Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions With Martin Avery

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Ten Questions With Martin Avery

Martin Avery's latest book, Alexandra Orlando: In Pursuit of Victory (BookLand Press), is the story of the rhythmic gymnast who set a world record by winning six gold medals at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia. She will be representing Canada at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Martin Avery will be signing books at the OLA Expo on Friday, February 1st.

OB:

Tell us about your book, Alexandra Orlando: In Pursuit of Victory.

MA:

Alexandra Orlando: In Pursuit of Victory is the first book in a new series of sports biographies "Celebrating Canadian Athletes" published by BookLand Press. Alexandra Orlando is Canada's rhythmic gymnastics champion, winning every rhythmic gymnastics event at the Canadian National Championships in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. When she was a teenager she was told, "You're in the Olympics!" But then they changed the rules and she was told, "You're out of the Olympics". She participated in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia and won six gold medals. And now she has qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games in China. How does she do it? The answers are in this book!

OB:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

MA:

Yes. This book was written with young athletes in mind, to inspire them and other young people. It's also for all fans of rhythmic gymnastics, Canadian sports, Canada, and sports.

OB:

How did you research your book?

MA:

I interviewed the athlete, Alexandra Orlando, her coach - Mimi Masleva, her mom, her dad, her sister, her friends, her competitors, her mentor - Lori Fung, the president of the club where she trains in Toronto - Ritmika Gymnastics Club, and I watched her train,
compete, and perform. Just watching Alex warm-up is enormously impressive. Watching her win a competition is awe-inspiring. There's a lot of applause in her sport but when she finishes a routine there is stunned silence before a standing ovation. I read everything on rhythmic gymnastics and found everything ever written about Alexandra. There aren't a lot of books about rhythmic gymnastics; ours is the first for Canada.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

MA:

I love writing in libraries, especially in the Pickering Public Library, where I'm Writer In Residence. That's where I wrote Alexandra Orlando: In Pursuit Of Victory and Karen Cockburn: Soaring High. I love writing in marathons, especially the Great Canadian Novel Marathon and the Muskoka Novel Marathon.

OB:

What was your first publication?

MA:

Cottage Gothic, a short story sequence published by Oberon Press, was my first book, after being in the Oberon anthology, Best Canadian Stories, and a compendium edited by John Metcalf called First Impressions. My very first publication was a newspaper column I wrote for the Bracebridge Herald-Gazette when I was still in high school at Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School.

OB:

Is there one book you think everyone should read?

MA:

Aside from Alexandra Orlando: In Pursuit Of Victory, I'd recommend Karen Cockburn: Soaring High - the second book in the BookLand series of sports biographies "Celebrating Canadian Athletes". It's about Canada's trampoline champion, who has made it to #1 in the world, has already won bronze and silver medals at the Olympics, and is also on her way to the Olympic Games in China. I think everyone will be thrilled to discover these athletes and they will be inspired by them in ways that will change their lives. Alex and Karen should be household names across Canada and around the world for their accomplishments and they way they do what they do.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

MA:

I'm reading the hockey novels and books by Roy McGregor: Home Game, The Home Team, The Last Season, Road Games, The Seven A.M. Practice, A Loonie for Luck, and his Screech Owls series. (I like to read authors, not just books.)

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you've received from a reader.

MA:

For the book about Alexandra Orlando, the most memorable response so far came from Brazil. A girl who loves rhythmic gymnastics, and went crazy about Alex when she saw her compete at the Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro, sent me an e-mail in Portuguese, saying she loved the book. She watched Alex win gold in Rio and carry the flag for Canada in the closing ceremonies and said she was so happy to be able to read the book and find out all about this amazing athlete and performer.

OB:

What's the best advice you've ever received as a writer?

MA:

When I was at the Banff Centre School of Fine Arts, W.O. Mitchell slowly convinced me that his method of freewriting, called freefall, or Mitchell's Messy Method, is a great tool for tackling all kinds of writing challenges. It's like Zen writing, or Wild Mind writing taught by Natalie Goldberg, and described in Ray Bradbury's book Zen In The Art Of Writing.

OB:

What is your next project?

MA:

At the novel marathon in Pickering on the March Break, I'm planning to write The Great Canadian Hockey Novel. Right now I'm working on a hockey memoir to go with my feature stories about hockey for a book with the working title "Bobby Orr And Me".

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