I’m not always good at celebrating success. Probably because I get overachievy and can be quite hard on myself. Always looking to the next step on my path to said success. But today…I pause and say…YES! Success!!!
Indeed, there has been much MAUD excitement over the past few weeks and I’ve moved to a new house. I have been taking photos of these changes and hope to write about this more shortly, but today it is time to celebrate and commemorate the week Maud officially launched into the world (it was also the week before I moved hence this very late blog post.) Today I’ll talk about Toronto and then my next post will be about Charlottetown.
On May 2nd, MAUD had its Toronto launch at Ben McNally Books and there was raspberry cordial,
and three different kind of shortbread cookies bakes by Pantry Baked Goods.
People from across my life came, a convergence of friends and family. Some who flew in from Seattle or took a train from Montreal. Others manipulated time and space so they could take the afternoon and celebrate with me. I had never really thrown anything like this–anything really–for myself, so it was kind of incredible to see everyone. The only word for it is gratitude.
Then Vikki Vansickle, writer and publicist extraordinaire said kind things.
And then my editor, Lynne Missen, said some lovely things, too.
Honesty time. I could tell you that I read well and my speech went off perfectly, but that would be a lie. The truth is, I have learned how to speak in front of people. It doesn’t come easily to me. In a rather un-Leo-like behaviour, I am not a fan of being the centre of attention. I’ve learned that if I can prepare beforehand, have words that I can speak from so I don’t forget words and, better yet, have a podium or something to speak from, I’m happy. Also podiums hide you a little bit.
At the book signing there was no podium. I was standing in front of a table with all of my dearest people around me and some I didn’t know (which was so cool!) and I was very nervous. Now, when I am nervous I shake. Badly. In fact, I can no longer play piano in front of a crowd because when I do I actually physically cannot play. It is that bad.
So imagine, I’m holding the speech and my hands are shaking so much that I cannot focus on the paper and I’m pretty sure everyone can tell that I’m shaking. I decided to put the paper down on the table. At least then if I was shaking, the paper wouldn’t be.
It did get a bit better, but then I wasn’t looking at people and that felt weird, so I skipped a bunch of my speech and moved to start the reading–completing forgetting to thank my family and my partner. I know. It was only when I started to introduce the reading that I remembered. Terrible. So, I returned tot thanking my family and my partner… Although, people thought it was hilarious and a friend told me it seemed like “typical Mel behaviour,” I felt terrible about it. But there it is. That’s why the next day I posted the speech on my Facebook page. I’m posting it here, too:
I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee (Haw-de-no-sawnee), and most recently, the territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. The territory was the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy and the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes.
This territory is also covered by the Upper Canada Treaties.
Today, the meeting place of Toronto (from the Haudenosaunee word Tkaronto) is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and I am thankful we have this opportunity to celebrate on this territory.
I’m also grateful for this opportunity to celebrate this occasion with all of you. To stand in this this beautiful space with people from all parts of my life. Whatever forces brought us together today is a combination of connections that only could be made with L.M. Montgomery—Maud to her friends—because she is imbedded into the fabric of many things: Canadian writing, women’s history, historical writing, television, theatre, adaptations, gender politics, Canadian identity, horticulture, cooking, children’s literature, YA literature, being a teen writer, human rights and the disenfranchised. To be able to tell this part of her story is a gift and one I do not take for granted.
Thank you to Ben McNally Books for giving us the space to hold the event and to Vikki VanSickle, Madeline Manson, and Angela Lee for helping to organize this event. And to Lea Smye from Pantry Baked Goods for baking the delicious shortbread you’re having. Also, to my dad who baked 140 mun cookies for the event and my mom for supplying the table clothes and some of the platters.
Thank you to the editor who changed my life, Lynne Missen, who saw something in the pages I had been sending her to think that I could take on this project. To Vikki VanSickle (go read her books, they’re amazing), who moonlights as this rock star publicist, and patiently answers all my newbie author questions and seeks to find the best opportunities. To Liza Morrison and all the other salespeople who are working to get my book (and others) into booksellers’ hands, thank you. To Lisa Jager for the beautiful cover design and to Shayna Hayes, Brittany Lavery, Peter Phillips and Helen Smith for your additional editorial support. Everyone at Penguin Random House of Canada who have been working on behalf of me and Maud, and other writers. Thank you.
I must also extend my thanks to the Montgomery community, who supported this project, answering questions sometimes at a moment’s notice: Kate Macdonald Butler, Sally Keefe-Cohen, Jennie and John Macneill, George, Maureen and Pamela Campbell, Robert Montgomery, as well as Mary Rubio, Elizabeth Waterston and Elizabeth Epperly. I would like to also thank, L.M. Montgomery Society of Ontario, L.M. Montgomery Heritage Society, L.M. Montgomery Online, L.M. Montgomery Literary Society, the L.M. Montgomery Institute at the University of Prince Edward Island, L.M. Montgomery Collection at the University of Guelph Archives, and all the members of the organizations who are too numerous to mention here but a full list is at the back in the “In Gratitude” section. Also, would like to mention the archivists at the Prince Albert Historical Society.
To my friends in the VCFA, CANSCAIP and Torkidlit communities, and to my colleagues at Humber College’s Liberal Arts and Sciences, thank you for being here and for supporting me.
To you who have travelled distances to be here today, from Montreal, Seattle, London…Barrie…Thornhill…Thank you. And to my friends who have wrote with me, created art with me and listened way too much about L.M. Montgomery, thanks.
And to my parents, my brother, Joel (whose book, The Thunder of Giants, should also be on your “to be read” list) and my grandmother, Bubie Lil, thank you for your support. Lastly, to my partner, Raff, who made sure I ate, supplemented with many a mixed CD and was cool about me traipsing all over the place to do research and write this book and knows more about a 19th century dead woman than you ever thought possible. Thank you.
It got better once I started reading from MAUD. (I’m not sure why…)
I read two sections, one from Prince Albert where Will and Maud are featured and it is always fun to read about Will. I might still have a crush on my character. Maybe. Possibly.
Then, I invited my friends, Benjamin Lefebvre and Rachel McMillan, to help me with the second section.
For those of you who have read MAUD, you might recall that there are some letters. For those of you who haven’t read MAUD, I won’t ruin it for you, but the letters are between Maud and another boyfriend, Nate. Ben read Nate’s letters, Rachel read Maud’s letters and I read the narrator. When Ben channeled his inner 15 year-old, though, we lost it.
Leading to what is probably my favourite picture…ever.
The rest of the evening was a blur of friends and signing and words and it was glorious. For a girl who finds it challenging being the centre of attention, it was not easy to do, but pausing to celebrate–allowing myself to celebrate–might have been incredibly uncomfortable, but I kinda admit…also a whole lotta fun. 🙂