By Mark Werke
A local woman has published a book related to her family member who survived the Titanic. Mary Wernke is a distant cousin of Margaret Mannion, who traveled with her fiancé on the Titanic to make a better life in America. Mannion’s fiancé did not survive the crossing and she was alone in America during a very interesting time in history.
Eventually, Mannion was able to return to Ireland, but declined to discuss the disaster or her time in America. Fascinated by the seed of a story, Wernke spent a year researching the loss of the ship, the emigrants leaving Ireland and the era of 1910-1920 when Mannion lived in America. Historical fiction, as a genre, is very susceptible to stretching the truth when it comes to facts like the use of telephones, automobiles and the drama of World War I. Some Titanic enthusiasts will likely have a field day picking apart the fictional chapter where the boat sinks and Mannion is saved.
Beginning with her original fascination with the story’s inception, Wernke contacted Mannion’s grandson in Ireland and received his blessing to create a work of fiction about his grandmother’s time in America. Wernke had traveled with her sisters and a niece to a Mannion Clan reunion in Ireland in 2017, so contacting the grandson was not as difficult as it might sound.
In November of 2018, Wernke wrote the book in 12 days from a detailed outline, then set it aside for a couple of weeks to ferment. On returning to revise and edit several weeks later, she was short 8,000 words for National Novel Writing Month — a contest that writers participate in each fall to incentivize their work. Nose to the grindstone, she completed the necessary 50,000-plus words by November 30 and, following further revisions, ended with more than 72,000 words in the volume.
The book is historical fiction and is published on Amazon, so it is available in both digital and print formats. The book will also be available through local merchants and at book signings at the Alliance Library on June 17 and at the Hemingford Library on June 20, both at 7 p.m. Wernke will also return to Ireland in August to share her novel at with the Mannion Clan Reunion there.
Wernke is a third-generation Box Butte County author and journalist. For years, she wrote for the Hemingford Ledger, KCOW, and the Scottsbluff Star-Herald. Her mother was an editor for the Alliance Times-Herald and her grandmother, Mae Manion, was a correspondent for several local newspapers, including the Times-Herald.