A-R International: Steve Boone

Steve Boone
Authors-Readers International

I never gave much thought about becoming a professional musician. I always loved music and admired my older brother Skip and his bands, and playing at beach parties and with the Kingsmen was totally cool. Once I found out I was 4F and ineligible for military service though I did not know what would come next!

In December 1964, Peter Davey and I had just come home from spending 4 months riding around Europe on motorcycles. We had a blast of a time, met some great new friends and went places most tourists never go!
Starting in January 1965 I was enrolled in the Spring semester at the new Southampton College in the hills overlooking Shinnecock Bay on the south fork of Long Island. In our trip around Europe, Peter and I came across an incredible adventure where we got to see up close and personal the race cars in action that would soon put the Ford Motor Company at the pinnacle of auto racing success. That event sort of cemented in my mind the decision to go back to school and get my engineering degree in Automobile Design. That would not mean I had to give up playing in a band but the thought of joining up with other musicians to start a band with the sole goal of getting a hit record became further and further from my plans for the future. My brother Skip and Joe Butler my bandmates from the Kingsmen had started a new band and moved into New York City and were playing in Greenwich Village. I would not be able to join them and go to college at the same time. I had a great steady girlfriend Lynn Bishop who lived in Westhampton Beach and some local friends that I could join up with on occasion to play some local gigs out in the East End and I could still go to college. So that was my plan as I headed into New York City to pick up my motorcycle that had been shipped back from Spain just before Christmas 1964. I got to New York on a cold rainy day and didn’t go back out to Westhampton for 3 years. Oh I went back to collect my belongings and tell the college that I wouldn’t be attending that spring but in the space of about 3 or 4 days my whole world changed and it would never again be the same. It would be the summer of 1967 before I could take the time to rent a little beach house in E. Quogue, LI and spend more than a weekend there, and a designer of race cars I would never be!

While a major portion of my life has been my involvement in The Lovin’ Spoonful, I have gone on many adventures, before, during and ….well so far there is no after the band’s life yet. Finally I have, with the help and co-operation of one terrific person, Tony Moss, completed a book that encompasses much of what I have seen since my arrival at Jacksonville Naval Hospital, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on September 23, 1943. So if you dare come on in and look around. It is just getting started, so expect changes.

IN 1970 I bought a 56′ sailboat and headed out for who knows where. After nearly 4 incredible years sailing the eastern Caribbean I returned to the States and resumed my life in the music business. I took over operation of a fabulous recording studio in Hunt Valley, MD and eventually moved it to a customized houseboat in Baltimore’s historic Inner Harbor. I began playing in a band again and as I adjusted to a life once more on shore a voice kept whispering in my ear “you need to write a book about all of this”. And so began the collection of notes and pictures and conversations with friends and associates that up to that point in time, 1977, comprised a full life by any standard. The Lovin’ Spoonful had effectively ceased to exist as a touring band and I thought I had found a comfortable niche wherein I could stay in music and make a living in Baltimore. Then came Christmas 1977 and everything changed. It was like I had started a new life very different from my old one but in many ways the same. What happens after Christmas 1977 until I make contact with my co-writer Tony Moss in 2009 could make an exciting book on its own. Essentially there are two life stories in one book. Writing it proved to be the very catharsis that I needed and I am very proud of it.

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Thanks to Tim Baker, himself an Authors-Readers International Author and longtime online pal, I “met” Steve Boone when Tim interviewed him on his Surf 97.3 FM Friday evening radio program, making it possible for me to connect with Steve. Steve was promoting his new book at the time and talking about his life after the Spoonful. When he mentioned he had sailed for a number of years in the eastern Caribbean. I sent Tim a question to ask and Steve confirmed he had been to Bequia! After that interview, Steve sent me a signed copy of his book, which I loved reading … After all, Steve was one of the founding members of a musical group that was very important to many of us who grew up during the 60s – The Lovin! Spoonful! But the rest of Steve’s story itself was a real page-turner! I promoted Steve and his book on my Reading Recommendations blog, and have followed his career since the book’s story ended, as he’s continued to tour with the band, including gigs on cruise ships, his recording and performing with The Cherry Drops, hosting a Monday evening radio show on Surf 97.3 called “A Spoonful of Hits” and participating in a sold-out reunion concert in Feb. 2020 with original band mates from The Lovin’ Spoonful, Joe Butler and John Sebastian. (Links and information for all of this below.)

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Hotter Than A Match Head: Life on the Run with The Lovin’ Spoonful
Steve Boone with Tony Moss

Steve Boone’s memoir comprises two nearly separate lives in one book with his role as a founding member of the Rock Hall of Fame band The Lovin” Spoonful as he charts it’s way from conception to now 50 years later, and his other life as a high seas pot smuggler with the drama of sinking boats and eluding Coast Guard interceptors.

For more information about Steve Boone, his music, and how to get a copy of his book, see his website.

Steve Boone’s radio show on Surf 97.3: “I plan on using a timeline of my life from the early 1950’s to today to show how popular music has evolved including of course my time in the Lovin’ Spoonful and beyond. You can tune in locally at 97.3 fm or streaming online. So tune in and comment or call me up at the station when I’m on live. I look forward to being on the airwaves each Monday night from 6 PM to 7 PM E.S.T.”

Here’s some information from Steve’s blog about life touring more recently with The Lovin’ Spoonful.

On Feb. 29, 2020, a benefit concert was organized that brought together the three remaining members of the original band of The Lovin’ Spoonful. The evening was a great success!

As well, Steve Boone has been playing bass and performing with the band The Cherry Drops. I promoted Vern Shank, the owner of radio station Surf 97.3, and his band on Listening Recommendations in Sept. 2014. Here’s their video of a recent recording of one of Steve Boone’s songs, “You Didn’t Have to be so Nice”:

Steve Boone was a guest previously on Reading Recommendations in Nov. 2014.

A-R International: Eugene Stickland

Eugene Stickland
Authors-Readers International

I arrived in Calgary in 1994 when I began a ten year residency at Alberta Theatre Projects, establishing a reputation as one of western Canada’s most prominent playwrights. All in all, I have written twenty plays, some of which have been produced many times across North America and beyond. My play Queen Lear, for example, had a two year run in Istanbul in Turkish translation and is currently running in Russia in Russian translation. While still at ATP, I began writing a feature column for the Calgary Herald’s Saturday Entertainment Section which allowed me to write about theatre and any other arts-related topics I chose for a potential weekly audience of up to half a million people. At the same time, I have always had a strong commitment to teaching and mentoring the next generation. I have taught or held residencies at a number of institutions and situations, including the National Theatre School of Canada, the University of Lethbridge, Mount Royal University, York University and the University of Regina. I was for ten years writer in residence at St. Mary’s University in Calgary where I taught creative writing, both drama and prose. For a number of years I was the Canadian delegate to the World Interplay Festival in Australia and in that capacity worked with and mentored young playwrights from around the world. In 2015 I published my first novel, The Piano Teacher, which was awarded the 2016 W. O. Mitchell Award. I am currently writing a new book titled In My Time of Dying and a play about Saskatchewan-born American artist Agnes Martin, titled Agnes.

2018 – 2020 – Last year I worked with the Stardale Woman’s Group to oversee the writing of The Make Believer Project that was produced numerous times throughout Calgary in May and June of 2018. This involved encouraging and guiding some twenty First Nations adolescent girls to share their experience of growing up in Calgary, and then creating a script from their writings. This year I am working on a new project with them titled The Road.

2020 – Overseeing publication of my play First and Last by St Mary’s University Press.  It was to have been launched in April, 2020, although now this is going to be more virtual than actual.

2019 – I am finishing a new novel, In My Time of Dying, which I expect will be published in the fall of 2020.

2016 -2019 – Collaborated with Calgary musician Morag Northey to help her create and perform her theatre piece titled 17, which we performed in BC, around Calgary and in Taos, New Mexico.   We will be consolidating and publishing the script this fall.

2017, 2019 — Appeared as the ghostly presence of Gordon Lightfoot in Alberta Ballet’s Our Canada. This season, I made an appearance in Alberta Ballet’s Frankenstein, October, 2019.

2009 – 2018. Instructor of creative writing and Writer in Residence at St. Mary’s University College, Calgary, AB.

2009 – Present. Instructor of English and Canadian Culture at Alberta Business & Educational Services. I teach a class of Internationally Trained Professionals, mostly doctors, to help them integrate into the Canadian medical system. In this capacity I have taught students from some forty countries and learned much about the experience of immigrants in Calgary.

2008 – Present. Founding Editor of B House Publications, a boutique publishing house based in Calgary with a mandate to publish plays, poetry, spoken word compilations and other work we feel is deserving of publication. Our first book was my play Writer’s Block, published in April, 2009.  Our most recent publication was my novel The Piano Teacher, which was awarded the 2016 W.O. Mitchell Award.

2003 – 2009. Featured Guest Columnist for The Calgary Herald “City Scene” Column. I have also written features for various magazines in Calgary such as Alberta Views and Avenue Magazine.

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I didn’t meet Eugene Stickland in person until I was back in Calgary, around 2010 or so, and was promoting Authors and their books directly through Alberta Books Canada. As I remember, that meeting was made possible through a mutual friend at Caffe Beano, Eugene’s coffee spot of choice … where I like to think of him as the Artist-in-Residence. Eugene was founding editor of an independent company called B House Publications and I remember attending a “street” launch outside Beano‘s celebrating all the books they had published to date. I promoted Eugene on Reading Recommendations after he published his novel The Piano Teacher, which went on to win the W.O. Mitchell Award in 2016. Come to think of it, I have only ever met with Eugene at Caffee Beano over coffee. That’s the book business for you, in a nutshell!

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First and Last

First and Last was commissioned for St. Mary’s University, and premiered in 2017. The successful run was followed by a performance by Company of Rogues Theatre in Calgary that same year.

“First and Last” is a new comedy by highly acclaimed Calgary-based playwright and novelist Eugene Stickland. At the heart of “First and Last” is displacement, loss, the search for sanctuary and the nature of belonging.

Recording artist Lenny returns from a West Coast tour to find his apartment empty of both furniture and his girlfriend. He’s heartbroken. While trying to write his next album people begin to show up at his door with lease in hand. A young couple, a hipster, a synchronized swim team and 2 refugees all lay claim to the same sanctuary – Lenny’s apartment. Hilarious and touching , “First and Last” is a welcome return of Eugene’s Stickland’s warm and human world to the stage. Almost a world premiere!

The first-ever Eugene-A-Thon was held on Wordfest‘s Facebook page June 18th, a  6-hour fundraiser, featuring Eugene Stickland at Caffee Beano, in support of teen literacy and arts education. And to promote the publication of his new book! You may watch some of the video here.

Here’s a great article in The Guardian, a Saltwire Publication, about how this Eugene-A-Thon came to be

Lisa Wilton of CKUA Radio interviewed Eugene Stickland about this play in April 2020.

What Eugene Stickland has been doing lately: Eugene has been painting! Check out this blog post for a sample of some of the art he has created.

You may see more information about Eugene Stickland on his website.

Eugene Stickland was previously a guest on Reading Recommendations in May 2015.

A-R International: Steven Biggs

Steven Biggs
Authors-Readers International

I help people grow food
MY PASSION is incorporating edible crops into the landscape to create beautiful, edible landscapes with a long and varied harvest. I was recognized by Garden Making Magazine as one of the “green gang” of Canadians making a difference in horticulture.
My yard includes a driveway straw-bale garden, rooftop kitchen garden, wicking beds, an edible-themed front yard, and fruit plantings.
My gig is communications. I work as a horticulturist, college instructor, broadcaster, speaker, and author. The common thread is that I share ideas about how to creatively use edible plants in the landscape. And I make it fun.
I have worked in horticulture and agriculture for more than 25 years.
After getting a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Guelph, I worked in greenhouse and nursery production, plant propagation, biological controls, horticultural supplies, and farm marketing.

• Children. Raising three children (my teenage daughter Emma and I co-wrote the book Gardening with Emma, a book to inspire kids to garden).
• Food. Admission—I actually enjoy grocery shopping. Food really interests me. So I’ve been known to do unconventional things like make parsnip wine or come home with a few laying hens.
• The Outdoors. I love foraging for mushrooms with my kids, camping, or just going for a picnic.
• Community. Toronto is an amazing city for food. Southern Ontario has diverse agricultural and horticultural operations, giving me lots of neat things to write about. I live in a part of Toronto called Willowdale, where I’ve found that one of the best ways to meet my neighbours is to garden in my front yard.
• Music. I’m no musician … just a hack. But I have fun jamming with my boys (they play electric guitar and drums, and tolerate me on bass guitar.)

I NEVER THOUGHT I’d be a writer or speaker. I’m a horticulturist.
But every so often I get impulsive (and that can drive my wife, Shelley, crazy). Luckily for me, one of those impulsive moments brought me to where I am today.
I can still picture the look of surprise on Shelley’s face the day I came home and casually mentioned that I’d quit my job as a recruiter. I sucked at that recruiting job. I left a job….
Here’s the rest of Steve’s story about that!

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I first promoted Steven Biggs when he co-authored No Guff Vegetable Gardening with Donna Balzer, who has been a guest on Reading Recommendations. Since that time, Steven has written several books of his own and has recently helped his daughter Emma write and publish a book (see below). Steven and Emma agreed to to be promoted by me in a 3-part series on my blog that I called The Next Gen Authors, featuring Authors whose daughters had gone on to write and publish their own books. I also promoted Anna and Catherine Porter, and Ken and Keriann McGoogan in this series. (Anna Porter and Ken McGoogan have both been previously promoted as well on Authors-Readers International.)

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Grow Lemons Where You Think You Can’t
THE Lemon BOOK FOR COLD CLIMATES
Grow Lemons EVEN IF YOU’RE IN A COLD CLIMATE!

In this fun, plain-language book, I share my passion for growing lemons to help other gardeners in cold climates see that lemons are a fantastic potted plant in cold climates—and that they are much easier to keep over the winter than many people expect.

Get tips, techniques, and anecdotes—along with the insights of other lemon experts in Canada, The USA, and the UK. This book simplifies lemon growing in cold climates.

DID YOU KNOW that some gardeners store lemons in a cold, dark garage for the winter? Others keep them as houseplants. Ever thought of Christmas lights as a way to help lemons overwinter? That’s in the book too.

Steven Biggs was recently featured on this blog, along with his daughter Emma Biggs, as part of the series The Next Gen Authors.

Steven Biggs is now Working on Growing Figs in Cold Climates: 150 of Your Questions Answered, for release within the month.

Steven was a guest on Reading Recommendations in Apr. 2015.

 

A-R International: Lawrence Schwartzwald

Lawrence Schwartzwald
Authors-Readers International

Self-portrait on Madison ave. Exclusive Photos by Lawrence Schwartzwald

Born in New York in 1953, Lawrence Schwartzwald studied literature at New York University. He worked as a freelance photographer for the New York Post for nearly two decades and in 1997 New York Magazine dubbed him the Post’s “king of the streets.” Books and literature have shaped several of his photo series including “Reading New York” and “Famous Poets,” both self-published in 2017. Schwartzwald lives and works in Manhattan.

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I first learned of Lawrence Schwartzwald’s photography through Canadian poet Frank Beltrano (who has previously been promoted on Authors-Readers International and Reading Recommendations as well as being a great personal pal). Frank had suggested I’d find Lawrence’s photos very interesting. I became Facebook friends with Lawrence, enjoyed viewing all his photography, and was very pleased when he announced the publication of this collection of photographs of people reading. The concept is so in keeping with my own attempts to promote and encourage reading that I then invited Lawrence to join Reading Recommendations to tell us about it. He has since published the book in a hardcover edition.

Also since that time, I have been reading about Reading, with an eye to studying the subject – the How, What, When, Where, Why, and Who Readers read – and will possibly even write about what I discover through my research. Lawrence’s photographs of people reading have been a constant inspiration to me during this endeavour!

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The Art of Reading

The Art of Reading presents New York photographer Lawrence Schwartzwald’s candid images of readers, made between 2001 and 2017. Partly inspired by André Kertész’s On Reading (1971), Schwartzwald’s subjects are mostly average New Yorkers―sunbathers, a bus driver, shoeshine men, subway passengers, denizens of bookshops and cafes―but also artists (most notably Amy Winehouse at Manhattan’s now-closed all-night diner Florent).

In 2001 Schwartzwald’s affectionate photo of a New York bookseller reading at his makeshift sidewalk stand on Columbus Avenue (and inadvertently exposing his generous buttock cleavage) caused a minor sensation: first published in the New York Post, it inspired a reporter for the New York Observer to interview the “portly peddler” in a humorous column titled “Wisecracking on Columbus Avenue” of 2001. Since then Schwartzwald has sought out his readers of books on paper―mostly solitary and often incongruous, desperate or vulnerable―who fly in the face of the closure of traditional bookshops and the surge in e-books, dedicating themselves to what Schwartzwald sees as a vanishing art: the art of reading.

To view some of the photographs from this series as a slideshow, click here on the website.

What Lawrence is working on now: I am presently working on four projects. One I have been working on for a few years is LOST IN THE STACKS, portraits of readers at the iconic Strand Bookstore in NYC. I hope to have completion of the series in a few months, but shoppers/readers wearing Covid masks may put a damper on it. The bookstore will re-open under Phase One in a few days. I am keeping mum for the time being on the other series, but two of them involve images on film from the 90’s to early 2000’s.

For more information on Lawrence Schwartzwald, his photography, shows and exhibitions, and where to buy his book, please see his website.

Lawrence Schwartzwald was previously a guest twice on Reading Recommendations: Nov. 2016 and Aug. 2017.

A-R International: Jerry Auld

Jerry Auld
Authors-Readers International

Born and raised in Calgary, Jerry has called Canmore home since 1996, after traveling the world only to find the Bow Valley the best place to settle.

He worked two seasons for the park trail crews, climbing, trail running, and skiing avidly before, during, and since among the Rockies. During this time, Jerry learned of the legend of Hooker and Brown, and was astonished to find himself so ignorant of his own history.

Jerry lives with his wife, a fourteenth generation Quebecoise, and their two daughters in the Rocky Mountains.

He has published Hooker & Brown (a novel) – 2009, Short Peaks (short stories) – 2012, A Jazz Guide to Banff (a novel with Mike Lauchlan) – 2015.
He has a story in the latest Rockies Annual.

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I can’t remember where or when exactly I first met Jerry Auld, but I did promote his books for him through Alberta Books Canada at library displays. And he invited me to participate in a terrific promotion, En Vino Novellus, he had been hosting for a while in Canmore – an evening of author readings and a pairing of their books with a particular bottle of wine! I, and my recently ePublished first novel Island in the Clouds, took part in this lovely evening, and here’s the blog post I wrote about the event … Island in the Clouds at En Vino Novellus in Canmore! And Canmore Author Hazel Hutchins, who has also been featured on Authors-Readers International, was my date for the evening!


I’m still wearing that shirt, Jerry!

 

 

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A Jazz Guide to Banff: (and the universe)
by Mike Lauchlan and Jerry Auld
published by Imaginary Mountain Surveyers

Ravi is a jazz trumpet player in Banff, Alberta, who gets tangled up in the ghosts and legends of the Banff Springs Hotel in all the wrong ways.
—–
Ravi moved to the Rocky Mountains in search of the woman of his dreams–and a beaver.
For Ravi, playing jazz trumpet is a calling. He prefers to think that life has guidelines with no set rules, a musical chart that gives everyone the freedom to riff across the form. Others disagree.
Deep in the labyrinth of service tunnels beneath the Banff Springs Hotel, events set in motion when the first, fire-ravaged foundations threaten to throw everyone into a hellish trap. Ravi, an unwitting participant, must stop the whole demonic orchestra or lose the only one left in the world that he loves.

Imaginary Mountain Survyors is a Canmore-based publisher of mountain fiction, focusing on the Canadian Rockies and other mountain stories, from the superstitious to the imaginary, from folk tales to tall tales, from the fable to the grave.  All books they publish are available from Alpine Book Peddlers.

What Jerry Auld is working on now: With two daughters and all, I haven’t been doing huge amounts of writing but keep planning my return. I’m currently working on a novel about the floods in Canmore in 2013 and another on the life of Curly Philips and the first ascent of Mt. Robson.

For more information about Jerry Auld, his writing, books, and publishing, please check out his website.

Jerry Auld was previously a guest on Reading Recommendations in Dec. 2013.

A-R International: J. F. Kaufmann

J. F. Kaufmann
Authors-Readers Internaional

Not unlike my characters, I lead a double life: by day I’m an employee in a public library, mother of two teenage boys, a friend, a colleague, and the Queen of my kitchen. When the moon arises, however, I shift into my other self and, as Queen of the Night, reign in the magical world of Langaer.

As long as I can remember, my life has been centered around books, reading and writing. I studied linguistics and literature; I worked as a magazine and newspaper editor, literary fiction editor and teacher. For the last eighteen years I’ve been working for Calgary Public Library, in different capacities, surrounded by books and people who love to read.

Currently, J. F. Kaufmann works for the Calgary Public Library as a reference assistant and cataloguer, helping readers discover great books and creating book lists of recommended reads.

She is the author of two novels of the Red Cliffs Chronicles series:
The Two-Blood Legacy and Guardian of the Realm.

Kaufmann has also published Once Upon a Night, a novella in two stories. Kaufmann writes about love gone wrong, love done right, and the barriers people put up between. Each story is short, spicy and romantic. The characters are sympathetic; the stories believable.

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I was first introduced to J. F. Kaufmann by another CPL librarian who had suggested she call me for a consult on her writing. We didn’t meet until years later, at the library, of course, and Kaufmann has been extremely supportive since then of my own books and writing. When I returned to Calgary to give a talk at the library, she (under her actual name of Jasna Tosic) facilitated and was part of a discussion about publishing and getting published, along with Calgary author Randy McCharles and me. The 12-Step Programme to Successful Self-Publication – Talk and panel discussion at CPL

We’ve remained in contact over the years and have continued to read and promote each other’s books. Over this past winter, Kaufmann began painting and posting her artwork on Facebook. I loved what she was creating, so imagine my surprise when she sent me this piece she had completed that she said was inspired by my novel, Island in the Clouds! And that’s the name she gave this piece. I LOVE IT! I’m thinking … Book Cover Art! I’d better get writing. (There’s more infomation on Jasna Tosic’s artwork below.)

“Island in the Clouds”

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The Two-Blood Legacy: The Red Cliffs Chronicles Book 1

The Two-Blood Legacy is a contemporary fantasy novel about a young wizardess unaware of her legacy and a wolf-man reluctant to take over his responsibility — until their paths cross. Between them and the future is an ancient alliance to honour, a brutal enemy to outwit, a war to win, and the question neither of them knew the answer to: did destiny bring them together only to separate them for eternity?

The Two-Blood Legacy is available for pre-order on Amazon and Draft2Digital, and it will be launched on June 30th. The Guardian of the Realm will follow within a week.

What J.F. Kaufmann is working on now: This year in March, I published Best Friends and Other Lovers, a novel-sized collection of three contemporary love stories, connected through their characters. I’m currently working on the next Red Cliffs novel, but I also want to continue to explore shorter literary forms.

About acrylic pouring by Jasna Tosic

I started with acrylic pouring about a year ago, trying to find a compromise between my need to express myself through colours and shapes, and my lack of talent for drawing. I soon realized that this technique is perfect for me – fun, fulfilling and forgiving. Although there is so much to learn about acrylic pouring, it really doesn’t require any previous drawing or painting knowledge, just a sense of colours and a feel for composition.

The results are often delightfully unexpected, and inspiration sometimes works in reverse. You make a painting and then you realize that it reminds you of a novel you’ve read (such as “Island in the Clouds”), or of a dream, a memory, a feeling.

Acrylic pouring is an abstract fluid painting technique based on specific gravity of each color (gravity is the ratio of the density of the pigment to the density of water.) Depending on the method, the liquified paints are layered in a cup, poured over a painting surface (such as canvased, wood panels or ceramic tiles) and distributed by moving and tilting until the desired composition is created.

Layering and mixing paints of different gravity produce different effects. The heavier paints interact with the lighter ones as they sink through them, creating unique and beautiful images.

I do commissions and, occasionally, sell a piece. This summer, I plan to have an a “yard art sale” to sell some of my 150+ piece collection (and make room for more paintings!)

For more information about J. F. Kaufmann, her books, writing and painting, please see her website.

J. F. Kaufmann has previously been a guest on Reading Recommendations in Oct. 2015.

 

 

 

The Next Gen Authors, Part 3: Steven and Emma Biggs

This is Part 3 of a 3-part series I’m calling The Next Gen Authors, about three Authors I know and have promoted, and their daughters who have also all become published authors – in their own right! Or maybe that should be, “in their own write” in this case … (Part 1, Part 2)


Steven Biggs and Emma Biggs
The Garage Gardeners

I promoted Steven Biggs, along with his co-author Donna Balzer, when they first published their gardening book, No Guff Vegetable Gardening. Steven has made an appearance on my Reading Recommendations blog, but is not yet an A-RI Author – although that’s soon to be rectified! Since the book he was promoting on RR was Grow Gardeners. Kid-Tested Gardening with Children: A 4-Step Approach, I’ve been taking great interest in how Steven is doing just that with his own daughter, Emma. However, not only has he raised a gardener, but also an author who is now writing her own gardening books!

Emma Biggs Biography

Emma Biggs is a 15-year-old gardener and garden communicator. Emma raised over 130 tomato varieties in her Toronto garden in 2019—gardening in containers, in straw bales on a driveway, in a neighbour’s yard, in wicking beds under a walnut tree, and on the garage roof. Her garden is the source of many of her stories—and the source of produce that she sells in her neighborhood. Emma gives talks at libraries, seed exchanges, garden clubs, and garden shows. She is the co-host of The Food Garden Life Show, and co-host of kids gardening videos on the From Dirt to Dishes gardening channel on YouTube. She has a monthly blog on the Harrowsmith Magazine website about growing tomatoes. Her latest book, Gardening with Emma, helps kids find the fun in gardening (and helps adults remember how much fun gardening is!).

From Harrowsmith Magazine, May 2020: Harrowsmith Gen XYZ – Emma’s Edible Yard – A Tomato that Looks Like Candy by Emma Biggs

Book: Gardening with Emma

Written for kids by a kid. Emma, shows young gardeners how to grow healthy food, raise cool plants, and have fun outdoors in the garden.

There are tips for making fun garden hideaways such as a sunflower house or bee tee-pee. Learn how to make a bug vacuum. And get ideas for kid-friendly theme gardens including a rainbow garden, a sound garden, and a tickling garden.

Gardening with Emma is a kid-to-kid guide to growing healthy food and raising the coolest, most awesome plants while making sure there’s plenty of fun. With plants that tickle and make noise, tips for how to grow a flower stand garden, and suggestions for veggies from tiny to colossal, Emma offers a range of original, practical, and entertaining advice and inspiration. She provides lots of useful know-how about soil, sowing, and caring for a garden throughout the seasons, along with ways to make play spaces among the plants. Lively photography and Emma’s own writing (with some help from her gardening dad, Steve) capture the authentic creativity of a kid who loves to be outdoors, digging in the dirt.

Thirteen-year-old Emma Biggs is passionate about gardening and eager to share her passion with other kids!

More info here too on Steven’s website.

Promo Plans

Emma has been doing a lot of speaking engagements, including Mother Earth News Fair in Texas earlier this year. All is on hold now…but we’re doing the podcast 2x a week now and getting a good following. Emma was recently on CBC, The Survival Podcast, and The Weekend Gardener radio show

Emma’s Current Projects

–          Emma made her own website using photos she takes.

–          She is very active on Instagram, promoting gardening.

–          This winter and spring Emma has been selling tomato seed on her website

–          This spring she will be having a tomato transplant sale (at a distance…still figuring out the logistics)

–          Lots of gardens underway with more new tomato varieties

–          Writing a book about tomatoes

 

 

 

The Next Gen Authors, Part 2: Ken and Keriann McGoogan

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series I’m calling The Next Gen Authors, about three Authors I know and have promoted, and their daughters who have also all become published authors – in their own right! Or maybe that should be, “in their own write” in this case … (Part 1, Part 3)

Ken McGoogan and Keriann McGoogan

Ken McGoogan was editor of the Books Section at The Calgary Herald when I first met him. He was also beginning to publish books of his own at that time. Who knew then that he would eventually father another author? You may read more about Ken and his books here in his Authors-Readers International promotion. (When I initially asked Ken about participating in this series, he immediately sent me the following …)

A FATHER’S TAKE
by Ken McGoogan

(Most recent books: Flight of the Highlanders and Dead Reckoning)

Often after a movie night, if her husband Travis was out of town, our super-fit, thirty-something daughter would insist that she didn’t need Sheena and me to walk her home from our house. We would do it anyway, travel half a dozen Toronto city blocks. But on this occasion, I forget why, we ended up just the two of us, father and daughter, striding into the October night.

“Oh, I meant to tell you,” Keriann said. “I’m writing a book.”

Over the years, I had badgered her sporadically to do precisely that. Still, I was surprised. “You’re writing a book? What kind of book?”

“A memoir,” she said. “My adventure in Madagascar.”

“But of course! That’s fantastic!”

My next question, one that as a writer I am hard-wired to ask, just popped out: “How many words have you got in the can?” I figured she would say 5,000, maybe 10,000. And when I heard her say, “Just over 7,000,” I cried, “Whoa! Over 7,000? That’s a solid beginning.”

“No, Dad,” she said. “Not seven. Seven-ty. Just over 70,000.”

“70,000? 70,000 words?” I clasped my head and, hollering, reeled around in the middle of the street. “70,000 words! That’s a book! You must be nearly finished.”

“First draft, yes. Maybe 10,000 words to go.”

So that’s how I found out what Keriann had been up to lately. Eighteen or so months ago, while striding into the night. Next thing I knew, she had signed with an agent (Beverley Slopen) and landed a book deal with Prometheus Books of New York. She started revising and fixed on a title: Chasing Lemurs: My Journey into the Heart of Madagascar.

The book tells the story of how, starting when she was twenty-five, Keriann lived and worked in the wilds of Madagascar for 19 months. You can read her more detailed description below. Keriann glosses over what, as a father, gave me the heebie-jeebies when I read the book. Never mind the encounter, in an isolated, riverside location, with a roving band of thieves.

She ended up being “the lone woman amid a small band of local male assistants, diligently conducting research on the lemur population around the camp.” Then her right-hand man — the only Malagasy who spoke English or French — contracted a life-threatening strain of malaria and became delirious. This is in the Madagascar bush. Are you kidding me?

Since publishing the book, Keriann hasn’t looked back. A trailer, a virtual book launch, an article in the Toronto Star, blog posts pouring forth. What’s a father to add? Only that I am gob-smacked . . . and thrilled.

Keriann’s Biogaphy:

Keriann McGoogan has a doctorate in biological anthropology and a master’s in primatology. For nineteen months, she lived and worked in Madagascar, spending twelve-hour days following groups of lemurs through the northwestern dry forests. Today, while holding down a day job, McGoogan volunteers as a board member for Planet Madagascar, a nonprofit that aims to conserve Madagascar’s unique biodiversity while also helping the local Malagasy people.

Keriann’s Website

Chasing Lemurs: My Journey into the Heart of Madagascar (Prometheus Books)

At age twenty-five, graduate student Keriann McGoogan traveled into the wilds of Madagascar to study lemurs in their natural habitat. McGoogan was going to do research that could contribute to the conservation of lemurs and to set up a permanent field site in the remote northwest—a site to which she could later return to do research for her PhD in biological anthropology. Despite careful planning, the trip spiraled out of control. Food poisoning, harrowing backcountry roads, grueling hikes, challenging local politics, malaria, and an emergency evacuation would turn a simple reconnaissance into an epic adventure. McGoogan describes that journey in her memoir

At first accompanied by her thesis advisor, McGoogan is soon left alone when her mentor must return home. She carries on as the lone woman amid a small band of local male assistants, diligently conducting research on the lemur population around the camp. But when her right-hand man becomes delirious with malaria, she is forced to lead her team on a desperate three-day trek to safety. McGoogan vividly describes the challenges navigating an isolated forest region while also bringing to life the wonders of Madagascar’s incredible biodiversity, especially its many varieties of lemurs. This fascinating memoir is equal parts a journey of self-discovery, an adventure story, and a heartfelt appreciation of a wonderful island country teeming with unique species and peopled by the warm and welcoming Malagasies with their intriguing indigenous culture.

Promotion Plans: Facebook Live book launch is here.

Book Trailer

Blog Tour: Keriann will be posting blogs for the Lemur Conservation Network and the Duke Lemur Center

UCalgary News, June 1, 2020: Chasing Lemurs – a passport to another place by Deb Cummings

The Toronto Star, April 20, 2020: What the lemurs taught me about enduring a pandemic by Keriann McGoogan

Other media can be found here on her website.

What Keriann is working on now:

Keriann has another Madagascar-themed adventure book in the works–this time geared toward a young adult audience.

The Next Gen Authors, Part 1: Anna and Catherine Porter

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series I’m calling The Next Gen Authors, about three Authors I know and have promoted, and their daughters who have also all become published authors – in their own right! Or maybe that could be, “in their own write” in this case … (Part 2, Part 3)

Anna and Catherine Porter
at Scotiabank Giller Photo credit: T. Sandler

Anna Porter and Catherine Porter

Anna Porter is a former Canadian Publisher (Key Porter Books) and now an author of many non-fiction and fictions books. You may learn more about Anna and her books here in her Authors-Readers International promotion.

Anna’s daughter, Catherine Porter, has recently also published a new book, A Girl Named Lovely. Here’s Catherine’s biography …

Catherine Porter has been the Toronto bureau chief for The New York Times since February 2017.

Previously, Ms. Porter was a journalist at the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper. She started there in 2001 as an intern, and worked her way up to general assignment reporter, city hall reporter, environment writer, feature writer and finally columnist. She proved herself as an international correspondent, covering the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and returning to the country 18 times to report on its reconstruction efforts. Her book about the experience, entitled A Girl Named Lovely, was published by Simon & Schuster Canada in 2019.

Ms. Porter has received two National Newspaper Awards in Canada, the Landsberg Award for her feminist columns, and a Queen’s Jubilee Medal for grassroots community work.

She received her Bachelor’s from McGill University in English Literature and History, and her Master’s from York University in English Literature. Ms. Porter loves being a stranger in a strange land, and has lived in France, Senegal and India. But today, she resides in Toronto, 20 minutes from her childhood home, with her husband and their two children.

About the Book:

An insightful and uplifting memoir about a young Haitian girl in post-earthquake Haiti, and the profound, life-changing effect she had on one journalist’s life.

In January 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, killing hundreds of thousands of people and paralyzing the country. Catherine Porter, a newly minted international reporter, was on the ground in the immediate aftermath. Moments after she arrived in Haiti, Catherine found her first story. A ragtag group of volunteers told her about a “miracle child”—a two-year-old girl who had survived six days under the rubble and emerged virtually unscathed.

Catherine found the girl the next day. Her family was a mystery; her future uncertain. Her name was Lovely. She seemed a symbol of Haiti—both hopeful and despairing.

When Catherine learned that Lovely had been reunited with her family, she did what any journalist would do and followed the story. The cardinal rule of journalism is to remain objective and not become personally involved in the stories you report. But Catherine broke that rule on the last day of her second trip to Haiti. That day, Catherine made the simple decision to enroll Lovely in school, and to pay for it with money she and her readers donated.

Over the next five years, Catherine would visit Lovely and her family seventeen times, while also reporting on the country’s struggles to harness the international rush of aid. Each trip, Catherine’s relationship with Lovely and her family became more involved and more complicated. Trying to balance her instincts as a mother and a journalist, and increasingly conscious of the costs involved, Catherine found herself struggling to align her worldview with the realities of Haiti after the earthquake. Although her dual roles as donor and journalist were constantly at odds, as one piled up expectations and the other documented failures, a third role had emerged and quietly become the most important: that of a friend.

A Girl Named Lovely is about the reverberations of a single decision—in Lovely’s life and in Catherine’s. It recounts a journalist’s voyage into the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, hit by the greatest natural disaster in modern history, and the fraught, messy realities of international aid. It is about hope, kindness, heartbreak, and the modest but meaningful difference one person can make.

Links to Reviews and praise for the book, and interviews with Catherine Porter.

Kirkus Review, Dec. 3, 2018

20 Books I can’t wait to read in 2019, Deborah Dundas, The Toronto Star, Jan. 18, 2019

Chatelaine Feature, “The Buzziest Books of 2019 so far.” Feb/March 2019

Simon & Schuster Canada YouTube video: A Girl Named Lovely/Catherine Porter

Maclean’s Magazine, “How a Canadian journalist grew close to a Haiti’s earthquake miracle child” Feb. 27,2019, by Brian Bethune

United Church Observer, Catherine Porter on finding comfort in Church after reporting on Haiti’s Earthquake, March 2019, by David Giuliano

Toronto Star Review by Marcia Kay, “Catherine Porter’s book about Haitian girl Lovely a testament to imperfect optimism,” March 1, 2018

Brit + Co, by Ilana Lucas, “3 New Books About Women on the Front Lines of History,”
March 3, 2019

Winnipeg Free Press Review by Ursula Fuchs, “Journalist compelled to offer help in Haiti,” March 23, 2019

Global TV’s Morning Show, April 8

 

 

Remembering Michael Fay …

In memory of
J. Michael Fay

December 18, 1945 – June 7, 2020

Early Monday morning, I heard from a friend in Minden that Michael Fay had died the previous day. I knew he had not been well for quite some time, but still … it was a jolt, and I was very sad. So I decided to turn on the most relaxing and soothing programme I know – Bob Chelmick’s The Road Home online at his website. (I’ve written about Bob and this show previously.) It was an entire programme dedicated to the poetry of Rumi, most of which was read by Coleman Barks. Almost immediately after I’d tuned in, Barks began reading the following poem that I had never heard nor read before … and yet it felt as though Michael was speaking to me.

No Room for Form
by Rumi

On the night when you cross the street
From your shop and your house
To the cemetery

You’ll hear me hailing you from inside
The open grave, and you’ll realize
How we’ve always been together.

I am the clear consciousness-core
Of your being, the same in
Ecstasy as in self-hating fatigue.

That night, when you escape your fear of snakebite
And all irritations with the ants, you’ll hear
My familiar voice, see the candle being lit,
Smell the incense, the surprise meal fixed
By the lover inside all your other lovers.

This heart tumult is my signal
to you igniting in the tomb.
So don’t fuss with the shroud
And the graveyard dust.
Those get ripped open and washed away
In the music of our final meeting.

And don’t look for me in human shape,
I am inside your looking. No room
For form with love this strong.

Well, maybe not the “love” part, but certainly “high regard” and mutual understanding and appreciation of written words and publishing … Normally, with anyone else, I would have put this experience of hearing that particular poem at that exact moment down to coincidence. But this was Michael Fay! A man I did not know at all before we met through Facebook in around 2011-12 and who I didn’t meet in person until about a year later. And yet we had many friends in common, plus our paths in life had criss-crossed several times – we discovered we had both lived in Calgary, Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood, and Minden at different periods in our lives, but never at the same time. We became fast friends! Neither our original meeting online nor this poem being read at the moment I needed to hear it were ever mere coincidence!

I met Michael when I was exploring ePublishing as an option for my own writing, and Michael and I began sharing articles about eBooks being considered the perfect platform for longform stories. Michael told me he was reviewing and rewriting a number of stories he’d first written in Banff in the 70s and at other writing conferences, and asked what I thought about publishing them. Thus was born the imprint IslandShorts, and I have Michael to thank for being my inspiration, counselor, sounding board, and critic of everything we did to put this series of eBooks together. (Here’s a more in-depth explanation of the imprint.) I truly could not have accomplished this without Michael Fay!

Michael was also always very quick with the “atta-girl!”s for my own writing. He provided me with a brilliant blurb for the back cover of the first print edition of my novel, Island in the Clouds. He wrote and posted reviews of all my books, provided me with photos of my novel in-and-around Minden, and wrote about me, my connection to Minden and the IslandShorts imprint for the local newspaper, The Minden Times. (See below.) He also heartily supported the three other authors I published through IslandCatEditions: Timothy L. Phillips, Bruce Hunter, and Betty Jane Hegerat.

And, if that were not already enough, Michael and his wife, Fay Martin, always provided me with a bed, plenty of coffee in the morning, and two cats to pat, whenever I visited Minden. Plus, they loved my crazy notion to start up Literary Salons once again by opening their home and inviting friends to a reading and launch of our eBooks we had just published. A truly generous gesture!

So, while Michael Fay may have now left this mortal coil, he will never be forgotten, as he lives on for me through his generosity, kindness, sense of humour, thoughtfulness, and friendship he shared with me, and so many others, throughout his life.   And he will be remembered through his fine writing in the number of publications it was my great privilege to help him bring to the attention of readers worldwide! Michael Fay was the first author I promoted in the series Authors-Readers International for good reason … He had entrusted me with his own writing, but he also gave back to me just as much by supporting my own writing and publishing endeavours – and for that I could never have thanked him enough! So I will pay tribute to Michael Fay for the rest of my life, and will continue to promote the man and his work.

For more information about Michael Fay’s ePublications and where to buy them, please see this link. And for his print publication, click on this link.

Michael also wrote three guest posts for this blog: On Banff, 1976; On Bread Loaf, 1978; On Remembering Alexandra Centre.

And words from a few of Michael’s friends and fellow writers …

Shirley Black (blurb for Michael’s print book, Tenderness and Other Stories): It all started with a small ad in the community newsletter: Writing Lessons, contact Michael Fay, and that is why eight of us were gathered around a large wooden table. We were there to learn W.O. Mitchell’s Freefall method as modified by Michael. Put your pen to paper and write, he told us, don’t worry about grammar, sentence structure or paragraphing – just write. And so we did, memories poured forth, the smell of freshly washed laundry, the sound of a train whistle on a cold winter night. For six days we wrote and on the seventh we rested while Michael studied every single word we had written and picked out the best phrase, sentence or paragraph that he read back in class. With Michael’s gentle encouragement we gained confidence, reality turned into fiction, short stories emerged and we were on our way to becoming writers.

Bruce Hunter: On Sept. 29, 2013, I had the pleasure of reading with Susan Toy and Michael Fay. It was a sunny afternoon at a literary salon hosted by Michael and Fay at their home with their friends from Minden. Although, I’d not known him long, Michael’s grace and generosity of spirit and intellect made every visit special. He was a remarkable and talented gentleman. He is missed by many.

Timothy Phillips: I was very sorry to hear of Michael Fay’s passing.  Fay, you wrote “his gift to writing was probably the writers he supported …” Yes, that is true and I was one of those writers he supported. He read my memoir, reviewed it with a true understanding of my journey and endorsed it on the back of my book. As a new writer, he helped give me credibility.

However, he was no slouch when it came to his own writing and I particularly liked his story, Passion, of being called to enter a seminary when quite young and his journey there.

I only met Michael and Fay once at their house in Minden. I drove up from Toronto for the day because they had organised a reading for authors. It sort of reminded me of how the French Salons might have started in 17th and 18th century Paris – an invite to elegance and sophistication and a chance for an author to be heard.

Thank you Michael for all that you have contributed to encourage us all to take risks and put pen to paper. You are missed.

Chad Ingram wrote this about Michael Fay for The Minden Times.

And I was thrilled beyond belief when Michael wrote this article about me and my connection to the town of Minden! My family owned a cottage on a neighbouring lake from the year I was born (1953) until just after Dad died and we decided to sell in 1996.

One last bit to add to this tribute, and that’s a song I know Michael – the political activist part of Michael, that is – would have loved to hear again during these current troubling times …

And to leave you a more positive note, I know Michael would have approved
of this song as well …