Tag Archives: Alberta Authors
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!
Brian Brennan is the author of sixteen best-selling books, most about the social history and colourful personalities of Canada’s past.
Born, raised, and educated in Dublin, Ireland, he has called Canada home for the past 50 years. Since 1974, he has lived and worked in Calgary, where he spent 25 years as a staff columnist and features writer with the Calgary Herald. Before that, he toured Canada as a professional musician and worked as a radio news announcer in Prince George, British Columbia.
Brennan has won numerous awards for his journalism, including two Western Magazine Gold Awards, the national Hollobon Award for medical reporting, and the Professional Writers Association of Canada Features Writing Award for a profile of Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi.
He has also won awards for his books, including the first Dave Greber Freelance Writers Award for Romancing the Rockies, and the Petroleum History Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award “for making numerous contributions to the body of literature concerning the Canadian petroleum industry, including many focused on its colourful personalities and significant events.”
His interest in Canadian history was sparked in 1992 when he was assigned by the Calgary Herald to write a daily feature column about the lives of extraordinary individuals who had recently died. When he left the Herald in 1999, he revisited several of those columns to incorporate the stories into his books.
One of his most constantly sought-after books is Scoundrels and Scallywags, which sold more than ten thousand copies and topped the regional best-seller charts for more than eighteen months. A sale of five thousand copies, according to generally-accepted industry standards, qualifies as a best-seller in Canada. Doubling that allows a writer to move in the foothills of immortality.
When I was a bookseller in Calgary during the 80s, I knew of Brian Brennan as he was a journalist at The Calgary Herald. He did not begin publishing books however until after I had moved to the Caribbean, so it wasn’t until I returned to Canada in 2008 I discovered his by-then “backlist” of non-fiction publications. Then, when Brian began reissuing and publishing some of those earlier books himself, I got to know him in person, especially as he was writer-in-residence at the Calgary Public Library‘s Memorial Branch and had been commissioned to write the library’s hundredth anniversary celebratory history, The Calgary Public Library: Inspiring Life Stories Since 1912. I was asked to help with sales and distribution of the book.
I also had the opportunity to consult with Brian, as the library’s writer-in-residence, about one of my own short stories I’d been writing. I’ve been avidly following Brian’s re-issuing of earlier published books (that had gone out of print) in eBook format, and am enjoying his new books as he writes and releases them: A collection of interviews with celebrities, his memoir, and his very first novel, released in Aug. 2019 and available in eBook and print editions. I bought the print copy and read it immediately. Brian Brennan writes fiction just as well as he has always written non-fiction. This is an excellent story!
The Love of One’s Country
In Dublin, 1966, 23-year-old Jerry Burke quits his soul-destroying job in the Irish civil service to make a new life for himself in Canada and put behind him a dark secret from his republican past.
At the same time, he undertakes to find out what happened to his ancestor, Diarmuid Burke, who came to Canada in 1847, the most devastating year of the Irish potato famines.
Far as Jerry can discover, his ancestor did make it over to Canada, but why was he never heard from again?
The mystery finally starts to unravel in 1992, when Jerry learns that his ancestor kept a detailed diary account of his journey and that the journal has survived as an essential first-hand chronicle of this lamentable period in Irish history.
Brian Brennan is also a founding feature writer with Facts and Opinions, “a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers.”
For more information about Brian Brennan’s writing, books, and journalism, please see his website.
Brian Brennan was the sixth author I featured on Reading Recommendations back in Nov. 2013 and has been a guest on the blog a number of times since then.
David A. Poulsen has been a rodeo competitor and rodeo clown, rock singer, high school football coach, stage and film actor, documentary television writer and host, and college English instructor. Since retiring from rodeo competition – he admits to being a not-very-good bareback rider and later an accident-prone rodeo clown, David Poulsen has taken up residence in announcers’ stands across North America. The results have been tremendously positive both for David and audiences who have listened to his knowledgeable and enthusiastic commentary for the more than twenty-six years.
With 1500 performances to his credit, the likable Alberta native has appeared at many of the major rodeos and bull riding events in Canada, among them the Canadian Finals Rodeo, the Calgary Stampede, and the PCB Bull Riding Finals. Equally at home in front of a TV camera, he has been seen on CTV Wide World of Sports, TSN Television Sports and each year co-hosts the popular Stampede Roundup program on Calgary’s CFCN-TV with Glen Campbell. He also acted as co-host of the documentary series The Complete Rider for The Outdoor Life Network. David’s announcing talents have also taken him to the big screen. He twice played the role of a rodeo announcer in the successful family series The Black Stallion and was behind the microphone for the rodeo scenes in the movie Convict Cowboy that starred Jon Voigt
David is also a successful writer. His writing career began in earnest in 1984 when his short story The Welcomin’ won the Alberta Culture Short Story Writing Competition. Because a number of his books target young readers, David spends between 60 and 80 days a year in classrooms across Canada, talking to kids about his books and his life as a writer and sharing his stories with students.
David and his wife Barb raise running quarter horses on a small but picturesque ranch (El Rancho Pequino) in the Alberta foothills west of Claresholm.
You’ve got to love it when you contact an author about the scheduled date for his promotion here on the the blog and he replies immediately with the explanation: “I’m in Las Vegas until the 16th at the National Finals Rodeo (I’m pretty busy at the NFR, especially as the 15th is the final day) …” !!
I was Southern Alberta sales rep when I first got to know about David Poulsen and his (at-that-time) only adult novel, Don’t Fence Me In, published in 1993 by the inimitable Dennis Johnson who headed up Red Deer College Press. David and I didn’t actually meet in person though until years later when he was keynote speaker at a Lethbridge library conference I attended. He was known then for his books for teens that were especially good for encouraging reluctant boy readers to pick up and read an entire book. He was also writing and publishing what I would call “crossover” books – a series of Young Adult novels on topics that also draw in and interest adult readers … readers like me! Since then, he has seen great success with his ongoing Cullen and Cobb mystery series for adults, set in Calgary (published by Dundurn Press of Toronto, another publisher I used to represent).
I was quite chuffed when David provided me with a blurb for the back cover of my own second mystery novel!
The Man Called Teacher
One man. One town. One almost forgotten crime. When the stranger who has answered the ad for the teaching position at Kecking Horse School climbs down from the stage on a sleepy Montana afternoon, things are about to change. With Virgil Watt, cowboy, horse-breaker and the first black man in the history of the town by his side, the stranger quickly upsets the tranquility of the town’s leading citizens, administers a vicious beating to a couple of the town’s toughs and sets out to avenge a long neglected wrong. A reader of books, a lover of laughter, a lawman/lawbreaker with a .44 strapped to his leg–he is the man called Teacher.
From David: I have to say I’m kind of pumped. For years people have said to me…so you’re a writer and you live the western lifestyle, how is it you’ve never written a western? Well, the truth is I’ve had one gathering dust in a drawer of my desk for maybe ten years. Recently I pulled it out, took a look at it and decided, to re-work it and see what might happen. Well, what happened is the Calgary-based publisher BWL (Books We Love Ltd.) has accepted it and fast-tracked it to have it appear in December (yes, THIS December). More on actual release date for The Man Called Teacher in the coming days. (Now available online in eBook format. And also available on Overdrive for libraries. I’ve just recommended it to my library!)
Here’s the video of an interview with David Poulsen about being a Rodeo Announcer:
For more information about David A. Poulsen, his writing, books, and his “other” career, please check out his website.
David Poulsen has been a frequent guest since Feb. 2014 on my blog Reading Recommendations.
Alice Major has published eleven collections of poetry, two novels for young adults and an award-winning collection of essays about poetry and science. She came to Edmonton the long way round. She grew up in Dumbarton, Scotland – a small town on the banks of the Clyde, not far from Glasgow. Her family came to Canada when she was eight, and she grew up in Toronto before coming west to work as a reporter on The Williams Lake Tribune in British Columbia. Alice Major has lived in Edmonton, Alberta since 1981.
Alice has been an active supporter of the arts and writing community:
First poet laureate for the City of Edmonton (2005-7)
Past president of the League of Canadian Poets,
Past president of the Writers Guild of Alberta,
Past chair of the Edmonton Arts Council.
Founder, Edmonton Poetry Festival
Alice reads her work frequently at many venues across Canada. She has also read in Britain at the University of Leeds, and in Australia at the Varuna Writers Centre in Katoomba and the NSW Writers Centre.
Alice’s work has been broadcast a number of times on the CBC’s “Alberta Anthology.” Other performances include the Time Capsule project (for Edmonton’s Symphony Hall), and a Gala Performance for the Global Arts & Culture Symposium at the University of Alberta. (The last event was directed by Veronica Tennant)
She has taught numerous sessions for schools and young writers’ conferences in Alberta on writing poetry. She has been creative writing instructor for the Lakeland College Summer Program and writer-in-residence at Grant McEwen Community College in Edmonton.
Alice Major also recently received an honorary degree from the University of Alberta and delivered the speech at their convocation. (Her introduction and speech begin at 37:43.)
During 2008-9, I was the Alberta sales rep for the University of Alberta Press and eventually met Alice Major who had already published several books with the scholarly press by that point. I attended a number of Press events in Edmonton over the following years where I had an opportunity to meet and talk with Alice in person, and then I continued to promote her books (through the Press) when I set up Alberta Books Canada. She has been a tremendous support, not only to me, but to our fellow authors, and for that, and her enthusiasm about the writing, I thank Alice Major heartily!
Alice was also among the authors UAP brought from Edmonton to Calgary for the final Literary Salon, which the Press co-sponsored.
Welcome to the Anthropocene
Robert Kroetsch Series
Alice Major observes the comedy and the tragedy of this human-dominated moment on Earth. Major’s most persistent question—“Where do we fit in the universe?”—is made more urgent by the ecological calamity of human-driven climate change. Her poetry leads us to question human hierarchies, loyalties, and consciousness, and challenges us to find some humility in our overblown sense of our cosmic significance.
Here’s a link to an exceptionally comprehensive look at Alice Major’s work, and Welcome to the Anthropocene in particular, on Kathleen Wall’s blog, Blue Duets.
Here are a pair of podcasts in which Alice Major is interviewed about her writing and Welcome to the Anthropocene.
For more information about Alice Major, her books and writing, please see her website.
Alice Major was a guest on my blog, Reading Recommendations on July 27, 2015.
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 …
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.
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.
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.
For more information about Anne Sorbie, her books and writing, please see her website.
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.
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.
Betty Jane Hegerat
Betty Jane Hegerat is a Canadian Author who I first met when I was representing her publisher and selling their books to bookstores and libraries throughout Alberta. She has since become a good friend and also provided me with some editing and mentoring over the years, wrote a blurb for the front cover of the print edition of my first novel, and was the one who said, “Oh, Susan, I would pay you to look after promoting my books for me so I could just write …” – which she did, and thus began my career as an author impresario! She’s still always offering sage advice on the many ideas I come up with to promote authors and their books, and gave her approval of this current idea, Authors-Readers International. (Although she is quick to point out the real stinkers: “Susan, you’ve always had many good promotion ideas, but hiring authors to entertain at adult birthday parties isn’t one of them.”)
Betty Jane likes to say that she loves books and libraries so much that she gave birth to a librarian! I know too that Betty Jane’s entire family avidly reads. Even her cat Rosie has good taste in literature.
When Betty Jane decided to ePublish her first novel (first published in print in 2006 by Newest Press), she asked for my help, and the eBook edition of Running Toward Home was released in Dec. 2017.
Twelve year old Corey Brinkman is, as his great grandfather knows for sure in his heart, En goede jongen, such a good boy. In fact, everyone else with a place in Corey’s life would describe him so. How, then, does a good boy end up at the Calgary Zoo, feeling utterly alone as he darts here and there during the night? Corey Brinkman is also a runner. The file on the social worker’s desk is thick with events that eventually brought Corey to the zoo. It’s a long narrative of dysfunction set into motion long before his birth. There’s one person Corey will, without hesitation, always blame for his chaotic life, one person he hates. But Corey is also not easy on himself, and blames his feet for his current troubles. Without knowing that people who care about him are circling around the zoo, hoping to find him safe, Corey waits. Tigers, monkeys, peacocks, and the great stony-faced dinosaurs are his only company.
I also wanted to mention here another of Betty Jane Hegerat’s books, because it was a ground-breaker when it was published, being a combination of fact (history), fiction, and memoir – quite a hybrid, actually. Here, in an interview with Jane Sillcott in The Malahat Review is an explanation of why this book is so good:I’ve just finished reading The Boy by Betty Jane Hegerat. It’s an amazing amalgam of forms. Hegerat uses fiction, creative nonfiction and a bit of fantasy to investigate the story of the last man hanged in Alberta. I find this incredibly exciting. It raises all kinds of questions for me about how I receive information, how a story inhabits me. Does it do so more fully in fiction or nonfiction? Do I need the connection with character to be drawn in fully? At first the fiction drew me emotionally and I found the investigation less compelling. Gradually I began to feel the tension in the narrator (Hegerat) as she was drawn deeper and deeper into this story, and the emotional component was there too, which is interesting to me — the different pacing and levels of tension and engagement in the two forms. The book wrestles with: how could this happen, what about this boy who was hanged? At the same time it takes us inside different parts of our minds, which is brilliant. That’s the great thing about good creative nonfiction — you can do whatever you want to do — you can write about dreams; you can fantasize; you can imagine; you can make things up — as long as you’re straightforward about it.
For more information about Betty Jane Hegerat, her books and writing, please see her website.
For more information about the new eBook edition of Running Toward Home, see IslandCatEditions.
Rick Bergh has been featured previously on Reading Recommendations, first in March 2016 and again in April. He’s back now to tell us how it is that his children’s books are now being read by Haitian children!
How Our Children’s Books Ended Up in Haiti
I love how life surprises us when we least expect it.
My wife, Erica, and I had completed two of our children’s books and brought them to our annual Boxing Day gathering – a wonderful family tradition on my mother’s side, which I have not missed in 56 years.
My cousin, Mark, purchased a few copies of these books (after all, you expect your family to buy your books, right?).
Little did I know those children’s books would find their way to an orphanage in Haiti! All the way from Calgary, Alberta!
Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s no big deal …” But it was for me. Let me explain.
Over ten years ago, my daughter, Keeara, went to volunteer at the very same orphanage – she was an 18-year-old girl trying to figure out her next step in life. Her time in Haiti coincided with her mom’s struggle with cancer. So the whole family was in transition and wondering what the future would hold.
Pam, her mom, said “Keeara, go and volunteer at this orphanage.” She did and it changed her life forever. She became an elementary school teacher as a result.
Fast forward 11 years and my cousin’s daughter, Emily, is now volunteering at the same orphanage. We did not make the connection until I asked Emily what orphanage she was going to and it was the exact same one where Keeara had worked.
WOW! So, now Emily is reading these stories to the children – the same stories that I made up and told to my children, including Keeara. Our next book due to be published soon is actually about Keeara (Stretchy Cheese Pizza) and her son, Connor.
And now Emily was reading these same stories I told our children when they lay in bed asking me to tell them a story. Fascinating that it was not long ago when an 18-year-old-Keeara was reading books to these special children in Haiti. And now, they will soon be reading stories about her and her son, Connor.
We are sending copies over for the children in Haiti to read as soon as the new book is published in June. The stories come full circle!