|Robert J. C. Stead|
Dry Water was written by Robert Stead between 1932 and 1935 and was later renamed But Yet The Soil Remains. It is a character story and and perhaps his best novel. It is set on the prairies like the rest of his books but seems more authentic because he shows the misfortunes that happen on the prairie with more clarity. It captures the spirit of the times with peoples hopes of easy money and their doubts and the up and down of the stock market.
Although Dry Water may be considered Stead's best work it was not published until long after his death. At the time that he finished it, the depression had hit the nation and publishers were wary of making books that couldn't sell. He was told that it needed more action by McClelland & Stewert who were interested in publishing it. Stead refused to comply and stated that Dry Water was not supposed to be an action story but a character story. McClelland and Stewert did not end up publishing as the situation had worsened and they could not convince an American publisher to collaborate with them.
Over the next two years Stead sent the manuscript to various publishers, both American and Canadian, and in 1937 was finally released from the contract with McClellan and Stewert. While returning the manuscript John McClelland told Stead he should change the title as Dry Water was not a "good selling title."
For nine years the manuscript was kept untouched by Stead. In 1946 he changed the name to Prairie Farm and again tried to market it. Thomas Allan agreed to publish it if Stead shortened the manuscript, but they too backed out when they could not get an American publisher.
Stead left the novel until he was done government service in one year. He revised it again and renamed it But Yet The Soil Remains and sent it to Lorne Pierce of the Ryerson Press. Despite the favorable reaction from Ryerson, the novel was not published because they were releasing Music At The Course,which was of a very similar subject. Pierce did suggest to Stead that he submit the novel for the Ryerson Fiction Award and when he did, it looked like he would win it. However, Stead received a letter stating that they had decided not to give out the award this year.
The version that was published posthumously in 1983 is
the one that Stead submitted in 1947 to Ryerson Press; however, the editor,
Prem Varma, chose to change the title back to the original.