Tuesday 31 July 2012

NEW: The Mysteries FREE on Amazon.com, Aug. 1st to 5th

Here's the headline:

THE MYSTERIES is FREE on KINDLE 8/1 to 8/5. Vol. 1 in The Meaning of Children series http://amzn.to/Qi3sUy 

Book trailer http://bit.ly/OpMcaz
  • Winner of the David Adams Richards Prize for fiction
  • Top 10 CBC-Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers' Choice Award.

For those with a little more time:

I'm trying something new to bring my book, The Meaning of Children, to more readers. The strategy was suggested (and aided and abetted!) by Samuel Peralta, award winning poet and Facebook friend, author of the amazing poetry collection Sonata Vampirica and several others, flying off the (virtual) shelves--if e-books can be said to do such a thing...

In addition to being an amazing, award winning writer, he's a shining inspiration of the indie author spirit--take advice and help as it's offered, pay it forward, pay it back...always ready with assistance and encouragement.

What did I do to merit such kindness? I was so affected by the personal story of e-book sensation Martin Crosbie that I wrote an article about him for The Globe and Mail, chockfull of self-publishing advice (his book, My Temporary Life, has been downloaded about 100,000 times since February. Still AMAZING, Martin!).

Coincidentally, I met both Martin and Samuel at The New Quarterly's Facebook page, if memory serves...

But, to get back to my original point, and I do have one, about my new marketing modus operandi: I've divided my book into three e-volumes, each titled for a pivotal story in the section, and will be offering them as independent e-books on Amazon. The Mysteries is volume 1 or 'Beginning', consisting of 4 stories told through the eyes of the child protagonists.

The stories are "Tumbalalaika," The Mysteries," "Broken," and "Pour Un Instant," first published in Canadian literary journals The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, Windsor Review, and The Nashwaak Review.

A few words about the story that lends the volume its name, "The Mysteries," from my first review, by Katie Hewitt in The Globe and Mail:
  • "...in "The Mysteries," Akerman perfectly captures the anxiety of second-grader Rebecca after the birth of her little brother. Left to walk to school alone by her beleaguered mother, Rebecca meets a strange man who talks of hot chocolate and puppies. Her inner monologue runs wild wondering if the “don’t talk to strangers” rule applies when the stranger talks first. (“Why don’t they tell you what to do about moments like this when they tell you so much other stuff?”)" Rebecca’s innocence, her perception of the horror laced in her teacher’s silences, and ultimately her fear and a slight exaggeration of events to the police leave the reader almost as confused as Rebecca about the man’s intentions, all because Akerman writes as a believable eight-year-old."

Three volumes on Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing Select Program means three times as many giveaways! And the first one starts tomorrow, August 1st. Free, too, in the UK!

The other two volumes are Lighter than Air (six stories), and What I've Prayed For (four stories) Of course, the entire book is also still available as a single volume. (And all are also available at Amazon in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain...)

Please accept this as a personal invitation to try my book. GRATIS!

Here's the latest 5 starreview of The Meaning of Children by Amazon hall of fame reviewer Grady Harp (more recent ones here):

[Profound Vignettes of, about, or because of Children

At times chance enters our lives and we encounter moments created by a wordsmith that, like it or not, raise memories and experiences that we have either experienced, watched, heard about, or dreamed and the stories in Beverly Akerman's book of short stories THE MEANING OF CHILDREN do just that. They slowly creep into our psyches, clutch a holding place, and stay with us permanently. This collection of the whispers and screams, longings and needs of being a child and the responses of those closest to that child are the works of a magician, a writer of such substance that she is obviously headed to the top echelon of writers of our time.

Some critics are saying that this book is about the underappreciated world of women and perhaps that stance is valid: there certainly are enough tales of anorgasmia, to abortion, to preparing to say the final goodbye to a dying child to the vagaries of holding a household together despite the external (and internal) flaws that creep into crack marriages. But I don't see men being put into negative places just to serve the purpose of making a collection of stories hang together with a theme. No, these stories are all about the influence of bringing a child into the world and the benefits and consequences of the way life changes because of that. And overriding everything else is the panoply of forms of love that transcend all else.

I like the way the author (or agent or some caring one who seeks to gain our attention to this book) states it: `...a girl discovers a fear of heights as her parents' marriage unravels; a thirty-something venture fund manager frets over his daughter's paternity; an orphan whose hands kill whatever they touch is accused of homophobia; a mother of two can only bear to consider abortion in the second person; the wife of a retirement-aged professor finds him unconscious near his computer...The Meaning Of Children speaks to all who--though aware the world can be a very dark place--can't help but long for redemption.' I like this because in the end words fail in attempting to share the variety of emotions this book induces. Beverly Akerman simply knows how to write. She understands contemporary vernacular and uses it to embroider her stories, not to be `with it' like so many authors who seem to need to fill the quota of expletives. She also knows when to leave a story alone, to just let it lift itself and slip out the window, carrying the impact of our emotional changes with it.

Enough said. This is a book of rare sensitivity and masterful creative writing and must surely be shared with as many friends and fellow readers as possible.]

 Finally, here's a new little book trailer I made at Animoto.com. I'd love to know what you think:

Sunday 22 July 2012

Why? Of Aurora, Dawson, Pink Angels, Gun Control & the Harper Government

In remembrance and tribute to those who have been injured or killed in Aurora, Colorado--and because I have just read Jan Wong's Out of the Blue, bringing the Dawson College shooting to the forefront of my thoughts--I offer this encore presentation of this blog post, with the following thought:

The dead are still dead. The gun registry has been killed in Canada. Our federal government, which has muzzled public scientists, lied to us repeatedly (e.g. about the opinion of StatsCan's chief on proposed changes to the Census long form), seems to believe we are the new Texas--all about oil, beef, worshipping warrior culture, guns, and manly men. Truth is, Canada is so much more than that.

To you Americans still convinced that more guns will make them safer, and the misguided Canadians who feel the same way, I offer this chart, recently seen on Facebook:

Guns don't kill people: people kill people--with guns!!

What I'd like to say to the women of the world, especially, is that we must take back the power we have allowed others to wield on our behalf. We must become more politically active and demand MORE gun control.  

Why is all this firepower be so readily accessible to the unfortunate few who lose their grip on reality?


Five years later…
Photo credit: Peter McCabe, The Canadian Press
First off, I think today is a day for offering our condolences to the De Sousa family, and our best wishes for healing to them especially, and
to anyone who was hurt at Dawson College five years back. I’ve learned a bit more about Anastasia De Sousa the past couple of days, from a website called “mypinkangel.com,” created and maintained by Lucie Bouchard Antoniazzi. Ms. De Sousa had had a hard time while growing up because she had asthma and scoliosis. She was treated—amazingly well treated—at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. When she was 14, she underwent a gruelling six hour operation to straighten her spine. Steel rods, the whole works. It was painful and difficult. The first time she got out of bed after the surgery, she was 3 inches taller.

I mean, that girl suffered.
And everyone knows that means her whole family suffered with her. And after recovering from all that—her breathing eased because her spine no longer pressed on her lungs--she’s shot to death by some mentally ill guy who had unbelievably easy access to guns. [For more in this sadly ironic vein, please see "Colorado shooting victim narrowly missed Eaton Centre Shooting"]
Nineteen people shot, thousands terrified, their sense of safety shattered. I’m sure I feel the way all Montrealers feel in wishing the De Sousa’s all the best in the future. But I think they and the entire Dawson community are also owed an apology.
You know, I was struck by today’s front page stories about that kidnapped 3-year old in BC. The boy’s father is in the papers saying, “The judge and the system failed us.” I’ve been thinking about that—“The system failed us.”
Because I think our federal gun laws failed us. I think they failed Anastasia De Sousa and her family.
I’m not even talking now about the gun registry, which I support. I have a more basic question. Why was the Dawson College shooter—I don’t even like to say his name--able to amass all that firepower?

With official government permission.
For what purpose? A young, troubled, unemployed guy…I mean, the guy had 4 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition with him that day…I’ll say it again, why did our society allow it? Why did our government allow it? Why do we treat guns like cameras?
I started writing in favour of gun control in 2006, and I haven’t stopped. On a day like today, I’m also thinking about the late Stephanie Hoddinott. Stephanie Hoddinott was wonderful 20-year-old woman with her whole life ahead of her. She had a 4.0 GPA in her veterinarian technician program, was smart, beautiful, and well-loved. On January 10th, 2010, she was murdered in her home by an ex-boyfriend who had legally purchased a handgun—supposedly for target-shooting. That ex-boyfriend then killed himself.
I mean, an 18 year old is too young to buy beer in Ontario. But he can buy a gun.
Why is that? Why do we put up with it?
The De Sousa family has helped set up The Pink Angel Fund to help combat asthma and scoliosis. They’re also trying to build a memorial room in the hospital (called a Best Care Unit) in order to help and inspire patients struggling with the same medical issues she struggled with.
The Pink Angel Fund is holding a gala on September 24th; Premier Charest and his wife Mme. Michele Dionne are Patrons of Honour at the gala. You can buy a ticket or make a donation on Ms. De Sousa’s behalf.
I was very touched to hear about this. This family has lost so much but they find solace in thinking of...helping...others.
So that’s what I’m thinking of on this day: the grace of the De Sousa family in reaching out to help others who suffer. And I’m asking myself why we allow anybody to get a gun…I know there are hoops people have to go through to buy them. But if Marc Lepine, Valery Fabrikant, and Kimveer Gill could jump through them so easily, they’re obviously not set high enough.
The Public Safety Minister has a firearms advisory committee. The day after the Dawson shootings, a member of the committee, Tony Bernardo of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association and the Canadian Institute for Legislative Action told the Canadian Press, “To be perfectly honest it's a lot of fun to shoot.” He also owns a Beretta CX4 Storm. He repeated the comment at last year’s parliamentary committee hearings on Bill C-391, the law proposing to destroy the gun registry. He made the comment in front of Anastasia De Sousa’s mother, Ms. Louise De Sousa, and Ms. Suzanne Laplante-Edward, mother of Anne-Marie, a victim of the Polytechnique massacre. They had been announced as being in attendance.
I think our government has a lot to apologize for.
The Dawson College Peace Garden (CBC News)

Thursday 19 July 2012

Celebrating Five Star Reviews with Paperback Giveaway

To celebrate some wonderful new reviews posted this month on The Meaning of Children's Amazon.com page, I'm giving away two PAPERBACK copies at Goodreads, starting tomorrow.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Meaning Of Children by Beverly Akerman

The Meaning Of Children

by Beverly Akerman

Giveaway ends August 17, 2012.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Here are the reviews; thanks so much to those who took the time to read and post their comments. It is very much appreciated!

5.0 out of 5 stars A book that stays with you long after the last page is turned
The Meaning of Children was an absolute joy to read. I laughed out loud at some stories and wept shamelessly at others, all the while savouring every skillfully 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. If you are looking for the sort of book that will stay with you long after the last page is turned, then look no further. I strongly recommend it.

5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful stories
I don't usually write reviews.

I don't usually read books of short stories.

I don't usually read outside my few favorite genres.

I first heard Ms Akerman's writing when she did a reading to promote this very book. I was struck by how strong her grasp of a child's voice was. How solid the writing, how soothing the prose and the thoughtful and stimulating story.

That's why I bought this book.

I haven't been disappointed. I love these stories. Every one of them solid, entertaining, thought provoking and just plain good.
Can't beat that.

5.0 out of 5 stars "The Meaning of Children" by Beverly Akerman. Holstein, Ontario: Exile Editions, 2010
This book of short stories is one of the best books I have ever read that gets right into the child's mind and way of thinking. The page where the author describes the girl stopping to run because she had to get her shorts out of her bum crack says it all. The fact that the woman who's having an abortion is written in the third person is enough to show us her ambivalent feelings. The contrast between the child's and parents' thinking adds another dimension to this book.

Beverly Akerman is a master of "show not tell," phrases which I learned in all my creative writing classes. We get the picture in very few words. The situations in which the children find themselves are universal. They brought me back to my own childhood with all its thrills and tribulations.

We smile when we read how literal 11-year-old Karen interprets the following conversation with her friend Audrey:

"Last night, my mother told my father that she's going
to wear panties to bed every night. To prevent any
more accidents...I didn't want Audrey thinking I was
stupid, but around my house an 'accident' was whenever
my sister Lisa woke up with her bed wet" (p.46-47).

In addition, the book is so readable that I had trouble putting it down.

Beverly, please continue to write. I look forward to your next book.

5.0 out of 5 stars Everything is Illuminated
Before reading "The Meaning of Children" by Beverly Akerman - winner of the David Adams Richards Prize for Fiction - the last time my jaw dropped over a short story collection was when I re-discovered Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." With both collections, as I read the first few stories, I began to be aware that this was no mere entertainment, but an illumination. In Akerman's case, this epiphany is not just of childhood but of life, our own lives, our entire lives - as children, growing up, as adults - transfigured through the eyes and experience and innocence of children.

Akerman's writing is precise - making the landscapes of Montreal and environs come alive with microscopic detail - and impressive in its ability to conjure believable first-person narratives, especially when it comes from the point of view of a child. More than that, Akerman maintains a sense of wonder throughout her collection with writing that borders on poetry, displaying the brilliance of a Jonathan Safran Foer without the modernist literary devices of flipbooks, photographs or typographical gymnastics.

Remarkable in its intensity and craft, "The Meaning of Children" is a book that bears discovering, and Akerman a writer to watch. 
5.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of Children, July 4, 2012
Have just finished reading this wonderfully entertaining book,....for the second time. My only criticism is that it's not lengthy enough. Ms. Akerman is a master of the written phrase. With a minimum of dialogue in each of the short stories, she is able to communicate in few words virtually every human emotion and experience. The stories are an endorsement of how childhood experiences can influence adult development., how the conscious and subconscious memories can shape the personality and destiny of an adult. It is a well researched book. Much can be learned from the tidbits of psychology and human biology that are sprinkled throughout the book.

Mortimer Levy Montreal.


Thursday 5 July 2012

On plagiarism...

I've come across some really interesting stuff this week, and I highly recommend you check out Byliner.com. They have a huge collection of (links to) amazing articles by people like Malcolm Gladwell, the late and so-lamented Christopher Hitchens, Margaret Atwood, etc. etc. etc. You can read already published articles, submit your own, buy new content, and so on.

It was there that I came across Gladwell's 2004 New Yorker article "Something Borrowed." In it, Gladwell charts his thinking on the nature of plagiarism after a story he wrote about Dorothy Lewis, a psychiatrist who worked with serial killers, was basically hijacked and turned into a Tony-award winning play, Frozen, by Bryony Lavery. The article starts like this:

Should a charge of plagiarism ruin your life?

One day this spring, a psychiatrist named Dorothy Lewis got a call from her friend Betty, who works in New York City. Betty had just seen a Broadway play called Frozen, written by the British playwright Bryony Lavery. "She said, 'Somehow it reminded me of you. You really ought to see it,'" Lewis recalled. Lewis asked Betty what the play was about, and Betty said that one of the characters was a psychiatrist who studied serial killers. "And I told her, 'I need to see that as much as I need to go to the moon.'"

Lewis has studied serial killers for the past twenty-five years...showing that serial killers tend to suffer from predictable patterns of psychological, physical, and neurological dysfunction: that they were almost all the victims of harrowing physical and sexual abuse as children, and that almost all of them have suffered some kind of brain injury or mental illness. In 1998, she published a memoir of her life and work entitled Guilty by Reason of Insanity. She was the last person to visit Ted Bundy before he went to the electric chair...

But the calls kept coming. Frozen was winning raves on Broadway, and it had been nominated for a Tony. Whenever someone who knew Dorothy Lewis saw it, they would tell her that she really ought to see it, too. In June, she got a call from a woman at the theatre where Frozen was playing. "She said she'd heard that I work in this field, and that I see murderers, and she was wondering if I would do a talk-back after the show," Lewis said. "I had done that once before, and it was a delight, so I said sure. And I said, would you please send me the script, because I wanted to read the play...(and that's when Lewis realizes Frozen isn't about a psychiatrist LIKE her but that it was ABOUT her, that it had appropriated much of her life and her book. But what really bothered her were the parts NOT based on her life: the character has an affair with a colleague. Lewis worried that those who knew her and saw the play would think that she had had an affair with her collaborator in real life...)

(Near the end of the piece, Gladwell writes) When I read the original reviews of "Frozen," I noticed that time and again critics would use, without attribution, some version of the sentence "The difference between a crime of evil and a crime of illness is the difference between a sin and a symptom." That's my phrase, of course. I wrote it. Lavery borrowed it from me, and now the critics were borrowing it from her. The plagiarist was being plagiarized. In this case, there is no "art" defense: nothing new was being done with that line. And this was not "news." Yet do I really own "sins and symptoms"? There is a quote by Gandhi, it turns out, using the same two words, and I'm sure that if I were to plow through the body of English literature I would find the path littered with crimes of evil and crimes of illness... (Read the whole thing at Gladwell.com)


Posting the link to the article on Facebook led to a discussion of plagiarism itself. And that reminded me of this related issue: does an artist "own" her/his artistic act? Is it appropriation to turn someone else's acts into a novel? Here's food for thought on this, about the artistic event that inspired Steven Galloway's The Cellist of Sarajevo. Another piece on't, from CBC, titled "Famous cellist claims story stolen by Canadian author."

(How did I miss all this when it actually happened, I wonder??)

"Cellist Vedran Smailovic, a musician made famous during the Bosnian conflict in 1992..."

Please feel free to comment on any of these issues...

And let me leave you with this, perhaps the most loved cello piece in recent memory, Yo-yo Ma playing Bach Cello Suite No.1 - Prelude...