Trick motions, surprise votes and fiddles - check out my latest article on the procedural warfare in the House of Commons.
I'm back from BC, and I had a great time, as always. There was an excellent turnout at the events, and the Q+A sessions were lively. Thanks to Raili Haapalainen at the Vancouver Public Library, Marie Paul at the Burnaby Public Library, Caitlin Jesson at Book Warehouse, Alan Zisman at Spartacus Books, and the New Star Books team for all their work to make these events so successful.
Along with visiting friends and family, I also spent some time working with my mom, Judy Truelove, on her book. Her writing has been published in Northern Light, Room, Branching Out, CV2, The Antigonish Review, PRISM international and Event. She also edited the first four drafts of the Robinson biography, and more or less taught me to write. She's currently working on a biography of E.M. Delafield, the celebrated English author. While Delafield's work is well known and retains its relatability today (it has been suggested that Bridget Jones is simply an updated version of the unnamed heroine of Delafield's Provincial Lady novels), my mom has uncovered a wealth of unpublished material about her personal life and the tumultuous world in which she wrote her most famous novels. It's a great story, and I really enjoyed batting ideas back and forth about how it might be told.
And, a lot of people have been asking what my next book will be. There are a few ideas floating around...stay tuned.
...but I'm not, because I have a no-pun policy...
I'm heading back to BC for the following events:
Vancouver Public Library (central branch/library square) - July 31 at 7 p.m. - reading and discussion
Book Warehouse (633 West Broadway) - August 6 at noon - book signing
Spartacus Books (3378 Findlay Street, just east of Commercial and 18th) - August 6 at 3:30 p.m. - book signing
Burnaby Public Library (Metrotown branch) - August 7 at 7 p.m. - reading and discussion
At the libraries, I'll be speaking and doing a couple of readings for about 40 minutes, followed by a Q+A. I'll do a variation on what I did in Regina/Saskatoon, because I felt that worked really well.
Always great to be back in BC - hope to see you there!
A while back, I contributed this article to Dr. David McGrane's Canadian Social Democracy Study, a comprehensive project that will ultimately yield a book examining the NDP between Jack Layton's election as leader in 2003 and the 2015 election.
I've now also sent Dr. McGrane a selection of research to help with the project. It's a small contribution, but I'm proud to have made one nevertheless. I think this is going to be an important book. To gauge the prospects for social democratic principles in Canada, we need to understand where the NDP is going. Layton's leadership, his electoral success, and Tom Mulcair's subsequent leadership all represent new frontiers, both in the party's internal organization and its ideology. Whether the party ultimately succeeds or fails, McGrane's study will help Canadians understand why.
Two nights ago, I was proud to accompany Janine to the Ottawa Wedding Awards in celebration of her nomination as "Best Photographer." It was a wonderful night, with great food and friendly people, and of course the highlight was seeing Janine's work recognized.
It's nice having a photographer for a wife. Not only are there gorgeous landscapes on our walls, but I also have a charming collection of photos of myself in front of various monuments (it's harder to get Janine on the other end of the camera). But the best part is seeing how she finds beauty in unexpected places. An overlooked corner of a mundane street, transformed and given its moment to shine in romance and adventure. A bike chained up in an alley. Immense, intense emotion passing between two people in a private moment. It's taught me to look a little more carefully at the world around me.
Late last fall, we were in Toronto - and this is a bit corny but entirely genuine - and we turned a corner and peeking over the skyscrapers was a sunset.
"Thank you!" I exclaimed spontaneously, turning to Janine.
A quizzical look.
"Well, for the...." I realized that I was giving her credit for the daily disappearance of the sun behind the western horizon, and in general, wives don't find comparisons to images of closure and finality romantic, so I gave up and we had dinner.
Objectively, it wasn't a postcard sunset, but it had a certain confidence to it, as though, in bursting through the grey clouds, it proclaimed the irrelevance of the Toronto skyscrapers that otherwise dominated my viewpoint. It wasn't something I would have noticed before learning to see the world through her eyes.
I feel so grateful to have so many artists in my life: photographers, writers, actors and musicians. It feels a little funny to say that we underappreciate art in such a celebrity/entertainer-obsessed culture. Perhaps what I should say is that we underappreciate good art. Part of the problem is that, too often, we aren't willing to pay for it. If we want to experience the fullness of artistic expression, we need to allow people to dedicate their lives to their craft, and while they're doing that, they're going to need to eat. But I also think that another way to get more good art is to have more of us doing it. Do it in your spare time, even if your spare time is only about 15 minutes, once a year. Draw something, sing something, write something, as often as you can. As songwriter Glen Hansard said as he accepted the Oscar for Best Song a few years ago, perhaps feeling a little out of place among the Hollywood celebrities and searching for some commonality, "Make art."
Or maybe it's even simpler than that. Recognize the art around you. Recognize the art you already make.
Last Saturday, I was thrilled to be able to attend the 2014 BC Book Prizes Gala in Vancouver, where my book on Svend Robinson was one of five finalists for the Roderick Haig-Brown regional prize for the book that “contributes the most to the enjoyment and understanding of the province of British Columbia.” (I still can’t believe it – what an honour!)
My book didn’t win (congratulations to Arthur Erickson: An Architect’s Life author David Stouck, who also won the Hubert Evans non-fiction prize), but the entire thing was an incredible experience. There was a distinctly Oscars-esque atmosphere. It began with a VIP reception with the Lieutenant-Governor in which the nominated authors were able to meet the LG and go over the protocol for accepting an award. The organizers even specially selected a boutonniere for me (to go along with the tie my wife Janine had given me as a gift the night before). Next, we mingled with other industry people and friends and family of the authors (including Janine and my mom, Judy). I enjoyed meeting fellow nominees Roy Henry Vickers, Grant Lawrence, Jordan Abel, Kathryn Para and Renée Sarojini Saklikar, and others in the publishing industry, and, of course, I had a great time hanging out with Mike Leyne and Rolf Maurer of New Star Books, too.
Then, we headed to the dining room for the dinner and awards presentation. Host Charlie Demers was hysterical, and even though my book didn’t win, it was very exciting to watch each presenter open the envelopes containing the winners’ names, and then hear the acceptance speeches. They were funny, heartfelt, and all made me very, very proud to have my work considered alongside theirs (I’m still pretty blown away).
Congratulations to David Stouck and all the other writers who were there. And thanks as well. There are a lot of voices in our society telling us to think less. Thank you for challenging us to think
I’m tremendously grateful to the BC Book Prizes for the nomination. It’s an honour I’ll cherish forever, along with the many wonderful things people have had to say about the book. It was also very special to me to be able to share the occasion with Janine and my mom, both of whom contributed so, so much to this project. Best of all, I feel more energized than ever about looking ahead to the next book…
I’m happy to announce that Svend Robinson: A Life in Politics is now available as e-book through Kobo and Google Play.
I think it’s great that the book can now be read either electronically or in the traditional printed version. Personally, I prefer the printed version, but it’s hard not to like the e-book format too – it’s cheaper for the reader, and it saves paper.
How do you prefer to read? Leave me a comment!
A couple of weeks ago, I visited Saskatchewan for the first time, and I have to say, it's a wonderful place. Sean Tucker, an associate professor at the University of Regina, had contacted me to let me know he'd enjoyed the Robinson biography, and asked if I'd be interested in coming to Saskatchewan and holding a couple of events.
Before I knew it, New Star Books was on board, Sean had everything organized, and I found myself on a plane to Regina.
In Regina, I got a great tour of the city, including a visit to one of Canada's most beautiful legislatures (they have a table around which the Fathers of Confederation met during the 1864 Quebec Conference), courtesy of Bob and Brenda Watson. I finally met my hosts in person, Sean and his terrific family. Within minutes, his wife Jessica and I learned that we have a shared connection to Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, while Sean and I learned we have a mutual interest in craft beer and lengthy political conversation. Both Sean and Jessica have a way of making a total stranger feel like an old friend, and I had a wonderful time with them.
We had a good turnout at the Unitarian Centre for the event that night. I spent about half an hour at the podium discussing how Svend's legacy as a politican on the front lines is incomplete and how he also excelled at behind-the-scenes legislative work. I also addressed how Svend was unique not only in how he approached politics, but in which issues he chose to approach. This led to a discussion on different approaches to political change - how we can 'move the centre' in more ways than one. Lawyer Noah Evanchuk also spoke - his line about Svend, that it takes a special person to "play the role of Cassandra" - sums up much of the book beautifully.
I arrived in Saskatoon at about noon the next day and headed straight to the CTV studios for my first interview on live TV. I think it went well. I'd love to see it, although I gather that the footage (along with a taped interview on French CBC I'd done in Regina the day before) wasn't kept after being broadcast. But it was incredibly cool being in the studio, mic'ed up, seated on that fake living room set-up, a few feet away from the anchors as they joked between takes and became serious again just as the cameraman's countdown reached one.
I also got to meet Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau, guests immediately after me. If you haven't heard of them, I'll leave it to Wikipedia to explain.
In Saskatoon, I spoke at St. Thomas More College, touching on the same points I did in Regina. Former NDP MLA Peter Prebble, former NDP MP Ron Fisher, and Norman Zepp also spoke, sharing stories of working with Svend on environmental issues, his reputation in caucus, and the esteem with which he is held by LGBT activists.
I also got the opportunity to do some sightseeing in Saskatoon, and particularly enjoyed visiting Wanuskewin, site of two buffalo jumps and a 1500-year-old medicine wheel, where people have been gathering for over 6000 years. My hosts in Saskatoon were my good friend Alexis Normand and her sister, Elise. Like Sean and Jessica, they were generous hosts and excellent company. (If you don't know Alexis, she is also an enormously-talented singer and songwriter. Click on the link to hear some of her great work.)
I can't say enough about Sean Tucker and Tracey Mitchell, the organizer of the Saskatoon event. Their enthusiasm for the book, and the energy they put into making these events such as a sucess, has been beyond overwhelming. Their energy and commitment to causes they believe in is inspiring. I would like to thank them, as well as the University of Regina, and David McGrane and St. Thomas More College, for their sponsorship, Noah, Peter, Norman and Ron for speaking, Peter Garden and Turning the Tide bookstore for designing the poster and providing books, and Bob, Brenda, Alexis and Elise for showing me around their respective home towns.
I highly recommend a visit to the land of living skies. That slogan is no exaggeration, by the way. The way the sky is a feature of the landscape in Saskatchewan is unforgettable. So are the people.
Two days ago, I learned that Svend Robinson: A Life in Politics has been shortlisted for a 2014 BC Book Prize.
"Celebrate," my publisher, Rolf Maurer of New Star Books, told me. "Something in a single malt."
The BC Book Prizes are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. The category in which my book has been chosen as a finalist is the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize for the book which contributes the most to the enjoyment and understanding of British Columbia.
The other finalists are: Inventing Stanley Park: An Environmental History by Sean Kheraj, Voyage Through the Past Century, by Rolf Knight, Arthur Erickson: An Architect's Life by David Stouck and Charles Edenshaw, by Robin K. Wright and Daina Augaitis with Robert Davidson and James Hart. I look forward to checking them all out.
This is such an unexpected honour. I'm very, very proud of this book, but I didn't expect to be shortlisted for such a well-respected prize. But I'm grateful for all the attention the book has received. I felt, and still feel, that Robinson's story deserves to be told, and it's wonderful to see how many other people feel that way, too. And it was truly a privilege to tell it.
Congratulations and good luck to all the other finalists. Winners are announced at a special event in Vancouver in May. I'll keep you posted, of course!
Along with some special guests, I will be speaking about Robinson's life and career, and the process of writing his biography, at the following book events in Saskatchewan in March:
Regina: Monday, March 17 at 7:30 PM at the Unitarian Fellowship of Regina, 2700 College Avenue
Saskatoon: Tuesday, March 18 at 7:00 PM at St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan, Room 344
Along with the presentations, there will be light refreshments and a book-signing.
Special thanks to the University of Regina Women's and Gender Studies Program and the Department of Sociology and Social Studies, the University of Saskatchewan Department of Political Studies and Turning the Tide Bookstore for sponsoring this event.
This will be my first trip to the prairies (I've always wanted to go). Hope to see you there!
Here Graeme blogs about whatever he's working on.