Archives for posts with tag: selling books
newspaperdress

Author Margaret Kell Virany in newspaper dress sets up before selling books at Ottawa’s Singing Pebble bookstore. In answer to queries, she told them a dear friend/fan gave her the dress after seeing it on a dummy in a Rockefeller Center boutique. Virany also sold a book or two at this lovely social, civil, cosmopolitan bookstore alive with fresh air.

Credit: Library & Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1982-124

Lucky me. I’ll be selling my books and displaying aboriginal artifacts this Sunday afternoon at a site once inhabited by the tribe who greeted the pilgrims on the Atlantic shore. No. The above picture is not a Currier & Ives Christmas card. It is a steel engraving by William H. Barlett famously published in Canadian Scenery Illustrated in 1842. As in the picture,  people will be gathering at the Lake Deschenes bend in the Ottawa River to be warmed and refreshed amid the nostalgic aura of dormer windows, conjoint staircases and veranda vistas.

  • The event this time (Dec. 4) is a light show and artisans’ sale after the Santa Claus parade down Main Street and the Christmas Bazaar at the British Hotel.
  • The Kitchi Sibi Anishinabeg first inhabited this site thousands of years ago. Chief Tessouat was a busy commercial middleman in the years of the fur trade. Champlain and his voyageur explorers rested at this pleasant spot in 1613. They thought they had found a route to China but at least were the first to get as far as Lake Huron. Charles Symmes from Woburn, MA built the Inn in 1831 and helped his uncle Philemon Wright found the townsite. Pioneer settlers made their way to Aylmer from Montreal by stage  coach and stayed overnight before continuing their journey. This was the landing place for busy steamboat traffic.
  • When we moved to Aylmer in 1976 we built a sailboat (from a kit) and berthed it at the Marina (above). One day after sailing I saw one of our municipal councilors, Denise Friend, charge across the parking lot to accost some gentlemen stepping out of a black limousine. They were officials of the Quebec government and had a purse to spend on heritage projects. Soon news came that the historic Inn reduced to rubble after being used as a flea market and consumed by a fire was to be restored. It re-opened in a good imitation of its former glory in 1978.
  • Today it is a Museum with fine exhibits as well as being a heritage gem of the Outaouais region. It will always be at the heart of the townsfolk of the Aylmer sector of the city of Gatineau. That’s why my books, indigenous artifacts and I will be smiling so happily from the inn-side this Sunday. The artifacts I have include a birch-bark basket, two birch-bark trivets, an ermine hat and scarf set and a pair of embroidered moccasin slippers. They’re from my parents’ days as missionaries on the Cree reservation at Oxford House, MN in the roaring twenties. Their story is told in A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void and Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.
  • Merry pre-Christmas season to you too!

margaretvirany.com

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photo 2My parents lived the quintessential Canadian dream with their focus on immortality. They took snapshots at significant moments and left them behind with names, dates and locations on the back. They kept diaries, and wrote journals on special trips. My mother locked their love letters and birth certificates up in a metal keepsake box. They were both well educated; my father got an MA in history with Lester Pearson as a tutor. Because I had a BA in English Language & Literature, after our parents died my sisters delegated me to make a book out of our family.

  • The bare facts of their story are that Kay and Jack were an English girl and a Canadian boy; he joined the Navy in world war one in 1916 and was sent overseas to the Portsmouth barracks. Her high school sweetheart had got cholera while fighting in France and died at age 19. She enrolled in the London School of Medicine for Women to become a doctor but dropped out because of a nervous breakdown. Kay and Jack met when her father, a municipal councilor commended by the Prince of Wales for helping veterans, invited colonial servicemen home for tea.
    Her sister wrote to Jack for nine years on behalf of the family but then married and moved to Australia, so Kay took over the correspondence. She was 25 and thought she was going to be an old maid but her letter was perfectly timed.
  • Jack had finished studying theology at the University of Toronto and was going up to Oxford House, MN as a United Church of Canada minister to the Swampy Cree. The job came with a house and he yearned for a wife to keep him company but so far it was a hard sell. No Toronto co-ed seemed interested. He proposed to Kay and she asked him to come over so she could have another look at him. They just had six days and she said it would be too risky. He got her to agree not to make her answer final for a year during which they would write to each other.
  • Jack pulled out all the stops; he really wanted Kay; she was such an exceptional, smart person with a warm heart and an adventurous streak. Canada and the United Church, not himself, were his best selling points. This beautiful, exotic semi-nomadic settlement beckoned with brisk air, splashing waves, colourful leaves, good-looking childlike faces, gold-panning, delicious moose nose and a cosy wood-burning hearth. Enormous potential for her to do good lay among these folk desperately in need of an intelligent, well intentioned person’s interest in them. The merger behind the United Church was attracting worldwide attention as an example of tolerance. The future was full of promise; she was well equipped for whatever lay ahead so need not fear a thing. If only he had her he would be in seventh heaven.
  • She asked him to come over again and this time they got married almost the minute after she made up her mind; they flew over the English Channel to Paris for a 24-hour honeymoon before he had to hustle back 5,000 miles to work. She packed up, said goodbye to everything and everyone she had ever known and joined him in the spring. She met his family on their farm in Cookstown, Ontario and was welcomed by his friends at a reception in Toronto before they went up to the reserve 600 miles northeast of Winnipeg by train, steamboat and canoe. They lived with the Indians, as they were then called by government, helping, teaching, laughing, sharing and exchanging cultural habits, forming attachments and etching indelible experiences both sad and happy upon their hearts. Their first child was born after a five-day, 120-mile trek to hospital at 30 degrees below zero on a cariole (big toboggan for special occasions and people) in January, 1929.
  • They left the reserve in June, 1931 and became an ordinary Ontario United Church minister’s family in Nakina, where a second daughter was born, Lemonville, where a third daughter was born, Fairbank (Toronto), Cochrane, Thistletown (Toronto), Durham and Flesherton. They retired in Owen Sound in 1966 and lived there until Jack died in Kay’s arms in 1988 and she passed away in 1990. They had been married for more than 60 years and left nine grandchildren.
    Kay and Jack had little in common to start a lifelong marriage except that both were avid readers. They were familiar with biblical texts they applied to daily life. They identified with the heroines and heroes of the same classical books and had faith they would succeed if they lived accordingly, doing the right thing towards each other and everyone else in the world.
  • What Inspired Me to Do This Creative Work
    As retired editor and co-owner of my community newspaper in Aylmer, Quebec, in 1996 I took my mother’s keepsake box to a grade four classr on Heritage Day. We sat cross-legged in a circle on the floor and I began reading to them from a journal my mother wrote seventy years before as she was riding up the fur trade route to Oxford House, MN in a canoe. I told the children if they wrote something in a journal today, it would become heritage for children of the future.
  • Then I passed a page of the handwriting around the circle and pointed out that my mother had made a note in the margin saying the splotches were made by drips from the paddle. Involuntarily, I choked up and almost added a tear of my own to the page. The children were all staring at me with their eyes wide open and the teacher, a friend who wrote a column in my newspaper, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Margaret, you have to write a book.” That was the magic moment I decided to jump in and do it. For the kids. For these kids and all kids everywhere so they will know their heritage.
  • Actually I had been more or less assigned by my older sisters to write a family history but now I went about it with passion. I would do my best to make my parents immortal and please my favorite professor, Northrop Frye. Most of the content was on hand but I had to research an amazing number of facts, maps etc. to make the story absolutely reliable. It was a labor of love, an exercise of my abilities and skills, a challenge I couldn’t resist, an important project for my retirement years.

(I submitted the above as a brief to the Canadian Heritage consultation on Canadian culture and creativity on Nov. 24, 2016)

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