A-R International: Ken McGoogan

Ken McGoogan
Authors-Readers International

Photo by Sheena Fraser McGoogan

Ken McGoogan is a globe-trotting Canadian writer who survived shipwreck off Dar es Salaam, chased the ghost of Lady Franklin from Russell Square to Van Diemen’s Land, and placed a John Rae memorial plaque in the High Arctic. Ken has published fifteen books — six histories, five biographies, three novels, and one ghosted work. His best-selling titles include Dead Reckoning, Celtic Lightning, Fatal Passage, 50 Canadians Who Changed the World, How the Scots Invented Canada, Lady Franklin’s Revenge, and Flight of the Highlanders (published September 2019).
Ken has won the Pierre Berton Award for History, the University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography, the Canadian Authors’ Association History Award, the Writers’ Trust Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize, and an American Christopher Award for “a work of artistic excellence that affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” He also landed a press fellowship that took him to University of Cambridge (Wolfson College) for three months. There he conceived his biography of John Rae, Fatal Passage, which gave rise to an award-winning, feature-length docudrama. (Here’s a link I found to a lecture Ken McGoogan gave on the topic of John Rae to the Royal Society Edinburgh on April 22, 2013.)
Before turning mainly to books, Ken worked as a journalist at the Toronto Star, the Montreal Star, and the Calgary Herald. He writes these days for Canadian Geographic, the Globe and Mail, Geographical Magazine, and Celtic Life International. His Blog is a ballyhoo of unsolicited anecdotes, opinions and observations. Ken is a fellow of the Explorers’ Club and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. With his partner, artist Sheena Fraser McGoogan, Ken has rambled from Sri Lanka to Tasmania, and from Malyasia to Greece and St. Kilda. He won a teaching excellence award from University of Toronto, teaches Creative Nonfiction (CNF) in the MFA program at University of King’s College in Halifax, and loves nothing better than coming upon a captive audience with a microphone in his hand.

I first met Ken McGoogan in Calgary more than 3 decades ago (!) when he was Books Editor at The Calgary Herald and I was manager of Sandpiper Books. When I became a publishers’ sales rep, I often drove visiting authors to the Herald building for their interviews with Ken. Much later, when Ken and I had both moved out of Calgary, I was sitting on a bench by the boardwalk in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood (where I grew up) and was wearing a Wordfest t-shirt. A man walked past, his dog on a leash, and then he looked back at me and stopped. “Is that a Calgary Wordfest t-shirt you’re wearing?” he asked. I recognized Ken immediately, and discovered that he was now living in my old ‘hood! He even enjoyed drinking coffee at the Remarkable Bean where I had been partaking whenever I was in Toronto. So we were reconnected again, and I was honoured when Ken later agreed to write a blurb for the print edition of my first novel when it was published. (Michael Fay is on there with a blurb, too!)

Flight of the Highlanders: Canada’s First Refugees
Bestselling author Ken McGoogan tells the story of those courageous Scots who, ruthlessly evicted from their ancestral homelands, were sent to Canada in coffin ships, where they would battle hardship, hunger and even murderous persecution.

After the Scottish Highlanders were decimated at the 1746 Battle of Culloden, the British government banned kilts and bagpipes and set out to destroy a clan system that for centuries had sustained a culture, a language and a unique way of life. The Clearances, or forcible evictions, began when landlords—among them traitorous clan chieftains—realized they could increase their incomes dramatically by driving out tenant farmers and dedicating their estates to sheep.
Flight of the Highlanders: Canada’s First Refugees intertwines two main narratives. The first is that of the Clearances themselves, during which some 200,000 Highlanders were driven—some of them burned out, others beaten unconscious—from lands occupied by their forefathers for hundreds of years. The second narrative focuses on resettlement. The refugees, frequently misled by false promises, battled impossible conditions wherever they arrived, from the forests of Nova Scotia to the winter barrens of northern Manitoba.
Between the 1770s and the 1880s, tens of thousands of dispossessed and destitute Highlanders crossed the Atlantic. Those who survived became Canada’s first refugees—prototypes for the refugees we see arriving today from all around the world.

Ken McGoogan has been busy promoting his new book throughout the autumn of 2019, and was invited by the Royal Canadian Geographic Society to give a talk at their headquarters in Ottawa. Here’s a 50-minute video of that presentation. (Ken and I both tried to find a different copy of this video that was not posted to Facebook, but to no avail. So you may not be able to view this if you are not already on Facebook. Sorry!)

As well, Ken McGoogan and his wife, artist Sheena Fraser McGoogan have been part of many voyages over the years with the tour group, Adventure Canada.

For more information about Ken McGoogam, his writing, books, and his travels, please see his website.

I have promoted Ken McGoogan twice previously on my blog, Reading Recommendations: Sept. 22, 2015 and Feb. 15, 2017.

A-R International: Kevin Brennan

Kevin Brennan
Authors-Readers International

“Kevin Brennan” is the author of six novels: Parts Unknown, Yesterday Road, Occasional Soulmates, Town Father, Or, Where Graceful Girls Abound, Fascination, Eternity Began Tomorrow.

Kevin Brennan (sans quotation marks) lives in Cool, California, in the shadow of the magnificent Sierra Nevada, where he cavorts among the pines and writes anomalous indie songs for his wife and dog.

It was Kevin Brennan’s second novel over which we connected online. He had self-published it as an eBook, I read it, loved his writing, and immediately promoted Kevin on my blog, Reading Recommendations. Kevin kept writing, and I continued to read whatever he published: four more novels, stories (Our Children Are Not Our Children), a memoir (In No Particular Order), and a longform essay (Gatecrash: liberating creativity in the age of boilerplate fiction) – all three of these books are available free on Kevin’s website. Before I got to know Kevin though, he had already traditionally published Parts Unknown. And since discovering this author, I have now read everything he has published, as it’s been released, plus I own every novel that’s available in print form. (Just his latest novel, highlighted below, is still only available as an eBook.)

I’ve enjoyed our online association since 2014 – we’ve never met in person – as Kevin is a great one to converse with about ideas concerning writing, writing styles, literature and favourite authors and what we like and don’t like about certain books. Kevin Brennan is also the only author I know who has set out to write novels in different genres and covering widely different topics and subject matter, usually told from the perspective of a character who is NOT Kevin Brennan, or even a man, for that matter. And he’s been very successful in pulling this off, as far as I’m concerned. All this about the man, and I haven’t even mentioned yet how very supportive he has been of my own books, writing, and promotion thereof! I could go on, but instead have added a couple of links below to illustrate the other areas, besides his own writing, in which Kevin has excelled! Here’s information about Kevin Brennan’s most recent publication:

Eternity Began Tomorrow

From Kevin Brennan: I’ve already told you that this book is quite a departure for me. It’s a political thriller. Or at least that’s the closest category I could find for it, considering that it touches on all kinds of themes and has the sniff of literary fiction about it too.

Once again, I try my hand here at a first-person female protagonist, the indefatigable Mollie “Blazes” Bolan. Usually when I use a female pov, whether first person or third person, it’s because the character really speaks to me somehow, in a voice that can’t be mistaken for a man’s. Almost always they’re idiosyncratic or sui generis enough that people can’t say “he can’t write female characters worth poo!” I write individual characters, so my Blazes Bolan, my Sally Pavlou (Fascination), and my Sarah Phelan (Occasional Soulmates) are all exactly as I saw them in my mind. I just hope they’re believable as humans.

As I’ve been telling you leading up to this launch, the main theme of Eternity Began Tomorrow is climate change and how we, as a culture, seem to be dragging our feet in dealing with it (even if the University of California has divested from fossil fuels). Seems to beg the arrival of a messianic climate-change guru like John Truthing, which, let’s face it, opens us up to manipulation and the possibility of double dealing. It’d be so much better if we’d all just accept the reality of global warming and not play politics with it, but, then again, in this country we play politics with everything from guns to cotton candy. We fiddle while the ozone burns.

Be that as it may, I hope this book entertains while opening up a little discussion of our contemporary crisis.

And since I’m self-publishing this book, without the delays of traditional publishing, it’s so fresh it mentions the Mueller Report and Greta Thunberg. How’s that for “hot off the presses”?

Eternity Began Tomorrow is currently available to download in an eBook (mobi) format from Amazon.com (US$1.00), Amazon.ca (CDN$1.32), and Amazon.co.uk (£0.99)!

And here’s a terrific interview with Kevin Brennan about the new book conducted by Marie Bailey on her website 1WriteWay.

Kevin Brennan has also been editing and publishing an online journal, The Disappointed Housewife.

The Disappointed Housewife is a literary journal for writers, and readers, who are seeking something different. We like the idiosyncratic, the iconoclastic, the offbeat, the hard-to-categorize. Out of the universe of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, we want to attract work that plays with form and presentation. Work that’s not just outside the box but turns the box inside out.

We believe that imagination and the creative drive can guide literature toward a new stage in its evolution — a growth spurt. Multi-media, mash-ups, music, photography as writing: anything is possible.

As we like to say around here: Don’t disappoint the disappointed housewife.

Kudos to Kevin Brennan, too, for having nominated some of the pieces he’s published in the magazine for The Best Small Fictions anthology and the Pushcart Prize.

(Here are the Submission Guidelines.)

And, if that isn’t enough, Kevin also began an editing service for Indie-Authors.

For more information about Kevin Brennan, his writing, books, journal, editing services, and his music, please see his website, WHAT THE HELL.

Kevin Brennan made a number of appearances on my Reading Recommendations blog – too many to list here! His first guest spot was on Mar. 20, 2014.

A-R International: Hazel Hutchins

Hazel Hutchins
Authors-Readers International

Author Hazel Hutchins has been writing books for children for over twenty years….and enjoying every minute of it!

I was born and raised on farms in southern Alberta, Canada. My family was kind and loving but, as the youngest by several years, I spent quite a bit of time on my own. For those times I invented two imaginary friends, Juty and Barrett. And I remember how excited I was to be a flower girl at my aunt’s wedding!

I loved the many animals on the farm – cows, chickens, baby crows, rabbits, wild ducks (including one who took a swim in our bathtub!) and the burrowing owls we watched while lying in the prickly prairie grass. I also loved my pony.

And I loved books. My mom read to us every night. My dad recited dramatic poetry. When I began to read on my own, some of my favourites were Just Mary Stories, Little House on the Prairies and The Dana Sisters Mysteries. Already I knew I wanted to be a writer.

That feeling took a huge leap forward in grade seven when I began to read all kinds of amazing literature written for adults. The words of those authors formed my sense of how truly wonderful the written word can be; how powerfully it can convey ideas, enlarge one’s world and touch one’s heart.

Ever since that time, I have always written stories of one kind or another. I’ve been interested in many other things too–science, history, psychology, drama. After a few years at University of Calgary, I moved to live with a wonderful husband in the mountains. We hiked, biked, skied, canoed and enjoyed the outdoors in all kinds of ways. We also raised three great kids, now all adults with lives of their own.

More than a few years have passed. I still spend part of every day strolling along one trail or another, just because I enjoy being outside. I still find all kinds of amazing books to read, all kinds of subjects to research.

And I still love to write.

Hazel Hutchins is another author I met because I was her sales rep for the novel After when it was published in 2008. And since she was living close to Calgary, in Canmore, I often had reason to visit her there when passing through on sales trips, or later when I set up Alberta Books Canada and was attending library conferences being held in the area. I could always count on Hazel to offer me a place to stay, a delicious dinner, a walk along the side of the Bow River, and a rousing game of Scrabble … although she never actually let me win! I still consider Hazel to be a good friend; she’s been very encouraging about my books (even attended an event in Canmore in which I was taking part as an author!), and we always have lots to talk about whenever we do manage to get together. When Hazel published Anna at the Art Museum in 2018, I requested a signed copy and that was delivered to me in Bequia. My little New York Friend, Nzarah Trimmingham, was visiting at the time with her grandmother, author Felicity Harley, and she just loved the book, especially as she lives in the same city as the main character, Anna! (Nzarah was also my first guest on the blog, What Are You Reading?)

Here’s Nzarah, swinging in our hammock, enjoying Hazel’s book …

Art is for everyone—even a bored little girl.

Going to the Art Museum with her mom is no fun at all for Anna. Everything is old and boring and there are so many rules: Don’t Touch! Do Not Enter! Quiet! A vigilant guard keeps a close eye on the energetic little girl, but even so, Anna manages to set off an alarm and almost tip over a vase.

A half-open door draws Anna’s attention, but the No Entry sign means yet again that it’s off-limits. This time, however, the guard surprises her by inviting her to go in. Here she finds a “secret workshop” where paintings are being cleaned and repaired. Staring out from one of the canvases is a girl who looks grumpy and bored—just like Anna herself. With the realization that art often imitates life, Anna discovers the sheer joy to be had from the paintings on the wall, especially those that reflect what is happening all around her.

Filled with representations of paintings from many world-class galleries, this charming book is the perfect prelude to a child’s first visit to an art museum.

Hazel Hutchins is also a very popular speaker and presenter, and every spring and autumn she is usually travelling around Alberta and other parts of Canada, visiting schools and libraries.

For more information about Hazel Hutchins, her books and writings, her presentations and school visits, and for an explanation of how she writes, please see her website.

Hazel Hutchins was also a guest on my blog Reading Recommendations on April 25, 2015.

A-R International: Sheree Fitch

Sheree Fitch
Authors-Readers International

I’m a writer, reciter, a speaker, a teacher, a sister, a daughter, a mother, a wife.
A listener, a seeker, a maker of nonsense, a reader, a leader, a lipslippery fool.
A doctor, a walker, a talk-talk-talk- talker, a giggle-glad Oma, an odd sort of soul.
Yearner and learner, an ever beginner!
Hope is my teacher, life is my school.

Sheree Fitch has been a groundbreaking force in the literary arts and literacy community throughout Canada and beyond since 1987.

Sheree is widely recognized as an innovative master writer, literary artist and inspirational speaker whose body of work explores the human condition. Her lyrical style gives her a unique literary voice in her writing both for adults and children.

Creating from “the land of the imagination in the country that is childhood,” Sheree’s singularity and voice, visions and award-winning books and storytelling have left their mark on two generations of children and families and influenced a whole generation of writers from Ecum Secum to the Himalayas in Bhutan and many places in between.

As a storyteller, Sheree has performed in many venues including the Canada Day Celebrations at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, the Washington National Cathedral, and the Library of Congress, She was part of a Cultural Arts exchange in Mexico and Cuba and has represented Nova Scotia at international schools in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, China, Belize, Thailand, and Vietnam, bringing rich experiences back to the Canadian literary community.

As an educator, she has been a writer-in-residence many times including twice in the country of Bhutan, helping to foster an indigenous literature for Bhutanese children. She is a four-time writer-in-residence for Nunavut healing and writing camp, Somebody’s Daughter.

Among her numerous awards Sheree also holds three honorary doctorates from Canadian universities for her contribution to Canadian literature, education and for her work as a literacy advocate and activist for social justice, especially issues affecting women and children.

She lives with her husband, Gilles, and many critters on Happy Doodle Do Hobby farm in River John, Nova Scotia where they run a seasonal book shoppe, Mabel Murple’s Books Shoppe and Dreamery.

I was very fortunate to be representing Nimbus Publishing and Vagrant Press when they published veteran children’s book author Sheree Fitch’s first novel for adults, Kiss the Joy As It Flies. Sheree was invited to attend Wordfest in Calgary, and it was my great pleasure to squire Sheree around town to attend talks and readings and promotions that had been set up for her. My part was mainly in making sure all my bookseller customers had a chance to meet this very popular author. That was the only time Sheree and I have met in person, but it was one of the most joyful days during my time as a sales rep. We laughed, we cried, we got serious … and then we laughed a lot again! This is the face I remember from my day with Sheree!
I had begun writing my own novels at that point, but had not yet published. Without having read a word, Sheree was extremely enthusiastic and encouraging of my efforts as we talked and I drove, and she then gave me the one most perfect piece of advice about writing I’ve ever heard from anyone … “Always write with joy! What you write does not need to be joyful, but you need to have joy in your heart whenever you do write!” Thank you, Sheree Fitch, for being in my life, and for continuing to be a mentor and role model, as well as a very fine author!

While Sheree Fitch is primarily known as an author of children’s books, she has recently published a book that is very much for adults dealing with grief.

You won’t always be this sad,” her mother, who also lost a son, reassures her, while a close friend encourages her to pick up the pen and write it all down. Capturing her own struggles as she emerges from shock in the wake of her son’s unexpected death at age thirty-seven, author and storyteller Sheree Fitch writes lyrically and unabashedly, with deep sorrow, unexpected rage, and boundless love. She discovers that she “dwells in a thin place now,” that she has crossed a threshold only to find herself in “the quicksand that is grief.” The result is a memoir in verse of immense power and pain, a collection of moments, and a journey of resilience.

Divided into three parts, like the memorial labyrinth Fitch walks every day, You Won’t Always Be This Sad offers words that will stir the heart, inviting readers on a raw and personal odyssey through excruciating loss, astonishing gratitude, and a return to a different world with new insights, rituals, faith, and hope. Readers, bearing witness to the immeasurable depths of a mother’s love, will be forever changed.

Here’s an interview with Sheree Fitch about her most recent book on the blog Edwards Book Club Reviews.

And here are two audio interviews with Sheree Fitch that were recently posted to the CBC website page about books.

For more information on Sheree Fitch, her books, writing, and bookstore, please see her website.

Also visit her publisher’s website: Nimbus Publishing and Vagrant Press

Dedicated Reading … My New TBR List: Part 2

This is a continuation of an earlier blogpost from the summer, Dedicated Reading … My New TBR List: Part 1

Back again with the second half of my to-be-read stack …



Paul Quarrington is next on my list. An actual mentor to me, Quarrington was the author I worked with when I was enrolled (online) in the Humber School of Creative Writing. He was an award-winning novelist, playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker, musician and writing instructor. At the time he died, I discovered he was one month younger than me – he was so accomplished, and here I was, really just starting out, flexing my own creative muscles. I wrote a tribute to Quarrington on my blog. I have paperback copies of seven of his novels, and was going to begin by reading Whale Music (which had also been made into a movie), but then I noticed the hardcover copy of Cigar Box Banjo: Notes on Music and Life that was published posthumously in 2010 by Greystone Books – who I had repped for many years. And, when I opened the book to have a better look, I discovered there is a CD/DVD attached to the back cover containing three songs and two videos by Quarrington … Bonus! So I’ll add that CD to my stack for background music while reading the novel. (I do have a copy of Quarrington‘s final CD, The Songs, but that’s in my CD library on Bequia.)

David Poulsen is an author I first met in 1993 when I was repping for Red Deer College Press and they published his novel Don’t Fence Me In, A Romance of the New West. (I have reminded Dave that we were among the few who remained relatively unscathed after working with publisher Dennis Johnson … Aritha (below) is another of those fortunate “few.”) Poulsen has not only written many books for teens and adults over the decades, but has also been an actor, TV presenter, rock singer, college instructor, high school football coach, bareback rider, rodeo clown – and an award-winning Professional Rodeo Announcer! He has served a number of times as writer-in-residence for various libraries, and is quite capable of encouraging readers, especially that difficult group of reluctant readers – teenage boys! – to get all fired up about reading books. It’s David’s enthusiasm for writing and telling a great story that attracts readers. For this reader, however, it’s also his great sense of humour and humility that comes through. I only have three print books in my library by David Poulsen (one of which is The Cowboy Country Cookbook, co-written with Barb Poulsen and Lauren Hitchner and also published by Red Deer Collge Press), but I have read many of his other titles borrowed from libraries either online as eBooks or in print editions. Here’s a video I found on YouTube about David’s career as a rodeo announcer, so I’ll let him tell you all about himself!

And when I was publishing my second novel, One Woman’s Island, David Poulsen did me the honour of providing a blurb for the back cover!



Next up is an author who may not be known outside Canada as well as I think he should be. Guy Vanderhaeghe is from Saskatchewan and began publishing after I had moved west, so I certainly knew of him and his writing early on. And his writing is superb! Any new book by Vanderhaeghe is an event, as far as I’m concerned, and worthy of being bought in a hardcover edition to add to my library. Possibly his best-known novel is The Englishman’s Boy, published in 1996. The edition I have was packed up to go with us to Bequia, so was on my shelf there, when a friend came looking for a book to lend to his American friend to read while he sat in Her Majesty’s Prison in Kingstown awaiting a murder trial. (This was a celebrated case at the time, which you may read about here.) My friend took the book and returned it a few weeks later, complete with a hand-written review on an inside page – and a “Censored” stamp from the prison! When I had the opportunity to meet Vanderhaeghe in Banff a number of years later, I took all my books for him to sign, and gave him a copy of this page … His reaction was cautiously amused.

I will be rereading Vanderhaeghe’s second book, My Present Age, published in 1984 and nominated for the Booker Prize that year.

Aritha van Herk should need no introduction! I’ve written about this author before on this blog (a post in which I explain how I know Aritha) and she also recommended the author George Melnyk on my Reading Recommendations blog. She continues to be an inspiration to me, and I’m especially grateful for the confidence she has always had in my ability to do … well, almost anything! Aritha van Herk has also had a longtime connection to two of the other authors I’m listing on these two blog posts: Robert Kroetsch and Rudy Wiebe. This time around, I will be rereading a novel that was published by our mutual friend, Dennis Johnson, when he was the publisher of Red Deer College Press, a book she describes as geografictione, Places Far From Ellesmere.

Another author I met through being his sales rep is Tom Wayman, who published Woodstock Rising, a novel with Dundurn Press in 2009. A long-time teacher at the University of Calgary, Wayman is primarily known as a poet.

And the final author in this list is Rudy Wiebe (previously mentioned above in connection with Aritha van Herk). Weibe taught for many years at the University of Alberta, but I only learned of the author and his work when I began selling books in Calgary in 1978 and realized what an important literary figure he was in the west. I know him best for his books The Temptation of Big Bear (winner of the Governor General’s Award for Fiction in 1973) and The Mad Trapper, a novel about Albert Johnson who in 1932 became the most notorious criminal in North America, the object of the largest manhunt in RCMP history. (I have a copy of the original M&S edition from 1980 and the re-issue by Red Deer Press in 2003.)

Our own Griz when he was a kitten (he’s now 13 and no longer fits on these shelves …) checking out my Bequia library of books. One of those books by Cormac McCarthy on which Griz is perched is a rare signed edition (rare because McCarthy is known for seldom signing books or doing any promotion) that was very generously given to me by a fellow Canadian sales rep.

A-R International: Lori Hahnel

Lori Hahnel
Authors-Readers International

Lori Hahnel is the author of two novels, Love Minus Zero and After You’ve Gone , as well as a story collection, Nothing Sacred , which shortlisted for an Alberta Literary Award. Her work has been nominated for the Journey Prize three times and has appeared in over forty publications in North America, Australia and the U.K. Her credits include CBC Radio, The Fiddlehead, Joyland and The Saturday Evening Post. Lori teaches creative writing in Calgary.

Lori Hahnel is another author I met through Betty Jane Hegerat who encouraged me to attend Lori’s launch at Memorial Park Library in Calgary for a new collection of stories, Nothing Sacred, she had published. I also went to see Lori for a writing consultation while she was the Canadian Authors’ Association writer-in-residence in Calgary. I learned A LOT during that all-too-brief session about not only writing short stories but also submitting them for publication in various literary magazines and websites. Lori Hahnel was one of the four authors who took part in the very first literary salon I organized. One aspect of her life Lori did not mention in her brief bio above is her lifelong connection to music: “Descended from a long line of music lovers, Lori Hahnel is the author of three previous fiction collections. During the early days of Calgary’s punk scene, Hahnel was a founding member of The Virgins, a power-pop punk group that carved its place in Calgary rock history as the city’s first all-female band.” (Thistledown Press) Not surprising then that music figures large in Lori Hahnel’s writing. I had purchased and read Hahnels’ most recent book, After You’ve Gone, and had it with me at the trailer in Ontario. When I was in Kincardine one day to go to the library (of course!), I passed a busker on the main street. I applauded when he had finished singing the song then asked if his guitar was a National. “No,” he replied, “It’s a Dobro, an original my father gave to me. But how do you know about Nationals? Do you play guitar?” No, I told him, but I’d read a book written by a friend in Calgary in which a National guitar is part of the plot, and there’s a photo of one on the cover. So the very next time I was in Kincardine, I took my copy of Lori Hahnel’s book with me and asked the busker to pose for a photo I could send back to her. (I also developed an appreciation for the music of Django Reinhardt after reading this novel!)

After You’ve Gone is the story of two generations of musicians, a jazz grandmother and a punk granddaughter, who each struggle with balancing life, love, and art in their respective eras. The novel opens in 2007 with Elsa Taggart and her ex-husband watching their son’s convocation from Seattle University. The events that bring about this everyday moment are unveiled in a series of spirited flashbacks that move convincingly between Elsa and her grandmother. Lita and Elsa’s lives are revealed in a procession of parallel events.

In 1935 Regina, Lita, a young woman of gypsy ancestry, develops a passion for playing the guitar. Encouraged and wide-eyed she joins a Regina jazz combo and begins a life that she couldn’t imagine and didn’t expect. From the first moment that she falls in love with the group’s lead singer, to the dark moment of his death, Lita’s fate is sealed.

In paralleled abandon, Elsa in 1983 has become the lead singer/songwriter and guitarist of Speed Queen, a Regina punk band. Her boyfriend Mark Taggart is also in a punk band. In love with the music scene, with each other, and their new baby, they decide their musical prospects would be better in Seattle than in Regina, a move that will prove to bring about significant changes.

Though fifty years exist between Lita and Elsa, their circumstances reflect and conform to the lives they have chosen. The daunting risks of the musician’s life coupled with the pursuit of intimate relationships lead to the heartache and grief that comes with such adventure. The pain of rejection and betrayal has to be managed, just as the responsibility of commitments must be maintained.

After You’ve Gone vibrates with authenticity: two eras, two young women caught up in the giddy thrall of love and music and feckless men. — Lee Kvern, author of The Matter of Sylvie and Seven Ways to Sunday

What Lori Hahnel is working on now …

I write a lot about music, and about old movies and the people who watch them, and these are both things that interest me. I almost always write about Canadians, although my current project is a historical novel set in 19th century Germany. It’s about Clara Schumann, the composer and pianist who was the wife of Robert Schumann and muse and lover of Johannes Brahms. My love of Schumann and Brahms’ music led me to this story, but I’m also interested in Clara’s life as a woman artist in the 19th century. As well as the love triangle aspect! ~ from an interview with Eda Lee, Writers’ Guild of Alberta, Jan. 9, 2019.

For more information about Lori Hahnel, her books, writing, and teaching, please see her website.

Lori Hahnel was a guest on my Reading Recommendations blog on Oct. 2, 2014.

A-R International: Anne Sorbie

Anne Sorbie
Authors-Readers International

Photo credit: Monique de St. Croix

Anne Sorbie is an author, editor, and creative writing instructor.

Her fiction, poetry, essays and book reviews have been published by The University of Alberta Press, Frontenac House, House of Blue Skies, and Thistledown Press; in magazines and journals such as Alberta Views, Geist, and Other Voices; and online with Brick Books, CBC Canada Writes, Geist, and Wax Poetry and Art.

Her first collection of poetry, Falling Backwards Into Mirrors, was released by Inanna Publications in October 2019.

As a past editor of Dandelion Magazine and as publisher at Skyview Press, Anne has combined her love of visual and written art to create both periodicals and chapbooks.

This year, along with writer, Heidi Grogan, Anne will co-edit the (M)othering Anthology for which you can find more information on her website.

Anne has lived in Calgary since 1973 when her parents immigrated there from Cumbernauld (near Glasgow) Scotland.

Anne Sorbie first approached me for help with promoting her books on the advice of Calgary poet and professor, Tom Wayman. As well as my assistance with her promotion, Anne was also a big help to me when it came to the literary salons I was, at that time, preparing to organize. Anne jumped in and offered to create and publish, under her imprint of Skyview Press, limited quantities of chapbooks for each salon that could then be sold. The proceeds of those sales all went to the authors who had participated in each salon.  Anne also hosted one of those salons at her own home. Her enthusiasm for this series and for the promotion they generated for all the participating authors was greatly appreciated! I still have all five chapbooks she published, and most of the authors signed their contributions in my copies. What a terrific keepsake! And here they are:

Falling Backwards Into Mirrors is a book that merges poetry and memoir. At the same time, it is a collection grounded in the body, naked and spare, wounded and wonderful. Through vivid, sensual images that evoke feeling, the speaker embraces the naked architecture of her own flesh and bones. In moments of give and take, this healing journey echoes the kind of deep explorations once undertaken by Adrienne Rich and Sylvia Plath. After a fall from a boat, water, distortions of light, and the blur of close reflection inspire the speaker to question the consistency of her own surface. She is hamstrung, literally and figuratively. She can’t stand unsupported. She can’t walk. She can’t sit. While supine for long stretches of time, her mirror becomes a vehicle for metaphor, for seeing, for reflecting, and refracting. Falling Backwards into Mirrors begins with a sudden trauma and moves forward as the surface of the speaker’s skin becomes like vellum, and landscape and love, family and community are grafted to hope.

What Anne is doing now …

In addition to Falling Backwards Into Mirrors, I published a chapbook called Songbook for a Poet this year. The backstory is on my website: 26 short poems, 13 by Robert Kroetsch and 13 responses by me, with the permission of his literary estate.

I’ve also been working on an anthology called the (M)othering Anthology this year with Heidi Grogan, which is now with a publisher.

Photo credit: Monique de St. Croix

For more information about Anne Sorbie, her books and writing, please see her website.

A-R International: Barb Howard

Barb Howard
Authors-Readers International

Barb Howard has been President of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, Writer-in-Residence for the Calgary Public Library, and editor of FreeFall Magazine. Before she took up writing full time, she was a lawyer, a probation officer, a cafeteria worker, a canoeing instructor, a camp counsellor and a chambermaid (all of which figure in her fiction and nonfiction). She currently works as the Calgary writing mentor for The Shoe Project — a literacy and performance workshop for immigrant women, and is on the Board of Directors of Calgary Arts Development.

Barb’s short story collection Western Taxidermy won the Canadian Authors’ Association 2012 Exporting Alberta Award and was a finalist at the International 2013 High Plains Book Awards. Her work has been shortlisted 4 times for Alberta Literary Awards, including twice in 2012, and she won the 2009 Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story. Barb’s fiction and nonfiction has been published in magazines, journals, and anthologies across Canada including Grain, The New Quarterly, The Dalhousie Review, Room, Alberta Views and Canadian Lawyer.

In addition to Western Taxidermy, Barb’s book-length works of fiction include Notes For Monday, Whipstock and The Dewpoint Show. She is co-editor of, and contributor to, the 2012 nonfiction anthology Embedded on the Home Front: Where Military and Civilian Lives Converge.

As with a number of other Calgary-based authors I’ve come to know, I met Barb Howard through Betty Jane Hegaret. Barb came on board from the beginning when I first set up author promotions through Alberta Books Canada, and during that time she took part in two of the literary salons I organized in Calgary, even hosting one of these at her home. Her quick wit and laughter definitely come through in her writing, which is a pleasure to read. Aside from being a an active and essential member of the Alberta writing scene through her mentoring, teaching, editing, and support of fellow writers, Barb Howard has also become involved in The Shoe Project, as she briefly mentions in her bio above. If you have not heard of this initiative, I urge you to look at and read through their website. (And I see 3 other authors in their list of mentors who I had planned to promote on this blog!)

About Western Taxidermy

Western Taxidermy is a 2012 short story collection that was a best seller when it came out and has climbed back onto the list several times since then — most recently on the Calgary Best Seller list in May 2019. Five of the stories in this collection have won awards or been finalists in competitions, including “Breaking the Mould” which was one of three finalists for the 2012 Writers’ Guild of Alberta Howard O’Hagan Award for short story. “Mrs. Goodfellow’s Dog”, also in this collection, won the 2009 Howard O’Hagan Award for short story.

Alberta Views Magazine, January/February 2013. “…It is this mix of satire and poignancy that makes Howard’s collection so attractive. These stories are funny, sardonic, smart and often reach for the grotesque. They are also compassionate and moving. Howard makes fun of human folly and commiserates with it too — and she best makes fun, perhaps, of our pretensions and delusions …The language appears effortless — you devour these stories and feel sorry when they end…[Barb Howard] is a comic voice like that of Atwood or Bill Gaston or Lynn Coady — making us laugh, and cringe, at the world and ourselves.”

What Barb is up to lately …

I have a new story coming out with the Loft 112 Long Lunch Quick Reads series in June 2020. In nonfiction, I am writing more about law and justice items these days. I’m especially happy with an essay in The Green Bag — “an entertaining journal of law” out of Washington, DC.

I’m happy to have a new 3-minute story in the short story dispenser at the Calgary Central Library. If you can’t get to the dispenser but want to read the story you can find a link to it at my website. I was at the amazing new Calgary Central Library and had a chai latte at Lukes while reading a “dispensed” 3-minute poem by Robert Frost…and I thought about how Robert Frost surely couldn’t have foreseen any of it.

For more information about Barb Howard, her books and writing, please see her website.

Barb Howard was also a guest on my Reading Recommendations blog on Feb. 18, 2014.

A-R International: Bob Stallworthy

Bob Stallworthy
Authors-Readers International

Bob Stallworthy has been active in the Alberta writing community since he began writing full-time and professionally in 1985. He is a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada and the Writers’ Guild of Alberta.

Bob has 4 books of poetry previously published. His poetry has been shortlisted for the City of Calgary, W.O. Mitchell Book Prize twice and the Stephan G. Stephansson Prize for Poetry once.

He is co-recipient of the Calgary Freedom of Expression Award, 2002; a Lifetime member of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta,1988; and the recipient of the Golden Pen Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, 2019.

He has been a Patient/Family Advisor with the Kidney Health, Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services since 2016. He is a full-time caregiver for his wife who suffered traumatic kidney failure in 2013.

I’ve known of Bob Stallworthy and his poetry since the early 80s when I was working at Books n Books in Calgary, and he was a regular customer as well as a poet learning his trade. I got to know Bob and his wife Marilyn much better when I began promoting Alberta authors in 2009. He was with me right from the beginning, along with Betty Jane Hegerat and a few other authors you’ll meet later on this blog, and I managed to get Bob a couple of reading gigs at library conferences and in rural libraries. Bob was also our knight in shining armour on one of those road trips when I’d failed to notice, as we were driving through Red Deer on our way home to Calgary, that I was running low on gas … and it was snowing. Thanks, Bob! And, if I remember correctly, this was when we were coming back from a library event where a reader cried when you read one of your poems. That was quite a moving experience for all who were present.

Here’s more information about one of those talks Bob developed and delivered to librarians. One thing I’d always been told by librarians as to why they seldom if ever bought books of poetry for their collections was that it was difficult to interest readers in actually borrowing and reading poetry. This was Bob’s reply to that problem:

Taking the Ouch out of Poetry

I created the talk because it seemed that everywhere I went people would tell me how much they disliked poetry, especially as a child/student. They were always surprised when I suggested that they used poetry (not necessarily literary poetry, but poetry nonetheless) more often than they thought they did. I would ask them to think of how many times they bought birthday cards, anniversary cards, sympathy cards, etc. As I said, not always “literary poetry”, but still poetry or verse. My hope was simply to suggest that poetry, in all its forms, does have at least one reason to be a part of this world we live in.

I suggested to the audience that I had not always liked poetry. That as a student/child I often wondered why I had to be bothered with poetry. I said that, as with so many things in our world, when I began to write poetry I also began to understand it in a way that had not occurred to me before. I started to write poetry because I failed miserably at writing short stories and novels. When I did start to write more or less full time, the things I wanted to write about and the form in which the words fell onto the page seemed to be poetry. Once I started writing in this form, I discovered how much fun it was, and how hard it was, to work with words.

And Bob Stallworthy has some exciting news to share! His new book, Impact Statement, will be released in April, 2020, by Frontenac House.

Impact Statement is a book of transitions.Transitions that are brought about by a catastrophic health situation. Transitions in life brought on by facing the potential for death and dying to happen at any time; being desperate enough to ask for help from a long ignored faith; the realization that a long time loving relationship has been neglected; understanding that that relationship can be weeded and tended like a garden until it blooms again. This is, in every sense, a book of love poems.

This book has a “story arch” that spans the 5 years 2013 -2018. It was written with the help and guidance of my mentor, friend, and poet, Richard Harrison. Both within the writers’ group he facilitates and outside of the group, Richard gave me the permission and encouragement to return to my writing in very small steps. The Thursday night poetry group gave much in the way of support and patience during this process as well.

Our friends have been phenomenal is the support that they have given us and continue to give us. In fact, the experiences which made this book possible are responsible for teaching me the meaning of REAL friendship. Because of events early in my life, a lesson that has taken 50 years to learn.

Other books by Bob Stallworthy:

Under the Sky Speaking, Snowapple Press, 1998
From a Call Box, Frontenac House, 2001
Optics, Frontenac House, 2004
Things that Matter Now, Frontenac House, 2009.

In Silhouette, an e-book hosted by Frontenac House, 2010

Here’s more information in online articles by and about Bob Stallworthy:

“What Can a Poet Say to a Fiction Writer About Writing?” on the blogsite, Fictorians.

On Being Awarded the Golden Pen by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta in 2019.

Bob Stallworthy was part of the first group of authors I hosted for the Alberta Books Canada Literary Salons in Calgary.

And Bob was also one of the authors who bid me adieu at a farewell luncheon, just before I moved away from Calgary (the last time!) in 2012. l-r: Anne Sorbie, Bob Stallworthy, Betty Jane Hegerat, Susan Toy, Lori Hahnel, Barb Howard.

A-R International: Seumas Gallacher

Seumas Gallacher
Authors-Readers International

SEUMAS GALLACHER escaped from the world of finance more than ten years ago, after a career spanning three continents and five decades. As the self-professed ‘oldest computer Jurassic on the planet’ his headlong immersion into the dizzy world of eBook publishing opened his eyes, mind, and pleasure to the joys of self-publishing. As a former businessman, he rapidly understood the concept of a writer’s need to ‘build the platform’, and from a standing start began to develop a social networking outreach, which now tops 35,000 direct contacts.

His first two crime-thrillers, THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACY and VENGEANCE WEARS BLACK blew his mind with more than 75,000 e-link downloads/sales to date. The third in what has become the ‘Jack Calder’ series, SAVAGE PAYBACK, was launched late 2013. This was followed by KILLER CITY and DEADLY IMPASSE. Number#6, NO IMPUNITY is the current Jack Calder work-in-progress.

He started a humorous, informative, self-publishers blog five years ago, never having heard of a ‘blog’ prior to that, was voted ‘Blogger of the Year 2013’ and now has a loyal blog following on his networks. He says the novels contain his ‘Author’s Voice’, while the blog carries his ‘Author’s Brand’. And he’s LUVVIN IT!

Of late, during 2017-2018, he was pleased to have been commissioned to ghostwrite three different autobiographies, and also completed a collection of his ‘blurt-it-out’ style of poetry, A FEW POETRY STOPS IN A LIFE’S JOURNEY. Also added a couple of years ago, is a small guide to social network usage for self-publishers, SELF-PUBLISHING STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL SALES. Another addition to the portfolio is the venture into AudioBooks with his first title, THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACY.

I have only ever met Seumas Gallacher via the internet, in 2014, and yet I feel as though I’ve known the man for a very long time. We must have known each other in a past life … Seumas is very much the “International” part of my recommendations of authors, as he was born in Glasgow and now lives in Bahrain, but has lived in many other places around the world during his lifetime. (You may read all about this extraordinary life in his recently released autobiography listed below.) I’ve read everything Seumas has written and enjoyed it all immensely! But what I want to tell you about “that man” is what a truly genuine friend he has been to me and to so many other indie authors we’ve both come to know on the internet. He gives as good as he gets! And then some! Seumas promotes, reviews, hosts guests’ blog posts, and just generally gives a lot of support and encouragement to his fellow authors. But he’s also a great writer in his own right, so I’m very pleased to promote Seumas Gallacher here as one of my very favourite authors!

Plus … he’s the only author who has made a video in order to recite a poem about me!

Fact is often more incredible than fiction. Seumas Gallacher has survived long enough to savour places, characters and events for more than forty years in the Far East and the Arabian Gulf. He started life in Scotland, travelled far and wide as a wannabe Trainee Master of the Universe, but the Universe had other plans for him. From a career in banking, he escaped to become a corporate trouble-shooter. He discovered the joy and torture of becoming a wordsmith, writing five best-selling crime novels, a book of poetry, and being hyper-active on social media. ‘Strangely, I’m Still Here’ is his story.

Seumas wrote a blog post for me on the occasion of his having written and published this autobiography:

Seumas Gallacher … Writing my autobiography – the best therapy ever

For more information on Seumas Gallacher and all his books, please visit his blog.

Seumas Gallacher has been a guest many times on my blog Reading Recommendations.

Seumas has also appeared as a guest blogger on this main blog of mine and has hosted me a number of times on his blog. Here’s a list of those posts.