Tag Archives: Ken McGoogan
This is Part 2 of a 3-part series I’m calling The Next Gen Authors, about three Authors I know and have promoted, and their daughters who have also all become published authors – in their own right! Or maybe that should be, “in their own write” in this case … (Part 1, Part 3)
Ken McGoogan and Keriann McGoogan
Ken McGoogan was editor of the Books Section at The Calgary Herald when I first met him. He was also beginning to publish books of his own at that time. Who knew then that he would eventually father another author? You may read more about Ken and his books here in his Authors-Readers International promotion. (When I initially asked Ken about participating in this series, he immediately sent me the following …)
A FATHER’S TAKE
by Ken McGoogan
(Most recent books: Flight of the Highlanders and Dead Reckoning)
Often after a movie night, if her husband Travis was out of town, our super-fit, thirty-something daughter would insist that she didn’t need Sheena and me to walk her home from our house. We would do it anyway, travel half a dozen Toronto city blocks. But on this occasion, I forget why, we ended up just the two of us, father and daughter, striding into the October night.
“Oh, I meant to tell you,” Keriann said. “I’m writing a book.”
Over the years, I had badgered her sporadically to do precisely that. Still, I was surprised. “You’re writing a book? What kind of book?”
“A memoir,” she said. “My adventure in Madagascar.”
“But of course! That’s fantastic!”
My next question, one that as a writer I am hard-wired to ask, just popped out: “How many words have you got in the can?” I figured she would say 5,000, maybe 10,000. And when I heard her say, “Just over 7,000,” I cried, “Whoa! Over 7,000? That’s a solid beginning.”
“No, Dad,” she said. “Not seven. Seven-ty. Just over 70,000.”
“70,000? 70,000 words?” I clasped my head and, hollering, reeled around in the middle of the street. “70,000 words! That’s a book! You must be nearly finished.”
“First draft, yes. Maybe 10,000 words to go.”
So that’s how I found out what Keriann had been up to lately. Eighteen or so months ago, while striding into the night. Next thing I knew, she had signed with an agent (Beverley Slopen) and landed a book deal with Prometheus Books of New York. She started revising and fixed on a title: Chasing Lemurs: My Journey into the Heart of Madagascar.
The book tells the story of how, starting when she was twenty-five, Keriann lived and worked in the wilds of Madagascar for 19 months. You can read her more detailed description below. Keriann glosses over what, as a father, gave me the heebie-jeebies when I read the book. Never mind the encounter, in an isolated, riverside location, with a roving band of thieves.
She ended up being “the lone woman amid a small band of local male assistants, diligently conducting research on the lemur population around the camp.” Then her right-hand man — the only Malagasy who spoke English or French — contracted a life-threatening strain of malaria and became delirious. This is in the Madagascar bush. Are you kidding me?
Since publishing the book, Keriann hasn’t looked back. A trailer, a virtual book launch, an article in the Toronto Star, blog posts pouring forth. What’s a father to add? Only that I am gob-smacked . . . and thrilled.
Keriann McGoogan has a doctorate in biological anthropology and a master’s in primatology. For nineteen months, she lived and worked in Madagascar, spending twelve-hour days following groups of lemurs through the northwestern dry forests. Today, while holding down a day job, McGoogan volunteers as a board member for Planet Madagascar, a nonprofit that aims to conserve Madagascar’s unique biodiversity while also helping the local Malagasy people.
Chasing Lemurs: My Journey into the Heart of Madagascar (Prometheus Books)
At age twenty-five, graduate student Keriann McGoogan traveled into the wilds of Madagascar to study lemurs in their natural habitat. McGoogan was going to do research that could contribute to the conservation of lemurs and to set up a permanent field site in the remote northwest—a site to which she could later return to do research for her PhD in biological anthropology. Despite careful planning, the trip spiraled out of control. Food poisoning, harrowing backcountry roads, grueling hikes, challenging local politics, malaria, and an emergency evacuation would turn a simple reconnaissance into an epic adventure. McGoogan describes that journey in her memoir
At first accompanied by her thesis advisor, McGoogan is soon left alone when her mentor must return home. She carries on as the lone woman amid a small band of local male assistants, diligently conducting research on the lemur population around the camp. But when her right-hand man becomes delirious with malaria, she is forced to lead her team on a desperate three-day trek to safety. McGoogan vividly describes the challenges navigating an isolated forest region while also bringing to life the wonders of Madagascar’s incredible biodiversity, especially its many varieties of lemurs. This fascinating memoir is equal parts a journey of self-discovery, an adventure story, and a heartfelt appreciation of a wonderful island country teeming with unique species and peopled by the warm and welcoming Malagasies with their intriguing indigenous culture.
Promotion Plans: Facebook Live book launch is here.
UCalgary News, June 1, 2020: Chasing Lemurs – a passport to another place by Deb Cummings
The Toronto Star, April 20, 2020: What the lemurs taught me about enduring a pandemic by Keriann McGoogan
Other media can be found here on her website.
What Keriann is working on now:
Keriann has another Madagascar-themed adventure book in the works–this time geared toward a young adult audience.
Ken McGoogan is a globe-trotting Canadian writer who survived shipwreck off Dar es Salaam, chased the ghost of Lady Franklin from Russell Square to Van Diemen’s Land, and placed a John Rae memorial plaque in the High Arctic. Ken has published fifteen books — six histories, five biographies, three novels, and one ghosted work. His best-selling titles include Dead Reckoning, Celtic Lightning, Fatal Passage, 50 Canadians Who Changed the World, How the Scots Invented Canada, Lady Franklin’s Revenge, and Flight of the Highlanders (published September 2019).
Ken has won the Pierre Berton Award for History, the University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography, the Canadian Authors’ Association History Award, the Writers’ Trust Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize, and an American Christopher Award for “a work of artistic excellence that affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” He also landed a press fellowship that took him to University of Cambridge (Wolfson College) for three months. There he conceived his biography of John Rae, Fatal Passage, which gave rise to an award-winning, feature-length docudrama. (Here’s a link I found to a lecture Ken McGoogan gave on the topic of John Rae to the Royal Society Edinburgh on April 22, 2013.)
Before turning mainly to books, Ken worked as a journalist at the Toronto Star, the Montreal Star, and the Calgary Herald. He writes these days for Canadian Geographic, the Globe and Mail, Geographical Magazine, and Celtic Life International. His Blog is a ballyhoo of unsolicited anecdotes, opinions and observations. Ken is a fellow of the Explorers’ Club and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. With his partner, artist Sheena Fraser McGoogan, Ken has rambled from Sri Lanka to Tasmania, and from Malyasia to Greece and St. Kilda. He won a teaching excellence award from University of Toronto, teaches Creative Nonfiction (CNF) in the MFA program at University of King’s College in Halifax, and loves nothing better than coming upon a captive audience with a microphone in his hand.
I first met Ken McGoogan in Calgary more than 3 decades ago (!) when he was Books Editor at The Calgary Herald and I was manager of Sandpiper Books. When I became a publishers’ sales rep, I often drove visiting authors to the Herald building for their interviews with Ken. Much later, when Ken and I had both moved out of Calgary, I was sitting on a bench by the boardwalk in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood (where I grew up) and was wearing a Wordfest t-shirt. A man walked past, his dog on a leash, and then he looked back at me and stopped. “Is that a Calgary Wordfest t-shirt you’re wearing?” he asked. I recognized Ken immediately, and discovered that he was now living in my old ‘hood! He even enjoyed drinking coffee at the Remarkable Bean where I had been partaking whenever I was in Toronto. So we were reconnected again, and I was honoured when Ken later agreed to write a blurb for the print edition of my first novel when it was published. (Michael Fay is on there with a blurb, too!)
Flight of the Highlanders: Canada’s First Refugees
Bestselling author Ken McGoogan tells the story of those courageous Scots who, ruthlessly evicted from their ancestral homelands, were sent to Canada in coffin ships, where they would battle hardship, hunger and even murderous persecution.
After the Scottish Highlanders were decimated at the 1746 Battle of Culloden, the British government banned kilts and bagpipes and set out to destroy a clan system that for centuries had sustained a culture, a language and a unique way of life. The Clearances, or forcible evictions, began when landlords—among them traitorous clan chieftains—realized they could increase their incomes dramatically by driving out tenant farmers and dedicating their estates to sheep.
Flight of the Highlanders: Canada’s First Refugees intertwines two main narratives. The first is that of the Clearances themselves, during which some 200,000 Highlanders were driven—some of them burned out, others beaten unconscious—from lands occupied by their forefathers for hundreds of years. The second narrative focuses on resettlement. The refugees, frequently misled by false promises, battled impossible conditions wherever they arrived, from the forests of Nova Scotia to the winter barrens of northern Manitoba.
Between the 1770s and the 1880s, tens of thousands of dispossessed and destitute Highlanders crossed the Atlantic. Those who survived became Canada’s first refugees—prototypes for the refugees we see arriving today from all around the world.
Ken McGoogan has been busy promoting his new book throughout the autumn of 2019, and was invited by the Royal Canadian Geographic Society to give a talk at their headquarters in Ottawa. Here’s a 50-minute video of that presentation. (Ken and I both tried to find a different copy of this video that was not posted to Facebook, but to no avail. So you may not be able to view this if you are not already on Facebook. Sorry!)
For more information about Ken McGoogam, his writing, books, and his travels, please see his website.
Here’s an opportunity for Readers and Authors, living either inside or outside our fair province, to tell us what they are reading that’s written by Authors who do live in Alberta now or have been associated with Alberta at some time or another. (I’m looking at you, Ken McGoogan, Pearl Luke and Robert Hilles!)
In the comments below, please post the author’s name and title of the book with a link to their webpage or the book’s listing on its publisher’s page, if you know how to do that. (If you don’t know, I’ll edit the comment for you to include those links.) These may be authors still living or no longer with us, either because they’ve moved away or have left the province in the permanent sense. It may even be your own book, although in all fairness you should also list a colleague’s book as well as your own, because the best way to get the word out about your own writing is to share information about the writing of others … It’s kind of a good karma thing. (And, truly NO ONE likes endless self-promotion!)
This post will be promoted on Facebook and Twitter, as usual, but please feel free to share it yourself on whichever social media you use in order to get as many people as possible reading about Alberta authors and adding to this list of book recommendations. That way, your favourite authors, and friends, will receive promotion further afield than just within the four borders of this province.
Please also like and consider subscribing to my blog (click on the button at the right side of this page) so that you will receive future notifications immediately in your email box whenever I write about and recommend other Alberta authors and books. Do it! Do it now!
As for my own recommendation this week, I will be reading Calgary-author, Wade Bell’s collection, Tracie’s Revenge & Other Stories after reading this review of the book on the Book Club Buddy site, which by the way is a fabulous resource for finding that next book to read. Thanks, Book Club Buddy!
What’s on your nightstand?