Archive for the ‘Globe and Mail’ Category

TBLP back on the iTunes charts

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

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Who’d have thunk it!  Nearly two years after the final episode of The Best Laid Plans podcast was posted, it’s reappeared on the iTunes Arts and Literature charts at #17.  I figure my GlobeBooks essay and the CBC Book Club’s Top 10 Books to Make You Laugh list last week have had a hand in pointing new listeners to the podcast, and that’s wonderful news.  I still believe strongly that the podcast is a great driver of awareness and ultimately book sales.  So it’s a thrill to see it back up in the top 25.  Happy listening…

TBLP essay in Globe Books online

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

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As part of celebrating the 2009 Leacock Medal presentation later this week, I wrote a piece for the Globe and Mail on what a wild ride the last year has been.  It appeared today in the Globe’s great online book section.  You can read it at the Globe Books site or to make it even easier, I’ve reproduced it below.  I’ll be in Orillia tomorrow for the Leacock Luncheon where the winner is announced.  It will be wonderful to be there again without the butterflies from one year ago.

Leacock shock, 12 months later (Globe Books online April 29, 2009)

There was no phone call or e-mail. I read it first on the Orillia Packet and Times website. It was March 27, 2008. The day before, I’d been living the glamorous high life of the self-published author, schlepping my first novel around in the trunk of my car, and pleading with independent bookstores to take a few copies on consignment. Then the news broke that my book had somehow been short-listed for the 2008 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. In that instant, my life as a weekend writer changed. In the next instant, I was curled in the fetal position, hyperventilating into a paper bag.

When I finished writing The Best Laid Plans, I honestly had no real expectations that it would ever be published. Hopes and dreams? Sure. Expectations? Not so much. Would I really have written a satirical novel of Canadian politics if I’d wanted to be published? It started out strictly as a personal challenge. Could I string 100,000 words together in a way that somehow approached coherence. After I’d finished the manuscript, I still didn’t know. I’d lost all perspective on it. So, based on what I’d learned on the Internet (about publishing, I mean), I sent out dozens of query letters and plot synopses to literary agents. The year-long silence that followed was deafening and discouraging. Undeterred (I didn’t know enough to be deterred), I podcast my novel, one chapter at a time, and made it available for free on iTunes and at www.terryfallis.com. Then I did what is unthinkable to many writers. I self-published The Best Laid Plans. It wasn’t my first choice. Self-publishing is seldom an aspiring writer’s first choice.

When I finally held it in my hands in September 2007, it looked and felt like a real book. I was thrilled. A launch was organized at my alma mater and both people who came bought books. Online sales to family and friends trickled in. Then, on a lark, I sent the ten author copies I still had gathering dust in my office up to the Leacock Association in Orillia. Appearing on the short-list was the surprise of my life. Within a week, I signed with a literary agent, the wonderful and respected Beverley Slopen. We met for drinks at the Toronto Four Seasons and though calm on the outside, I was a quivering mass of excitement inside. The turning point in our conversation came when she took my hands in hers and said “Terry, you are not going to win the Leacock Medal, so we have 30 days to find you a publisher.”

By April 30th, the day the Leacock Medal winner was to be announced, we’d had a few nibbles, several rejections, but nothing definitive (okay, the rejections were definitive). So my wife Nancy and I drove up to Orillia for the Leacock Luncheon. I had just barely begun to recuperate from the shock of being short-listed a month earlier, so hearing my name announced from the podium as the winner set back my recovery considerably. I was floored.

I stumbled to my feet in a daze and barely survived my impromptu acceptance speech. To see my name on a list of Leacock winners alongside Robertson Davies, Mordecai Richler, Paul Quarrington, and W.O. Mitchell, literally left my knees weak and wobbly (and still does). On the drive home, Nancy turned to me and said, “This will be noted in your obituary.” I slowed down immediately.

Then the surreal circus came to town. It was truly bizarre to see my face in the Globe the next day. The Best Laid Plans podcast went to number one on the iTunes charts (at least for an hour or so). The Globe reviewed it. And best of all, Beverley Slopen’s phone started to ring. Within a week of my Leacock shock, we signed with McClelland & Stewart, with the revered Douglas Gibson as my editor and publisher. In September 2008, the M&S edition was released, and I hit the speaking circuit.

There was a Harbourfront Reading. I flew to Montreal for a day of media interviews. I soloed at the wonderful Canadian Authors Reading Series in Port Colborne. I shared the stage with Giller winner Joseph Boyden at the Headwaters Arts Festival. I read at Toronto’s Word on the Street and the Ottawa International Writers Festival. And a few weeks ago, I appeared with Paul Quarrington at the Grimsby Authors Series. Paul and I drove down together for the event. Like an unhinged author stalker, I slid into the back seat clutching my complete collection of Quarrington first editions. He kindly inscribed each one. My dance card is full well into the fall with readings and speaking gigs at book clubs, libraries, dinners, and various other gatherings. What amazing literary company I’m suddenly keeping. At 49 years old, I’ve been blessed with an entirely new side to my life.

I know there are countless worthy writers with four and five unpublished manuscripts in their desk drawers, who deserve to break through. It’s as if published authors are sequestered in a well-defended castle, while the hordes of struggling writers amass beyond the moat, desperate for a way in. I feel like the guy who delivered a pizza to the castle’s service entrance, slipped off his fluorescent orange delivery vest, and stayed.

And now that a year has passed and the 2009 Leacock winner is soon to be announced, I still pinch myself every day. In this past, charmed year, I have surely exhausted my lifetime allocation of good fortune. I keep expecting to fall off the stage at my next reading and break both my legs. I still have my day job, but on weekends, I’m banging out the sequel to The Best Laid Plans. It’s different this time around. I feel more than the weight of the words I still must write. I now shoulder expectations, mine, and those of others. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. One year later, I still feel like the luckiest rookie writer in the world.

TBLP sneaks back into the Globe and Mail

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

I was flipping through my Saturday Globe and Mail yesterday, as usual leaving the great Books section until the end.  Towards the end of the 16 page Books section I stumbled upon the brief weekly section entitled “Paperbacks” that provides quick descriptions of recent trade paperback books of note.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that TBLP made the cut this week.  Here’s the description they offered:

“Self-published and surprise winner of the Stephen Leacock award, Fallis’s wicked political satire stars a disillusioned Ottawa speechwriter and a crusty Scots engineering professor.”

Short, but definitely sweet.  I’ll take “wicked political satire” from the Globe and Mail any day.

New cover from M&S

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Here’s the new cover from Douglas Gibson and the great creative team at McClelland & Stewart. I love it. I really like the way the Globe and Mail quotation free forms its way around the cover. I also think the wordplay on “Plans” with the “s” scrunched in at the end because of bad planning, is great. I think it will be difficult for bookstore patrons to walk by this cover, and that’s the whole point. It says satire and humour more effectively than the original cover. Plus, the prominently placed Leacock Medal doesn’t hurt either. Full steam ahead…

McClelland & Stewart to publish TBLP

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008


I’m certain I’ve now exhausted my lifetime allocation of good fortune. Yesterday my wonderful agent, Beverley Slopen, confirmed that McClelland & Stewart will publish TBLP as one of its fall releases. M&S is the heavyweight Canadian publishing house with a long and rich history. What’s more, Douglas Gibson, yes the Douglas Gibson, will not only work with me on the manuscript, but the novel will actually be published under his prestigious imprint, Douglas Gibson Books. To me, this outcome is kind of like aiming to win the high school track meet, but instead ending up going to the Olympic Games and bringing home a gold medal. Doug is probably the most respected editor/publisher in the country having worked closely with some of Canada’s and the world’s leading literary lights including Robertson Davies, Alice Munro, and W.O. Mitchell to name but a few. I am over the moon.

As the Globe and Mail article below mentions, there is some irony in this most welcome outcome. Doug and I are actually friends, because our respective wives are close friends. I’ve so enjoyed the times the four of us have spent together. When you’re a passionate reader and weekend writer, nothing is more enjoyable than listening to Doug’s wonderful stories from his illustrious publishing career. It was a discussion with Doug three or four years ago about three-time Leacock Medal winner Donald Jack that ultimately got me off the couch and writing TBLP. Until last week, I’d never really spoken to Doug about my novel. I can only imagine how often he is accosted at parties or conferences by writers hoping that he’ll review their manuscripts. So I chose not to talk about my writing with Doug so as not to complicate the wonderful relationship we have. But after the Leacock Medal, Beverley Slopen did make an approach and the publishing deal was consummated yesterday. I could not be happier and I’m so looking forward to working with Doug.

The M&S edition of The Best Laid Plans, with new cover and interior design, will be launched this fall. I’m counting the days…

The Globe Review (…I can breathe again)

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, reviewed TBLP today in its wonderful Books section. My stomach has been in knots since I learned today would be the day. I can breathe again. It’s not bad:

More satire, please, we’re Canadian

D. GRANT BLACK

May 3, 2008

THE BEST LAID PLANS

By Terry Fallis

iUniverse, 257 pages, $21.95

A few years ago, CBC-TV foolishly cancelled Snakes and Ladders, a political dramedy set on Parliament Hill. The appetite for more Canadian political intrigue, especially with a satiric bent, is still there. But where do you find it in novel form?

First-time novelist Terry Fallis knew there was an audience. So he penned The Best Laid Plans and shopped it around to Canada’s publishers, but was not offered a book deal. So the tenacious Fallis self-published his 2007 book of fiction through iUniverse.

Fallis also submitted his own book to the judges of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. And this week, The Best Laid Plans won the $10,000 prize, beating out such A-list authors as Will Ferguson and Douglas Coupland.

This self-published wonder should be a cause for concern for the decision-makers at Canada’s faltering publishing houses about what should be jumping out of their slush piles, into print and on to national market.

The Best Laid Plans is not the best book of political satire I’ve read, but it’s amusing, enlightening – and Canadian. It deftly explores the Machiavellian machinations of Ottawa’s political culture, from the grassroots level in a fictitious federal riding during an election campaign, to the Wizards of Ottawa who operate the levers behind the curtain. This is a great platform to create satire that verges on parody.

Fallis, a former Ottawa backroom player who now runs the Toronto PR firm Thornley Fallis, is all too familiar with how the federal political game is played. The Best Laid Plans is written in first person through the eyes of the main protagonist, Daniel Addison, a 32-year-old former speechwriter to the leader of the Liberal opposition.

It’s immediately clear that Addison is a mouthpiece for Fallis’s own political views and the failings in Canada’s Parliament. This is how he starts his prologue: “I could take no more. With the backroom boys still driving Machiavelli’s motor coach, I was just a helpless, hapless passenger as they tossed the public interest under the wheels yet again. Just to be sure, we stopped, backed up, and rumbled over it once more. It was time to bail out. … On Parliament Hill, the pendulum of power swings between the cynical political operators (CPOs) and the idealist policy wonks (IPWs). It’s a naturally regulating model that inevitably transfers power from one group to another – and back again.”

After finishing his PhD on the side, Addison leaves his speechwriting job for a chance to become a tenured English professor at the University of Ottawa. But he owes one more favour to his Grit overlords: Find a Liberal candidate to run in the upcoming federal election against an entrenched Tory incumbent.

Addison’s lame-duck candidate is Angus McLintock, an indifferent 60-year-old Scots immigrant and professor of mechanical engineering. While the other characters are believably drawn, especially the Liberal leader’s obnoxious executive assistant, I struggled with McLintock, who seemed nothing more than a caricature when he was introduced.

McLintock is The Simpsons’ Groundskeeper Willie with a PhD. His pedantic tendency to correct people on proper English usage is odd since he speaks in a Scots dialect that sounds as if he just stepped out of an 18th-century Robbie Burns poem: “Aye, I cannae argue with you. Feel free to remind me what it feels like to face a rabble like that the next time me confidence clouds me judgment.”

Eventually, I came around, as the character developed into a chess-playing, hovercraft-building political rebel.

That Fallis’s political satire has won the Leacock could signal a sustained return of the go-for-the-jugular social and political satire missing in Canada these days.

D. Grant Black is a Saskatchewan journalist and editor who has considered self-publishing for his satire project.

Phew! I can certainly live with this…

Globe and Mail on TBLP and the Leacock

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

As my wife Nancy and I were driving home yesterday from Orillia where the Leacock Medal luncheon was held, James Adams of the Globe and Mail called my cell phone.  We did a quick interview as I tried to drive down highway 400 while still floating off the ground.   Anyway, here’s the result:

Stay tuned.  I’ve been informed that the official Globe and Mail review of TBLP will run this Saturday (gulp).

The Globe and Mail to review TBLP

Friday, April 18th, 2008

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Well, things are starting to happen courtesy of the Leacock Medal shortlist.  The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, will soon be reviewing TBLP in the pages of its wonderful weekend Books section.  I’m thrilled but ever since I found out, my stomach has been in knots.  My agent, Beverley Slopen, told me not to worry about what they may write.  What’s important is that the Globe is actually reviewing it.  Fingers crossed.

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