Jamie-Simpson-2-e1421867238153Jamie Simpson loves old-growth forests. In fact, he’s so smitten that he’s been searching high and low for them for many moons. The result is a narrative guide titled Journeys Through Eastern Old-Growth Forests, published byNimbus.

Simpson has a background in biology, forestry and law, and has worked as a forester, writer and advocate for sensible forestry practices. He has received several awards for his conservation work, as well as the Elizabeth May Award for Environmental Service, and the Environmental Law prize at Dalhousie University.

The 40-year-old is also the author of Restoring the Acadian Forest: A Guide to Forest Stewardship for Woodlot Owners in the Maritimes, also published by Nimbus. Here, Simpson chats about his love for forests in general, and old-growth forests in particular.

For the complete Q&A go here:   http://atlanticbookstoday.ca/smitten-by-old-growth-forests/

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Folks, although I love interviewing authors and celebrating their stories, other things have come up that have taken my time/attention. I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m never going to catch up with Author! Author! so I’m letting go of the guilt and moving on. Over the holidays I will be revamping this site and adding a couple of new features. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, here is a photo that I took in Battle Harbour this summer. It’s the second time I’ve visited this wee island and am totally smitten with the place. Working on a new photo gallery of Labrador which will be up by the New Year.


4. Zoo story CREDIT Magnetic Hill Zoo (2)Heading to the zoo! How about you?

Seriously, I’m giving a Travel Writing Workshop at the Magnetic Hill  Zoo (Education Centre) on Saturday, Sept. 27.

Participants can expect to be immersed into the world of travel writing. The workshop includes: an overview of opportunities, exercises to set practical goals, market information, how to break into travel writing (or expand your portfolio), tips for taking photos that editors want, how to sell more than one story from your  trip–and more.

Carmel Vivier, President of the SW New Brunswick Chapter of Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), and member of Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC), says: “I took this workshop from Sandra a few years ago and it was instrumental in me getting enough published credits to join TMAC.  Sandra has also presented other writing related workshops for our chapter and she is great in sharing information that will help your writing career–and take it to the next level.”

TIME:            8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

FEE:               $125 (includes HST)

INTERESTED? Contact me for workshop outline, or to register.

Would love to see you there. So would this tiger.




Maud cover smShameless self promotion here folks so bear with me. A week from today I will be hosting a book signing, reception as part of the launch of my wee book, Maud Lewis and the Maudified House Project–The Story Starts Here. It’s primarily a photo documentary of a special project initiated by the Friends of the AGNS here in Yarmouth, involving the installing of 11 children’s playhouses throughout the town that were painted by local artists. They are getting lots of attention and will be auctioned off this fall as a major fund-raiser for children’s programs and gallery events.

Aside from seeing 190 photos, readers will find some interesting information about world renown folk artists Maud Lewis, a few stories from people who knew her, and other odds and sods related to this amazing woman. The book also celebrates the importance of volunteers, and shows how a community can rally around a common goal and make things happen.  

As part of the launch, the Friends will be showing a half hour documentary about Maud Lewis filmed in 1965 and aired on CBC television titled “The Once Upon a Time World of Maud Lewis.” Showtimes 6:30, 7 and 7:30 p.m.

Once I recover from the launch, you can expect to see several new postings of authors as I have a dozen lined up between now and Christmas!




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Chad Norman profileMeet Chad Norman. He recently completed his 15th book of poetry, titled Masstown,  which celebrates the once-thriving dairy community just west of Truro, in Colchester County. Through his grandparents, Bert and Gladys, the poems lead the reader back onto the farm. But not just any farm. Masstown is a poignant collection showing memory at work, revealing “the way it was,” and lives lived on this multi-generational farm.

Chad Norman has been writing and publishing for 30 years. He’s a member of WFNS, the League of Canadian Poets, and is a former member of TWUC.


What is it about poetry that captures your interest? When did you start writing poetry, and why?

At one time I set my sights on becoming a musician/songwriter [and] began to hang around with “garage bands.” My friends, the band members would invite me to their garage gigs, to play, and quaff back their father’s apple and grape wines. Once I, and they, realized I was a “word man,” requests came for lyrics. At first, I never thought my lyrics would catch anyone’s attention, but I kept on writing. Eventually I  came to realize words were very important, and contained great power if placed in a successful way on an empty piece of paper. I came to know quickly the difference between lyrics and poems, but I certainly didn’t believe I was writing either, especially poems. When I did, around the age of 23-24, what captured me was how poetry could accomplish so much with so few words. And, without a doubt, I knew it was all about Imagination, Feelings, and how to capture Time. 

Chad Norman book coverHow do your poems evolve?

My poems evolve through what I call disturbance. Because I have to chase a paycheque by holding down a clock-punching job, when the rattle of the words begin, they have come to disturb that mundane pursuit. Another reason I was chosen to write and honour poems, is that I despise money. Hey! Don’t get me wrong, the disturbance can always lead to a few bucks, I don’t have a problem with that, but there is something about living and surviving as a poet which has very little to do with the “filthy lucre.” In terms of process, in most cases I have a few words jotted down in the notebook I pack around, or a very limited idea or image at the beginning. So, yes, many poems unfold, reveal, try to deceive me, or stand strong in confidence, as I write, and I get down what is in most cases a draft.

Do you have role models? Poets or people you’ve loved/learned from in the past?

Throughout the years many poets taught me in many ways. Mainly it has been the women. I know this comes from when I was a boy and my mother took me to  tea parties. I sat there and listened to the women tell their stories, which were filled with emotions, harsh truths, and clear paths on how to feel. And I have learned a lot from, and appreciated visits with Dorothy Livesay, Gwen MacEwen, Anne Marriot, P.K. Page, Pat Lowther, and Anne Szumigalski, Al Purdy, Joe Rosenblatt, Fred Cogswell, Louis Dudek, Irving Layton, Doug Jones, Patrick Lane, to name a few. (Note: all Canadians!) Poets of today would include Paul Zann, Peter Sanger, Laurence Hutchman, Phil Thompson, Penny Ferguson, Carmelita McGrath, Leone Gom, and Susan Musgrave.

I would love to hear your views about finding the right publisher, and what’s involved.

Oh, boy! Being a poet, it comes down to, not the “right” publisher, but any publisher. At present it is a tough and draining game. I have dealt with a range of publisher and editors over the years. Some decent and helpful, others complete idiots. But, fortunately, during the past year and a half, I have found the publisher for me. We have enjoyed nothing but mutual respect. So at the moment, I feel like I am “in,” so to speak. At least, I feel as if I can approach my publisher with enthusiasm in regard to my next title, instead of feeling unconnected, and simply sending a manuscript out, led by nothing but hope. One must be prepared to really stand up for one’s manuscript! How do I know this? Because my latest book, Masstown, was rejected by numerous presses … it took me four years to sign a contract!

Chad Norman picking beansWhat is your biggest challenge as a poet?

The biggest challenge is finding the time and belief to keep on writing. At this point in my life, being 55, I admit there are dips in my faith, meaning I wonder if people actually care about poems, or poets. Over the years I have had little support from the ones I needed it from most. This has prevented me from celebrating my path as a poet. But, time and again, I overcome, due to a relentless ability to persevere. I learned a long time ago it will be up to me if anything happens for my poems, for my books.

What is the biggest reward?

Being able to read the poems aloud! And when someone comes up to you and says, “This is my first poetry reading, I never imagined I would have liked it so much” this is very satisfying. Also, when someone you’ve sold a book to tells you what they enjoyed about it. I always enjoy seeing a poem accepted by (and appearing) in a publication, and I really smile when a cheque comes with the complimentary copy!

Chad welcomes questions, so fire away in the comment box. Let’s get a dialogue going!


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Author! Author! is back on track. It was great to have Laura Best come on board to lead the brigade this spring. See her interview below and be sure to check out her comments for more insights.

There’s a great lineup ahead. Aiming to post interviews twice a month.  

6SMAlso, I’ve started uploading new photo collections. Click “Photo Gallery” on menu. The latest addition is a series of unusual shots titled “Reflections Tusket River” … taken a week ago from my canoe. The shot you see here is from that collection. Totally weird and wonderful. And, no, they have not been photoshopped. I don’t have that program, nor do I know how to use it.

However, for some photo shoots I use a technique called HDR which means high dynamic range. Anyway, I take three quick consecutive shots using the AEB (auto exposure bracketing) feature on my camera. One is underexposed by two f stops; one overexposed by two, and one on regular setting. Then I meld the photos together. This way, I get all the high and low tones possible, which gives the photos depth.

Normally, I would be using a tripod for this. Handheld is not recommended when doing HDR stuff as there’s a possibility of hand shake and “ghosting.” As I headed out in my canoe, it didn’t occur to me to bring a tripod. So these are not 100 percent without shake, but the ghosting is almost non-existent, and I’m thrilled with the results.  

This weekend I’ll work on a collection from Battle Harbour, Labrador.





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Laura BestLaura Best lives in East Dalhousie, Nova Scotia. Her first YA novel, “Bitter, Sweet” was short listed for The Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People. The author of over forty short stories, her work has been published in literary magazines and anthologies across Canada.  Flying With a Broken Wing, is her second YA novel and was published last September.

The story’s main character, Cammie Deveau, begings life with a few strikes against her. She’s visually impaired, abandoned by her mother at birth, and her father was a casualty of the Second World War. If all that isn’t enough, she’s being raised by her bootlegging aunt.

When Cammie learns about a school for blind and visually impaired children she becomes convinced a new life is waiting for her in Halifax, but how will she ever convince her aunt to let her go? With the help of her best friend, they devise a plan to blow up the local moonshiner’s still. But Cammie has not managed to change her luck, and things get worse than she ever imagined.

How did Flying With a Broken Wing come into being?

Flying book coverFor a very long time I wanted to write a story with a visually impaired protagonist. My mother is visually impaired, and so I was inspired to create a character that had visual problems as well. My mother taught me very early on that we work with what life gives us and make the best of the circumstances we have. If we want things to change in our lives we find a way to do it and that’s exactly what Cammie Deveau sets out to do in Flying With a Broken Wing.

So the book began with the idea of a strong, visually impaired character who dreams of having a brand new life. When I started writing this book, I had no idea why this young girl was so determined to change her life. I knew there would have to be special circumstances that would warrant this deep desire other than her eyesight. Luckily, Cammie was quite forthcoming with all that information. Cammie loves to tell a good story! Once I started writing, she filled in all the blank spaces. She was such a joy to write.

Tell me about the writing process. 

For me, the writing process usually begins with a vague idea of where the story will begin and where it will end. I then allow my characters the freedom to develop as I write, and the story slowly unfolds as I go. I tend to do very little planning ahead of time. Occasionally I have a certain scenes or situations in mind that I want to take place within the story, but I never know exactly how it will turn out until I’m actually writing it.

Laura's mumWhat is the biggest challenge of writing novels for young adult readers? 

Perhaps the biggest challenge in writing for this audience is taking that step back in time to when I was a child, remembering the things that were important to me, and how I viewed the world. I want the stories I write to be believable and real for anyone who reads them. Since I like to write in first person I often describe my writing as playing “make-believe.” I become the characters I write about. I feel their hopes and fears, their determination. They often have conversations with each other in my head as I work through the dialogue.

Laura Best's mumInsights or tips for aspiring writers?

If I had any tips it would probably be to find a story you want to tell and make it your own. Write about what’s important to you. Don’t just write to be published, but write to fill that deep desire to express yourself through the written word. Don’t give up. You might not get the story right the first time, but if it’s a story worth writing it should be a story worth rewriting—again and again if necessary.

Laura Best's mumPS  the third photo is of Laura’s mother (on the right) and two of her friends taken back in 1955 when she worked in the kitchen at the DawsonMemorialHospital in Bridgewater. She was about eighteen at the time. Laura finds the photo inspiring as it represents her mother’s determination to meet life head on, knowing that the limitations we face in life are the ones we set for ourselves.

Laura welcomes questions about her novels and the writing life, so feel free to post questions!



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laptopJoin me for a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of day to figure out where you want to take your freelance business, and how you are going to get there–in both the periodical/online world, the corporate world, and other worlds where you can capitalize on your interests and expertise. Time will also be spent on the business end of things, including how to monitor what your time is worth,  how to track story ideas/client lists, and how to manage your work flow.

Date: Saturday Jan. 11
Time: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Place: WFNS, 1113 Marginal Road, Halifax
Fee: $135 inc. HST

Contact me a for a workshop outline at  s.phinney@ns.sympatico.ca

PS … tattoo and messy desk not pre-requisites!

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Mike Parker head shotTwenty four years ago Mike Parker submitted his first manuscript, Guides of the Northwoods: Hunting & Fishing Tales from Nova Scotia, to Doubleday Canada Publishing Group. In a rejection letter dated August 30th, Editor Jill Lambert took the time to add, “P.S. I really did enjoy this manuscript; I thought it was well written and interesting. I’m sorry it’s just not right for our list.”

After researching other publishers, Parker zeroed in on Nimbus Publishing, walked in one morning, and dropped off the same manuscript. The next day he received a call to say it was accepted.  Fifteen books later, Parker is now doing presentations and giving readings based on his latest tome, Into the Deep Unknown: Land of the Tent Dwellers.

How does a historical non-fiction writer capture—and keep—the attention of readers?

I believe the key to writing non-fiction is to write about what interests you, the author—because if the author isn’t into it, the reader won’t be. I go into the research phase of every book without knowing much of anything about the topic other than it interests me, and I want to find out more. Then I try to pass that on to the reader. Thomas Raddall and Pierre Burton are two of my favourite non-fiction writers. Although I don’t put myself in their class (nor do I copy any particular style), I do try to write in such a way the reader remains conscious, and their eyes don’t glaze over.

Mike Parker book coverYou clearly enjoy the thrill of the hunt—for information that is. Paint us a picture. 

While preparing my latest manuscript, Into the Deep Unknown, I really wanted to have a photo or two of Eddie Breck, one of the many characters in my book. I contacted Linda Miller, whose parents were former managers at Milford House where Eddie Breck used to stay. She suggested I contact Tim Coggeshall from the U.S. (a long-time guest at Milford House), whose wife’s grandfather just happened to be Eddie Breck. Sure enough,  Tim Coggeshall—now in his 90’s—had several photos of Breck and the guides; some dated back to the 1890’s. Coggeshall agreed to bring them to Milford House that summer. When I saw them my heart pounded. I scanned photos for nine hours!

Have you ever discovered a “find” after-the-fact? And, if so, then what?

As soon as Into the Deep Unknown hit the stands, I met the granddaughter of Charles (the Strong) Charleton—who also appears in the book. She said to me, “We have a box of old photos the American sports used to send.”  Lo and behold, the box included scores of photos of the old guides, guests at Milford House, and even a rare signed photo of Albert Bigelow Payne who penned The Tent Dwellers over 100 years ago. Although it would have been great to have some of them in the book, it’s never too late to make use of them. So I’ve put them up on Milford House’s Facebook page, titled “Land of the Tent Dwellers—Images From the Past.” By doing so, I hope the public will not only have access to these photos, but that some can also be identified.

If memory serves, you talked about retirement … but rumour has it you’re onto book number 16? 

Mike Parker 1Well now, it’s like this. The last photo you see here was taken by Ralph Harris (1883-1958), a Bear River merchant and professional photographer who produced thousands of pictures throughout Digby and AnnapolisCounties, turning many of them into postcards.  Ralph’s vast collection was lost in an early 1970s fire which destroyed several buildings in Bear River including his one-time store where the negatives and images had been kept in the second floor studio since his death in 1958.

This past summer, Ralph’s niece contacted me and, when I went to visit her, she pulled out hundreds of negatives and prints she had been holding onto since the fire—the majority of which have never been published or seen the light of day since they were taken nearly a century ago. Talk about a treasure trove!

This past November, I was granted permission by the family to publish a book focusing on Bear River as seen through the camera lens of Ralph Harris. Pottersfield Press has agreed to publish the book (Spring 2015) which I envision featuring 300 of Ralph’s images.  I am really excited about it, as the material is rich and original. If folks would like to know more about what I do, please connect to this site: www.smu.ca/gri/mparker

Stay tuned folks! And feel free to send some questions in the comment section (click “comments” under the title) for Mike to answer. He’d love to have a conversation with you.




Doreen PendgracsThis past July, Doreen Pendgracs launched Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate whereby the author invites readers to join her on a sensuous, taste-tempting journey of chocolate discovery. Aside from getting insider information about chocolate from various countries in Europe, Doreen explores topics such as how and where cacao becomes chocolate; various personalities of chocolate;  health benefits of chocolate; “chocogasms” and how to pair wine with chocolate—to name a few. Here we go … take it away Doreen!

Whatever possessed you to write a book about Chocolate?

I’ve always loved fine chocolate and loved to travel. The idea of writing a book that marries these two passions seemed like a good fit for me. Plus, I have a fascination with interesting people who are passionate about what they do. I’ve found chocolate makers to be among the most passionate people on the planet.

Where has your research taken you?

Peruvian women are responsible for cutting open the cocoa pods and removing the cocoa beans; generally the men of the community do the harvest.

Peruvian women are responsible for cutting open the cocoa pods and removing the cocoa beans; generally the men of the community do the harvest.

To 12 countries so far. I’ve done detailed profiles of chocolatiers and chocolate makers in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Holland, Italy, Spain, and the UK. These profiles are of people I have met and spent time with (for the most part.)

I also visited cacao-growong regions in Peru, Ecuador, and St. Lucia. And I have interviewed many chocolatiers/chocolate makers in Canada and the US.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned about chocolate?

How healthy it is, when it’s in its pure, natural state. I did a fairly comprehensive chapter about the health benefits of chocolate and learned that many myths are untrue. Chocolate is not bad for your skin or teeth if you are eating pure, dark chocolate of 70% cocoa or higher.  Chocolate contains many feel-good chemicals and actually has cannabinoid receptors that are similar to the THC found in marijuana. No wonder you can get giddy and feel high when eating several pieces of pure dark chocolate.

I understand you have more than one volume in mind. What’s next?

I had no idea as to the magnitude of this project, when I went on the first Chocolatour to Europe in the fall of 2009. I soon realized it would be an impossible task to try and cover the world in one swoop, so I opted to divide the planet geographically.

La Maison des Maitres Chocolatiers in the Grand Place of Brussels, Belgium, is a terrific place to explore the best of Belgian chocolate.

La Maison des Maitres Chocolatiers in the Grand Place of Brussels, Belgium, is a terrific place to explore the best of Belgian chocolate.

The first volume that was released mid-July focuses on the best (prepared) chocolate of Europe and the UK, with an additional chapter highlighting three growing regions. The second volume will focus on the Americas and the Caribbean, and the third volume will take in Asia, Africa, India, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. I still have a lot of travelling to do for that! And then once the three volumes have been published, I will update and combine them into one mega-volume. That should take me until about 2018.

OK chocolate lovers out there … bring on the questions!

Meanwhile, check out the cover of Doreen’s book in yesterday’s post. And, for regular insights and recommendations about the wide world of chocolate, visit Doreen’s blog titled Chocolate Travel Diversions. http://diversionswithdoreen.com/

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