Tag Archives: book launch

Look At Her – Vanessa Shields, a Gutsy Poetic Crusader

With each poem I write, I am less afraid – Vanessa Shields*

Call her a poetic crusader: a woman waving a feminist flag with a capital C for “Courage” and “Conviction ” pressed against her breast. In her new book Look at Her, Windsor poet/editor Vanessa Shields belts out poem after poem after poem of raw emotion focusing on four major themes: Body, Motherhood, Family, and Power.

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Windsor poet/editor Vanessa Shields is currently on tour with her second poetry collection, LOOK AT HER (Black Moss Press, 2016). Photo by Eveline Csomor

Intimate, almost always expressed in the first person point of view, her second poetry collection exposes private details that should or shouldn’t be shared depending on where you sit on the comfort scale. Liberal-minded readers will love it. “Don’t be afraid to have an opinion.” Conservative thinkers may turn away and insist they’d sooner not read: “My vagina is not a haystack/Yet I can feel a needle in her centre.”

Her powerful writing reminds me of feminist songwriter Helen Reddy’s 1972 billboard chart hit “I Am Woman” where the refrain roars, emphasizing a woman’s importance in being wise, strong and invincible. She’s all that and more…

And yet, Shields admits to a woman’s vulnerability as hinted in her words “my teenage self a sloppy poem under his nose”, “bruised buildings oozing too much feeling” and “she hopes the bruises don’t show through.” 

For me, her strongest writing evolves around the memories of family. In ‘Kitchen Dancing’, she writes, “My aunt scoops me up in her long strong arms and spins me/around like I’m a table cloth in the washing machine.” In the same poem, “he’d never use/a broom in that kitchen not when he could be sweeping her/sweeping us into his quiet devotion.”

Her writing style is very much her own. As she writes ‘In The Silence’, the last poem of the book: “I am muddy water pounding over rocks/searching for land….I won’t be afraid.”

Tomorrow (Friday, October 14, 2016), Vanessa Shields stops in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada as part of her current book tour.

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Vanessa Shields joins local poets for a special reading, Friday, October 14 at the Blackwater Coffee Co. in Sarnia, Ontario.

Curious about this energetic poet/editor? Pull up a chair for this enlightening conversation with Shields following her return from Ottawa.

Congratulations Vanessa!  Your second poetry collection  Look At Her published by Black Moss Press is like a sequel to your first collection I Am That Woman. Please describe your new book in a few sentences.

Thank you! Yes, many of the poems in Look At Her are responsorial to the poems in I Am That Woman. What I believe is at the heart of Look At Her is a conversation in poetry between my different experiences of ‘self’ as well as a conversation between myself and the people around me. I want to challenge myself, and readers to look within, and to look around and be honest about how we feel about ourselves and the world, how we treat ourselves and each other, and, essentially, how we communicate with ourselves and each other. A raw honesty is at the heart of this collection.

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Vanessa Shields’ first poetry collection I Am That Woman (Black Moss Press, 2013) ‘turned the themes of femininity and motherhood upside down.’

Both books are gutsy, written mainly from a first person point of view, and address some of the grittier aspects of being a woman in today’s society. I noticed your second book has less swearing but you’ve turned up the heat with more sexual references, and have pushed deeper into such issues as divorce, dysfunctional relationships, and power struggles. What lessons, if any, would you like the readers to walk away with?

Good question. One lesson, for sure, is that we are always learning and growing as human beings. The effect of our learning (in ‘life lesson’ form) is that our relationships, our beliefs, our abilities to love and be loved shift and, potentially, change. I think it’s my job as a poet to pay attention to how we treat ourselves, and each other, and to write about how I push through my own challenges. One lesson I’m constantly working on is being brave – as a writer that means having an opinion. Of course, we all have opinions, but it takes a certain something to put those opinions out of your head and onto paper for others to read, receive and respond to. On one level, there are lessons about parenting, sex, relationships, spirituality, family and forgiveness, but beneath that, I think the lessons have to do with the underlying goal of humanity – to love, to be able to love and be loved. No matter how I think through any human experiences, it always results in something related to love.

What is your favourite poem in the collection and why do you like it so much?

Another good question! There are many poems that really come to a different ‘life’ when I perform them. I often write knowing that I’ll get to read the work out loud to an audience, and that affects the theme and energy of the piece. So with ‘performance’ in mind, I really love ‘Doggy Style’ and ‘The First Time I Watched Porn’. Likely the poems that are more edgy and envelope pushing are the ones that have a good performance power to them. I also really love ‘If I Listen’ and ‘Not The Only Woman’. They hold the heart of ‘me’ in them. It’s hard to choose just one! Each of them is special to me.

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Look at Her by Vanessa Shields continues to push the boundaries.

How does your work differ from others in the same genre?

Well, as this book is shared and I get feedback from other writers, I find that they compare me to writers they’ve read that makes them feel the way my poems make them feel. Recently, I’ve been compared to Sharon Olds and Molly Peacock. I hadn’t heard of these poets before (I don’t like to admit it, but there you have it!), and wouldn’t you know, the day after I heard about Sharon Olds, there she was in my inbox in a newsletter that Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner send out called Lenny Letter. Olds wrote an incredible poem about breasts. I immediately went online to purchase books by both Olds and Peacock. I do think that we write from the same feminist place. But the truth is, I often feel like my work is just different enough that it’s not really like any other poetry.

I read a lot of poetry, and I don’t often find work that feels like mine. Not sure what that means…but when I get compared to writers, I always do research and read to see if there is a similarity. I think there is with Susan Olds, for sure. Eve Ensler, maybe too. I think, though, that I’m just at the beginning of this poetic frontier where I’m less afraid to write about how I feel about ‘big’ things…and that shows up in Look At Her. I’m certainly not the first poet to write about sex and body parts. I won’t be the last, but I do hope that there’s something about my work that stands out, and compels people to read poetry, and provokes them to talk about the themes/subjects I write about.

Sometimes it feels that writers must push the boundaries to be noticed. We can’t all be ax murders, former junkies, prostitutes, bank robbers, forensic scientists or even trans-genders. No disrespect, of course, but is there still room for poets who fall through those cracks and live what may be considered boring, stable lives or those who are more introverted and less flamboyant? What advice would you have for those who have a quieter voice?

A writer must write her truth. I think that my words, and often my performance of those words, affect people in a way that causes them to put me in the ‘push the boundaries’ list of writers. But I don’t really feel that way about my work. I think my aim is to jar or rattle the soul. For some people, hearing (talking about) sex does this. For others, it’s themes of war or rape. I believe with all my heart that everyone is creative. That each of us lives a life that is sharable and teachable through some form of creative expression. I don’t believe that life is ever ‘boring or stable’. I think that’s story we tell ourselves. I am extremely introverted much of the time. That is where these poems are born. I am quiet and pensive and often times, very shy. I’ve just learned and lived through the practice of writing how to express myself as a poet. Flamboyant? Perhaps, but that’s all part of performance for me. In the end, it’s a reader and the words. If she hears my literal voice as she reads, great, but mostly I don’t think that’s the case. The words and the meanings standalone like a line-up. The reader brings her own beliefs and life experience to the words and reacts. This is why I write – to reach people on deep levels.

I guess; I’m not sure that writers consciously write to push boundaries to be noticed. It’s not that simple. Maybe I’m naïve? I think that writers, if they are writing their truth, just write – and the results show up in reader responses that say ‘this writer pushes boundaries’ – but not to be noticed as a writer (the person) but as the words to provoke or make a point or cause change or chaos or whatever the message(s) entail.

Describe your writing process.

Consistently inconsistent. Hurried, yet calm. Disciplined, mostly. I write at various times during the day and night. Sometimes I have up to 2 hours of writing time, while mostly I have chunks of 30-45 minutes. I write poetry by hand on paper first. I carry notebooks everywhere I go so I always have something to write on. I love to type on keyboards that are clackety – I have one with my desktop computer in my office. I also write ‘out and about’ – in restaurants, bookstores, cafes, bars. I can write anywhere, it doesn’t matter if there’s plenty of noise or none. When I’m writing poetry, the first drafts, it can happen anywhere. When I’m working on my novel (or longer forms of writing), I do like to have a bit of quiet. Sometimes I write to music, but nothing with words or else I sing along! When it comes time for editing and revising, however, I find I need quiet. I like to edit at my home either at my dining room table or in my office (if it’s clean!). A messy office begs for me to clean it, and that’s totally distracting! I write every day. And everything counts – emails, hand-written letters, poetry, ideas, etc. I can say with pride that I’ve put in my 10,000 hours of writing practice and I feel confident calling myself a professional writer/expert! Writers write, and I get that, and I live that.

What are you currently working on?

I’m touring my new book so a lot of time is spent on promotions, marketing and travel. I wasn’t writing anything new for a few months, but now, I’m finding poetry is flowing through me again. I’m working on a collection of poetry about my Metis ancestry and my family’s ancestry in general. I am planning on getting back to my YA novel for what I hope is the last re-write. I’m super excited (giddy!) about working on this again. I think I might do NaNoWriMo again this year to help motivate me to write with discipline every day. I’m also working with Windsor’ Poet Laureate and my publisher, Marty Gervais, and 6 other local poets, on an anthology of poetry about Windsor’s history. I’m reading and choosing poetry for the next two Windsor Review volumes. I’m working on a panel presentation for the League of Canadian Poets Feminist Caucus…and now that I think about it, I need to write another blog for the League…Oh my. There is no shortage of writing work to be done!

What are your future plans?

Hmm. Well, in 3 -5 years, my dream is to open Gertrude’s Literary Café. A space for creative writing, book launches, reading series, storytelling series, reading…with delicious coffees/teas and fresh pastries. I have no idea how to life this dream to life, but it’s there and very real in my mind. Before that, I’d like to see what happens with my YA novel(s). It’d be incredible to get an agent and a book(s) deal. It would be great to continue to get my poetry published…but in the end, I want roots in a space so I can do all the things I love to do in one location – and invite everyone to share the space with me!

In addition to writing non-fiction and completing a young adult novel, you are a former editor for Black Moss Press and the current poetry editor for the Environmental issue of The Windsor Review. Based on your experience, what advice (or secrets) would you share with a new poet in search of a publisher?

I wish there was a secret! I’d have to say, write with confidence. Submit with patience. Keep writing. Keep reading. Before you submit to a literary magazine, read what they’ve already published to see if your work fits. This goes for sending out full manuscripts as well. There are many great publishers I love, but I know that my writing doesn’t fit their publishing style. I have to accept that. Use Facebook groups and the Internet to find out where to send your work. There are literally thousands of contests and submission calls. Don’t be afraid to reach out to local writers for information about writing. I’ve learned about many amazing contests/publishers by simply asking writers for guidance. And the biggie – you must have someone else read your work before you submit a manuscript. Hire an editor. Revise. Read your work out loud. Then submit. When you get rejected – keep the rejection. File it. Start a collection. I keep mine and the stacks keep me humble and motivated…cry if you have to cry when you really wanted to get that poem published. I feel you. But…don’t give up. Wipe your face. Blow your nose. And get back to work.

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Vanessa Shields’ Selfie – “I Won’t be afraid”

It appears that the role of the writer has changed. Not only must writers create strong poems but they must also be experienced marketers. You have mastered that skill. How important are marketing skills for a writer? Can a writer still succeed in this highly competitive environment without touring, attending readings, blogging, and interacting on social media?  Why or why not?

This is a loaded question. I ask myself this question sooo often. In short, yes. A writer can survive without being a force of marketing/social media madness. The way the writer can survive is through her work. If the work is strong and resonates, readers will buy the book. It happens all the time. In the beginning, the power is in the words, the story. If a writer’s work becomes successful then she will likely have to do readings, plug-in and show up off the pages…but it is possible for the work to stand-alone.

However, I think that many of us enjoy the sharing part. The readings, the travel, the blogging, the interviews – whatever we can get to talk about our work and share it. There is so much great writing in the world. Sometimes, we get impatient and lose confidence in the time it takes for people to read our work. And, if want to be read a lot, sell loads of books, win awards, we simply must put ourselves out there – or work with our publishers to get us out there. I think you have to ask yourself what you want out of the industry. If you want to be known, be read, make noise – then you have to get out there and try to make it happen. I say try because although I market myself, promote myself, submit to contests/etc…I haven’t reached my own ‘pinnacle’ of ‘this-is-what-it-means-for-me-to-be-successful’.

I get frustrated A LOT. I cry about what’s not happening all the time. I have to calm myself down when I see that what feels like ‘everyone else but me’ is getting her work in the places I wish mine would be. It’s a dangerous place, this ‘why not me’ zone. You have to figure out what ‘success’ means to you. Based on that, you move forward and see if you can be the definition you have in your head and heart. I’ve had much success. I’ve felt the heat of a fiery, passionate reading where I’m floating afterwards. I’ve had many incredible conversations with readers that burst my heart. But I haven’t been reviewed by the Globe & Mail. I can’t seem to get Quill & Quire to notice me. I haven’t received a big-money grant….all of these things are part of my ‘success’ definition.

I’m constantly having to re-align and re-define what ‘success’ means because I’m very hard on myself and my work. And I compare my writing to everyone else’s. I want the success that others have – at least that’s what I’m telling myself. Again, the danger is that in doing so, I lose the beauty and love that is happening with my work. I am getting it out there. I am touring it. I am reading and selling books. Why do I make all of this joy not ‘count’ because the Globe & Mail hasn’t written a review? Sheesh. I wish I had an answer…but I don’t! Except…to make everything ‘count’.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?

I think…yes. Think about what you love to do. Do that. A little every day. See what happens. And…if you read my book(s)…please take the time to go on Goodreads or Amazon and rate me or write a review or do both! This counts – for my heart, and for me to feel ‘successful’! Even if you didn’t like it. Everyone counts!

Thanks Vanessa for sharing your views today! I love your enthusiasm, your generous words of encouragement!

For future tour dates, readings and insights follow Shields on her blog.

Additional information about Vanessa Shields’ books is posted on the Black Moss Press website.

*from “Acknowledgements” published in the book Look At Her (Black Moss Press, 2016) page 105. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © Vanessa Shields, 2016

DISCLOSURE: Vanessa Shields was my editor for my first poetry collection Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014). While I have maintained my objectivity in this blog post to the best of my ability (I even purchased my own review copy.),  I highly recommend that readers form their own opinions about the poet and her books. Better yet.  Attend one of her readings and meet her in person. 

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.

 

In Winnipeg, Three Cheers for the Book Marketing Wizards at McNally Robinson

“Books launched at McNally Robinson often catapult to our local best-sellers list.” – statement from the McNally Robinson Booksellers website

In a few short months, I’ve fallen in love with McNally Robinson Booksellers, an indie bookstore located in Grant Park Mall, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  Call it a long distance friendship, an admiration for a company that understands the value of customer service.

Guest readers Brenda Hasiuk, Brenda Sciberras, and Carmelo Militano with Tarnished Trophies author Debbie Okun Hill at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg.

Guest readers Brenda Hasiuk, Brenda Sciberras, and Carmelo Militano with Tarnished Trophies author Debbie Okun Hill during a recent launch celebration at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg.

Perhaps all indie bookstores have this same charm. The Book Keeper in Sarnia, Ontario certainly works close with its local literary community and the owner Susan Chamberlain often brings in authors from out-of-town. You expect this with smaller centres but I was pleased that the “Friendly Manitoba” license plate slogan extended to this McNally Robinson retail store located in a major Canadian city with a population of over 700,000* people.

The best part of launching a book in your hometown is seeing friends and family you haven’t seen in a long time.

The best part of launching a book in your hometown is seeing friends and family you haven’t seen in a long time.

I shouldn’t have been surprised but I had forgotten how warm and rich in spirit this community could be. Yes, I was heading home to my prairie roots where my grandparents sowed potatoes for a living and where I first penned editorials for a high school newspaper. What happened to some of those familiar faces in my yearbook, my university friends who continued on when I took some time off, my college classmates and colleagues I worked with in the public relations field?

Like the Red River, memories of smiling friends and relatives flowed through my mind. Many of us still corresponded. Would any of them be interested in a combined reunion/launch/celebration of my first poetry book? When I asked their opinions, the name ‘McNally’ kept rolling off their tongues.

Familiar faces...

Familiar faces…

I hadn’t considered working with a large bookstore. At first my thoughts circled around a local library or a church hall because many Canadian bookstores don’t carry poetry collections from unknown poets. Selling a poetry book with a sport theme is rather challenging like trying to place a basketball in a hoop when your eyes are glued closed. Not all athletes like poetry. Not all poets like sports. Not everyone wants to wander into arenas to discuss competition, bullying, ageing, and even suicide.

John Toews, Event Coordinator, McNally Robinson Booksellers received an honourary membership from the League of Canadian Poets during a joint conference with The Writers Union of Canada in late May 2015. Congratulations! Photo by Okun Hill

John Toews, Event Coordinator, McNally Robinson Booksellers received an honourary membership from the League of Canadian Poets during a joint conference with The Writers Union of Canada in late May 2015. Congratulations! Photo by Okun Hill

However, McNally’s on-line marketing material razzle-dazzled me and the rest is history.  Bravo to McNally Robinson’s event coordinator John Toews and his book marketing wizards who did an amazing job. This is what impressed me and this is why I would recommend McNally’s to others. Feel free to use the guidelines for evaluating launch options in other parts of the country.

McNally’s has a Winnipeg event coordinator who coordinates almost everything. Talk about placing your trust into someone else’s hands. John Toews was friendly, patient, efficient, organized and a great listener. He made you feel like your event was special even though McNally is host to one or two book launches or events a day.

They are experienced. If you don’t believe me, see how many events they plan in a week, in a month, in a year.

They know the Winnipeg market! When the event coordinator heard I had moved away from Manitoba, he strongly suggested that I find some local writers to read with. This was one of the best suggestions I’d receive. Not only did I meet several local writers in the process but I was equally impressed by the local publisher Turnstone Press as well as Manitoba poet Carmelo Militano who accepted this outsider/stranger and made me feel welcome in this literary community.

Check out these Manitoba authors and their books Morning After You, Boy Lost in Wild,  and Magpie Days.

Check out these Manitoba authors and their books Morning After You, Boy Lost in Wild, and Magpie Days.

They started marketing the event immediately! As soon as the launch date was booked, information was posted on McNally’s calendar of events.

They are strong social media users. McNally has a large following with over 2900 likes on Facebook and 6300 followers on Twitter. What a great way to communicate with readers. For those who prefer newsletters, they also have an extensive mailing list.

They submit promotional material to the media. They have updated contact lists that would take days to prepare if you had to do it yourself.

They create posters and book displays. Imagine seeing your event notice posted prominently on their bulletin boards and stacks of your books displayed to customers as soon as they walked into the store.

McNally Robinson Booksellers are experts in organizing book signings and readings.

McNally Robinson Booksellers are experts in organizing book signings and readings.

They offer catering on location through their in-store restaurant Prairie Ink Restaurant. A variety of food and refreshments are available as an optional feature for your event.

They are honest! When I sought advice for food and refreshments, they told me my order was too large. They were right. The portions were generous. Even after downsizing my order, I still had many leftovers which my family enjoyed for days afterwards.

They share some of the expenses. Not all services are free, but the cost of a basic plan for the author is minimal ($25) and is good value for all the work that they do.

Kristian Enright, author of sonar (Turnstone Press, 2012) was emcee.

Kristian Enright, author of sonar (Turnstone Press, 2012) was emcee for the May 25 event.

Extra help is provided free during the event. Not only do they supply the chairs, mic, podium, signing table, posters, but someone can also be assigned to emcee the event.

They pay attention to little details. For example, they provide water for the guest readers and use their company name on the podium as well as logos displayed in a prominent location near the readers.

They are team players. They are problem-solvers and work well with numerous personalities.

They deliver results! What a nice surprise to not only see family and friends at the event but also strangers in the audience. For me, the smiling faces made it all worth it. McNally’s and my publisher Black Moss Press must have also been happy. For the week of May 31, 2015 my sport-themed poetry book Tarnished Trophies was ranked fifth in the Paperback Fiction category of McNally’s Winnipeg Bestsellers list.  Imagine a poetry book listed in the fiction category!!

Three weeks ago, the Winnipeg launch of Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014) was held Monday, May 25 at McNally Robinson Bookseller, Grant Park, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. For the week of May 31, the book was ranked fifth in the Paperback Fiction category of McNally’s Winnipeg Bestsellers list.

The Winnipeg launch of Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014) was held Monday, May 25 at McNally Robinson Booksellers, Grant Park Mall, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. For the week of May 31, the book was ranked fifth in the Paperback Fiction category of McNally’s Winnipeg Bestsellers list.

Special thanks to McNally Robinson Booksellers and everyone in the audience and behind the scenes who made this Winnipeg launch a highlight of my Manitoba visit! Special thanks to guest readers Brenda H., Brenda S. and Carmelo! Also thank you to my cousin T. G. Holmes who captured so many memories with his cameras. Some of these photos have been displayed on this blog. Others will be shared privately with the guests.

Finally, because I love to play with words:

If Dorothy (from the Wizard of Oz) played hockey with the Winnipeg Jets, she might have clacked her red skates together and cheered, “There’s no place like home ice”. If she played baseball with the Winnipeg Goldeyes, she might have shouted, “There’s no rush like a home run.”  Hmmmm, sometimes it just feels good to be back home in Manitoba.

Back home in Manitoba.

Back home in Manitoba.

Additional information about the photographer T. G. (Todd) Holmes can be found here.

Additional information about the May 25 readers (Brenda Hasiuk, Debbie Okun Hill, Carmelo Militano, and Brenda Sciberras ) and their work and publishers can be found here.                      

Information about booking an event at McNally Robinson Booksellers can be found here.

McNally Robinson Booksellers, Grant Park hosts literary events and launches on a regular basis. See here.

*Population stats prepared by The City of Winnipeg and retrieved from here.

Winnipeg Launch – Tarnished Trophies – May 25 with Special Guest Readers

You are invited

 Winnipeg launch/celebration Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press) featured poet Debbie Okun Hill with special guests Brenda Hasiuk, Carmelo Militano, and Brenda Sciberras

McNally Robinson Featured Readers May 25, 2015

To all my family, friends, former co-workers and relatives who are still living near the Winnipeg area, please stop by and say hello. Treat this as a reunion. Feel free to invite those I may have lost touch with. This is a public event.

You do not have to love poetry or be a book worm. I will not be twisting your arm to purchase books unless you want me to. I want this to be fun! If you know my private e-mail, let me know you are coming so we can ensure we have enough chairs set up. If you come without notifying me know, that is fine too.

This is also a great opportunity to hear and support the work of three local writers. I can’t wait to meet Brenda H. and Brenda S. Both were recently shortlisted for a Manitoba Book Award.* More details will be available following the awards dinner on April 25. Carmelo is also active in the community and hosts P.I. New Poetry, a half-hour poetry-themed radio show aired live every Sunday from 4:30 to 5 p.m.I look forward to meeting him too!

*NOTE added on May 6, 2015: Special congratulations to Brenda Hasiuk shortlisted for the Mary Scorer Award for Best Book by a Manitoba Publisher and to Brenda Sciberras shortlisted for the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer and the recipient of the 2015 Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book.

Special thanks to McNally Robinson Booksellers for all their help and suggestions and to the three listed traditional publishers who made these books possible.

Hope to see you there!

–Debbie

FEATURED READERS (in alphabetical order):

Brenda Hasiuk Photo credit: Ian McCausland

Brenda Hasiuk Photo by Ian McCausland

Brenda Hasiuk’s short stories have appeared in some of Canada’s top literary journals, including The Malahat Review, Prairie Fire, The New Quarterly, and Prism International. Her previous two novels have received much critical acclaim. Boy Lost in Wild is Brenda’s first collection of short stories. Brenda lives in Winnipeg, the coldest major city on earth, with her husband and two children.

Debbie Okun Hill Photo courtesy of Melissa Upfold for the Calculated Colour

Debbie Okun Hill Photo by Melissa Upfold for the Calculated Colour

Debbie Okun Hill is a former Manitoba resident: a CreComm graduate from Red River College and a former employee with The Regional News (Selkirk) and The Winnipeg Art Gallery. Her interest in poetry developed after moving to Ontario to pursue a public relations career. Today, her poems appear in over 100 Canadian and U.S. publications including Descant, Existere, The Binnacle, The Literary Review of Canada, The Windsor Review and Vallum. Tarnished Trophies is her first book. Visit her blog.

Carmelo Militano Photo by Vera Palette.

Carmelo Militano Photo by Vera Palette

Carmelo Militano is a Winnipeg writer and poet. He is the author of three poetry chapbooks and four books including the novel Sebastiano’s Vine and a memoir/travelogue. In 2004, he won the 2004 F.G. Bressani award for poetry. Morning After You is his most recent publication.

Brenda Sciberras Photo by Kate Robinson

Brenda Sciberras Photo by Kate Robinson

Brenda Sciberras is a Winnipeg writer whose poetry has appeared in several Canadian literary magazines and anthologies. She holds a BA from the University of Manitoba and divides her time between working fulltime in a library, singing in the Spirit’s Call Choir, writing, and her family. Magpie Days is her first book.

THE BOOKS (in alphabetical order):

McNally Robinson Featured Books May 25, 2015

Boy Lost in Wild (Turnstone Press) by Brenda Hasiuk

BLIW_700We may be lost but we are never alone. That is the message to be found in Brenda Hasiuk’s new collection of short stories, Boy Lost in Wild. Adrift in unfamiliar surroundings, strangers to the strangers around them, the characters in each story feel lost even though they are inextricably tied to one another. A foreign student, mugged on the streets of Winnipeg, befriends his landlord. A young man bursting with rage shares a quiet moment with a sibling. The tears of a child who cannot find his way home are soothed by the voice of an elderly woman. Through sparkling prose, Hasiuk’s stories ring true, cutting through the alienation of urban life and lighting the threads that bind us to one another.

Magpie Days (Turnstone Press) by Brenda Sciberras
MagpieFRTCVR_700pxClever and persistent, Magpie Days, the debut poetry collection from Brenda Sciberras, picks through the baubles and trinkets of the everyday. And like the black and white plumage of the magpie, Sciberras’s poems balance the exquisite tension between joy and misery. Evoking life-defining events from the remembrance of a first bicycle to the loss of a close friend, these poems acknowledge pleasure and pain as necessary to life.

Morning After You (Ekstasis Editions) by Carmelo Militano

morning after you coverMorning After You is an articulate and deeply human new poetry collection by novelist and poet Carmelo Militano. Militano writes in a variety of styles: confessional, free verse, lyric, personal monologue, long poem, and prose poem. Each style is dense with sensual and evocative detail regardless of whether he is describing a city landscape, the sky, or the body of a woman. Militano’s poems also celebrate and mediate and seek to capture the complicated dual reality of being and seeing from two cultural perspectives. Militano’s use of direct language, image, and subtle ironic tone combine to create a unique and fresh voice in Canadian letters.

Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press) by Debbie Okun Hill

TarnishedTrophies_CoverIn her first book of poetry, Debbie Okun Hill leaps from the bleachers into the light and shadow of the sports world. Mixed with the poetic portraits of sweat…the thirst for first…and the juicy taste of orange victory are the metaphorical snapshots of tarnished men and women, the unrewarded failures, and the need to reflect. Tarnished Trophies wrestles the athletic soul: this essence of winning and losing, loving and changing, growing and shaping.

THE PUBLISHERS (in alphabetical order):

Black Moss Press

Author of Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press 2014)

Since it was founded in 1969, Black Moss Press has built a national reputation for its contribution to Canadian literature. Black Moss has published more than 400 first editions and introduced more than 100 new authors to the Canadian literary scene.

Ekstasis EditionsEkstasis Editions

Ekstasis Editions is a Canadian literary publisher, with emphasis on poetry, fiction and criticism. Since its founding in 1982, Ekstasis Editions has published over 200 titles.

Turnstone Press

TP_IDB_INVRTFounded in a Winnipeg pub in 1976 to publish chapbooks by Manitoba poets, Turnstone Press has become one of the most highly regarded book publishers in western Canada, publishing not only poetry but also fiction, literary criticism and non-fiction.

Additional Manitoba events have been scheduled for May. See my 2015 tour schedule here.

Watch this blog for information about the Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour! A Winnipeg stopover has been recently added for Sunday, April 19. See you there!Great Canadian PoeTrain Tour Fundraiser Winnipeg Event poster

 

In Oakville: The Winter Warm-up Poetry Gathering

 

“We work diligently to help build and support the artistic community in the area.”   –statement from the Moonshine Café website, Oakville, Ontario, Canada

A poet friend from London once told me, “if you want to sell poetry books go to Oakville. The audience is very generous.”

Yes, studying the demographics of a community is crucial for marketing a book but sales can also depend on so many other factors. For example, the book’s content including topic and quality of writing is important. My friend writes beautiful poetry. I’m not surprised that his books sell well, no matter where he travels. The time of day or year can influence a buyer. For example, the holiday season often generates more gift sales yet sales figures can decrease if there are too many other books being sold at the same time.

The Moonshine Café in Oakville, Ontario was the location for the recent Winter Warm-up Poetry Gathering hosted by The Ontario Poetry Society

The Moonshine Café in Oakville, Ontario was the location for the recent Winter Warm-up Poetry Gathering hosted by The Ontario Poetry Society

I would agree that the people in Oakville are indeed generous and encouraging. John and Jean of the Moonshine Café on Kerr Avenue are examples of two people who openly support the artistic community. They have a reputation for welcoming both experienced and emerging artists and performers on their stage, In fact, if you walk to the back of their establishment, you’ll find several walls filled with photo collages: smiling images and creative expressions of past performances. A sign on the café front boasts that they’ve had “Live Entertainment Nightly Since 2006”.

Last month, The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) travelled to Oakville for their annual Winter Warm-up Poetry Gathering. It wasn’t the best day for travelling. The November sky had cast a grey-white-snow-confetti-slush onto the highways and sidewalks but in the café, a small group of enthusiastic poets clustered around the stage and applauded loud in appreciation.

 

November 16, 2014 in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

November 16, 2014 in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

Some members came to sell their books but most just wanted to read their work or to meet other poets. According to Bunny Iskov, TOPS founding member/treasurer, this grassroots poetry friendly organization has been meeting annually in Oakville for over a decade.

This year, Oakville Branch manager Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews debuted as emcee.

Yaquoob Ghaznavi at TOPS Oakville Event Nov 16, 2014

TOPS member yaqoob ghaznavi launched his book under the almond tree (Beret Days Press, 2014). The TOPS membership anthology Scarlet Thistles edited and compiled by Fran Figge with cover photo by Lynn Tait was also introduced. Watch for future blogs on these two books.

The afternoon included readings by both Oakville and out-of-town members: I. B. Iskov, George Arnold, Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews, John Corvese, Debbie Okun Hill, Ken Budnark, Susan Munro, Kent Bowman, Fran Figge, John Hastings, Ellen Stout and John Di Leonardo. Two guests Anne Cookson and Nancy Bertolotti shared work during the open mic portion of the afternoon. Music was shared by George Arnold and Kent Bowman.

Below are pictorial highlights of the November 16th event:

Oakville Readers 1 of 2 November 16, 2014

Oakville Readers 2 of 2 November 16, 2014The next members’ reading and open mic hosted by The Ontario Poetry Society will be held Sunday, February 15, 2015 starting at 12 noon at The Smiling Buddha, 961 College Street (near Dovercourt Road) Toronto, Ontario. Sign up for readers is at the door. More information can be found here.