Millennium Library Local Author Fair

DSC_0247
(L-R) Daniel and Elaine Perron with Dancing Gabe Langlois, in December 2015

I’m honoured, excited, and a little intimidated to participate in the Millennium Library Local Author Fair. I look forward to meeting other authors, sharing our writing stories, and learning from their experiences.
Readers are the focus of the afternoon, and I will be in fine company: Winnipeg’s one and only Super-fan, Dancing Gabe, will be there with me to sell and sign copies of Dancing Gabe: One Step At A Time.
See you there!

Millennium Library Local Author Fair – May 7th, 2016

Advertisements

Dancing Gabe Back on the Bestsellers List

Well, thanks to Rogers Hometown Hockey and Ron MacLean, and to Sportsnet Hockey Night in Canada and Scott Oake, and to all Dancing Gabe fans out there, Dancing Gabe: One Step At A Time is back on McNally Robinson’s Bestsellers list for the week of March 27th – April 6th.
Thank you!

Misfit, A Book Review

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 1.51.59 PM

Six weeks after I published Dancing Gabe: One Sep At A Time, I received an email from Kimberley Neyedley, a friend (and former co-worker) who had moved to Ottawa a number of years ago. She wanted to tell me about her recently-published book, her first, titled Misfit. Much to her surprise, she had just learned about my recently-published book, my first also. Seems we had a lot in common.

We immediately agreed on a fair trade: our books crossed paths somewhere over northern Ontario, one headed for Winnipeg, the other for Ottawa. It wasn’t long after I received Misfit that I dove in, with both eyes, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m thankful for the opportunity to re-connect with Kimberley. Because of our passion for writing, we now find we have lots to talk about…

You can find out all about Kimberley and her book Misfit on her website.

A review of Misfit
by Kimberley Ann Neyedley

Meet Jill Ann McCann, a smart, creative, and friendly young girl whose main concern is what will people think, and whose main goal is to fit in with her peers. Set in a small, sleepy southern Saskatchewan prairie town where everyone knows your name…and what you had for dinner yesterday, Misfit takes the reader through a range of familiar emotions and, at times, forces some deep reflection. Because we’ve all been school kids and teenagers, we can relate to the story, whether we tried to fit in, made it difficult for others, or simply watched from the sidelines. In the story, Kimberley touches on matters of mental illness and depression, anxiety, alcoholism, religion, relationships, families, death, and growing up. I found myself wondering which parts of the story were fictitious and which were autobiographical.

The author uses colourful language and expressions (like “flat as piss on a plate,” and “heebie jeebies,”) to bring us back to a simpler, more innocent time, and introduces us to the principal characters of her childhood: family, friends, neighbours, teachers, etc. People with lovable names like Grammie Aggie, Uncle Victor, Butchie, Hollerin’ Halleran, Mrs. Crabby, and Hetta Seville; pets also had funny names like Flemmy the rooster, Buckles the Labrador, and Shuffles the cat… Thanks to the author’s attention to detail and her artistic ability to paint scenes, I could picture myself in the hardware store, at the farm, in Auntie Tibs’ house, or at Galaxy’s hockey rink. At one point of the story, Jill lists the inventory of the treats she could buy at the corner store. Seems everyone our age had a corner store with the same treats: Mojos, Sweet Tarts, jawbreakers, liquorice shoelaces, and “gold” gum nuggets in a little white pouch with a drawstring—I can still taste these.

Early on in the story, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Jill. “The thing I remember about growing up is fear: of Butchie, of ol’ HHH, of my parents’ screaming matches, of having to play sports and failing at it, of my peers’ ridiculing and humiliating me. I was scared of everything, too shy to speak to most people who were not family members.” Life got more complicated as Jill grew up. She developed a passion for reading and a world of make-believe to deal with rejection and hardships.

I suspect many readers will feel at home in the story and will relate to many parts, vividly. Oh, the age of innocence… From the general store to the farm, from home to school, from school dances to weekends at Auntie Tibs, I found myself hoping that things would get easier for Jill, maybe on the next page or by the next chapter. But they didn’t, at least not until she moved away. Thankfully, Jill had a best friend, Jen. Together they managed to deal with most of what life would throw their way, heartaches, frustrations, pain, growing up; that’s what friends are for. Chapter after chapter, Neyedley effectively develops contrasting characters, and as a result, we grow fond of some and despise others. That’s life! For example, she describes the contrast between her brother and her as “Butchie and I differed greatly in our approach to life. He ran ahead screaming and I held back timidly.” An invisible child to her parents, Jill eventually found peace at Aunt Mim’s, with whom she moved in as a teenager to escape her warring, alcoholic parents and bully of a brother.

“Fitting in” preoccupied kids when I went to school and remains of prime importance for kids growing up fifty years later. The book does not pretend to provide solutions nor to explain the origins of this urge to fit in, although Neyedley, at one point in the story, explains that “If you suffer from the ‘What will people think?’ attitude, you suffer from an inability to think for yourself and tend not to do what you wish rather than to appease the inherent concept of ‘they’ in ‘What will they think?’” She continues, “If you live your life solely by the idea of how others will judge you, you relinquish control of your life and you will be influenced by the whim of fashion and popular opinion.”

When it came to the issues of fitting in, popularity, innocent teasing, and malicious bullying—we didn’t call it that back then, “just kids being kids, boys being boys, just having a little fun”—I could relate. Heck, I think everyone can relate, regardless of whether you were the school jock, the clown, the princess, the beauty queen, the shy silent type, the average kid, or the misfit. We witnessed the innocent teasing, usually perpetrated by the same people onto the same innocent targets; sometimes encouraged by our actions, or at least not discouraged by our silence. Jill’s story, sprinkled with humour and nostalgia, conveys the lasting effects of such actions (and inactions), words, behaviours…

“In some ways, the great thing about childhood is that it ends.” Eventually, graduation came and went, and Jill the Pill moved away, became just Jill, and… well you’ll just have to read the book to find out. No spoiler alert here.

Kids eventually turn into teenagers who then, in time, become adults. In Misfit, through Jill McCann’s story, Kimberley Neyedley tactfully exposes the hurt and the scars that the cool kids, bullies, jokers, and others without labels, caused (at times unwittingly) by insulting and demeaning those who did not have the confidence and determination to stand up for themselves, or simply by precluding them from participating in group activities. Words do cut deep, as evidenced in one passage: “It was a subtle cut as it left no external mark, but emotionally the damage was extensive. It was a muted way of doing things and those of us sensitive enough to be hurt by words suffered deeply. […] The pain of being rejected by my peers in my adolescence has never left me. It haunts me still.” I have to believe that the author is talking from experience here… I wonder if people ever realize the pain and mental anguish they inflicted; they would not have known that some of their victims would carry this with them for the rest of their lives. How could they know? They were just kids themselves… All Jill wanted was to be told that she was okay, but that didn’t happen.

There’s an important message in Misfit. Neyedley is never “preachy” about it in the story, she simply lets it out to feel better. A courageous cathartic gesture.

Daniel Perron, author of Dancing Gabe: One Step At A Time
April 1, 2016

 

Farewell, Angélina

Angelina Langlois passed away ten days ago. She was Dancing Gabe’s mother, and Mike’s, Rick’s, Rob’s, Gerry’s, and Claudette’s. She loved all her children, and her late husband Louis, and devoted her life to their happiness.
I only met Angélina in July 2014 but I soon developed a deep affection and respect for her. She was a wonderful woman: warm, patient, kind, selfless, humble, loving, and with an unshakeable faith. I soon realized how much she was the rock of her family; how she loved all her children, and how they loved her back.
I always looked forward to our conversations at her kitchen table, as I researched to write Gabe’s biography, a story where she featured so prominently. We laughed often, we cried at times (never for long), as my questions took her back in time, revisiting what has been a full and rewarding life, even if it has not always been an easy one. I loved her sense of humour and the ease with which she laughed. Her smile warmed my heart.
Angelina touched my life in so many ways and made me a better person. I know she had that effect on many others…

Spring is here

Sunday posing as first day of spring
Brought a sense of freedom for this bear
Took a walk in the woods over there

Familiar sound of geese on a wing
Snow machines zipping on the river
Soon followed by a quiet cycler

Tracks remain from the soles of my boots
And from kids in colourful snowsuits
Frozen a moment in the cool night
Gone tomorrow, melted out of sight

Silence, sunshine, warmth delight my soul
How beneficial this little stroll
Among woodpeckers and chickadees
Enchantment to put my mind at ease

There’s Only ONE Dancing Gabe

IMG_20160225_144204
Dancing Gabe signing autographs during recess.

We were wrapping up our I Love To Read event with the Grade 3 – 6 students. One of the young students raised his hand, eager to ask one more question. His eyes lit up when I noticed him, approached with a few steps to ensure I would hear his query, and invited him to ask his question.

How many Dancing Gabe books are there in the whole wide world?” he said.

I returned to the microphone and repeated the young man’s question to ensure everyone else assembled in the school’s gym would hear it. A gentle hush had fallen on the students who were even more attentive than they had been during the previous forty-five minutes.

Well,” I said, “that is a very good question. There are more than four thousand Dancing Gabe books in the whole world today.” My answer, much to my surprise, was greeted with a collection of cheers, screams, and applause from all those assembled. They liked my answer.

I looked over to Gabe. He too was clapping and beaming, pleased with the answer, pleased with the joy he could see in the eyes of the students. He was the reason for this happiness.

Buy Dancing Gabe: One Step At A Time on Kindle.

 

March

DSC_0452

Few of us are impervious to the bone-chilling cold that often envelops our world, at such northerly latitudes (I live at 50 degrees North, on the Canadian Prairies), in the deep of winter.

However, we dress up, fall in, line up, and march on. Head held high, we persevere. It is what we do. We are who we are. We know…

Spring is just around the corner. This simple thought brings a smile to my face.

 

 

 

Nature

A friend asked me to take a challenge recently. It seemed simple enough: post one picture per day, for seven days, on the subject of nature. Things got complicated when I started looking through my inventory of photographs, trying to choose only seven.

Here are the lucky seven (I added a few on the last day of the challenge).

 

Training Wheels

Dan_BCPR

To be the proud owner of a new bicycle—one’s first brand new bike—sparks feelings that had been unknown up to now. Few events  will evoke such an overwhelming sense of freedom for a child. I still recall my first bike was a plain red CCM, equipped with a wire basket, that my mom had purchased with Gold Star stamps (an early incarnation of today’s more sophisticated customer loyalty traps, uh, I mean programs).

My first two-wheeler! Actually, it had four wheels when we were first acquainted. You’ll surely remember the two small wheels added to the rear axle to provide stability to the vehicle, and confidence to its rider… Their sound seemed sharper and louder than any fire truck or ambulance siren and thanks to them, your friends could hear you coming for miles. The bugle announcing the charge of the cavalry: “Look! Here he comes with his baby wheels,” usually followed by much pointing and jeering. The noise created by those two metallic discs rolling on the pavement, each with its own rubber outer belt designed to dampen the sounds, was deafening. They seemed to have been a design engineer’s mean way of inflicting deep shame to new young riders. At the time, I was convinced that the geometry was totally wrong: why would the two training wheels never touch the ground simultaneously? I figured it out soon enough.

Not surprisingly, young riders quickly learned to do without training wheels. A matter of pride and survival. A rider old or capable enough to do away with a tricycle soon learned that one more wheel simply would not do—not for long anyway. I soon learned to use my dad’s crescent wrench to loosen the bolts and remove these rackety accessories, although I had not mastered the tool sufficiently to avoid scraping my knuckles on the spokes as I tightened them back. Never mind, I was free! I could now join the two-wheeled “biker” patrol. Time to make a different kind of noise.

Soon, a much sought-after roar replaced the clatter of the training wheels. We fastened hockey and baseball cards, and even attached inflated balloons, to the bicycle’s forks using clothes pins in such a manner as to contact the spokes when the wheel turned. Children proved their imagination and capacity to innovate, replacing wet, mushy, worn-out cards with colorful waterproof pieces of plastic. What elation to feel like a rebel; what joy to ride in formation up and down our normally quiet street and around the neighborhood, rumbling, from street to street. Neighbors heard us coming. Our rolling thunder sowed panic and fear in the hearts of the kind folks who asked only for a little peace and quiet as they enjoyed their afternoon tea on the balcony. We were ready to conquer the world. Well, seriously, not really. We were just being kids.

Today, I chuckle at the thought of using my hockey and baseball cards to such an end. Surely I never used my Montreal Canadiens or Expos cards for my bicycle’s noise mechanism, but more likely doubles and triples of players from teams I did not care for.

Take those training wheels off and ride!

Days Grow Longer

There were days I loved the snow, and the cold–no I don’t think I ever loved the cold–of winter. Of course, memory has this way of playing tricks with one’s mind; embellishing the not-so-glamorous parts, or darkening the somewhat ordinary moments.

As children, we waited at the door, like thoroughbreds at the gate, mere inches and moments from the freedom to bolt, while mom wrapped and tied itchy woollen scarves around our heads and over the hoods of our snowsuits. Temperature mattered not when fresh snowbanks awaited. Anticipation! Action!

165051_128709840526962_5403872_n

I still recall the blinding reflection of the sun on the snow as I stepped outside, which made me sneeze, and the first breath of cold air that tasted like the wool of my musty old scarf, which made me cough. My feet barely touched the front landing. In an instant, I found myself waist-deep in the fluffy stuff, thrashing about, struggling to hoist my small body to the surface, every move sending me a little deeper in the snow and further from the house. I always imagined this was what quicksands would feel like… just worse.

Eventually, the scarf loosens, exposing cheeks and nose to the biting wind. On we played… I don’t think we talked much when playing in the snow, only screamed, and laughed, and cried, but mostly screamed. The snow on our faces melted and mixed with what flowed from our runny noses, creating this ever-present salty taste on our lips; the once warm and comforting scarf on our mouth now icy, heavy and inconvenient.

The fun and games would continue until our toes or fingers got too cold, or mom called us in. Usually the latter. Mom always seemed to know when it was time. The frosty adventure lasted maybe an hour, just as the pain and tingling of our thawing appendages would. Scarves, mittens, toques, and boots were put dry during that time. Lunch and hot chocolate were followed by a nap before everything began again until such a time when the children grew up.

Thr167039_128709693860310_4445209_nashing about in the snow–although at times still entertaining–eventually took a back seat to hockey: street hockey, pond hockey, and skating. Bright winter days when dad was home were the best. On those days, I considered my dad a kid, just like us. “Do you kids want to…” Yes! We never let him finish; we knew he meant to take us skating on the ponds by the track behind his Esso service station. He would load the snowblower in the back of his “petit bus” (what we called my dad’s steel blue Ford van). He also loaded a few shovels, our hockey sticks and a good supply of hockey pucks. If you’ve played pond or street hockey, you know that pucks seemed to vanish once they left the playing surface and entered the snow.

Those days are gone. I still enjoy bright sunshine on white fluffy snow, yet I think of winter as mostly a succession of long nights and short cold days, only interrupted by brief moments of activity (sometimes excitement) when the courage to step outside outweighs the inertia of hibernation. Winter is the assailant that knocks me down, and instead of fighting back, I turtle, I roll into a ball, waiting for the beating to end or to finish me for good. Every once in a while I lash back at the frigid season, only managing to touch innocent bystanders. Snap out of it! Go outside! Get some fresh air!

Days grow longer; the sun’s rays warmer. Just in time. Always. Thankfully.

Capturing the Moment, by Daniel Perron