Tag Archives: J.P. McLean
Bill Engleson is a Canadian author and retired child protection social worker. He was born in Powell River, BC, raised in Nanaimo, and spent his first year of life trapped aboard his parents leaky fishboat. He resided in New Westminster for most of his adult years, retiring to Denman Island in 2004.
He writes long fiction, flash fiction, essays, poetry, letters to the editor, and, of late, the occasional book reviews for the Ormsby Review, a new online journal about B.C history and literature.
He has been writing most of his life. His first couple of efforts, poetic in nature, were printed in his mid-teens (quite a long time ago) in the, now, sadly defunct Nanaimo Daily Free Press.
He self-published his first novel, Like a Child to Home in 2013. Silver Bow Publishing released his second book, a collection of humorous literary essays titled Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul, in October, 2016.
Additionally, he has had flash stories published in a few modest publications including two Centum Press anthologies, One Hundred Voices Volumes One and Two.
As a side note, he appeared in a locally produced music video two years ago as a portly, slightly balding, suspendered, card playing (cribbage) human prop. Thus far, the five minutes and change Conrad Campbell video of his song, Big Electric Jesus, has had over 100,000 views. Nothing to do with Bill’s appearance, however. Half of our island (a slight exaggeration) also appeared.
Here is the link for the rock and roll curious.
I first “met” Bill Engleson through an introduction from JP McLean, an A-RI Author who also lives on Denman Island. When I asked Bill for his updated information for this post he added the following: Incidentally, Jo-Anne McLean and another local writer/videographer, have been filming a few of us to be a part of a virtual Denman Island Readers Writers Festival. A very energetic, community-minded author is Jo-Anne.
I promoted Bill’s books on Reading Recommendations and quite enjoyed his writing. When he was about to publish his second book, a collection of essays, he asked if I’d like to read an advance copy with an eye to reviewing it for him to coincide with publication. As the book was about life on an island, I said yes! My review was eventually published in the Denman Island newspaper, which was kind of cool for me! (Review is below.)
Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul
Published by Silver Bow Publishing
When I moved permanently to a small Caribbean island, there was a saying within the long-term expat community: Why would we want to change what brought us here in the first place? Unfortunately, those outsiders who arrived during the decades following me didn’t get this same memo. So I approached Bill Engleson’s new collection of essays with complete understanding and empathy.
Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul is writing with a glint in its eye and an upwards curve to the lips. Yes, these are rants about the inevitable changes that come to any small place once it’s discovered, but through these rants Engleson manages to also preserve the memory of that which brought him to Denman Island in the first place. With this collection, we have a unique opportunity to see what life was like before those other gentrifying souls moved into “Ruraltania” and changed it into something that closer resembled their way of life they left behind back in the big cities.
Peppered with relevant quotes from famous authors, comedians, and other thinkers, these essays (both previously published and new) on island and small-town life, cover subjects as diverse as: libraries, librarians and unusual objects found inside borrowed books; the usefulness (or not) of committees; censorship; tradition; the generation of ideas; local characters and curmudgeons; movies and old episodes of Leave It To Beaver.
So even though you have never lived on an island or in a small place, there’s still a great deal of insight into life in general to be gained from reading Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul. Engleson’s writing is comfortable, and very much like chatting over coffee while sitting in mismatched upholstered chairs in front of a wood fire. In fact, the entire book is like reminiscing with an old friend.
~ Susan M. Toy, author of the Bequia Perspective novels
(This review was previously published in the Island Tides newspaper of Denman Island)
What Bill Engleson is working on now: At the moment, Bill is working furiously, in between moments of sloth, on several new projects, including a prequel to his first novel entitled Drawn Towards the Sun, a mystery, A Short Rope on a Nasty Night, and, a bit of a longshot, a collection of home-grown, satirically tinged essays, DIRA Diary: Tall Tales of Democracy in Traction.
For more information about Bill Engleson, please see his website.
This is the fourth 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. Here are links to Part 2 and Part 3. (All links on the authors’ names will take you to their A-RI promotion.)
David Poulsen created a YouTube video for his reading of his book, I Wish I Could Be Like Tommy Blake. As David says on his website: Because it’s written for the little guys, we always have a lot of fun with the character (who like me) wants to be like the cool kid in the school, and, of course, Ron Desnoyers’ amazing illustrations are hugely popular as well. I thought that with kids forced to miss school, sports and a whole lot of other activities, this might be a good time to have some fun with me reading the book exactly like I do in schools.
Hazel Hutchins has also created a video in which she reads from her new book, The Truth About Wind. Publisher Annick Press says of the book: Co-author Hazel Hutchins reads her new picture book The Truth About Wind. A story filled with imagination and the importance of telling the truth even if that means letting go of something you love. And Hazel says: I love the way the new book turned out! But it’s a difficult time everywhere and please know that the globe in the background is placed there purposefully, just as a small note of acknowledgment and support.
I have handed in my new manuscript. It’s fiction, entitled DECEPTIONS but that may change as we go along the editing process. It’s scheduled to be published next March but, as you know, there are very few certainties in today’s Covid-ridden world. I have been reading a great deal, doing some reviewing, and serving on the jury for the National Business Book Awards (more reading). Yes, some ZOOM meetings and FaceTime – not sure which app I hate the most. I am also doing some interviews still with Hungarian media for the Forbes edition of Buying a Better World, my book about George Soros and his foundations. I find that speaking relatively intelligent Hungarian is a huge challenge. I also give some editorial and publishing advice online but do not charge for it because I don’t want it to become a professional service (been there, done that). Love your posts about Bequia! (Thanks, Anna!)
Thanks so much for all you do. You really are a dynamo.
I spent the first few weeks of the pandemic adrift. My thoughts scattered to the wind. The only thing I could grasp onto was the endless loop of bad news, which only compounded the feeling of helplessness. People dying and sickened, people losing their livelihoods, companies failing. Writing felt inconsequential in comparison. My creativity flagged along with my energy. It wasn’t until I saw pictures of the skies clearing over the Great Wall of China and dolphins returning to Italy’s waterways that I was finally able to break free of the negative hold the pandemic had on me. That silver lining, fragile as it might be, helped me find shore again and anchored me.
But I didn’t get back to writing immediately. First I got busy in the garden. There’s something primal about digging in the soil and nurturing plants that soothes me. I also got busy cleaning. The house and yard have never looked so good, and that too, soothes me. And then I tackled a few projects that had been on my to-do list for a couple of years. It took all of that to make me feel like I was in control again. Best of all, my energy came back online and my imaginator kicked in.
I’m still not writing anything more substantial than blog posts, but I’m back to working on the outline for my next book. In addition, I’m scribbling out ideas for a short Christmas story. I’ve taken our local writers’ group of twenty + members online with ZOOM, and my volunteer work on the board of our local Activity Centre, Gym, and Museum has also gone online.
I’m loving ZOOM. Even after this pandemic is over, I won’t be giving it up. In fact, I’ve joined two other authors in a weekly share and brainstorming session. My critique group, also three authors, are local and we’re planning a proper socially-distant meeting on my deck with a glass of wine in the very near future.
I’m reading more and tuning into webinars and live training sessions and learning new skills. Our small island community has pulled together. We’re buying as much as we can locally, but when one of us has to go off island, we shop for as many other people as we can manage. I shopped for six of us at Costco a few weeks ago – could barely push the cart up to the till. In that sense, COVID19 has brought us closer.
This pandemic has been difficult, and it’s not over yet. The future is unsteady for all of us. It takes effort every day to stay positive. Keeping the news loop at bay helps, as does this super supportive writing community. So thank you all, and especially Susan, who’s a ray of sunshine on the darkest days. XO (Thanks, Jo-Anne!)
Please join me for two programmes:
In the third week of July for a one-week online Meditation and Writing Retreat at the Summer Writing School, University of Toronto.
A two-week intensive on Mindfulness and Writing for Discipline & Productivity this July. Time=Life. Learn to master time and live life in accordance with your values and aspirations.
I hate to admit how much work I’ve done these past weeks. But the time has been good, and writing is a distraction from any anxiety… it makes the time feel to have some worth.
So here is my update:
I have been WRITING!
Of course, my teaching moved to being online, but I have taught online before…so it really was about switching modes, and being there to support the students…many of whom have not worked online before. And then grades went in.
Here’s an article I wrote for The Writing Cooperative: Optimal Writing Time: Making time — micro and macro — work for you
In addition to working on a novel for adults, I have been writing short pieces, articles—for Medium—something I’ve not done before—and also for a small number of calls for submissions. I was so pleased to have a story win Sub-Terrain’s Lush Triumphant fiction prize this year, and have been enjoying “writing short” while working on the novel. While I can’t imagine working on more than one long (deep!) project at a time, I feel a need to work long and short simultaneously. It’s an old habit, to deal with writer’s block, and to make use of time (an urge borne of the busy time of raising three children). In the midst of this pandemic time, I have also had another book for young children accepted—a book of sacred texts, a “lectio divina” for children. The research for this project was an amazing journey into so many faiths. As I age, I am finding even more pleasure in setting myself down self-chosen research paths
After having a number of readings and presentations cancelled—as have we all—I have been busy with ZOOM promotion, most recently for All Lit Up, and a woman from the ALS Society in Texas, who has put together an amazing book club every Thursday evening for ALS Awareness Month. I am also taking part in a written Q&A for the Vancouver Writers’ Fest Newsletter. I am so grateful for these opportunities to share my work. And most grateful for this opportunity too, Susan!
It’s wonderful to have you doing this work on our behalf. I am truly grateful.
Here’s what I’ve been doing during the last eight weeks of self-isolation:
First, I’ve been sorting my papers and tossing them by the ton, or else piling them for shredding, whenever I can make that happen, or putting them in neat piles with labels for the millions of hungry scholars who will descend on them – hah hah – for what, I don’t actually know except that throwing them out is just not in me. I’m leaving that up to my son and heir.
Second, I discovered that the difficult and unusual (for me) novel I’d been researching and had begun writing when COVID-19 hit does not respond to my efforts to woo it into compliance. I have had to put it on hold for now. The reason, or the additional reason for this, is that almost at once a great idea for a COVID-19 novel hit me, and like a wood tick, burrowed in, would not let go, until I finally wrote a hundred pages of it. Then I had to stop to gather my thoughts, such as they are, and try to find a way to put the next hundred or so pages into my computer. I hope to start writing Part Two tomorrow. In the meantime, I have written a short magazine piece about the pandemic (500 words) and an essay to go at the end of my as yet unpublished essay collection: This Strange Visible Air.
Third, I have had four literary engagements cancelled or postponed, three of which will (eventually one hopes) still take place in the fall and that will earn me in total a couple of thousand, maybe. I haven’t really been worrying about my writing income because I get OAS and CPP and have a bit of money otherwise – a sadly diminishing pile, though. My heart bleeds for anybody whose entire income is from writing. It’s criminal what’s been done to Canadian writers in terms of income. And just today I got myself a judging gig for summer – one literary competition – with some financial compensation.
Fourth, my agent, Marilyn Biderman at TLA, Freehand Books and I have signed an agreement and I am now a Freehand author. This had to be done because my previous publisher, Coteau Books of Regina went bankrupt in late February. Season of Fury and Wonder will be back in print shortly. In the meantime, copies of it must be floating around in bookstores and libraries. I’m very happy about this, and have always been a big admirer of Freehand and I count myself lucky. That collection, by the way, was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary Prize and the Georges Bugnet Fiction prize. With the bankruptcy I was afraid it was simply dead in the water, but nope, Butala rises again, like the phoenix! (Definitely a joke.)
And, finally for this 4th post of updates, this is the way I like to see things work with all the authors I promote …
Mike Robbins, on his blog, had reviewed the latest novel, Eternity Began Tomorrow, by Kevin Brennan. Then Kevin returned the favour on his blog with a shout-out and a review of Mike’s collection of novellas, Three Seasons.
Now Kevin has just announced that the paperback edition of Eternity Began Tomorrow is available to purchase!
I asked Kevin if he would send me a calming and peaceful photo from one of his walks that I could post here and he said: You could show the nice people this pic of a hiking destination Sue and I made it to recently. Didn’t see another soul, and it was utterly gratifying. Now that they’ve reopened the parks, places like this are packed. (Below is the Middle Fork of the American River, just a stone’s throw from our house.)
Violet Gaspe and Cheryl Schenk are two of the reasons Reading Recommendations still exists after two years of operation. It’s because of dedicated READERS like these women that I continue to promote and recommend books and their authors. They not only subscribe to the blog, but read the posts and find many of their next-great-reads on the site – and they pay attention when I recommend a book, even those by authors I’m not actually promoting on the site! Plus they talk about the books and authors they discover on RR with their friends and other readers. This site would not be what it is today without READERS like Violet and Cheryl who actually read and enjoy the books I promote there. Here they are to tell you what the site means to them …
From Violet Gaspe …
Congratulations Reading Recommendations Year Two!
This milestone is achieved through the dedicated effort of my old friend Sue. I have known Sue for over thirty years; back to the days when she held home parties to promote books and writers. Sue now has a much broader audience through social media. She has introduced me to so many writers. Who would I begin to name? Who will I forget to mention? So, I decided to name the last six fiction writers I have read or am presently reading.
Tim Baker, Seumas Gallacher, Kent Haruf, Sue Monk Kidd, J.P. McLean and Diana Stevan (who was recommended by J.P. McLean). Some of the writers had me in tears (Haruf), some had me waking at dawn to continue the adventure (Stevan). I lost sleep trying to figure out what happens next (Baker, Gallacher, J.P. McLean). And there were books I didn’t want to end because I loved the story so much (Sue Monk Kidd). Writers unite, promote each other and continue letting readers such as myself discover your creativity.
Titles: The Gift: Penance; Ours Souls at Night; A Cry From the Deep; Secret Life of Bees; Eyewitness Blues; The Violin’s Man’s Legacy.
From Cheryl Shenck …
Congratulations Reading Recommendations on this, your 2nd Anniversary
Every writer needs a friend, someone that understands, promotes and enlightens. Someone that isn’t family and doesn’t necessarily LOVE everything we do, but will offer fair and creative criticism.
Susan Toy is that friend, and her creation of Reading Recommendations is invaluable to writers and readers alike. She is not only a kind-hearted soul, she is also a wealth of information and a continuously strong supporter of authors, both established and up and coming.
I was fortunate to meet Susan at a writers’ conference several years ago and from that time I have followed her on Facebook and Twitter, and I have since become addicted to her Reading Recommendations. Through her blogs I have been turned on to authors I feel privileged to have read and to books I am proud to promote as well.
I hope to follow these recommendations for a long time to come and maybe one day, if the Writing Gods are kind, will find myself featured as one of her authors.
The following are a few of my favourite writers (all of whom have been promoted through Reading Recommendations) and the books that got me started. If you haven’t read them, check them out. I think you’ll be pleasantly impressed with what you find.
Susan M Toy – Island in the Clouds (it had to be said)
Betty Jane Hegerat – The Boy
Kevin Brennan – Yesterday Road
Tim Baker – Living The Dream
Seumas Gallacher – Savage Payback
Chris Tucker – Lost Voyage
L G Pomerleau – Becoming Sand
Again, congratulations, Susan. I am happy to call you “friend”.
Cheryl Schenk can be contacted on Twitter @cherylschenk
Thank you to Violet and Cheryl! It’s READERS like you who are the reason we WRITE!
If you have discovered a new-to-you author through Reading Recommendations who then became a personal favourite, please share their name below in the comments section. I’d love to hear from READERS who have found this site to be helpful in recommending new reading selections. After all, that’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Spreading the word about Great Authors and their books!
“Get someone else to blow your horn and the sound will carry twice as far.” — Will Rogers
There is nothing worse – and I mean NOTHING!! – than an author who over-self-promotes!
Now I didn’t say just “self-promotes” but qualified it with “over”, because we all need to do a little bit of promoting, within reason, to get the word out about what we’ve written. Even traditionally published authors need to promote themselves, because many publishers just don’t have the financial wherewithall to deal individually with each author on their list. And you authors already know who your personal and professional contacts are, anyway, so you have a better chance of attracting attention by approaching those people personally.
But what happens when you run out of those initial contacts and begin preaching to the converted, so to speak? How do you attract new readers to yourself and your work without becoming the kind of self-promoting author we all love to hate – the one who constantly blows their own horn? Why, you seek out other people in the book business who will toot that horn for you – people like me, fer instance. I publish a promotion blog called Reading Recommendations precisely because I want to offer other authors free promotion and help them get the word out about themselves and their books.
And because I know that by doing so – by promoting my fellow authors – I also promote myself and my own work. That way I don’t run the risk of sounding off about ONLY ME AND ME ALONE. I know I am not the first author to have published and I know I won’t be the last to publish, either. Why not promote as many other authors as I can? That way I provide my audience with different reading choices when they’ve exhausted everything I’ve written – and before they become exhausted with me!
And since I set up this blog and changed my approach to how I promote my own work – guess what? I’ve discovered that I’m finding more readers for my own published novel and novella, as well as for those other authors I promote. I’m receiving more reviews, I’m selling more copies, and I’m being invited to promote myself and my work on other blog sites.
But the best part is – I’m not pissing off my loyal family, friends, and current readers by constantly singing the same tune. I’m offering information about new authors whose work they might like to read. So I’m providing a service to readers as well as to my fellow authors – and I’m not pissing off anyone in the process.
(This “not pissing off anyone” part cannot be stressed enough! I’m sure you are, as am I, tired of authors who tweet and share endlessly about themselves and their latest, but never say a word about anything else. It all seems so desperate, don’t you think? Those who tick me off the most are the authors I’ve followed on Twitter who don’t then give me the courtesy of following me back, but instead send me a direct message telling me where I can buy their books or asking me to like their Facebook page. I unfollow them in a nanosecond! We all want to receive recognition for what we’ve written and published. But we’d be more inclined to become readers and fans ourselves, if those self-promoters just took a wee bit of interest in something other than themselves. Ya know what I’m saying??)
So I challenge all you authors reading this out there who have been guilty of over-self-promoting to change your ways! You don’t have to stop promoting yourself altogether, but figure out ways to promote your fellow authors. Or band together as a group and promote each other. This works very well if you are all writing within the same genre, but I’ve also known it to work for groups of writers who only have writing itself in common. You could begin by tweeting/sharing something about 4 other authors for every 1 tweet/share you post about yourself. That would work! Or you could set up a promotion blog like mine that is dedicated to singing the praises of everyone else in the business. When you do find blogs or sites like mine, share the information with your fellow authors. Here’s another great blog you should be aware of: Chris The Story Reading Ape (If you know of others, please add a link in the comments section.)
Read promotions about other authors on these blogs; share, tweet, like, and reblog your favourites. Discover some new authors, read and review their books, and help them to get ahead. Do all the things listed in the box up above.
I can’t promise you overnight success for your own books, but I do guarantee that – aside from the warm-fuzzies you’ll experience from having done a good deed – you will eventually reach a new group of readers, and your work will be exposed to people you never dreamed might want to read what you write.
So, please, for all our sakes, STOP THAT ENDLESS SELF-PROMOTION!!! Start discovering and promoting other authors. Believe me, your family, friends and fellow-Facebook-and-Twitter users will thank you! And you can stop feeling so desperate and enjoy your writing and publishing, once again.