Exploring Opportunities in Vietnam

On October 5th, I moved from my lakeside house in rural eastern Ontario to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. There are about 9.5 million more neighbours in this new location than on Canoe Lake Road.

holiday-gold-hotel-front

The reason for the move (until at least summer of 2018) is personal as my partner has taken a job as director of ESL at the Bilingual Canadian International School here. But I intend to apply my expertise in publishing, content development and educational outreach here as I seek new clients and creative partnerships.

At the same time, I plan to continue pursuing my interest in developing resources related to Canadian indigenous education.

Free Himalaya Book: Update 2

As the end of May comes closer, news coverage of Nepal’s earthquake recovery efforts has dropped noticeably even though the rebuilding work is just beginning. I’m afraid that our “Heart of the Himalaya” didn’t raise large amounts of money but a few dollars can go a long way in Nepal.

To date we’ve given away 165 copies of Pat and Baiba’s multi-media profile of the Himalaya people — although we’ve had several emails that suggest our supporters gave generously to the cause. A number of readers donated $75-$100 instead of the $10 that was requested.

A “Heart of the Himalaya” presentation in Pat and Baiba’s home of Invermere, raised a further $4,100 recently.

Thank you for your help.

Free Himalaya book: update

donate money to the Red Cross Nepal fundTwo days after Pat and Baiba Morrow announced their offer of free copies of their “Heart of the Himalaya,” 94 people have downloaded the multimedia ebook from iTunes.

The Morrows have asked recipients of their book to please make a donation to the Red Cross’ Nepal Region Earthquake Fund. They recommend a  gift of $10.

Doing What We Can For Nepal

Last week's earthquake has changed life in Kathmandu for everyone.

Last week’s earthquake in Nepal has brought renewed attention to a country that is too often in the news for tragedy on Mount Everest. Sadly today’s headlines are not about risk-taking tourists and climbers but about an entire population that has been devastated.

Adventure photographers Baiba and Pat Morrow have spent 35 years exploring Nepal and its Himalayan neighbours, sharing their love of the people in their recently published multimedia ebook, Heart of the Himalaya. This week, they are encouraging Canadians and Americans to donate funds for the relief effort that is now underway, recommending sending money to the Canadian Red Cross for its Nepal Region Earthquake Fund. Mountain Equipment Co-op is currently accepting money at its retail locations for the Red Cross and has promised to match all its customers’ donations. Likewise, the Canadian government is matching donations to relief agencies until May 25th.

As a modest reward to donors to these or other Nepal earthquake relief organizations, Pat and Baiba are offering Heart of the Himalaya copies free on iTunes (USA and Canada) until the end of May. They are recommending a minimum donation of $10 although the book will be available free on iTunes for anyone interested in learning about the region.

There is no special coupon or iTunes code needed. Just log into the iTunes store and download Heart of the Himalaya. We have set the price at $0.00. Link here for U.S.A. and here for Canada.

We are not sure what financial impact this offer will have for the relief cause but the gift will provide a small reward for people’s generosity — and give donors some insight into the Himalayan people they are helping. Thank you for your generosity.

Connect here for the U.S.A. listing. And here for Canada.

Avalanche on Everest

The April 18th avalanche on Everest that took the lives of 13 Sherpas occurred on the same part of the mountain that claimed four lives during the Canadian Everest Expedition in 1982. In his multi-touch illustrated ebook, Everest: High Expectations, summiteer Pat Morrow recalls getting swept into the collapsing snow and ice — and surviving.

Rescuers search for missing sherpas

Frantic digging after the avalanche. 1982.

On the morning of August 31, I set out from Base Camp with Rusty and two lightly loaded Sherpas to break a trail through snow that had fallen the previous evening.

By the time we reached the Traverse, the snow was boot-deep. More troublesome, however, was the strength of the wind. Whatever snow had accumulated would be wind-deposited and thus prone to avalanching.

I thought of turning back and decided to do so if I came to a slope where my feet disturbed the surface of the snow enough to release its bond with the glacier and trigger a slide. I rested in the darkness, eating a chocolate bar and drinking water, trying to get a feel for the situation. It was still early, still cold. We had worked in fresh snow for the past two weeks, but nothing we had passed through so far had been avalanche-prone. Since our arrival, the disconcerting roar of big avalanches high up on Everest seemed to go on regardless of the time of day or the weather.

I decided to press on but only got 30 paces before being enveloped in a tremendous Continue reading

Back at the computer

kayak on beach on Halong Bay, VietnamLast fall was a busy one. My travels took me away from my computer and off to writers’ festivals in Whistler and Vancouver, and then to Vietnam to work on an illustrated ebook (for the iPad).

While in Hoi An (near Danang), I avoided Typhoon Haiyan by 12 hours, retreating just in time to the mountains of Sapa near the Chinese border.

In all, I brought home 2,500 photos and a bit of hi-def video. The project has kept me busy since I returned home but I hope to have the book finished by late spring.

cabins in hills of Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

Working with friends

I met Paul Toffanello in Timmins about 10 years ago. Timmins is a bustling mining town in northeastern Ontario and I was there partly at his behest. He was director of education of the large regional Catholic school board and one of his literacy specialists had invited me to be the guest of honour at her annual young writers workshops. the cover of Popchuck's GhostI spent a day giving workshops to groups of teachers and novice authors, as well as an illustrated talk to all the attendees. It was all similar to the talks I give across Canada (and occasionally beyond), except for one detail. The education director sat in on nearly every session and then Continue reading

Presenting “Pretty Good” Photographs Badly

A friend gave me the latest issue of The Walrus, Canada’s answer to the deceased Saturday Night — Canada’s long-lived kick at the arts and letters canon. (It was euthanized in 2005.)

The Walrus has never been a favourite magazine of mine — I dropped my subscription years ago because it was tediously uneven and the good seldom outweighed the bad. Anyway, my recent free copy arrived in the middle of this weekend’s latest storm of the century and I accepted it gladly.

A “visual essay” by Scott Conarroe entitled “On the Edge of North America” caught my attention only because it seemed so bland. The introductory text explained that he had travelled around the North American coast in an old Toyota to document the coastline. My first glance at the pictures suggested he had found it a depressing quest.

Ketchikan, AlaskaBefore I moved into illustrated books, I got my start at magazines that put text and photographs together so I’m always interested to watch magazine photo editors at work.

Why, I wondered, had The Walrus editors chosen Continue reading

Riding the iBook Wave

Well, Everest: High Expectations has been available on the world’s 50 iTunes stores for a few weeks now. It seems odd that I can sit here in my backwoods office — tethered to the rest of the world by a small internet satellite dish — and watch the iBooks’ first tentative steps onto the international scene without even going outside.

Everest is slowly attracting the attention of readers and the mountaineering publishing world. We’ve had a lot of enthusiastic reviews posted on the American and Canadian iTunes sites and received many more as emails. I’ve met some new people through the book (notably editor, writer and mountaineer John Harlin) and exchanged emails with folks in Turkey, New Zealand, England, Russia and Georgia. Our first full-length review comes from the mountain town of Whistler, B.C. — The Pique’s Lynn Martel shows that she understands Everest’s 3-dimensional nature. You can read it here.

Many are drawn to the Everest adventure story but some are just as excited about Continue reading

Another Bookstore Slipping Away

© Ottawa Citizen

I woke up this morning to hear CBC Ottawa Morning’s host mention that independent bookstore Collected Works was on the brink of closing. An ill-timed expansion of the store in 2010 seems to have undermined the economics of the small independent bookstore. It has until  Christmas Eve to find a financial backer. The Ottawa Citizen has the details.

Having watched my favourite Ottawa bookstores close in the past year or so (the long-lived Shirley Leishman’s Books and Books on Beechwood as well as Nicholas Hoare and Mother Tongue), I find it sad to think that readers in Canada’s capital city may one day be served only by a handful of Chapters superstores and a collection of used bookstores.

I entered the book publishing world with my first book in 1984 (a lateral move from magazine publishing) and remember the next 15 years fondly. The world of books was collegial and smart and fun. Each year, hundreds (could it have been thousands?) of booksellers and publishers would meet Continue reading