Free Love gets Honourable Mention

 

WIBA-honourablemention-hrI am thrilled that “Free Love” has received an Honourable Mention in the Whistler Independent Book Awards.

But I have to admit it took me a while to be happy about this. At first, rather than being grateful for what I got, I saw only what I didn’t get. Oh, I dutifully made a promotional fuss by announcing the award on Facebook and basking in the congratulatory comments. But I wasn’t really that impressed. I only focused on the fact that “Free Love” hadn’t made the long list. It wasn’t until the gold stickers came in mail and I started to put them on the books that I realized that for a first novel to get an Honourable Mention in a Canada-wide contest is … well … quite an honour. Now I’m delighted.

The Whistler Independent Book Awards were established this year by the Whistler Writing Society and Vivalogue Publishing. These are the first juried Canadian awards to recognize exceptional quality in independent publishing. The establishment of these awards recognizes the explosion in independent publishing over the last decade as more and more professional writers publish their own books.

The landscape of “Free Love”: Hamilton

Even though the protagonist in my book Free Love, Marissa, is a fictional character, I have given her some elements of my own biography (it was easier that way). In particular, when she was a young girl, she and her family immigrated to Canada from Holland, as I did. And  Marissa grew up in Hamilton, Ontario in the same era as I did: the 1960s.

Unlike Marissa’s, my family moved around a lot in Hamilton when I was growing up. There was one neighbourhood where I lived for a few years, starting from when I about 7 or 8. It was an inner-city neighbourhood full of working class families. Hamilton was known for steel production and just about everybody’s dad (except mine) worked for the steel company. It is this neighbourhood that comes to mind when I remember my childhood, and this is neighbourhood where I have placed the young Marissa.

I haven’t walked the streets, where young Marissa and I ran around, for more about thirty years. So when I was writing the scenes set in that neighbourhood, I relied on memory and imagination. But Mike Clark, an old friend in Hamilton and a photographer, was inspired to photograph it after reading Free Love. Much has changed from when I remember. It is more rundown and many of the big maple trees are gone. But the streets have that same gritty feel. Here are some of Mike’s photographs of Marissa’s and my old neighbourhood as it looks today.

IMG_0149Ford Street: “I turned the corner onto Ford Street, raced past the field and Mr. Smithers’house (making sure to keep my fingers crossed to ward off evil spirits) until I came to a stop in front of Nina’s grey stucco house across from the railroad tracks.”

IMG_0157The tunnel: “…when I got to the tunnel and peered into its gloom, it looked empty. Holding my breath against the stench of piss, I dragged my cart through the debris of broken glass and flattened cigarette packs.

 

IMG_0154The field: “Both the field and Nina and George’s stucco house that had stood on the corner were gone. In their place was a sterile apartment building.”

 

IMG_0151Yonge Street: “He jumped on a flatbed when it was still going fast, before it slowed down to take the turn into the Yonge Street underpass.”