A bookstore in Guelph tweeted this photo earlier this week. I’m honoured that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, whose judgement I have always admired (now even more so!), decided to pick up two of my humble novels. Proud to be on the Premier’s nightstand.
Archive for the ‘No Relation’ Category
Early January is traditionally when I take a reflective look back across the preceding year and give thanks for all the good fortune that still seems to be trailing me around in my now ten year old life as a novelist. I do find it hard to believe that a decade has elapsed since I started this blog and began podcasting my first novel, The Best Laid Plans. A decade! If you’d told me back in 2007 that ten years later McClelland & Stewart would be publishing my sixth novel, One Brother Shy, I’d at least have scoffed if not collapsed in hysterics. Yet here we are.
2016 was another eventful year in my writerly life:
- I slowed down a bit more on the readings, signings, and talks front. I logged 75 appearances, down from over a hundred in 2015. This wasn’t really a conscious decrease, but just seemed to work out that way. (It’s of course possible that people are growing tired of me.) However, I did seem to travel to a few more exotic locales including visits to Whitehorse, Galiano and Pender Islands, Cape Breton Island, and, of all places, the United Arab Emirates.
- A new edition of No Relation with a new cover, was released in January, 2016.
- In March, after months of planning, plotting, and other outlining alchemy, I started writing the manuscript for my sixth novel, One Brother Shy. (I’ve just reviewed the final galleys and the novel will be released on May 30, 2017.)
- In May, Margaret Atwood (yes, that Margaret Atwood) invited me to be the dinner speaker at a gala she and her husband, Graeme Gibson, host every year to raise funds for the Pelee Island Bird Observatory. It was a great honour to have dinner with Margaret, to be introduced by her, and then to sign books alongside her afterwards.
- In the spring, I was honoured that Poles Apart was long listed, and then named a finalist for the 2016 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. In June, my friend Susan Juby justly won the Leacock Medal. I was thrilled for her and to be among the finalists.
- In June, I signed another two-book deal with McClelland & Stewart to cover One Brother Shy and whatever my seventh novel will be called (the leading title contender right now is If at First You Succeed). I’m very happy to be with the M&S family at Penguin Random House.
- In July, I finished writing the manuscript for One Brother Shy. There followed a few months of editing, copy-editing, and proofreading to get it ready for release this May.
- In September, under the heading of “cool things I only ever got to do because I decided to write novels,” I sat down for coffee with Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter, the Academy Award nominated actor, Mariel Hemingway. She was lovely in every way. I look like a complete idiot in the photo but console myself with the knowledge that no one will be looking at me for long in that shot.
- November was an unprecedented month of travel for me, though only one stint of the voyage was book-related. I happily spent time in New York, Orlando, Paris, and the aforementioned United Arab Emirates. I was in UAE for the Sharjah International Book Fair. I spoke at the American University of Sharjah and then, likely for the one and only time in my life, sat on a panel at the book fair where the language was Arabic and I was given headphones for simultaneous translation. It was a fascinating experience.
I think that about wraps up the highlights of another busy year. I’m hard at work planning my seventh novel as we head into 2017 and hope to be writing the manuscript by the time One Brother Shy is released in May. In March, I’ll be starting to podcast One Brother Shy, chapter-by-chapter, as is my practice. It’ll be available as a free download on iTunes and this blog. I also have some travel coming up later in the spring with a seven day reading tour of the Gulf Islands off BC’s west coast. I’ll also likely be teaching my Humour Writing course at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies starting later this month.
Happy New Year!
A week or so ago I received an email from Linda Leatherdale, the former Business Editor at the Toronto Sun who is now running marketing for Cambria Canada, a major international supplier of natural stone surfaces for kitchens. Linda kindly wrote that she’d read and loved all my novels and had an interesting opportunity to propose. Mariel Hemingway, the Oscar nominated actor who took Hollywood by storm in Woody Allen’s classic film, Manhattan, is a spokesperson for Cambria and was coming to Toronto on a media tour. Linda then suggested that I join the two of them for coffee and that I bring a copy of my Hemingway-themed novel, No Relation for Mariel. I gave her kind invitation careful thought and due consideration and then, four nanoseconds later, responded with “Where and when?”
Given my longstanding fascination with Ernest Hemingway as a literary titan of the last century, it was an incredible thrill to spend time with his granddaughter (Yes, Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter!). I did my best to simulate a calm and collected demeanour and we had a wonderful time in the restaurant of the Four Seasons Hotel. Mariel was lovely in every way possible. She was down-to-earth and thoughtful and seemed genuinely interested in my writing and me. We talked about the audio versions of our respective books as both she and I recorded them. She kindly inscribed a copy of her memoir for me and I signed No Relation for her. Then we took photos. As you can see, I look a little like a starstruck idiot, but then again, I doubt people will spend much time looking at me in the photo.
She seemed interested to learn that No Relation is currently in development as a feature film. Wouldn’t it be cool to have Hemingway’s granddaughter appear in a film driven, in large measure, by the iconic writer’s life. Hmmm…
I just received a few copies of the new edition of No Relation. It’s due to hit bookstores in the next couple of weeks. I’ll miss the bears on the front cover of the original edition, but it seems the folks at McClelland & Stewart are trying to create a common look for my novels as this cover matches in general format of the cover of Poles Apart. Looks good to me!
The Taiwan edition of No Relation hits bookstores in, as you might expect, Taiwan, on October 21st, just one day after my fifth novel, Poles Apart, is released in Canada. And no, I have no idea why we landed a publishing deal in Taiwan, I mean beyond the tireless efforts of my literary agent, Beverley Slopen, and her global network of affiliates. But I’m glad we have a foreign publishing deal! Here’s the cover of No Relation in Taiwan.
The second edition of No Relation is due to be released in paperback form (with no flaps) on April 26, 2016. While I love the front cover of the original edition and its clever bear metaphor, I quite like the new cover the design wizards at McClelland & Stewart have come up with. As I understand it, the idea is to bring the second edition more in line with the design of Poles Apart. Makes sense to me. Here’s the new cover for No Relation:
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!
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…