Very cool to get your novel on the B.C. Ferries. Thanks to Mother Tongue Publishing for all their hard work.
Ordinary Strangers -- a review from Mary Ann Moore: a poet’s nanaimo
Bill Stenson took many risks in his novel, Ordinary Strangers, and what is so miraculous about the book is the lack of judgment I felt towards the characters no matter what their behaviour. Well, there many have been a couple of instances when I was riled by a character’s tendencies but what good novelists can do is help lead their characters, and their readers, towards understanding and even forgiveness.
Ordinary Strangers by Bill Stenson is the winner of the 4th Great BC Novel Contest with Mother Tongue Publishing on Salt Spring Island. While the book may be described as being about a child abduction, Della and Sage Howard weren’t looking to take someone’s child on their way to Fernie, B.C. in 1971. The little girl, about two years old, was lost in the forest near a fair on a hot August day in Hope, B.C. Della and Sage stopped for a break, lost their dog, and found the crying toddler.
They named her Stacey Emerald Howard and the continuing story is not about a search for a lost child or hiding from authorities. Della thought about calling the authorities but not for long. “Once the Howards invested in a winter coat, they no longer mentioned finding the authorities and returning the little girl to wherever she had come from – wherever the word they both used consistently instead of whoever.”
Della began babysitting children in their home and as she kept a journal and records of everything that happened, “she documented every one of them and devoted two or three pages in her family album to people like Edwin the red-headed baby or Laura the little French girl who wanted to grow up to be an Irish dancer.” Stacey found a childhood friend, Tommy, that way. Later, when she started school, Stacey became friends with Amber and another valuable ally was Della’s sister Sadie.
Maybe because Della didn’t know or didn’t voice any objections if she did, I didn’t feel judgmental about Sage’s behaviour when he became involved with Selma, a woman who worked at a bar and lived upstairs above it. As the narrator describes him: “Sage knew he had holes in his moral fiber. He always felt dissatisfied and could never stick with one thing.”
Sage “was addicted to restlessness, a man who followed a crooked path and didn’t know what to do about it.” When Della and Stacey began going to church, Sage said “he would rather for a walk along the river, which he did the first Sunday they were both at church.”
Novelists get to hand out karma to those who aren’t punished otherwise so Ordinary Strangers‘ characters get their just desserts – and more. I found myself, rather than identifying with a particular character, relating to the emotions they evoked. Although, like the characters, we’ve all been “wronged” in some way, suffered loss, and felt like a child lost in the forest.
Time moves seamlessly. How did he do that I kept wondering? By the end of the book, Stacey is a teenager almost finished high school. The book is not predictable at all and I don’t want to mention various circumstances so you can be as surprised as I was by the quirky events as well as the very jarring ones.
Stacey and Amber do some sleuthing into Stacey’s past towards the end of the book and Stacey says: “A lot of bad things happen to kids before they grow up, but none of them happened to me. I don’t like everything about the way things turned out, but in the end, I have to consider myself lucky.” And later: “She avoided the temptation to pick away at the scab of regret.”
Bill Stenson will be reading from Ordinary Strangers along with Linda Rogers, author of Crow Jazz, on Gabriola Island at the Gabriola library at 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 24th.
Had a marvellous reading at the Salt Spring Library on Saturday. Great crowd, great vibrations. Brett Josef Grubisic also read from his new novel Oldness or the Last-Ditch Efforts of Marcos O. Had a great meal and visit with Mona Fertig and Peter Haase from Mother Tongue. An amazing operation.
In 1967 my stepdad, George Szabolcsi, passed after a four year battle with bone cancer. My mom didn't have the money, at the time, to give him a proper burial. He rests in Mt. View Cemetery and fifty-one years, thanks to the money I received for winning the Hunt For the Great B.C. Novel Contest, the marker below will recognize him. The words inscribed come from a poem my wife, Susan Stenson, wrote about him years ago. Long overdue but satisfying nevertheless.
It's hard not to get excited about the launch of my new novel, Ordinary Strangers, the winner of this year's Hunt For the Great B.C. Novel Contest with Mother Tongue Publishing.
There will be a reading in Victoria at Munro's:
Plus some other readings around the province:
OOrdinary Strangers Events
-Vancouver, Oct. 4 Thursday, Massy Books with Linda Rogers, 7 pm
-Victoria, Oct 10, Wed, Munro’s Books with Kathy Page 7:30 pm
-Kelowna, Mosaic Books, Oct 24, 1-3 pm
-Vernon, Gallery Vertigo, Oct 25, 7:30
-Fernie, October 26, Fernie Library 7 pm
-Salt Spring Island, Nov. 3 Sat, Salt Spring Island Library 3 pm
-Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 8, Victoria Public Library with Linda Rogers, Patrick Friesen, 7 pm-8:30
-Gabriola Island Library, Saturday Nov. 26 with Linda Rogers, 1 pm
As always, thanks for your support.
Gabriola Island Library, Saturday Nov. 26 with Linda Rogers, 1 pm
Andrew Pyper doesn't write the kind of books I tend to write. He is a best selling author and his short video comments on the recent Access Copyright controversy. To view, CLICK HERE
Reviews for The Wildfire Season“Stampeding narrative urgency…A fierce morality tale.”
– The New York Times
“Excellent pacing and credible characters…Pyper writes beautifully about the splendor and dangers of the wilderness. He doesn’t anthropomorphize, but his understanding of bears and fire imbues both with a life force.”
– Publisher’s Weekly
Feels great to be back home again, my fiction collection where it belongs: with a view of the two-humped mountain.
Tonight we experienced a wonderful literary experience. At the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at the Arizona State, we heard Maggie Smith read her poetry. It was in the evening, outdoors in Arizona. I was comfortable, Maggie Smith was hot (she lives in Ohio). I'm sure most who read this entry have heard or read her poem "Good Bones". It has been consumed by more than a million people. Ah-h-h-h . . . the power of poetry. Sitting outside and listening to such a fine craftsperson, what struck me was the atmosphere in which the poems were delivered. In the backdrop was the sound of a city of more than four and a half million and the sounds of a nearby airport, the kinds of sounds people walk through day and night without a thought. People, worldwide, do want to live in cities. The air was thick with urbanity and in the middle of an apocalypse rehearsal rose the voice of a poet that shocked the senses. As familiar as everything was, I was on a journey to somewhere I'd never been. Her poem fit the atmosphere beautifully. Thank you, Maggie.
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
Recently spent a splendid week in Nashville. We visited their public library and it was very impressive. I must say, this library portrayed below in China may have it beat. I doubt my books are in there, but still.
Some may have heard of Pernassus Book Store, situated in Nashville, TN. It is an iconic, independent bookstore owned and operated by Ann Patchett. It was a brave act to open such a store six years ago, going against the strong current of a mighty river. There was a reading the night we attended. Joan Silber reading from her novel Improvement. It was a delightful evening. Hard to not like a bookstore with such friendly staff and a dog running around like he owned the place.