I’m excited to announce that Lynne Van Luven and I are embarking on a new book project, the call for which I’ve pasted below. We’d love your help in disseminating it as widely as possible to anyone you think might be interested.
Call for Submissions–Adoption Stories
Have you spent years wondering what caused your birth parents to give you up for adoption? Have you watched school children play on your street, wondering if one of them could be the baby you surrendered to social services? Have you wondered about the family history of your adopted child? If you have thought about such issues and are willing to write about your experiences in a personal essay, the editors of a new anthology of adoption stories to be published by TouchWood Editions want to hear from you.
Editors Bruce Gillespie and Lynne Van Luven are looking for personal accounts, clearly and honestly written, ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 words in length, for publication in an anthology reflecting an exchange of ideas and feelings by birth parents, persons once surrendered for adoption, and adoptive parents. You do not need to be a professional writer to contribute to this anthology, but you will be required to work with an editor to hone your submission.
Please submit, by October 1, 2009, a 300-word proposal that outlines the story you would like to tell, along with a short biography and your contact information. If you’ve already written a piece that fits the anthology’s focus, feel free to submit it. All essays must be submitted electronically, as Microsoft Word or Rich Text Files (RTFs), to editors Bruce Gillespie and Lynne Van Luven at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All first-draft essays must be received by December 15, 2009.
Nobody’s Father (as well as its predecessor, Nobody’s Mother) gets a mention in Anne Kingston’s recent cover story for Maclean’sabout “a new manifesto [that] argues parenting is bad for your career, your bank book and your love life.” Said manifesto is, of course, French psychotherapist Corinne Maier’s No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children, which has had all sorts of English press recently (on top of its French press last year) for its provocative argument.
Admittedly, I haven’t yet read Maier’s book, but Kingston’s article was interesting, especially these stats she found that illustrate society’s changing ideas about having kids:
“Are you planning to have children?” is a question Statistics Canada has asked since 1990. In 2006, 17.1 per cent of women aged 30 to 34 said “no,” as did 18.3 per cent of men in the same category. The U.S. National Center of Health Statistics reports that the number of American women of childbearing age who define themselves as “child-free” rose sharply in the past generation: 6.2 per cent of women in 2002 between the ages of 15 and 44 reported that they don’t expect to have children in their lifetime, up from 4.9 per cent in 1982.
The reading will take place Thursday, June 25 at the UBC Library/Bookstore at Robson Squre, starting at 7 pm, and will feature Richard Van Camp, Lou Parsons, Julian Gunn and my co-editor, Lynne Van Luven.
Unfortunately, I won’t be there, as much as I’d love to be. But I hope some of Nobody’s Father’s west coast fans will be able to attend, as the guys are all fanastic readers and storytellers, and it promises to be a great night.
Like a lot of people, I was shocked to learn that Derek Weiler had passed away a couple of weeks ago at the age of 40. “Shocked” is one of those words that is usually over-used, but in this case, it was entirely apt.
I worked closely with Derek since I started freelancing in 2002, as he was one of my very first clients (if memory serves, he assigned me a news story about a memoir by the drummer of Rush of all things). That said, I can’t say that I knew him all that well; I met him in person only once, and most of our correspondence was work-related. Still, we got along quite well, and I always liked working with him; the only reason I did so less often in the past few years was that I was getting better-paying offers from elsewhere.
I always found him to be a thoughtful and sensitive editor and one who always made me look smarter than I am (which, really, is the best kind of editor, I think). Even in emails, Derek came off as a sweet, kind guy, and he sent me a very nice note not too long ago when my first book came out, saying that even though the reviews editor had passed on it, he was going to dig it out of the pile to read himself, which I found very touching.
I was surprised to read in his obituary that he was 40, as I’d assumed he was younger than I was. The only time I met him in person, I was surprised by how youthful he looked—enormously tall, but all gangly elbows and arms and a big, open, friendly face.
Q&Qis hoting a memorial party for Derek tomorrow night at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto that is open to all who would like to celebrate his life and his many achievements.
Every year at about this time, I start debating whether I should let my subscription to The New Yorker lapse. Certainly, it is a fine magazine, and the Canadian subscription price of a little more than $100 for 47 issues is a steal compared to the newsstand price of $5.99 an issue.
And yet, I often find (as I’m sure most subscribers do) that the issues tend to pile up before I’ve had a chance to go through them, and before long, my house is littered with piles of New Yorkers. I like to think I make an effort to read all of them before they head to the recycling box, but often I just end up scooping them up and dumping them in the bin to get rid of the mess and hope I haven’t missed anything really great.
Inevitably, I wind up extending my subscription and promising myself that I’ll do a better job of trying to read each issue–or, at least the cartoons–before I recycle them. And I’m glad I do: not only are they nice to have around when I feel like something quick to read or when I’m in between books, but I shudder to think of all the great writing I’d miss if I didn’t keep up with them.
For instance: in the latest issue delivered to my door (March 23), there’s a great piece by Nancy Franklin,one of my favourite critics who usually writes about television. This time, however, she’s written a Talk of the Town piece about attending the Madoff trial, which is every bit as sharp as her reviews and full of great details, like this:
The proceeding was scheduled for 10 A.M., and anyone could attend. It was in many ways a normal day, albeit with a little more electricity in the air and more guards in the lobby. They were on high alert, but were also chatty; when a woman set off the metal detector, a guard told her to take off her shoes. “Shoe violation,” he said. “Shoe violation?” she said back. The guard then sang the words “shoe violation” to the melody of “She Works Hard for the Money.”
It just doesn’t get much better than that. I know that we’re supposed to love The New Yorker for its long-form writing, but for me, it’s just as often the short pieces filled with great, unexpected details that keep me renewing year after year.
Just before the holidays, I wrote about the ongoing project to develop a benefits package for writers in Canada. This past weekend, the Globe’s James Adams wrote a great piece on the same subject that looks at why even a bare-bones extended health-care package could make a big difference in the lives of writers, editors and other artists:
According to Statistics Canada, a Canadian scribe on average makes only between $18,000 and $22,000 annually from his or her writing – and this includes royalties from book sales as well as income from grants, giving readings and workshops, writing, say, reviews for magazines and newspapers, and earning a yearly stipend from the Public Lending Right Commission.
It is, in short, a hard life, fraught with long, lonely hours of work, occasional feasts and many famines (in 2005, an estimated 3,000 Canadian authors – 11 per cent of the total 27,500 who identified themselves either as self-employed or salaried writers – reported no earnings from their writing), not to mention the agony of public indifference.
According to Adams’s piece, the plan will be rolled out by the ACTRA Fraternal Benefit Society in May, and organizers are hoping for at least 300 people to sign up initially. That sounds like a pretty achievable goal to me, given how many book, magazine and technical writers and editors there are across the country, but I suppose it’s the yet-to-be-announced fee schedule that will be clincher for most people. Let’s hope it’s reasonable so the plan has a chance of getting off the ground.
Things are coming together nicely for the Toronto launch of Nobody’s Father at Ben McNally Books next Tuesday, and it’s shaping up to be a great night of readings. To whet your appetite, I thought I’d tell you a little about the writers who will be sharing their work:
Brian Day will read from his essay, “Fatherhood and Me.” Day grew up in Mission, BC, and now lives in Toronto, where he teaches at an elementary school in the inner city. He is the author of two books of poetry, Azure and Love Is Not In My Blood.
Ray Jones will read from his essay, “The Most Beautiful Child in the World.” Jones is a former newspaper editor whose short stories have been published in several countries. In 2006, he received the Storyteller’s Award at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. He lives in Toronto.
Bryan Steinnagel will read from his essay, “An Unwinnable War.” Steinnagel makes prosthetic limbs at a children’s rehabilitation facility and enjoys the irony of doing so. He likes the idea of being a kid, he just doesn’t want one of his own. He lives in Toronto, close to his ever-extending family.
And, of course, I’ll be reading too. But you already know all about me.