Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Pleasant Place

The last few days have been quite the emotional tempest.
Last Wednesday, my publisher received the first copies of Finton Moon from the printer, and so I was able to hold a copy in my hands like the proud father of a newborn infant. I was actually more excited for the landing of this book than I was for Moonlight Sketches, and that's saying quite a lot since I was ecstatic with the birth of my short story collection. They say every parent has a favourite, and I'm afraid mine will always be my second born simply because it has been the trouble child. Maybe as time goes on I'll feel differently, and I'm sure I'll forever reserve a fond place in my heart for MS, but Finton Moon was conceived over twelve years ago, won the Percy Janes Award as a rough draft in 2001, and seemed destined to be sprung onto the world quite some time ago. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows how long and strange the gestation period for this novel has been.

Moon landing.
About five years ago I started once again rewriting Finton Moon-- it's about 98% different from the 2001 draft, and this incarnation was accepted last September by Killick Press to be published this spring. But the manuscript, according to my editor, still needed some work, and so I set about to get it done in time for an April 2012 release. Despite working 12-14 hours a day nearly every day (read: love of labour, with no pay) since Christmas 2011, we didn't get the April release we were looking for, but I remained hopeful of it happening before the summer was here.


A funny thing happened then. While the novel's release was delayed, my first child won an award. What followed was a fair amount of publicity that, at least in theory, sees Finton Moon enter the literary universe at exactly the right time. Tentatively, the launch has been set for June 26, and it is, of course, open to the general public. Details will be announced soon. Today, Saturday, only three days after I first held it in my hands, Finton Moon was finally available in St. John's bookstores, just in time for Atlantic Author Day. It was a successful day of signing books and meeting some old friends.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, at the invitation of local historical society, I returned to my hometown of Placentia to give a talk to members of the community at their new Arts Centre. It's a beautiful facility, with great lighting and ambience, and wonderful acoustics--as I found out when some members of the audience asked me to sing one my original songs.

Me 'n me mum.
If you have some time to spare, you can view most of the video of the event by clicking on the link below. The entire evening was fantastic for me, like something out of a fairy tale. I haven't been to Placentia in more years than I care to admit, and so the night was fraught with emotion for me. In fact, my wife and I spent most of the day with my mother, who's 77 years old and still quite the vibrant young woman. We talked most of the day, but drove around the town a bit as well. Most of the store fronts have different names on them now than when I grew up. And, while a different sort of resettlement (to places like Alberta and Ontario) has had its effects, Placentia--at one time the original French capital of Newfoundland, formerly named Plaisance, or "Pleasant Place"--is showing signs of a comeback. The population that remains is strong and resilient, and many members of the community actually come from other provinces, or have lived elsewhere and returned to start businesses of their own.

The audience at the arts centre was incredible. It was the largest crowd they've had for their author speaking series, and most of the people in attendance were unkown to me--by virtue of both my long absence and my invisibility as a child. Listen to some of the speech by clicking on the image at the right, and you'll understand what I mean. But there were some family members in attendance, as well as one of my former students from the area, for whom I've always had a great fondness.

The view of Placentia from the venerable, old Castle Hill
historic fortress site.
It was a warm reception, by far better than anything I imagined when I left my hometown back in 1982. As a seventeen year old, I imagined one day going out and conquering the world or slaying a dragon and one day being the toast of the town. It didn't quite work out that way--there were a lot of hard years to follow, many of them appropriately be labelled under "lost." But this was a night of celebration, and I was humbled and proud--and quite honoured--to be able to stand in front of such a keen, interested, and intelligent audience of fellow Placentians and, well, just talk. As with the Atlantic Book Awards last month, it was just proof of life--evidence of being heard, finally. And it meant a lot for me to return to where I began.

Signing a copy of 'Finton Moon' for a very nice woman.
The next day, I left sunny Placentia, and the fog inside the city of St. John's was bone-chilling as the temperatire dropped about 8 degrees from what I'd just left behind. I went from telling stories at a warm arts centre in Placentia to signing copies of Moonlight Sketches at Costco. Not that I mind Costco so much, as they do sell a lot of books and, for that, I am grateful. But I'm ready to move on now--it's a new year. Summer begins soon. Finton Moon will be officially launched soon. Although the copies I brought with me to Placentia sold out, there still some at the St. John's Coles and Chapters stores. Quite a few people told me they already had the Moonlight Sketches and wanted the second book, which is extremely good to hear. Apparently, no one wanted to lynch me. Everyone understands that, while my writing is very dark at times, I'm not writing about Placentia or about my family and friends. It's fiction--and I'm both relieved and impressed that the people in my hometown seem to understand, accept, and embrace that fact.

So, tomorrow, it's one more big event--my brother-in-law's birthday bash, combined with a Father's Day nod for my wife's stepfather. And then, at some point, I will rest. I'm sure of it. Pretty much. Maybe.

This upcoming week, for the first time in a very long time, doesn't look quite so busy. Maybe, just maybe, I can get back to work on my new novel(s): Two Sisters and Dream Dogs.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Oh--the singing. I was asked to sing a song. And, instead of doing the tired, old "I'm too shy" and hanging my head thing, I belted it out, and it went over well. In fact, it might well have been the best moment of the night. Unfortunately, the video feed at the Arts Centre went out just as I was about to sing "Family Reunion," a song I wrote when I played with my brother Gene's band, The Visions. In fact, he recorded that song on his CD not too long ago. So it meant a lot to me to be able to sing it a cappello in front of my hometown homies.

Here are the words. Maybe some other time, you can hear the music as well. I was fairly young when I wrote this, as it was a long time ago and in the band I was the one who sang  lead on it, with my brother singing with me. That, and the fact that it's a favourite of my mother's--who was in the audience Thursday night--made the moment pretty special for me. Well, that and the fact that, in spite of not having sung it in a long time, I didn't forget the words.

Family Reunion

I came here tonight from far away
To be with my family and friends.
It's been too many years since I was here.
It's so good to see them again.

I left my home when I was young
To make my way in the world.
But it seems you can take the boy from the bay,
But you can't make 'em stay away.

Now the band is playing the old songs
My brothers and I used to sing.
And the air has the sweet smell of summer tonight,
And everyone's feeling all right.

'Cause we're having a family reunion
In the warmth of the old parish hall.
The old and the wild, the young and the wild,
Every one of us answered the call.

The house where I reportedly grew up.
Even the ones we thought gone for good
Have managed to come home today.
Oh, I don't recall the last time I saw
The whole crowd together this way.

When tomorrow comes around and my legs feel like lead,
And the music still rings in my ears
I'll bid you goodbye till next time we meet,
Please God not for so many years.

Now the band is playing the old songs
My brothers and I used to sing.
And the air has the sweet smell of summer tonight,
And everyone's feeling all right.

'Cause we're having a family reunion
In the warmth of the old parish hall.
The old and the wild, the young and the wild,
Every one of us answered the call.

The old and the wild, the young and the wild,

Every one of us answered the call.

4 comments:

  1. I am so incredibly proud of you and pleased for you. You deserve every good thing, my dear friend. I hope this is just the beginning of some wonderful things to come.

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  2. Thanks, Madam. :-)
    It's been a long time coming, and I'm enjoying every moment. I appeciate your kind words and hope your own life knows a great deal of wonder.

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  3. Alicia Decker-GushueJune 18, 2012 at 11:55 PM

    Congratulations on the launch of your new book. I look forward to reading it and hopefully getting it signed :)You are such a nice person and deserve all the recognition you are receiving for your books! I wish you the best of luck on everything else you are writing or decide to write.

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  4. Thanks, Alicia. The official launch will be next week--I'll be letting everyone know, in case you wanted to be there. Either way, thanks for the support and encouragement. It means a lot to me.

    ReplyDelete