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Local reads for the holiday season

There's a bunch of new books by some of your favourite – and most local – authors out just in time for the holiday season.

Avid readers on your holiday shopping list, or just looking for something for your own night stand? There's great news for you with several new titles from some of your favourite St. Albert writers, just in time for reading time.

Corinne Jeffery's The Reluctant Author

The author behind the historical epic Understanding Ursula trilogy and the coming of age novel Lords and Lepers is back, thank the stars. Much of that was steeped in Jeffery's own family and personal life, which makes one pause when considering this one's title.

Even her editor chuckled.

"She laughed out loud, she said, when she read the title and put it to my name. She never would have thought of me as a reluctant author," Jeffery admitted.

Writing is about the joy and wonder of making connections, which Jeffery does so easily. Her stories are rich with detail and characters so full of life that they walk off the page. Furthermore, she's an eager spokesperson who can often be found enthusiastically chatting up prospective readers at public fairs. In doing so, her work and her name have traveled the world.

"Once I became published, I quickly realized that there is a very subtle distinction between being a writer and being an author. Everybody says, 'Aren't they the same?' But you know, they're not, at least not the journey that I chose to take where I was very, very busy interacting with people. I dedicated The Reluctant Author to my readers quite genuinely. It is actually in many ways a tribute (or at least the last part is a tribute) to my readers."

So much of her writing has the dint of autobiography but with a fictional twist for a literary application, so it makes sense that she would pen a fictional memoir about one woman’s journey to becoming a past-midlife bestselling Canadian author all the way from a dysfunctional and impoverished upbringing.

Telling this story, as with all her previous books, is something she was born to do, she says, and it's a narrative as much about the main character's healing journey as it is about the author's. There's a good bit of St. Albert in the setting, the atmosphere and the characters, as well.

It's a glorious thing indeed, and all of her fans will certainly be thrilled.

Learn more about the author and her catalogue, as well as links to all booksellers' sites, at corinnejeffery.ca.

True to form, you can also find Jeffery at her booth at the St. Albert Christmas Market on Saturdays, Dec. 12 and 19, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Enjoy Centre, 101 Riel Dr.

Saint City Writers – Connected

Everyone's favourite local writing circle is back with its seventh anthology.

The theme for Connected was conceived at the start of the year. Still, many of the pieces came in with new relevance to the world of the moment.

"We were even debating whether we should maybe dedicate the anthology to the pandemic or maybe say nothing," began Ewa Kolacz, one of the member writers. "We decided that we'll just do whatever anybody wants to write about."

She continued there's an added eerieness to it because of Patricia Trudeau's picture that was chosen for the book cover. It shows three people at a bus stop, each with cell phone in hand.

Trudeau, the celebrated author and painter, sadly passed away at the end of February, never knowing of the pandemic to come. Her funeral was the last public event many in the group attended before the first wave arose in March. The book is dedicated to her and she has four short stories inside.

There are 15 local authors with fresh works in these pages, including Rekha Kiran Poudel, a relative newcomer to the group and to this country. Originally from Nepal, she has included one story about her immigration to Canada.

"The funniest thing is that she said in that story that her son was really surprised or excited to see snow when he came to when they landed in Toronto, which is interesting to hear from somebody from Nepal. You would think that they've seen snow before."

Poudel's other story, The Window of Hope, was submitted to a CBC online feature called Dear Diary. It was published on the broadcaster's website back in June. That was a big accomplishment for her, Kolacz said.

The book is not currently for sale, though a copy of it accompanies the other six SCW anthologies on the shelves to be borrowed. The group still holds its meetings (virtually these days, naturally) on the second Tuesday of every month, but when the world returns to normal, you can expect them to meet in-person once again. Observe the library's calendar at sapl.libcal.com to stay abreast.

D.A. Vandenbrink – The Crimson Dimension

Hold your horses, St. Albertans – did you see that a new writer of supernatural thrillers emerged from the city in 2020? D.A. Vandenbrink released The Crimson Dimension in March to strong reviews and was even featured in the Writers' Guild of Alberta Online Reading Series.

The story, about a university student who witnesses a miracle and develops the power to see angels and demons walking among us, was written as part of a larger series with the next one expected by this time next year, fingers crossed. It's a great, fun and compelling read, but perhaps the greater story is the author's own tale of triumph in becoming published. The 54-year-old works for a land developer by day, but has often found himself in his full creative zone, devising new stories on his word processor after the workbell rings or even in the middle of the night.

"I've always been a fan of speculative fiction and just done some writing on my own, just for my own enjoyment over the years. I decided at one point that I had a good story, a good idea, and I should just go for it. This was my first endeavour of publishing," he revealed.

He didn't really pick up the habit until he was 30. Far from being a lifelong craftsman in the literary arts, he noticed everybody in his family absolutely enjoyed reading, and the light bulb went on.

"I figured there's got to be something to this. I asked around at some good series, and at that point, just absolutely got hooked on reading and in the art of storytelling ... just amazed at the way that some authors can put together multiple plot lines and a compelling story. And that's when I got hooked and that's when I started to start to develop some of my own ideas, and got to this point now."

Look for The Crimson Dimension for purchase through all major online vendors as well as at Chapters Indigo in St. Albert and at West Edmonton Mall and Audreys. Look for more on his website at davandenbrink.com.

Michelle Porter – Approaching Fire

She might now be a Maritimer, but Michelle Porter is still considered one of this city's most active poets, now with her third book out. This time, it's personal. It's about the author herself, and Léon Robert Goulet, a celebrated Métis fiddler from Manitoba.

She wrote it because she had to, she said, and it stemmed from a particularly difficult time in her life.

"Writing this book brought me to healing and I hope it brings insight into a healing path for others. But I didn’t write Approaching Fire thinking that I’d write a book about healing and recovering from intergenerational trauma," she explained.

"I always say I grew up on the stories about Bob Goulet and I thought I knew who he was and who I was as his great-granddaughter. It was only in researching this book and tracing his musical career in the newspaper archives that I learned how much I didn’t know about him and about myself. I wrote (it) to honour him because his music and all the stories about his music meant so much to me growing up. And it wasn’t just him. My grandmother and her sister both were part of the band he formed, called the Red River Echoes, and so by following his trail I found the beginning of my grandmother’s trail and a way to understand her life."

Her grandmother will be the focus of the author's next book, but in writing this well-researched and intimate series of poems and vignettes that glimpse into a family's psychology, Porter arrived at a larger view of resilience that will certainly speak to others.

"I wanted others to understand what it takes to heal from the debris of trauma that has built up over the years because it has remained unspoken and unacknowledged. The metaphor I found in the world at the time of the writing was fire. In sections of the book, I write about fire ecology and the growing recognition that we need to let smaller fires burn – to engage in the traditional burning our Indigenous ancestors used to practice – in order to prevent the large all consuming fires that destroy rather than renew."

It is a powerful analogy indeed.

Visit breakwaterbooks.com to buy a copy or to learn more about the author.

L.E. Carmichael – The Boreal Forest

You want prolific, you got it. The Boreal Forest is children/young adult author L.E. Carmichael's 22nd nonfiction title. If that isn't impressive enough, check out this new and really marvelous look at a year in the world's largest biome.

Ummm ... it's still okay if adults enjoy reading this new Kids Can Press book, right? After all, we're boreal here.

Besides that, Carmichael herself said it was fascinating to write.

"One of the first things I did when I began working on this book was to read existing kids’ books about the boreal forest. What I noticed is that most of them focused on what the forest is: where it’s located and the kinds of plants and animals that live there. That’s important, but to me it didn’t go far enough. As a scientist and a writer, I’m much more interested in why and how. I wanted to write a book that answered the question, 'What is the boreal forest for?'” she began.

She said it still includes a lot of "wacky, wonderful animal facts that kids love" but it makes a great gift for teachers (and parents) as well since it talks about the forest’s role in the water cycle, the carbon cycle, and climate change.

Through her research, she even learned that the world’s longest beaver dam is in Wood Buffalo National Park. It was only detected using Google Earth, of all things.

Visit lecarmichael.ca to learn more about this and the author's other works.


Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.
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