Archive for May, 2010

Hang gliders & hovercraft: Tracing my roots

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

About a month ago, I was approached to write an essay for The New Quarterly, a well-established Canadian literary journal, as part of their “Magazine as Muse” series. Writers are invited to reflect on what magazine captured their imagination in their early teenage years and perhaps shaped their future in some way. I was delighted to be asked by Bruce Johnstone and Editor, Kim Jernigan, in connection with the selection of TBLP as this year’s choice for the Waterloo Region’s One Book, One Community program. I’ve now submitted the essay and it will appear in TNQ #115, the summer issue, due out in mid-July. The TNQ blog is here.

Choosing the magazine that influenced me as a 13 year old was relatively straight forward. At that age, I only read one magazine with any regularity after discovering stacks of back issues of Popular Science in my primary school library, when I was in Grade 8. I was captivated. There’s little doubt in my mind that being such an avid reader of Popular Science actually played a role in my decision to study engineering at university.  But long before I headed off to McMaster in the fall of 1978, there were a few Popular Science inspired adventures that I chronicled in the essay. Without going into too much detail, PopSci often featured garage inventors who built something that flew, or went fast, or baffled the experts in some way. PopSci somehow made it seem possible for dreamers to bring their inventions to life. I wanted some of that.

So while in Grade 8, my twin brother Tim, my friend Geoff Elmer, and I built three hang gliders. We called them the Falcon series. (We had to have a name for them, didn’t we?) You can read about my hang glider phase in the essay when it comes out, but I thought you  might like this photo of the (attempted) launch of Falcon 3 down the park hill at the end of our street. Yes, that is I, at 13, trying to take flight in June 1973. In hindsight, there was never any hope of me soaring anywhere that day, but still, I’ll never forget it.

Our second Popular Science-fueled foray was the design and construction of a full-sized hovercraft. You’ll know if you’ve read The Best Laid Plans, that a hovercraft figures in the story. That’s because of my abiding interest in them. We were 15 when we built the hovercraft below. This grainy photo was taken in 1975 when I was still months away from earning my driver’s licence.

I think Popular Science magazine may even have played a role in turning me into a writer. Just as its pages made it seem possible for us to build a hang glider or hovercraft way back then, perhaps it also made it seem possible that I might one day actually write a novel, let alone two.  PopSci seemed to engender a sense that all things were possible. Even a novel. That might be a stretch. But I still have my subscription to Popular Science and still look forward to it each month.

Here’s the cover of PopSci from March 1970 that sparked a lifelong fascination with air cushion vehicles and led directly to Angus McLintock’s Baddeck 1 in TBLP.

Back cover design for The High Road

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Here’s an early peek at the back cover of THR. There may still be some minor tweaks to make, but you get the idea.

TBLP a hot seller among single women?

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

I’m not sure what to make of this, but for the last few months, on Amazon’s hourly bestseller update lists, TBLP has been lurking in the middle of the pack of the Women’s Fiction/Single Women bestseller list. I just noticed that at the time of this post, TBLP had slipped up into the #2 position. It’s often in the upper reaches of the political fiction list. But I’ve never really considered my novel to be of particular interest to women, let alone to single women. I’m not complaining. I’m just a bit befuddled by it. Who knew? Any thoughts?

Ontario Writers’ Conference talk

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Last Saturday, I attended the Ontario Writers’ Conference near Oshawa, Ontario. My friend and fellow writer, Evadne Macedo, was kind enough to drive me. It was a great and inspiring day. To be amongst 100 or so passionate writers was a pleasure. I was thrilled to hear Wayson Choy and Robert J. Sawyer speak. As well, Susanna Kearsley delivered a wonderful talk on how to be successful in genre fiction. Then it was my turn. I led a 90 minute presentation on “Shameless Self-Promotion.” It seemed to go well, though the time whizzed by leaving only a few minutes for the Q&A, which is often the most valuable part of such sessions. I outlined a palette of self-promotion vehicles inlcuding blogging, podcasting, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, awards, blurbs, and readings. Here’s hoping it was helpful. Thanks for the drive, Evadne.

Here’s a shot of Evadne and me at the conference that doesn’t exactly flatter either of us!

New blog design coming soon…

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

One of the problems with the current design of this blog is that it appears to be a book site about The Best Laid Plans, one novel, rather than an author site. At the time, this made sense as I only had one novel and I kind of wanted it to be about the book rather than about me. But with The High Road coming to bookstores in a matter of months, by necessity, the blog needs to be reskinned so that it’s an author site where you can get information about both novels. So, stay tuned. The look of the blog will change in the next week or so.

Here’s a sneak peek at the new design. It’ll have all the features of the current blog with a few added twists, including my live Twitter stream. There may be some additional tweaking, but it’s nearly final. What do you think?

Will Ferguson wins the Leacock…again!

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Will Ferguson won the 2010 Leacock Medal last Thursday, his third. He is now the fourth writer in the history of the award to earn a trio of Leaocks. Very impressive. I would have been in Orillia for the announcement had I not been so fortunate to be in Cambridge for the announcement that TBLP had been selected for the Waterloo Region’s One Book, One Community program. Will won for his new book, Beyond Belfast. I’ve not read it yet, but it’s near the top of my list.

Writing and winning Leacocks run in the Ferguson family. Will’s brother Ian, won in 2004 for his wonderful book Village of Small Houses. I met Ian at last year’s Leacock Luncheon and have kept up an email coresspondence ever since. As well, Ian has provided a wonderful quotation that will appear on the back cover of The High Road (stay tuned to see the back cover design). I look forward to seeing him again soon. In June, I’ll get to meet Will as I’m the master of ceremonies for the Leacock Gala dinner.  Congratulations, Will, and I’ll see you in June to shake your hand!

Waterloo Record OBOC editorial

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

I met Lynn Haddrall, the Editor-in-chief of the Waterloo Record at the One Book, One Community launch last week. She is funny, smart, and charming and spoke very well at the event. The Record has always been a big a supporter of OBOC. The Record ran a great article the day after the launch.

Here’s a photo from the launch.

You can even watch and listen to a brief reading I was asked to give during the launch announcement.

Finally, here is Lynn’s editorial that ran yesterday. Very kind words.