Tag Archives: Thunder Bay

In Thunder Bay, Poetic Words on Waterfront Benches

If you stand near the ridge of Hillcrest Park in Thunder Bay, you will see him floating on his back in Lake Superior. Known as the Sleeping Giant, this land formation of mesas and sills has inspired many writers including Governor General Literary Award-winner Jane Urquhart with her fourth novel The Underpainter.

She writes, “Passengers who have travelled on the Trans-Canada train can bring his physique to mind long after mountains and prairies have faded from memory.”

Overlooking the famous Sleeping Giant range from Hillcrest Park. The Sleeping Giant Writers’ Festival is currently on hiatus but was a vital and vibrant literary event in the area. Another popular event is the International Festival of Authors (IFOA Ontario) to be held Thursday, November 6, 2014 starting at 7 p.m. at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. Featured readers include Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, Alison Pick, and Michael Winter.

From Hillcrest Park: a panoramic view of the famous Sleeping Giant. Although the Sleeping Giant Writers’ Festival is currently on hiatus, Thunder Bay has a vibrant literary community. Check out the International Festival of Authors (IFOA Ontario) to be held Thursday, November 6, 2014 starting at 7 p.m. at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. Featured readers include Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, Alison Pick, and Michael Winter.

It’s true. There is a haunting magic or spirit in the north and to try to capture that vast landscape through paintings, photographs, poetry or prose is a difficult task. You must stand on the granite, press the pine needle scent onto your skin and drink in the rugged waterfalls and northern skyline. It’s common to see wildlife such as bears, chipmunks, red squirrels, wolves, deer, beavers, otters, and even a lynx in your travels.

The wilderness swallows you and at some point the words flow like sap from the coniferous trees.

Catherine Moodie Vickers (1873) was the daughter of well-known author Susanna Moodie.

Catherine Moodie Vickers (1873) was the daughter of well-known author Susanna Moodie.

It’s been several years since I’ve visited Thunder Bay. At one time, it was my adopted home where I used to wander Lakehead University’s halls in my quest for stories for the AGORA, a monthly employee newspaper I edited in the mid-1980s. So many untold tales still hide beneath the rocks but last month as a poet I was most captivated by the new waterfront development at Prince Arthur’s Landing. Change stirs the emotions and I too had mixed feelings about the urbanization of the natural shoreline as I watched a mechanical crane lift a pallet of bricks to the fourth floor of a new condominium.

Special thanks to Thunder Bay writer Marianna Jones for her guided tour of Prince Arthur’s Landing, the new waterfront development area on Lake Superior. Her poetic lines are sandblasted in four granite benches located in the park.

Special thanks to Thunder Bay writer Marianne Jones for her guided tour of Prince Arthur’s Landing, the new waterfront development area on Lake Superior. Her poetic lines are sandblasted in four granite benches located in the park.

Local writer Marianne Jones, author of The Serenity Stone Murder (Split Tree Publishing) took time from her new book promotions to provide me with a special tour of the area. During lunch at the new Bight Restaurant and Bar, we chatted about Thunder Bay’s literary scene. Marketing one’s work is always a concern but these challenges are compounded in the north where writers can feel isolated from the larger publishing centers.

Jones launched her latest book The Serenity Stone Murder (Split Tree Publishing) last month.

Jones launched her latest book The Serenity Stone Murder (Split Tree Publishing) last month.

The Norwestern Ontario Writers’ Workshop (NOWW) helps by providing inspiration and support for seasoned and emerging writers. Jones also meets and writes with one or two local writers at a local coffee shop. “It motivates us to write,” she said.

Marianne Jones is one of 11 literary guests with work represented on granite benches. Other writers include: Jane Crossman, Marilyn Dumont, Donna Faye, J. F. (Jim) Foulds, Rick Garrick & Bob McKay, Emily Pauline Johnson/Tekahionwake, Jean E. Pendziwol, Sarain Stump, and Catherine Moodie Vickers.

Marianne Jones is one of 11 literary guests with work represented on granite benches. Other writers include: Jane Crossman, Marilyn Dumont, Donna Faye, J. F. (Jim) Foulds, Rick Garrick & Bob McKay, Emily Pauline Johnson/Tekahionwake, Jean E. Pendziwol, Sarain Stump, and Catherine Moodie Vickers.

She is especially proud and excited about Thunder Bay’s award-winning waterfront where during this year’s Cultural Days, local writers would share their work outdoors at the new Spirit Garden. The Baggage Building Arts Centre Gift Shop also displays and sells local and regional books while the park spotlights literary selections sandblasted in granite benches. Jones’ work is displayed on four of those benches and I wondered why more cities didn’t adopt this practice.

An inspirational view near the International Taiji Park at Prince Arthur's Landing.

An inspirational view near the International Taiji Park at Prince Arthur’s Landing.

Before departing, my muse yanked my creative fishing line like a lake trout in deep cold water. In the distance, beyond the Marina Park, the Sleeping Giant appeared to open one eye and wink.  I wish I had more time to explore and write about the area. Perhaps, I would on my next visit.

Additional information* about Thunder Bay’s literary activities can be found below:

*International Festival of Authors  (IOAF) – November 6, 2014 in Thunder Bay

*Literary Thunder Bay

*Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW)

*Sleeping Giant Writers Festival

*Please note that while attempts were made to highlight as many of the literary activities in the area as I could, some may have escaped my radar. My apologies to those groups and individuals. Please send me a note in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

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Being Your Own Publicist – Book Promotion is a Full-time Job

         The literary race is on and I’m starting to feel like one of my poetic sports characters trapped inside my Tarnished Trophies book. There’s little time to sit on a soccer field and pick “word” dandelions. You need to step out of your comfort zone and be on tour. No time to snuggle on the couch and read a book for fun. You have no free moment. You need to attend readings, present workshops, socialize and network. Who has time to plant phrases onto a page and watch them flourish into a poetic book bouquet? You need to explore blogging then expand your followers on other social media venues.          .

Spotted in Thunder Bay, Ontario: Book launch and reading posters featuring Northwestern Ontario writers.  Well-designed digital and traditional posters can work together to help publicize an upcoming event.

Spotted in Thunder Bay, Ontario: Book launch and reading posters featuring Northwestern Ontario writers. Well-designed digital and traditional print posters can work together to help publicize an upcoming event.

           That dreaded stopwatch is ticking. Will your book be ranked in the Top 10? The Top 100? Will anyone read it? Does anyone care?

            If your goal is to write a bestseller, the odds are against you. Not only must the product, your book, be well written, but you must be prepared to spend not hours but months promoting your work. I read that producing a book is 5 percent of the labour but promoting it is 95 percent. In fact, promotional work should begin long before the book is published. Often it’s a smart idea to draft a promotional strategy before you write the manuscript. During those first three months after publication, promotional activity is definitely a full-time job.

             Part of the reason is that you have a limited window of time to prove yourself especially if you are a first-time author. Bookstores will usually display your literary masterpiece for about three months before they decide to keep it on the shelf or return it to the distributor. That is if you are lucky to have a distributor and if a bookstore decides to stock your prized volume

           The competition is fierce with new and more seasoned writers ready to snatch the reader’s dollars and push for your space on the virtual or local bookstore shelf.

            If you are a Canadian poet, did you know that at this moment there are 5,912 poetry books listed on Amazon.ca? That number includes 579 poetry anthologies and 5,596 Canadian poetry books.

            Chapters.indigo.ca showed results for 101,448 poetry books of which 4000 were Canadian and 128 had a sports theme. The competition for fiction and non-fiction work is much higher.

            Many writers dream of writing a book and seeing it published. However, how many of those writers dream of promoting their work? Based on informal data gleamed from my writing friends, only a handful are comfortable with promotional work. Most introverted writers dread publicity, see it as bragging and so they shy away from it. But why write a book, if you’re not willing to share it?

            If you are self-published and do nothing to promote your work, you may end up with boxes of unsold books in your closet. What are you going to do with them? I’ve heard several horror stories from novice writers who self-published their books without considering the market or target audience. It proved to be a financial blunder.

            If you are working with a traditional publisher, you may also have that added pressure to sell-sell-sell or your next manuscript may be rejected. If you thought securing a publisher is tough, consider how difficult it would be to attract a publisher when your first book flops. There are many hungry authors waving manuscripts on the sidelines.

            So, what are you waiting for? Confused about where to start?

Brainstorming at the Waverley Library in Thunder Bay: Every media kit should include a question and answer sheet, approximately 2 pages long but no more than 4 pages. What questions do you think the media would ask an author during an interview?

Brainstorming at the Waverley Library in Thunder Bay: Every media kit should include a question and answer sheet, approximately 2 pages long but no more than 4 pages. What questions do you think the media would ask an author during an interview?

            There’s an abundance of free information to sift through on the internet. Some authors opt to hire an experienced publicist but that can be exorbitant. Much knowledge can be derived from books.

            Did you know on Amazon.ca, there is a staggering 14,421 results for “How to Write a Book” compared with 980 results for “How to Promote a Book”? Does this mean that that there are more people interested in buying literature on writing versus promoting? If that is the case, learning all the promotional trade secrets could work to your advantage.

            Even if you’re an experienced publicist, you must keep an open mind to changing marketing trends. Thanks to NOWW (Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop), I was asked to make a presentation on “Being Your Own Publicist” at the Waverley Library in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. It forced me to examine my current promotional strategies and to realize why some strategies were no longer working. The key has always been to set some promotional goals and to determine what makes your work unique. However the methods, for attracting a targeted audience, are always evolving especially with the rapid changes with social media.

            You never know where your promotions will lead you until you try. For a fleeting second last week, Amazon.ca ranked my Tarnished Trophies as #53 in the poetry books. I had to pinch myself until I noticed that the ranking was based on a one hour interval. Some authors use this sales surge on a slow business day to boast their rankings. Is this ethical or a marketing ploy?

            For me, a book’s success doesn’t always hinge on where it ranks on a bestsellers list. These lists usually record stats for a specific period of time: sometimes a month, a week, a day or even less. The stats don’t record the cumulative sales over a lifetime. In fact, bulk sales and books sold at readings or to libraries are not factored into the total. Does the public know this?

            So relax and take all your promotions in stride. Enjoy the journey and the people you meet along the way. Often those experiences are more rewarding than striving to be number one.

        Coming soon to this blog: more literary highlights from Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Toronto, Sarnia, London and St. Catharine’s.

 

Make book promotion fun! Explore your creative side. Iron-on an image of your book cover on t-shirts, sweat shirts, canvas bags or hats. To keep costs down, special iron-on paper may be purchased from a local stationery or craft store. A dollar store may also carry inexpensive display frames or stands that can be used at book fairs and/or readings.

Make book promotion fun! Explore your creative side. Iron-on an image of your book cover on t-shirts, sweat shirts, canvas bags or hats. To keep costs down, special iron-on paper may be purchased from a local stationery or craft store. A dollar store may also carry inexpensive display frames or stands that can be used at book fairs and/or readings.