Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Joy of Discovery (Part II)

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by Dennis McCloskey

A writer’s work is never done! With the blessing of my dear wife, Kris, I spent the evening of Thursday, December 18, 2008, in the company of 10 lovely women. We talked about my latest book (“My Favorite American”) for nearly four hours. All of them had read the book and all said they enjoyed it. Food and drinks were served throughout the evening. Man, do I love my work and my life!

I had been invited to join the members of a Richmond Hill Book Club who meet once a month to discuss a book they had read the previous month. The club has been in existence for 10 years. As I was leaving that night, I asked them to name the best book they’ve read in the last decade. I learned the title has three words in it and it starts with “My” but it wasn’t my book. It was “My Sister’s Keeper” by Jodi Picoult. Grrrrr. When I asked what made it the most memorable read, they gave several reasons, and a few members of the group even said it reminded them of my book. Awwwww.

I had never heard of the book or the author, so Jenni Giffen, the hostess that evening, lent it to me. I read the blurb on the back and thought: “Ok, this is chick lit.” Wrong! I read it last week and it is fab-u-lous! It’s a tale of sisterly love, morality, inspiration, and heartbreak. It’s a story for the ages and for all ages and it’s gender-neutral.

The book was a nice discovery for me because I love finding new authors among a treasure trove of books out there. Since Jodi is a highly successful, published, and award-winning author, she doesn’t need a bouquet of posies from me. So I’ll tell you about some buried treasure I have uncovered in recent weeks in the form of two writers whose unpublished manuscripts I read.

When Irit Brodsky asked me read her manuscript and advise her if it is publishable, I was a little tentative. My reluctance, in part, was based on my experience with two previous manuscripts I had recently reviewed by two unknown and unpublished writers whose novels, in my professional opinion, were not salvageable. But I’m glad I read Irit’s because it is a diamond in the rough! She has compiled a treasure chest of 14 true stories written by 14 people who have written a celebration of the life of a deceased loved one. Titled “Celebrating Lives: Treasured Memories of Love, Healing and Hope” it is a compilation of stories of bereavement by people who have walked the path from grieving to healing. To my delight and surprise, Irit’s manuscript has brought to life (no pun intended) 14 stories of healing, love and compassion that is a wonderful commemoration of some unforgettable people.

One of the most memorable and best written stories was written by Irit about her brother, Alon, who committed suicide at the age of 38. Don’t take my word for it that Irit is a phenomenal writer who tells her story in an intuitive, intelligent, sensitive, and focused manner. Just read this one paragraph and decide for yourself: “One of the triggers that started the tragic chain of events was when someone broke into my brother’s apartment. He was robbed of his camera—a very valuable possession, and not in the commodity sense. It was of spiritual and symbolic value to him. The camera validated him as an artist. It was his corridor to life and a shield from the mundane. I understood that, to him, a person with a camera has freedom. A person with a camera has permission to live on the outskirts. A camera can protect a person from the real world; a camera can give one an outlet to creativity and an artistic approach to life. But it can also alienate. The camera was all this to Alon, and more.”

My next “discovery” was an unpublished manuscript by Martine Imon, titled “Survival, Celibacy, and a Marriage.” On December 31, 2008, my wife and I spent New Years Eve with my cousin, Brian Cahill, and his wife Dianne, in Columbia, South Carolina. Conversation over dinner, at the Bonefish Grill, got around to books and writing (as it always does if you’re in my company) and Diane mentioned that a friend of her sister has written an amazing story about a near fatal workplace accident that her husband suffered and how it affected their lives and marriage. There won’t be any “spoiler alerts” in this review but I will tell you that Martine has written a magnificent and true story of faith, hope and love. In an afterward of her 122-page manuscript, Martine stresses the importance of maintaining a focus as we journey through life. “Basically, it comes down to a few simple things,” she writes: “Integrity is important. Love the one you’re with. And remember, things are not always what they appear.” She ends her gripping, heart-felt story with a parable that reminds her that it isn’t the obstacles that we face that shape our character; it’s the attitude we have as we face challenges that define who we are.”

Both manuscripts brought tears to my eyes, and it would be a crying shame if these two wonderful works of non-fiction do not get published, and are wasted on my eyes only.

Oprah! What are you waiting for? Call Irit Brodsky and Martine Imon!

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Dennis McCloskey

Dennis McCloskey is a journalist and editor and the author of numerous books. Several hundred of his human interest and business articles have appeared in over sixty-five newspapers, magazines and corporate newsletters in Canada, the US and Europe. His latest book, My Favorite American, is published by General Store Publishing House.

Go to Dennis McCloskey ’s Author Page