Upcoming Release of Dancing Gabe: One Step At A Time

The book's cover. Photo by Mike Sudoma.
The book’s cover. Photo by Mike Sudoma.

I’m very pleased to announce the upcoming release of my book Dancing Gabe: One Step At A Time!

He was born in 1963, diagnosed with autism at the age of three, institutionalized at six, and non-verbal until he was ten. He moved back home at eleven, graduated from high school seven years later, and eventually became one of the most recognized and adored figures in a city of almost a million people.

Anyone who has attended major sporting events in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has seen Gabriel Langlois—Dancing Gabe—in action, rocking, twisting, hi-fiving, and cheering on the home teams. It’s difficult to imagine how, as a child he never liked noise and would put his hands over his ears whenever he heard any noise.

In One Step at a Time, Daniel Perron takes us on a fifty-two year journey, up-close and personal, with Gabe Langlois, his mother Angélina, his family, the many friends, medical professionals, foster parents, and media and sports figures who influenced his life. His story will inspire you; parts will make you laugh, others will make you cry, and still others may shock you.

This book is a unique collage of interviews, excerpts from Gabe’s own scribbler, family photos and recent action shots, with many parts told by Gabe and Gabe’s mother, and many of Gabe’s supporters and biggest fans.

Hear the music, feel his passion, and dare to get up and groove with Dancing Gabe.

304 pages, 25 chapters
16-page colour photo insert
72 black and white photos throughout the book
Hardcover, $25.00 (incl. GST), softcover $20.00 (incl. GST), and e-Book editions
Books will be available at McNally Robinson Booksellers, at Bomber Stores (Investors Group Field, Polo Park Shopping Centre, and Winnipeg Square), at Jets Gear locations (MTS Centre, St. Vital Shopping Centre, and MTS Iceplex), and at every Scotiabank branch in Manitoba and Kenora. Books will also be available online at mcnallyrobinson.com.
A black and white edition, and an e-Book version should be available online later in September.

Thank you for your support.
For every printed book sold, $1.00 will be donated to the Winnipeg Jets True North Foundation and $1.00 to the Winnipeg Goldeyes Field of Dreams Foundation to support autism initiatives; $1.00 will be donated to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ commitment to anti-bullying initiatives for young people in Manitoba. As well, part of the proceeds of the sales of the book will go to a fund for Gabe.

Get your signed copy and meet Dancing Gabe and Daniel Perron at one of the following events: 

September 5, 2015.          Dancing Gabe: One Step at a Time will first be available at Shaw Park during the Goldeyes game. Dancing Gabe and Daniel Perron will be signing books
September 6, 2015.          On sale at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg and online at mcnallyrobinson.com/home
September 8, 2015.          Official book launch at McNally Robinson, Grant Park Plaza, at 7:00pm in the atrium. Dancing Gabe and Daniel Perron will be signing books
September 9, 2015.          Books available at all Manitoba and Kenora Scotiabank branches
September 10, 2015.       Book Release & Banjo Bowl Party at McPhillips Street Station
September 12, 2015.       Banjo Bowl Game: Books on sale in the Tailgate Party Area at Investors Group Field before the game, at half-time, and after the game in the Bomber Store.
September 19, 2015.       Winnipeg Jets Fan Fest event at MTS Iceplex
September 22, 2015.       Jets first pre-season game. Books on sale at MTS Centre
September 25, 2015.       Books on sale in the Tailgate Party Area at Investors Group Field before the game, at half-time, and after the game


Whose Biography Is It Anyway?

This is a question I’ve heard so many times and reluctantly had to avoid answering, until now. You see, I didn’t want to make a big deal of it—even though my subject is “a big deal” and I was absolutely pumped about the project, people who know me will attest to this—and I thought it was best to keep it low-key until I actually had a story to tell, or better yet, a book in my hands to talk about.

The people I interviewed knew my main character’s identity (it was difficult to hide), as did those people whose help I enlisted during my research, and they all agreed not to divulge his identity. Then my kids figured it out, just before Christmas. It had become increasingly difficult to hide my whereabouts, and my attendance at a Winnipeg Jets game gave my daughter the final clue she needed to put the final pieces of the puzzle together, surprised to find out that the person I was writing about often worked out next to her at the South-end YMCA-YWCA. A few of my friends who reviewed the manuscript knew as well. But for the most part I managed to keep the book’s subject from my neighbours, friends and co-workers (a former co-worker even snapped a picture of me standing beside my “main man” at that same Jets game, and texted the picture to me—she knew I was writing a biography—but did not associate the other person in the photo with the biography. That was a close one).

I’ve described the person I’ve been writing about as one of the most famous sports personalities in Manitoba, and one of the most recognizable figure in Winnipeg, who is also know across Canada and south of the border. The usual reaction, it seems, has been to think of a player, a coach, an owner, or a broadcaster that would fit the bill. Even listing sports often associated with him—hockey, football, baseball, dance, marathons, and basketball—only seemed to confuse matters more: who could be associated with so many sports? Mentioning autism, St. Amant Centre, Portage la Prairie, Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, and Treherne further muddied the waters.

However, it would surely help if I said “Dancing and cheering,” and added terms like passion, energy, community-minded, omnipresent, number one fan to the description. Finally, if you still needed one more clue and I told you that Mike’s (the person who asked me to write his brother’s biography) last name is Langlois, you would likely have figured out by now that the person I’m writing about is none other than Dancing Gabe Langlois! See the book’s synopsis for more info.

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Researching and writing a biography: 7 key ingredients

I launched into this adventure with my usual optimism, thinking that I could blitz the research phase in a couple of months, and then blitz the writing phase in a few more. And then something happened: I was drawn into the twists and turns of my subject’s life story. Every trip to the library would generate more meetings and readings; every interview would send me to new places and sometimes back to previous ones.

Every coffee-time discussion with my subject and his mother brought me deeper into their journey. I would leave with a list of new clues and facts to investigate, only to report back a few days later. This dance lasted almost five months. I wrapped up the bulk of my research at the end of November, purchased a MacBook Pro (smaller than my daughter’s, not that I’m bitter) and a copy of Scrivener (the author’s shed), sat down at my desk, and began writing the biography.

How did I do it?

  1. Time.  There is no substitute for consistent effort, attention to detail, and time. I devoted hundreds (likely thousands) of hours to meeting with, and listening to, people who all have a story to tell. I scoured through hundreds of documents and websites, reviewed my notes, and pieced the story together.
  1. Plan.  Without a plan—a book plan and a project plan—I would soon have gotten lost in the details. Our stories are filled with interesting details, but they don’t all deserve the same level of attention. Once I had a high level view of my subject’s life story, I broke it down into short episodes and planned to research them. My plan had to be flexible to allow for new discoveries, yet sufficiently rigid to avoid getting lost.
  1. People.  So many people shape our life stories in different ways. To tell someone’s life story requires disentangling hundreds of threads of varying lengths and colours, and the only way I knew how to do this was to reach out to people—strangers to me—who proved to be most eager to open up about their role in my subject’s story. A smile, patience, empathy, attentive listening, and a cup of coffee proved most effective for this. What wonderful people I met, and what wonderful stories they told… They talked of affection and respect…for my subject.
  1. Write.  I’ve always believed in taking copious notes and organizing my research material before writing anything, but notes and articles don’t make a story. The secret to writing a book, according to seasoned professionals—you guessed it—is to sit down and write. Develop your own rhythm, sit down, and write. Don’t worry too much at first about getting it perfect (that comes later, in the editing phase): just write. After five months of research, that’s just what I did, every day. When I left Winnipeg at the end of February, my manuscript consisted of a little more than 26,000 words. At the beginning of April, after a month’s writing (alone in my camper, in California), the finished manuscript comprised 117,000 words.
  1. Edit.  Maybe I should say “Find an editor and learn to work with him or her.” Someone told me this was the critical part of the process; they were right. Although all the pieces are important, especially for a first-time author, the help of a seasoned editor is essential and invaluable. A word of caution: be prepared for a lesson in humility and be ready to work, hard, very hard. I described the experience as sculpting, starting with a very rough block and whittling it down to its finished product. The process took my 117,000 words, re-organized them, and reduced them to the essential 67,000 words.
  1. Get things done.  Make no mistake, writing and self-publishing (my choice from advice I got) a book represents a major undertaking that requires an often a difficult mix of art (the writing and designing) and science (managing/coordinating all the pieces of the project, including printing, editing, designing, marketing, and selling). This adventure—it’s not over yet—has taught me many new lessons and reinforced several old lessons. The old lessons seem to fit more than ever: know your audience, deliver a quality product, pay attention to detail, execute.
  1. Have Fun! No matter what, it’s an adventure. Whether it lasts a month, a year or a whole lifetime, enjoy it. Take a break once in a while, relax, and look around… Make it fun; you gotta have fun!Oceanside Sunset