Launch of The Lighkeeper's Daughters

Launch of The Lighkeeper's Daughters
by Jean Pendziwol

Elvis the Mountie Dog Steals the Show at the Book Signing

Elvis the Mountie Dog Steals the Show at the Book Signing
Elvis, Joan M. Baril, customer poet Rob Lem

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Treasure Hunting in Second Hand Bookstores.

After coming down from Margie Taylor's remarkable and mesmerizing historical novel, Harrow Road, this book addict found herself with (oh no!!) nothing to read.

A quick trip to Victoriaville and the Public Library's used bookshop ensued.  The well-filled shelves contain mystery, romance, classics, fiction and non, all for a buck a book. For me, the following treasures.

1. Most useful. The Harrowsmtih Perennial Garden. Since I started writing the gardening column for the Thunder Bay Seniors' newsletter, I have been collecting reference books.

2. Best find. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot.  I saw the musical but never read the lighthearted cat poems which T. S. wrote for his godchildren. The slim but happy volume describes several cats, including
Macavity: The Mystery Cat.
Macavity's  a Mystery Cat; he's called the Hidden Paw
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of the crime - Macavity's not there!

I have now read the fifteen poems in the book at least ten times. So now I'll  give the book to a cat-loving granddaugher.

3 and 4. Best novels. The Romantic by Canadian Barbara Gowdy, author of The White Bone. All of Gowdy's books are a little strange, slight off kilter. Here the theme is love in all its variations, real and unreal.  Crusoe's Daughter by British writer, Jane Gardam, is a haunting story of a lonely girl who grows up in an isolated house with only her old aunts for company. Slowly she discovers  the strange secrets of her family. I have read a lot of Gardam whose bestselling novel, Old Filth, has always been a favourite. 

5. The Oldest Book. Flowering Wilderness by John Galsworthy. In the 1920's,  The Forsyth Chronicles enthralled readers and Galsworthy kept churning out more tales of the Forsyths, the wealthy British merchant family. He detailed the scandals, the loves, the double dealing, the tragedies, the drama until, after nine volumes, he completed the saga in the dirty thirties. Over the years I have read quite a few. I also watched the BBC dramatization of the first three books. A lot of "will she, won't she?" and 'Did they, didn't they," keeps the various plots weaving along. Will I enjoy it? Probably.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Lightkeeper's Daughters
The Lightkeeper’s Daughters, by Jean E. Pendziwol, is a novel set on Lake Superior. It is an affecting story of family, identity, and art, that involves a decades-old mystery.

Elizabeth’s eyes have failed. She can no longer read the books she loves or see the paintings that move her spirit, but her mind remains sharp and music fills the vacancy left by her blindness. When her father’s journals are discovered after an accident, she enlists the assistance of a delinquent teenager, Morgan, who is completing community service at the retirement home where Elizabeth lives, and together they read the musty books. 

An unlikely relationship develops between the two women as they are drawn into the words of the Porphyry Island light-keeper penned more than 70 years ago.  In the process, they discover they are both connected to the isolated island, their lives touched by Elizabeth’s enigmatic twin sister Emily and the beautiful but harsh Lake Superior environment. 

But for Elizabeth, the faded pages of her father’s journals hold more secrets than she anticipates and threaten the very core of who she is.

Jean E. Pendziwol, award winning author of Once Upon a Northern Night and No Dragons for Tea, will be launching her debut adult novel The Lightkeeper’s Daughters on Thursday July 6th from 7-9pm at the Sleeping Giant Brewery. She will also be at Chapters on July 8, 1 – 4 p.m.

Jean E. Pendziwol

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Boy From the Woods by Micah Pawluk

At the mega book signing at Chapters last Saturday, I picked up "A Boy from the Woods," a poetry collection by Micah Pawluk. The poems are uneven, some dazzling and others not so much but, nevertheless I enjoyed the collection very much. Many describe the northern forest, the loss and longing of love, the deep emotional connection to the land, the call of literature and poetry. These are poems to read out loud. They would be great on a canoe trip beside the camp fire. I can almost hear the fire crackle as I read them.

Here is the opening poem, one that many northerners can relate to immediately.

A Boy From the Woods

I come from the woods,
Son of a trapper,
I learned to fish and hunt,
to respect the land and all life.
To walk silently, studying
the secret ways of birds and animals,
the dangers of dark frozen creeks.
I come from the woods,
and the wilderness never left my heart.
 It's calling, always calling.

Sunshine Creek photo Joan M. Baril

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Scenes from the Book Signing for Canadian Shorts

Book buyer Betsy Martin at the mega signing at Chapters on Saturday June 3. In background, novelist Vincent Ponka signs a book for a customer.

Setting up the display.

On Guard. Elvis the Mountie Dog, Fierce Dog of the North.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Four Love Haikus by Tammo Geertsema

Four love haikus from the Land of Turtle and Crane...... 

Winds from Nishnaki 
Waft across I see you a 
Flower bud in May 

You are my flower 
While enclosed in the bud you 
Opened up to me 

What does a flower 
Feel when it blossoms from a 
May bud into you? 

What do i feel when 
I write this haiku for you 
I feel like the bud…


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Drury Lane Books, sweet little indie bookshop in Grand Marais

It’s always a pleasure to get the Drury Lane Books newsletter from Grand Marais.  It’s worth crossing the border to visit this sweet little indie bookshop by the lake. Every time I visit, I am impressed by their excellent selection: a mix of best sellers, old favourites, local works, thrillers and mystery. And for those interested in the flora and fauna of the boreal forest, the store’s non-fiction selections are superb.

Their top-seller list may give you a few ideas for summer reading.

In fiction: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K Rowling
The Road Back to Sweetgrass by Linda LeGarde Grover
Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger
Safe from the Sea and Wintering by Peter Geye
Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse by Faith Sullivan
Larose by Louise Eldrich
Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichue

In non-fiction:
Rock Pickers Guide to Lake Superior’s North Shore by Mark Stensaas
Hiking the North Shore by Andrew Slade
Fascinating Fungi of the North Woods by Cora Mollen and Larry Weber (this must be the only bookstore on the continent where a book about fungi makes the best-seller list.)
Get Poor Now, Avoid the Rush: The Life and Times of Henry Buckberry Gilk by Paul Buckberry Gilk.
Waterfalls: Minnesota’s North Shore by Eve and Gary Wallenga

The Children’s best sellers continue the northern theme:
Goodnight Loon by Abe Sauer
Wake Up, Island by Mary Casanova and Nick Wroblewski
Antler, Bear, Canoe by Betsy Bowen
Agate by Joy Morgan Dey and Nikki Johnson
North Woods Girl by Aimee M. Bissonette and Claudia McGehee

Every Saturday evening, a visiting author reads and, on full moon evenings, local writers join a group around the fire to read from their works.

The newsletter lists fourteen book clubs, an amazing number for such a small community. Their picks include Canadian works such as The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (no surprise), Dear Life by Alice Munro and The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford.  (Yes, still in print and selling well after all these years.)

 The No Guilt Book Club is reading Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry and Quiet: The Hidden Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. The West End Beer and Book Posse is involved with American Gods by Neil Gaiman and A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman.  The intriguingly titled group, The 801 Book Club, picked Between the World and Me by Ta-Neshisi Coates, Someone by Alice McDermott and Small Good Things by Jodi Picoult.

I would recommend My Antonia by Willa Cather, (lovable classic of the old west); The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (life in North Korea), and Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, (mysterious clues to odd events). Three books I remember with pleasure.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Chapters Providing an Opportunity for Local Authors.

Hello Authors!

Our Chapters store will be hosting a Canada 150 Event! On June 3rd to celebrate Canada's biggest birthday yet!
In celebration of this event we would like to host a Multi Author Signing! (Thank you Joan for being our inspiration!) 
Joan has already agreed (thanks Joan!), we are hoping to have 3-4 more Author tables in the front alcove of our store, if you could be available for this event we would love to have you!
 Please let us know as soon as you are able.

Thank you so much.
June 3rd, 1-4pm Chapters on Memorial  

Stefani Celine
Events Leader
CEL, Chapters 757

Hello blog readers. I will be signing Canadian Shorts, which contains my first-place story "The Big Hole." I also have a few give-aways to add to the fun. All proceeds from this book go to the Canadian Council of Refugees "a non-profit umbrella organization committed to the rights and protection of refugees in Canada and around the world and to the settlement of refugees and migrants in Canada.' Joan N. Baril/

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trying on my new Canadian Shorts sweat for the book signing at Chapters Thunder Bay on June 3. The puzzle (100 pieces) and the mug are giveaway items. More info upcoming.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Kouhi Awaard

Kouhi Award winner Joan M. Baril with grand daughter Meghan Eddy.

Winning the Kouhi Award was a great honour. I still cannot believe it. The Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW) established the award in 1999 to "recognize contributions to the literature of northwestern Ontario." The Award is named in honour of poet Elizabeth Kouhi, a very good poet indeed who has appeared on this blog.

It was an unbelievable moment when I walked to the podium.

I am so honoured to follow in the footsteps of other award winners: the late great Richard Wagamese, Michael Christie, Eleanor Barr, Charles Wilkins, Jean E Pendzinol and so many other amazing writers.

This great literary whirl of books, writers, libraries, publishers, conferences, literary blogs, web sites, reviews, readings, discussions and arguments, publishing, book sellers and book clubs has at its core the solitary reader, immersed in the world on the page, but yet surrounded by a literary community which  supports the solitary journey. And this journey can be a momentous one, even life changing. My own life in literature has been a long and checkered one, but like many book lovers, I could not imagine life without books.  Joan M. Baril

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Winners NOWW Literary Awards Contest 217

Gail Linklater presenting the award to Susan Rogers for her second place submission in creative non fiction titled "No Sidewalks."

The annual gathering was a great time as usual. Good food, a fine key note speech by Denise Chong, the announcement of the writing winners as listed below.  Congratulations to the winners and to all writers who entered. 
First Place:
Cindy Matthews, Creative Non Fiction for “Nesting.”
Kirsti Salmi, Short Fiction for “Shag Tickets and Other Debris.”
John Pringle, Novel Excerpt: Speculative Fiction for “The Education of Alan Woodruff.”
Robert Y. Lem, Poetry for “Never Forgotten.”
Kevin Baker, Bill MacDonald Prize for “Ogoki Post.”

Second Place:
Jack Shedden, Novel Excerpt: Speculative Fiction for “Counting Sol.”
Alyssa Foulkes, Short Fiction for “The Memories of Brothers.”
Susan Rogers, Creative Non Fiction for “No Sidewalks.”
Holly Haggarty, Poetry for “River, Tree, Sky.”

Third Place:
Noah Cain, Poetry for “Home at Three Ages.”
Timothy Gynn, Novel Excerpt: Speculative Fiction for “Bandits.”
Julio Heleno Gomes, Short Fiction for “The Teacher’s Gift.”
Olive Mater, Creative Non Fiction for “It’s Canada 150. I’m not Celebrating.”

Deb deBakker, one of the organizers who created a fine evening.

NOWW President Jane Crossman with John Pringle, first place winner for the excerpt of his speculative fiction novel 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Canadian Shorts Riding UP.

Canadian Shorts is at #1 on Amazon Hot New Releases in Collections & Readers - and it's at #5 for Canadian Collections. Congrats to all of the short story authors! 
Available on Amazon. Soon to be in Chapters. Book signing in August (stay tuned). Launch in September. All proceeds from this book go to Canadian refugees.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

New titles for the book bag.

A letter from Helen Cimone, the book bag lady from the library, lists four new titles and also tells us about a new on line system for reserving books. 

Hello Joan, 
I am happy to let you know we have 4 new book bag titles to tell you about:

The Schopenhauer Cure by Irvin D. Yalom donated by the Country Neighbours Book Club in memory of Wendy Dolan
Suddenly confronted with his own mortality after a routine checkup, eminent psychotherapist Julius Hertzfeld is forced to reexamine his life and work -- and seeks out Philip Slate, a sex addict whom he failed to help some twenty years earlier. Yet Philip claims to be cured -- miraculously transformed by the pessimistic teachings of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer -- and is, himself, a philosophical counselor in training.

Two Rivers by T. Greenwood donated by the Murillo Book Club
In Two Rivers, Vermont, Harper Montgomery is living a life overshadowed by grief and guilt. Since the death of his wife, Betsy, twelve years earlier, Harper has narrowed his world to working at the local railroad and raising his daughter, Shelly, the best way he knows how. Still wracked with sorrow over the loss of his life-long love and plagued by his role in a brutal, long-ago crime, he wants only to make amends for his past mistakes.

Then one fall day, a train derails in Two Rivers, and amid the wreckage Harper finds an unexpected chance at atonement. One of the survivors, a pregnant fifteen-year-old girl with mismatched eyes and skin the color of blackberries, needs a place to stay. Though filled with misgivings, Harper offers to take Maggie in. But it isn't long before he begins to suspect that Maggie's appearance in Two Rivers is not the simple case of happenstance it first appeared to be.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Amy Jones, Leacock Medalist Finalist.

Amy has made the 2017 short list for the Leacock Medal for humour with her novel We're All in This Together.  The medal celebrates the best of Canadian humour and carries a $15,000 award. In Amy's novel, set in Thunder Bay, a mother goes over Kakabeca Falls in a barrel, survives and sets her dysfunctional family in an uproar when she becomes an internet sensation. In 2006, Amy won the CBC short story prize.  Big congratulations Amy. Good luck! Our fingers are crossed.

Amy Jones at Brodie Library after a reading.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Denise Chong Coming to Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay – LIVING – The author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling books The Concubine’s Children and The Girl in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph, and the Vietnam War will make three appearances in Thunder Bay this month.
Denise Chong, who was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2013, will give a free public presentation entitled The Girl in the Picture – The Making of a Book on Friday, May 12 at 7 pm in the Baggage Building at Prince Arthur’s Landing. Her appearance is with financial assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts through the Writers’ Union of Canada.
On Saturday, May 13, Chong will offer a workshop from 10 am to noon at the Mary JL Black Library called Writing Memory – Writing Truth.
Later that day (May 13) she will be the keynote speaker at the annual Literary Awards Party hosted by the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW) at the Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel, beginning at 6 pm with a symposium. Interested participants can register for the Saturday events at
“Fans of Chong’s books will want to attend the reading, the workshop, the Literary Awards Party – or all three,” said Brandon Walker, a member of NOWW’s Board of Directors.
The Literary Awards Party is the perfect opportunity to learn more about great writing being produced in Northwestern Ontario.
“This year we had an incredible amount of submissions to our annual awards contest,” Walker said. “We may see some people receiving awards for the first time this year.”
The Kouhi Award will also be presented and the audience’s favourite play from the 10×10 Showcase will be performed.
“This is a special night for writers and lovers of writing in Northwestern Ontario and their friends and family members,” Walker said.
Writers from Northwestern Ontario will have the opportunity to display their work, too. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Mushroom Hunters by Neil Gaiman

Science, as you know, my little one, is the study
of the nature and behaviour of the universe.
It’s based on observation, on experiment, and measurement,
and the formulation of laws to describe the facts revealed.

In the old times, they say, the men came already fitted with brains
designed to follow flesh-beasts at a run,
to hurdle blindly into the unknown,
and then to find their way back home when lost
with a slain antelope to carry between them.
Or, on bad hunting days, nothing.