Thursday, February 22, 2007

Publishers on my mind

We're all about numbers these days it seems, but when they come in nice round forms, it's hard for a word guy to resist. So I'm happy to say that with our 41st reading — from Vancouver's Heather Burt — AuthorsAloud also welcomes its 20th publisher: The Dundurn Group.

Now, I have to admit I know little about the Dundurn Group, but it so happens that I live half a block from Dundurn Street. Around here the word "Dundurn" is cropping up in conversations all the time. I feel as though I should know something, something beyond the fact that the Dundurn Group is wise enough to publish Heather Burt. What I'd like to know is whether the Dundurn Group and Dundurn Street have a common antecedent. I have to assume they do, because the twin-spired Dundurn Group logo looks remarkably like twin-spired Dundurn Castle, just down the road a ways (which I assume is where Dundurn Street got its name, though nothing's certain.) But the fact is, "dundurn" also means "strong fort" in Gaelic, so the whole thing could be coincidence. There's no way of knowing anything for sure, because neither the Dundurn Group website, nor any of the sites dedicated to Dundurn Castle, give any real indication as to why they're called "Dundurn." There certainly was no "Lord Dundurn" — the castle (which is as much a castle as Hamilton Mountain is a mountain) was built for Sir Allan Napier MacNab. And it's equally clear that The Dundurn Group has nothing to do with Hamilton; they're located on Church Street in Toronto. So there's a whole lot of Dundurn going on, and precious little reasoning for it.

This is the sort of vexing issue that keeps me from my work.

(PS. Stay tuned in the next few days for a terrific reading from Giller-nominated author Michael Helm)

Friday, February 9, 2007

Nearing another milestone

Growth is usually a slow and steady thing, but there are times when you experience lulls and spurts. Things have been pretty calm here for a couple of weeks, but that's about to change with three new readings taking AuthorsAloud to a significant new level. Reading number 38 comes February 9th from Catherine Graham, a charming, talented and dedicated poet who teaches creative writing at several institutions, including the University of Toronto. Catherine spent a number of years in Northern Ireland, which I mention in passing because it seems an easy segue to reading number 39, which comes on Feb 11th from Peter Behrens, winner of the 2006 Governor General's Award for Fiction for his novel The Law of Dreams. Yes it was Peter whose book, set during the Irish Famine, beat mine for the GG, but he's a very nice guy, his book is great, and I hold no grudges. I particularly admire and appreciate the way Peter overcame his technology curse, while he was in Los Angeles, in order to record a reading for AuthorsAloud.

And taking us to number 40 — quadruple the amount we started with just six months ago — is a reading by Vincent Lam (actually two, but we'll count them as one), from his Giller Prize-winning story collection Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures. Vincent's reading was recorded by Susan Johnston, who does thoughtful interviews with authors for the show Special Blend on Ottawa's CKCU-FM. I met Susan during my own book tour last fall, and when Vincent recorded a reading for her, she thought AuthorsAloud listeners would enjoy hearing it. We gratefully agreed, and with Vincent's permission, we're adding it to the AuthorsAloud library on February 14.