Anne M. Smith-Nochasak:
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On April 27th, 2021, I came home to learn that I was now a self-published author. In an earlier blog, Self-publishing Unfiltered , I described the fun and frustration of the first two months of my publication journey. I was interviewed by Lighthouse NOW, and my book went smoothly to consignment. Life was gentle and simple.
The next ten months were, at times, like navigating a canoe through class five waters with a cracked paddle. It was less simple, less gentle.
The journey is measured in moments, not sales. I learned to enjoy the summer markets. Fellow vendors shared their strength. I had incredible suggestions and encouragement from authors. It was hard to hear that a few well-chosen questions would work better than my wordy displays, but I also knew they were right. I rushed home and reworked my display – and next afternoon heard such good things. Barb, wherever you are, THANK YOU. You freed my marketing spirit!
The Miramichi Reader stepped forward with a positive review and ongoing support. South Branch Scribbler later provided an interview. There were such joyful moments.
In between, there came illness, cancellations, and explanations. With recovery came quick bookings and the discovery that Canoer had caught the Christmas current, for consignment copies will surely sell if you really need them. I scrounged copies from friends to fill out the display, while FriesenPress negotiated the labyrinth of supply chains in pandemic times. I do not think they anticipated me when they developed a sound marketing plan.
Five days later, two boxes of books appeared by the front door, the dog again claiming the credit. I think that FriesenPress must have connections at the North Pole, or an equivalent mythic location. That got me through to Christmas, my friends got books back, and then I vanished for surgery and a winter of recovery, useful for finishing my work in progress.
Now I have a stable internet connection, and am learning that there is a strong writing support network out there. Others also struggle with lack of time for writing or marketing or outlining or self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. Reaching out was hard at first. As an adult, when I invited old friends to visit, my mother would worry that they would plunder the attic of its dusty relics if she stepped out. That mindset is hard to break. So far, no one in the Writing Community has attempted to abscond with the silverware, real or virtual! They share their ideas and cheer you on.
People leave my booth to borrow the book from the local library, or drop by to tell me they read their nephew’s or their neighbour’s copy. That excites me. I visit local bookstores, and am each time moved to see my dream on display. I correspond with people and share ideas. I read. I write. My life has grown richer.
Although my sales statistics are possibly the lowest on record, people are reading my book, using our old high school code: the one who buys the book must share it with the rest of the class. I am participating in conversations. I am writing. I am content. After all, Laila’s theme in A Canoer of Shorelines is: The measure of success is a satisfied mind.
My one regret is that my lady, the brindled Husky who saw A Canoer of Shorelines into reality and into marketing and saw my second draft to completion, passed away four days before Canoer’s anniversary. I write for her. I go forward for her. I breathe the gentle air of the lakeshore for her. Such a year, my friend.
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“I don’t know where she is, or what she’s doin’, or why,” Joe breaks in, “but she were at the lake last May. Up by th’ Narrows, in that ol’ canoe, workin’ along with that big white dog runnin’ the shore beside her. ‘This is a secret, Joe,’ she says. ‘I’m not supposed to be here.’”
“I know what I saw,” Joe insists. “Were a bright and perfect May mornin’, and there she is all bright and smilin’ and that big white dog runnin’ along the sho’ah.”
-A Canoer of Shorelines, Ch. 21
Ten years ago, I brought a heavy binder stuffed with notes from my special cabin to my new home. With me, there were three dogs: the great white Husky, the little brown dog, and the brindled Husky. They were an unusual family, as the great white Husky, although attached to the little brown dog, had a way of stalking from the room as the eager little brindled one entered. He did not dislike her; he just did not care for her company.
Everyone loved the little brown dog, for who could resist the puzzled face and forlorn expression? Initially, the brindled one challenged her. Picture a street dog, fangs bared and eyes rolling, flipping a helpless and woebegone teddy bear to its back and pinning her. Now see the baffled teddy bear eyes suddenly gleaming, the lips drawing back in a snarl, a miniature wolf released and the brindled Husky huddled in a corner of the deck, groveling. The little dog was Amarok, meaning ‘Wolf’, and that day we knew the rumors of her wolf ancestry were true. The brindled Husky became devoted to her, and grieved her passing as I did.
The great white dog died abruptly that first fall, with a sudden and fast-paced cancer. The little brown dog walked the length of his grave, and suddenly we knew she was old. The brindled Husky huddled against her, and in time, they bonded in her grief.
Two years later, the little brown dog died, and my brindled lady mourned for two years.
From that first fall, as I typed notes and arranged chapters, it was the brindled Husky who watched from her bed in the loft. When I stepped away from writing to take jobs, she became my companion, but whenever I wrote, she was my co-writer.
That continued as we brought A Canoer of Shorelines into being. I read to her. I edited and crossed out and discarded and rewrote, and she listened to each revision. Even when the affectionate Shay pup joined us, writing was something between me and the brindled lady. She was the last dog to live with me at the Wasaya setting. She is my lady of Wasaya, my editor, my joy.
She has canoed and kayaked every inch of shoreline with me, hauled the canoe to shore when I could not feel my fingers as my arm swelled from hornet stings, dragged the kayak behind her as we raced from a fire zone, and curled close when I was sick or injured.
She has heard every word, every version, of my first novel, and she has witnessed the emergence of my new draft. This year, I wanted to give my aging friend her great winter, as I sensed her starting to fade, but then I could only shuffle, and I despaired. She taught me then that a Great Winter is one in which you are both present, writing together, shuffling the trail together, open to the moment, awake to creation. She has seen me to my healing, but suddenly, she is weakening. This is our Great Spring, our gift to each other.
We returned to Wasaya yesterday, and we experienced the serenity of creation there. That was one moment, but it is in us now.
She dreams today, and I know she is running the shoreline. Soon, she will find her way there, and be home.
I know that one day, that is where we will meet again, perhaps along the Narrows on a bright and perfect May morning.