Officially launched!

What an incredible weekend!

We started on Friday night with the traditional author dinner at Dr Blois’s house. She’s a great cook and loves to entertain, and she made a wonderful meal. Even the starters would have been a great dinner – smoked salmon, dill cream cheese, hot artichoke-and-cheese dip with rye bread and whole-grain crackers. And wine.

Then we got to the table and had the actual meal, which included chicken breasts with a balsamic sauce brushed over them, roasted veggies, scalloped potatoes, salad, cheese, fruit and dark chocolate and a dark, rich chocolate cake topped with orange-flavoured whipped cream. Wines to go with everything. Honestly, the Friday night dinner all by itself is incentive to be a guest author for Stories in the North!

The two classes on Saturday at Zion United were fun and energizing, and I’ve written about them at the Scriptorium. The evening launch is what I want to talk about here.

What can I say? It was a wonderful night! The band, Tradition Continued, played great bluegrass music. I love bluegrass, and I’m so glad we were able to get this group. The evening was set up so that we alternated sets of music with readings – some Shepherd, some Tradition Continued. There was time for lots of both, and I know the evening went on longer than some events that Stories in the North has held.

It was wonderful reading for my hometown people, and I wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything. Just to have folks from my own community come out to hear me is humbling and gratifying and also completely delightful.

To break up the “Shepherd” readings a bit, I brought a story I wrote a couple of years ago that featured Appalachian magic. I thought it would fit in with the bluegrass music. Several people made a point of telling me they liked it. It was the first time I’d read it in public, and I was so happy it got a positive response.

And I signed books – copies of “Shepherd in Residence”, a few last copies of “Erik the Viking Sheep” and a few copies of Aurora Wolf’s “New Fairy Tales”, in which I have a story. That was wonderful, too.

Laurence Steven, who owns and operates Scrivener Press, came to Thessalon just for this event. I have to say, working with Laurence has been fun, and he’s guided me easily through the process of getting “Shepherd” from my submitted manuscript to the finished book. He chose Chantal Bennett to do the cover and inside pictures, and it was an excellent choice. (In case I’ve never mentioned it before – ha! – I love her illustrations!) It was such a pleasure to have him there for the kick-off. He’d done so much of the work that he certainly deserves to be in on the party!

So Shepherd has been launched. There is still much to do – marketing a book is the big work. My next goal is to get this printing sold out and make Laurence reprint!

But for the moment, I’m still floating.

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The Sudbury Launch!

…was amazing!

Me, Bonnie Kogos, Alanna Bondar and, in the back and looking as excited as we all felt, Mark D. Dunn.

I had terrible nerves in the morning, even though I had all my clothes ready and my places marked in the book. I mislaid my lipstick, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. David got me loaded into the car with everything I needed (and he found my lipstick!) and we left just after two p.m.

David brought along his laptop and some speakers; he’s been loading all our music onto his computer, everything from Gregorian chant to AC/DC. We drove down to Sudbury, stopping along the way at Carey’s Books, a used bookstore in an old house, and a favourite of ours. Sad to hear the owner is quitting and moving to Havana. He’s seventy, he says, and he wants to retire. Sigh.

I calmed down on the drive, and when we got to Sudbury we went to a little Greek restaurant for supper. We got to the Art Gallery of Sudbury just as Markus Schwabe did. Markus is the morning host on CBC Northeastern Ontario, and he and I go way back.

I changed into my reading clothes and schmoozed a bit with early arrivals. One man came in, bought one of each of the four titles, found the three authors who were there and got autographs, then left. He seemed quite eager and happy to meet us, and I found him amusing. I was also delighted that Ruth Reid and Eric Moore came for a few minutes, even though they couldn’t stay for the evening. Ruth and Eric are also friends from CBC days, although the friendship has endured beyond that. Eric and I are both firmly in the prescriptivist camp and we had a fine old conversation about the importance of heel-dragging in the face of rapid linguistic change. Even curmudgeons love company!

The evening went beautifully! David set up his camera and tripod unobtrusively to one side so he could film me when I came on. Laurence did the opening remarks (and his programme was headed “a guide, not a promise”) and introduced Markus, who was the emcee for the night.

The first reader up was Alanna Bondar, whose book of poetry came out last spring, but who’d been too sick with breast cancer to launch it then. I’m not a big fan of free verse, but I loved her poetry (about the Andean Mountains and the rainforest, and Northern Ontario and a spiritual journey).

Then Mark Dunn read from his poetry and played us a couple of his songs. I’d heard him read at his own launch in April and I loved hearing some of the same pieces again. Poetry and music, I feel, gain something from repeated hearings. You have time to fall into the rhythm. Mark is also an experienced performer and great to watch.

Then Bonnie Kogos read from her novel “Manhattan, Manitoulin”, about a New York travel agent who falls in love with a man from Manitoulin Island. The story was well-told, and she was funny and sharp and talked very, very fast. She sounded like New York, and she obviously loves it here. She’s written a column for the Sudbury paper for twenty years.

Then it was my turn. Markus gave me a lovely intro, talking about my time on Morning North as their folklorist and getting in a mention of my launch in Thessalon. By the time I got up, my nerves were gone.

I read three pieces – “First Fleece”, “Boys and Girls Together” and “Woman’s Best Friend”. People laughed where I meant them to and listened very attentively, which is what you want. Three people afterwards told me they cried about Oscar in “Woman’s Best Friend”. I have to say, being able to make people laugh is one thing – being able to make them cry is quite another, and I didn’t know I could do that.

Then there were photos and photos and photos, and people bringing books to be signed. I seemed to be signing a lot of books – it was fun! David told me I did a good performance. (I watched part of the film after and think I look at the page too much – I can fix that.) Oh, the compliments flew all ways, and we were all buzzed from it! Alanna and I talked about nerves and how you probably don’t give a good performance if you’re not a little edgy beforehand. Mark and I had talked about the same thing months ago.

An unexpected event was a woman who came up to me and said, “I don’t know if you remember, but you once gave me a ride…” and I said “…you were hitch-hiking back to Espanola after a chiropractor’s appointment in the Sault!” This happened when I was in my first year of radio, long before “shepherd”. I picked her up because I hate to see a woman hitch-hiking alone, and I was worried she’d be picked up by a serial rapist or something. I told her I could take her as far as Thessalon because I lived up 129 and had to turn there. She asked if I lived in Wharncliffe, and when I said yes, she asked if I knew this woman Elizabeth Creith who was on the radio. It made the day for both of us! So last night she said she’d never given me anything for that ride, and I said yes, she had, I’d been telling the story for years, and besides, she’d made my day. An odd little coincidence, as she’d come to see Bonnie and hadn’t even known any of the other authors were reading.

And on top of all this we had good food and drink in the lovely Art Gallery of Sudbury. (I will admit to a guilty liking for Perrier with a twist of lemon, and that’s what I drank.) If you’re in Sudbury, I’d encourage you to check out the gallery.

It was a wonderful evening. I’m still buzzed!

Back on the radio!

At this point I’m only eight days away from the three-author launch for Scrivener Press’s spring lineup. This morning I spoke to Markus Schwabe at CBC Sudbury, and he scheduled me for a live interview on Thursday, May 3rd, at about 7:22 a.m. EDT.

Of course, Markus knows me from my days on the morning show as folklorist-in-residence. This interview is going to be a great deal of fun – Markus is easy to talk to and a good interviewer, and there’s never any trouble getting me to open up. (Getting me to shut up, now – that’s a whole ‘nother problem!)

Laurence sent Markus all three books to read. I really seem to have hit something with my mention of goat farts, because in the phone message he left me to arrange this morning’s call Markus mentioned trying to read that part aloud to his wife. Her response? “I don’t even want to hear about it!” Another reader quoted the goat farts incident in an online forum. Looks like the world is divided into those who find goat fart references funny, and those who don’t!

Markus will be interviewing Mark, Bonnie, me and – probably – Laurence in the lead-up to the launch. He’s also going to emcee that launch, which is going to be lots of fun.

If you can make it to the Sudbury event, do come out – I’d love to see you there. If not, then try to catch me on-air with Markus. I don’t know all the frequencies for CBC, but I know three – 89.5 in Sault Ste Marie, 97.5 along the North Shore and 99.9 in Sudbury and environs.

The bookplate!

For the month of April I’m offering anyone who sends me proof of purchase of “Shepherd in Residence” an autographed bookplate, designed and drawn by me.

The sheep on the bookplate is modelled on Hallowe’en, one of my Icelandic-Romanov crossbred ewes. She was greyer than the picture, but I have to have somewhere to sign and inscribe the bookplate, now, don’t I?

I had a happy time designing and drawing this sheep, and I’m pleased with the results!

The books are here! Next, the launch!

Thursday I got my copies of “Shepherd in Residence”! Opening that box and seeing my very own book stacked neatly inside – wow! Pauline Clark, my friend and fellow writer, piled books onto a table and sat Laurence and me down and took pictures – as soon as I get them, I’ll post at least one here. I couldn’t stop grinning!

So now I gear up for the next thing – or things. First, Laurence is sponsoring a three-author launch in Sudbury for Mark, Bonnie Kogos (author of “Manhattan, Manitoulin”) and me, his spring list. That’s on May 8th at the Art Gallery of Sudbury, 251 John Street. We’ll all be reading from our books, and get a chance to meet each other. All right, Mark and I have met many times, so what I really mean is we’ll get to meet Bonnie.

Then on May 12th it’s all Shepherd, all the time! That’s my official launch at Stories in the North.

I’ll be teaching two workshops during the day. The morning one is “Make ‘Em Laugh”, a workshop on writing humour. Contrary to popular belief, humour-writing is a skill that can be learned – although it also helps if you have an odd slant on the universe anyway. never mind – I’ll show how viewpoint, word use, comparison, simile, metaphor, detail, elision and timing all contribute to the creation of humour, and teach the rudiments of using these tools. I’ll take up to twenty participants – come prepared to write, and with one or two incidents from your own experience that you’ll be willing to share.

In the afternoon, my alter-ego, the Writer’s Dominatrix, will teach the technical aspects of writing. “You know what I mean” doesn’t cut it when your only means of communication is the printed word. I’ll discuss and explain word use, punctuation and grammar, and provide memory aids to help you avoid some of the most common writing errors. Trust me, it’ll be fun. Again, I’ll take twenty participants – bring your grammar and punctuation bugbears along.

You can register for workshops by calling (705)842-2451. Advance registration is $25 per workshop, $40 for both. If you register on the day of the workshop, cost is $30 each, $50 for both.

The evening is when it’s really going to get rocking and rolling. I’ll be reading at the Oddfellows’ Hall. Stories in the North always pairs a local musical act with an author, and the band that night will be Tradition Continued, a Sault Ste Marie bluegrass band. I love bluegrass music, and it seems so appropriate, given I’m a rural gal living in the foothills of the Laurentian Mountains.

Of course at all these events there’s the opportunity to buy a copy of “Shepherd in Residence” and have it personally inscribed. I hope to see you at one or the other of these events.

You’ll recognize me easily – I’m the one who can’t stop grinning.

Just like lambing!

Peg Bracken once compared having a book to having a baby. I think I’d compare it to lambing.

First, there’s the preparation part. You feed your ewes up so they’ll ovulate multiples, let in the ram and get the whole process started. There’s a lot of work and management around this if you want good results.

Then you wait. And wait. And wait. First it looks like nothing’s happening, but eventually the ewes start to show. They get bigger and bigger, flat on top and bulging at the sides. My friend Nancy says they look like aircraft carriers, and she’s right, except for the part with the airplanes and the little guys with lightsabres on the deck doing semaphore. (It’s always possible to take a metaphor to far, but that’s what a meta’s for, isn’t it?)

The last few weeks before lambing starts drag on forever. It’s like Christmas, and you’re eight years old again and can hardly wait for the day. Then lambing starts and suddenly you’re busy-busy-busy. Where did all that time go?

“Shepherd in Residence” is like that. First all the work of the writing and rewriting, the excitement of the publication offer, and then the long waiting for publication day. There were things to do, of course, and I was doing them – final edits, consultation on illustrations, social media promotion, talking the book up in my various groups. Now The Day is upon me – on Thursday I get my hands on the actual published books.

That’s one week, or seven days, or 168 hours, or 10,080 minutes, or 604,800 seconds.

However you slice it, it seems like forever. Kinda like waiting for lambs to start coming.

“Shepherd” at Chapters and Amazon!

“Shepherd in Residence” is now available for pre-order at Chapters and Amazon! It’s completely thrilling to see my book there!

For the first month – that is, until the end of April – I’m making this offer. Send me proof of purchase and a self-addressed stamped envelope and I’ll send you a personally autographed, specially-designed bookplate for your copy, because I know not everyone is going to make it to the official launch in May.

Unfortunately I can only use Canadian stamps. If you’re not in Canada, hmmm, $1.00, I suppose….or international reply coupons, which are bloody expensive. Or whatever you can figure out.