Archive for October, 2008

Mac Reads Book Club… a great evening

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

I spent last evening at McMaster University, my alma mater, in the original President’s residence, a lovely old home on the edge of the campus.  I and about 20 Mac alumni book club members gathered in the stately living room, complete with grand piano, to discuss TBLP.  I had a wonderful time.  Everyone was so nice and encouraging about the novel.  As a newly published writer, hearing that readers love the book, the characters, and the story, never gets old.  That they also thought the book was funny was icing on the cake.   Many thanks to Amber who organized this very enjoyable event.  It was just great.

Mixed reviews from the Montreal Gazette

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Last Saturday, the Montreal Gazette reviewed TBLP.  It’s a mixed review at best, but a review nonetheless.  Here’s the highlight line:

“…it has a certain charm, some clever turns of phrase, and a well-honed appreciation for the absurdities of political life.”

I’ll take it.  In the end, mixed reviews are better than no reviews!  You’ll find the full review here in the Reviews section:

My first Chapters signing…

Monday, October 27th, 2008

I snuck away from the Ottawa International Festival of Writers to do a book signing at the Chapters Rideau store just a stone’s throw from Parliament Hill.  The riot police were there in force to contain the crowd that spilled out onto Wellington Street.  Yeah right… in my dreams.  As I expected, it was a quiet morning as I sat at the table the staff had set up at the front of the store.  Dozens of shoppers milled about and several even looked my way from time to time.  I had no real expectations and with so many heavyweight authors in town for the festival, I was very pleased to sell a half dozen or so books and chat with some very nice book lovers.  My friend and colleague, and fellow writer I might add, John Delacourt and his wonderful other half, Andrea, stopped by to create some commotion around the signing table.  They then also came to my reading and panel discussion at the festival later in the afternoon.

In light of how much I love spending time in bookstores, my Chapters signing session was time well spent.  Many thanks to Tim Francoeur and his team at Chapters Rideau.

It’s lonely at the signing table… (Thanks to John MacDonald for the photo work.)

Day Two of OIWF

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Here’s my second post from the Booklounge Insiders’ Blog about the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

I had a wonderful day at the Ottawa International Writers Festival on Sunday. At 2:00 p.m., Sarah Dearing chaired our panel on Canadian literature. Bill Gaston started things off with a wonderful reading from his new novel, The Order of Good Cheer. I read next. The crowd was very kind and laughed in all the right places. Then Stephen Henighan read from his book of essays, The Afterlife of Culture. With all four of us on the stage, Sarah Dearing posed questions to drive a discussion on the state and future of our literary culture. I was a little intimidated by the topic but the discussion flowed with several questions from the floor as well. After 90 minutes (that seemed more like a half hour), we moved to the foyer to sign our books.

After our session, literary comet Joseph Boyden, hot off of his Giller shortlisting, read from his new novel Through Black Spruce, to a packed house. CBC radio personality Laurence Wall adroitly moderated the session. Beyond the moving reading and insightful discussion, the highlight of the session had to be Joseph Boyden performing three different moose calls (I kid you not!). The line up at Boyden’s signing table after the session snaked around the foyer and almost certainly left him with a swollen pen hand.

The final session I attended brought together three amazing writers for a reading and discussion. South African Booker nominee Damon Galgut read from The Imposter, Amitav Ghosh read from his Booker nominated novel, Sea of Poppies, and then Kenneth J. Harvey read from his epic masterwork Blackstrap Hawco. What a thrill to hear these three celebrated authors.

I spent the evening choosing my selections for a reading I’m doing at the Ottawa Public Library tomorrow (Monday) and sifting through some great memories of a wonderful OIWF weekend.

Click here for a great photo shot by John MacDonald, an Ottawa-based freelance shooter who also writes.

My first Ottawa International Writers Festival

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

I wrote this blog post for the Insiders’ Blog and thought I might as well cross-post it here.

Appearing at readings and writers’ festivals is still a new and wondrous experience for me, as is bearing the surreal label of “writer.” If you’d have told me six months ago that this past weekend I’d be reading and on a panel, as a “writer”, at the Ottawa International Writers Festival, I’d have suggested reassessing your medication. Yet here I am.

I arrived in Ottawa by train on Saturday and met fellow writer and panelist Stephen Henighan, author of The Afterlife of Culture. Good guy. Smart guy. We checked in at the Delta and then headed over to the National Archives building a couple of blocks away on Wellington Street where the festival has been unfolding all week. We made it in time for a a reading and discussion with prolific writer Bill Gaston, Giller-winning novelist David Bergen, and the much celebrated author Rawi Hage recent recipient of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. What a line-up. These wonderful writers read powerful pages from their new novels. To coin a phrase, “the audience was listening.”

After the session, Stephen and I helped ourselves to some dinner laid on for festival staff and authors. I learned that tofu can actually look exactly like beef bourguignon and I was reminded why I remain an inveterate meat-eater. I’m looking forward to our panel discussion on Sunday afternoon. Stephen Henighan, the aforementioned Bill Gaston and I will each read from our books, and then we’ll be led in discussion by award-winning novelist Sarah Dearing on the current state of Canadian literature. Yikes! I expect I’ll be doing a lot of sage head-nodding punctuated by the odd “agreed” and “exactly.” A friend has also suggested that I consider “steepling” my fingers in a thoughtful pose. Good advice. Stay tuned…

Thanks Montreal… on to Ottawa for OIWF

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

The Montreal media day yesterday went very well.  I did four radio interviews that will run in the coming week or so (I think the CJAD interview may already have aired), along with a video shoot for a popular website and a print interview for The Surburban.  The Montreal Gazette is expected to review TBLP in the next several weeks as well.  Hank Schaffer, an experienced book publicist was wonderful company getting me to and from the interviews.  All in all, a great day.

Now, it’s on to the nation’s capital for the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

I start my OWIF weekend with a book signing at Chapters just east of Parliament Hill on Sunday, October 26th at 11:00 a.m.  This will be my first major bookstore signing and I’m hoping a few people show.  Then at 2:00 it’s on to the Ottawa International Writers Festival (OIWF) where I’m on an authors panel billed as follows:

I’m really not sure what pearls of wisdom I can possibly contribute but I plan to do a lot of nodding as my fellow panelists, Stephen Henighan and Bill Gaston, are talking and perhaps throw in the odd “ditto for me.”  Apparently we’ll be interviewed on stage about our books before we get into the heavy discussion.  Sarah Dearing, the award-winning author of The Bull is Not Killed and Courage My Love is moderating the panel.  I’m excited about it and look forward to meeting and hearing some wonderful writers.  Here’s the bio they’ve posted for me on the OIWF website:

Off to Montreal for a TBLP media day

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

This afternoon, McClelland & Stewart is flying me to Montreal for a day of interviews tomorrow.  After having spent a good part of my career coordinating media interviews for our clients, this will be my first experience spending the day with the microphones in my face.  At last count, there are six interviews set up and two more pending.  Frances Bedford and her Montreal colleague Hank Schaffer have done a great job securing these media hits.  There are interviews with several radio stations (CBC, CJAD, CFMB, Radio Canada International) a propular internet video magazine called WatchMojo, The Suburban (newspaper), and I hope, the Montreal Gazette books section.  Should be an interesting day…

TBLP featured in Torontoist four-part series

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Jaime Woo, a staff writer at Torontoist, the popular website about all things Toronto, has written a four-part series,  In the Skin of a Writer, built around interviews with fellow Toronto writer Judy Fong Bates, and moi.  At the time of this post, three of the parts have been posted with the fourth and final instalment due for release on Monday, October 20th.  I know Jaime has been working on this for quite some time so it’s nice to see it. Thanks Jaime for an interesting series.

Federal Election: Going negative… again

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

I usually stick to blogging about my writing but I cannot let yesterday’s federal election pass without comment.  While the hard-fought campaign yielded a predictable result, another Tory minority government, a troubling trend emerged, as it has more or less in the last few elections.  Voter turnout continued its decline setting a new record for apathy.  Only 59 percent of eligible voters made the trek to the polling station to exercise their democratic right, or should I say responsibility, and cast their ballot.  Voter turnout peaked in 1958 with nearly 80 percent of voters marking the X next to their preferred candidate.  Since then, with blips here and there, it’s been all downhill.

While I have no exhaustive research to support my position, my observation over the last 25 years or so, is that voter apathy has grown in lockstep with the widespread adoption of negative campaigning.  Virtually all of the parties are guilty of “going negative” and in this past campaign, and it seemed to happen right after the writ dropped.  Is there a connection?  I think so.  When parties spend their members’ donations on TV advertising that simply tears down their opponents, often employing distortions and exaggerations, while making little or no comment on their own policies, I truly believe the voters lose faith in our democratic institutions.  This year’s Leaders Debate resembled a kindergarten playground of insults and aspersions.  The ad campaigns of both the Conservatives and my own Liberals were malevolent and malicious.  I was embarrassed.  My 16 year old son’s flickering interest in politics was all but snuffed out by the behaviour of our parties.  We need his generation to be inspired by our brand of democracy, not disgusted by it.

The parties’ market research must support the use of negative campaigning.  It may well be effective in undermining opponents and sewing the seeds of doubt in the voter’s mind.  But I think there’s a greater long term cost to our democracy if we continue down this path.  And I think Canadians are ready for a party and a leader who refuses to leap into the gutter and “go negative” even if the other parties are doing it.  I think Canadians are ready for a party and a leader who takes the high road and focuses exclusively on laying out a blueprint for the country’s future rather than dwelling on the inadequacies, faults, and misdeeds, real or embellished, of his or her opponents.  I think Canadians would reward such behaviour and I also believe the other parties and leaders would eventually be forced to follow suit.  Finally, I think voter turnout would start to climb if the schoolyard taunts and adolescent insults of recent campaigns simply stopped.

But someone has to lead the charge.  As a committed Liberal, I’d like it to be our party and leader who cuts this new path.  But this election has now passed us by, and so has a golden opportunity to reject “politics as usual” and chart a new course.  However, with another minority government, a new chance to “do the right thing” may only be a few years off.

If Angus McLintock were to rise from the pages of The Best Laid Plans, I know he’d hold this view too.  Who knows, perhaps the sequel will give Angus an opportunity to rail against the tradition of “going negative.”  Isn’t that what satire is for?

Headwaters Arts Festival

Monday, October 6th, 2008

This past Friday night, I particpated in the Headwaters Arts Festival in Caledon, Ontario.  What a wonderful evening it was.  Billed as Armchairs, Authors and Art, I joined two very accomplished authors, Joseph Boyden and Drew Hayden Taylor for an evening of talking and reading before an audience of over 200 book lovers.  Then afterwards, our books were on sale and there was a book signing.  What a wonderful group of people.  Nancy Frater and the good folks at BookLore put on a great event.  Here’s the ad that ran in the local magazine: