Saturday, May 31, 2014

Our Hero hangs with the Last of the Vikings


I'm a Roald Amundsen man myself. But Fridtjof Nansen was also quite the explorer. We got to touch base today with both, here at the Fram Museum in Oslo. That's Our Hero aboard the Fram, with which Nansen made polar history. Yes, you can actually go aboard and wander around. Here you see
me shaking hands with the giant himself, immediately beneath the ship. As for The Last of the Vikings, that's the tite of a book I reviewed here a couple of years back. And below, I play the familiar with Amundsen and his fellows. All photos by Sheena Fraser McGoogan. And this, of course, is not the half of it. An AMAZING plaee!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Kanye and Kim Kardashian follow us to Castlemartyr Resort


Writers and artists are invariably ahead of the curve. The rich and the famous are usually just one step behind. Case in point: Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are spending their honeymoon at Castlemartyr Resort, a five-star extravaganza in the south of Ireland. We read about this in today's Toronto Star. As it happens, I spent a bit of time at this resort with Sheena -- who took the photo above -- two seasons ago. Spring, 2012. We were about to embark on a voyage around Ireland with Adventure Canada (AC), the Ontario-based travel company. In Dublin, we learned that our ship had been delayed by stormy seas. We would not be able to board near Cork on schedule . The folks at AC's head office made some calls. They located Castlemartyr, which could accommodate an influx of 80 or 90 people on short notice, and cut a deal. We did not arrive in "a fleet of limousines," as Kanye and Kim are said to have done, but rather in a couple of buses. But when we tumbled out, wow! We knew we had come to the right place. At the link above, or from Tourism Ireland, you can read about the golf, the horses, the fine dining. But what we enjoyed most, apart from the splendiferous grounds, and learning about the history of the place, was the heated pool. The water is ozone-treated, apparently, and as I dutifully did my lengths, I swear I felt it caressing me. Oh, and the pool is surrounded by two-storey glass windows with stunning views of the magnificent gardens. No, we did not stay in the presidential suite, where Kanye and Kim are holed up. But our huge suite was perfectly adequate for our needs, thank you very much. We had toyed with the idea of returning to Castlemartyr Resort, but now that the rich and the famous have discovered it, probably we won't. Someone has to maintain that cutting edge.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Marvelling at the legacy of Farley Mowat


Our Hero writes in the National Post . . .
The recent death of Farley Mowat at 92 sparked heartfelt reminiscences and stirred up old controversies. But the most interesting question, going forward, concerns legacy. Some of us contend that Mowat was a giant. For starters, we cite numbers: 45 books, 60 countries, and (ballpark) 15 million
copies sold. But if, as a writer, Mowat was a Gulliver in Lilliput, and not just commercially, then surely he left a legacy? He must have established or advanced some literary tradition? Profoundly influenced younger Canadian writers?
The answer is an emphatic yes. Born May 12, 1921, Mowat energized not only the Baby Boomers, my own generation, but younger writers. Before going further, a clarification: as a Canadian, Mowat is often linked with Pierre Berton, who was born ten months before him. Both were prolific, larger-than-life personalities published by Jack McClelland. Both wrote mainly nonfiction.
But Berton, who cut his professional teeth as a journalist, became famous for sweeping Canadian histories: The National Dream, The Invasion of Canada, Vimy, The Great Depression, The Arctic Grail. Contemporary Canadian historians who achieve readability while tackling big themes are working in a tradition established by Berton and Peter C. Newman (The Canadian Establishment, Company of Adventurers). Think of Margaret Macmillan and Paris, 1919, or of Christopher Moore and 1867: How the Fathers Made a Deal. Think of such military historians as Tim Cook, Mark Zuelke, and Ted Barris.
Farley Mowat did not write history. He took a keen interest in prehistory, in archaeology and legend, and so produced West-Viking and The Farfarers. But looking back at his long career in context, we discover that Mowat was Canada’s first writer of creative nonfiction (CNF). . . .
TO READ THE REST, CLICK HERE AND GO TO THE NATIONAL POST.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

U of T summer course in narrative nonfiction. . .

First, the good news. We're almost two months from starting (July 7) and my narrative nonfiction course (aka creative nonfiction) is more than half full. That is also the bad news, if you're still weighing options. BUT: more good news! For the first time ever, I believe, U of T is offering a $50 discount for early-bird registration. Maybe that is why things are moving early? Anyway, you can click here for

Course Detail. Yes, I ask for brief submissions (up to 1,500 words) so we can hit the ground running. To the right, that's the official "me." Below, a nutshell description. Hey, we have a good time. Hope to see you in July? . . .

Some of the most exciting writing today is found in Narrative Non-Fiction, an emerging genre in which writers apply narrative strategies and techniques to factual material. This course will orient writers within the genre, which includes both personal streams (memoir, autobiography, travelogue) and impersonal ones (true-crime writing, biography, immersion reporting). It will include lectures, discussions, craft exercises and workshopping student writing.
Early Bird fee $649 until June 7, $699 thereafter.  Please register first before submitting material.  Please submit a story--maximum 1,500 words, double-spaced by June 7: scs.writing@utoronto.ca  Please note that all students will be emailed each other's work before the start of the course.
Required Textbook: The Art of Fact: A Historical Anthology of Literary Journalism by Kevin Kerrane and Ben Yagoda, ISBN-13: 978-0684846309--available at the U of T Bookstore

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shout Out to Allyson Latta, Editor of Renown

No, this is not a photo of Allyson Latta. You can find one or two images of her if you start clicking here. This is a picture of Our Hero scratching away on a standing stone he discovered atop Cruach Mhic Gougain in southern Kintyre. Yes, you'll hear Gaelic speakers insist that "cruach" translates as "big hill." But I believe "mount" to be more appropriate. I mean, "Mount McGoogan" is clearly better than "McGoogan Hill," right? Any editor will get that. But I shout out to Allyson Latta, a book editor and writing instructor of renown and track record, because she maintains such a fun-and-instructive website and blog. OK, I especially like that, with a nudge, apparently, from novelist Michelle Berry, Allyson invited me to share a few thoughts and images in a series she calls Will Come the Words. You can see the result by clicking here. The above photo, by Sheena Fraser McGoogan, made my short list for submission. But that would have made five images. And I'm guessing, Dear Reader, that even YOUR indulgence extends only so far.