Tag Archives: book launch

Delicate Impact – Celebrating Poets

I have a soft spot for The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) and the not-for-profit organization has a soft spot for poets.

Every year around this time, The Ontario Poetry Society releases its annual membership anthology. The process begins in March when members interested in sharing their work will submit their ten best poems based on the year’s theme. Then during the spring months, an assigned editor will select the best work from those submissions.

Delicate Impact - Beret Days Press 2018

Delicate Impact (Beret Days Press 2018) edited by April Bulmer and illustrated by Nan Williamson features the delicate-themed work of 63 poets from The Ontario Poetry Society.

It’s a huge project but the result is an eclectic mix of work celebrating poets and poetry. Some submissions are new creations. Others are previously published and/or contest winners. What a wonderful showcase!

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Launched – A Brief History of the Saugeen Peninsula by David D Plain

“Both history and culture are important facets for a people to protect. One of the ways of doing this is through storytelling.” –David D Plain*

Aboriginal Day Events June 22, 2017He tempts us with a book launch invitation and a free bowl of Indian corn soup. I smile. I’ve never tasted corn soup before but we’re here (at the Maawn Doosh Gumig Community and Youth Centre in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada) to support David D Plain, a local indigenous writer, and to learn more about his sixth book A Brief History of the Saugeen Peninsula (Trafford Publishing, 2018).

At first, the banquet room appears empty. I didn’t think I was that early. Where was that free soup? (Teasing here!)

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Lummox Press Seeks Poetry for New “Canadian Only” Anthology

If you’re a Canadian poet, polish up your poems but don’t wait too long! Lummox Press of San Pedro, California wants to see your best work for a new “Canadian Only” anthology. The deadline for submissions is February 7, 2018.

LUMMOX 6 - Sarnia reading - James Deahl - Photo 1 November 18, 2017

Canadian poet James Deahl will edit a new “Canadian Only” poetry anthology for Lummox Press. The book is expected to be released in October or November 2018 with readings in early 2019.

James Deahl (the Canadian poet assigned to edit the project) has already started some of the pre-editing but expects more poetry to come in over the next few weeks. The target size of the book will be 200 pages.

“My working title is Tamaracks: Canadian poetry for the 21st century,” he said. “Publication should be in late October/November…There will be contributors’ readings early next year in cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Sarnia, etc. Los Angeles too. All contributors will be invited to participate in all readings.”

Deahl’s passion for poetry is evident. He is the author of 26 literary titles and many of his accomplishments have been featured on this blog before. Two of his books To Be With a Woman (2016) and Unbroken Lines (2015) have been published by Lummox Press. For four years he has also encouraged Canadian poets to submit work to LUMMOX, an American poetry anthology published by the same press and has helped to organize Canadian launches for these books.

LUMMOX 6 - Sarnia reading - N. Leonard Segall - Photo 1 November 18, 2017

Leonard Segall, board rep, Lawrence House Centre for the Arts, says a few words at the Lummox Number 6 launch in Sarnia.

Last fall, several Canadian contributors of LUMMOX Number 6 participated in a reading in Hamilton.

On November 18, the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts hosted a launch for the same anthology in Sarnia.

The 216-page anthology featured the work of over 150 poets from the United States, Canada, the U.K., Australia, China, and Dubai.

Seven of the 23 Canadian contributors plus a previous Canadian contributor were on hand to share their work during this afternoon event.

Additional information about the anthology featuring American, Canadian, and International poets and authors appears here.

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Officially Launched – Drawing From Experience

“We sat on the ledge/weathered edge of life’s dock/…celebrating the ascent of friendship.”    -Debbie Okun Hill*

New books remind me of paper boats launched into a river. Some will float near the dock and amuse the locals who are fishing along the shoreline. Some may crash into a wave and sink like the Titanic to annoy the pickerel and bass. Others may venture beyond the sunset and entertain strangers in foreign ports.

Drawing from Experience - Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017 - by Debbie Okun Hill

I hope my poems reach you like a friend with an outstretched hand.

Unlike novels, a poetry chapbook can be fragile like origami and calligraphy mixed together. It is the watercolour of the literary arts and sometimes misunderstood like the mysteries of life.

The passage of time is a mystery too…like a drifting boat.

Over two months ago, Big Pond Rumours Press officially launched my poetry chapbook. Drawing From Experience, at the Exmouth Street Coffee Lodge in Sarnia. For me, the afternoon was more than an event to introduce my art-themed poems to an audience. It was an opportunity to spotlight the literary arts as well as to applaud the support of friends, family and other writers. What a celebration it was!

Drawing from Experience Launch Featured Readers and more November 11, 2018

An entertaining afternoon with featured readers Anne Kavanagh Beachey and Ryan Gibbs, the chapbook launch of Drawing From Experience (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) by Debbie Okun Hill, emcee Bob McCarthy, and Big Pond Rumours Press founder Sharon Berg.

Special thanks to featured guest readers and former Lambton County residents and writers Anne Kavanagh Beachey and Ryan Gibbs who returned to Sarnia to share their stories and poems. Local historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy was the emcee and his humour warmed up the audience. (Bios on these authors can be found in an earlier blog post.)

Drawing from Experience Open Mic Readers November 11, 2018

Open Mic Readers: Top Row (left to right) – David D Plain, Lynn Tait, Norma West Linder, Bob McCarthy. Bottom Row (left to right) – Gloria Pearson-Vasey, Bob Boulton, Carmen Ziolkowski.

Belated thanks to the ‘collage of open mic performers” (in alphabetical order): Sharon Berg, Bob Boulton, Norma West Linder, Bob McCarthy, David D Plain, Lynn Tait, Gloria Pearson-Vasey, and Carmen Ziolkowski.

Plus a round of applause to Sharon Berg, publisher of Big Pond Rumours Press who worked hard to not only publish my chapbook but the work of three other poets: Bob Wakulich, Nelson Ball, and Harold Fedderson.

Additional information and earlier reviews focusing on my chapbook Drawing From Experience can be found here.

Big Pond Rumours Press 2nd Annual Chapbook Contest

Big Pond Rumours Press is currently seeking poetry, flash or short fiction, and non-fiction manuscripts for its next chapbook contest. Deadline is February 28, 2018.

Big Pond Rumours Press is a micro-press based out of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Submissions for its second annual chapbook manuscript contest is now open until February 28, 2018. Additional information about the press and the contest can be found on its website.

*From the poem “Starting a New Tradition” from the chapbook Drawing from Experience (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) Page 5 Used with permission from the author © Debbie Okun Hill 2017

 

 

More Than a Book Launch – An Invitation to Share – November 11, 2017

“She runs barefoot over river beds/holding hands now with Emily Carr/slipping her childlike fingers/through scenic waterfalls,/toting pots of iridescent paint,/an easel, and a brush or two.” -Debbie Okun Hill*

Call it a ‘collage of performances’ or a ‘painting with words’ celebration! When Big Pond Rumours Press officially launches my chapbook Drawing From Experience, this Saturday afternoon at the Coffee Lodge in Sarnia, please come prepared to share something you’ve created. Take your pick: two short poems, a couple of jokes, flash fiction, a song, or even a painting, a dance or a theatrical skit. Yes, I want to hear you during the open mic.

November 11, 2017 event in Sarnia with correct spelling

Stop by and read during the open mic portion of this event. Sign-up for readers will be at the door. This is a public event. Admission is free.

I plan to read several ekphrastic and art-themed poems including “Spirit of Peggy” from my new 30-page chapbook. This tribute poem to the late Peggy Fletcher was written over 5 years ago, following the passing of this local prolific writer and artist. During her life, she had a gift for meshing the literary and visual arts together: the way she penned her words and layered them over a sketch, a computer-altered photograph or a scenic watercolour she had produced. She supported all the arts. I think of her often and hope that she will be there in spirit.

Additional highlights: featured guest readers and former Sarnia-Lambton residents Ryan Gibbs and Anne Kavanagh Beachey will also read for about 10 to 15 minutes each. I have admired and followed the work of these two writers for years and I look forward to their performances. Ryan will read poetry inspired by his recent travels and experiences while Anne will share a humourous short story. Special thanks to historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy who will emcee the event. See their bios below.

Anne Kavanagh Beachey November 6, 2017

Guest reader Anne Kavanagh Beachey, a humourist, former columnist with The Observer, and fiction writer.

The rest of the afternoon will be devoted to the open mic stage where anyone may share his/her creative work. Sign-up for readers/performers will be at the door but please arrive no later than 10 minutes prior to the chapbook launch so that a schedule can be finalized. For those interested in reading, plan for approximately five minutes per person, keeping in mind, the estimated length of each performance will depend on the number of people signed-up. First time and/or experienced performers are welcome. The event is open to the public. Admission is free.

What are you waiting for? Grab your imagination and run wild like the geese preparing to take flight on an autumn day. If you prefer to stop by and just listen. That’s fine too.

Mark it on your calendar: Drawing From Experience launch – Saturday, November 11, 2017 – 2 to 4 p.m. at the Coffee Lodge – 400 Exmouth Street in Sarnia – Ontario  –  Canada.

Hope to see you there!

FEATURED GUESTS

Ryan Gibbs Profile Photo

Guest reader Ryan Gibbs, a former co-host of Spoken Word at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts. Photo courtesy: Lois Nantais

Ryan Gibbs lives in London and is pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Western Ontario. He works as an English professor and coordinator at Lambton College in nearby Sarnia, where he is a member of the After-Hours Poets and has read his poetry in the City Council as part of the nation-wide Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge. His poems have appeared in Tower PoetryThe Windsor Review, and the anthologies Under the Mulberry Tree and Whisky Sour City. His children’s poetry has been included in the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness. An earlier interview with Ryan appears here.

Anne Kavanagh Beachey was born in Wales, emigrated to Canada, and was involved in Sarnia-Lambton’s writing community for decades before moving to London. Her short stories and humorous verse have been published in numerous magazines; some of these stories won prizes in Angles magazine and Writers’ Digest Competition. She wrote a monthly column about Lambton County for The Observer, including a column about Dudley George, who died at Ipperwash during a tragic confrontation with the government. Her favourite form of writing is the novel.  She has written five (unpublished as yet).  Her latest one, Fresh Is The Rose is in three volumes. She hopes to publish the first of these in the near future.

THE EMCEE

Bob McCarthy 2016 Photo 2

Bob McCarthy, a historical fiction writer and author of the new memoir The Book of Bob (not shown) will be the emcee. Bob will launch his new book on Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 1 p.m. at The Book Keeper in Sarnia.

Bob McCarthy lives in Sarnia and is a prolific writer. Since his retirement from teaching for the Lambton-Kent District School Board, he has been active in making the history of Lambton County available and interesting to students and others through his writing, radio talks and visual history projects. He has written three novels based on the lives of his ancestors and seven books about Lambton history. His memoir, The Book of Bob, will be launched Sunday, November 19, 2017 at The Book Keeper. Earlier articles about Bob and his work appears here and here.

Additional information about my chapbook Drawing From Experience, can be found here.

My updated bio is located here.

Big Pond Rumours Press is a micro-press based out of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Additional information about the press, can be found on its website.

*From the poem “Spirit of Peggy” from the chapbook Drawing from Experience (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) Page 6 Used with permission from the author © Debbie Okun Hill 2017

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.

i-wont-be-afraid-says-vanessa-shields-photo-by-eveline-csomor

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.” 

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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.