Tag Archives: Don Gillmor
This is the second part of a series in which Authors who I’ve promoted in the Authors-Readers International series tell Readers what they’ve been doing during these past few months of self-isolating … See the introduction to Part 1 for a further explanation. (All links on the authors’ names will take you to their A-RI promotion.)
Pincher Creek, Alberta, is my home since last summer, as I believe you know. The advantage is that Pincher in Iso is quite a bit like Pincher not in Iso. Have to watch my step only at the post office and Co-op. And strictly avoid Walmart. Two hour walks are frequent—to offset my beer consumption.
Working on a film with Tom Radford. Great fun.
I’ve been reasonably busy during the pandemic. My book about the secret lives of taxi drivers has been delayed due to all of this chaos, but this has given me a chance to add pandemic-related material to the manuscript. I also taught an online class on travel writing at Pandemic University, and one on nonfiction for the Alexandra Writers Centre. I landed a short piece about COVID brides-to-be on the CBC Calgary website and had a personal essay published on May 18th in the CBC Books’ “Transmission” series. All the while, I’ve been pitching COVID-related stories to various magazines. I am also working on a profile for a US-based medical cannabis journal, and a feature story about sex work in Calgary.
I have a new short story collection coming out this fall with Enfield & Wizenty. The book is called Vermin: Stories, and expected pub date at this point is Oct. 22. Here’s a link to the publisher’s page.
I also finally got a new headshot! (credit Jodi O Photography)
Lori Hahnel continues to add posts to her blog and is going to be offering a webinar on writing in June. See her blog for details.
I wish I could say I’ve been spending my covid time learning a new language, or taking piano lessons, or bullfighting classes online. I have finished a draft of a novel though, and am adapting to online yoga classes. Though I was self-isolating more before the pandemic, when everyone left the house in the morning. Now all four of us are here all day, every day. So an adjustment. Playing my monthly poker game via Zoom has been an adjustment as well. And perhaps it’s a good thing that this is the coldest spring in memory (it snowed yesterday) as fewer people are tempted to go out. But it would be nice to at least have the back yard as an option. And the snow may be keeping the murder hornets at bay.
Again thanks for doing this for us – it is so incredibly generous of you. As for me I’m editing the next two books in my series – Rebirth and Tesla’s Dream, as you know, and hoping to get that done by the fall. The coronavirus has slowed down the process since I have my daughters and granddaughters at home, and there are lots of interruptions. However I’m finding bits and pieces of time to do my work and am also okay with giving some of it up since this is a unique and precious time to be with my granddaughters (note: granddaughters) that I won’t have again. (One of Felicity’s granddaughters even wrote me a fan letter!)
I haven’t written anything on the virus but in my books I predict pandemics as part of the effects of climate change. There is a typical tension between the needs of businesses to make money and the working poor who facilitate that. It’s never been very different; those with less resources have always been sacrificed on the altars of the rich.
Again, thank you for all you are doing to promote Canadian/Alberta authors. It is a huge amount of work. I do appreciate all you’ve done to promote my books.
What have I been doing during the pandemic?
My book, Impact Statement, has been published and is now available from Alpine Book Peddlers in Canmore as well as the independent bookstores, Pages, ShelfLife and Owl’s Nest in Calgary. I believe it will be available through Amazon and Indigo as well, but I haven’t any idea just when that will happen.
Frontenac House and I are talking about having some kind of internet launch. No date or time as yet. It may be a ZOOM event, but that hasn’t been settled yet either. Will let you know when all is sorted out. Here’s a link to the book on the publisher’s site.
Of course, I am still a full-time care giver for my wife, Marilyn. Things are going as well as they can, but some of the work has to be done carefully.
As well, I am now into the gardening season. Trying to get my yards and flowerbeds into shape.
Like me, Canadian author Darlene Foster was in her winter home (Spain) when the pandemic disrupted the world, and she has also not been able to travel home to Canada for the summer months.
During the very strict lockdown in Spain, I have kept busy reading, writing, blogging, reviewing, critiquing, editing, and supporting other writers on-line. I’ve finally had time to reduce my towering TBR pile and have read some classics I’ve wanted to read for a long time. One of the best books I´ve read during lockdown was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron. Here is my review on Goodreads.
I’m helping other writers with short stories and novels they’re working on and helping promote others who are already published. It’s always important as a writing community to support each other, but especially now during the global pandemic and resulting isolation. Thankfully, technology has kept me in touch with my family, friends and writing community. I hosted a ZOOM meeting for 14 English-speaking writers here in Spain last week and meet via ZOOM with my Canadian critique group on a regular basis. I individually chat with writers on Skype and FaceTime so I have not felt lonely at all. In fact, I´m busier than ever and working on Amanda in France, the ninth book in my Amanda Travels series, writing short stories, and even tried my hand at writing poetry. I was delighted to learn that some parents have been using my books as part of homeschooling. Life is whatever we make it and mine is good!
Stay safe and well. We´ve got this!
A bear sat on my deck. No photographic proof of that other than the calling card she left. I wrote a haiku, but it had one too many syllables. So it’s not a haiku at all. I also adopted my 21 year old nephew, who had a liver transplant when he was 16. He’s much safer here than he would be in Calgary, and he wants to apprentice with Dean as a cook. When it’s safe to go back into the kitchen.
I think of you on Bequia so often, knowing you’ve made the best decision for yourself. Traveling home, when you have a home … and a moat, and cats and all your books. I’m glad you’re there, just like I’m glad we’re pocketed away here in Jasper National Park, in the Canadian Rockies. Although, restaurants are re-opening, and guests will be returning soon. To a different experience, but they’re coming, and I’m worried. Of course.
I was worried, at first, that the gravity of a pandemic would pull all creativity to itself and leave me sitting in the dark. About a week in, however, Betty Jane Hegerat (an A-RI-promoted Author), one of my favourite writers and people, posted an offer of Blue Pencil Sessions: up to eight pages, for a handful of writers who might need a fresh look at a work in progress. I gratefully put up my hand and sent her the synopsis of the novel I’m working on. Anyone who knows Betty Jane knows she is the kind of person, writer, teacher who brings out the best in others. She asked for the first chapter after that, and now that she’s reading the sixth, I find myself not only picking up my pace to keep ahead of her (or is it that she’s generating a wave?), but learning to trust myself and the characters I’ve known, now, for so long. I’ve also taken on some web and business writing for a local mountain cabin resort, helping them to communicate with their staff and guests in these far too interesting times.
As well as the bear, I also have four squirrels and a chipmunk who visit my deck, and have been visited by a pair of bluejays (I thought these parts, like where I’ve lived in BC, would only have the blue-black Stellar’s Jays), assorted woodpeckers, thrush, cheeky little nuthatches and chickadees, and a flock of Juncos. Now that the snow is finally gone, my hiking boots have replaced my winter boots, and my camera and I are going out into the park, looking for and finding spring colours. Spring comes later here than I’m used to, but it’s so ridiculously beautiful that it doesn’t really matter.
Don Gillmor is a Canadian journalist, novelist, historian and writer of children’s books, and is the recipient of many awards for this journalism and fiction.
Gillmor’s writing has appeared in Saturday Night, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, Rolling Stone, GQ, National Geographic, Toronto Life and The Walrus, where he worked as senior editor. He also served on the faculty of the Literary Journalism Program at the Banff Centre.
Gillmor’s magazine writing has earned him three gold and seven silver Canadian National Magazine Awards, and he has been called “one of Canada’s most celebrated profile writers”. In 2014, he won a National Newspaper Award for an article on baby boomers and suicide.
Gillmor is the author of three works of fiction: Kanata (2009), a Canadian historical epic, Mount Pleasant (2013), a comic novel about debt and Long Change (2015), which explores the life of an oilman (Gillmor worked on an oil rig in the late 1970s). He’s also written five books of non-fiction, including the two-volume work Canada: A People’s History, which accompanied the award-winning television program of the same name, and won the 2001 Libris Award for non-fiction book of the year.] Among his nine children’s books are Yuck, A Love Story (2000), which won the 2000 Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature, and The Fabulous Song (1996), which won the Mr. Christie Book Award.
Gillmor graduated from the University of Calgary with a B.A. in 1977. He currently resides in Toronto.
In 2019 he won the Governor General’s Award for English-language non-fiction for his book To the River: Losing My Brother.
Long before I ever met Don Gillmor, even before his own writing and publishing career began, I was friends with his mother, Donna Gillmour. When I moved to Calgary in 1978 and began working in a bookstore, Donna was one of the first sales reps who came to see me, and we became good friends, surviving through my several moves of houses and bookstores over that next decade. I also got to know Don’s father Doug during that time, but never actually met “Donnie” as his mother referred to him. Then when Donna decided to retire from repping she recommended me to replace her, and I will be forever grateful for her confidence in me! Donna didn’t retire completely from the business, though, as she partnered with Marilyn Wood to offer publicity services in Calgary for all the publishers. I got to meet a great number of authors who I didn’t necessarily represent, all because of my close connection with Donna and Marilyn. I was a sales rep for Groundwood Books when they published Don Gillmor’s children’s book, The Trouble With Justine. Still, in all that time, I never met Don. I’d hear about him – a lot! – because his parents were understandably proud of his achievements, and I also heard many of the family stories and about a few of his “escapades” while he was growing up. Donna particularly laughed when she told me about an article Don had just published in one of the Canadian magazines that was about wanting cowboy boots when he was a kid. His mother had bought him saddle shoes by mistake, thinking “cowboy/saddle” – same thing! Oh, the embarrassment! So Don hid those shoes in the one place he knew his mother would never look … the vacuum cleaner box! (I always loved that story, but especially for the way Donna told me about it, and how she laughed over that clever son who had known her so well.)
So, even after a decades-long friendship with his parents, I never got to meet Don in person until we were both in Calgary at the same time for Canadian Thanksgiving, Oct. 2015 – me to speak at the library and he as a guest at Wordfest for his novel, Long Change. I was invited to join the Gillmor family and their friends for a wonderful dinner … and I had the chance to meet and speak with Don, finally!
Then this past May when I returned to Calgary to take care of some personal business there, I was unable to connect with Donna and Doug. Their phone number had been disconnected and I couldn’t find a new listing for them. I had dinner with my good friend Judy Gardner, another long-time friend from the book business who knew the Gillmors well, and we spoke of the family. Judy handed me a hardcover copy of the new book Don had just published and I took it back with me to Ontario. I cried when I read this exploration of his brother’s suicide, because really, for me, this was the story of his family, people who I had known so well and for such a long time. This account was so well-written that I predicted at the time it would win prizes, so I was not at all surprised when Don received the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction. For me though, what I loved most about this book is how I was able to reconnect, through the story, with people who had been a big part of my life. Thanks for that, Don!
To the River
The Governor General’s Literary award-winning exploration of suicide in which one of Canada’s most gifted writers attempts to understand why his brother took his own life. Which leads him to another powerful question: Why are boomers killing themselves at a far greater rate than the Silent Generation before them or the generations that have followed?
In the spring of 2006, Don Gillmor travelled to Whitehorse to reconstruct the last days of his brother, David, a talented musician whose truck and cowboy hat had been found at the edge of the Yukon River. David’s family, his wife and his friends had different theories about his disappearance. Some thought he had run away; some thought he’d met with foul play; but most believed that David, who at forty-eight was about to give up the night life for a day job, had intentionally walked into the water. Just as Don was about to paddle the river looking for traces, David’s body was recovered. And Don’s canoe trip turned into an act of remembrance and mourning.
Though David could now be laid to rest, there was no rest for his survivors. In this tender, probing, surprising work, Don Gillmor helps those left behind understand why people kill themselves and how to live with the aftermath. And he asks why, for the first time, it’s not the teenaged or the elderly who have the highest suicide rate, but the middle aged. Especially men.
For more information about Don Gillmor, his writing, journalism, and his books, please see his website.
Don Gillmor was featured once on my Reading Recommendations blog in Oct. of 2015.