an entirely different meaning on the pages of Jacqueline Carmichael’s wonderful new book. The images that she invokes through these poems, songs, images and tweets make the war to end all wars accessible for generations far removed from its carnage or from the lessons that have yet to be learned one hundred years later.
A brilliant and beautiful gift from Jacqueline Carmichael to her grandfather and everyone who picks up this remarkable book. The compelling journey is both educational and riveting, often at the same time ... This book is indeed worth retweeting.
Carmichael melds today’s smartphone technology and methods of communication with the importance of yesterday’s stories ... Photos and memorabilia from her own journey to the Western Front act like screenshots, capturing what for soldiers were fleeting moments, and to the rest of us are history enduring.
You can get in touch with me here… I look forward to hearing from you!
The granddaughter of two men who were soldiers in World War I for the duration of it, Jacqueline Larson Carmichael is a poet, working on a novel, who has made a career of journalism. Her work has appeared in news, travel & opinion articles in publications as diverse as The Dallas Morning News, Entrepreneur Magazine, The Alberni Valley News, The Westerly News, and the Toronto Sun.
She taught journalism to young people in the gifted program at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Texas and at the Alberta Legislature. She is a recipient of the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors First Place Award for feature series writing.
The dual American-Canadian citizen lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, with her family and two noisy Shetland sheepdogs.