Well, here you go! As promised, I’m proud to unveil the cover for my fifth novel, Poles Apart, due to hit bookstores on October 20th. I think the design team at Random House/McClelland & Stewart, led by Scott Richardson, have done a great job on the cover. It’s playful and cryptic, and captures the tone and fun of the book very well. My deep thanks to Scott and his crew.
Archive for the ‘podcast novel’ Category
I didn’t think I could be any more shocked than when I miraculously won the 2008 Leacock Medal for The Best Laid Plans. Wrong. When my name was called from the podium this afternoon in Orillia as the winner of the 2015 Leacock Medal for No Relation, I really didn’t know what had hit me. Had I heard correctly? Was that my name? Yes, and yes. I honestly didn’t think I was going to win. I can’t really explain why I felt that way, but I was convinced it wouldn’t happen this time around. And I was quite happy with that. I was thrilled to be a finalist. But it was in fact my name I’d just heard. It was.
I stood up, walked to the podium, shook hands with Leacock Associates President Mike Hill, and then strung together an ill-prepared (actually, ill-prepared is generous — it was unprepared) assembly of sentences to try to express my deep gratitude for this unexpected honour. I’m still processing it all, but suffice it to say that I’m over the moon. As I said in my impromptu acceptance remarks, all roads in my writing life lead straight to Orillia and the Leacock Medal. I suspect that every Leacock winner in the award’s 68 year history has been grateful. How could they not be? But I can pretty well guarantee that no winner has been more grateful than I.
Up in Orillia this morning, the wonderful folks who kindle the Leacock flame in this country unveiled the shortlist for the 2015 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, one of Canada’s oldest literary awards. I was thrilled to see No Relation on the shortlist along with some very funny books by some very accomplished writers. My friend Zarqa Nawaz, the creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie, made the cut, along with one of my Canadian music heroes, Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea. I’ve loved his singing and songwriting for years. I only hope I might get to meet him now that his memoir has been named a finalist.
It’s hard for me to believe that each of my novels has been a finalist for this very special recognition. Anyone who claims it never feels quite as good after the first time is flat out wrong. That principle may apply to other pivotal events in our lives, but for literary awards, I’m just as tickled today as I was back in 2008 when I was Leacock virgin, as it were.
I offer my humble gratitude to the judging panel. I’m over the moon and look forward to attending the Orillia luncheon on April 30th, not just to find out who wins, but also to hang out with the warm and friendly guardians of Leacock’s Legacy. Deep thanks all around and my congratulations to my fellow finalists. It’s great to be in their company. They’ve all written worthy works that we should all read.
I must lie down now. The excitement of the day has taken its toll…
It’s hard to believe, but eight years after writing my first blog post in this space, it’s time for my annual look back across the past year to reflect on how fortunate I’ve been in my writing life:
- It was a very busy year on the talks/readings front. I gave 142 talks and/or readings in 2014, up from 137 last year. So much for my attempt to slow down a little bit. Again, my annual refrain, my deep appreciation for the patience and forbearance of my wife, Nancy Naylor, and our two sons, Calder and Ben. I truly believe these gigs are important in the never-ending quest to sell books, which, in turn, allows me to write another. My travels took me from Halifax to Vancouver, Sault Ste. Marie to Mexico City, and dozens of ports in between.
- Starting in January, CBC Television aired the six-part miniseries based on my first novel, The Best Laid Plans. I loved it, and many others did, too. It pulled some very strong viewership numbers, but the travails at CBC, starting with the loss of Hockey Night in Canada, mean that, alas, there won’t be a second series. But we’ll always have six! I also enjoyed my brief cameo appearance in the final episode, though my phone has not been ringing off the hook for auditions.
- At some point in the year, I can’t remember when, I became the 2014-2015 writer in residence for Hillfield Strathallan College in Hamilton. This isn’t that onerous an undertaking, but I’ve enjoyed my time at the school working with the students.
- In late February, I launched the chapter-by-chapter podcast of my fourth novel, No Relation. As usual, I posted one chapter each week until it was finished. You can find the podcast versions of all of my novels on iTunes.
- It was a surprise and an honour to receive the L.W. Shemilt Distinguished Alumni Award from McMaster University’s Faculty of Engineering in May.
- In May, my fourth novel, No Relation, hit bookstores and opened on the Globe and Mail Bestsellers list where it stayed for many weeks. I’ve been on the road promoting it ever since.
- Great progress has been made on the Touchstone Theatre/Patrick Street Productions collaboration to develop a stage musical based on The Best Laid Plans. A few of the songs were unveiled at a sellout special session at the Vancouver Writers Fest this past October. They are wonderful. The stage musical will debut in September 2015 at the York Theatre in Vancouver.
- In the fall, I developed and taught the Humour Writing course at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. I teach the eight week course again starting in May, 2015.
- I have just finished the manuscript for my fifth novel, Poles Apart. The last couple of chapters were written in Paris during a welcome vacation visit my wife and I made in November. We now move to the editing phase, as well as cover copy and design. It is slated for release on October 6, 2015. I’ll start to record and post the podcast version of Poles Apart sometime in July.
I’m sure I’ve missed some happenings from 2014, but I’m already focused on 2015 (I still can’t believe I just wrote 2015.). Looking ahead to July, I’ll be one of the writers on an Adventure Canada trip up the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As well, I’ll be participating in several literary festivals in various Canadian cities including Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and Eastport, Newfoundland. And my fifth novel, Poles Apart will hit bookstores in early October. Many thanks for all the support I’ve received from readers around the country. I’m grateful. Onwards and Happy New Year!
It’s always nice, even a thrill, to write the words “The End” at the bottom of the page. I finished the manuscript for my fifth novel, Poles Apart, last night. It comes in at just under 98,000 words, and so is a touch longer than my last novel, No Relation. I wish this meant I was well and truly finished. Alas, no. We’re still a long way from seeing the novel on bookstore shelves. But I think of this as, to borrow from Winston Churchill, “the end of the beginning.”
My wonderful editor, Douglas Gibson at McClelland & Stewart, will now go through it, first as a reader, and then on the second, third, and fourth passes, as an editor. We’ll talk about his reaction and suggestions. Then I’ll take another run through it, tweaking here, tightening there. If our first four novels together are any indication, and I hope they are, the editing process ought not to be too onerous (I’m touching wood right now!). But we’ll see.
I’m just happy to have this first major phase completed. If all goes well, expect to see Poles Apart in bookstores in October, 2015. (Fingers eternally crossed…)
Earlier this year, I was invited to give the closing address at the Ontario Writers’ Conference. It was not one of the standard talks I often give about one or another of my books or my strange journey to the published land. So I was a little nervous about it. Anyway, for what it’s worth, you can watch it here if you’re interested or suffer with insomnia…
Yesterday, at the Vancouver Writers Fest, I had the honour of participating on a panel discussing the adaptation of my first novel, The Best Laid Plans to the stage as a musical. This has been underway for over two years, now. But it’s really happening. It will premiere in September of 2015 at the York Theatre, here in Vancouver. On the panel yesterday were Katrina Dunn, the Artistic Director of Touchstone Theatre, Peter Jorgensen, the play’s Director and head of Patrick Street Studios, Vern Thiessen, the Governor General’s Award-winning playwright who is writing the play, Ben Elliott and Anton Lipovetsky, the award-winning composers, and yours truly. It was quite an afternoon.
I had met Katrina before when we’d done the initial negotiations for the stage rights to the novel, but I’d never met any of the others beyond a few emails with Vern and Peter. I was thrilled to meet them all and get an update on their progress. Then we hit the stage for the panel discussion in front of a sellout audience. Katrina was the ring leader. I offered a general overview of the novel. Peter described a bit about the history of adapting novels as stage musicals. Then Vern talked about what he considered when adapting TBLP to the stage. Then the fun started. I read three excerpts from the novel that led beautifully into three scenes and three songs from the production performed by the two composers and a wonderfully talented local actor/singer. Remember, I had never heard these scenes or songs, so I was taking it all in for the first time while on stage in front of a large crowd. My heart was pounding. All of the songs and the dialogue leading to them were wonderful, compelling and powerful. At one point in the middle of the second song, I very nearly burst into tears. It was a love song sung by Angus to his recently deceased wife, and it was beautiful, haunting, and very moving.
Music is important to me. I’ve played guitar, written songs, and sung (not particularly well) since I was 17 years old. I played in a band in university. I think I have a sense of what makes a good song, largely because I’ve written quite a few bad ones. Ben and Anton are incredibly talented songwriters who seem to have a magical collaboration. In less than a year, when the show opens in Vancouver, I think you’ll agree that these songs will be with us for a very long time.
Much more work lies ahead, but this is really going to happen. And I think it’s going to be something special. And by the way, the hovercraft will part of the play!
No Relation has now been on the market for ten weeks. So you can imagine how thrilled I am that for the tenth straight week, it’s still hanging in there on the Globe and Mail Bestsellers list. Honoured, humbled, and grateful.
Book trailers are all the rage these days in the publishing world. My great publisher, Random House/McClelland & Stewart has just produced this book trailer for No Relation. I think it captures the spirit and tone of the novel very well.
I think this may be the first time a novel of mine has occupied the top spot on the bestsellers list. I doubt it will happen often, so I’ve commemorated it here for posterity’s sake. The source is the official bestsellers list of the Canadian Booksellers Association (part of the Retail Council of Canada). No Relation is number one in Paperback Fiction and in Canadian Fiction. Onwards!