Some unfortunate news: the CBC has informed me that I will not be allowed to publish my memoir Adventures in the Radio Trade while I am employed with them.
I will of course respect this decision, which is disappointing but not all bad. For one thing, it means the CBC forfeits all editorial input. I will get to publish it the way I want. With certain anecdotes intact. And I will get to publish it eventually; I just have to wait until I retire.
Retirement is still a ways off, though. I’m still having fun. The same impulse that made me want to write about the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (well, the radio part of it, anyway) also keeps me there. In short, I love it. Have loved it for thirty-four years and counting. As corny as it sounds, I believe in our mission (helping to bind this great country of ours together). I love the people, the work, just about everything about it. The memoir reflects this. It’s not a hatchet job, a tell-all. It’s an ode to radio broadcasting.
So I’ll keep working there a while longer (or as long as they’ll have me) and then publish Adventures in the Radio Trade the day I retire. My retirement party will double as a book launch. And you’re all invited.
In the meantime, there’s no reason why I can’t put the book together. It’s already completely written and professionally edited; it just needs to be packaged up, and a cover designed. My creative team and I will be able to take our time now and get it right.
And it’ll all be just that much more exciting when I finally can get it out there for you all.
That was Peter Chin a few days before he left us. We were talking on the phone. He wasn’t in great shape. They’d taken him to the hospital a couple of weeks earlier because he’d woken up with no feeling in his legs. He couldn’t walk anymore. I may have the details wrong. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that he’d been cheerful during our call though he must have known the prognosis wasn’t good.
“I have to say, Peter, you sound pretty positive despite everything,” I’d told him.
“How else you gonna be?” he said.
It was a gift. Peter had been good to me right from the beginning, ever since we’d met thirty-four years earlier serving the nation’s broadcaster in Radio Master Control. He’d mentored me, and I was awfully fond of him, and now here he was in the last week of his life and he had to have known it and he wasn’t anywhere near old enough to be in the last week of his life and he was cheerful. It kills me to think of it. But it was a gift he was giving me, it wasn’t an act, I’m sure of it, it was really Peter showing me that you could face that sort of thing, the end of your own life, with courage and grace and I will remember it to the end of mine.
Then there’s Gus. Gus was my next door neighbour, had been since 2001. He passed away a couple of months ago. You may think this is sad, me writing about good people dying, and of course it is, it is definitely sad, but it’s a part of life (“the last part,” a friend’s father once said) and we arguably don’t talk, don’t think about it enough. But bear with me, please, I promise you it’s not all doom and gloom.
The last thing Gus ever said to me was a joke. He’d had surgery and it hadn’t gone well. In fact, it had signaled the beginning of the end. He never got better. And he was sitting on his porch in his eighty-fifth year with the woman he loved, who loved him back more than anyone I’ve ever known has ever loved anyone, and who was there with him right til the end, and he was watching my wife and I move a ridiculously heavy couch from our basement to our living room through the front door.
“Good for you, Joe,” he told me, in his soft Scottish lilt. “Making your wife lift the heavy end.”
Gus knew the end was near but he faced it with good humour, joking to friends, family, and nurses alike right to the end. We lost him a few weeks after he poked fun at me.
My father-in-law Dave spoke to me via video from the hospital bed from which he would never rise.
“How are you, Joe?” he asked with genuine interest, my well-being somehow, impossibly, important to him during these last few hours of his life. “You look good,” he added, his attention firmly directed on those around him rather than on his own predicament.
I am not at all sure that I will be able to muster anywhere near the same courage and dignity when my time comes, but having seen it done now I shall certainly try.
Bill Lane. (Boy, I really feel like we’ve lost a lot of fine people in a short span of time this past year. I think about them often.)
Bill’s family reached out in his last few days, soliciting memories from those in his life. I shared one on Christmas Eve, honoured to have been included. So did many others. There’s a picture of Bill on Facebook taken on Christmas Day after having received those memories. He appreciated us celebrating his life. He’s lying in bed smiling. Smiling, though he would be gone a few short days later.
You see, don’t you? It’s possible to smile at the end. To joke, even. To be positive in the face of certain calamity. I am sad, thinking of my friends. I wish I’d gotten to know each of them better, spent more time with them.
But I am also braver courtesy of their parting gifts.
I can hardly believe I’ve never read it before, but I haven’t. I’ve seen a version of the play, in Stratford. I don’t remember much of the play. Saw the Spielberg movie Hook; don’t remember much of that either.
A friend gave us the novel years ago, as a gift. It appears to be a first edition, though half the first page is torn. I stumbled upon it a couple of weeks ago and picked it up to see what all the fuss is about.
The first thing that struck me is that it’s funny. Laugh out loud funny at least twice. The second thing that struck me is that while being a product of its time (the indigenous people of Neverland, although portrayed as a noble tribe, are saddled with a most unfortunate name, one recently ditched by an American football outfit), its wit and cleverness and whimsy stand the test of time, for this reader at least.
A dog as a nanny. A boy returning for his shadow and a girl sewing it back on. Imaginative. Children who can fly. Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning. Evocative. Pirates and fairies and Indians and mermaids. Adventure! A boy who refuses to grow up. The stuff of myth, and the Big Idea behind the book, what makes it tick even more than the crocodile who swallowed the clock.
The book rings true in part because it’s brutal and mean. This ain’t Disney. Barrie doesn’t write what he thinks you want to read. Peter Pan is selfish and inconsiderate. Charming and charismatic, but narcissistic and cruel, with a lousy memory to boot. He’s nobody’s idea of a good friend, at least not after you’ve grown up and know better. And the whole lot of them, all the lost boys, are bloodthirsty murderers. Sure it’s pirates they’re killing, and it’s all based on make-believe, but it’s a proud thing in this tale to have run somebody through with a sword.
Characters are deftly drawn, some at least. Peter flies right off the page. Hook is surprisingly complex. Mr. Darling is hardly believable but you can see him, hear him, laugh at him. Wendy lives and breathes and even grows. Tinkerbelle is jealous, spiteful, not much to redeem her, and then, rather callously, is dead and gone before you know it, just like Mrs. Darling, dispatched with hardly a backward glance.
It’s a good thing Peter Pan (or Peter and Wendy, as it was originally called) was published in 1911. It would not see the light of day today, I don’t think. Not with hundreds of thousands of books published a year with which to compete. The boy who never grows up is a terrific concept, but it wouldn’t stand much of a chance against J.K. Rowling’s the boy who lived, so much richer and better realized.
Still, I’m glad Barrie wrote it, and I’m glad it was successful enough to have endured long enough for me to have found it now, at the age of 57. There’s enough of a kid left in me for it to have resonated. And the adult in me respects the craft behind it. The creativity, the skill. The confidence, the whimsy.
I just posted Chapter Four: Friends Like These of the podcast version of my novel A Time and Place up on Podbean. The entire podcast (so far) is available via the big purple link below. Check it out by following the link at the bottom of this post, or at various places throughout.
A while back I promised to explain why I’m posting it as a podcast.
A few reasons.
Number one, I’m about to launch another podcast with my friend and fellow writer Mark Rayner, author of such fine fare as The Fatness and Alpha Max. (More about that podcast later, in another post.) Investigating how best to launch a podcast, I came across Podbean as a potential hosting service but wanted to try it out first. How though?
It just so happened I have all the audio files for A Time and a Place right here on my hard drive, originally created for the audiobook version. So I thought what the heck, I’ll put it up as a podcast, see how that goes.
And I have to say that it went pretty smoothly, in terms of the mechanics of turning it into a podcast. Podbean is pretty user friendly.
But why turn a book currently for sale into a free podcast?
For a few reasons.
Number one, I first published A Time and a Place in 2017. It has sold fairly consistently since then, but sales have definitely dwindled in all its various forms, mainly because of next to zero visibility. I don’t do any paid advertising for it because it’s not worth it for just one book (ideally you want to have a series in place. I’m working on that.)
So it’s not like I would lose any money by podcasting ATAAP for free. Sure Podbean costs a bit of money, but I’ll be paying for it anyway, for the other podcast Mark and I will be doing. If anything, podcasting A Time and a Place could conceivably make me money by increasing visibility for the book. For instance, if someone listens to a few episodes and decides they don’t want to wait around for the next chapters (which drop once per week). Or someone who listens and just wants to show their support by purchasing a copy in some form.
It’s also potentially monetized because I’ve placed a sort of “tip” jar on the podcast home page. (It ain’t easy to find, but it’s there at the bottom. Just look for the word “Donate.”) If you do opt to donate, thanks! (You will, very likely, be the first to do so.)
It’s not like I need the money. But creators like me do need to be careful about giving our art away for free. It potentially devalues not only our art but all art, no matter the medium. Ideally, when we do give it away for free, we do so strategically, to generate further interest in our product(s). To quote author Cory Doctorow, my problem isn’t poverty, it’s obscurity. (It’s less of a problem now for him than it is for me).
So how’s the ATAAP podcast going so far? From the beginning of my writing journey I resolved to be honest and transparent about the whole process. Same holds true for this podcasting venture. Four chapters in there have been a total of 78 downloads. 41 for chapter one, 21 for chapter two, 11 for chapter three, and 4 for chapter four. It’s been downloaded from Canada, the United States, Australia, France, England, and Russia. 70.0% from Google Chrome, 10.0% from Podbean, 10.0% from Podcast Addict, and 10.0% from Spotify.
If you’re one of those listening, I hope you’re enjoying it.
Honoured to have been asked, I readily agreed, and then promptly went to the dictionary to figure out what a “colloquium” is, and whether Paula had spelled it correctly. I mean, what the heck kind of word has “uiu” in the middle of it? I should not have doubted her. She spelled it correctly. I cannot spell it correctly without saying the letters “uiu” out loud as I’m writing it.
And what is it? “An academic conference or seminar.” I guess you can have those sorts of things on Twitter, especially now that Elon Musk is running the joint. (With him there apparently you can have, do or say anything you like, world order and democracy be damned.)
It may sound like I’m being a bit flip about the whole thing. (That’s cause I am. ) But the flippedness ends now. (Not really, but a little bit.) Cuz I am in fact pleased to have been asked to participate and have every intention of taking it seriously, or as seriously as I’m able, which is every bit as serious as is required without being one iota more serious than that.
And what exactly are Paula and Celu asking of me? Initially, a series of ten tweets accompanied by a brief blog post (you’re reading that part right now) about the whole (hang on while I recite the letters out loud) “colloquium” (it didn’t work; I had to scroll back up in this post to get the order of the letters right).
But wait! I haven’t even really explained what it’s about.
According to Paula (who should know as she’s the one putting this whole thing together) it’s about “self-publishing your own fiction, and things you have learned.” And for me specifically: “What was it like preparing your father’s book and publishing it? What kind of reaction and feedback are you getting? What skills that you learned working for the CBC are you bringing to your self-publishing?”
So that is what I will be tweeting about tomorrow, Saturday April 30th around noon EST with Paula and Celu.
Paula adds: “I’m sure there’s lots you have in mind to say.”
Perhaps… but not right now. It’s Friday afternoon! And I have to walk the dog, after which I’m going out for wings and a movie with the guys. As you can imagine, there hasn’t been a whole lot of that sort of thing the last couple of years. Now that the damnpenic (sic) is over (hey, I can pretend just as well as the rest of our dumb elected officials) I can do that sort of thing again.
Our Twitter Colloquium on Self-publishing, hashtag #SelfPubCol. I hope you’ll join us!