Tag Archives: JP McLean
This is Part 2 in a 3-part series about annually held writing and reading festivals that have moved online this year. The good news is that these festivals are now open to readers and writers all over the world! (Link to Part 1 and Part 3)
Authors JP McLean and Bill Engleson have both been promoted on Authors-Readers International and both live on Denman Island. They were also both involved in this year’s Denman Island Readers and Writers Virtual Mini-Fest, so when I asked JP McLean about including information on this festival as part of my series, she asked Stewart Goodings (the co-chair of the DIRWF) to contribute to the post. While the date of this year’s festival has come and gone, ALL direct video links are still available to view and enjoy, for anyone – around thee world!
From Jo-Anne McLean … Thanks again for the opportunity to have the DIRWF covered on your blog. You’re always thinking in creative ways to help support authors, and it’s much appreciated. The festival committee was excited to hear of your support and I’ll be sending them your link as soon as it goes live.
Denman’s Summer Literary Festival Launches a Virtual Mini-Fest
By Stewart Goodings and Jo-Anne McLean
The Denman Island Readers’ and Writers’ Festival (DIRWF), like many other literary festivals in this age of COVID-19, has gone online. The authors who would have headlined the 2020 festival have instead represented their work in video format.
There is an active writing culture on Denman Island, inspired by the novels and memoirs of Des Kennedy, and the published works of Howard Stewart, Jo-Anne McLean, and Bill Engleson. The DIRWF has a long history of including local writers in the annual festival and is happy to include local authors’ videos this year as well.
In an effort to support these authors, the DIRWF is offering the festival’s videos free of charge. Please enjoy and share the videos, explore the festival website, and support these authors by purchasing their books at your local community bookshop.
Access the festival from the comfort of your favourite recliner or that patio deck chair
right here on the website.
Libby Davies expounding on her life of political activism and social justice.
Anosh Irani telling stories about his own Indo/Canadian life and those of his fictional characters.
Jónína Kirton reading and giving background for her poetry and her Icelandic/Indigenous ancestry.
Peggy Herring taking us to the 18th century Olympic peninsula for her researched story of a shipwrecked Russian woman’s life among the native people.
LOCAL DENMAN ISLAND WRITERS:
Lucy Dabbs reading her memoir, Senior Year, inspired by her senior year at an international school in Japan.
Bill Engleson reading his short story, The Beans.
Stewart Goodings reading his short story, Love in the Cold War.
Graham Hayman reading his short story, The Cap at Kits Beach (or Yellow is My Favourite Colour).
Lorraine Martinuik reading a collection of her poems inspired by “sheltering in place” and reflects her home on Taystayic (Denman Island).
Jo-Anne McLean discussing how she convinces readers to suspend their disbelief when reading books with supernatural elements using examples from Secret Sky, the first of seven books in The Gift Legacy series.
Carolyne Montgomery reading from her short story, The Ginkgo Tree.
Howard Stewart reading a segment from his memoir, A Moment in Outer Mongolia.
This mini-fest will stay up on the DIRWF website for 2020, so you can view the videos more than once and at any time. We hope you enjoy the videos and perhaps you will be able to join us in 2021—provided we can get Dr. Bonnie Henry’s approval!
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.
JP (Jo-Anne) McLean is a contemporary fantasy and thriller author best known for The Gift Legacy series. The first book of the series received Honourable Mention at the 2016 Whistler Independent Book Awards. Reviewers call the series addictive, smart and fun. Her books include endorsements from award-winning author Jennifer Manuel and bestselling authors, Elinor Florence and Kristina Stanley. The series has been described as fantasy light and is a good introduction to the genre for the uninitiated.
In 2016, JP’s body of work was included in the centennial anthology of the Comox Valley Writers Society, Writers & Books: Comox Valley 1865–2015. She is a member of the Federation of BC Writers and the Alliance of Independent Authors. Her articles have appeared in WordWorks Magazine, Wellness and Writing hosted by Colleen M Story, Mystery Mondays blog hosted by Kristina Stanley, and others.
Jo-Anne holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, is a certified scuba diver, an avid gardener and a voracious reader. She had a successful career in Human Resources before turning her attention to writing.
JP (Jo-Anne) McLean lives on Denman Island, nestled between the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Raised in Toronto, Ontario, JP has lived in various parts of North America from Mexico and Arizona to Alberta and Ontario before settling on Canada’s west coast.
I have only ever met JP McLean online, but that was when I first set up the Reading Recommendations blog in late 2013, and Jo-Anne has been a stalwart supporter of me and the many other authors we’ve met online since then. Plus she’s an excellent writer! I’ve read almost all of the books she’s published so far. We also share the background of growing up in Ontario and spending summers at a family cottage north of Toronto. That’s why I particularly appreciated Jo-Anne’s review of my novella That Last Summer on Goodreads … she gets it! Some day, Jo-Anne, we will be in Ontario at the same time and will finally meet in person. In the meantime, let’s continue sending each other photos of the view from our respective deck/verandah!
The Gift Legacy
I didn’t start out to write a series. My intention was to write a one-off book. But after I finished writing the first novel, I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters or their story lines. I knew they had legs. Before long, I was back at my keyboard. Soon I had a rough outline for two more books. At that point, the first book hadn’t yet been published, so I decided to call the series a trilogy.
However, after I finished writing the second book and was halfway through writing the third, I knew that Emelynn’s story would breach the trilogy framework. The fourth book put the final nail in the trilogy coffin and I renamed it The Gift Legacy. There are now six books in the series and one book in The Companion series. At this point, no more books in this series are “planned” but you know how well my best laid plans turn out.
A brief summary of the series: The Gift Legacy is a contemporary fantasy series set on the coast of British Columbia. It’s the story of Emelynn Taylor. She’s struggling to live with a mistake she made many years earlier. That mistake was accepting a gift from a stranger; a gift that develops into unpredictable episodes of weightlessness that send her skyward in terrifying uncontrolled flights.
Recently, JP McLean has completely redesigned her website and, if you sign up for her newsletters, you may also download free eBooks as she makes them available. So far I have received copies of Boone Park and Ghost Crimes. Click here to find out how you may also receive newsletters and free stories from JP McLean!
For more information about JP McLean, her books and writing, please click on this link to her website.
By July 3rd of this year I had read so many good books that I wrote about the best of those in this blog post. (See the original post for details of these titles.)
As with the first half of the year, the following books are listed in the order I read them and, with one exception (that I have marked), I rate them all at 4 out of 5 stars … because, you know, you have to have written a VERY good book, or be Richard Ford, to receive all 5 stars from me. I am a discerning reader.
So here’s my list of Best Books Read for the second half of the year … I’ve linked to their promotions all Authors who have been featured on Reading Recommendations.
Killer City by Seumas Gallacher – I read this new novel in advance of publication and thought it a fine addition to Gallacher’s Jack Calder series.
The Gift: Awakening by J.P. McLean – I have a complete set of JP’s books in The Gift Legacy series and began at the beginning. An excellent premise to this series and very well-written!
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf – 5-star – Sadly, Kent Haruf passed away in 2014 shortly after completing the proofs of this book. I’ve been a fan of his writing for many years and have read everything he has published. This book was a high note in a stellar writing career, as far as I’m concerned. A bitter-sweet story, it’s simply told but nonetheless powerful, about love and growing old. Others to whom I’ve recommended this book have come back to tell me how much they enjoyed it. If you love great writing, and you have a heart, this will make you weep to read for its sheer beauty – in the storyline, in the characters, in the way Haruf tells us about this episode in lives of plain people, lives that are so utterly full of grace.
Villa America by Liza Klaussmann – I received an ARC of this novel about the Hemingways and Fitzgeralds and their set of friends vacationing at a real-life house in France during the 1920s and I enjoyed reading it very much. Great descriptions of the times, the place and the people.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald – I read the ARC of this novel about a Swedish reader who travels to the US to visit the woman who has been recommending, by letters, books to read. A delightful read that anyone who enjoys reading books will also love!
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – This is a book that had been sitting on my shelf for a number of years. I finally picked it up and was pleasantly surprised at how well-told it is, this story of South Carolinian women.
Full Circle by Tim Baker – Tim Baker has been promoted on my blog, Reading Recommendations, since the beginning – and for good reason! I’ve read everything Tim has written, and now read his manuscripts before they are published, as was the case with this latest novel. Interestingly, this was the first novel Tim wrote a couple of decades ago, but it didn’t see the light of day until just recently. What can I say? Tim sure knows how to write! I own copies of all Tim’s print books, I have the T-shirts, and I’m a big promoter of all his work. Read this book!
Parts Unknown and Town Father by Kevin Brennan – Kevin Brennan’s writing has impressed me since he first promoted Yesterday Road on Reading Recommendations. I have read everything he has written and own all the print copies available, except this most recent title – a problem I will rectify when I return to Canada in the spring. Kevin is an intelligent writer, well-steeped in literature and history, and he’s not afraid to experiment with genre and style. I liken him to a cross between two of my favourite authors, Ivan Doig and Kent Haruf (see above), with a sprinkling of Margaret Atwood’s exploration of craft and genre. Town Father, his most recent novel, is a foray into historical fiction and I say Kevin has done a brilliant job of presenting a story that’s new and fresh, considering it’s set in the 1880s US Sierra Nevadas. If you’re looking for versatility in a writer, look no further! Kevin is your guy!
The Road to Atlantis by Leo Brent Robillard – I was approached by the publisher of this book to promote it on my blog and was sent a PDF of the book to read in advance. I had never heard of this Canadian author previously and was very taken by the quality of his writing and the story he tells. I am also happy to see that, since I promoted Robilliard in Sept. 2015, this book has now also been released in eBook format, so it’s available for the entire world to read.
That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx – I discovered a hardcover edition of this book in the campground library and decided to read it, because I had enjoyed Proulx’s Shipping News when it was first published. I enjoyed this novel just as much. Great writing!
The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths – I won an ARC of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. I had never heard of the author or the book previously and so was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a very good read.
My Temporary Life by Martin Crosbie – Martin Crosbie promoted a how-to book on my blog, but he also writes great fiction, like this novel I read and enjoyed. And it’s the first in a series, too, so more great books to come!
The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King – I was a sales rep for one of Thomas King’s earlier books and had the great pleasure of meeting the man for lunch when he was in Calgary. He is one of the most interesting, intelligent, funny and genuine “gentleman” I’ve ever met. And I don’t use the term gentleman lightly here. He is a Gentle Man in all respects. This latest novel (I had an ARC) was published last year and won the GG Award for Best English-Language Fiction. Very well done!
The Piano Teacher by Eugene Stickland – I know Eugene from my days in Calgary, so when he announced a new book’s release I asked him to promote it on Reading Recommendations. Then when I went back to Calgary for a visit this autumn I bought a copy of the book from the man himself in his natural habitat, Cafe Beano, over a couple of cups of coffee. Eugene is well-known as a playwright and this was his first foray into novel-writing. A terrific job, I thought! And the good news is … he’s writing a second novel!
Better Than Perfect by Tricia Drammeh – Tricia has long been an internet pal and fellow blogger/promoter who I turn to regularly for help, advice, and just general comradery. I’ve read several of her novels so far and enjoyed all of them, but Better than Perfect was exactly as the title says, I thought. True life and genuine characters brought perfectly to the page (or screen, in my case) by a very accomplished author.
Sweetland by Michael Crummey – I had the pleasure of attending an event held in London, ON, this autumn at which Crummey read from his new novel. A well-told story of a little known (outside of the province) episode in Newfoundland’s history. Funny in places, but sad throughout. Definitely worth reading, especially if you’re open to learning a new dialect and turns of phrase. (I’m fortunate in knowing a native Newfoundlander so a lot of the speech in this novel was very familiar to me.)
The Quiet American by Graham Greene – I’m not sure I actually read this novel previously, although Greene is a favourite author, but I did see the film starring Michael Caine. I have to say, they did a fine job of casting Caine for the part of Fowler. The novel is an excellent introduction to the French occupation of Vietnam during the years leading up to US involvement in the region.
Sundown, Yellow Moon and Orchard by Larry Watson – I’m catching up on the books by this favourite US author that I missed reading at the time they were released.
What about you? Was there one outstanding book you read in 2015? Or have you posted to your blog a similar list as I have here? Please leave your comments below and tell us what you enjoyed reading. And leave a link to your Best Books post.
Thanks for reading!
I should mention that I tried reading some of the many books that were long-listed, short-listed, and won prizes in the various big book awards that were handed out this year, but in a number of cases I just could not read the books at all and was disappointed in their having been selected. I’m still waiting for holds to come in at the library for a number of other prize-winners I anticipate reading and enjoying in the near future. But I must say that, overall, I was generally disappointed in most of the titles that made those prize lists. I don’t believe it has as much to do with my changing taste in reading as I grow older (and become a more experienced reader all the time) as it does with the judges’ different taste from mine in choosing the lists and winners. That’s a topic for a whole different blog post, however.
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!