Voice: Who should tell your story?

A writer’s choice of voice for a story or novel is one of the most important decisions he or she will make. Voice can be equally important in nonfiction. I will be speaking about voice at the upcoming meeting of The Canadian Authors Association – Metro Vancouver (including Victoria) on January 9, 2018.

I saw the documentary film They Shall Not Grow Old just after Christmas. Director Peter Jackson produced this powerful film about the Great War based on 100 hours of historical film footage and 600 hours of audio recordings from the British War Museum.

His team enhanced hundreds of hours of film by sharpening images and adding colour. The motion is less jerky and more natural than in the original clips.

The original footage also predated movie sound but Jackson could see the soldiers’ lips moving, so he tasked expert lip readers with interpreting their words. The experts determined the correct dialogue – with appropriate accents – and this was incorporated into the film.

Jackson also wrestled with how to do justice to the men who had served and lost lives in the war. He decided the story could only be told by using the men’s own words from the audio tapes and then superimposing these over the footage. The result is an authentic and heart wrenching trip into the trenches and battle zones of WWI.

I reached a similar conclusion about voice four years prior when writing my nonfiction book Sun Dogs and Yellowcake. I determined that former residents of the uranium town where I grew up, must tell their stories in their own words. In this way, life in a mining town in the 1950s and ’60s and the personalities of its residents would be more authentically portrayed.

To hear more about voice and my choice in Sun Dogs, you are welcome to attend the upcoming meeting of Canadian Authors Association – Metro Vancouver (including Victoria) on January 9, 2018. For information about the presentation, please click here.


 I recommend that everyone see They Shall Not Grow Old.  To watch the trailer  click here. 

To see more information about Sun Dogs and Yellowcake, click here.

Reflections on publishing Sun Dogs and Yellowcake

The headframe reminds us of Gunnar. Publishing Sun Dogs and Yellowcake brings the town back to life.
The Gunnar Mines headframe stood for more than 50 years after the mine closed, beckoning to all who passed by.

I have been reflecting on the two years that have passed since publishing Sun Dogs and Yellowcake – two years today.

Publishing your first book is an incredible joy. What you don’t realize when that moment arrives is that a book has a much larger life than what it contains within its pages.

Here is what Sun Dogs and Yellowcake has delivered for me.

History
  1. Re-connection to a ‘time and place’ and to the people who resided in Gunnar. People who had lost contact with their friends for more than fifty years have rekindled their friendships and memories. I have had the joy of reuniting with old friends and making many new ones.
  2. Preservation of the history of the small northern town of Gunnar Mines and honouring a former way of life. Its history was told best through the words of its inhabitants. And people with no connection to the area have shared and appreciated this history because of what it reveals about who we are as Canadians.
  3. Recognition of the significance of mining, an industry that helped form this country. Mining, including the production of uranium, continues to be a key part of Canada’s growth.
Story-telling
  1. Realization that the Canadian mining industry has a treasure chest of fabulous tales that unfortunately are being lost to time. I recall a dinner following the closing of a financing. The president and chief executive officer regaled us with adventures from a lifetime in mining. This was only a small sampling of stories that will likely never be told.
  2. Celebration of the small stories that together chronicle our lives. A narrative that shows where we have come from so we understand where we are.
Publishing Surprises

I did not have many expectations for this book about a little town in the middle of nowhere, in a time no one remembers. I initially thought it would appeal only to its former residents. It has surprised everyone. It has won awards, received significant publicity, and been appreciated by a broad audience.

What a journey!

The headframe in the photo above marked Gunnar’s existence and its passing. I like to think publishing Sun Dogs and Yellowcake has brought not just the town, which closed its doors in 1964, back to life, but also the era. For me personally, publishing has opened up a new world, for which I am very grateful.

The stories continue to roll in. Tomorrow,  a man who lived in the neighbouring community of Uranium City shares his adventures.

Kelowna writers’ group is flourishing

My husband Robert Mackay and I had such fun in Kelowna this past Thursday speaking to an enthusiastic writers’ group about the pain and gain of traditional versus independent publishing. The audience of about thirty stayed glued to their chairs for the full two hours which we like to think was because of our dynamic presentation and not because they had fallen asleep. They had so many thoughtful questions and it was lovely to share their enthusiasm about writing and literature.

Such good friends. I am holding a beautiful handcrafted charcuterie board courtesy of Blair Jean.

This is a relatively new but growing writers’ group that meets in and receives positive support from the West Kelowna LibraryBlair Jean, entertaining raconteur and author of a number of Northern books, and gracious Geneva Ensign manage the group and were our hosts. Blair spent 50 years in Northern Alberta collecting local – including indigenous – history and stories, and his books, including Clearwater Memoirs, are treasures for their preservation of Canada’s past. Geneva is awaiting the publication of her book Community Healing:  A Transcultural Model that draws on her extensive work experience, and is a guide for healing of individuals and communities. Continue reading “Kelowna writers’ group is flourishing”

Vivalogue Publishing, a champion of independently-published authors

Announcement of the Whistler Independent Book Award winners by Vivalogue owners

Two dynamic women, Lynn Duncan and Kilmeny Denny, run Vivalogue which provides consultation, editing, design, and other self-publishing services in North America and the United Kingdom. Lynn and Kilmeny decided in 2016 that the time had come to recognize excellence in the Canadian market through a juried competition to determine the best self-published books. The awards, jointly administered by the Whistler Writing Society and Vivalogue Publishing, are known as the Whistler Independent Book Awards and are the first to be offered in Canada for the independent publishing industry. In 2017, a manuscript competition was added.

Farida Somjee won the 2017 Fiction Award for The Beggar’s Dance. Paul Shore was the non-fiction winner for Uncorked: My Year in Provence. Fiction finalists were Annie Daylon for Of Sea and Seed: The Kerrigan Chronicles,  Book 1, and R.L. Prendergast for The Confessions of Socrates. Non-fiction finalists were Monique Layton for Notes from Elsewhere: Travel and Other Matters and Patricia Sandberg for Sun Dogs and Yellowcake: Gunnar Mines—A Canadian Story. Louis Druehl won the manuscript competition and his book Kwai Scrolls was launched at the Whistler Writers Festival. Continue reading “Vivalogue Publishing, a champion of independently-published authors”