This book club has been meeting for 37 years! I was honoured to hear that they had chosen my book as one of their selections. I think of all the stories they have shared, all the laughs, all the life (and I suspect a few bottles of wines), and think how lucky and extraordinary it must be to have such a community. Thank you for fulfilling my request for a photo, Deborah. You are a dazzling group!
Writing is a lonely, solitary process. Working on a novel can take years. At some point the time comes to show your work and test whether or not anything is alive on the page. I first shared my novel at the Sage Hill Writing Experience in Saskatchewan. Steven Galloway (The Cellist of Sarajevo) was the facilitator. There I met Daria Salamon (The Prairie Bridesmaid) and Alice Kuipers (Life on the Refrigerator Door). We were all working on our first manuscripts. I remember the experience as exhilarating and inspiring. It brought us together to celebrate the art and practice of writing. Years later, we occasionally we find each other again in the same town. No small feat in this huge country. Last summer Daria and her family made it to the east coast. There is nothing better than coming together again and staying up late into the night talktalktalking…holding out our fears, our doubts and setting them aside so we can pick up and admire the shine of the new words now growing on the page. Of course, the wine may have made them glow a little brighter.
Marc Dray, amazing artist and creator of the Dieppe Film Festival award, which will be staying with me! So thrilled to be the caretaker of a piece of his art. I had to leave before the closing ceremony. 14 hours later, a missed connector in Toronto I arrived home to an email with the good news, awarded Coup de cœur de la mise en scène. Can’t wait until it arrives.
Now I must wake from the dream and disappear into the realm of new characters whispering their lives in my ears.
Safe journey film. I hope you boys keep rowing far, touching many shores.
J’adore Dieppe. J’adore Paris. Merci to the festival for giving me such a gift. One week of art, beauty, culture and films-c’est magnifique. I was overwhelmed by the embrace of our film by audiences who dubbed it “la film de couer.” Audiences were so emotionally connected in this “village of the sea.” I had the great honour to be taken to La Chapelle Notre Dame de Bonsecours, to pay my respects to their disappeared, whose innumerable names are on the walls of this church. The title of the film came from such a memorial. It was an emotional and privileged experience. Dieppe held many such moments, so many stories shared. Having walked the Dieppe beach, locals arranged for a private night tour with a historian and archivist to visit the graves of the WWII Canadian soldiers. To hear the stories of the soldiers and the people of Dieppe who lived through it, was profoundly moving as I moved through the dark amongst the 1200+ white markers. I will carry you in my heart Dieppe. And to remind me of this extraordinary experience, I am bringing home the great honour of mise en scene realisitrice award for direction. I am humbled and so grateful that you saw the art and heart of our film.
It could be argued that a confined story, one that features only a few characters in a tight space for the entire duration, is one of the most difficult to adapt for the big screen. Generally speaking, there’s nothing to hide behind. Not only are the actors out in the open, almost as vulnerable as if they were onstage in front of a live audience, but the writers and directors are on display just as much.
Shandi Mitchell’s film, “The Disappeared,” which played at this summer’s Maine International Film Festival, is one such film. And, to add one more major obstacle to the film’s production, it’s set entirely in the ocean, something usually reserved for big-budget films. Not indies.
…As impressive as it was for Mitchell, the cast and crew to overcome and work with those hardships, the film’s success rests on creating characters who are believable. Without that, the film would lose everything.
But here we have six actors, Billy Campbell, Ryan Doucette, Brian Downey, Shawn Doyle, Gary Levert and Neil Matheson, whose authenticity is never even brought into question. It’s almost as though they’re not actors at all, but Canadian fishermen who happened to have ended up in a movie.
Beyond that, “The Disappeared” gives audiences an up close and personal look at the beautiful North Atlantic ocean, though the context is treacherous in this particular tale. The inconsistent weather conditions will surely resonate with anyone who has ever spent time on the Maine coast, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island.
“The Disappeared,” though often challenging in its minimalistic style, is definitely worth seeing. With any luck, this film will come back to Maine for more showings.
Thank you to the Gimli Film Festival for screening our film and taking the time to let me know how it was received. I must admit their note made my eyes wet.
FROM THE FESTIVAL: The screening of The Disappeared at the Gimli Film Festival was a resounding success. It was one of our most popular films of 2013. (Unofficially – we turned away more than 50 people at the scheduled screening last Friday – which lead us to make the decision to re-schedule The Disappeared in one of our Second Coming slots on Sunday).
The other thrilling success story is the introduction given by a local resident. By way of explanation – prior to every GFF screening, we ask an individual either connected to the festival or the story of the film to bring a few words of welcome and introduction. Les came into the GFF office a few weeks before the festival to buy his pass and pick up the program guide. When he saw the descriptor for The Disappeared, he shared his personal story of being the son of a Nfld fisherman and brother-in-law to a Captain of a vessel that was lost at sea. Upon hearing this, GFF Festival Director, Cheryl Ashton, asked Les to do the intro for The Disappeared and he happily agreed.
I have heard many intros and most are good … Les’s was EXCEPTIONAL. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to have Canadian stories seen on screens and enjoyed by audiences. What surprises and delights me most is how a story like The Disappeared resonates so strongly with people in in a small inter-lake community in central Manitoba. Personally and professionally, The Disappeared’s screening at GFF is one of the most moving exhibitions I’ve attended. I regret you weren’t there to experience this, yet I trust this note together with Les’s intro gives you a sense of how much your film was appreciated and loved by the GFF audience.
“Hi and welcome to the screening of The Disappeared.
My name is Les Stoodley... I’m honoured to have the privilege of introducing this afternoon’s presentation. This is the Manitoba Premiere so you are the first to see this outstanding film. One of the actors, Shawn Doyle, a native of Newfoundland/Labrador won the 2013 ACTRA Toronto Award as Outstanding Male Performance for this film…
I’m honoured to introduce this film for three reasons. The dories you will see are the same type my father used as an inshore Newfoundland fishermen to earn his living and raise a family of five children. The yellow painted dory is a prominent part of my childhood memories.
Secondly, my brother-in-law was the captain of the fishing trawler, Blue Wave, which sank off the coast of Newfoundland on February 9, 1959 taking 16 men to their death. My eldest sister was widowed with 7 children. She was 32 years old and had no insurance. That tragedy is still vivid in the memories of all of my family.
Finally, The Disappeared was filmed entirely off the shores of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia where I spent a decade of my life. I know all too well, the dangers that lurk in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. I also know well, the courage and determination of those who go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters.
Ladies and Gentlemen, a rare glimpse of the physical and emotional strength of East Coast fishermen awaits you with The Disappeared.
June 28- July 2
7:00 pm screenings
July 12-21, 2013
“Pound for pound, this Waterville-based festival might be the best-curated film event in New England.” The Boston Globe
SO proud of this award. This festival celebrates woman directors. What a powerhouse of talent this country has. I hope more of our voices and stories can be seen. Film is such a restrictive medium and is always moving toward ever more narrow definitions of what kind of stories will be allowed to be made. Festivals remind me of the fierce independence of art makers and why personal filmmaking should never be lost. If we stop telling our stories–we lose ourselves.
Boy that was a fun weekend. Thank you to a little festival with a big heart! I highly recommend a visit to Charlottetown. I had forgotten the beauty of this city and province. Thank you so much to Cheryl, festival co-ordinator, for making me feel at home and the technical directors who took such pride and care with the films. We stayed at the historic Great George, a supporter of the festival, amazing to be so close to the ‘beginnings’ of this country. And a special thanks to a fellow hometown director who took me to a roadside bar with rasping blues and henna tattoos. Oh, it was good let go. And to the talented artists I met Nicole, Mille, Steven…you inspire me. I wish I could have stayed longer. Hope to be back again soon.
We had a great run with the film playing in Halifax, Bridgewater, and St. John’s. Top 5 Canadian Box Office for two weeks running! Thank you all for supporting the film and Canadian independent filmmaking. Our film was certainly not like the others that it played alongside.
This Friday, May 10 The Disappeared will open at Empire Theatre Yarmouth. Friday and Saturday night, at the early screenings, Ryan Doucette will be in attendance for a Q&A.
We’ve been held over! Thank you everyone! In fact, in Bridgewater we were the #1 film last week! Sorry Tom Cruise. And in Halifax Parklane we were #1 and #2 . Hope you can see it on the Big Screen. Most rewarding are the emails I’ve received from audience members who have entered the film so deeply. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
The film opens April 19-25, 2013 at Empire Theatres Park Lane HALIFAX, Empire BRIDGEWATER, and Avalon Mall, ST. JOHN’S! Q&As will be happening opening night in Halifax and St. John’s and on April 20th in Bridgewater. If you are in town please come join the cast, key creatives and myself as we watch the film set sail.
It has been three years in the making and I am again poised at that place of letting go of my work. It is an odd moment for an artist–stressful, mournful, exhilarating, necessary–that dichotomy of wanting to cling tight and push it away. You have given it all that you can and other stories are calling. You are exhausted and want it to be over. You are proud and in love with it and hold all the unexpected joy and sorrow that it gave you. How do you cleave it?
It is such a fragile thing to give to the world. Will it disappear? Will it be found? As an artist, none of that can matter. The act of creating was my sole responsibility. Now that it is done. So both the film and I are setting sail. Perhaps we will encounter each other again somewhere in that vast ocean and greet each other with tears and gratitude for the beauty we saw.
Safe journey, little film.
Much thanks to the Canadian Film Festival and Toronto for embracing our film. We received glowing reviews and brought home the honours of Best Actor for Shawn Doyle and the William F. White Reel Indie Award. Congratulations everyone.
Sure wish I could have been there.
Shawn Doyle takes home ACTRA Toronto award for Outstanding Performance as Pete in The Disappeared! I love this shot of him giving thanks hand to heart. This is the epitomy of him–an exceptional talent, consummate professional, and generous human being. He gives his entire heart to his characters. Bravo, Mr. Doyle.
Kingston Film Festival, March 22, 2013
Canadian Film Festival, Toronto, Date to be announced.
The last festival screenings in Canada before the film’s theatrical release.
My sound team of Allan Scarth, Zan Rosbourough, Corey Tetford, and Bob Melanson have been nominated for Screen Arts Awards in Overall Sound and Sound Editing Achievement! So pleased they were recognized for the incredibly difficult task of using location sound and creating a soundscape with the sea and wind. No small feat. They will be in Toronto March 3 for the big event. Regardless of what happens, you are already winners.
So thrilled that Gary Levert has been nominated for an ACTRA regional (Halifax) Outstanding Performance Award for his role as Merv in The Disappeared! He opened himself so wide for this performance. Couldn’t be more proud of my cast.
Holy moly. This was the audience that I feared the most. If I got it wrong they would take me to the wall. Happily, sold out screening. And oh, such an emotional response. It was a real honour to have Shawn Doyle’s (Pete) father and Gary Levert’s (Merv) brother in the audience. Brian Downey (Gerald) accompanied me to his hometown. It was a pleasure to see him honoured. Thank you to the festival staff and filmmaking community for your world renowned Newfoundland hospitality. And to WIFT-Atlantic for presenting the screening and WIDC for sponsoring my Directors Workshop. Boy, this one talented, creative town. It was such a treat to be part of it for a few days. Looking forward to coming back to play.
Oh Vancouver. It was such a joy to bring the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. This is a world class festival. 136 films in 10 days and despite screening near the end of the festival we still had such an enthusiastic, considered audience of 200+. I met one gentleman, who belonged to a film club, and he had seen 97 films! And he still saw ours with fresh eyes and heart. Thank you all for your support and kind words. Ten Canadian films were shortlisted for Best Feature consideration. 4 (including ours) were from Nova Scotia! Not bad for our little part of the world.
Sad not to be accompanying the film. If you are in Calgary and have a chance to see the film, let me know how the event went.You can catch a screeening Sept 25 at 2:15 or Sept 26 at 7:00pm. Truly honoured, to have been nominated for a Discovery Award.
Actor Gary Levert and Producer Walter Forsythe accompanied the film to Sudbury. Wasn’t sure who would attend a Tuesday 3:00pm screening, but so many arrived a second theatre was opened and the film was run simultaneously! I hear the response was warm and overwhelmingly. A particularly poignant moment was when a man introduced his father who had been a fisherman all his life, tears streaming down his face, he shook Gary’s hand and thanked him. The audience stood and gave this gentleman a standing ovation. Sudbury you rock!
Oh we had a grand time! How lovely to premiere the film at home. We were so honoured to be selected to be the Atlantic Gala. All my cast was able to gather. Shawn Doyle coming in from Toronto and Billy Campbell joining us from Newport, where he had just begun his maiden voyage of his beautiful boat the Martha Seabury. Billy and his crew were involved in the real life rescue of three boaters off the coast of Maine, the day before our film screened! Very lucky men, including a 16 year old boy. Another hour and they would have been lost. We are honoured to have been awarded the distinction of Honourable Mention for Best Feature (created just for us). Glad we made the jury work hard. With 2 sold out screenings and incredible audience response, we are happy to know that people saw the film we had hoped we were making. Particularly, satisfied to see the pride in the eyes of my cast, crew, and mariners. My toughest critics.
On March 01, 2012, I had the great pleasure to attend the Kobzar Literary Award at the Palais Royale in Toronto with my fellow nominees Rhea Tregebov (The Knife Sharpener’s Bell), Myrna Kostash (Prodigal Daughter: A Journey to Byzantium), Myrolslav Shkandry (Jews In Ukrainian Literature), and Larissa Andrusyshyn (Mammoth). It is my great honour to be the recipient of the Kobzar prize.
All the places the book has taken me, it took this long for me to bring it to a Ukrainian community. I wasn’t prepared for the emotional and overwhelming response to the book. Nor the outpouring of stories that were gifted to me. And I was again reminded how privileged I am in Canada to have the freedom to write. And how much I take it for granted.
As precious as the prize is, I will always remember the people who approached me to share the hurts and pain and pride of a community whose stories haven’t been heard. I will not forget their expression of gratitude.
Along with the award, I received a bronze statue by internationally renowned artist Leo Mol, who died in 2009 at the age of 92. It is a statue of a Kobzar. It is an exquisite work and you can almost hear the music as he leans into his instrument. Kobzars were minstrel storytellers. In the 1930s, all the Ukrainian Kobzars were invited to a music festival and executed. Kobzar was the title of Ukraine’s most famous poet, Taras Shevchenko’s, first collection. Writing from exile, he was never able to return to his beloved Ukraine.
Thank you to the Shevchenko Foundation, the Kobzar Board, Christine, Andrew, Alla and all the volunteers and attendees who made it such an extraordinary night. Diakuiu.
Here is a link to an interview with CBC’s Carmen Claussen the day before the awards: cbc.ca/books
Thank you Lunenburg. Thank you sea. Thank you my amazing cast and crew.
I will try to make something special to honour all that you gave.
I am so honoured to have been shortlisted for this award sponsored by the Shevchenko Foundation. This award recognizes work that “explores Ukrainian Canadian themes that contribute to the literary arts in Canada.” Congratulations to my fellow nominees:
Larissa Andrusyshyn, Mammoth
Myrna Kostash, Prodigal Daughter: A Journey to Byzantium
Myroslav Shkandrij, Jews in Ukrainian Literature: Representation and Identity
Rhea Tregebov, The Knife Sharpener’s Bell
I look forward to meeting you all at the ceremony to be held in Toronto this spring.
I am a week away from shooting an indie feature film The Disappeared. It couldn’t be more challenging–3 weeks at sea, 6 men, and 2 dories. The last prep week is an extraordinary convergence of the creative. I have been working for months with my exceptional, passionate and oh-so brilliant Director of Photography Christopher Porter designing the shotlist and brainstorming the technical and logistical feats of this film. We are very fortunate to have Capt Bill Flowers as our marine co-ordinator (Sea Wolf, Moby Dick) and the vision of award- winning art director Alan MacLeod (who has been with me for every film and my husband by day). It is daunting and overwhelming, but oh so rewarding as the key creatives join us and I feel their passion and hope as we prepare to embark on this mad adventure. Christopher and I have devised a style that we refer to as an “Eastern” and have referenced films lie Once Upon A Time in the West for inspiration. A spaghetti western at sea. I suppose it is the perfect pairing of my prairie and east coast selves. Casting has just locked and our location is in Lunenburg Harbour. Wish us well. We wish only for a safe return and to capture something beautiful.
Bookclubs are an extraordinary community. I have attended them across the province in farmhouses, condos, urban and suburban homes. They are often comprised of woman from all walks of life who have found each other through the love of the written world. Often I discover that the groups have been meeting for years. I am always struck by their openness and familiarity. The questions are always insightful; the stories shared profound. And to watch the ease and laughter of these friendships is always inspiring. These gatherings are as much about books as they are about coming together face to face to share each others’ lives. I imagine these women have sat together through the good times and bad and allowed each other to speak. For one night a month, glasses of wine and good food take them away from the routines of life and fill them with imagined worlds and characters that lead them to discussions and engagements of philosophy, humanity, and pain and joy of life. And then they laugh and recount all that is real. Creating their own narratives, sharing their stories. I love bookclubs. I love that in this world of tweets and facebook and overwhelming speed that these people stop and come together.
My last bookclub this season was in Stillwater, Nova Scotia. A beautiful, handcrafted home in the woods on a lake. I was picked up by Doug, who had been commissioned to be the chauffeur. A rare sighting of a husband, the men tend to relinguish the house when the women arrive. Doug, was a lovely, thoughtful man–a master gardener, a biographer and archivist of the works of A. Hyatt Verrill, an almost forgotten writer from the 1920s–who described himself as not a great thinker or writer, but as an explorer. I arrived and my hostess Gail greeted me with a smile and an embrace. Set out on the table was a Ukrainian feast: pyrogy, borscht, poppy seed cake and all the fixings. A truly unexpected and wonderful gift. Thanks to all the book clubs who have invited me into their lives. It has been an honour meeting you all.
It was thrill to spend time in the presence of the lovely Margaret Atwood. Intimidating to be with such an intellectual and literary icon, but she was so playful, generous and truly engaged with her fans. We read in the glorious Capitol Theatre, there is something mystical about bringing art into such a lovingly restored space. This is one of the few festivals that fuse words and music. Our readings were interspersed with interludes by the fabulous Joe Grass and Marie Jo Therio. We were kept busy with bookclubs, brunch with an author, and school visits and at every encounter the community was so embracing. This is a world class festival with a down home heart. Thank you to the local bookclub that kept me up in the wee hours singing and dancing at a local pub (you know who you are).
Another special event for me was the Jam. Imagine eight readings accompanied by a live jazz band. It could have gone horribly wrong, but it was magic. For a night, Les Paiens allowed me to be a musician and feel their music wrap around my words. Sons incroyable. A crammed bar, hundreds of people raucously drinking on a Saturday night and when the authors read you could hear a pin drop. The final wrap up was a concert by Bernard Adamus. The English speaking world is missing out not knowing this artist. I loved that twenty-somethings were lined up in front of the stage, five people deep, with rapt attention singing along with every word. So thank you to the Frye Festival for taking such good care of me. It was truly an inspiring event. A special thank you to the independent Tidewater Books for selling all of my books. And to the people of Moncton, it felt like home.
As a child, I spent countless hours in the library. On many occasions at closing time, the librarian would come find me lost inside a book and softly bring me back to the real world. Arms laden down, I would follow her (in those days it was always her) to the front desk. Even if it was minutes to closing and they were locking the doors behind me, I was never made to feel that I was an inconvenience. The librarian would open the covers and comment on another book I might enjoy the next time I came in. I loved that moment when a book was signed out in my name. Back then, a card was pulled out of the back pocket and stamped, making that lovely thunk-thunk sound, and then the card was slipped back in, and the book was mine for two glorious weeks.
Even today, when I walk into a library it feels like a sacred place to me.
So thank you for this nomination. Thank you for making a scrawny, eight year old kid, with braces, glasses and gangly limbs feel like she was part of something magical and that it was okay to be carried away into other worlds.
I was in Cheltenham, England for 12 days as a writer-in-residence, a perfect retreat to start the daunting quest of the next novel. The Cheltenham Literature festival, perhaps the oldest in the world, is an extraordinary celebration of writers and readers.
The village is famous for its spa, steeplechase racing, Regency architecture, cobbled promenades, and high-end shopping. Beyond Cheltenham lay the rolling Cotswold Hills: stone walls, sheep dotted hills, ancient pubs with roaring hearths, lanes bowered in the arms of twisted trees. You feel time in this place. One can imagine looking out on the same landscapes witnessed by Shakespeare, the Bronte sisters, kings and noblemen, peasants and stone-cutters, thieves and rogues. A mere twenty-seven miles from Stratford-on-the Avon, this is the cradle of the English language.
Festival highlights included: reading with Lisa Moore (February) and Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring, The Salt Roads); a side trip with local author Jane Bailey through the Cotswold Hills; lunch with Kathy Lee, wife of the late author Laurie Lee; late night discussions over bottles of wine and scotch with Nalo and China Miéville delving into the heart’s pains; the wisdom and passion of Ramona and David; Trevor at the Queens hotel, who gifted me with a handmade book; the best steak I’ve ever eaten at Hotel de Vin in the Sinner’s Den, and the readers who stopped me on the street. So many generous encounters. And then there were the readings: Salaman Rushdie, Stephen Sondheim, Fergal Keane, Germaine Greer, Audrey Niffenegger, James Elroy, Martin Amos, Sebastian Faulks, Howard Jacobson… with so many distractions it took great effort to retreat to my hotel room and write.
So thanks Cheltenham for the tea, scones and clotted cream. I wasn’t convinced about the Kidney Pie and Mushy Peas or the gastronomical appeal of internal organs. But I was completely enchanted by your festival and the sight of thousands of people holding books close to their chests.
I will be in Cheltenham, England for one of the oldest, literary festivals in the world. I have a reading Oct. 08 at 5:00pm, so if you are in town please drop by. I’m looking at the ten-day line up of 400 authors and will be joining you as a fan to hear the musings of Guillermo del Toro, Salman Rushdie, Stephen Hawking, Ismail Kadare, Lisa Moore, Martin Amis….
Joy, joy, joy!
It is a great gift when a reader reaches out via email or letters to tell me that the story and characters came alive for them. One never expects to receive such a personal response. Last week, I received another remarkable gift—a pair of handcrafted bookends. They are thrown in clay, fired to emulate the colours of earth, hand-pressed with stalks of wheat, and replete with a glass window. I am so honoured. Thank you, Kathy. And thanks to all for your encouraging words and sharing your reading experience. I keep your words close.
I find myself at home and it is almost the end of August. The next few weeks are mine. I haven’t had time off in years. The book carried me to Cyprus, an amazing, ancient and troubled land. Mezzo meals, keo beer, olive oil, lamb, Mount Olympus, the birthplace of Aphrodite, limestone land, Lefkosia-Nicosia-a city divided, the forbidden zone, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, politics, stories of loss and occupation, bullet pocked walls, gaping artillery holes, the Mediterranean, Da Vinci lace…Roman, Venetian, Muslim, Greek Orthodox, Turkish architecture, beaches crowded with resorts and British pubs…layers and layers of time. My thanks to Velee whom I sat with on the street outside his shop, drinking beer and eating grilled corn on the cob into the night, as he shared his stories. And the Captain who invited me to join his family for a Sunday boat ride to their own secret swimming cove. The old Greek man, who ran an ancient healing shop adorned with life sized, beeswax candles of arms, legs, hearts and breasts. The young Vietnamese exhange student who filled my hands with fresh picked plums and apricots. The University and the professors who came to listen and shared their passion for the written word. Stafros who belly danced– his soul radiating. The Pakistan/Lebanon driver of an Iraqi businessman who took my picture and told me about his wife and the child he would not see for another six months, and shook my hand before being ordered away. You filled me with your stories.
And then onto Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia and the Fables Literary Club. An extraordinary elegant, speak-easy vibe in the heart of an artistic community. I finally had the chance to meet the fabulous Linda Little, author of Scotch River and she had come to hear me! Hannah and Chuck, my incomparable hosts who made me feel like family, and opened their home on the ocean. Great food and four beautiful dogs. For the first time in my travels, I thought this is a place where I could live. I look forward to returning and enjoying Fables’ amazing musical, film and literary lineups. Even Margaret Atwood has visited.
Stephen Patrick Clare arranged a literary luncheon at the legendary Halifax Club. It was wonderful to hear Sheree Fitch and Binnie Brennan. We gabbed about writing, fears and the creative process. Each of our writing spaces were under reno at the time, and we were working in cramped, unfamiliar, chaotic quarters. But we all agreed that it didn’t matter, once we were writing the din around us disappeared.
I plan to take the next few weeks to be at home, reconnect with life, and tend to my wounded Annie dog (a Sunday ER visit for a deep gash from a broken bottle at her favourite park). I have laid a floor, painted, built bookcases, rearranged all the furniture, purged the clothes closet…oh…oh…these sound like my pre-writing symptoms. Perhaps, it is time to sit and listen.
A special thanks to the Novelteazers Bookclub in Stratford, Ontario for my inaugural skype event. Nice to share a glass of wine with you via the ethernet. I loved that you had set up a question chair. Fun to see each person stepping into frame and the questions were fabulous. We live in an amazing time.
Off again, this time to Nicosia, Cyprus June 6-11 for a literary conference. 36 degrees. Mediterranean. My, this book knows how to throw a good party. Glad it invites me along to chaperone. Opa!
Now and then I am invited to people’s homes to participate in a book club. I’ve been wined and dined (nibblies and cheese or beer and baked beans). We chat about the book and the process of writing. Thanks to all who have made me feel like such a welcomed guest. The nights are so insightful and it is such a joy to meet such avid readers. Tip of the hat to Sweets Corner.
Lovely event in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The ‘Long Live the Queen’ music and art festival added a literary event. Spent the day with our local literati listening to readings from Donna Morrissey, Sue Goyette, Christy-Ann Conlin, Carol Bruneau, Tonya Gunvaldsen Klaasen. Thanks to all who came out on such fine summer-like day.
Under This Unbroken Sky was awarded the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award and the Thomas Head Raddell Best Book Award! It is an incredible honour to be acknowledged at home. The Raddall was presented by the staff of the Writers Fed of NS, an organization and community that supported and encouraged me every tentative step. Each award carries a monetary prize which grants a writer the greatest gift–time to create. I had arrived back from Delhi that afternoon and had been up for 44 hours by the time of the ceremony. It felt as though I might have still been dreaming in Delhi.
Delhi was an amazing experience. Too soon for me to be able to record my impressions, other than it is not a city, it is a living being. The population of the city is nearly the entire population of Canada. The extremes are immense. The cultural, societal, intellectual, economic, religious, historical differences create a fused chaos. It is a city undergoing immense change as it prepares for the Commonwealth Games. The Delhi that will be presented to the world will have a different face than the city I saw. Delhi was described to me as city that has been built and broken seven times. It’s ongoing destruction and creation is evident everywhere. Keep an eye out for Rana Dasgupta, winner of the overall Commonwealth prize for his novel Solo, he is publishing a book of essays documenting his city. They will be extraordinary. My heart has been filled by the graciousness and openness of the people. I struggle to understand all that I have seen and my place as a global citizen. There is so little I know of my world. Thankful to have had this glimpse into other lives and stories.
• Margaret and John Savage First Book Award and
• Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award.
Stay posted for readings and events. Should be good crowds as I’ll be reading with Giller Prize winner Linden MacIntyre (The Bishop’s Man) and GG nominated Michael Crummy (GALORE). Nice company to keep.
Under this Unbroken Sky has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize-Caribbean and Canada Best First Book! I must admit this one made my eyes leaky. What an honour to be recognized by this prestigious organization and be shortlisted alongside such talented writers. Good for you, my firstborn book.
I’ve just returned from a three week cross-Canada tour of the book with stops in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Banff, Vancouver and Toronto. Thank you to all who came out to the readings. It was a rare experience to re-visit our stunning landscape and discover friends and family in every city.
Toronto’s International Festival of Author’s was glamorous and welcoming. Rubbing shoulders with the literati, it did feel like a superstar event. Mine was a cabaret style reading in the Harbourfront Centre’s Brigantine Room with Bonnie Burnard and Miream Toewes. Incredible! It was such a treat to hear them read. To hear their cadence. To fall into their words. It was humbling and inspiring to be surrounded by such talent.
Many thanks to the extraordinary Barnes & Noble First Look Book Club participants, who previewed advance readers copies of Under This Unbroken Sky. We spent the month of August discussing the novel. It was an illuminating and inspiring experience. Please check out the chat boards for their insightful discussions.
Chinese, Dutch and Hebrew translation rights have been sold. It will be extraordinary to see these works.
Under This Unbroken Sky has been on the bestsellers list for two weeks in the #2 and #1 spot. Yahoo!
Wonderful reading at a beautiful, independent bookstore. The staff were so welcoming and Krista, who introduced the book, gave such a heartfelt and insightful account of how the book connected with her. To hear your story reflected back and glimpse what it gave to a reader is truly the most rewarding gift. I read in the beautiful Prairie Ink Restaurant. The walls are lined with portraits of some of our greatest authors, all who have read at this bookstore. Fine wine, friends, readers, sweet potato filled pyrogies- it was a fine time. If you’re in town stop in and visit. I also had the great pleasure to spend time with my friend and fellow writer Daria Salamon, The Prairie Bridesmaid. Pick up her book, it’s a great read.
I arrived in Edmonton to -10 degree temperatures and snow on Oct 13! This was my first reading at the start of a cross-country tour. It was amazing to be back in the city where I grew up. My prairie family came out to support me. No matter how much time passes-it always feels like I am returning home. We pick up our conversations as if a few days, not years, have passed. Greenwoods has been an independent, family run business for three decades. I was welcomed by 0wner, Gail, and her sister Laurie, who now runs Laurie’s Book Company and reviews for CBC and Global. I read with Deborah Willis (The Vanishing), whose short story collection was nominated the very next morning for a GG. Under This Unbroken Sky has been on the bestsellers list in Edmonton in the #2 and #1 spot!
Under This Unbroken Sky has been chosen by independent booksellers across the United States as a September IndieNext Pick! Please support our independent booksellers.
Beautiful Granville Island, a hub of artists studios and farmers market, right on the harbour, an amazing site for the Wrtiers Festival. And what a festival. Festival director Hal Wake helms a celebration of words. I had the amazing opportunity to read with Joseph Boyden, Cordelia Strube, and Ian Weir and discuss the process of writing: the daunting blank page, the pains of rejection, the pathways into the story. I could have just sat and listened. Funny to see that even these veterans fall silent and there is a nervous energy before they walk on stage. But then they open up and give so generously. Coming in through the wings, we couldn’t see the house, so it was surprising to see a crowd of 200+. The community support is amazing. The questions were great, the audience so embracing. Joseph fulfilled a young girl’s request for a moose call! At the book signing, a woman in her seventies leaned in and said “I was in a prairie fire when I was child.” I asked her, “Did I get it right?” “Oh, yes.” I had done my job.
My reading in Banff was with June Hutton, John Lathrop and Eloy Urroz. I must admit it is a bit of a blur, as I came down with a wicked cold and was stoned on cold medicines. I emerged only for the reading and then stumbled back to my bed in a fevered state. I remember my fellow writers as being warm and inspiring. I also had the great pleasure of meeting Seth (George Sprott), Hal Niedzviecki (Peep Diaries), Barry Callaghan (If Beside Still Waters), Lorna Crozier (Small Beneath the Sky), Jan Con (Botero’s Beautiful Horses), Colin McAdam(Fall), Lisa Moore (February), and Tim Wynn-Jones (Rex Zero) , many of whom participated in a summit salon at the Banff Centre. It was educating to be exposed to so may diverse writers and ideas of writing.
Under This Unbroken Sky was launched to friends and family at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Sept. 03. There couldn’t have been a more fitting venue, surrounded by stories, photographs and displays of the thousands of immigrants who entered Canada through this gateway.When I was researching the novel, I came to the Pier to search records and found the ship’s log documenting my family’s arrival. It is haunting to see their names; how little they arrived with; the unknown they were facing; and the hope that must have brought them here. Eighty years later, I come with a book. A testament to those who tried.
And I see us standing amidst the past and am grateful for all those who sacrificed to give us such freedom and possibility.There is an immigration poster from the 1920’s that proclaims that in Canada, A man can reasonably hope to work his way to independence. What a powerful and poignant promise that must have been.
Special thanks to Pier 21, Mike and The BookMark for making this such a special night.
Thank you to the Boston Public Library for a wonderful event. I had the great pleasure to speak with author Thrity Umbrigar (The Space Between Us/ The Weight of Heaven). Leaving Boston, I was thrilled to see my book in Borders at the Logan airport. As I travel next month, I think I will check in every airport and sign a few copies. Friends have been calling as they discover the book in various stores. It feels a bit like a scavenger hunt. A special thanks to Arlena and Lamar from Georgia, who insisted on buying my reading copy on a flight to Halifax. My first, and likely only, mile high sale!