Writer Sarah Sawler used her curiosity about Nova Scotia as the launching pad for her first full-length book: 100 Things You Don’t Know About Nova Scotia (Nimbus Publishing).
In 2013 Sawler wrote the article “50 Things You Don’t Know About Halifax” for Halifax Magazine. The collection of miscellany, trivia, and factoids was one of this magazine’s most-read articles ever, leading to a series of three more articles on the theme. As the stories garnered more interest, a book became a no-brainer.
“When the articles blew up and started to get a lot of media attention, I put the other things I was thinking about pitching on the backburner and focused on this,” Sawler says
She delved into the province’s social, political, economic, and cultural history. “Of course I had to branch out beyond Halifax and didn’t want to reuse all the things in the articles either,” she says. “I tried to get a diverse mix of communities as there are some that aren’t always covered as much as others.”
Sawler wanted the book and its facts to have more context and be more well-rounded. As with her articles, she’d look in historical records for a sentence that stood out to her. Then, she’d spend three to four hours researching the topic to see if there was more to the story than one line.
It was hard. “I’d start digging through all these resources and I’d find all little one liners that didn’t go anywhere as I wanted to make sure I had supporting research,” she says.
One of her favourite facts is about Prince Valiant comic creator Hal Foster, who was born in Halifax. As an eight-year-old, he crossed the Halifax Harbour in a raft.
“When you have an eight-year-old crossing the harbour in raft, it’s a hilarious and disgusting at the same time,” says Sawler. “But I think that’s my favourite because I’m a bit of a comic geek and also [the comic was] a big deal as the Duke of Windsor called it the greatest contribution to English literature in the past 100 years.”
Sawler would like to see her work inspire others to find out more about Nova Scotia, as researching it did for her. “I hope people realize there is a lot more to this province that you see on the surface and they go out and explore a bit,” she says.