Saturday 28 April 2012

How to become an e-book sensation. Seriously!

This is a story about the end of the gatekeeper. About the movement spreading throughout media, from which book publishing is hardly exempt, as readers of Harry Potter, Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey have made all too clear.

It’s about the reading public – the great unwashed, hoi polloi – no longer letting tastemakers decide what’s worth reading. It’s about the masses seizing the means of publication.

In short, it’s about choosing for ourselves.

Publishing is an injured beast, but it was mortally wounded before Amazon attacked. And the injuries themselves are partly self-inflicted.

The proof? The vast majority of top-heavy legacy publishers’ books – agented, edited, sales-managed, otherwise massaged, and only then published – tank, sinking with nary a trace. Conversely, some books, refused by dozens of publishers, go on to achieve rockstardom when some kindly soul finally deigns to bring them to market.

Which means only one thing: Despite their vast education, experience and good taste, publishers have only about a quarter of a clue what the public really wants. For publishers, it’s “the end of the world as they know it.”

And I feel fine.

How’s this for a story?
Mild-mannered Vancouver recreational-vehicle sales manager hits midlife and decides it’s time for some changes. Big changes. He sobers up, gets a divorce, takes up running, remembers he’s always wanted to be a writer, and enrolls in community writing courses.

Five years later, his mixed-genre coming of age/romantic suspense novel, My Temporary Life, is making the rounds of agents and publishers.

The book is rejected nearly 130 times.

For three more years, our hero perseveres, because that’s what heroes do. He has a businessman’s “buy-in” to the process, accepting that his product could be judged unsalable. (Nothing personal.) Aside from all those professional reader rejections, he’s receiving an endless stream of compliments from every real, live, non-professional reader his book encounters – relatives, writing-class co-conspirators, friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends. He keeps going because he’s just this really swell, grounded guy, seemingly without a resentful bone in his body.

You know, like most writers.

Maybe it’s the 12-step program
Ultimately, our hero decides – is forced – to self-publish, which, being who he is, he welcomes. “It was either quit and not do any more with it, or self-publish,” he says.

His e-book went live in December, 2011. In January, he sold $100 worth. Two-and-a-half months later, he embraced the strategy I’ll spell out later: Readers have since snapped up 86,000 copies. A Canadian bestseller is 5,000 copies.

At, our hero is the e-book equivalent of an implanted, spray-tanned, maple-syrup-smeared Playboy centerfold, earning $45,000 in February alone. E-book sales approached $5,000 in March, with another 16,000 giveaways.

Now writing My Name Is Hardly, about a character from My Temporary Life, please give a warm welcome to – your self-published hero and mine – Kilmarnock, Scotland-born Martin Crosbie, currently personifying happily ever after.

Published but no cigar
My own book, The Meaning of Children, was released in Canada last spring, also following a midlife crisis. Winner of the David Adams Richards Prize, it garnered some magnificent feedback from readers and reviewers. “Captivating,” “pitch-perfect prose,” “a life-altering read,” “resonates with the sad truth of being a grownup,” and “touching without being maudlin, a true literary feat,” readers said. Readers who weren’t my mother.

The book surprisingly made the CBC-Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers’ Choice Contest Top 10. (Okay, I came 10th, but the actual David Adams Richards was ninth. Besides, what do you call the doctor who graduates at the bottom of his class?)

Still, the book didn’t do as well as I’d hoped: A small literary publisher can mean little publicity compounded, in my case, by distribution woes. Like Martin Crosbie, I remained convinced my book had great U.S. market potential, but I tried and failed to find American representation (though I didn’t have it in me to try 130 times).

My Canadian publisher wanted the rights, but I became convinced I probably wouldn’t do a worse job myself. I prepared to self-publish an e-version, knowing if I wanted much of a readership, I’d have to personally market the hell out of The Meaning of Children (how am I doing so far?). I stepped up my social-media campaign, and that’s how I “met” Martin Crosbie, on Facebook, in early March. His post was eye-popping, if in need of editing: “This is the story of what happened when I hit #1 on Amazon’s Rankings!”

What’s it like to be vindicated, author of the latest e-book sensation? “We sat in the car and read the newest reviews. Two of them made us cry. It’s an amazing experience to read about how your work, your characters, touch another person the same way it touched you. ... The sales figures are amazing … but the almost overwhelming part is that you have an opportunity to touch so many people.”

Here was a guy who’d made a silk purse out of a novel nearly 130 members of the snooterati deemed a sow’s ear.

I “liked” his post and submitted my book to Kindle the very next day. Martin was approachable and encouraging, so I asked him for help. And man, did he give it – pages and pages of advice.

How did he do that? Or, how to make a Canadian bestseller
First, recognize that being your own publicist requires a major time investment. On the other hand, the gun registry is a twitching corpse and there won’t be a federal election for a few more years, so there’s no point wasting any more time on politics. Besides, who knows or cares more about your book than you do?

1. Write a good book: Duh … and not something Martin told me; genre novels may work best. Martin’s book is a cross-genre mash-up, a big reason, he surmises, it was rejected repeatedly: It was unclassifiable.

2. “Pay it forward” to other indie writers (that’s what they call themselves): Martin received essential help from a couple of Amazon authors, Robert Bidinotto and Kenneth Tingle. Without them, he says, he’d be nowhere. Bidinotto rewrote Martin’s synopsis, told him to get a new cover, and passed on much of the advice that follows. And that’s why Martin advises a “How can I help you” vs. “why should I help you?” attitude. (Who knows, this shift may prove useful in other areas of your life. Get a lobotomy if necessary. Or restart that lapsed antidepressant prescription.)

3. My heart belongs to Amazon. Bidinotto’s key message: Use Amazon’s unique Kindle Direct Publishing Select program (KSP). Amazon gets the exclusive right to sell your work for three months at a time, and also pays you to lend your book to their huge bank of subscribers, Amazon Prime members. For an annual fee, Prime members may borrow a book a month from the KSP collection (there are other advantages, too). Authors can generate substantial income just from these loans: $1.65 per download the first month to $2.18 the third month, in Martin’s experience (thousands and thousands of downloads).

4. Freebies: an indispensable promotional tool, five free days in each three-month KSP period. Thousands of free downloads rockets your book up the sales chart, piques reader interest, and hopefully generates those all-important reader reviews. “The rule of thumb is: For every three you give away, you'll sell one. So give lots away!” (Open, generous and giving. Remember, you’re channelling Oprah.) Best days: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. “The early part of the month is the worst.”

5. Publicize upcoming free days, especially on Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today (suspend your inner snark). Reflect the freebie in your book’s tags. Use Twitter and post in as many reader, Kindle and Facebook writer groups as possible.

6. Contact reviewers, review sites, top Amazon reviewers, and other indie authors who have sold lots of books. Buy their books and review them. Ask them for help.

7. Pricing: Martin “tried the 99-cent thing.” Verdict? “It makes us look self-published and unprofessional. I really believe that now.” The e-version of My Temporary Life is $3.99 – though John Locke, the first self-published author to sell a million Kindle books, counsels the contrary.

8. Time (the writer’s greatest sacrifice): Even when Martin works at the RV centre, he still finds five hours daily for promotion; other days, it’s 14 hours (bottles of Clear Eyes and Visine are scattered round the house). He’s virtually anywhere people talk about books online. But if time is money, money also buys time; i.e. if you earn well on this book, you’re buying time for your next.

Tech changes: Get over it
One more point that’s probably de rigueur for the Martin-wannabe: An e-reader. “Get” the technology. Embrace it.

Personally, I still prefer books. But the world is changing and no one – least of all a garden-variety writer – can divert that iceberg bearing down on publishing’s Titanic. Maybe J.K. Rowling … but I hear she’s self-publishing now, too.

Beverly Akerman is a Montreal writer whose e-book, The Meaning of Children, is available on; the paperback, not so much.

Friday 27 April 2012

No more hangers: Petition against Conservative private member's bill taking aim at abortion

A request to circulate a petition against Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth's private member's motion in the House of Commons "which clearly opens the possibility of re-criminalizing abortion" arrived in my in-box this morning. As a public service, I'm providing the information here. Please sign this petition. Help protect Canadian women's access to safe, legal abortion:

"Friend --
Stephen Harper said he would not re-open the debate on a woman’s right to choose.
But 24 hours from now, he’ll allow Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth to put forward a motion in the House of Commons which clearly opens the possibility of re-criminalizing abortion.
It’s up to you to make sure Canadian women and men know about it.
When I began my nursing career in the 1950s in Quebec, contraception was illegal and women had no say over family planning. They had no choice, and some faced desperation.
I saw women come to the hospital, bleeding and in pain, only to discover they'd tried to end their pregnancy themselves.
As a nurse, and later as an MP and Senator, I took part in the hard-fought battles to institutionalize and enshrine the right to choose in Canadian law.
And in 1988 the debate was settled when the Supreme Court ruled: “The decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision and in a free and democratic society, the conscience of the individual must be paramount to that of the state.”
If you believe in a Canadian woman’s right to choose, you have 24 hours to speak up and spread the word.
Thank you.
Lucie Pépin
Senator for Shawinigan, Quebec (1997-2011)
MP, Outremont (1984-1988)"

Thursday 26 April 2012

Argy Bargy about the Quebec Student Strike on Facebook today...

This morning, on Facebook, we got into a vigorous discussion about the Quebec Student Strike (for a really slanted view--with which I heartily disagree, please see this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education).

okay, kids. that's enough now...

· ·

  • Matthew  and Chris  like this.

    • Jeffrey All my regular lefty FB friends are blaming the police.
      6 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman yes, i've been seeing that today. (well, 1 or 2)
      6 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman the safety pin is pretty telling, too.
      6 hours ago ·

    • Ian: Ok? Clear-headed arguments. We in quebec pay twice the amount of taxes than Ontario, We pay higher gaz prices, that "private medication insurance" is draining my paycheck. We are asked to pay toll bridges (they do it in the US I hear) but we pay far more taxes than in the us. Residential taxes in Montreal are increasing and increasing every year, yet we have no more services. I'll say it, I'm no longer a student, but you should get the idea. Why didn't the X and the BBB protes (let alone riot) when 40 bllions (you read that right - 40 billions) "dissapeared" from the provincial retirement fund. Regimes have fallen over less. The "Train de l'est" is turning into a fiasco with "unplanne" cost that will double the bill (those "unplanned" costs will be more expensive, BTW thant the tuition increase.) The recent arrests by UPAC are proof that corruption is very, very real... yet when the youth says "enough" we are tagges as lazy, violent bums. "Ok kids? That's enough now!" please!
      6 hours ago ·

    • James: Ian ... great post. Unfortunately, our government is following in the same footsteps.
      5 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman you can have free university tuition when the professors agree to teach for nothing, okay? ditto for all the other workers at the university. i was a student too, and i have 3 kids who are students. TANSTAAFL, Ian. your movement jumped the shark & revealed its totalitarian nature (again) when it prevented Concordia's new President (candidate) from speaking at a lawful assembly. there is no "free." as it is, university is 80% "free" ie. taxpayer funded. go back to class & learn something.
      5 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman oh, and a strike, really? a strike is when the workers withdraw some essential service. whether you go to school or lose your're biting off your own nose, my friend.
      5 hours ago · ·

    • Mary L
      Totalitarian nature? Since when is fighting back, defending ourselves a fucking dictatorship?
      5 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman ah, just saw you're no longer a student. well, then, there's no excuse. who's going to pay the millions of $$ it's costing in extra policing? all those now income-less university professors?
      5 hours ago ·

    • Mary L 
      You guys are living in your own bubble. Free school does not mean unpaid teachers lady! It means we pay the government back with services...
      5 hours ago ·

    • Mary L
      We already pay for that, the struggle is much larger than what you are talking about. Who's income less? All teachers are sitting on thin ice with their jobs already. Remember the concordia techs back a few years ago?
      5 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman if anyone's living in a bubble, it's the free tuition movement. and totalitarian is as totalitarian does. when you refuse to have a secret ballot on whether or not to strike because it won't fit in the 'time line' and is 'too timeconsuming to organize,' when opposition to the idea of a strike is shouted down at meetings held to discuss having a strike, when the potential new head of a university that surely SURELY needs a new head is shouted down in a public meeting...when millions of dollars are wasted in futile confrontations with the police, and crimes against property are perpetrated for no good reason...that's totalitarian, my friend. and the fact that you guys don't realize what it is you're doing...proves what your education to this point has been worth. university education costs (in direct fees to students) a fraction of what it is elsewhere. the time has come to keep pace with inflation, for gawd's sake.
      5 hours ago ·

    • Mary L
      I might not be in school but my daughter will. I'm doing this for our futur. You don't see, and a lot of you don't see that this is not like the yearly strike from students. This is us picking up the steps from the last ten years. Fighting for a better lifestyle. One where the governement represents the population, and the whole population
      5 hours ago ·

    • Tracey  A wise young man once told me that schooling is a privilege. He has travelled the world (as a student I might add) and has seen far worse. Enjoy the privileges we have and go back to school.
      5 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman you change governments by voting, not by smashing down the windows of the palais des congres. civics 101. and don't call me "lady," lol!
      5 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman ‎(for some reason, Tracey Del Vecchio, i can't 'like' your comment. but i do!!)
      5 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman university is already 80% free for students...
      5 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman i can understand people being unhappy with the way they feel society is going. what i can't accept is the smashing, burning, and shouting dissent--or even a meeting--down. that's not the way a liberal democracy works.
      5 hours ago ·

    • Ian  I do not endorse violence. I used to... hell I used to be a fuckup who got into fist fights and I didn't mind all that much. But guess what, all you moralists who claim "I did it and so can you", I did the same. I turned my life around, got clean, became a vegetarian and embraced buddhism. Guess what, I went back to school and I did it too. I could claim the same "I did it and so can you", but I wont. Because I probably wouldn't have done it if the fees had been higher. We have to realise that there can be a system where people can achieve their goals because of a system, not in spite of it. i could also add this : I will happily pay the same tuition as Ontario the day we have the same taxe rates and gaz price...
      5 hours ago ·

    • Ian  Also, as for "bashing, breaking and etc..." I watched the whole thing yesterday on CUTV, unedited and live, so I will happily take my own interpretations of who bashed what over whatever powercorp or quebecor is throwing at me.
      5 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman i can't control gas prices and tax rates. speak to the separatists if you want the economy to improve in quebec. but i will say that from what i've heard, the gov't is taking steps to increase support to those who can't afford tuition increases. i am not a moralist...we all know people who should have gone to university and were unable to. we also all know lots of people who aren't there for the right reasons, too. i feel peoples' thinking is muddled on this issue: "i'm angry about corruption, taxes, and gas prices, so i'm gonna go down to the palais des congres and get my ass kicked in"? does this sound reasonable to you?? civil disobedience works. but there are no shortcuts to social change. imho, anyway.
      5 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman the strike isn't democratic--it isn't even really a strike--and i don't believe it's supported by a majority of students. it's a vocal minority that devolves into mobbism.
      5 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman and now i must get back to work to support all those brainiacs who are throwing billiard balls at the po-lice...or whatever the heck they're up to next. feel free to keep posting, though. i wouldn't miss this convo for the world.
      5 hours ago ·

    • Donna: I am so fed up with all of this. I think we should wear red with an x on it, and protest the protests
      5 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman the true cost of higher ed is only fractionally related to the tuition increases. it's the money foregone by attending university and doing the work required that's the killer for those without enough $$.
      5 hours ago · · 

    • Ian: Again, I never mentionned that I support violence, yet the "violent" agrument keeps coming back. I will not add on it. As for numbers, the largest demonstration rallied 300 000 people, some say, I will use 250 000 just to take a lower estimate. Still, 250 000 people in the same march at the same time, means that 3.15% of Quebec's population was marching in the street, no small feat in of itself. And lets mention Woodworth's severance. I lost a job, I get my 4% vacation (and no vacation), she gets &700 000. "There are no shortcuts to social change" - Indeed, the path is long and hard. First step is what I call the "personal revolution" : get rid of things you don't need and get rid of people who will sink you, but most of all, get rid of hate. Only when that is done can you rebuild yourself. Second step educate yourself. Granted, most of what we learn in college can be read for free in most libraries, but you need the diploma in order to (maybe) get a job so you pay the tuition and you hope for a job when you get out. That is "plan A", plan B is you do it yourself, or you start a business, that's the theory anyways, but then you need money or credit, who controlls both, banks and government. I didn't have money, I didn't want credit (I am 29 and the only thing I owe is my student loan) so what, you work for a few years ans save up money, but the time you are ready, you have lost a third of your professional life poorly employed. I finished schoo, I make $30 000 a years, which I admit is the most money I've ever fucking had. But then, the government starts collecting me, regardless of what I want, they take around 30%. Granted we do have more than other people around the world, but we also pay a lot (a lot) more in taxes.
      5 hours ago ·

    • Beverly Akerman quebec has the most progressive tax system in canada, i believe. which means we have the most people who pay nothing in income taxes because their incomes are too low. in our house, we'd be happy to get off with 30%. as for Judith Woodward's severance, i can only say this: people have contracts. contracts have clauses covering their dissolution. are Concordia's contracts out of line with what is commonly done at universities? i believe this is being looked into by an enquiry. but i sincerely doubt the 250,000 people out in the street were motivated by Judith Woodward's severance package. again, i repeat: people should be involved in the political process. and by that, i don't just mean voting come election time. join a party that supports your point of view. work to get your ideas some air time. it's a long slog, i know. and we don't pay that much more in taxes anymore, btw. i believe we're more middle of the pack right now. not to mention the incredible social programs we have: $7/day daycare, year-long mat leaves, free college education...but, of course, nothing is really "free," is it? there's always someone paying. that's what the students are forgettting.
      4 hours ago ·

    • Ian
      Charles Bukowski - Born Into This - Dinosauria, We Henry Charles Bukowski (born ...See more

      4 hours ago ·  
      For more about Alan Shepard's disgraceful treatment at Concordia University, please see "Strikers silence leadership hopeful."

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Seeking a mother's day gift that's a little out of the ordinary?

Hey publicity/media peeps: desperate for a mother's day story a little out of the ordinary? 

May I recommend 'The Meaning Of Children': a book of short fiction...motherhood without an epidural. Because growing up takes longer than you'd think. And the process isn't always pretty. 

Not the 'hearts & flowers' kind of mother's day gift...more like the kind of book your bff hands you, saying, "Read this..."

Abortion, homophobia, foster kids, bondage, romance, an epiphany at St. Joseph's Oratory...a misunderstood eight-year-old, a suicidal daycare worker having a very bad day, a mother who lost a son in Vietnam. These are the characters you'll find in the award-winning 'The Meaning Of Children.'

Available in paperback and e-book versions.

A couple of recent reader reviews:

"Akerman takes you back to the time you were a child. No matter you did not grow up in Montreal or Jewish, the situations, conflicts, joys and fears are universal.
Akerman grounds emotions with rich descriptions and a strong sense of place," ~twalker on and

"Entering the world of 'The Meaning Of Children' is like wrapping myself in the blanket my grandmother knit for me.I can feel every word, hear every sound, and be taken to a familiar place in my soul. You are a brilliant woman with a great spirit whose writing will resonate with many. Thank you." ~Judith Litvack on Facebook

David Adams Richards Prize
CBC- Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers' ChoiceContest Top 10

More here:

The Meaning of Children, now on an e-book (don't forget: Amazon has free apps for other devices!).

“Akerman holds up our greatest fears, not to dwell on them, but to marvel at our commitment to life, especially to passing it on to others.”
~Anne Chudobiak, The Montreal Gazette

“This isn’t the invented childhood of imagination and wonderment…[here] children both corrupt and redeem: each other, family relationships and the female body.”
~Katie Hewitt, The Globe & Mail

TV & Radio Interviews:;;

Thursday 19 April 2012

First review for The Meaning Of Children...and it's FOUR STARS!


My first Amazon review...
from San Francisco, 
one of my favourite places...
saw Catherine deNeuve there, 
on the STREET, 
for goodness sakes!


"Akerman takes you back to the time you were a child. 
No matter you did not grow up in Montreal or Jewish, 
the situations, conflicts, joys and fears are universal. 
Akerman grounds emotions with rich descriptions 
and a strong sense of place."
Thanks so much, twalker!

Munro savvy, Picoult <3

The Meaning Of Children
14 award-winning short stories

for $0.99

For a limited time...

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Review of 'Malarky' by Anakana Schofield

There are few things I dislike more than to be told a book is “blackly funny,” “uproarious,” and “comic,” and then not to find it so.

It makes me feel humour impaired, it does. Being as I’m a fifty-something Jewish woman who birthed three babes with narry a drop of anaesthetic till it was time for the stitches down under, you must understand why that cannae be so.

Malarky is such a book.

Thank the goddess for Graham Greene, whose The Comedians proved to me soon afterward that I am still humour intacta, to wit,

I said, ‘I’ve often heard shooting. They act more silently as a rule.’
‘Who are they?’ Mr. Smith asked.
‘The Tonton Macoute,’ the purser broke in with wicked glee. ‘The President’s bogey-men. They wear dark glasses and they call on their victims after dark.’
Mr. Smith laid his hand on his wife’s knee. ‘The gentleman is trying to scare us, my dear,’ he said. ‘They told us nothing about this at the tourist bureau.’

But I digress.

I can only surmise that calling the book hilarious is a marketing ploy. Or a decision taken by someone who doesn’t like middle-aged women. As a middle-aged woman myself, you will understand if I decline to be amused.

Malarky, to this reader, is not comedy but tragedy. Accomplished tragedy certainly but  tragedy nonetheless. If you’re looking for satire, I recommend the Greene… but, again, I digress.

Malarky is the story of ‘Our Woman,’ a middle-aged frump, from the sound of it, who lives in Ireland with Himself and her boy Jimmy. In short order, she comes across her son in flagrante delicto with a young man from the neighbourhood.

The shock takes her to a squat.
A sunken squat.
An utter of shock.
Before she moves quietly off, she takes another look. She has to see it again.
They’re still at the same malarky. It’s her son, her boy, and he’s shaking himself stronger against that young fella. He cannot bury himself deep enough in him. Flagrant; he’s got him by the hips, rattling in and out of them, almost like he’s steering a wheelbarrow that’s stuck on a stone, going no place.

In short order, Red the Twit comes up to Our Woman in a bar and reveals she has been sleeping with Himself.

Our Woman’s world is rocked by these events.

Are you laughing yet?

Our Woman then goes on a strange voyage of discovery that engulfs a local shop security guard of Syrian origin, and attempts to recreate the sex scenes of Jimmy’s she has witnessed. To bedlam and back.

For anyone who needs a demonstration why beginning writers are admonished against using multiple points of view, Malarky can be read as a textbook. Still, despite zooming between first and third person versions of Our Woman—whose name, we finally discover, is Philomena—Malarky works.

Malarky works because sometimes we must bear tragedy but still needs find some way of distancing ourselves from it.

Malarky is also a textbook example of the “what if” story: what if you were an Irish farmwife, minding your own business, pouring the tea, doing the endless cooking, cleaning, and ironing, only to find out your son, the only child of your three you were close to, is gay? Knowing this would create an unbridgeable schism in your family, with Himself being the way he is.

I expected more from you, Jimmy said. His father he could understand, but you, I thought you got it.
I do, I wanted to tell him… but… I married the man. I married a man and if you marry one, this is what you do. You organize the things that disturb him. I wanted to tell him to be careful if he marries a man. There are things to worry about when you marry someone.

And, oh yeah, Jimmy’s father’s been cheating on you. Even though “their lovemaking” has been sporadic, “every few months, maybe longer,” this rutting rut has still been part of the bedrock of Our Woman’s life.

What if the comfortable life you’d built for yourself—not luxurious, mind (after all, the entire countryside’s been blindsided by the economic collapse), but built on the certainty that was supposed to come with hard work—is turned upside down in a few short episodes?

Would you go a bit mad? You would.

Would you fight back? Become, in the words of Lynn Coady’s book blurb, “a sexual outlaw/anthropologist”? You might.

What if Himself cuts the boy off, the boy leaves school for the army—the American army—and gets himself killed?

What if your life was bulldozed like this? And then, both men died?

How would you feel? Hilarious? What blarney. That’s Malarky.

Anakana Schofield
Now living in Vancouver, Schofield is an Irish-Canadian writer of essays, fiction, and literary criticism. Her credits include the London Review of Books, The Recorder: The Journal of the American Irish Historical Society, the Globe & Mail, and the Vancouver Sun. Malarky is her first novel. She worked on it for ten years.

Malarky is at times strange, and less focused in the latter third. But it is utterly filled with the wisdom—the tragedy, respect, and the sheer determination–of the middle-aged woman. There are also some marvellous lines. For example, this: “The thing people don’t realize about patchwork women like me is how given to exasperation we are.”

Read the book: to honour the middle-aged woman, not to laugh at her.

Originally published in The Winnipeg Review.

Biblioasis | 225 pages |  $19.95 | paper | ISBN #978-1926845388

Monday 16 April 2012

Perfect for Mother's Day: The Meaning Of Children, 99 cents on Kindle!

Okay, I've done it...Perfect for Mother's Day: The Meaning Of Children, 99 cents on Kindle! That's 90% OFF! 

On sale in about 12 hours (or so they tell me)...

Here's the latest review, from TMOC's Facebook page:

From reader Judith Litvack: "Entering the world of The Meaning Of Children is like wrapping myself in the blanket my grandmother knit for me.I can feel every word, hear every sound, and be taken to a familiar place in my soul. You are a brilliant woman with a great spirit whose writing will resonate with many. Thank you."
No, Judith, thank YOU!
I'd be grateful if you'd share this post...

Try a FREE SAMPLE! A slice a mah "Pie."

Still not convinced? Here are a few more reviews and reader comments...hope you enjoy the book! Comments on, via Facebook, Twitter, or on this blog will be most appreciated.


A keen, incisive vision into the hidden world of children as well as intimate knowledge of the secret spaces that exist between the everyday events of life. A work with a brilliant sense of story…Magical, and so refreshing for me to read. I absolutely loved it and I hope it goes on to do marvellous things. Yours is a luminous talent.
~JoAnne Soper-Cook, Author and Judge, 2010 David Adams Richards Prize

Loved your book; read it in one sitting…each [story] is told either by a child, or it’s about a child. And it’s interesting because I think depending on the age of the person reading it, you relate to different ones. But especially to feminists, growing up with it, wrestling with our beliefs, and whether it worked out or not… a lot of women that you see in this book are trapped. We were trapped by what we were brought up to believe. And then we’re trapped by the marriages we find ourselves in, and the children we have… But on the other hand, each story ends with a certain resolve. There’s that sense of okay this is my situation But. And that’s what the meaning of children is. And yet, it’s about hope. It’s about the future…
~Mutsumi Takahashi, Anchor, CTV News Montreal (interview )

A collection of 14 short stories which covers the range of experience from the point of view of children, mums, and also aging parents as well. It’s all there in this lovely little book, short stories about life in a family that might just resemble yours. I wanted to congratulate you on the publication of this book and I hope it goes far far afield for you. A wonderful gift for mother’s day, perhaps more long lived than the usual cut flowers.
~Anne Lagacé Dowson, CJAD Radio journalist (interview )

Anne Lagacé Dowson

This isn’t the invented childhood of imagination and wonderment…[here] children both corrupt and redeem: each other, family relationships and the female body.

Akerman holds up our greatest fears, not to dwell on them, but to marvel at our commitment to life, especially to passing it on to others.
~Anne Chudobiak, The Montreal Gazette

Haunting and powerfully emotive, drawing on the subtleties of childhood, youth and parenthood that undermine us in strange and unexpected ways. Your writing is polished and mature, something I am always in awe of and why I got into publishing to begin with.
~Meghan Macdonald, Transatlantic Literary Agency

Counter-intuitive to the title, for me these stories resonate with the sad truth of being a grownup. Life is that damn hard and just-under-the-surface tension saturates our existence. But the kids, they know what's going on. They may not understand all the details but they know the score. Akerman nails that sorrow, highlights it with unexpected humour, credits our resilience and almost never skips a beat.
~Chris Benjamin, Author of Drive-by Saviours, on Goodreads (4 stars)

Akerman engages with dichotomies. Childhood is that safe, magical, carefree time and place — but it’s also risky, threatening, ominous and dangerous — full of impenetrable mystery around things seen and experienced, but beyond understanding. And if it’s not too much of a simplification or stating the obvious, life and the world are not gentle on children simply for being children…If, as Dostoevsky once remarked, and as is quoted on the collection’s frontispiece, “The soul is healed by being with children,” it is the tragedy of adulthood that we become so isolated from childhood — and what children offer us. Artfully, evocatively, Beverly Akerman’s The Meaning of Children reminds us of that.
~Darrell Squires, The Western Star 

Beverly’s background as a scientist, MSc and twenty years as a molecular researcher, inevitably spills into the stories…characters, the settings and her style. Intelligent, objective, open-minded but not clinical, her prose is refreshing and unprejudiced. Her characters are frank and genuine ...With The Meaning of Children, we get a beautifully written exposé on the meaning of life.
~Francine Diot-Layton, The Rover 

Just finished “Like Jeremy Irons.” That was a tough one. Saying I loved it feels contrary to the agony I'm feeling right now. (Perhaps I shouldn't have settled into it with a glass of wine?) Awesome writing - even if my uterus is cramping!
~Lisa Dalrymple, Winner of The Writers Union of Canada’s 2011 Writing for Children Competition

Your book is filled with insight and wisdom and gorgeous moving stories...You are dazzling. (I had read “Pie” long ago. It is just as moving the second time).
~Hal Ackerman (no relation), UCLA Screenwriting Area Co-Chair and author of Stein Stoned and Stein Stung

All I seem to read these days are parenting books. But I think I might be learning more about being a parent from Beverly Akerman's The Meaning of Children than from anywhere else. I can't put it down.
~Jenn Hardy, Writer, Editor and Blogger at

I adore your knack for leaving questions hanging in the reader's mind…and then there are those thought provoking zingers tucked neatly inside the last thought, description or action of your narrators. I haven't enjoyed short stories like this since Margaret Atwood, Barbara Gowdy and Alice Munro.
~Rusti Lehay, Writer and Editor

Beverly Akerman is what Alice Munro was supposed to be.
~Mike Rose (received by my publisher, via email)

A life-altering read is so rare for me, and I imagine for many writers, with a critical eye often hard to keep closed while hoping to get caught up and swept away while reading fiction for pleasure...Her stories are as diverse as her changing career path and yet string together a theme as connected as a genetic chain…Children weave their way through every tale…always sparking the reader to question where in all these stories sits their own story.
~Michelle Greysen, Writer, Editor, and Blogger

I really enjoyed this book. If you like short story collections a la Alice Munro style, I think you will too.
~Julie Harrison, Writer, Editor, and Blogger

[You show us how] our childhood experiences affect us forever. And what we bury comes to the surface from time to time….The story about the woman who couldn't touch anything without it dying was sad and funny - loved the boys next door - and I liked PIE - as you have now given me a simple recipe that I can remember for pie crust -I am a baker. And the poor woman who had entered probably menopause and her marriage had broken without her noticing it. She was just so angry and exhausted. So many women I feel are and hide it.
~Carlene Orefici, via Facebook

I enjoyed The Meaning of Children so much that I wished there were twice as many stories! If I had to pick one, “Pour Un Instant” was my favourite. I was sad to come to the end of the book.
~Lisa De Nikolits, Author of The Hungry Mirror, on

A great read. I loved this book. The stories are touching without being overly maudlin. It's a true literary feat while remaining a fairly light, pleasurable read.
~Alison Palkhivala, Writer and Editor, on

Excellent book. Very well written. I felt like I wanted to read an entire book for each chapter rather than a short story. Very engaging. Worth reading.
~Suzanne Boles, Writer and Editor, on Goodreads (5 stars)

This morning I wrote to a friend in Victoria. I told her: ‘I finished Beverly Akerman's book and really liked it. The theme throughout is children: being a child, being pregnant, abortion, losing a child, being a father, giving a child for adoption. Touchy stuff but she has such kindness, such compassion and infuses hope and love in the saddest situation. She offers unique and surprising insights, it's never sappy or cliché. All this within the short story frame, quite a feat in my opinion. If you can't find her book, I'll send you my copy.’ Thank you for writing such an amazing book and for promoting yourself at the gym. It was a bold and creative move. I would have not known about your writing otherwise.
~Diane Des Roches, budding writer

From the CBC-Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers’ Choice Contest:

Johanna from Kelowna: "As a social worker in child protection I really appreciated the focus and the insights into the lives of children demonstrated in the work The Meaning of Children by Beverly Akerman. Our children are our future and deserve more attention, love and nurturing. Beverly's book is a method to that purpose; she touched my heart to its core."

Kathe from Montreal: "I have been savouring the stories one by one. I don't want this book to end. She writes so simply but powerfully, and her characters stay with you."

B Maurene from Montreal: "If the reality of Akerman's skilful weaving of tales that can be all too true of the way parents, families, and cultures place their hopes and dreams on children hits home to contemporary child bearers, she could be building a better world. Few who embark on the journey of parenting ever realize how great the responsibilities are or how to meet the individual needs of children, particularly those with difficulties. A should read for college and university students, and a must read, among the hundreds of pregnancy and child rearing how-to manuals, for parents attending pre-natal classes."

Marla of Thunder Bay: "Beverly Akerman is an extraordinary writer and I believe she deserves it."

Suzan of Ottawa: "It was an absolute joy to read. I laughed out loud at some stories and wept shamelessly at others, all the while savouring every skilfully handpicked word. One cannot read The Meaning of Children and not be moved in some way by the stories therein. It is a beautiful quilt, made of exquisitely crafted pieces which when taken as a whole is so much more than a sum of its parts."

Eva from Maple Ridge: "The Meaning of Children should win because it is important for the reader to view situation from the child's perspective."

Lynn from Belle River: "Beverly Akerman would be a good candidate. Enlightening and refreshing."

Paula from Cornwall: "In her book The Meaning of Children, Beverly Akerman gives us a snap shot of the reality of childhood in diverse family situations. As and educator, I understand too clearly that the reality that childhood is not always a "Norman Rockwell" moment, but rather is a reflection of the very complex perception of an individual child, whether pleasant or challenging, the question remains, is the individual child free to be themselves or are they encouraged to put on a mask to face their personal circumstances?"

Rusti of Stony Plain: "This collection of short stories was stunning, captivating, wrenching and hopeful. I wanted more when I finished the book."

Ken from Saskatoon: "The author's insight into the minds of children and the lives touched by those around them allow the reader to truly appreciate how impressionable these young minds are, and how the events in our lives can effect how children perceive, and register them. It also reminds me of how important my son is to me, as when I face conflict or stress in my life, all of the problems disappear instantly when I see him smile at me."

Kayla from Timmins: "This author should make it to this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize because she writes books on life's reality which is a subject that may teach kids like adults about some of life's matters."

Rocio from Mississauga: "I think Beverly Akerman, with The Meaning of Children, should be considered, because throughout her book she shows how children can change our world, with their hearts, dreams and tenderness. They do not even know how much this world changes for the best just because they are part of it, and that is really touching and marvellous."

Pauline from Montreal: "Beverly Akerman's The Meaning of Children takes an eyes-wide-open look at real families. No sentimentality here yet there's a ring of truth to the often quirky situations people find themselves in that made me smile with recognition. A wry smile at times, but Akerman writes pitch-perfect prose. This is Canadian story-telling at its best."

Felicia from Boisseavain: "The book touches on a lot of the biggest parental 'what ifs.' Kidnapping. Hate crime. Death by drowning. Suicide. Even so, it would make a good gift for a new mother. Akerman holds up our greatest fears, not to dwell on them, but to marvel at our commitment to life, especially to passing it on to others. Says one character, looking back, 'Life had been perfect ' but I'd been too busy to notice."

Valerie from Toronto: "As an early childhood educator I feel it really conveys the voices of children and parents in our society."

Frances from Port Coquitlam: "An in depth look at the inner turmoil of a child’s life and/or those who care for them and how life experiences can have such an impact on our stories and journeys through life. An interesting study on this subject."

Kimberly from Shawnigan Lake: "I believe Beverly Akerman's, The Meaning of Children has amazing insight with its many stories. I loved them all. Life is what happens in the meantime. Great read and would highly recommend."

Mona from ND Ile Perrot: "I'd like to suggest Beverly Akerman. Her book, The Meaning of Children is written with a refreshing sincerity. Loved it!"

Carrie from Spruce Grove: "I think that it takes a special kind of skill to coordinate short stories into a piece that is well written and thought provoking- without losing one's initial objectives."

Crystal from Nanaimo: "The Meaning of Children is my submission as it is told through the voices of children. What can be better than to hear 14 different stories of growing up and dealing with important issues? Each child tells their stories so vividly and honestly, you feel sorry for them, as if you know them. This book is extremely well written and gripping."

Catherine from Whitby: "Well written, captivating perspectives on life's stages."

Rajini from Canada: "I think that Beverly Akerman should make the long list. Akerman's The Meaning of Children is a dark, thought-provoking read that is certainly worthy of the 2011 Giller Prize."

From editors and contest judges on individual stories: 

“Emotional and tightly written.”
~David Bright, Gemini Magazine

“Solid and very funny. Great stuff!”
~Karl Jirgens, Editor, Rampike

“Oh, it's lovely. I like it when my body responds to writing; right now there's an ache in my throat.”
~Susan Rendell, EarLit Shorts

“The judges liked…the resistance to the happy ending, and the idea that there is often something or someone waiting for the small mistake.”
~The Writers’ Union of Canada, 2007 Short Prose Competition Jury

“I love the mystery and the fear in this story--the ending works so well.”
~Colleen Donfield, The Sun
“I entered all the changes in “Six Pixels [of Separation]” and just read (again) the whole thing out loud...What a fantastic essay! I love it more with each reading!”
~Sylvia Legris, Editor, Grain Magazine

Comments from readers of the award winning, “Pie,” part of The Meaning Of Children (at Fictionaut):

Your voice is so distinctive, and the story leaves me aching. Wonderfully meaningful writing.

A superb voice.
Got a lump in my throat from this one. Who knew one can write about pie to this effect? I like the way you compare men to pies "holding them close is the making of men, not the ruining" and then in the next paragraph say "but you can only compare a boy and a pie so far" when talking about mending there are always scars. I also like the way the mother tries to mask her scars and her grief, but can't. And it’s the not making pies anymore that’s the most telling.

This is so well set up, and at the end you get that "oh, no" feeling. The ending hurts; I agree with Beate. Wonderfully written; deft and powerful ending.

This is a marvelous piece. Great work, Beverly. Made me think of Patty Griffin's song "Making Pies".
I made pies your way for 20 years, wonderful - crisco, ummm - no more - we worry too much about cholesterol. But we are still alive, so phooey! A great piece.

Nice story. I'm craving some pie now. Can't wait to get back to the US and smother my face in all that fatty deliciousness.

Nicely done to perfection. Smells good too.

Love the voice of this story. I'd listen to all kinds from this narrator. Front porch stuff. Let's get this on tape stuff. The live forever stuff.

What everyone else said. Times three. Just beautiful.

Holy-boly, Bev. Yeah, I cried when where this was going broke through the crust. "But you can only compare a boy and a pie so far." What a blood-pie of a story. Hit the heart. Great work.

This is a magnificent story. Touched an benchmark of elemental sadness on the human scale, but ever so lightly, ever so lightly...

Such a strong voice I can hear her in my mind. Literary fiction at its best!

Like Water for Pie. This is wonderful, and yes such an alive and honest voice. Well done!

Love the deceptive simplicity of the voice, love the way the emotion crept up on me and then overtook me. Love.

Congratulations on your top contender finish in the Glass Woman Prize, Beverly! I love this story so very much. I adore the voice and style of the narrator, and the way she works through the story, through the heartache, until we share it too. And the pie! Love it.

So deftly balanced, the literal and the foreboding..."one thing I know, holding them close is the making of men, not the ruining." And then very near the end: The tart bleeding into the sweet. Oh, my I'd like another piece of pie...Big lump in the throat fav!

Amazing story. It deserves every honor.