I am so proud to have received this comment from a former senior executive at Imperial Oil (Esso) which played a major role in all things oil and gas in the NWT, during Gordon's time in the north (and before and after, of course) specifically at Hay River, their Norman Wells Refinery and in the Arctic:
"I read your book a couple months back and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was really interesting to hear about many of the places that I’ve visited over the years during my career and to hear about a remarkable man who came from nothing but was able to accomplish so much in such harsh conditions. You did a great job laying out the timeline of his life in an informative and entertaining way. The unique writing style of interspersing Gordon’s commentary was a novel approach. I also thought the pictures and maps were of great value. Many writers don’t take full advantage of these features in a story. (Sometimes imagination isn’t enough!!). Last but not least, it’s a high quality book that is both lovely to look at and handle unlike many paperbacks. So well done!! 10/10!"
Happy to say that I have just restocked INDIGO South Edmonton Common with A Métis Man's Dream! So far, we have sold over 25 copies from this location alone!
I "blogged" about insecurity the other day. Trapped in the dog days of a too smokey summer and a bit at loose ends, I was thinking my book selling had stalled and ideas were hard to come by. I was, to be honest, feeling pretty blah, when what to my "wondering (ears) should appear" but a call from Edmonton's Indie bookseller premiere that they had a cheque for me! And that they needed more books! So, thank you to Audrey's Books at 107 st and Jasper Avenue (with lots of parking right there!).
It was a good cheque too, the best so far and more money for the donations Gordon and I are giving to United for Literacy and Métis Education and betterment!
Audrey's has been wonderful to work with and they have a tremendous 'local' author section, a very extensive Edmonton, Alberta and Canadian history component and some very nice and knowledgeable people. Let us all do what we can to support local and Canadian retailers!
An author's thought: There is much to discourage anyone from writing a book. The time, worry and funds invested in your masterpiece far outweighs any possible financial or public result, unless your name happens to be King or Grisham, or the like. Most of the people who didn't know you before you became an author still don't know your name, and those who do are likely to be friends or critics. Some of the things you said you wish you could re-say, and many of the things you forgot or didn't find, or think of at the time haunt what you did say. And all of that is before you even think about approaching booksellers, magazines, the CBC, land other potential reviewers or promoters of your great efforts.Still, there is a pride and a sense of accomplishment to it all and a purpose that can become obsessive. I admit in my own case that my boldest daughter's complaints about me talking almost exclusively about "the book" to the exclusion of other important things is correct.
Then there is the human brain's strategic brilliance in the face of doing something with your writing. My own brain is quite adept at recalling negative comments from a potential agent, for example, just before I start to make a presentation. I also own a strong capability to talk myself out of approaching a bookseller. Rationalization kicks in. My book really wouldn't be of interest to his or her customers - it takes place too far north, it has too much on Cree Métis history and not enough on the Blackfoot; there is too much on tugboats and barges and not enough on exploration, or not enough on the captains, tugs and adventures North of 60. I seem to be able to actually find specific reasons why each individual book store or museum or gift shop should individually reject taking my book, well before I get to their doorstep.
So, it is with true thanks that I acknowledge a couple of dear friends who have stared into the abyss of the entrance of bookstores and museums and gift shops with me and then often almost literally pushed me to 'Go in there and talk to them!" Often, with the admonition, "What's the worst they can do?" (And it is true. Usually, the best happens). So far, the worst thing is that I buy more books and gifts than I leave behind!)
This insecurity is all related to promoting A Métis Man's Dream; From Traplines to Tugboats in Canada's North, which is an actual good and true story about important places, events and people. Imagine what will happen when I start to introduce my current writing project, which deals with the much more personal story of paddling my Red Canoe in an almost empty land?
We will jump off that bridge, as Lester Pearson used to say, when we get to it.
In the meantime, after all the angst about A Métis Man's Dream, consider how wonderful it is for an aspiring writer to receive, absolutely unsolicited, words like the following, from people you respect?
Here are a few of them:
" I had a chance to read your book, fittingly at Nonacho Lake this summer. Thoroughly enjoyed it..."
-Rob Kesselring, International tour guide, author of books and magazine articles, speaker, consultant.
"I am reading the Gill biography like I used to read Reader's Digest. Sort of all over the place. Chapters nicely sort [into] single stories. I am enjoying your writing Neil. Immersive, tight. Well done. Your Gill biography is a great read".
"Many talk of such an achievement [writing a book] but few have the courage and the persistence to actually do it. A great summer read! Two or three chapters a day, in my early morning hours, just when I need inspiration to just breathe- your book, the Gordon story, is a gem."
"Both Allan and I truly enjoyed the book. Thank You for writing such a Treasure. Much is seared in my mind."
-Margaret G. P.
"Congratulations, Neil on a compelling story of a northerner and the development and decline of “the old way” of business in NWT. I especially liked how you weaved Gordon’s fascinating story into the inevitable transformations wrought by economic, technological, infrastructure and political change over 100 years or so. There were lots of reminders of places that I have been up north, and some reminders that places like Liard Highway route that I have never driven. A major undertaking, and you can be proud of this accomplishment".
"Thoroughly enjoyed your tome. Fascinating story. Liked the reference to the big meeting with everyone stating their academic credentials and Gord bringing out his grade 11".
- John F.
"I enjoyed your book very much. So well written, and because I remember Gordon well, it awoke many memories. My ancestry too is Métis...What a privilege to have grown up in the north".
A Métis Man's Dream; From Traplines to Tugboats in Canada's North will be featured in the FriesenPress Catalogue distributed to bookstores and libraries throughout North America in early 2024. You can preview the spread below. Once published, the full catalogue will be free to view online.
I regret having to postpone my trip to Yellowknife and Hay River, NWT last week, and my intended book signings at The Book Cellar and the Hay River Museum, but of course I so much more regret the terrible carnage inflicted on the people there (and Enterprise, Ft. Smith, and the Indigenous Communities along the way) due to the awful wildfires they are experiencing. Godspeed in their evacuation and rebuilding/recovery efforts
I did have a chance to deliver books to The Beehive Artisan Store in Nordegg, Alberta, and the Rocky Mountain House Museum, both worthy stops if you are on the David Thompson Highway in west central Alberta.
Neil will be at the Yellowknife Book Cellar to meet readers and sign copies of A Métis Man's Dream; From Traplines to Tugboats in Canada's North on Wednesday, August 16th from 12-1:30 pm and 4 to 5. (Fires permitting). Please stop by and say hello!
Neil will be in Hay River for the Hay River Friends reunion and will be hosting a book signing of the Gordon Gill and Hay River story, A Métis Man's Dream; From Traplines to Tugboats in Canada's North. Please stop by the Museum (the old Hay River Hotel "Zoo") on Saturday, August 19th, between 1:30 and 3:00 pm. Even if your copy is signed, come on by to say hello and get it personalized. I am hoping Gordon will be there too!
If you are participating in the Métis Nation AGM and Gathering at Métis Crossing August 10, 11 and 12, (or if you are going there for a mini holiday), please enjoy the history and setting; oh, and do check the gift shop for your own signed copy of A Métis Man's Dream; From Traplines to Tugboats in Canada's North!
One of the main things about A Métis Man's Dream, From Traplines to Tugboats in Canada's North for me as the author is the sense of direction that Gordon Gill had, even as a kid. He knew he wanted to be a welder and a mechanic, and somebody who could make a difference in the lives of others.
I doubt Gordon knew how his goals would carry him to success but somehow he seemed to know that he had to try. Gordon kept his eyes open for opportunity and wasn't afraid to try new things. Some succeeded; some did not.
Even in discouraging times, Gordon received unsolicited help from others that pushed him in new directions or gave him new ideas about business. Gordon's explanation was that he always worked hard; he did more than he was paid for, and gave more than was expected of him. He always wanted to help others look good.
That may be the core lesson of A Métis Man's Dream and of Gordon's personal success.
My own sense is that Gordon's personal friendliness combined with his dedication to hard work and his focus on the success of others led to 'pay it forward' reactions from others. Gordon was positive and gracious enough to engender that from others and to do the same for others. He was able to decide to follow through on the opportunities made available to him.
I asked Gordon a number of times during the interviews we had if he had any advice, any wisdom to share with young people, Indigenous, Métis or otherwise.
Gordon's answer was always no; he didn't presume to advise others. He felt that his situation was not likely to be repeated, that for him the stars aligned in such a way that he was blessed with good friends, good advisors and good success.
The funny thing for me is that the harder Gordon worked, and the more he tried to help others, the more those stars aligned. Just coincidence I guess.
Blue Rock Gallery, in Black Diamond is a delightful art gallery, book store and eclectic crafts seller (and more) right on main street. I stop there every time I go through town and invariably buy something. They now have a supply of A Métis Man's Dream and some of the source books I used for research for this book and my current project.