Friday, August 30, 2013

Calgary festivities prove you CAN go home again

Tonight's the night John Rae turns up in Calgary. The Arctic explorer will be there in spirit, anyway, for my talk at the U of C.  The event, sponsored by Clan MacRae, helps kick off the 2013 Calgary Highland Games.
Today's Calgary Herald ran a terrific piece by Chris Nelson, headlined Clan Macrae leads the charge at Games.
And the University of Calgary published a fine piece with, dare I suggest it, an even better headline:
Bestselling Calgary author to give talk on Arctic explorer John Rae. OK, strictly speaking, "Canadian author" would have worked better. But as an ex-Calgarian, I am thrilled to be here, and excited to be giving this talk in my old home town. Who says you can't go home again?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Great VIA-Rail Book-Launch Extravaganza

OK, that may be putting it a bit grandly.
But yes, come October, we propose to launch 50 Canadians Who Changed the World with a cross-Canada, multi-event, book-launch extravaganza.
HarperCollins Canada and VIA Rail are co-operating to make this expedition happen.
Starting from Toronto on October 12, accompanied by my wife, Sheena, and detraining as warranted along the way, I will travel first to the West Coast (Oct. 12 to 30), then to Halifax (Nov. 8 to 13), with a Toronto launch in-between.
We’re already booked to stage a number of events -- at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg and Saskatoon, for example, and at Paragraphe Books in Montreal.
Meanwhile, at head office, Lauren Morocco is working on this night and day. If you want to join the fun, she remains open to pitches and proposals. Lauren dot Morocco at harpercollins dot com. All aboard!

Monday, August 19, 2013

John Rae festivities set for Canada, Orkney

John Rae has legs. His contemporaries knew that. They hailed him as the greatest snowshoe traveler of the Victorian era. Here in the 21st century, the peerless Arctic explorer has been carrying Fatal Passage overland for more than a decade. He has turned it into my all-time bestselling book, and for that I am grateful. Sundry celebrations of Rae are now upon us. That`s because he was born in Orkney in September 1813 -- 200 years ago next month. And because he solved the two great mysteries of 19th century Arctic exploration: Rae discovered both the final link in the Northwest Passage and the fate of the ill-starred 1845 expedition led by Sir John Franklin. Above, overlooking Rae Strait, we see Louie Kamookak and Our Hero on two separate occasions. Of the myriad looming celebrations, I will be speaking at three, one each in Calgary, Hamilton, and Stromness, Orkney. Hope to see you at one of those. Check What`s New for details.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Planting a flag for Creative Nonfiction in Canada

It happened in Halifax. They came to plant a flag for creative nonfiction. OK, OK, they came to begin writing their first books. But they did come from across the land, from as far away as Vancouver, and even from across the border, from Washington. And at University of King's College, under the leadership of Stephen Kimber and Don Sedgwick, they did launch Canada's first MFA program in Creative Nonfiction.
The original mentors were and are four: Lorri Neilsen-Glenn, Yours Truly, Lori A. May, and David Hayes. Our numbers will double next August. Same with the number of program participants. Above you see one group or pod, known as the Best and the Brightest; below, you see another assembly that, oddly enough, claims the same moniker.
Soon after these shots were taken, by Sheena Fraser McGoogan, the closing-night party spiraled out of control, as these things do. Apologies to all those who do not appear here. Consider that it may be for the best, and that you may owe us thanks. The official, all-inclusive photo is in the works. Party on!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Nova Scotia native overcomes a damaging revelation

Veteran author Harry Thurston capped a climactic literary evening at the Grad House in Halifax by reading from a memoir about losing a big, two-hearted river. The Nova Scotia native, who is slated, as vice-chair, to become chair of the Writers' Union of Canada, gave a bravura
performance, and so managed to overcome the damaging revelation that he winters in Portugal. As one of those authors -- 25 books and counting -- who will join the roster of mentors in the MFA program in CNF at King's College, Thurston marvelled at the talent
of those five readers who preceded him. They included Beth Hitchcock and Terra Duncan Bruhm, pictured here, and Jen Powley, Gina Woolsley, and Fiona Campbell, several of whom moved the audience to laughter and near tears. Obviously, you should have been there.

Cash in your chips, take a sharp left, and hit the beach

Gotta love an article that turns up in today's Globe and Mail. It's all about turning failure into success, and in it we find Our Hero talking about 50 Canadians Who Changed the World.
“In researching my new book, I came across all kinds of creative ways to respond to failure. The revelations included:
1. The sooner you cut your losses, the better: In 1967, in the middle of a poker game in Detroit, Joni Mitchell realized that her marriage had become a farce. She jumped up from the poker table, collected a few things from home, and set out that night for New York City ... and international celebrity.
2. Instead of beating your head against a wall, look for another door: In the 1980s, activist Maude Barlow lost a hard-fought battle to represent the Liberal Party in Ottawa Centre. After licking her wounds, she took a radical turn, deciding to do her fighting from outside the political system – and so became a world leader in the struggle to confront the looming global water crisis.
3. When all else fails, go lie on a beach: In 1983, Guy Laliberté was a busker, living hand-to-mouth while performing in a money-losing street festival. He took a beach holiday in Hawaii, and while watching the sun go down, conceived of mounting a circus of the sun. He got a government grant to act on his vision. His Cirque du Soleil not only recreated the idea of the circus, but turned Mr. Laliberté into Canada's youngest billionaire.”

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Nova Scotia Literary Mafia Emerging from Shadows

First we had Stephen Kimber reading from What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five. Book due: this autumn. Tonight we had Dean Jobb (above) with Prince of Fraud, a book about a Gatsby-esque Ponzi artist who hid away in a dazzling mansion in the backwoods of Nova Scotia after
defrauding an assortment of get-rich-quick Chicago investors with a tale of finding oil in Panama. Book due: 2014. Together with superagent Don Sedgwick, these two writers are leading the dangerously clear-eyed and articulate -- among them Pauline Dakin -- into
the truth-telling of Creative Nonfiction. This new MFA program at the University of King's College is spawning a literary mafia. Don't say you haven't been warned.
(P.S. All the photos turning up here? They arrive thanks to Sheena Fraser McGoogan.)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Queen of the Low-Res MFA turns to mothers, daughters

The final "mentor" reading of the new program in Creative Nonfiction at University of King's College featured Lori A. May, probably the world's leading expert on low-residency MFA programs. In fact, she has written a book about them: The Low-Residency MFA Handbook. Later, May would dazzle with a reading about mothers, daughters, and family relations. Above, she soldiers on while dealing with Our Hero and author Stephen Kimber, a prime mover behind the Halifax initiative.
Not long after these photos were taken, the redoubtable Beth Hitchcock -- make a note of that name -- would win an advance copy of 50 Canadians Who Changed the World by correctly answering a skill-testing question while her colleagues were still scratching their heads and picking up sticks.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

In the heat of the battle that IS Creative Nonfiction . . .

In the heat of the battle that IS Creative Nonfiction, Our Hero trades war stories with fellow writers Marq de Villiers, David Hayes, and (below) Havard Gould. You can see the fight in their faces. Every one of these warriors is ready to lead the charge over the next ridge.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Ian Brown spins heartache into a dazzling tour de force

That’s what they call a tour de force.
Wise, witty, modulated, informative, entertaining: take your pick.
Or, no, put it this way: as a speaker, Ian Brown is in the same league as Stephen Lewis.
We’re talking eloquence. Yes, I mean dazzling.
Brown kicked off a lecture series called Journalism in the Public Square at the University of King’s College. He talked Friday night about his “broken boy,” Walker, the subject of his award-winning book The Boy in the Moon.
Imagine trying to be funny while evoking the heartbreak of raising a severely disabled child. Brown managed that miracle.
He was modest and self-deprecating, and he laced his hour-long talk with brilliant one-liners. He talked about how tears ran down his cheeks while he wrote the book: “I’m not a crier,” he insisted. “I’m a journalist. I barely have a soul.”
He talked about how his son had helped him to evolve ethically: “And I’m from Toronto. We have no values at all.” He explained that, thanks to advances in medical technology, his son was “a new genre of human being.” He took a beat, then added: “I loathe certainty, and that I say with certainty.”
Maybe you had to be there. But for the 200 or so people who crowded into a standing-room only theatre, Brown created an event they won't forget.

Best-Ever Writer's T-Shirt Turns Up in Halifax

Author Marq De Villiers
became the envy of a few dozen writers here in Halifax when he turned up to give a reading in a T-shirt that blared: "Ask me about my book." De Villiers, whose stylish and multitudinous nonfiction books include the G-G-award-winning Water, said he first wore the T-shirt to a reading by Margaret Atwood. He contrived to sit in the front row, but Atwood declined to take the bait. De Villiers, recently awarded the Order of Canada, is set to join next year's roster of mentors in the new MFA program in Creative Nonfiction at the University of King's College.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ian Brown brings his Boy in the Moon to Halifax

Friday brings wunderkind Ian Brown to the MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. He'll give a public reading here at the University of King's College from his bestseller The Boy in the Moon. That event will be live-streamed at 7 p.m. Brown will also engage with students in the program. Meanwhile, mentoring writers Lorri Neilsen-Glenn, David Hayes, and Stephen Kimber have been entertaining the troops lest they get bored and restless and fall in with bad company.
As yet, nobody shows any sign of flagging.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Newest MFA launches at oldest university in Canada

Canada's newest MFA program kicked off with a reception
Sunday evening at King's College University in Halifax. The program is the first in the country to focus exclusively on Creative Nonfiction. King's College itself dates back to 1789, a year of revolution if ever there was one. Founders Don Sedgwick and Stephen Kimber, best known as agent and author, respectively, have spent five years developing the program. Our hero is one of four mentors helping to launch the low-residency extravaganza. Participants will spend two weeks in Halifax,
roughing out book projects. Then, in consultation with a series of mentors -- whose numbers will be growing -- they will develop them into publishable books. Along the way, they'll check in with book publishers in Toronto and New York. That's the plan. Doesn't it make you want to party?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Arctic explorer heading for University of Calgary

A big shout-out to folks at the University of Calgary. On short notice, they have found a superb venue for my August 30 presentation on John Rae, the Arctic explorer who discovered the fate of the Franklin expedition. Originally, we had intended to use the Calgary Central Library, but flood damage precluded that. Nothing daunted, leaders of the Clan MacRae began casting about. In the end, Bonnie MacRae-Kilb and Brad Kilb, both affiliated with U of C, enlisted Annie Murray, curator of rare books and manuscripts, and presto: we're making for the Alberta Room. I'm chuffed about this because you know how writers donate their manuscripts to libraries and institutions? My own papers are in special collections at U of C -- Murray's department. For the rest, here's hoping that Calgarians will turn out in droves: August 30, Return to Rae Strait, 7:30 p.m. in the Alberta Room at University of Calgary.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Contest Time: Playing HARDBALL with 50 Canadians

Last time he held a contest, just over two months ago, Our Hero took a beating.
The challenge didn't last two hours. People were all over him with answers. Obviously, he underestimated his audience. He'll try not to make that mistake again.
Before going further: if you are in possession of, or have access to, an Advance Reading Copy of 50 Canadians Who Changed the World, then you are not eligible to participate. On your honour, now. A signed copy of that ARC is the grand prize, duly mailed to your home, and if you already have a reasonable facsimile, perhaps unsigned, sorry, you are out of luck.
This time around, we are going to give you seven chapter headings. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to name the world-changer in question. All are born after 1900 -- i.e. in the 20th century. Yes, we are looking at a collective portrait of cutting-edge Canada. And, no, we are not giving away easy answers.
Now, the book is divided into six parts: Activists, Visionaries, Artists (Painters, Writers, & Filmmakers), Humanitarians, Performers (Actors, Musicians, & Athletes), and Scientists & Inventors. Each part has at least one representative. The chapter headings, in random disorder, are:
1. A feisty animal lover champions the natural world
2. An immigrant geneticist battles rare diseases
3. A Japanese Canadian clears the way for minorities
4. A law reformer brings war criminals to justice.
5. A globe-trotting doctor does her work in war zones
6. A Picasso of song refines self-expression
7. A cyber-guru hails the arrival of digital collaboration
To enter, simply click on the Comments link below and submit your answers. To win, you must identify all seven Canadians correctly. One entry per person. Contest deadline: August 15, 2013. No answers will be posted before that date. If more than one person submits a winning entry, a tie-breaker will be staged. It's true: this time out, we are playing HARDBALL.