Tag Archives: fiction

De Santis Co-Edits Seventh Italian Canadian Anthology

“It was my first day of school in Canada and I didn’t understand a word of English. I was feeling lost and lonely. But when Morena spoke to me in Italian, her words were like rays of sunlight illuminating the darkness.” –Delia De Santis*

 Italian Canadian writer Delia De Santis values the immigrant’s voice. Read one of her stories and you’ll hear authentic dialogue: the banter between neighbours, the fragmented sentences of broken English, the chatter of women at a social gathering.  It’s a skill that comes easy to her like cooking and serving Italian frittata for a guest or working behind the scenes at a local Books and Biscotti event.

Delia De Santis co-edited People Places Passages - Longbridge Books 2018 Image 1

Delia De Santis is a Bright’s Grove editor/short fiction writer known nationally for her work with the Association of Italian Canadian Writers.

Her gift for describing the struggles, joys, and cadences of this culturally-rich group is the basil that seasons her storytelling. As she wrote in one of her stories,

“Oh. So now I am not even Italian anymore,” he laughs. “What kind of talk is that? You were friends with my mother…you don’t think she was Italian? Didn’t she speak and cook Italian? Didn’t she do everything Italian? If you ask me, there was no woman around more Italian than my mother…”**

As a co-editor, De Santis also encourages other Italian Canadian writers to share their unique voices and ensures them that their written creations will be heard nationally and internationally. Her latest project People, Places, Passages: An Anthology of Canadian Writing represents her seventh anthology. Recently released by Longbridge Books, this book was edited with Giulia De Gasperi, and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni.

According to its back cover, the anthology features short stories, poems, memoirs, and excerpts of plays and novels in English, French, Italian, and a variety of Italian dialects. Its 98 contributors are established and prize-winning authors as well as emerging writers. The volume is the most comprehensive collection yet of Italian-Canadian writing, and a milestone in the history of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW). The writings in this anthology take readers on a journey through myriad worlds and themes: Canada and Italy, past and present, immigration, language, memory, friendship, love, fear, mystery, tears and laughter – an essential volume for students and scholars of Italian Canadiana.”

People Places Passages published by Longbridge Books 2018

People, Places, Passages (Longbridge 2018) is the seventh anthology focusing on Italian Canadian culture that Delia De Santis has co-edited. Included in the 98 contributors are local writers Joseph A Farina, the late Venera Fazio, and Carmen Laurenza Ziolkowski.

De Santis will soon travel to Manitoba for the 17th Biennial Conference, Roots, Routes and Recognition: Italian Canadians in Literature and the Arts, to be held at the University of Winnipeg, September 27-29, 2018. In addition to reading her short story “Why Is It Dark?,” she will participate in two panels: “Honouring and Remembering Venera Fazio” where she will read an essay about a friend/colleague/co-editor who recently passed away; and “The Making of an Anthology: People, Places, Passages”, a look at this important book created for the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW)’s 30th anniversary.

De Santis was also a panel member at the Montreal’s Blue Metropolis Literary Festival on April 29 and the first edition of Librissimi – Toronto Italian Book Fair at the Columbus Centre in Toronto on May 5. 2018.

Last week, I asked Delia to share her thoughts about her writing and editing process. Below are her responses:

First of all, congratulations Delia, on the recent release of the anthology People, Places, Passages. How does this seventh anthology differ from all the others?

September 27 to 29, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Open to the public. Program guides available from the University of Winnipeg.

Thank you, Debbie. When this anthology finally went to the publisher for its final proofing and printing, after two years of us the co-editors, working on it, it was a great relief. It’s an understatement to say that People, Places, Passages is a big book. It’s 545 pages.

Actually, at one point we were wondering if we should make two books instead of one—the contributions seemed to be an overwhelming amount of writing. But our publisher Domenic Cusmano, of Longbridge Books, Montreal, was able to set it all up beautifully in one book. He did a fantastic job. And we just loved the cover design Corrado Cusmano came up with. It’s eye catching and the title placement perfect. We are proud of the finished product.

Besides featuring Italian Canadian writers, is there a common theme that loosely connects all the seven anthologies together?

I would say “Life.” There are myriad themes in the pages of this anthology. Migration is well noted. Immigration, and the aftermath of it; looking back either in memory or transferring memory. The present, too, humanity in all its aspects, joy, fear, laughter. Revisiting the past, but always with forward movement. The progression of life that takes us to the present.

Could you share a glimpse into your editing process? How does an editor decide what is included or not included in a book?

Deciding whether to accept a piece of writing or not to accept it is the first task you deal with, of course. Sometimes that’s easy and sometimes it’s quite difficult. You could be presented with material that is meticulously crafted but ineffective and pieces that are written in a careless manner but interesting and memorable in content. But whatever you decide, you have to keep in mind the reader. Would someone, after reading a story think, “I am glad I read that…” The writing has to move you in some way, especially to reflection.

Delia De Santis reads during a Bluewater Reading Series event in Sarnia - May 9, 2015

Dialogue is the oregano that seasons Delia’s storytelling.

What does a normal editing day look like?

Normally, my editing takes place in the evening. After supper is over and the kitchen is cleaned up, I go to my computer room, close the door, and work away. When I am working on an anthology, I hardly get to watch TV or read a book. Sometimes, when I am pondering on what to say to the author, how to word the suggestions for corrections for example, I will make a printout of the writing, put it on the dinette table and leave it there for me to add quick notes on the margin of the pages while I am cooking or baking, or cleaning. I carry that person’s writing in my mind while I perform tasks that are not cerebral. That actually works quite well for me.

When did you first decide you also wanted to be an editor?  Was there an incident that led you in that direction?

I don’t think it was a conscious decision. I recall Venera Fazio asking me if I would like to work with her on an anthology of writers who were Sicilian North Americans or writers of any other extraction but who wrote about Sicily or its culture. Without even stopping to think it over, I said “Okay.” And then I thought, “What am I doing? I have no editing experience—and I am not even Sicilian!” But I am not someone who gives up easily. So what I didn’t know, I researched and found out—I learned. All my life actually I have learned a lot on my own—figuring it out by myself. In the end, that project was a wonderful experience for me. The book’s title is Sweet Lemons. It had so many great reviews, and it went into second printing. I didn’t feel like an amateur anymore. I had turned professional. And I must also say, I acquired a real love of editing.

Through your editing and volunteer work, you’ve been an advocate for Italian Canadian writers. In fact you’ve been a member and involved with the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW) since it began in 1986. You were also the treasurer off and on for 20 years and were recently elected vice-president. The AICW website lists you as the key contact person for this national non-profit organization of over 100 writers from Canada, the United States, Italy, and other parts of Europe. In April 2016, the AICW presented you and your writing/editing friend the late Venera Fazio with an award for your “extraordinary contributions to the Italian Canadian writing community and to Canadian literature.” See more info here. What motivates you to work so hard for this special group?

Venera Fazio and Delia De Santis were honoured for their contributions to the Italian Canadian community, 2016

Co-editor (the late) Venera Fazio and Delia De Santis were honoured for their extensive contributions to the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW).

The AICW is like family to me. Its members, Italian Canadians and second generation, expats, and educators, not necessarily Italian, who study or teach Italian culture, students of Italian language, most of us, share a common background, or interests. It’s also a reality that at first it was not easy for Italian immigrant writers to get their work published. It was mostly rejected for being too ethnic, and it was difficult to break into the Canadian literary scene.

The Association of Italian Canadian Writers became an instrument for promoting the work of its members and a conduit for publishing opportunities. At first, some writers felt that by belonging to the AICW meant ghettoizing oneself, but that’s an idea that has been pretty well dispelled now that we have mostly become comfortable in our position as writers… and even found that our ethnicity and duality can be advantageous at times.

Personally, I am part of my local community of all people, I don’t keep myself excluded. And I don’t feel excluded. But I actually like being in the skin of someone who understands two cultures. It’s not a takeaway. I find it broadens my outlook on life. And, the AICW still functions for me on an important level—besides that of providing me with volunteering opportunities and beneficial networking—that of being able to acquire vital and lasting friendships in North America and Italy.

Fast Forward and Other Stories by Delia De Santis

Fast Forward and Other Stories (Longbridge Books, 2008) is Delia De Santis’ debut short fiction collection.

Let’s switch the focus to your own writing. You’ve been so busy with editing and yet in 2008, Longbridge published Fast Forward and Other Stories which was your debut collection of short stories. Which of your short stories (either in this collection or in other publications) is your most favourite?  Why does it appeal to you?

The favourite of my short stories is “Faces in the Windows.” It was written in the magic realism style. It’s about people in a nursing home, drawn to their windows to watch an old man sitting in his backyard, playing the accordion in the middle of the night. It’s a story that if I were a reader reading it the first time, I would never forget it. I’ve read many stories that I have never forgotten. Even if I don’t remember the whole storyline, I remember the feeling they gave me. Stories of lasting quality.

You have a sharp ear for dialogue. What advice would you give to another writer who yearns to improve his/her dialogue? What is your secret?

Dialogue comes easy to me. If anything has helped me, is that I used to read a lot of plays. So perhaps immersing yourself in reading plays would be good. And of course, it helps to be a good listener. Dialogue doesn’t have to be perfect construction of sentences. It has to capture the character of the speaker and be in the context of the situation at the moment. If your character is a doctor for example, how does he speak when conversing to other doctors, to the staff at the hospital, how does he talk to his family, to his patients? The dialogue has to reflect the mood, the feelings, of the person who is doing the speaking. It has to sound natural, just as in real life.

What are you currently working on?

I am more than half way editing another anthology with Giulia De Gasperi, who is an excellent editor and translator, and I am also doing some of my own writing.

Short stories by Delia De Santis appear in both of thse anthologies

Delia’s work has also appeared in several prestigious Italian Canadian themed anthologies.

Wow, you sound busy. Do you have any other plans for the future?

Yes, I would like to put together another collection of my own short stories. I have some that were not included in Fast Forward and Other Stories, but I need to write a few more.

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

For writers: don’t give up writing. Writers make a difference in the world, especially since freedom of speech is not allowed everywhere in the world. Our voice must be valued in our country, but also be made to reach those countries where writers are being silenced and imprisoned.

For readers: please support writers from all over, but also give support and encouragement to our local authors. There is a wealth of talent right here in our town, which continues to enrich our minds… and our community, every day.

Delia, thank you for welcoming me into your home and sharing your thoughts with me. Have a wonderful trip to Manitoba and I look forward to hearing future updates on your writing and editing projects.

PIC_Book_Peregrinations

Delia De Santis is the author of the collection Fast Forward and Other Stories and her short stories have been widely published in literary magazines and anthologies. Some of her work has been translated into Italian. She is the co-editor of seven anthologies: Sweet Lemons: Writings With a Sicilian Accent (2004); Writing Beyond History: An Anthology of Prose and Poetry (2006); Strange Peregrinations: Italian Canadian Literary Landscapes (2007); Sweet Lemon 2: International Writings with a Sicilian Accent (2010); Italian Canadians At Table: A Narrative Feast in Five Courses (2013); Exploring Voice: Italian Canadian Female Writers (2016); and People, Places, Passages (2018).

Delia De Santis has co-edited 7 anthologies featuring the work of Italian writers

Since 2004, Delia De Santis has co-edited seven Italian Canadian themed anthologies. Two are missing from this photo.

For several years, Delia has been on the executive of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers, presently as vice president; and belongs to the Writers Union of Canada. She lives in Bright’s Grove, Ontario with her husband. They have two grown sons of whom they are very proud.

Another profile interview with Delia De Santis appears on the Gloria Pearson-Vasey website.

*from the article “Coming of Age” by Delia De Santis published in the book People, Places, Passages: An Anthology of Canadian Writing (Longbridge Books, 2018), edited by Giulia De Gasperie, Delia De Santis, and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni, page 111. Reprinted with the author’s presmission. Copyright © 2018 the Authors, Editors, Translators, Association of Italian Canadian Writers.
**from the story “The Last Frozen Dinner” published in the book Fast Forward and Other Stories (Longbridge Books, 2008) by Delia De Santis page 41. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright © 2008 Delia De Santis.

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.

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Sarnia’s Big Pond Rumours Organizes Regional Tour of Prize-Winning Poet

“This morning, my stomach is a helicopter,/on top and in the rear, thrum, rumble, flutter/look how I run; will I need a mop?” – Tom Gannon Hamilton*

A southwestern Ontario poetry tour** featuring headliners Toronto poet and musician Tom Gannon Hamilton and Sarnia author and micro-press owner Sharon Berg will demonstrate how poetry can tell a story, be entertaining, serious and/or humorous based on such subjects as the war in El Salvador, dysfunctional relationships, art, suicide, cannibalism, nature, and more.

Tom Gannon Hamilton

Prize-winning poet Tom Gannon Hamilton will headline Big Pond Rumours Southwestern Ontario Tour with events in London, Sarnia, Petrolia, and Windsor  between August 19 to 28, 2018.

Organized by Sarnia’s Big Pond Rumours (BPR), the five readings will take place in four urban settings (London, Petrolia, Sarnia, and Windsor) between August 19 and 28, 2018. The tour also features a variety of other authors (Toronto poet Heather Roberts Cadsby, London author and visual artist Sile Englert, Lambton poet/blogger Debbie Okun Hill, Lambton author/blogger/columnist Phyllis Humby, and Windsor poet and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press Laurie Smith) who will read on specified dates and in different locations.

“My goal for these free community events is to introduce people who have little familiarity with poetry to an appreciation of what this form of writing can accomplish,” said Berg who is also the tour organizer. “Poetry was once revered by kings and practised by people of the highest intellect. But in Canada, poetry has been celebrated as an art form for the people, which led to the appointment of poet laureates in tens of cities across the country. Every poem tells a story, and on this tour, with these authors, you are sure to receive a variety of stories.”

Sharoon Berg

Featured reader and tour organizer Sharon Berg says “my goal for these free community events is to introduce people who have little familiarity with poetry to an appreciation of what this art form can accomplish.”

Headliner Hamilton has a unique story to share. In addition to being the founder, curator, and host of the Urban Folk Art Salon (in partnership with the Toronto Public Libraries), he was also an aid worker during the war in El Salvador. His chapbook manuscript El Marillo, which won 1st place in an annual contest organized by Big Pond Rumours E-zine and Press, focuses on the havoc of events taking place in the 1980s during the extreme violence of the 12-year Civil War in El Salvador.

He has also just released Panoptic, a full-sized book, with Aeolus House, a micro-press owned by Canadian poet/editor Allan Briesmaster.

“This means that he has two books of stunning poetry to promote on this tour,” said Berg. “Hamilton is also an accomplished musician who makes his daily living performing music. He is likely to share a tune or two at each of the readings.”

Headliner Berg is returning to active participation in the Canadian poetry scene after a long hiatus while she worked as a teacher. She founded Big Pond Rumours International Literary E-Zine & Press in 2006.

“The existence of the BPR press in Sarnia is significant,” said Berg. “Indeed, both the international literary magazine and the press have gradually gained attention across the country for the work they are doing in promoting Canadian authors and providing an international forum for literary work.”

The press has already published chapbooks featuring Nelson Ball, Sharon Berg, Harold Feddersen, Tom Gannon Hamilton, Debbie Okun Hill, John Oughton, Brian Purdy, and Bob Wakulich. Plus, in 2016, Big Pond Rumours also released Paper Reunion: An Anthology of Phoenix A Poet’s Workshop (1976 to 1986) which includes authors like: Heather Roberts Cadsby, Richard Harrison, Stuart Ross, and Libby Scheier.

THE TOUR SCHEDULE

August 19 in London: Hamilton launches his chapbook at The Ontario Poetry Society’s Summer Sultry Poetry Gathering, 1 p.m. at Mykanos Restaurant.

August 23 in London: London author and visual artist Síle Englert reads with Hamilton and Berg, 7 p.m. at Brown and Dickson Bookstore.

August 25 in Sarnia: Toronto poet Heather Roberts Cadsby and Lambton County author/blogger/columnist Phyllis Humby will read with Hamilton 1 p.m. at the Sarnia Public Library on Christina Street.

August 26 in Windsor: Windsor poet and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press Laurie Smith will read with Hamilton and Berg 1 p.m. at Storyteller Bookstore.

August 28 in Petrolia: Lambton Country poet/blogger Debbie Okun Hill will read with Hamilton and Berg 6 p.m. at The Cottage Petrolia on Petrolia Line.

Each event is open to the general public. Admission is free.

INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT BIG POND RUMOURS PRESS?

As the owner of Big Pond Rumours E-Zine and Press (BPR) and a recent retiree, Sharon Berg moved to Sarnia and a new home in August 2016. “I moved here, in part, because Sarnia has a small but vital community of authors,” she said. Her work on the magazine and as a publisher had gone on for years as a sideline while she worked, but both the E-Zine and her press were “small potatoes back then. Indeed, I refer to the press as a micro press because it publishes just four chapbooks (30 pages or less) for Canadian authors a year, the press runs being limited to 100 copies. Still, most Canadian poets and first time novelists have press runs of 500 copies with larger presses, so the existence of the BPR press in Sarnia is significant.”

Additional information about Big Pond Rumours Press can be found here and on its website.

MORE INFO ON THE SPOTLIGHT READERS AND THEIR WORK

 TOM GANNON HAMILTON:

El Marillo (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2018) by Tom Gannon Hamilton

In March 2018, Tom Gannon Hamilton won 1st place in an annual Chapbook Contest run by Big Pond Rumours E-Zine and Press. Hamilton’s poetry in El Marillo, is of a different character than most authors in Canada present to their readers. It is literary, but it also reveals the effect of being an eye witness to atrocities through lines of poetry that bring readers right into the scene as a witness. Hamilton was a relief worker with Salvaide, an organization promoting social justice, during his time in El Salvador. He worked to provide medical supplies and other aid to the low income civilians in El Marillo. While thousand of people were being disappeared, the UN reports that the war killed at least 75,000 people between 1980 and 1992.

Hamilton has turned those tragic events into moving poetry. His award-winning chapbook is a dramatic and startling piece of work filled with every human emotion: from horror to terror, from grief and misery to sweet remembrance of others who joined him on that project in El Salvador. As one reviewer wrote of his work, “a lesser man would have had a nervous breakdown rather than turning those events into poetry”. Hamilton put his chapbook together as a way of making a public record about what he witnessed and of celebrating the work Salvaide did to save thousands of lives. It is also a text with special meaning for him as his wife died due to drowning under suspicious circumstances while she was in El Salvador. The pain he deals with related to this loss, is transformed into a celebration of her efforts to gain justice for the people she had devoted her life to.

Quattro Books Presents

As for his book Panoptic recently released by Aleous House, Canadian poet Donna Langevin wrote “Maestro Hamilton composes poems with the same musicality, virtuosity and fidelity that he brings to the violin he feels wed to.” This full-length collection will be officially launched in Ottawa on September 9 and in Toronto on September 12. 

SHARON BERG:

Odyssey and Other Poems (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) by Sharon Berg

Sharon Berg is founder of Big Pond Rumours Literary E-Zine & Press in Sarnia. Her first book was published in 1979 and her work includes: The Body Labyrinth, Coach House (1984), Black Moths, Big Pond Rumours (2006), The Great Hoop Dance, Big Pond Rumours Press (2016), Odyssey & Other Poems, Big Pond Rumours (2017) and two audio cassette tapes (Tape 5, Gallery 101 Productions and Black Moths, Public Energies, 1986). She also publishes academic work on the history of First Nations education.

Referring to her first poetry book with Borealis Press, John Robert Colombo said “love becomes lyric in your hands, and poem after poem I am moved from delight to delicious delight.” With the release of her second book from Coach House Press in 1984, Dennis Lee said, “She is one of the younger poets to watch,” while a book review in Malahat Review said, “These are vigorous, quick moving poems with a surprising tension and strength.” After more than 30 years, she will read from her long anticipated third poetry manuscript on this tour.

 ADDITIONAL GUEST READERS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER:

 Heather Roberts Cadsby: In the 1980s, Cadsby co-produced Poetry Toronto and co-founded the press Wolsak and Wynn. She also organized poetry events at the Axle-Tree Coffee House in Toronto and the Phoenix: A Poet’s Workshop. In recent years, she served as the director of the ArtBar Poetry Series. Standing in the Flock of Connections (Brick Books 2018) is her fifth poetry collection. More info here.

Sile Englert is a poet, fiction writer, and visual artist from London, Ontario. Her stories have shortlisted in contests for Room Magazine and longlisted in Prism International. Her poetry placed second in Contemporary Verse 2’s 2-Day Poem Contest and featured in Room Magazine, Ascent Aspirations Anthology, The Canadian Authors Association’s Saving Bannister Anthology, Misunderstanding Magazine, and Crannog Magazine (Ireland). Read her Contemporary Verse 2 poem here.

Debbie Okun Hill is a Lambton County poet/blogger with over 30 years of writing and promotional experience. Drawing from Experience is a collection of ekphrastic poems that present her impression of various works of art. Her books are: Tarnished Trophies, Black Moss (2014), Chalk Dust Clouds, Beret Day Press (2017) and Drawing from Experience, Big Pond Rumours (2017). More info here.

Phyllis Humby lives in Lambton and is a well-known blogger at The Write Break, a columnist at First Monday Magazine, and a member of Crime Writers of Canada. However, Our Plan to Save the World, may be the first time that four of her stories are collected in one place. Our Plan to Save the World is an anthology that features five authors. More info here.

Laurie Smith, is a poet, editor, and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press in Windsor, Ontario. She is also an award-winning poet and author of short fiction. Among her collections are Said the Cannibal, Gallstones, One Ninth of a Cat’s Life, Menagerie, and an upcoming collection of poetry inspired by the work of Charles Darwin. Read about Smith’s humorous 2018 National Poetry Month reading in Sarnia here.

* From the poem “Running of a Country” from the prize-winning chapbook El Marillo (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2018) Used with permission from the author © Tom Gannon Hamilton, 2018

**Written from the files of Big Pond Rumours Press and Sharon Berg.

Additional information about upcoming literary events in Ontario can be found in the event section of this blog.

 

 

Anthology Review – Our Plan to Save the World

“I was thinkin’ ‘bout going into town on Saturday. Thinking of asking that fat girl from church to go to the pictures with me. Cindy was her name.” – Phyllis Humby*

The first time I heard “Delusional Date”, the ‘coming of age’ story by Lambton County writer Phyllis Humby, I cheered. Here was a master storyteller in the making. The snappy dialogue and nuances of her characters Rafe and Cindy–plus Humby’s unique narrative style–clung to me like gum on the bottom of my shoe! Seriously, no ‘sour grape’ taste or feeling intended but the simile suited what I perceived was a cocky bubble-blowing protagonist. I applauded the way this author refused to sugar-coat her male character’s politically incorrect words but exposed all the gritty dirt and sticky elements pertinent to the plot.

P11 - Phyllis Humby as 'Cindy' - Eden Mills Sept 15, 2013

Phyllis Humby reads “Delusional Date” on the Fringe Stage of the 2013 Eden Mills Writers’ Festival.

This award-winning story also impressed the judges from the 2013 Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. They invited Humby to share her work with other emerging authors on the Fringe Stage. A video of her reading appears here.

Almost five years later, Humby continues to write and describe her stories as being “scheming, twisted, and spooky”. Her favourite storytelling medium is still the ‘novel’ of which she has written several manuscripts in a variety of genres from the ‘mainstream’ where a woman walks away from her home to move to Newfoundland to her memoir as a lingerie shopkeeper to her latest psychological thriller. She dabbled with short stories to market her name and upon submission several of them won awards and were published. Her ear for dialogue is impeccable. Her ability to hold the reader’s attention is strong.

Last year, she was asked to participate in an anthology project with four other writers: Canadians Nancy Kay Clark and Michael Joll and Americans Steve Nelson and Frank T. Sikora.

Our Plan to Save The World

Our Plan to Save the World (Lulu.com, 2018) is available in print and digital formats.

The result was Our Plan to Save the World (and other stories of false starts dead ends, detours, and determined people looking for their happy ending). The anthology (published this spring in print and digital formats) included 20 stories (4 tales each from the five contributors). Each story was slotted seamlessly in five themed sections: Set off on the search, Change the rules, Unravel the ties, Strive to connect, and Arrive at the place you need to be. Accepted submissions ranged from 2 ½ to 18 ¼ pages in length. “Delusional Date” became one of the showcased works. I cheered again!

When Phyllis (Humby) approached local writers to write a review of the book, I hesitated. First, we know each other on a first name basis so it would be a conflict of interest which I’m disclosing now. Second, what would I do if I didn’t like the published stories of the other contributors?

Out of admiration for Humby’s work, I took a chance.

Reading a new collection of short stories by an unfamiliar group of authors is like scratching a lottery ticket. Buyer beware but not with this powerfully-written anthology.

What a jackpot of storytelling to behold!

Michael Joll showcases Our Plan To Save The World

The book features the work of three Canadians and two Americans.

Don’t let the benevolent cover, the drawn-out title, and the absence of a more traditional trade publisher deter you from adding this book to your ‘must read’ list.

From a marketing point of view, the inside contents and section titles were beautifully designed and printed on crème paper. A larger print size would have made reading the collection more enjoyable. A more sinister cover and title would have better reflected the highly imaginative stories inside. Despite these suggestions, the strong content inside overshadowed any minor flaws. The 5-Star Review on Goodreads reflected my overall impression.

From first love heartaches to misguided spirituality, insanity to incest, suicide and other unexpected or unexplained deaths and more, the collection revealed dark and hard-hitting themes. Almost every story opened with a strong line that yanked me into a variety of unique settings and situations. For example, “Who the hell was St. Polycarpe?” (Clark p. 133); “I promised the doctor I’d stay off the booze.” (Humby, p.71); “Why does all the world love a rogue?” (Joll, p. 128); “If Mother knew I had picked up a hitchhiker, she would have thrown a good old Southern tantrum–” (Sikora, p. 125); and “Everything was fine until she turned crazy on me.” (Nelson, p. 82).

The strongest and most memorable characters were scarred physically and/or cerebrally: a 35-year old woman with a drinking problem, two teenaged runaways who stole a van, a 101-year old man reflecting on his love for his Rolls Royce, a student who walked on fire, Emma who was “the cruel, intriguing, and terribly lonely White Witch of Empathy”, a ‘mad’ sweetheart, a 14-year-old impregnated by a married man, a bat exterminator, and many more. Some characters were likeable. Others were detested for their stupidity or misguided actions but isn’t that what good storytelling is about? Each character felt authentic. Each life moved me.

I especially enjoyed the variety of genres: romance, historical fiction, literary fiction, speculative, science fiction, fantasy and more. Almost every story ended with not only a strong line but a surprise twist that lingered in my mind for days.

Michael Joll

Contributor Michael Joll

One of the most heart-wrenching stories in the collection was Joll’s “The Song of Solomon”, a tale of two sisters that began with the line: “All Faith wanted was to be slim and pretty like Alice, and to have at least one friend.” (Joll, p. 93) What transpired in this dysfunctional family will jolt the reader. To share it would spoil the ending!

To disclose any of the endings would ruin the book. The strength of the writing: the way it scanned and used different literary devices was impressive.

As a poet, I most enjoyed the metaphors and imagery in Joll’s story “In Singapore” where he wrote some beautiful lines. For example: “all of them small pebbles whose splash had left scarcely a ripple on his broader sea.” (Joll, p. 109).

Steve Nelson image 2

Contributor Steve Nelson

The sign of a good collection of stories by emerging authors can also hinge on its reputation with other publishers. Almost all of the works in this book were previously published in Canada and/or the United States. Credits include Ascent Aspirations’ The Crooked Edge of Another Day: An Anthology of the Bizarre, Bew Opsis Science Fiction Magazine, CommerLit.com, Lunch Ticket, Perfect Execution and Other Stories, Phantasmagoria, and Rathalla Review. Some have even won awards and honours including Steve Nelson’s “Night at the Store” nominated for a Pushcart Award.

The quality of the editing by Clark and Nelson plus the manner in which the stories were seamlessly tied together with invisible thread made this collection an equal contender with other professionally-written books.

Nancy Kay Clark

Contributor Nancy Kay Clark

I look forward to following the writing careers of these new-to-me contributors:

Nancy Kay Clark is best known as the Toronto-based writer/editor/entrepreneur behind CommuterLit, an online literary magazine she launched in 2010. Her middle-grade novel The Prince of Sudland will be published in 2018. More info here.

Michael Joll is a retired police officer and the current president of the Brampton Writers’ Guild. His first collection of short stories, Perfect Executive, was published in 2017. More info here.

Steve Nelson is a Chicago resident with a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His work has been published in The Rambler, Storyglossia, eye-rhythm, the Absinthe Literary Review, and elsewhere. More info here.

Frank T. Sikora is a graphic artist, writer, substitute teacher, and track coach from Wisconsin. His work has appeared on-line and in print in Canada and the United States. More info here.

Check out the blog The Write Break with Phyllis Humby for feature articles on each of the contributors as well as a run-down of the anthology’s process.

Frank Sikora

Contributor Frank T. Sikora

As contributor Sikora wrote in his preface: “My original goals were modest…I could just say I’m proud of the collection, but honestly, and thankfully, I can say it has exceeded my original vision.”

He concluded with “I believe we have produced an anthology of stories worth reading and preserving.”

Hear, hear! Bravo to all the contributors! A winning combination!

The anthology is being marketed in Canada and the United States.

Phyllis Humby Photo BW

Contributor Phyllis Humby

In Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, Phyllis Humby will be showcasing her work at a reading organized by Sharon Berg of Big Pond Rumours Press, Saturday, August 25 at the Sarnia Library, 124 Christina Street South. See poster below! More details will be announced later this summer. 

Check my Literary Event Listing for other upcoming Ontario Happenings.

*From the story “Delusional Date” in the anthology Our Plan to Save the World (and other stories of false starts, dead ends, detours, and determined people looking for their happy ending).(Lulu. Com, U.S.A. 2018), Page 119. Used with permission from the author . Copyright © 2018 by Lulu.com.

August 25, 2918 in Sarnia

Phyllis Humby will read from the anthology Our Plan to Save the World during Big Pond Rumours’ Saturday, August 25, 2018 event in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. (NOTE: POSTER UPDATED JULY 26, 2018)

Follow this blog for future reviews and features on Canadian writers.

 

Meeting Poe in Dearborn, Michigan, USA

“If ghost trees could speak in tongues/they would speak here and now/converse with Poe’s spirit sailing/rolling inland from Lake Huron” –Debbie Okun Hill

Halloween faded like a tree spirit at the stroke of ‘midnight dreary’ but the image of American poet/short story writer Edgar Allan Poe and his raven remain at my desk.

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American poet/short story writer Edgar Allan Poe attended The Big Read Dearborn festivities in ‘cardboard spirit’.

He’s dead of course. The Poet! He’s been gone since October 7, 1849. Not sure about his ‘nevermore’ quipping raven. However, at this time of year, Poe and his fascination with the macabre and other mystical happenings often resurface in social media photos, quotes, and posts.

Last Tuesday, October 25, the Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn, Michigan, USA, celebrated Poe’s literary contributions through the “Dreaming Dreams Author Meet and Greet” event. The BIG READ DEARBORN festivities included a welcome and a refreshment table plus readings by 18 of the over 150 contributors of the 454-page Poe-themed anthology. According to the event program, “All the proceeds (from book sales) go toward future community-wide reading events in Dearborn.” Definitely, a good cause to support.

Bravo to all the Big Read Dearborn partners and sponsors and contributors who made this project come alive!

My own contribution was small: a two and a half page poetic dream sequence inspired by Poe’s poem “The Raven” and a visit I took to Canatara Park in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada on January 30, 2013. At the time, the Carolinian Forest was losing its ash trees to the emerald ash borer and I was struck by the loss and how the fog was rolling in like Poe’s spirit from Lake Huron. This magical image or gift, as I like to call it, happens seldom, so I knew I had to record the sensation before the words dissipated back into the fog. The sighting of two crows (not ravens) stirred my imagination even more.

Now almost four years later, my Poe-inspired poem shares a home with other literary offerings in a beautiful anthology Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared to Dream Before. However, what made this journey to the Henry Ford Centennial Library even more special was that I had never stepped into this beautiful building before. If you are a visitor to the area, I strongly recommend that you stop by. The natural light from all the windows is especially noteworthy and I liked how parking was not an issue.

henry-ford-centennial-library-october-25-2016

The Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn, Michigan, USA.

Although, I’ve visited the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village on several occasions and even toured the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, I never knew that the library’s 15.3 acre property was deeded by the Ford Motor Company with construction of the memorial building made possible with a generous grant from the Ford Foundation. An additional grant helped with equipment and supplies.

Once inside the building, the first floor Rotunda area warmly welcomes visitors. On this occasion, Edgar Allan Poe stands life-size in ‘cardboard spirit’ for photo opportunities with emerging and established writers. The auditorium was also spacious and filled with spectators and readers. To sit in the audience and listen to all the writers (from the young fellow who needed some added help to reach the microphone to the retiree who shuffled to the podium) was inspiring. Creativity is alive and well. To single out just one or two works would be inappropriate as all the readers deserved applause. Overall the creative contributions rose from eight chapters: Celestial, Dreams, Ghost, Horror, Madness, Mystery, Poetry and Tribute.

dreaming-dreams-author-meet-and-greet-oct-25-2016

Eighteen contributors shared their work during the Dreaming Dreams Author Meet and Greet event held Tuesday, October 25, 2016 at the Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn, Michigan.

If I may quote from the anthology’s back cover: “In this collection of Poe inspired stories and poems, you will find dreams (and nightmares), ghost stories, horrors, madness, mystery, imagination, and even some humor. Read these pages, and dream dreams never dreamt before.”

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“If ghost trees could speak in tongues…”

In the anthology’s introduction, Wolf Disner wrote: “The purpose of this collection is to honor him (Poe) and celebrate his works. Maybe it will even bring him back to life. Stranger things have happened. Trust me.”

If you are a writer, I hope you will keep your eyes open for such magical gifts and experiences. If you are a reader, keep reading….for reading opens up the imagination, takes you places and teaches you insights you may never have thought possible.

For additional information about the Henry Ford Centennial Library, check out their website.

For additional information about Big Read Dearborn and the Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared to Dream Before edited by Henry Fischer, Patty Podzikowski, Dan Lodge and Kathryn Takach ISBN 978-1-53529-090-6 click here. The anthology was published by the Dearborn Public Library as part of The Big Read Dearborn, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and managed by Arts Midwest.

*quote is from the poem “Meeting Poe in Canatara Park” by Debbie Okun Hill published in Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared to Dream Before, page 403 Copyright © Debbie Okun Hill 2016 used with permission from the author.

Canadian Author Profile: Gloria Pearson-Vasey – Blends History with Fantasy

Now in plain view, Black Springs Abbey loomed before them, a neglected neo-gothic structure. Ivy wrapped itself protectively around the building’s pale yellow brick exterior, creeping across windows and partially obscuring ornate brackets under the roof’s projecting eaves. Third-storey dormer windows gazed blankly from the once-elegant mansard roof, slate tiles now faded and chipped. – Gloria Pearson-Vasey*

Canadian author Gloria Pearson-Vasey begins her new book Black Springs Abbey with the tires of a police cruiser crunching on gravel. Within one page, her storytelling hooks me.

“Was it some kind of ghost,” he said.

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen a person who fades in and out before.”*

Gloria Pearson-Vasey has published 9 books including Black Spring Abbey/ Early Days of Oil Springs, the double-book recently released with historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy.

Gloria Pearson-Vasey has published 9 books including Black Springs Abbey/ Early Days of Oil Springs, the double-book recently released with historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy.

Several pages later, the police officer drives Hilma down a twisted laneway where the protagonist catches her first glimpse of the abbey, a setting that plays a prominent role in this page-turning novel. Who lives in this abbey and what secrets lie hidden on its grounds? You’ll need to read this historical fantasy to find out.

A seasoned writer and a member of the Lambton Writers Association, Pearson-Vasey is the author of 9 published books: two speculative fiction, two literary fiction/mysteries, three non-fiction books and two historical fantasies including The Bells of Prosper Station and Black Springs Abbey. The latter is part of a double-book published with Early Days in Oil Springs, a historical fiction novel by Sarnia’s Bob McCarthy. The tête-bêche was launched last spring as a commemorative edition celebrating the sesquicentennial of The Village of Oil Springs. See more information about McCathy and the book here.

Gloria Pearson-Vasey’s book tour included a double-book signing, Saturday, May 9, 2015 at The Book Keeper in Sarnia, Ontario. Additional presentations are planned for the fall 2015.

Gloria Pearson-Vasey’s book tour included a double-book signing, Saturday, May 9, 2015 at The Book Keeper in Sarnia, Ontario. Additional presentations are planned for the fall 2015.

Earlier this month, Pearson-Vasey with McCarthy began a series of joint presentations at the Point Edward Library. Additional library presentations are planned for

Petrolia – Thursday, October 15 at 11 a.m.

Wyoming – Wednesday, November 18 at 1:30 p.m.

Courtright – Wednesday, November 18 at 7 p.m.

Watford – Monday, February 29 at 1:30 p.m.

I asked Pearson-Vasey to share her thoughts on her writing process. Below are her responses:      

(1) Describe your book. Why did you publish it?

Black Springs Abbey is an historical fantasy written to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Oil Springs, once known as Black Springs.

I was drawn into the fantasy genre by a creative writing group at LCCVI who set me wondering if the local oil heritage could translate into fantasy. Might the fumes from 19th century oil gushers, fires and nitroglycerine explosions cause some citizens to evolve into timeriders, psychic vampires or guardians?

The result became The Bells of Prosper Station and its sequel, Black Springs Abbey. In the first book, Azur Moonstorey and her companions exit the town library, board a midnight ghost train, and are transported to nineteenth-century Prosper Station (aka Petrolea). Their mission is to rescue Azur’s sister, Hilma, from the psychic vampire, Vek.

In Black Springs Abbey, Hilma is still beset by anxieties and insecurities five years after being rescued. Encouraged to take a position at a dilapidated abbey, she soon discovers that life at Black Springs Abbey can be as unsettling as she feared.

Black Springs Abbey/ Early Days of Oil Springs is a double-book, a tête-beche published by Quinn Riley Press, 2015.

Black Springs Abbey/ Early Days of Oil Springs is a double-book, a tête-beche published by Quinn Riley Press, 2015.

(2) What are you currently working on?

I’m in the final stages of editing my son’s book, Living in the Eye: Life with Autism. The process of updating Kevin’s past book, while integrating his more recent writings and convictions, proved to be more difficult than I’d expected. I hope I’ve done it justice.

At the same time, I’ve amused myself by doing research for my next novel. The characters and storyline are already taking shape although the genre remains a bit hazy. It will not be fantasy or speculative…maybe family saga with a touch of mystery.

(3) How does your work differ from other authors?

I’m a multi-genre author, and I get totally caught up in whatever I happen to be writing. Readers tell me that in both fiction and non-fiction, I have a lyrical voice. I suppose that my love of music, nature and literature contributes to that. Using words to paint scenes and settings can be incredibly satisfying.

(4) Why do you write the way you do? How does your writing process work?

I’m a storyteller, preferring fiction to non-fiction because it provides both adventure and escape from the mundane. And as storytellers do, I write to entertain. Often I weave contemporary issues (social justice, ecology, human foibles) into my novels. I like a story – be it speculative, literary, mystery or fantasy – to be authentic and to end on a note of hope. Before I ever settle down to write, I do months of preparation that includes endless research. I take photos and jot down random thoughts in note books. The anticipation is exciting!

Canadian author Gloria Pearson-Vasey

Canadian author Gloria Pearson-Vasey


Once I steel myself to begin writing seriously, I keep research notes and pictures close at hand for inspiration. In order to immerse myself into the development of characters and the setting in which they dwell, I need to be truly present to both. Blocks of time free from interruption are critical.

Usually I work from an outline with chapters briefly plotted out. As the story develops, the chapters change and move about. The more I write, the more the characters take over, often communicating to me while I sleep. Sometimes they force me to change course, eliminate whole chapters and add new ones.

(5) Is there anything you’d like to add? If so, please share with the readers.

Writing is hard work. Discipline is essential because many writing days, at least for me, start off slowly. But languor ultimately gives way to wisps of enlightenment which in turn grow into periods of happily flowing prose.

If you’re a writer, seek out readers to proof and critique your finished drafts. Be genuinely appreciative of everything they suggest and mull over their words of wisdom. Correct the typos they find and incorporate ideas for change when it feels right. Then follow your heart. It’s your book.

If you’re a reader, please remember that authors love feedback and honest reviews of their work.

Thanks Gloria for the interview.

Additional information about Pearson-Vasey can be found on her website/blog here.

Additional information about McCarthy can be found on his website.

*from the book Black Springs Abbey (Quinn Riley Press, 2015) epigraph from page 11, quoted dialogue from page 6. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2015 Gloria Pearson-Vasey

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.

 

 

A Canadian Author Profile: Bob McCarthy – A Fascination with Lambton County History

In a hushed voice, she said, “Now, imagine that the woman on trial today is your own mother or your own sister. Try to picture in your mind your own mother or sister being mistreated, suffering for so many years, forced to accept such abuse almost from the day of her birth. If you or no one else did anything to prevent this, would not your mother or sister, forced to live under these conditions, eventually break and knowingly or unknowingly act or react in order to protect the children involved, to break out of this horrible cycle.” – Bob McCarthy

Early Days of Oil Springs/Black Springs Abbey is a double-book, a tête-beche published by Quinn Riley Press, 2015.

Early Days of Oil Springs/Black Springs Abbey is a double-book, a tête-beche published by Quinn Riley Press, 2015.

Sarnia’s historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy writes and publishes books faster than I can read them. With 11 self-published books behind him, he’ll soon be launching Generations, a new historical novella. However, first he will be touring numerous Lambton County libraries, sharing his historical knowledge and promoting his most recent project, a reprint of Early Days in Oil Springs, a commemorative edition celebrating the sesquicentennial of The Village of Oil Springs. The double-book also includes a novel Black Springs Abbey by Petrolia-author Gloria Pearson-Vasey. (Her profile will be shared in the near future.)

Local historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy is touring the Lambton County area with his commemorative edition of his historical novel Early Days in Oil Springs.

Local historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy is touring the Lambton County area with his commemorative edition of his historical novel Early Days in Oil Springs.

Before I continue, I need to disclose that McCarthy and I have been writing friends for almost a decade. Although he is not a poet and my interest in history was soured by the dry presentations of my high school history teachers, we have a mutual respect for each other’s work.

“I only like rhyming poetry,” he admits with a big grin on his face. I laugh because it’s a standing joke between us. I seldom include end rhymes in my work. He often injects humour into his conversations and presentations.

As a retired high school teacher turned writer, McCarthy makes history (especially Lambton County facts) come alive. Although he is best known as a regional writer, he wrote his book Case 666 – Travesty of Justice – The Elizabeth Workman Story to appeal to a wider audience. As stated in this book: “The story of Elizabeth Workman is of national interest, a story about the only woman in Canadian history to be executed after being found guilty of a crime, even though the jury strongly recommended clemency.”

One of McCarthy’s strengths is his ability to promote his work and the work of other writers. He cares about people and recently created a new writers’ workshop group “Writers Helping Writers (WHW)” held Monday afternoons at the Point Edward Library. The open group is composed of writers who are serious about having their work torn apart and edited by fellow scribes. Mutual respect and laughter is encouraged.

He is also a regular reader at Sarnia’s Spoken Word event held the last Friday of every month at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts.

Earlier this month, Bob was one of four featured readers at the Saturday, October 3rd Bluewater Reading Series event.

Bob McCarthy’s book tour included a double-book signing, Saturday, May 9, 2015 at The Book Keeper. Additional presentations are planned for the fall 2015

Bob McCarthy’s book tour included a double-book signing, Saturday, May 9, 2015 at The Book Keeper. Additional presentations are planned for the fall 2015

Future joint presentations with Pearson-Vasey have been scheduled for five Lambton County Librairies:

Point Edward -Wednesday, October 7 at 10 a.m.

Petrolia – Thursday, October 15 at 11 a.m.

Wyoming – Wednesday, November 18 at 1:30 p.m.

Courtright – Wednesday, November 18 at 7 p.m.

Watford – Monday, February 29 at 1:30 p.m.

I asked McCarthy to share his thoughts on his writing process. Below are his responses:          

(1) Describe your book. Why did you publish it?   

This year is the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of the Village of Oil Springs. I wondered what it was like in the mid 1800’s in the mosquito ridden swamps of Enniskillen, who I might have met in the bog a century and a half ago? Early Days in Oil Springs is a retelling of the years from 1858 to 1863, the era of the Tripp brothers, James Miller Williams, Hugh Nixon Shaw, John Shaw, John Henry Fairbank, Robert McBride and others. I wanted to narrate a novel about the first days of oil, a story about the lives of real people who were a part of the historical past of Lambton County.

Since 2001, Bob McCarthy has self-published 11 books including two illustrated short-story anthologies by Lambton County children and Early Days of Oil Springs/Black Springs Abbey the double-book recently leased with Gloria Pearson-Vasey

Since 2001, Bob McCarthy has self-published 11 books including two illustrated short-story anthologies by Lambton County children and Early Days of Oil Springs/Black Springs Abbey the double-book recently released with Gloria Pearson-Vasey

Early Days in Oil Springs is an account based on a few facts and a gusher of imagination.

Why did you decide to publish it as a double book with another author?

When I found out Gloria (Pearson-Vasey) was writing a fantasy about Oil Springs, we decided to combine our two stories into one book, a double-book, a tête-beche, to commemorate the sesquicentennial of Oil Springs.

(2) What are you currently working on?

CASE 666-Travesty of Justice, a novel I wrote in 2013, is the story of a woman convicted of murdering her husband. Elizabeth Workman, a battered woman, was hanged, in spite of the jury’s strong recommendation for mercy. While trying to locate living descendants, I found a great-great-great-granddaughter, also a battered woman, sexually abused as a child and subjected to both mental and physical abuse as a wife.

My next book, Generations, written as historical fiction, will explore a possible story of the impact of nature and nurture on the descendants of Elizabeth Workman’s two children.

Bob McCarthy writes and publishes books faster than I can read them.

Bob McCarthy writes and publishes books faster than I can read them.

(3) How does your work differ from other authors?

When I am writing a story, I gather known facts, lore or legend and try to imagine how they came about. Then I create characters to hopefully present these facts in an entertaining, interesting and informative manner. I usually write by dictating through Dragon Naturally Speaking, letting my imaginary characters take over and tell the story. Then, it’s on to editing.

Thanks Bob for the interview.

 Additional information about Bob McCarthy can be found on his website.

*from the book CASE 666 – Travesty of Justice – The Elizabeth Workman Story (Quinn Riley Press, 2013) page 164. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2013 Bob McCarthy

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author Profiles including one on Gloria Pearson-Vasey. Her website/blog appears here.

 

 

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.