Archive for the ‘Speaking gigs’ Category

Gulf Islands Reading Tour

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Gulf Islands Tour 2

To kick off the promotion of my sixth novel, One Brother Shy, I’ll be touring the Gulf Islands off the coast of BC starting this coming Saturday. I’ll be talking about and reading from One Brother Shy in seven public libraries over seven days, courtesy of the Island Link Library Federation, the Canada Council for the Arts and McClelland & Stewart. It’ll be my first time talking about this new novel. Special arrangements have been made to have books available for sale at each stop on the tour, even though the official publishing date isn’t until the end of May. I am one lucky novelist.

Actual dates, times, and locations can be found on my Appearances page.

Ten years later…

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

2016-a

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.
  • 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 wonderful evening with Margaret Atwood

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

IMG_0844

I’m a little tardy recording this memorable event, but better late than never. Back in May, Margaret Atwood invited me to be the speaker at an annual fundraiser in Windsor in support of the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, an organization to which Margaret and her husband, Graeme Gibson, are deeply committed. I was honoured to be there. Margaret introduced me, which was a surreal experience. I imagine it would be similar to a rookie singer-songwriter being introduced by Paul McCartney, only more so.

I managed to get through my talk and it all seemed to go well. I noted that two very big highlights of my writing life had been when Margaret had tweeted favourably about my first novel, The Best Laid Plans, and then again about my current novel, Poles Apart. It was not just extraordinarily gratifying when she did this, but it gave me a big sales kick as she currently has over 1.2 million followers.

Margaret Atwood tweet re TBLP

Atwood Tweet re Poles Apart

I sat with Margaret for dinner and then again after the event for a signing. An experience I’ll not soon forget.

Nine years later…

Friday, January 1st, 2016

2015

Yes, you’re right, it’s time to cast my mind back over the last year for the annual counting of my writerly blessings. I started this yearly tradition back in late December 2007, one year after I started this blog. And every year since, I’ve reminded myself, and anyone who happens upon this humble blog, that, nine years later, I have been very fortunate in my life as a writer. 2015 was no exception:

  • I slowed down a bit on the book talk circuit but still managed to put in well over 100 appearances in support of No Relation and then, later in the year, Poles Apart. I spoke at book clubs, literary festivals, writers conferences, libraries, community organizations,  schools, and many other venues. I’m convinced my book sales are heavily influenced by how many talks I give. And we all know how important book sales are to a writer’s ability to land publishing deals for future books. So I’ll be on the road again in 2016. Happily, I enjoy this part of the writer’s life.
  • The Best Laid Plans TV series won two Canadian Screen Awards. My wife and I were at the ceremony when Jonas Chernick won for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. Peter Moss also won for Best Director.
  • Last spring, I again taught the Humour Writing course at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. (Incidentally, I’m due to start teaching the eight-week course again later in January.)
  • In July, I was one of the writers aboard the Ocean Endeavour for the twelve-day Adventure Canada  cruise up the coast of Labrador all the way north to Ungava Bay. It was an extraordinary experience, not just geographically with ice bergs and polar bears, but the people, staff and passengers, were amazing. I’ll never forget the experience.
  • In September, I had the surreal experience of boarding a flight in Toronto bound for Vancouver, reading a few chapters of my first novel, The Best Laid Plans in the early part of the flight, then watching an episode of the CBC-TV series The Best Laid Plans on the Air Canada entertainment system, and finishing off the day by watching the debut performance of The Best Laid Plans – A Musical, at the York Theatre in Vancouver. I loved the musical produced by Touchstone Theatre and Patrick Street Productions. Efforts are underway to have the show tour. I’ll keep you posted.
  • I signed an option agreement with PDM Entertainment, the same production company that produced The Best Laid Plans TV series for CBC, for the film rights to No Relation, my fourth novel. The wonderful actor/writer, Jonas Chernick (Daniel Addison in the TBLP TV series), is writing the screenplay. There’s a long way to go yet, but the first steps have been taken.
  • While at the annual Writers’ Trust Gala, I was introduced to one of my literary heroes, John Irving. I managed to construct several complete sentences in a row while my heart pounded beneath my tux.

This is not an exhaustive review of 2015, just some of the highlights for me. Looking ahead, 2016 is shaping up to be another busy year. In the next two months I have about a dozen speaking gigs scheduled, including trips to Whitehorse in a few weeks, and Galiano Island off the west coast in February.

I’m also working away on my sixth novel, tentatively entitled, One Brother Shy. I hope to finish the outline in the coming weeks so I can start writing the manuscript before the month is out.

Happy New Year!

Happy Poles Apart Publication Day

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

PA-border

Yesterday, Poles Apart officially became a book on its formal release date. You should now be able to find it in bookstores across the country. I celebrated last night by helping our ball hockey team, and I use the word “helping” loosely, win our second consecutive championship before heading off to the hospital ER to have my chin sewn up. In a brilliant play that may have changed the face of our game, perhaps even the face of hockey itself,  and certainly my own face, I managed to dive and clear the ball from our zone while shorthanded, and then, because the dive on its own wasn’t quite dramatic enough, I decided to smash my chin on the concrete floor. (There’s not a lot of give in that concrete floor.) The good news is we won the championship. The bad news is I now have four stitches in my chin as I embark on some book-related travels to Woodstock, Surrey, Victoria, and Ottawa with seven speaking gigs in the next seven days. I’m hoping to at least get a cleft chin out of it.

Don't be confused. My twin brother Tim is kneeling in the front row while I'm standing at the right.

Don’t be confused. My twin brother, Tim, is kneeling in the front row while I’m standing on the right.

Hospital for chin

Eight years later…

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

2014

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 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.
  • 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!

My talk to the Ontario Writers’ Conference

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

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…

No Relation a Globe and Mail Bestseller

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

It was thrilling to learn yesterday that just three days after being published, No Relation debuted at number five on the Globe and Mail bestsellers list. I well remember when Up and Down was published, it opened at number seven. So this feels good. Of course, it happened because so many friends, family, and yes, perfect strangers, pre-ordered the novel or bought copies this week. I’m blessed and grateful. Thank you, all. Let the touring begin! It’s Creemore today, Thornbury tomorrow, Toronto Monday, Lindsay Tuesday, Toronto again Thursday, then Montreal on Friday. And that’s just the beginning…

Globe Bestseller List May 24-2014

Seven years later…

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

2013

While it seems impossible that seven years have escaped since I created this blog, the date staring back at me on my iPhone must be right. It’s New Year’s Day, and time for the annual accounting of my literary blessings in the gift that was 2013. Here are at least some of the highlights that made 2013 such a great year in my writing life:

  • I squeezed in 137 speaking engagements, readings, talks, etc. in 2013, up from 121 last year. I really don’t know how I fit everything in but it would not be possible without the patience and forbearance of my wife and two sons. My travels took me all over the country including, Vancouver, Calgary, Whitehorse, Ottawa, Montreal, Banff, and every region of Ontario.
  • Work continues on the stage musical of The Best Laid Plans but there’s no word on when it might be finished, let alone staged. Stay tuned.
  • In June, I was shocked to be named the winner of the 2013 Libris Award for Author of the Year, presented by the Canadian Booksellers Association. I’ll be forever grateful.
  • Up and Down continued to sell well, and the second edition hit the U.S. market in late June.

It was quite a year. Looking ahead to 2014, I’m really focused on:

  • The Best Laid Plans TV miniseries on CBC starting in a few days;
  • starting to produce the chapter-by-chapter podcast edition of my fourth novel, No Relation (look for Chapter 1 in February);
  • the publication and launch of No Relation in May;
  • writing my fifth novel, Poles Apart (I hope to have it finished by the end of the summer (he says optimistically)).

My undying thanks to so many who have made 2013 such a banner year in my writing life. Here’s to a wonderful 2014 for us all.

Wow… still reeling…

Saturday, June 8th, 2013


This past Monday evening, I was emceeing the 2013 Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Awards at the Toronto Congress Centre. It was wonderful meeting, and having dinner with, the legend Alice Munro, and spending time with Will Ferguson, one of the nicest and funniest (he’s a three-time Leacock Medal winner) writers we have in this country. Much to my surprise, I was actually a finalist for the 2013 Author of the Year award alongside Alice Munro, Will Ferguson, and Nancy Richler.

I spent a good part of the night shuttling from backstage to the podium, introducing each award and the resepctive presenters. When it came time for the Author of the Year category, I was quite happily backstage as reigning CBA President, Mark Lefebvre (who writes as Mark Leslie), took the stage to rip open the envelope (yes, they actually do the whole “…and the winner is…” routine) and announce the lucky name. Fortunately, I was backstage at the time, fully expecting to hear one of the other stellar writers’ names called, when Mark distinctly read my name. It took me a moment to find my  jaw on the floor, it was quite dark backstage, before I wobbled back onto the stage. I thanked the many independent booksellers with whom I’d worked over the preceding five years, paid tribute to my wonderful publicist at Random House, Frances Bedford and my literary agent, Beverley Slopen, and offered my deep appreciation to my editor and friend, the incomparable Douglas Gibson. Finally, I just closed by saying that there had never been a more grateful recipient of this honour. Then gathering myself, I switched back into emcee mode with my knees still knocking, noted that we were “now returning to regularly scheduled programming,” and introduced the next award. Then I darted backstage to hyperventilate until I had to return to the microphone to welcome the next presenter and generally keep the trains running on time. Believe me, I was very thankful for the distraction of my emcee duties. As I said in my closing remarks, when I think back, years from now, on the 2013 CBA Libris Awards, I suspect I’ll remember very little about my duties as emcee.

Winning Author of the Year was indeed a shock. But the honour really should be shared with my patient and indulgent family. You see, I’ve done a lot of talks and readings in the last few years. There were 130 last year, and I seem to be on a higher pace this year. I truly believe that this is how you sell books in this country, and better the odds that you’ll get to write and publish a next novel. But it is not without sacrifice. I haven’t been there for as many family dinners and weekends as I would have liked. The load at home unavoidably shifts to the shoulders of my wife, and two sons. I’m very grateful that they have accommodated the demands of my writing life, on top of everything else that comes with having a family. None of this would have happened without their support. Somehow, I will try to make it up to them…