Jul 17 2012

Reading and Singing Farewell Tribute to Mother Tongue Friday July 20th


How would you like to share the stage with a jazz vocalist who one critic describes as having

A voice so rich it makes me crave a glass of milk.

Friday night at the final in a series of farewell soirée for the venerable Mother Tongue Books, I get to do just that.

Fabulous Ottawa singer/songwriter Renée Yoxon will be performing her magic, and I’ll read brief bits from some of the funniest and most poignant essays and poems by the likes of Mary Walsh, Lorna Crozier and others who contributed to I Feel Great About My Hands.

I’ll also tell a story or two about Informed Opinions, the project the book is supporting, which is designed to train and inspire women to share their ideas, analyses and informed opinions more often and more widely.

 7 pm  Friday July 20th

Mother Tongue Books

1067 Bank Street

If you’re in town, come join the celebration of an Ottawa institution that has supported local authors and featured a diverse selection of feminist, lesbian and queer literature.


Feb 18 2012

Passing judgment, picking winners

I was as nervous and emotional as if my own book were in contention for the $40,000 prize. Which was odd, really, because — as one of the three judges who’d read not only the four finalists but another 130 other titles besides — I actually knew which of the four fabulous books being featured at the lunch was poised to win the prize.

But seeing all of the authors there — writers whose work I had read and re-read, underlined and asterisked, discussed and debated with my fellow judges — and hearing the considerable virtues of each described by others and applauded by all — and knowing what a struggle it is to live on the advance or royalties that accrue, even from a book that achieves “best seller” status here in Canada, I wanted them all to walk away with sufficient resources to sit down and write again.

All four books that Paul Whitney (former Vancouver Public Librarian), Patricia Graham (VP Digital, Pacific Newspaper Group), and I had shortlisted are compulsively readable and offer multiple rewards for the time spent. In future posts, I’ll share some the things I loved about each of them. In the meantime, here’s the happy winner of this year’s prize: an understandably beaming Charlotte Gill.

BC Premier Christy Clark presented Charlotte Gill with BC’s National Non-Fiction award for her brilliantly written memoir Eating Dirt on February 13 in Vancouver.

And here’s how we described her feat:

In Eating Dirt, Charlotte Gill delivers an insider’s perspective on the grueling, remote and largely ignored world of that uniquely modern-day “tribe”, the tree planter. In the process, she enlivens the boom and bust history of logging and its environmental impact, questioning the ability of conifer plantations to replace complex ecosystems of naturally evolving old growth forests. Gill’s astonishingly lucid prose evokes a visceral experience of the frequently wet, often dangerous, yet surprisingly exhilarating hard labour of those working to mitigate the clear-cut collision between human beings and nature. And although by the end of each tightly crafted chapter, you’re desperate for your own 2,000-calorie meal, hot shower and insect-free bed, you’re compelled to read on. She writes the forest like Tom Thompson and the Group of Seven painted it: bringing it vividly to life in all its mythic grandeur with striking details and evocative analogies, using intelligence, verve and humour to illuminate the dangers that live within, and threaten from without.  


Feb 6 2012

“What happened to Gracie’s eggs?!”

… That’s what the woman standing in front of me urgently wanted to know.

Sheila Deane explaining the significance of Gracie's eggs to a rapt audience at the National Arts Centre

I was as delighted with her question as she had been with Sheila Deane’s essay, “Kick the Can” — even though I’d only read a brief excerpt from it, along with sections from a few others, and my own at the BC Truck Loggers Convention Ladies Luncheon taking place recently in (unusually) snowy Victoria.

Equally gratifying was the experience of reading “My Last Erotic Poem”, Lorna Crozier’s contribution to the collection. I had to pause for laughter after EVERY SINGLE LINE.

Not surprisingly, all of the books I’d brought to the event were snapped up by eager readers, and the organizer said to me afterwards that the stories I read and told from I Feel Great About My Hands resonated so well with the diverse group of woman (ages 30 to 70)that they probably should have skipped the fashion show component and just given me more time to talk about the book.

The assembled audience’s engagement extended to the project it’s helping to support: Although I only spoke briefly about Informed Opinions, which receives a 10% royalty from every book sold, when I ran out of copies, two of the women still in line to purchase  one handed me their $20 bills and said, “We’d like to donate these to the project.”

Apparently the complementariness of the two goes both ways: recently after I delivered a half-day Informed Opinions workshop to some quick studies at the Canadian Nurses Association in Ottawa, one of the participants ordered three copies, just on the basis of a promotional postcard featuring all of the contributors’ names. (Because they’re an interesting and impressive bunch!)

As for the answer to the question above? All I can tell you is that if you want to learn what happened to Gracie’s eggs, and what they had to do with the benefits of aging, you’ll just have to buy the book! (Fortunately, it’s still widely available.)

And if I can’t make it to your luncheon or book club meeting to read a funny or inspirational excerpt or two, one of the other contributors may well be available!

 


Nov 24 2011

Book signing at Britton’s

… in the Glebe, Sunday between 1 pm and 3 pm — 846 Bank Street — thanks to the generous support of Ted Britton — the kind of guy every neighbourhood should have.

In fact, last night on CBC Radio’s As it Happens, Carol Off interviewed the Orange-prize-winning author Ann Patchett about her newest venture: opening an independent bookstore in her neighbourhood after all the existing ones had closed down. Given the precarious states of both publishing and book retailing, the act seems above and beyond the call of duty (shouldn’t it be enough that this fabulous writer has given us the pleasure of being transported by Bel Canto, Truth and Beauty, and Run, among other titles?)

But one of the things that makes a neighbourhood is the quality of the local retailers. And Britton’s, a Glebe fixture since 1966, keeps an impressively diverse collection of newspapers and magazines. Ted Britton has run the business since 1978, and he goes out of his way to stock books on issues of both local and national interest, and to support writers with informal signings.

If you were inconvenienced by my unceremoniously cancelled appointment earlier this week at Chapters, I hope you can make it to Britton’s on Sunday instead.

 


Nov 24 2011

Google alerts a mixed blessing

It’s a mixed blessing when the google alert you receive in your email inbox links you to a website which tells you that although BC’s Okanagan Regional Library system possesses five copies of your book, all of them are in circulation, one has given you a four-star review, and 12 people have placed holds on the collection.

Because at first you think, wow, five copies, all checked out, and a dozen readers eagerly awaiting their return!

But then you wonder, well, how eager could they really be if they’re prepared to wait for a copy to become available?

And, moving into decidedly uncharitable waters, you grouse, come on, people: four stars! couldn’t you go out and buy the damn book? So Chapters won’t return it to the publisher?

But then you remember that even 22.95 plus tax is a luxury for lots of people, libraries are critically important institutions, and you should feel grateful that the book is being acquired — and read — in communities across the country.

Speaking of Chapters, however, I’d like to express my abject apologies to any Ottawa readers who may have showed up at the Rideau Centre outlet last night, thinking I would be on hand to sign a copy of the book. It’s painful for a professional communicator to admit that miscommunication was responsible for the mix-up that saw Chapters book someone else into a slot that had been reserved for me, but there you are. And I’m sorry if anyone was inconvenienced.

In the meantime, I can assure you that the power of the collection without my signature is in no way diminished. (However, since I live in Ottawa, if you really wanted a copy of the book personally addressed to your beloved Aunt Mimi, or your best friend, Pat, that could be arranged. See next post.)

 


Oct 19 2011

Chocolate was served

Brownies are not my only criteria for accepting invitations to attend book club discussions of I Feel Great About My Hands, but they don’t hurt.

Award-winning short story writer, Renate Mohr

Last night Hands’ contributor Renate (Levity in the Face of Gravity)  Mohr invited me to attend the monthly meeting of her Ottawa book club. Hearing half a dozen interesting and articulate women talk about which of the essays most resonated with, entertained or provoked them — different for everyone — was a very gratifying experience.

Truth be told, I had no idea chocolate (OR wine and cheese!) would be served: the feedback itself was incentive enough. And the experience reminded me that there are likely enough other insightful ruminations on the advantages of aging to fill a couple of additional volumes of this collection.

If you have some thoughts you might be interested in putting to paper — or know a woman whose analysis you’d like to see in a subsequent book — please let me know.

 


Aug 23 2011

I Feel Great About My Hands: officially launched in Halifax

By the numbers…

2 beautiful venues (check out the Halifax Club and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia)

2 profile-raising, audience-attracting interviews with lively and engaging broadcasters (tune in to CBC radio’s Stephanie Domet and Starr Dobson on CTV’s Live at 5)

4 happy authors (witness smiles above)

1 pair of bright orange boots (see Sheree Fitch, page 138 – and yes, they matched her outfit!)

1 reference to the irrelevance of cottage cheese and orange peel thighs (see Carol Bruneau in blue, page 230)

? (too many to count) references to peeing (see Dawn Rae Downton in black, pages 130 – 137)

1 supportive, independent bookseller (thank you Bookmark, regrettably not pictured)

45 books sold (all royalties generously donated to Informed Opinions) and

1 extremely grateful, fish-filled editor/catalyst thankful for the support of her roadie/chauffeur/photographer/husband and eager to return sometime soon to deliver workshops to smart women who should speak up more often!

 

 


Aug 15 2011

It’s come to this…

This falls under the category of “you know you’re old when….”

We arrived in Halifax yesterday to glorious sunshine and enveloping heat with a beautiful breeze. In other words, perfect vacation weather. Once in the car, David driving and me navigating, it became apparent that fulfilling my responsibilities with the aid of one pair of spectacles was not possible: I needed two.

What can I say? I know it’s not a good look, but  the readers permit me to distinguish the lines and names on the map, and the sunglasses stop me from going blind.

And I’d like to be able to read from my own essay in I Feel Great About My Hands this afternoon on CBC Radio’s Maritime Noon, when Carol Bruneau and I get to speak to the lively and engaging Stephanie Domet.

In the meantime, I’m praying the predicted showers occur while I’m in the studio because CTV’s Starr Dobson has reserved a few minutes during the 5 pm show to devote to the book and the two events we’re doing tomorrow. (see Upcoming Events sidebar for when and where). And I know from experience that bad hair on TV has the magical ability to render a speaker mute (your lips move and the words are projected, but the bad vibes coming from your ruined coif intercept and disable the sound waves such that only the most evolved of viewers can actually hear what you’re saying).


Aug 12 2011

Celebrated novelist Carol Bruneau August 16th in Halifax

 

heartbreakingly true-to-life”

“empathetic and skilled”

“remarkably intricate, textured and complex”

… These are just a few of the superlatives that reviewers – from the Globe and Mail, the Sun Times, and the Literary Review of Canada – have used to describe novelist Carol Bruneau’s writing.

So I was delighted when she agreed to contribute to I Feel Great About My Hands. Her piece, entitled “Have Genes Will Travel”, pays tribute to both her centenarian aunt, and the mother she lost far too young – both of them inspirational role models with lessons to teach about how one might embrace the aging journey, and why.

On Tuesday, August 16th, Halifax residents and visitors alike can hear Carol read from her essay at the Halifax Club Literary Luncheon (12 noon, $20 buys lunch and entertainment, contact novamedia@gmail.com) and again at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia that evening (7 pm, no charge, RSVP info@informedopinions.org) alongside equally accomplished contributors Dawn Rae Downton and Sheree Fitch.

I look forward to basking in the glow of their reflected brilliance at both events. 


Aug 1 2011

Books with buzz

I have been known to type the name of one or the other of my books into every search kiosk at whichever bookstore I happen to be visiting in a futile effort to increase the likelihood that one or more customers might be exposed to a title that is otherwise almost impossible to find.  I’m not proud of this vanity, but I’ve justified such actions in relation to I Feel Great About My Hands because:

a) the collection profiles the fabulous work of many others,
b) they donated their writing without expectation of compensation, so the least I can do is increase the likelihood that  their words will be read, and
c) the royalties go to support Informed Opinions, which is having a tangible impact on increasing women’s voices in mainstream media.

My perceptive husband, David Mitchell, not only notices store displays, he also plays retailer when asked.

So you can imagine my delight the other day when the perceptive man I married pointed out that Ottawa’s busiest Chapters was featuring the collection in the high profile “Books with Buzz” section of the store, so close to Starbucks that you could smell the coffee.

Even more gratifying, when I spoke with Manager Pierre LaTulippe, he invited me to participate in the store’s book club event series, likely in October. More details on this when the date is set.

In the meantime, the discerning readers of BC have kept I Feel Great About My Hands on the province’s best seller list for seven weeks this summer. And my relatives in Victoria number only two, so clearly they alone are not responsible for this gratifying performance.