big deal

Last night, the 100th Grey Cup was played in downtown Toronto, where the Toronto Argonauts defeated the Calgary Stampeders 35-22.  

On Saturday, three writers I know were listed on the Globe's top 23 Canadian fiction books of the year.  Eva Stachniak for The Winter Palace, Grace O'Connell  Magnified World, and Heather Birrell for Mad Hope. 

Earlier this month, my writing teacher, friend and inspiration, Sarah Selecky had the US launch of her book, This Cake is for the Party.  
And, last Thursday, I was awarded the Random House of Canada 2012 Student Writing Award for my short story, Let Me Call You Lovely.

Each of these accomplishments is, in my opinion, a big deal. And deserves the recognition it receives. 
The publication where my short story appears, Three, is small but, a big deal. U of T faculty, Random House staff and the contest judges all had very positive things to say about my writing and the finalists writing like, "remarkable literary outcomes" and "fine writers" and "a fantastic achievement". 

I didn't realize just how big a deal the award was until I arrived at the U of T Faculty Club on Thursday night to celebrate the win along with the finalists and read this, from 2009 winner Anne Perdue, underscoring the importance of the award to her career.  

"A year later, Insomniac Press published my book. I am hugely grateful to the Random House of Canada Student Award in Writing for providing opportunity, prestigious acknowledgement, and validation."

Pretty big deal.

The evening was a tandem celebration for the award's 10th anniversary and at the door, one of the organizers told me they only had name tags printed for VIP guests, faculty, and finalists.  When I introduced myself, she said, "Oooooh, you are the winner! Congratulations. Of course you have a name tag."  

I was the big deal.

I also had to read an excerpt from the story, something the editor had failed to mention to me.  Finding out then and there saved me the worry and concern and neurosis of deciding which bit to read. No rehearsing, no overthinking it, no breathing exercises.

No big deal.   

I am more writer than sports enthusiast lately.  However, I am from Saskatchewan so that makes me a Roughrider fan by default.  My best Grey Cup experience was 23 years ago when I still lived in Saskatchewan. With two seconds left in the game, Dave Ridgway kicked a field goal giving the Riders a 43-40 victory over the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the 1989 Grey Cup.  We jumped in the back of a pick up truck and drove around downtown Regina after the game.  

It was a big deal.  

On Friday, my nephew and his girlfriend came to Toronto for the weekend to attend the game yesterday. They are huge fans (pictured here, front and centre, in green) and along with many other keen CFL lovers, have been roaming the city for the past week. I went to Nathan Philips Square and Yonge and Dundas with them where we did yoga on a makeshift field, tasted new flavours of Frank's Hot Sauce and tossed a football at some tires in a cage. Next year's Grey Cup is in Regina. 

It will be a big deal. 

Whether it's sports or writing or any other thing you want to make a big deal about, below is some wise advice from Natalie Goldberg, a big deal in her own right.  

“Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.” 

for the love of books

In the wake of the news that independent Canadian publishing house McClelland & Stewart was bought out by Bertelsmann AG, owner of Random House of Canada, I just want to say that I love books.

Let me say it again, I love books.

I saw a designer on a talk show years ago where they recommended lining up books next to each other from tallest to shortest for a clean, organized look.

So I did it with my cookbooks.

Sometimes I stack my books. Like the bookshelf in the hall that has books both lined up and stacked. Or the bathroom bookshelf. Or the shelf in my closet that houses a collection of notebooks and books I reference more frequently. Or the box of books shoved under the bed because we don't have room for another bookshelf.

Or the every rising stack of books on my bedside table.

I love my books.

Watch this very cleverly creative video posted two days ago from Type Bookstore in Toronto and tell me you don't want to pick up a book. Tell me you don't want to own more books. Tell me you don't want to run out to the store and browse and buy and read more books.

I understand Kobos and Kindles and e-readers. I get the popularity. I see people using them all the time. I was even a runner up in a writing contest last year and had a short story published. In fact, it is only available in electronic format. It was e-published. It was e-xciting.

You can find out more about the contest and download the story, Moving Parts, here.

Still, I love books.

The McClelland & Stewart buyout story, like all stories, has two sides:

The big guy takes over the littler guy in efforts to help them out with financial challenges and issues of dealing with an industry with increasingly more digital assets.

The littler guy now has to report to the big guy, but the plan is that the publishing house will continue to be run in the same manner, by the same people, with minimal changes.

Okay, there are actually three sides. The third side is the bottom side, also known as the line, which we don't know. No financial terms were revealed. We don't know how much the U of T got from Random House.

From all media accounts it is seemingly an amicable move.

The story of the McClelland & Stewart buyout however, is not the story of The Chronicle Herald in Halifax.

The Chronicle Herald remains one of the last independent dailies in Canada. Graham Dennis who served as its owner and publisher for 57 years died at the age of 84 on December 1, 2011. According to his obituary, he was proud of the paper's independence, saying that all offers to buy it were rebuffed, politely but firmly.

The Globe and Mail quoted former Tory MP Bill Casey with saying, "He was genuinely interested in everything that was going on in the province."

Genuine interest.

That's the kicker. I hope, for the sake of books, Canadian books in particular, in the M&S and RHC story, that the big guy takes a genuine interest in the littler guy's efforts, ideas and mandate.

There is reason to believe they will.

In a press release Random House said they have made significant long-term commitments in undertaking this full ownership.

Random House stated they will continue to fund and support the M&S Poetry program, the publication of The Journey Prize stories, and ongoing support for the Writers Trust Journey Prize. They are establishing The McClelland & Stewart Lecture, an annual event to be held at the U of T that will be focused around the advancement of writers and their ideas. They say they will keep the McClelland & Stewart imprint and retain the New Canadian Library, Emblem Editions and Signal imprints.

Here's hoping.

PS: I had lunch today with the fine folks from The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction. We talked about books. And we talked about the upcoming event on March 5th where this year's winner will be announced. We also talked about animals and food and travel and family.

But we were there because of books.