Archives for category: Canada
Canada's First Nations third edition cover

Storyteller of the Ages painted by Ojibway shaman Norval Morrisseau depicts the eloquent, sinewy tongue that bound the people together.

Homo sapiens sapiens (doubly wise man) began to arrive in North and South America some time after his origin 50,000 years ago. When the first contacts arrived from the Old World to the New they found people living patterns of life that had evolved over tens of thousands of years. In her book, Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding People from Earliest Times, Olive Dickason detects values that popped up among them in spite of hundreds of thousands of different locations, family groups, languages, climates and settings. Major assumptions gave them a framework to live in that met social and individual needs; we can speak of an American civilization in the same sense as of a European civilization.

1. Sharing

  • The people, whether mobile or sedentary, emphasized the group as well as the self. Land, like air and water, was for the benefit of everyone and so was communally owned.

2. Culture & Storytelling

  • Cultural knowledge  was the property of those ‘in the know‘, a jealously guarded privilege selectively passed on through the generations. Their history was passed on orally by storytellers.

3. Egalitarianism

  • They were egalitarian to the extent allowed by their sexual division of labor and responsibility. (An offshoot, in French Canada, was that this prevented celibacy. A consequence of clearly defined roles was a major factor in the harmony inside certain encampments.)

4. Consensus

  • The leaders’ role was to represent the common will; not only were they not equipped to use force; they would have quickly lost their positions if they had tried. This lent extreme importance to eloquence, the power to persuade; a chief’s authority was in his tongue’s end. The centrality of ‘the word’ was signaled by the importance of keeping it, once given.

5. Giving

  • Goods were accumulated to be given away on ceremonial occasions. The value of goods was appreciated but prestige was more important than the accumulation of wealth as such. Acquiring goods required generosity, among other virtues. Gifts were a social and diplomatic obligation. They were essential for sealing agreements and alliances with other people. Without gifts, negotiations were not even possible. Treaties, once agreed on, were not regarded as self-sustaining. To be kept alive, they needed to be fed every once in a while by ceremonial exchanges.

6. Humor

  • Humor was one of the first characteristics to be reported of New World peoples. It was highly valued; they highly approved of anything that provoked laughter. They rejoiced when they had an abundance, even of articles of little value. They had to know how to keep their spirits up in the face of starvation.

7. Hospitality

  • They all observed the law of hospitality, the violation of which was considered a crime. It could be carried to the point of self-impoverishment.

8. Unity

  • Belief in the unity of all living things was central to Amerindian and Inuit myths. The unity of the universe (although filled with powers of various types and importance) meant that all living beings were related — indeed were ‘people,’ some of whom were human — and had minds.

9. Harmony

  • Of utmost importance was harmony, the maintenance of which was by no means automatic. Peaceful co-operation could be shattered by violent confrontations with malevolent, destructive powers.

10. Trickiness

  • The demands of life could make it necessary to break the rules; hence the importance in Native legend and myth of the trickster, who could be an individual but could also be an aspect of the Creator or world force.

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A couple whose lasting love started because of an infernal war.

Here’s what I did in this bold enterprise of writing about my family. I  hope my experience may be helpful to you too.

To present my parents’ life story and my growing-up story I hit upon two ways. First, I could combine the stories of two generations — but only if I could find a beginning, middle and end for a structure around a unifying theme.

  • It couldn’t just be that they were born and died and did something fantastic as a climax near the end. I had important things to say about their effect on me as I grew up. I saw flaws in their relationship.
  • The central theme I wanted get at was one of ego. Altruism is without a doubt the greatest virtue. But babies need to suck in, see and exercise a healthy dose of ego joy in order to become competent, confident, caring adults.
  • My solution was to frame the book as a psychological detective story/family biography. I began by saying I was on a search for my parents’ lost egos. One question I wanted to figure out was why my mother denied my father one of her chocolates the week before he died, even though he begged for it.
  • That way I could keep the reader in suspense and also make the book an honest critique. That’s my way as a nonfiction writer.
  • The title was easy because our family name was KellThe Book of Kells is the famous ninth century manuscript that illuminates the gospels. I point out my parents and ancestors aimed to do that too, by the way they lived.41khlscocglSecond, I could write the book just as an inspiring love story — the quintessential Canadian romance. This approach might appeal more to a different group of readers. 
  • Like the first book, it contains excerpts from my parents’ love letters but the theme is a tribute to my mother’s courage and my parents’ idealism.
  • I tossed out the subtitle and included a dozen authentic pictures of my mother’s adventures instead.
  • The title comes from a hazardous five-day trek on a cariole toboggan made by my mother, my father and an aboriginal guide. The temperature dipped to 30-below-zero. If there was no one to take them in, they slept outside. She had to get to the hospital for her baby to be born.
  • Digital technology made it easy for me to do this. Both books are published under our V&V logo but printed on demand and distributed by CreateSpace (originally called BookSurge.)
  • Revisions are quick and simple to make. Then I order just the number of  books I think I can sell at bookstores, fairs, shopping malls, reunions, book clubs, seniors’ residences, libraries, book clubs, etc.
  • Most customers have a definite preference for which printed edition they want for themselves or as a gift.
  • I take my i-pad with me and can download an e-version of either book if that is what a customer prefers.

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Eating

The Spring Supper fills the church hall to overflowing for two sittings. Roast turkey with all the trimmings is the main dish, with members bringing them already cooked from home.

Roast Turkey

“It is all in the preparation.

“The turkey is washed clean and dried. The giblets are
removed and cooked in water, eaten at leisure, and as a base
for the gravy.

“The bird is stuffed at both ends with the dressing (see below),
sealed up with metal pins and placed on a rack in the roasting
pan. The turkey is covered in a thin layer of olive oil-based
margarine, sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

“Place it in the oven with water in the roasting pan and no
cover for the first 30-45 minutes; then cover and cook for the
desired length of time (until the legs are very loose). Remove
cover again for the last 15 minutes until golden brown.”

Turkey Dressing

“Fresh and/or stale bread is left out for a couple of hours
before tearing and crumbling by hand. A mix of brown and
white bread is always good. Always make more than you think
you will need.

“Chop two or three good-sized onions, as well as two or three
garlic buds. Add to bread.

“Mix together the usual blending of spices which is never the
same but always the same – marjoram, sage, poultry
seasoning, celery salt, sea salt and pepper. How much? you
ask. Until it smells good and looks right and darkens the
bread. Then add a small quantity of olive oil and some
margarine until all the bread is slightly moist. That’s as good
as it gets for describing quantities for any of the ingredients.

“As stated above, stuff the bird fairly tightly and let the
cooking begin!”

Rev. Steve Lawson

Turkey Gravy

“Have Steve remove the turkey from the roasting pan. Place
roasting pan on stove on medium-high heat.

“In Tupperware Quick Shake container (or glass jar with tight
lid) vigorously mix together 1 cup flour with 2 cups cold water.

“Slowly pour into pan with drippings and mix with a wire
whisk until it begins to thicken. As it thickens, slowly add
water. Alternately stir and add liquid, maintaining the desired
consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.”

 

 http://www.amazon.com/Eating-Church-Recipes-Aylmer-Eardley/dp/1439216711/ref=la_B001K91GX0_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384787726&sr=1-2Margaret Kell Virany   

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Public domain image, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Public domain image, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Is it time for Celtic Swirls of Love to Replace Straight Roman Lines in Our Infrastructures?

In Copulating Cats and Holy Men: the Story of the Creation of the Book of Kells UK author Simon Worrall sees parallels to our times. He approaches “the most richly ornamented book ever created by man’s hand” as a riddle full of a series of visible clues.

It is a “holy comic strip,” a “beguiling Noah’s Ark of animals and birds that kick and flap and stamp, like the blue wolf that pads along a path of Latin script; or the moths that flit behind a curtain of braided ornamentation,” Worrall says. The monks saw in the cat an analogy to godhead.

Google’s doodle page used a Kells detail as a welcoming image for St. Patrick’s Day. Computer scientists and art historians digitalizing its pages for popular applications have posted their  video on YouTube.

By 791, A.D., Western civilization had been brought to the brink of destruction by barbarians and Vikings. Everything must be coded into a visual data bank and saved. One genius Irish artist had his fingertips on the entire repertoire of Celtic art and metal work. Another, a southerner, knew the art of the ancient Mediterranean world. Nine artists worked together.

It celebrates the facial expressions of love instead of power and preserves the continuity of European culture. After centuries of victimization, abuse, burial, romanticization, neglect and oblivion until it was miraculously stored at Trinity College, University of Dublin, the relic is being cast in a new role.

Worrall sums up, “The Greco-Roman world order and all that it brought us — straight roads, the subjugation of nature and other civilizations to our material will; cultural narcissism — is faltering. The new house of Europe, open from Manchester to Moscow, is the Celtic geography restored.”

Is the oldest, most tenacious of European cultures your  “in” look  too?

This blog post adds to the mystery of why anyone would entitle their family memoir A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void. (Our surname was Kell and I grew up as a preacher’s kid. There’s some doubt over whether or not our family originated in a community of ninth century monks).

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Oxford House HatsThe men and boys of Oxford House, northern Manitoba.
1926 Photo by Jack Kell.

The end of April was the time when the Swampy Cree of Oxford House, Manitoba came back from winter camp, ready for the Spring season.

They had gone far into the bush, lived in shacks, shot duck and moose, and fished for themselves and their dogs. They were more healthy and contented when they were out in the bush than on the reserve because they had meat to eat. The missionary had given their fathers their school exercise books and made them promise to have their children look at them at least once a day.

Now Spring was here and with it came travelers from the South. Eager to make some money, the men and boys tried to make a good impression. Strong and swift-footed, with valuable knowledge of nature and skills as craftsmen, they were indispensable as guides to carry the outsiders’ gear, paddle and portage canoes and navigate the trails through the bush. They would also exchange meat for ‘white man’s’ food such as jam.

Where Did They Get Their Hats From?
Each man or boy has his own style and no two hats are the same. I suspect they came out of the bales of clothing which were sent up to the reservation from church congregations in the South who wanted to help the Aboriginal people. The influence of the new age of aviation was detectable in some of the hat styles.

Look at this Historical Photo:
Chief Jeremiah Chubb is standing second from the left in the back row. He is the one who “although not musical, played the organ as best he could for the church services”.

His right hand man, Bobbie Chubb, is standing — on his right. He liked to brag and had a good sense of humor, which my mother (the missionary’s wife) adored.

One night when he was at Mission House, he told her that his children were not let out of the house at night because he locked the door at 10 p.m. Then he looked at his watch and said: “To-night I have locked myself out.”

Which hat in this historical photo appeals to you most?

What’s your new Spring hat like?

Thank you for spending some of your precious time reading this post. Please browse around from tip to toe and, if you like, write some comments.

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My father wore a Canadian sailor suit and my mother wore her English high school lab coat when they met in the middle of WWI and preserved love letters we can now read.

My father wore a Canadian sailor suit and my mother wore her English high school lab coat when they met in the middle of WWI and preserved love letters we can now read.

Patricia Zick of  Author-Wednesday interviews Margaret Kell Virany whose books include A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, the love story of an English young woman and a Canadian young man set during World War I. Kathleen’s Cariole Ride is set during the same time period.

Q. How do you envision yourself in this role of writing romantic historical books based on your life and that of your parents?

A. Lover of life, language and literature. Note-taker, journalist, editor, author. I write. Little things turn me on, like scraps of paper in a keepsake box and the memory of strawberry socials, harvest suppers and silver teas. The act of being a witness, a record-keeper, a storyteller, and the one who remembers has always excited me.  I feel like I am part of a wider community. My ideal is to help others “see eternity in a grain of sand” (William Blake) and gain access to the best truth we have. As the historian, Sallustius said in 4 A.D, “What happened is what always happens.”

Q. I love that. It’s very poetic, which is very fitting based on your style of writing. Do all your books have a common theme or thread?

A. Yes. Love is my theme. It comes in various specialties: the romantic love of a young couple, parental love, filial love, family bonds, charity, love for other human beings, and the all-embracing divine love brought to earth and presented as an ideal by the Gospels. For me, it was a personal pilgrimage of going home to my parents after finding their love letters had been left in a keepsake box, surely for some purpose.

Kathleen Ward let her lover sail home after he came back to court her after WWI. Later they married and their daughter wrote their story, based on love letters (A Book of Kells).

Kathleen Ward let her lover sail home after he came back to court her after WWI. Later they married and their daughter wrote their story, based on love letters (A Book of Kells).

Q. What a wonderful and powerful perspective. Why has it been so important to explore this theme of love?

A. If people don’t get or give enough love they go searching for it, and a good book can be their voyage. When I was coming of age in the fifties, it was still a bit of an anomaly for a woman who had children to work outside the home. Women like my mother came out of a world, both deprived and romantic, that had untold, inestimable influence on the direction of children, husbands, and society. Such love practices inspired the line, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” (William Ross Wallace, 19th century Indiana poet)

Q. That’s a perfect quote to express what you’ve done in your writing. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

A. “Virany’s account of their (her parents’) adventures … is riveting. (She) has the natural gifts of a born storyteller who keeps you caring about the characters no matter where they are. When the Kells finally return to civilization the pace of the narrative doesn’t flag.” From a review by Ellen Tanner Marsh, New York Times bestselling author.

Here's the picture of my mother I used on the cover of Kathleen's Cariole Ride.

Here’s the picture of my mother I used on the cover of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.

Q. I’d be very proud of that review as well. Very nice and I’m sure rewarding. How did you choose the title, A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void?

A. In my years spent studying English literature at the University of Toronto, I noticed certain things about classics. I wanted to do things that would identify my memoir as that category of book. Fortuitously my family name, Kell, is the same as that of the most famous manuscript of ancient western civilization, The Book of Kells. Millions of tourists go to look at it in Dublin each year, so it would have a familiar ring even for those who couldn’t pin it down. Beginning the title with “A Book of …” gave it a serious, nonfiction tone. My literary background also led me to load my title with words that had multiple meanings and associations which would give clues to the type of content inside. My parents lived their married life as if it were a book. There is an ancient concept of life being one’s “book of days.” For dates and events, I leaned on my parents’ daily diaries. The title could also refer to the Bible, the book that most guided my ancestors and parents. I hit the jackpot, I felt, when I disovered that the root of the name Kells was, according to some scholarship, a synonym for all Celts or Kelts, the dominant tribe who inhabited the region north of the Mediterranean Sea in 500 B.C. This was generic; anyone with a name with the Kell prefix is one of the tribe so the word should have wide appeal. Another meaning for “kell” was a hair net or covering and that was an appropriate symbol for my upbringing as a minister’s daughter. My title might make people think it was a family history, which it partly was, at least for the most recent four generations.

It would be a long, lonely journey for my father from the white cliffs of Dover back to the Indian reserve in Oxford House, MB. But he was not one to give up hope too easily.

It would be a long, lonely journey for my father from the white cliffs of Dover back to the Indian reserve in Oxford House, MB. But he was not one to give up hope too easily.

Q. That’s fascinating. I’m always interested in the creative process, so how did you decide to write this book?

A. I wanted to write it as a romantic novel while sticking rigorously to the facts as I knew them or was able to reconstruct them by careful logic. It should have a beginning, middle, climax and end but these should not be superimposed. They should emerge from what I could find out; the story must be allowed to tell itself. It was a test to see whether the literary structures I had been taught really worked. I had to discipline myself not to make things up. I already had on my hands a self-described knight and lady who had rubbed shoulders with real prime ministers and princes. They courted and treated each other accordingly. I did not have to manufacture their raw emotions because I had their seventy-two authentic love letters from the 1920s. I had been blessed by a bonanza in a keepsake box; I just had to call forth my muses to elicit it and do it justice.

Here is a beautiful quote I just received as a comment on my “About” page of my blog. “Memories are a nursery where children who are growing old play with their broken toys. Kells is an extraordinary book, presenting the extraordinary story of extraordinary people living in extraordinary times.” John W. Bienko

Q. That is lovely. I’m so glad you stopped by today, Margaret. Yours is a unique story and one worth telling. Won’t you tell us  more about yourself?

Oceanbound to a Family Reunion in 1937 (illustration from A Book of Kells)

Oceanbound to a Family Reunion in 1937 (illustration from A Book of Kells)

A. About Margaret Kell Virany: Born on a farm on the northern fringe of Toronto, I got a degree in English Language & Literature and married my Varsity heart throb. Early employment was at the Toronto Telegram, Maclean-Hunter and freelancing for the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Montreal Star, and Montreal Gazette. My most fun jobs were as professional public relations secretary first of the Montreal YMCA and then of the Toronto YMCA, and as a program organizer of CBC-TV’s first live nationally televised conference The Real World of Woman (1961). Following a move to Canada’s capital region, I became editor/co-owner of the weekly newspaper in my home town of Aylmer, QC and had the busiest, best career of a lifetime. Upon discovering the keepsake box full of love letters, journals and photos my parents left, I published A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void. It records my family’s lives and my uneasy coming of age as a minister’s daughter. Then I wrote Kathleen’s  ariole Ride recounting my parents’ transatlantic courtship and adventures living on a Cree reserve in the north. At the 2012 Centennial Conference honoring the literary critic, Northrop Frye, I learned that my notes of his lectures would be among those posted on the fryeblog, available for public download. This success brought me back to the day when I dropped out of college for a year and learned shorthand on my very first job, as a receptionist at the ‘Tely’.

Thank you for dropping in. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertaining. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Author’s tips are offered by word and writing advice by example.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics! http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany  www.margaretvirany.com

Being a minister’s daughter is a life full of social and personal pitfalls with exaggerated penalties hanging over her head. Writers seize the juicy topic of a sweet girl as a focus for the battle between good and evil. George Orwell couldn’t decide whether his The Clergyman’s Daughter itself was good or bad. First he banned it from publication, then let it go because his heirs needed the money. In Emily of New Moon, L.M. Montgomery didn’t resist getting a snicker from the idea of a minister’s daughter eating grapes from around a grave and riding on a pig. The whole tragedy of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter centers on a strict religious community’s revolt against an embryo in a womb who turned out to be an accidental minister’s daughter.
1941family

Off to church in Toronto, 1941. A minister, his wife and girls are all set to hop over from the manse to the United church next door to start the Sunday morning shift in the pulpit, at the organ, in the Sunday school and choir.

The latest addition to the literature is Julie Hearn’s The Minister’s Daughter. The reviews describe it as a real potboiler with a surprise ending. One thing is for sure, it has a great cover. hearnministersdaughter

Inside, the reader is reminded of witchcraft, conflicting religions and the perceived sinfulness of sex, children and women in our history. Minister’s daughters came to public notice after the Protestant reformation brought in Christian churches with no policy of celibacy for clergy, just a lot of moral hang-ups around sex.

My book about a minister’s daughter will break the mold because it is autobiographical. First I brought it out as a subtitle but now I have decided to do more research, expand, publish and release it to fly on its own.”Growing Up in an Ego Void” actually means “Growing Up as a Minister’s Daughter”. Right now I’m wondering what the cover and title should be. Book front2

What I hope to add to the world of writing is:
1. Practical tips for minister’s daughters trying to survive.
2. A contribution to the genre of identity literature. Charlotte Bronte, an Anglican curate’s daughter who wrote the classic, Jane Eyre, is credited with being the first to write about woman’s independence, a theme that still resonates today.
3. Insights for psychologists trying to help minister’s daughters who have fallen into depression because of their stressful role.
Conventional wisdom is that the minister’s daughter is clueless about the world but actually she has social skills and has learned how to manipulate a whole community. Jane Austen, an Anglican rector’s daughter, is still guiding us with her books, such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

My nonfiction story will be dramatic, entertaining and dedicated to all minister’s daughters, especially those who were aborted in a more cruel past because of the delicate situation.

Thank you for dropping by. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertain. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Writing advice is passed on by word and example. To find out more about A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church  please click here.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!


rabbitfur2

The magic of writing a memoir is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, only in reverse. That’s my new theory. When my mother posed for this picture in 1928, just after marrying, coming to Canada and starting life on an Indian reserve, she had no idea I’d write a book from her love letters and adventures some day.

Imagine my joy at receiving these emails from two of the first avid readers of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride in its paperback edition. They’re from Catherine and Fred Dunlop, my second cousins who have a beautiful farm and family.

Here’s what Catherine says about the book, so eloquently:

“Margaret – I have just finished reading this wonderful book and I still have tears in my eyes, it is so well written. Mental images appear with the flow of your words and they transport me, it seems, right into that setting.
I am not a writer, but I am a voracious reader and I so enjoy how you can make a scene come to life with just descriptive passages. I laughed, I shook my head in disbelief many times and, as I said, cried when I had finished. I cannot say enough about this wonderful gift of love to your parents. I am going to order several today. I want to put one in our local library and I also want to give each of our children a copy. Uncle Jack baptized all three of our children.
I often called Uncle Jack ‘the oldest teenager I know’ and he seemed to enjoy that. We also had many discussions around theology topics. He was a man thinking unlike many of the ministers of his time. Aunt Kay was always so quiet and reserved but, once, she and I were talking out in my kitchen as I was cutting meat and she seemed vitally interested in my life, asking me questions about how I was coping with motherhood and a busy husband. Her way of saying “I know exactly what you are going through”?
Anyway, thank you for writing this story, THEIR story, so beautifully.

Catherine”

And here’s what Fred, who sent the photos, had to say:

“Good morning Margaret – we found this picture of your parents in a family trunk that mom had put away. The picture is in a frame made of rabbit skin. 20141225_153140 (1)Mom has written on the back of the picture Rev Kell, Aunt Kathleen, Oxford House. Manitoba, 1925 (about)
love
Fred”

Some people just have all the luck when it comes to parents and cousins, so I have a grateful heart I wanted to share with you.

Thank you for dropping by. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertain. To order a copy of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride, please click here.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

Following special days in the calendar and finding activities to match the temperature can make for a happy, peaceful rhythm  for a whole wonderful year. One way or another, we focus on coping with the climate. These tips salvaged from our Xmas letter might be helpful to you too:

LesFebparkingValentine’s Day One of our few outings this past, cold winter was to meet Son half way between Pittsburgh and Ottawa because the trip is so long and hazardous. We parked side by side in our Priuses and transferred packages. Then we ate Chinese food together in a restaurant in Mattydale, near the Syracuse, NY airport .

 

 Mother’s Day Copy of Marg's new chairAnother winter activity for Hubby was to finish making furniture for our house, which he began doing 59 years ago when we got married. By the time Mother’s Day arrived in mid-May, Mom was sitting in her brand new chair and the frosty  mornings and cold nights we’d spent reminiscing and sipping hot drinks in front of the wood-burning stove in the foyer were far-off memories.

christmasboatThe Solstice When the weather finally broke and the ice thawed, we put  our modest sailboat into her berth at the  marina on Lake Deschenes (three minutes from home). By the night of the Summer Solstice, we were going out in the calm hours around sundown, to soak up its last warming rays.

Copy of P's gardenSummer What a joy it was to go and visit Daughter in her beautiful home, with its patio and garden, in July! You would hardly know this oasis is in the studio district on the edge of Leslieville right in the heart of downtown Toronto.Then came August, when all the grandchildren visited our home to celebrate birthdays.

fjordAutumn  In Labour Day week we went on a vacation to the Saguenay Fjord at Tadoussac on the Saint Lawrence River. We went on a cruise and basked in Quebec’s local cuisine and hospitality. The scenery was out of this world and we encountered lots of sea lions and whales up close.

We wish you good ways of coping with the climate and taking advantage of whatever delights are within your reach in 2015. We used to wish people all sorts of wonderful values but this year we’re just promising all those we really care about, and that includes you, that we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

Thank you for dropping by. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertain. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Writing advice is passed on by word and example. Find out more about A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church  by clicking here.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

book signing cartoonLike many authors, I used to hate selling but a few easy techniques have made me love it and have fun. This can happen to you too, once you’ve mastered the moves that clinch a sale when your real book meets a live customer. Last Sunday copies of my new paperback flew out the door with almost one-third of the traffic that shopped at Ottawa’s Perfect Books bookstore between 1 and 3 p.m. (20 loners or couples, six books sold.) Here’s my advice; I hope it works just as well for you:

  1. Prepare for your event with a phone call, follow-up visit to the store and a query  just before you come. By the time you get there, you will know the easiest way to drop off your books and the best place to park your car. The owner will have consignment copies of your book on the shelves, posters in the window and a table and chair for you to use. Get there early enough to hang up your coat in the back room and set up your display before you start work.
  2. Begin by making eye contact with the first customer you see. A man held the door open for me and my big box, I thanked him and had sold a copy of my book even before my coat was off! More often, I watched a customer enter the store from a few feet away, while I stood (not sat) at my table in the line of view in a conspicuous spot.
  3. Greet the customer or nod immediately with a friendly smile, before they turn away to browse among the shelves or address the cashier. If they come closer to you —
  4. In an inviting, confident manner hold out your book towards them slightly and say, “This is my new book I am introducing today. Will you take a moment to find out about it?” Most say they will. Your next steps depend on your unique book. I plunge in and tell them the subtitle is ‘A true love story from over the ocean and in the bush after WW1’. I point to my name and say “I’m Margaret”, point to the title word ‘Kathleen’ and say “This is my mother” and let them look at the picture, which explains the title word ‘cariole’ (a fancy toboggan).
  5. Pause. By now, the customer is probably ready to talk to you or ask a question. Be prepared to carry the conversation wherever it may go in order to find common ground in fact or feeling between you two and your book.
  6. Remember the time-honored way of buying books is by browsing and taking time to decide. If the customer says nothing, hand them the book with the back cover turned up and say, “Here”, so they can take their time reading the blurb and quotes from reviews. (My new paperback had already been reviewed in its parallel life as an e-book).
  7. Have a sample copy you don’t mind having fingerprinted by people who’ve been eating a hot dog. Make a written note if it is taken off wandering around the store so you don’t lose count.
  8. Be aware of any other customers who have been eavesdropping on your conversation while they are browsing and make eye contact with them too.
  9. Have an attractive display on your table so it can engage customers on its own. When you are busy talking to someone, stand free of your table so others can look at it. Ingredients of my theme and information display are (1) Tablecloth and decorations in seasonal colors (2) Framed rave review (3) Framed announcement of the day’s event and price (4) Paper scroll of key words (5) Copies of book (6) Signing pen (7) Book marks and (8) Business cards.Authors and independent book stores help each other thrive with events like this book signing at Perfect Books in Ottawa, Canada
  10. Get to know the cashier and establish a relationship that will make you a recurring fixture in the store If, like me, you are not yet a celebrity, the person on duty may be a part-time worker. Signings are held on weekends and your appearance gives the owner and regular employees relief from their duties of informing, entertaining and chatting with customers.
  11. You may or may not have signed a contract and find the cashier is not authorized to pay you. In this case, give the owner a call Monday morning to report how it went and find out when your check will come. Usually the store keeps 40% of receipts. You may have written other books, and want to arrange to put some copies of them in the store too. If you can’t sell one, you may be able to sell another.
  12. Give the store information on how they can order more copies of  your book. My books are printed on demand by CreateSpace, which also provides distribution channels to all major outfits. The bookstore owner looks at a website such as The Book Manager to see if your book is available from a distributor they use, likely Ingram. Since my paperback is new, it will not be listed for six or eight weeks. In the meantime, I will order an inventory of 50 books at a time and retailers can buy them from me. However, CreateSpace will not pay me any royalties until I have accumulated $100 in their account. They do not pay me royalties on the copies I buy, so I am anxious to have the stores enabled to buy them directly.

The few remaining book stores in my city are using authors as a strategy to keep their stores lively. Several ‘Book Events’ are allotted two-hour time slots on Saturdays and Sundays. Readings work well in some locations but only if there is a good group of bodies. More elaborate parties, complete with martinis, may also be held in stores after closing hours to launch books.

I used to waste countless, frustrating hours trying to sell my books to listless shoppers at book fairs or bookstores. Meanwhile, bookstore proprietors stared out their windows, praying for somebody to come in. But when the store-owner and the author get together to have live events like signings and readings, it can be a different story.

Thank you for dropping by. To order a copy of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride  for Christmas or Valentines giving, please contact V&V Publishing, editingexcellence.virany98@gmail.com. To find out more about all e-book and paperback versions of A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride or Eating at Church, click on these links to Amazon, CreateSpace or my website. Bookstores selling my books in the Ottawa area are Black Squirrel, Books on Beechwood, Brittons, Michabou, Octopus and Perfect Books.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!