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April 19, 2012

Selling Gurjinder Basran`s Book One Book at a Time

My coffee table (with no room for coffee)

I`m loathe to admit this but yesterday I was in Wal-Mart in Surrey. What’s next? Will you be moving into a trailer park soon, you ask?  I was buying printer paper and office-related stuff and came upon a long aisle of books. 

I was standing there staring at all the books when a young mother with a toddler asked me if I’d read anything good lately. “Well,” I said, staring at all the romance and thrillers, “not really any of these.” And, just as I was saying that the name on a book cover caught my attention:  Gurjinder Basran.  She wrote, Everything Was Good-Bye, winner of the Ethel Wilson Prize almost a year ago. She’s a 2006 grad from SFU Writers Studio, giving all those of us who have come after something to aspire to.

 “I’ve heard this is pretty good,” I said to the young mom.  “I read it and I liked it but it just depends on your taste and what you’re looking for.” “It’s written by someone who lives right here in Surrey.” As I said that  I didn’t even know if that part was actually true.  “It’s about this modern Punjabi woman struggling between two cultures”  and right then I made a mental note to myself to make sure I never market my own books, should I ever write one. But, for whatever reason my description was enough. She said she thought she’d like something like that and she perused the description on the back. I didn’t expect her to be so easily convinced but I was pleased that she went for it.

So, Gurjinder Basran, you can thank me personally for selling one of your books, in  Wal-Mart, in Surrey.

It’s been a week of really great TWS-related events. TimothyTaylor, most known for his novel, Stanley Park, delivered a jam-packed, informative and entertaining lecture last Saturday at our class. I was so impressed that I decided that I had to buy his latest book, The Blue Light Project, rather than just wait for the long line of holds that would surely be in place at the library.

Then, Steven Galloway who wrote The Cellist of Sarajevo, which has sold 1 million copies worldwide,  came by to read to our class from a new book he’s working on focused on magicians and Houdini.  He’s in the middle of writing it but he sat in front of our small group and read about 10 to 15 minutes of what he’s been working on. He also kept the night interesting with entertaining insights about book publishing, his comical views of touring in foreign countries when the only thing you recognize about your book is your name on the cover and of course, his writing process.  Afterwards, we all went to Steamworks for a drink.  Tonight, I’m off to Vancouver Public Library for the Arthur Ellis Crime Writers Awards and discussion about Canadian crime writing.  

And, just in case you think I’m just sitting around listening to other real writers who have made it big and not doing any writing myself, I would like to state, for the record, that this has been an extremely productive week for me. I continue to have Salt Spring characters and events as a theme and something new seems to be arising as well from my two previous vacations in New Mexico as the backdrop for the beginnings of a murder mystery. 

It`s all enough to keep me happy for, shall we say, an hour or two.

April 10, 2012

The Places You'll Go, The People You'll Meet

This is for all the people who look at people who travel alone, forlornly, and utter heartfelt words of pity such as, "You're so courageous. I could never do that."  Four words back at you. It's Hawaii, not Haiti.

Of course the best thing about travelling alone is the people you meet, that you inevitably would not meet if you were travelling with a friend or a partner because being alone, depending on who you are, seems to equal more approachable. Those of  us on the fringes, the Raggedy Ann dolls, we're just ripe for all sorts of interpersonal communiques. Especially in America. Because, no matter what you think of Americans, there's no denying that they are a friendly bunch.

Let's start at the end
I arrived in Honolulu at 7:45 pm to catch a connecting flight back to Vancouver on the way home. But, I had three hours to kill. And, I was hungry. Didn't want a Starbucks scone. Hold the pizza. There's the Kona Brewing Company. Sat down at the bar. By this time it was about 9 pm. My flight was leaving at 10:30. Only one other guy was seated at the bar. He was looking at something very academic. "I bet your a professor," I said. He smiled back at me. "Nope. but, you're close. This did come from a professor." Okay. he was busy and he wasn't going to prove very interesting. Next.

Surfing vicariously with Alvin and Mike 
I ordered a beer. For some reason there was no prices next to them. I'm in America, beer is cheap. How much could it be? I took a sip and the next time the waitress passed, given that I only had $22 left, I said, How much is this beer anyway?  $10.75 she said matter of factly. I didn't say a thing. I thought maybe I'd misheard. A few minutes passed and I asked Alvin, the friendly Hawaiian bartender,  "Is this beer really $10.75? Yup, he said. They just released it a few days ago, he said, as if it were a new gold coin. Well, okay,  cheers, here's to a liquid dinner of Koko Brown. Then, a young guy sat down next to me. Long hair. Pleasant face. Dressed in brown surfing shorts and a T-shirt. Happy, happy energy.

I can't even recall what started us off. I think he may have asked me where I was going. "Back to rainy Vancouver," I said. He was a teacher. Honolulu. Loved his job.  Headed to Boston to visit his family. We talked about what he liked about teaching. The kids of course, he said. I like fourteen year olds. "You look 18," I said.  I asked him if he surfed. Seemed like a natural question given how he was dressed and then, I reached into the back of my mind to figure out what I could possibly dredge up that would fuel a conversation about surfing and I got it.

I recalled the article that Brian, my mentor in the Writer's Studio had written about surfing in a little town in Ireland. I proceeded to share this information and we were off. Next thing you know, Alvin, Hawaiian bartender operating at warp speed, gets in on the conversation. "I started surfing again," he said. "I took it back up in 2009." And that was that. They were talking about surfing etiquette on the North Shore. How the regulars treat those tourists who think they'll just get in their way. Sometimes comes to fistfights. It could mean their life, said Mike, young happy teacher guy. If you get in their way, you could kill them or vice versa. "I just hang out and wait," he said.  "I watch. I respect them and pretty soon, if I do that long enough, they say, Hey, you why don't you give it a shot. And, that's how it works for me." It was a tiny slice of life that had I been at home, on the Skytrain, I never would have heard about. He was cool. We had fun. I didn't want to leave. Should have taken his picture. For you. Blog readers.

Pack up and Move to Hawaii
In Kona the first night. Walking out of ABC store (just love that they sell beer in a corner store) and this guy looks at me. I smile back at him. This rarely happens at home. Me smiling at random guys and them talking to me. It's Vancouver. He says something. I don't know what. I say something back. We chat a bit.Asks me for a drink. I decline but say, "I'm headed to Volcano and Hilo. Give me your phone number and I'll call you when I come back." So I did, and meeting Bill made the trip a lot better because one of the things that does suck about travelling alone is the evening.  We went out, we ate, we went to the beach, we explored. He'd just moved there a few days earlier from New York State.

Rabbit in the Moon Dance Group
In search of the Wood Valley Buddhist Retreat Centre above the town of Pahala. Up a road that climbs past beautiful grassland with grazing cattle and horses and at the very end, a left onto a narrow dirt road that climbs a bit higher and soon the orange, blue, yellow of the temple and  prayer flags.A bunch of people in purple T-shirts are laughing and talking.
I made my way into the temple but there really wasn't all that much to see so I turn around to leave and a man shouts out to me, "Hey, we're just about to have lunch, why don't you join us?" I smile. "Thank you. That's okay. I have some salad in the car." "Really," he says. "Don't be shy. We've got enough to feed an army." Well, with that, it's clear that it would be incredibly rude to decline. I join the queue on a home-made Japanese feast and I hear about the ritual of Bon Dance.  They are the Rabbit in the Moon Dance Club from Hilo. I meet Gail, a ranger who works at Hawaii Volcanoes National park and lives in Volcano, just down from the Volcano Winery where I'd done a taste testing earlier in the day. Leonard, the friendly guy who invited me, leads the group, sings and works for the Department of Labour. It was the highlight of my day.

Sisters on the Fairwinds II
And sisters Su and Chris from Denver and Chicago. We had a fun time on the Fairwinds II snorkeling, sharing the beautiful day and a lot of laughs as well.

The Friendly Kona Seaside
Then there was the front desk staff at the Kona Seaside where I stayed. In particular, one young woman whose beautiful name I wrote on a piece of paper and have now lost but I think was Ku'ulei. She was so friendly to me because to access free wireless you have to sit in the lobby and sitting in a hotel lobby in Hawaii watching everything is actually pretty entertaining.

Ukeleles and Dovetails
And high above Kona in a old Hawaiian village called Holualoa, I walked into the shop of Sam Rosen, ukulele maker and master. He pointed me in the direction of Renee Fukumoto and her beautiful shop called Dovetail where her partner Ben made wooden furniture. I was able to alert her to some high end wood artists in Canada such as Brent Comber and Peter Pierobon whose work she immediately fell in love with and was eager to share with Ben.

Lovely to meet every one of you. Mahalo~