Alumni Book Nook: Victoria M. Jurgens (BA’91, BSNT’92)

Victoria M. Jurgens is the author of the children’s book "Silisia Dances Toward Her Dream"

As a registered dietitian, University of Saskatchewan (USask) graduate Victoria M. Jurgens (BA’91, BSNT’92) has taken on a number of related roles throughout her career, including as regional executive director with Dietitians of Canada, as vice-president and president of the Saskatchewan Dietitians Association (now called the Saskatchewan College of Dietitians), and as a board member with the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan (HSAS). She has also served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in Saskatchewan and has been self-employed as an author and a co-owner of Big Al’s Forest Service with her late husband.

Jurgens earned two degrees at USask: A Bachelor of Arts (honours) degree in psychology from the College of Arts and Science in 1991 and a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition from the College of Pharmacy in Nutrition in 1992. In 2014, she was named a Centennial Alumni of Influence by the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition during the college’s 100th anniversary.

Jurgens, who lives in Saskatoon, is the author of three books, including Plainfolk: Stories from the Farm about the Impact German-Russian Farmers and Planer Colonists had on Two Countries and Seven Generations and A Perfect 10. Her latest is a self-published children’s book, Silisia Dances Toward Her Dream, which was released on Jan. 31, 2024.

What is the focus of your new book?

Silisia loves to dance, but her dancing dreams may not come true as easily as she expected. Mistakes, difficult instructions, and name-calling from the other girls sure don’t make things any easier. But Dad’s donuts, practices with a friend, and her grandmother’s stories might just be enough to help Silisia dance closer toward her dream.

What inspired you to write this book?

My granddaughter—she was eight years old at the time. When I showed her where her name was in the book Plainfolk, she was excited. She looked up at me and said, “Grandma, you should write a children’s book.”

Every time I visited (her) she’d ask me if I had the book written. After several months with my response—“I’m still thinking about it”—I figured I better write a book for Jasmine. So, I wrote the book, gathered some clip art to enhance the story, printed it out on computer paper, and stapled it together. The next time my granddaughter asked if the book was ready, I handed the computer printer paper book to her. She was happy.

The next month when I again visited, Jasmine asked, “So, Grandma, did you get the book finished?”

“I gave it to you last time.”

“No, Grandma. I mean like the other book.”

“Oh, you mean published with a hard cover and everything?” I asked.

“Yes! I want to sell it to my friends.”

And that’s how I became an No. 1 best-seller children’s book author.

Her Grade 3/4 (split) class clapped at the end of an in-class presentation where I read the book to them. Many of them told me I should write more books.

Did your education at USask play a role in researching and/or writing this book? If so, how?

My education definitely helps me in my authorship career. Writing many essays, research topics, and an honours thesis, in the pursuit of my degrees, strengthened my writing and research skills.

Having editors make many suggestions to improve my books is like water off a duck’s back. That acceptance came from having experienced the many corrections—and, at the time, red marks (everything was done manually with a red pen)—made by my honours thesis professor. I often think fondly back to my memories of that. At the time, I figured she must have thought I was a dumb greenhorn student. Now, I know it was because I didn’t know how to write a research paper at the highest quality required (but, because of those red marks, I learned).

What are five adjectives that you would use to describe your book?

Heartwarming, relatable, uplifting, inspirational, powerful—and perseverance through practice.

Why would you recommend your book to USask alumni?

The following—in part from one of my fans—says it best: “Its message touches the heart and builds personality, feeds the soul, and inspires all to reach for the stars, for though they seem far away, they’re within our grasp. All we have to do is work for them. My hope is for Victoria M. Jurgens to keep creating, for her words reach out to those of us who need affirmation and a nudge to get us on the path to our own creation and imagination.”