Thursday 27 December 2012

When free becomes "free": blog post teaser: maybe "liars, tramps, & thieves" is a bit harsh but...

After over an hour "working with" Bell--including their Loyalty department--I discovered there are different home phone packages! The one I had was the Cadillac, with multiple "free add-ons" that I never used. Like three-way calling, multiple voice mailboxes, etc. When I last discussed phone service with them a couple of years back, I was told these add-ons were free. 

Well, surprise surprise: sometime over the past few years, free became "free"! 

And then there was the Internet bump-up when I signed up for their Fibe TV service (btw, their movie channels aren't worth a plug nickel, much less the $13 I was paying for them...)

Figuring out the cost of  those "free" options cost at makes your head spin.
We will now be saving $49 a month on our Internet, TV, and home phone package. That's $588 a year...

And man, am I writing one angry letter! 

And maybe a blog post or two...not to mention the tweets. Stay tuned for more...

Wednesday 26 December 2012

The Meaning of Children hits #5 on Amazon's Bargain Books List!

Humbled and thrilled to be able to let you know that, thanks to Ereader News Today and the Master Koda Indie Authors group promotion (still on till Dec. 28th), The Meaning of Children's Kindle edition has risen to #5 this morning on Amazon's Bargain Books Bestseller list!

For the entire list of 20+ Indie Author Boxing Day Bargain Books, please click here.

If you've hesitated to read The Meaning of Children because you're convinced you are NOT a fan of short stories, this is the book that will change your mind! Short stories are perfect for commutes; many readers have told me how much the enjoy reading just one before bed. Savor each one, like fine chocolate.

Here some comments that may convince you, from my many incredibly kind Amazon readers (4.8 stars overall average):

"When Beverly Akerman Tweeted a special offer on The Meaning of Children, I hesitated. I've never had children and live halfway around the world from my partner's beloved grandchildren. Children have never played a big role in my life. But that is the mark of a skilled author, to take a subject that may be foreign to us and make it universal, familiar.

"She also overcame my aversion to short stories. I love to immerse myself in a book, not be pushed out of it after a handful of pages. More skill on the author's part.

"I read one story, then another, then another, each time caught up in the storytelling, each time satisfied at story's end. The diversity of the stories is one of the book's strengths. Akerman crawls into the minds of so many different characters and each time makes them believable. She holds childhood out like a rough stone, chipping away at its many stages until the book becomes a fine gem.

"I read every story with delight, grateful to be in the hands of such a skilled writer."

"wonderfully entertaining"


"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."

"I can't stop thinking about this book."

"A life-altering read is so rare..."

"every story is about innocence and the loss of innocence"

"Many of her characters are damaged, rather tha[n] flawed, which makes these stories both quirky and compelling."


More feedback and interviews here and here.

Monday 24 December 2012

The Meaning of Children featured today on The Jewish Daily Forward

Very excited to be featured TODAY on The Jewish Daily Forward! Thanks so much to Renee Ghert-Zand (whom, I discovered as we Skyped, is a former Montrealer!) for the great Q&A on The Sisterhood Blog.

Here's the start of the piece:

Q&A with Scientist-Turned-Novelist Beverly Akerman

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Beverly Akerman

For most of her adult life, Beverly Akerman was a molecular genetics researcher at McGill University and the Montreal Children’s Hospital. But in 2003, after several years of feeling an underlying malaise and professional unhappiness, she decided to make a mid-life career switch. Following dreams she set aside for 20 years as a busy working mother of three, Akerman became a fiction writer. She published her first short story in early 2006, making her the first Canadian fiction writer ever to have sequenced her own DNA.

Akerman, a 52-year-old lifelong Montrealer, has published more than 20 stories to date, 14 of which are included in a 2010 collection titled, “The Meaning of Children.” Her fiction has appeared in Canada, the U.S. and Germany and has received numerous recognitions, including the David Adams Richards Prize, the J.I. Segal Award, nominations for a Pushcart Prize, and a place among the CBC-Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers’ Choice Top 10. Akerman spoke to the Sisterhood about her book, her hometown, her Jewish identity and her aversion to happy endings.

THE SISTERHOOD: All of the stories in “The Meaning of Children,” except for one, are written from the perspectives of girls or women. Do you generally only write from the female point of view?

BEVERLY AKERMAN: I’m a strong feminist and I don’t think that there are enough women’s stories told. Literature is full of women’s books, but not these kinds of stories… There are things that girl children go through that are interesting to me. I do have more stories now that are written from a male point of view, but I intended to write from a woman’s point of view.

To what extent are these stories autobiographical?
The child stories come from things that bothered me in my past. They were not maybe literally things that happened to me, but they were drawn from certain images from my childhood. In some cases, there are experiences of mine and of people I know in the stories. For instance, I do write a lot about foster children, and growing up my parents did take in foster children. Writing about foster children has been a kind of my way of saying goodbye to them. I think my parents were, at the time, more concerned about the foster children re-integrating with their families than with what it was like for us to part with these children after having shared a life with them.

The collection is divided into three parts — Beginning, Middle and End — and each one corresponds to a major life stage. Do you feel more comfortable writing about one of those stages?

Friday 14 December 2012

Canada's schizophrenic Conservative government: Drunk drivers vs. "law-abiding" gun owners

(from the archives of "The Gun Control Yenta," March 12, 2010)

Why does it make sense to assume all shotgun and rifle owners are law-abiding citizens, but that everyone behind the wheel of a car is a drunk? Isn’t that the message behind the federal Justice department’s recent proposal to institute random roadside breathalyzer tests?
On one hand, the government, hiding behind the skirts of its latest sock puppet, sends Candice Hoeppner to pontificate: “Irrational government policy had to be challenged…The long-gun registry is a massive Liberal policy failure and it needs to end. It makes no sense to force law-abiding individuals with firearms licences to register their long-guns. It makes no sense to believe the registry will prevent a gun crime from taking place.”
But apparently it makes perfect sense to assume that all drivers are drunk. Memo to Justice Minister Nicholson: if a policy has the Western Standard saying “Harper government wants full-blown police state,” you have a problem on your hands—a “Houston-we-have-a-problem”-sized problem.
Minister Nicholson is said to approve of the random breathalyzer idea, while Mothers against Drunk Drivers Executive Director Andrew Murie does, too (by the way, aren’t there any actual mothers capable of executive directing that organization? Or is this an example of “the best woman for the job” being a man? I’m just asking).
Purchasing a gun must magically confer “law-abiding” status on an individual through some noble alchemy of lethal weapon possession. Meantime, the latest example of small town gun mayhem unfolds on our front pages: the sad murder of Ontario Provincial Police Constable Vu Pham, 37, allegedly by the late 70-year-old Fred Preston, former reeve of the Township of Joly, and lifelong resident of Sundridge ON. Const. Pham was a Vietnamese War survivor and father of three who also spent part of his youth in Sundridge. Current accounts suggest Mr. Preston may have gone off the deep end after his decades-long marriage broke up. Add a gun to the mix and voila: the perfect domestic violence storm. A “domestic violence call from what is reportedly the home of Mr. Preston’s estranged wife in Leadbury” preceded the shooting, according to The National Post, reporting that a man named John Driscoll resides at the home, since put under police guard. (Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has skedaddled!)
Tim Williams, an acquaintance of Mr. Preston, said, "I'm quite stunned at this news, given his personality."
But should anyone really be surprised? Anger and guns make a lethal cocktail.
Roughly 100,000 Canadian women and children annually take refuge in domestic violence shelters. How many of them live in homes with rifles or shotguns, remembering some 11 million such guns are in Canadian hands (and that 90 per cent of those hands are male)? How many Canadian women have been threatened with guns? How many of these guns are owned by “law-abiding” gun owners?
How long does it take to pull a trigger, anyway? That’s the amount of time it takes for a “law-abiding” gun owner to become a law-breaking one.
Here’s how the gun registry helps prevent crimes, including murder (I’m typing slowly so even the dullards among us will understand): knowing who has which guns allows the police to remove them as a preventative measure, should it become necessary. For example, in this case, if Mr. Preston’s estranged wife had been threatened by him and reported this to the police, they could have removed the guns from Mr. Preston’s possession. ALL his guns, which wouldn’t be possible if he hasn’t listed them with the registry. 
Why do critics of the long gun registry persistently ignore this simple truth? Enforcing the registry DOES prevent crime. Since its creation, close to 23,000 firearms licenses have been refused or revoked because of just this kind of public safety concern. And it only costs $3 million a year to maintain, despite gun lobby bluster.
For years now this “tough on crime” government has encouraged the flouting of the Firearms Act—still law in this land, despite their efforts to ignore it. They instituted an “amnesty” for those who failed to renew their gun licenses and waived or refunded licensing fees, over $120 million-worth. Far from being “tough on crime,” they actually facilitate law-breaking!
Canada's Supreme Court has ruled, “The registration provisions cannot be severed from the rest of the Act. The licensing provisions require everyone who possesses a gun to be licensed; the registration provisions require all guns to be registered. These portions of the Firearms Act are both tightly linked to Parliament’s goal of promoting safety by reducing the misuse of any and all firearms. Both portions are integral and necessary to the operation of the scheme.” 
Const. Pham’s shooting is a tragedy--for his family, his community, for us all, as is the death of Mr. Preston. But just imagine how much more danger our cops will be in when they pull us over to sample our breath if our gun laws are even further eroded.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

My Encounter with Canada Writes: Close Encounters with Science

I just finished up a rewarding stint as a reader with CBC's Canada Writes, science edition. The latest theme was "Close Encounters with Science." It was a moving and humbling experience.

The challenge:

"Send us a true personal story of a close encounter you had with science and technology. We were looking for personal stories that gave us an insight into human nature and how changes in our understanding of the world have made a lasting effect on who we are."

Along with Scott Fotheringham, I read through the 600+ submissions and sent in my choices (I was limited to 15...) Here's the longlist, 29 stories that are worth your time. 

Twenty-nine: makes me think Scott and I only agreed on one, lol. But the truth is, it was incredibly hard to choose. I could have selected 50, or more, that were worthwhile!

(Scott, by the way, is a novelist and PhD from Cornell who no longer works in science, either. I think we probably should talk...:)

 Enjoy this trailer for his well-reviewed speculative novel, The Rest is Silence; I look forward to reading it very soon.


 Here is an excerpt of the interview I did with Canada Writes my experience reading for the contest:

Can you describe a couple of the stories from the challenge that struck you as standouts?

There were so many wonderful stories, it was hard to choose. But some were just stellar. “Firsts,” about a technician working overnight at the hospital, analyzing blood sent from the ER. Who thinks about the lab tech? We get these machine readouts from our blood tests…we don’t really think about the person at the other end of the pipette. The writer had me right there with him (or her), feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders when called upon to diagnose leukemia in a child. That really touched me. There were many, many stories about electrification, and television. About all kinds of things: Skype and texting, the moon walk. Many were about children learning from their parents; “The New Age” is a quiet story of a kid going outside with Dad and brother to watch Sputnik pass overhead one night in October 1957. “Better Living Through Chemistry,” about what getting the meds right has meant to a person with schizophrenia. A woman who waited six months for an MRI and was so distressed by its claustrophobic nature, she stopped the test. How she was able to depend “on the kindness of strangers.” One about a teacher who knew how to talk physics so that young guys would listen. The experiment a six-year-old designed to identify the tooth fairy…I could go on and on. It was the way the writers communicated the meaning, the emotion, the small epiphanies attached to the scientific or technological experience. The stories I chose all answered that question: how did you feel when it happened? And they did it by bringing me along on the journey.

You can read the 29 stories on the longlist here. Congratulations to all who entered!

"The next task is in the capable hands of CBC host and author Nora Young, who will select the winner of this challenge. That person will receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts.

The winner will be announced on Canada Writes on Wednesday, December 5th. Stay tuned!"