Tag Archives: Alberta Authors
Sid Marty’s writing is strongly associated with the Rocky Mountains,
where he previously worked as a park warden in the mountain national
parks. Since l978, he has earned his living as a freelancer, writing
about natural and human history for national magazines. Sid Marty is
also known as a poet and musician and as the author of five
nonfiction titles and four collections of poetry, as well as two CDs
of original songs. His poems have appeared in a long list of school
textbooks, literary magazines and poetry anthologies such as The
Oxford Book of Canadian Verse and Colombo’s Poets of Canada. As a
musician and singer, Sid performs on guitar, mandolin and harmonica.
The Edmonton Journal, responding to Switchbacks (l999) calls him
“… a magnificent storyteller. Like a bush-camp cook, he throws
everything into the pot–high adventure-comedy, tragedy, even the
lyric adjective…” Sid Marty’s third prose title, Switchbacks
(l999) was on the National Post bestseller list for 47 weeks while
Leaning on the Wind (l995) and The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek
(2008) another bestseller, were both short-listed for the Governor
General’s Award in Nonfiction. His award-winning book Men for the
Mountains (l978) has been cited by the National and Provincial Parks
Association as one of the influential books in the Canadian
environmental movement. Sid and Myrna Marty live in southwestern
Alberta at the foot of the Livingstone Range. He is currently at work
on a long MS of new and collected poems tentatively entitled Bull
I was a newly minted Calgary bookseller in 1978, the year Sid Marty published his award-winning book, Men for the Mountains. I’m sure he came by the store to do a signing. I didn’t really get to know Sid though until much later when we were both involved with the Fernie Writers’ Conference. He led a workshop on non-fiction writing. One memorable evening during the conference, in a local Fernie watering hole, we all gathered around to witness a “poetry duel” between Sid Marty and poet/publisher Ron Smith. The challenge was that a poem was read by one of the men, then the other had to respond with one of his own poems that echoed the final line of the first poem. And on it went, for quite a while that evening, too! A lot of hilarity for the audience as well as for the two poets! I believe they agreed on a truce by the end of it all. At library conferences, I also displayed a couple of reprints of Sid Marty’s poetry books that had been re-released by Frontenac House.
While I was never a sales rep directly for any of Sid Marty’s books, I remembered just now while writing this promotion for him that I did rep for Red Deer College Press when they published the anthology, Riding the Northern Range: Poems from the Last Best West, edited by Ted Stone. Four of Sid’s poems are included in this book and he was among the contributors to read at a launch of the book held at The Longhorn Saloon in Calgary.
It wasn’t until well after that book was published that I noticed this mention on the copyright page: The publisher gratefully acknowledges … Special thanks to Patricia Roy and Susan Toy for their assistance in the preparation of this book. Unbeknownst to the two of us, Pat (now Couture) and I had been badgering Dennis Johnson to publish a book of cowboy poetry, because we knew it was hot at that time! Pat told me later that Dennis said something like this to her: “You and Susan Toy! You’re both driving me crazy about this need to publish cowboy poetry!” That was actually the extent of our “assistance” though – badgering! But it did feel good to eventually prove to Dennis Johnson we were correct about something! The book sold well!
The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek
Many citizens of Banff, Alberta, valued living in a place where wildlife grazed on the front lawn; others saw wild bears as a mere roadside attraction. None were expecting the bear attacks that summer, which led to one man’s death. During the massive hunt that followed, Banff was portrayed in the international media as a town under siege by a killer bear, and the tourists stayed away. The pressure was on to find and destroy the Whiskey Creek mauler, but he evaded park wardens and struck again and again. When the fight was over, the hard lessons learned led to changes that would save the lives of both bears and people in the coming years.
Sid Marty’s The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek is an evocative and gripping story that speaks to our complex and increasingly combative relationship with the wilderness and its inhabitants.
About Sid Marty’s music: Sid Marty began playing folk music and original songs in Calgary long before there was a Calgary Folk Music Club or an Edmonton Folk Festival. People in those days were indifferent to local songwriters, to put it mildly. Sid is a fourth generation Albertan and a former park warden who worked in the mountain national parks for many years. The songs on his second album, entitled Elsewhere, range from laments for third world child soldiers to a celebration of Alberta’s vanishing ranching culture to passionate love songs and up-tempo celebrations of Rocky Mountain days and nights
For more information about Sid Marty, his books and his music, please visit his website.
Blaine Greenwood, born in Viking Alberta 1951, is an educator by profession – with a career spanning from classroom teacher to museum educator and event planner. It is from this foundation that Blaine’s poetry has come to reflect his interest in psychology, history and spirituality. His verse has been described as “dark, homespun, sensual, rich with images
Blaine was one of the Coordinators of MOST VOCAL Poets Society. He was until very recently one of the artistic directors of Lotos Land spoken word / poetry venue at Fort Macleod Alberta’s South Country Fair and a past main stage performer. He is currently the DJ for CKXU’s Not Your Mother’s Poetry and as that show’s host, participated in 100 Thousands Poets for Change event 2013 – 2015.
The title of Blaine’s first chapbook Walking Naked Down the Street describes the experience of a writer baring his soul to the public as well as some of Blaine’s earliest attempts at poetry. Blaine’s first book was Black Cat in the Shadows. Second to be published by Ekstasis Editions The False Mirror is Blaine’s collection of prose poems about Matisse, Magritte and Dali. There are at least fou more manuscripts in various stages of writing and editing.
Blaine holds a B.Ed. and Diploma in Educational Media from the University of Alberta and lives in Lethbridge, Alberta with his wife, Dee.
I met Blaine Greenwood when the first Lethbridge Word on the Street Festival was being organized. Blaine interviewed me for a weekly show he hosted on CKXU Radio, Not Your Mother’s Poetry. Blaine has always been a very supportive and encouraging force within the Alberta poetry community.
The False Mirror
Imagine three artists sitting at their easels about to represent the world around them. Take a subject as common as the human eye. Matisse just suggested the eye with two or three strokes of bold color and often hid his initials within those strokes. Magritte took the eye and turned it into a gigantic advertising poster – with clouds floating in the iris. And then there was Dali … the eye appears, suspended in mid-air over a sky, like a bruise glassy and weeping.
The title The False Mirror is taken from the painting by Magritte. Magritte’s work takes ordinary objects and turns them into thought provoking mysteries. Dali, an ultra-surrealist. is an artist of dreamscapes that seem to scream for psychoanalysis. Matisse, who appears to be more serene of the three, is an artist that uses flat patches of intense color and tends towards an economy of line and shape.
These three artists –Matisse, Magritte and Dali – having experienced many common life experiences, represent their views of reality in radically different ways. Hopefully what this collection of poetry will cause you to do is see reality not just with your eyes but your mind and your imagination as well.
For more about Blaine Greenwood, please see his website.
Blaine Greenwood has been a guest previously on Reading Recommendations in Dec. 2015.
Brought up on a ranch in southern Alberta, Darlene Foster dreamt of writing stories, travelling the world and meeting interesting people. She also believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true. It’s no surprise that she’s now an award-winning author. Her exciting Amanda Travels series features spunky 12 year-old Amanda Ross who loves to travel to unique places. Readers from seven-to-seventy-plus enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. Darlene, her husband and their dog, Dot, divide their time between the west coast of Canada and Orihuela Costa, Spain.
I have never met Darlene Foster in person, even though we were both living in Alberta at the same time. I first discovered Darlene’s books, in fact, because of that shared Alberta experience. I was scanning the Goodreads book lists for new releases and happened upon her book, Amanda in Alberta. I thought it would be a great addition to my Reading Recommendations blog to promote a new-to-me Alberta author who was writing books for children about the province, so I contacted Darlene, and she has since appeared twice on my blog. Darlene Foster has also been an avid promoter of my books and blogs as well as the writing of many other authors we’ve both met online over the years. She continues to share and like and comment upon just about every author’s promotions I’ve posted to this A-RI series. As well, like me, Darlene now spends half of each year outside of Canada – in her case, living in Spain. Plus, the main character of her books travels to many other countries. (Arabia, Spain, England, Alberta Canada, the Danube Germany, New Mexico USA, Holland) So Darlene Foster has truly become an “international” author herself!
Amanda In Holland – Missing in Action
Amanda is in Holland to see the tulips with her best friend, Leah. She travels the canals of Amsterdam, visits Anne Frank House, checks out windmills and a wooden shoe factory, and takes pictures of the flowers of Keukenhof Gardens. While she’s there, she is keen to find out what happened to her great uncle who never returned from WWII and was declared missing in action. What she doesn’t expect to find and fall in love with is Joey, an abandoned puppy. While trying to find a home for him, she meets Jan, a Dutch boy who offers to help, a suspicious gardener, a strange woman on a bicycle, and an overprotective goose named Gerald.
Follow Amanda around the charming country of Holland, filled with colourful tulips, windmills, and more bicycles than she could have imagined. Once again, intrepid traveller Amanda encounters danger and intrigue as she tries to solve more than one mystery in a foreign country.
What Darlene Foster is working on now: I published book #7 in the Amanda Travels series, Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action in September 2019 and returned to Canada to do a successful book tour. I´m currently putting the finishing touches on Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady which is scheduled for release Spring, 2021. Amanda will continue to travel and have adventures. I have just started Amanda in France (no subtitle yet) I also have a collection of short stories about growing up in the prairies I plan to publish. Hubby and I are enjoying life in Spain and love being able to explore other wonderful European locations. We will be visiting Venice next.
For more information about Darlene Foster and her books, please see her website.
Author, musician and documentary film maker
Glenn Dixon’s third book, Juliet’s Answer (Simon & Schuster) has been published in eleven countries and translated into five languages including Chinese, Spanish and German. He was the 2014 writer-in-residence for the Vancouver International Writers Festival and his second book, Tripping the World Fantastic was shortlisted for the W.O. Mitchell Award. He has traveled through more than 75 countries and written for the New Yorker, National Geographic Magazine, the New York Post, Walrus Magazine and the Globe and Mail. He lives In Calgary, Canada.
I was Glenn Dixon’s sales rep when he published Pilgrim in the Palace of Words in 2009. Even though we both lived in Calgary at the time, we didn’t meet until he took part in a multi-author event in downtown Calgary. (I still have the paperback ARC of this book.) I continued to promote Glenn after I left repping, and we had some friends in common so I saw him around town occasionally.
During this time, Glenn was retiring from teaching and planning his next book, Tripping the World Fantastic, for which he’d be travelling to music venues around the world. It just so happened that Dennis and I were going to be on Bequia while Glenn was travelling in South America and the Caribbean, so he took a side trip to visit us! Glenn has the distinction of being the only author I knew before-hand who has come specifically to visit us here! (I’ve already promoted two other “Bequia” authors on Authors-Readers International, Betty Caroli and Felicity Harley, but I met them here first before knowing they were authors.)
Glenn Dixon has also had great success with his most recent book, Juliet’s Answer, which I have read as well, and found it to be an exceptionally good story!
Juliet’s Answer – A Memoir
One Man’s Search for Love and the Elusive Cure for Heartbreak
In fair Verona where we lay our scene…
When Glenn Dixon is spurned by love, he does something unusual. He travels to Verona, Italy, to become a scribe of Juliet, Shakespeare’s fictional character, all in an attempt to understand his heartbreak. Once there, he volunteers to answer the thousands of letters that arrive addressed to Juliet, letters sent from lovelorn people all over the world who long to understand the mysteries of the human heart.
Glenn’s journey takes him deep into the charming community of Verona, where he learns the traditions of the townspeople and becomes involved in unravelling the truth behind Romeo and Juliet—Did these star-crossed lovers actually exist? Did they live in Verona? Why have they remained at the forefront of hearts and minds for centuries? And what can they teach us about love? At the same time, we learn about Claire, Glenn’s unrequited love, the source of his heartbreak. Was she truly his soul’s match, or was she, like Rosalind in Shakespeare’s classic play, a mere infatuation who pales in comparison the moment his real Juliet enters his life?
When Glenn returns home to Canada and resumes his duties as a Grade 10 English teacher, he undertakes a lively reading of Romeo and Juliet with his students, engaging them in passions past and present. But in an intriguing reversal of fate and fortune, his students—along with an old friend—instruct the teacher on the true meaning of love, loss, and moving on.
An enthralling tale of modern-day love steeped in the romantic traditions of eras past, this is a memoir that will warm your heart.
And here’s a link to a short video about the book.
What Glenn Dixon is working on now: I do have a novel coming out – probably the spring of 2021. It’s signed to Simon & Schuster in Canada and the United States (so far – Juliet’s Answer has been published in eleven countries so I’m hoping for something similar).
For more information about Glenn Dixon, his books, films, and travel please see his website.
Glenn Dixon was a guest on Reading Recommendations in Jan. 2017.
Fred Stenson is a novelist, non-fiction writer and film writer (born at Pincher Creek, Alberta). Stenson was raised in ranching country near Twin Butte, AB, and attended school in Pincher Creek. He has a BA from the University of Calgary. He published his first novel, Lonesome Hero, in 1974 (Macmillan of Canada). Last One Home followed in 1988. Stenson’s third novel, The Trade (2000), is a richly imagined recreation of the fur trade in western North America. It was the first of a trilogy of novels set in the 19th century Canadian west. The second of these novels, Lightning (2003), featured the cattle frontiers of Alberta and Montana. Both The Trade and Lightning won the Grant MacEwan’s Author’s Prize. The Trade was a finalist for the prestigious GILLER Prize and was nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Award. The final novel in this historical trilogy is The Great Karoo, in which western Canadian cowboys sought an end-of-century adventure in South Africa’s Boer War. In his three historical novels, Stenson simultaneously mythologizes and demythologizes the West. He focuses on the lives of ordinary people, the fringe players of history, leaving the larger legends, big ranchers and political personalities to others. Before turning to historical fiction, Stenson wrote several works of fiction set in rural and urban western Canadian contemporary settings: Lonesome Hero (novel, 1974), Last One Home (novel, 1988), Working Without a Laugh Track (short fiction, 1990), and Teeth (short fiction, 1994). Stenson’s numerous non-fiction works include The Story of Calgary (1994), RCMP: The March West (1999), The Last Stack (2000), Glenbow Provincial Park (2012) and Rotary in Calgary (2014). Thing Feigned or Imagined (2002) is a guide to the writing of fiction, published by The Banff Centre Press. Stenson is the author of more than 150 film and video scripts, including two seasons of the documentary series World of Horses (first aired by Discovery Canada). He has edited two collections of Alberta writing, Alberta Bound (1986) and The Road Home (1992). Stenson was a founding member of the Writer’s Guild of Alberta, serving as its president in 1996. He has been on the council of The Writers’ Union of Canada three times. Since 2001 he has been director of the Wired Writing Studio at the Banff Centre, which ended in 2016. He has been the humor columnist for Alberta Views Magazine since its inception in 1999.
Fred Stenson lives in Pincher Creek, Alberta.
I first heard of Fred Stenson and his writing when I was working in bookstores in Calgary. A book Fred had edited, Alberta Bound, was launched to great fanfare at an event held in 1986 at Sandpiper Books, and I was thrilled that so many of the contributors – some of the top authors in the province at the time, attended that evening! Now, some 30 years or so later, I look over that list of contributors and realize that I’ve promoted a number of the authors during my book career, a few have since died, and a couple became friends. (Shirley Black, were you at this launch party???)
Over the decades since that book was published I’ve known Fred through his own writing, mainly the novels, and also because he was living in Cochrane where, when I was repping for publishers, I paid regular visits to one of my more “interesting” bookstore clients, George Parry at Westlands. Fred was a regular at the coffee shop next door, and everyone in Cochrane knew everyone else at that time. Fred was also a friend of another sales rep I’d known since I first began selling books, Greg Gerrard (whose photo of Fred is above). This business is so intertwined!
It wasn’t until much later, when I returned to Calgary as an Alberta sales rep once again in 2008, that I actually repped any of Fred’s books, and then it was only for a reprint of his novel, The Trade. In the meantime, I had been taking online writing courses and Fred Stenson had written what I thought was one of the most useful books on writing I’d read, and one that will always remain in my personal library, Thing Feigned or Imagined. This blurb says it all: “Somebody commissioned to design the perfect writing mentor would probably come back with Fred Stenson. Stenson is wise, funny, and blessedly enthusiastic about the craft of writing. This is a book real writers are going to use, again and again.” And that is so very true!
During that same time, Fred Stenson was a faculty member at The Banff Centre where he was the director of the Wired Writing Studio for eleven years. And he continued to write his own fiction, and commissioned non-fiction, to great acclaim.
Who By Fire
Fred Stenson’s most recent novel is Who By Fire (Doubleday Canada, 2014). It is the story of a southern Alberta farm family who suddenly have a dangerous gas plant on their doorstep. The only son in this family pursues a career in the oil industry, a career that ends in the present day Alberta oil sands. It is a story of community and industry, and the tragedy of lives lived too close to industry’s fire. But it is also a novel about loyalty: what loyalty means in a family, a community, a corporation, a country—or in the tormented mind of one individual who feels he has betrayed his own.
Ella Ryder has never known another home. Her three children are growing up in the same house as she was born in. Suddenly, that is a very dangerous place to be. From the award-winning, bestselling author of The Trade, Lightning and The Great Karoo, comes a powerful, passionate novel about two generations of a family caught in the path of progress.
Who by Fire is a novel of rare emotional depth and profound resonance. With unflinching truthfulness and precise detail, Fred Stenson portrays the crunching impacts between people and industry, of lives left twisting in the winds of change.
One more of Fred Stenson’s novels I’d like to mention here is The Great Karoo, because although it’s again based on Canadian history, there’s also an international aspect to it, as part of it takes place in South Africa during the Boer War. “The Great Karoo begins in 1899, as the British are trying to wrest control of the riches of South Africa from the Boers, the Dutch farmers who claimed the land. The Boers have turned out to be more resilient than expected, so the British have sent a call to arms to their colonies — and an a great number of men from the Canadian prairies answer the call and join the Canadian Mounted Rifles: a unit in which they can use their own beloved horses. They assume their horses will be able to handle the desert terrain of the Great Karoo as readily as the plains of their homeland. Frank Adams, a cowboy from Pincher Creek, joins the Rifles, along with other young men from the ranches and towns nearby — a mix of cowboys and mounted policeman, who, for whatever reason, feel a desire to fight for the Empire in this far-off war.” Another piece of Canadian history that, to me, had been previously unknown.
What Fred Stenson is working on now: “Right now I’m buried in work on a documentary film, I am still a humour columnist at Alberta Views Magazine, and I’m looking forward to getting back to my fiction when the film work is done.”
For more information about Fred Stenson, please see his website.
Fred Stenson has also been a guest on my blog Reading Recommendations in Sept. 2014.
Marcello Di Cintio
I was born in Calgary and studied Microbiology and English at the University of Calgary. I was also a member of the university wrestling team. I graduated in 1997 with a pair of degrees (a BA and BSc).
Later that year, I traveled to West Africa with a volunteer organization and taught biology in a Ghanaian village for three months. When my volunteer placement was complete, I wandered through western and northern Africa for nine months. My stories from Africa resulted in my first book, Harmattan: Wind Across West Africa. This won the Henry Kriesel Award for Best First Book.
In December 1999, hot with millennium-fever, I traveled to Jerusalem to watch the clock turn on 2000. I wandered throughout Israel and Egypt before returning to Calgary to begin a career as a freelance writer. Since then, I’ve published articles in numerous magazines and literary journals including Afar, The Walrus, EnRoute, Geist and Reader’s Digest Canada.
I traveled to Iran in the summer of 2003 seeking the connection between Persian poets and traditional wrestlers. This trip, and a subsequent return to the country the following year, yielded the stories that make up my travel memoir Poets and Pahlevans: A Journey Into the Heart of Iran. Knopf Canada published Poets and Pahlevans in 2006. The book won the Wilfred Eggleston Prize for Best Nonfiction at the Alberta Book Awards and was nominated for the Edna Staebler Award.
My last project was a book about walls, fences and other ‘hard’ barriers – and the people who live in their shadows – called Walls; Travels Along the Barricades. For this book, I visited walls and fences in Algeria, Morocco, the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, Israel, Palestine, India, Cyprus, Montreal, Belfast and along the US-Mexico border. Walls won the 2013 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, among a few other awards, and has been published in Canada (both in English and French), the US, the UK and Bulgaria.
My newest book is called Pay No Heed to the Rockets: Palestine in the Present Tense. The book reveals life in contemporary Palestine as seen through the lens of the region’s rich literary culture.
I live in Calgary with my beautiful wife and son, Amedeo.
I first became aware of Marcello Di Cintio’s writing after I had already left Calgary (the first time) to live full time on Bequia. One connection with the city I could not give up was the local food magazine, The City Palate, published by Gail Norton (owner of the bookstore, The Cookbook Company) and edited by longtime restaurant reviewer, Kathy Richardier. They mailed a subscription of the magazine to me and I’ve kept all those copies over the past 25 years. Marcello Di Cintio had contributed a number of travel pieces that involved food, and I remember being quite taken by his writing. (While preparing to write this part of the promotion, I was about to haul all my copies of the Palate off the shelves to flip through them and look for any articles written by Marcello, but then realized I had a copy of the book The Best of City Palate: 10 years of good eats and good reads (by Gail Norton and Kathy Richardier), and discovered it contained six of these articles!) Anyway, long preamble to explain that I was aware of Marcello’s writing long before I moved back to Calgary and was working to promote authors. When I did finally meet Marcello in person, it was because he was the writer-in-residence at the University of Calgary. At the same time, Betty Jane Hegerat (who I promoted here previously on A-RI) was serving as the writer-in-residence at the Calgary Public Library. An event was organized and held at Memorial Park Library at which both WIRs were invited to speak about what they had been doing, working on, and how they had been consulting other writers on their work. Over the few years after, while I was still living in Calgary, I promoted Marcello Di Cintio’s (then) new book Walls, and invited him to speak at a literary salon I had organized, named “In the Shadow of the Wall,” that featured four previous University of Calgary writers-in-residence, part of the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program – I had been serving on their selection board. (The chapbook for this salon is the one in the top right corner in the photo.)
Since that time I have also featured Marcello Di Cintio on my blog Reading Recommendations (see link below), and I’ve continued to read his writing, which just keeps getting better! His latest book, Pay No Heed to the Rockets, just proves he is a writer who deserves to reach more of an international readership, not only as his subject matter is international in scope, but also because his writing is very good indeed!
Pay No Heed to the Rockets
Celebrated author Marcello Di Cintio first visited Palestine in 1999. Like most outsiders, the Palestinian narrative that he knew had been simplified by a seemingly unending struggle, a near-Sisyphean curse of stories of oppression, exile and occupation told over and over again.
In Pay No Heed to the Rockets, Di Cintio reveals a more complex story: the Palestinian experience as seen through the lens of authors, books, and literary culture. Using the form of a political-literary travelogue, he explores what literature means to modern Palestinians and how Palestinians make sense of the conflict between a rich imaginative life and the daily tedium and violence of survival.
Di Cintio begins his journey on the Allenby Bridge that links Jordan to Palestine. He visits the towns and villages of the West Bank, passes into Jerusalem, and then travels through Israel before crossing into Gaza. En route, he meets with poets, authors, librarians, and booksellers. He begins to see Palestine through their eyes, through the stories of their stories.
Following the lives of past literary giants like Mahmoud Darwish and Ghassan Kanafani and the contemporary authors whom they continue to inspire, Di Cintio travels through the rich cultural and literary heritage of Palestine. It’s there that he uncovers a humanity, and a beauty, often unnoticed by news media. At the seventieth anniversary of the Nakba, the “catastrophe” of the Arab-Israeli War, Pay No Heed to the Rockets tells a fresh story about Palestine, one that begins with art rather than war.
Published by Goose Lane Editions (Canada), Saqi Books (UK) and from Counterpoint Books (US).
What Marcello Di Cintio is working on now: “I am currently working on the second draft of a manuscript about the “secret” lives of Canadian taxi drivers. I spent about a year traveling around the country meeting with cabbies and getting to know their back stories. The book is still untitled – though I am open to suggestions – and is scheduled for publication by Biblioasis in Fall 2020.”
For more information about Marcello Di Cintio, his writing and books, please see his website.
Marcello Di Cintio has previously been promoted on my Reading Recommendations blog in Jan. 2015.
Sharon Butala is the author of twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, numerous essays and articles, some poetry and five produced plays. She published her first novel in 1984, Country of the Heart, which was nominated for the Books in Canada First Novel Award, followed closely by a collection of short stories, Queen of the Headaches (shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award). She was born in Nipawin, Saskatchewan. After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan, she taught English in Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. She eventually returned to Saskatoon, before moving near Eastend, Saskatchewan, to live on her husband, Peter Butala’s ranch. Since her husband’s death in 2007 and after 33 years on the land, Sharon now lives and writes in Calgary, Alberta.
In the last few years her interest has turned to the lives of aging people, and to the condition of being old in this society, and inevitably, to the issue of ageism and how it blights the lives of those advanced in years, but still very much alive and capable, and also, how society is greatly diminished by its unwillingness to accept aging and the aged. Beginning with a “Walrus Talk” on ageism in 2017, she is in demand to give talks on these subjects, which inevitably also touch on grief and loss, as well as on the richness of the inner lives of the thoughtful old, and the gifts they have to offer others and to society.
The first time I met Sharon Butala was in 1992 when I was her sales rep for the book Harvest: A Celebration of Harvest on the Canadian Prairies published by Fifth House. Sharon was invited to attend my Canadian Day presentations I gave in Regina for the benefit of my customers, the booksellers and librarians in Southern Saskatchewan. Gail Bowen also took part in this same event. After that time Sharon went on to write and publish many more books, but unfortunately for me none were published by companies I represented. It wasn’t until we were both living in Calgary again that we reconnected. I’ve been doing some promotion for Sharon (see below for her listings on Reading Recommendations) over the past few years, and I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve read that she’s been publishing. But I absolutely loved reading Sharon Butala’s latest collection of short stories, Sound of Fury and Wonder because, as a woman in her (now) senior years, it spoke to me. And I have so many friends who are of the same vintage and would “get” the stories and characters in this book. I want them all to read this! It’s a book I would also like to put into the hands of those who are not older women, so I could say to them, “Read this. Understand us and know that this is who we are and this is how we feel.” Thank you, Sharon, for speaking so eloquently for us about all our lives.
Season of Fury and Wonder
“Crone lit” stories that are examples of the wisdom and insights of older women and at the same time tributes to the classic literature that inspired them.
“There are things that it is impossible to learn when you are young, no matter how much you read and study.” The season of fury and wonder, in Sharon Butala’s world, is the old age of women. These stories present the lives of old women – women of experience, who’ve seen much of life, who’ve tasted of its sweetness and its bitter possibilities, and have developed opinions and come to conclusions about what it all amounts to. These are stories of today’s old women, who understand that they have been created by their pasts.
Not content to rest on her considerable literary laurels, Sharon Butala continues to push the boundaries of her art. The stories in Season of Fury and Wonder are all reactions to other, classic, works of literature that she has encountered and admired. These stories are, in their various ways, inspired by and tributes to works by the likes of Raymond Carver, Willa Cather, James Joyce, Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Conner, John Cheever, Alan Sillitoe, Ernest Hemingway, Tim O’Brien, Edgar Allan Poe and Anton Checkov.
For more information about Sharon Butala, her writing and her books, please see her website.
Aritha van Herk
Aritha van Herk is a cultural commentator as well as an award-winning Canadian novelist whose work has been acclaimed throughout North America and Europe. She has given readings, lectures, and workshops on culture and community, literature and life, in the United Kingdom, the United States, Singapore, Australia, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Austria, the Baltics, and Scandinavia. Her popular, creative and critical work has been widely published and her work has been translated into ten languages.
Aritha van Herk was born in central Alberta, read every book in the library at Camrose, and studied at the University of Alberta. She first rose to international literary prominence with the publication of Judith, which received the Seal First Novel Award and was published in North America, the United Kingdom and Europe.
Her other novels include The Tent Peg, No Fixed Address: An Amorous Journey, Places Far From Ellesmere, Restlessness. In Visible Ink and A Frozen Tongue collect her essays and ficto-criticism.
Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta offers an unorthodox narrative of that province’s past. Mavericks so inspired the Glenbow Museum of Calgary, that they created a permanent Alberta gallery and named the gallery after the book. Aritha van Herk returned to her Alberta stories to create Audacious and Adamant: A Maverick History of Alberta, the companion book to the exhibition.
Aritha van Herk is a member of the Royal Society of Canada, and a Professor who teaches Canadian Literature and Creative Writing in the Department of English at the University of Calgary, but first of all, she is a writer who loves stories.
Aritha van Herk is the author I’ve known longest of any here who I am promoting in this series. I was working at The Guild Gallery of Artists and Authors in Calgary during 1979 when Aritha won the first-ever Seal First Novel Award for Judith and we hosted her at the bookstore for a signing. This was the biggest monetary prize ever offered in Canada so a Calgarian winning it was a big deal indeed! Fast forward to the mid-80s when I was working for another Calgary bookstore, Books ‘N’ Books. Aritha would come into the store regularly to browse and buy, because we had such a good selection of international fiction. Aritha has always been a huge reader! Then flash ahead again to the early 90s when I became a publishers’ sales rep and was selling books for Red Deer College Press. The publisher, Dennis Johnson, was then publishing Aritha’s books, so I became her sales rep! I studied a brilliant course offered at UofC on medicine in literature that Aritha taught along with a medical doctor. And I attended a number of lectures and talks about writing she delivered whenever I had the opportunity. We even drove to Fernie together for the Fernie Writers’ Conference and I enrolled in her class. We’ve kept in contact sporadically since then, together mourning the loss and paying tribute to two very important men in both our lives (Robert Kroetsch and Dennis Johnson), and getting together for a glass of wine and a catch-up a couple of times when I was in Calgary. So I was quite pleased when I learned that Aritha van Herk’s first novel, Judith, had been adapted into a play and the premier performance would be held in June 2018 at the annual Blyth Festival. Blyth is less than an hour away from the trailer park where I spend my summers! I contacted Aritha immediately and found out she and her husband planned to attend the opening night “gala” – which included a Pork Dinner beforehand, as this performance of the play was sponsored by the Pork Producers of Ontario. (You’ve gotta love these small rural communities!) So I drove to Blyth and parked on the main street. As I was getting out of my car, another car pulled into the space behind me. It was Aritha and her husband, Bob! That was a great evening we had, and I thought the play was an excellent adaptation of the novel! The theatre was packed, too. My only regret was that Aritha and Bob had to leave Ontario the next day, so I could not take them back with me to the trailer for a longer visit. Here are the festival and play programmes, my hardcover copy of Judith (signed by the author!) and one of the little paper “pigs” that were part of the dining table decorations. (Aritha had grabbed the few from our table and handed one to me – a little momento of our evening together.)
I recently included Aritha van Herk in a blog post I wrote about my new TBR list, since earlier in the year I had “repatriated’ to my trailer all the books (and there were A LOT!!!) I’d previously left behind in a Calgary storage unit for a number of years.
And while I was reading through previous posts on my blog in which I’d mentioned Aritha, I discovered that this interview first broadcast on the old “Bookmark” programme on CKUA Radio is still available. Aritha van Herk speaks with host Ken Davis about literacy.
For more information about Aritha van Herk, her writing, books, teaching and travels, please see her website.
Robert Hilles is a Canadian poet and novelist who divides his time between Nanaimo and Khon Kaen, Thailand.
Born in Kenora, Ontario, Hilles studied at the University of Calgary, earning a BA in Psychology and English in 1976. He also holds an MSc in Educational Psychology, earned at the university in 1985.
Hilles lived for many years in Calgary, Alberta and was active in the writing community there. For ten years he acted as the managing editor of Dandelion, the oldest surviving literary magazine in Alberta. He developed the magazine from a small pamphlet to one of the most respected literary magazines in Canada. During that time he also organized many successful readings featuring writers from across the country. In 2001, he moved to British Columbia and has been active in the literary community there, especially on Salt Spring Island where he lived until 2019. With other writers there, he helped to set up a scholarship for beginning writers on Salt Spring and also organized a new reading series on the island.
He served on the executive of the League of Canadian Poets for five years and in 1996 was sent by the League and the Department of Foreign Affairs to represent Canada at an International Poetry Festival in Japan. Hilles won the 1994 Governor General’s Award for Poetry for Cantos From A Small Room. In the same year, his first novel, Raising of Voices, won the Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s George Bugnet Award for Novel. He has published sixteen books of poetry and five books of prose.
“I divide my time between Nanaimo BC and Thailand. In 1994, I won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry for Cantos From A Small Room. In the same year, my first novel, Raising of Voices, won the Writers Guild of Alberta George Bugnet Award for best novel. I have published fifteen books of poetry and five books of prose. My other books include: Finding The Lights On, Near Morning, Nothing Vanishes, Kissing The Smoke, Breathing Distance, Somewhere Between Obstacles and Pleasure, Higher Ground, Wrapped Within Again, Slow Ascent, Partake, and Time Lapse. Wrapped Within Again, New and Selected Poems was published in the fall of 2003 and won the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for best book of poetry. My second novel, A Gradual Ruin, was published by Doubleday Canada in 2004 and now is in paperback and ebook formats. My books have also been shortlisted for The Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Prize, The W.O. Mitchell/City of Calgary Prize, The Stephan Stephansson Award, and The Howard O’Hagan Award. My second non-fiction book, Calling The Wild, was published in the fall of 2005 from Black Moss Press. My thirteenth book of poetry, Slow Ascent, was published in the fall of 2006 and Partake in Spring 2010 from Black Moss Press. Time Lapse was published in 2012. I have completed a short story collection called, Release. My latest poetry books are Line (2018) and Shimmer (2019) both published by Black Moss Press.”
When I worked at the Calgary bookstore Books ‘n’ Books during the early 80s I had the opportunity to meet many authors, mainly poets, because the store made a point of supporting and promoting the local writing community. Plus, BnB was the kind of place people liked to hang out and talk about writing and books. There were two big overstuffed chairs in the front window, right next to the cash desk, and there was usually someone sitting in those chairs, especially on a Friday evening, either chatting or reading. Robert Hilles was one of these poets who visited the store regularly, and by that point in his career he had only published three collections of poetry. Since then, Robert has gone on to publish twenty-two volumes of his writing and has won numerous awards, including the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1994 for Cantos From a Small Room. So I really have known Robert for quite a long time! We kind of lost touch after I left that bookstore, but have reconnected within the past decade or so and I’ve done more promotion for him and his work lately. Robert Hilles is another of the authors whose work I hear read regularly on Bob Chelmick’s radio programme, The Road Home. I mentioned this programme in the A-RI promotion I did for Rosemary Griebel. In this case, though, I know that while I’m sitting on my verandah in the Caribbean listening to The Road Home, Robert is likely also listening in while in Thailand on the other side of the world!
Shimmer: Love Poems
At the core of Governor General Award winning poet Robert Hilles’ twenty—second book and seventeenth poetry book is a series of love poems.
These poems convey love’s many nuances and express its tenuous, yet potent nature. Through precise details, the poet reveal love’s spiritual crucible. The poems are specific yet universal as they reveal love’s varied complexities. Love poems have long been a tenure of poets and he adds a contemporary take on them as he shifts between the concrete and the sublime.
Here’s what Robert Hilles is working on now: “My novel set in Thailand called, Don’t Hang Your Soul On That, will be published by Guernica Editions in 2021. (You may read samples of the first two chapters here – Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.) I am working on a book of prose poems called, A Piece of Rag Wrapped Gold (a book about the atomic age and includes poems on the Aftermath of the Chernobyl accident, Particle Physics and more love poems), and a book of flash fiction called, Pink Puppet. I am also currently working on two novels set in Canada called, To Parts Unknown and The Stoneboats, and a second novel set in Thailand called, One True Note.”
For more information on Robert Hilles, his writing and books, and where to purchase, please see his website.
Born in the farming community of Castor, Alberta, Rosemary Griebel grew up on the prairies. Currently Special Projects Manager with the Calgary Public Library, where she has worked for 20 years, Rosemary’s poems have been published on CBC’s radio program Anthology, in national journals, in the Calgary Transit’s “Poetry in Motion” series of in-vehicle posters, and in chapbooks by Leaf Press. Her poems have won FreeFall Magazine’s national poetry contest three times – in the second year of the contest, two of her poems, unknown to the judges to be by the same author, tied for first place.
Dennis and I both met Rosemary Griebel’s husband long before I ever got to know Rosemary herself. Richard Harvey was managing one of the two private wine stores that had been newly opened in Calgary, and it was located, conveniently, on our drive from our jobs downtown to our house in the southwest. Everyone should have a personal wine merchant! It wasn’t until many years later, When Rosemary had launched her book of poetry and was reading at a bookstore as part of a Freefall Magazine event that she came up and introduced herself to me, saying, “I think you know my husband!” Rosemary was also a librarian, working for the Calgary Public Library, so it was a given that I would want to promote her book of poetry, Yes., at the various library conferences where I was displaying books and speaking about Alberta authors. Rosemary was also one of the authors who took part in the first literary salon I organized.
The truly lovely connection though that I maintain with Rosemary Griebel is that while I’m living at my house in the Caribbean during the winter months, I listen to Bob Chelmick’s radio programme The Road Home that is available online. Bob reads poetry and plays lovely music, and prerecorded poetry read by the poets themselves. It has never ceased to amaze me how often I turn on The Road Home and hear … Rosemary Griebel’s voice! I recognize her immediately! And, believe it or not, Rosemary, I even heard you reading “St. Stephen’s Church, December Night” while I’ve been preparing this promotion for you! (I wrote a blog post about this connection I have through The Road Home with authors back in Canada. Another of these authors will be appearing here in a few days’ time.)
“Witness” is a fine word to describe Rosemary Griebel’s attitude to life, to writing. Not just witness in the sense of one who sees what anyone in the same place would see, but witness in the religious sense as well – one who understands and speaks of the miracles that linger in the day-to-day. An intensely reflective poet, Rosemary’s work calls on the stink of the pig sty, the luminous words of Basho, the hoarse prayers of Walt Whitman. Yes is Rosemary Griebel’s long-awaited first book, an intimate journey through love and loss, an affirmation of the importance of curiosity, passion and vision.
Yes. is published by Frontenac House. Please see their website for purchasing the book.
Something very exciting happened recently for both Rosemary Griebel and the entire writing community of Calgary – Project Bookmark Canada “planted” a plaque, the first in Alberta, as part of their “putting pieces of stories and poems in the exact, physical locations where literary scenes are set” – in this case, “Walking with Walt Whitman Through Calgary’s Eastside on a Winter Day,” by Rosemary Griebel!
Another project in which Rosemary Griebel has been instrumental in its execution is the new Central Branch of the Calgary Public Library that opened just over a year ago. As Rosemary explained, “There were so many people who worked on the New Central Library project so I don’t feel I deserve special mention. That said, I did work as the Assistant Project Manager for 10 years, and was involved in programs and curated displays that promote reading. I am particularly proud of the TD Great Reading Room, and the reverence that the room bestows on books, reading and the creative realm of silence.” I had the opportunity to see this new library when I was in Calgary last May and, as far as I’m concerned EVERYONE who had anything to do with executing this project should stand up and take a bow. It’s magnificent! Take a look at these two videos, from the library itself and the CBC News, and try to imagine just how spectacular it is in real life!