A chat with novelist McAdam

Writing students get a chance to talk face-to-face with distinguished author

Several creative writing students made the trip up from Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo campus to hear some words of wisdom from Canadian novelist Colin McAdam (centre).

Several creative writing students made the trip up from Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo campus to hear some words of wisdom from Canadian novelist Colin McAdam (centre).

It is not too often you get to have a fireside chat with an award winning novelist about his literary work and his observations into the world of publishing, so a grey wet Friday in Parksville was definitely upbeat and illuminating for a group of about 80 guests who attended a meet-the-author event featuring Colin McAdam.

Widely recognized for originality of voice and observation, the acclaimed young Canadian novelist had his audience captivated as he talked about his career and read excerpts from his newest novel, soon to be published by Penguin books of Canada.  Tentatively titled Bad Bugs, his latest novel is a story about chimpanzees, which his publisher at the literary imprint, Hamish Hamilton, described as “unlike anything she has ever read before — it is simultaneously inventive, heartbreaking and smart. Readers will be transported by the novel and never want to return.”

McAdam who lives in Montreal, is in District 69 for a few weeks because his girlfriend’s family is from Qualicum Beach and their child is visiting his grandparents.

It’s hard to keep it on the down low when there is an acclaimed novelist in town and when Elaine Reynaud found out, she thought it would be a great opportunity to have a fundraising event for the Oceanside Hospice Society (OHS). Lynn Wood, executive director of the OHS said they approached McAdam about presenting a talk and he was all for it. She agreed it was a unique and interesting event and she hopes to do more of them in the future.

“We thought it might be a good vehicle to get information out about hospice activities.

“It was good exposure for hospice and we are thinking of doing more events like it in the future,” she said.

Wood said they would like to invite other authors or specialists in various areas related hospice who could speak on all sorts of topics.

“Hospice is about living not about dying.  There is a lot of information out there and we want to demystify and take the fear out of what we do.”

OHS has been supporting the community since 1990 by serving individuals and their families who are facing end of life issues and bereavement from Nanoose Bay to Bowser.  With the help of over 90 volunteers they offer a variety of support programs from equipment loan delivery, to providing respite for exhausted caregivers.

Wood said Valhalla is the home base of their operation in Qualicum Beach where they train staff who provide self care for people in palliative care including healing touch and other therapies.

The event raised $800 for the organization and the 80 people who came to the Craig Bay Beach Club House to listen to McAdam were fortunate to get a glimpse into the research that went into his latest novel and some insights into what it is like to be an author in the ever-changing world of publishing.

McAdam was asked how he felt about the trend towards e-books and he admitted that as long as people are reading, the format doesn’t matter.

“All we need are writers and readers.  The best I will make is 12 per cent from my book sales. We receive little from books and as a creative person I find it frustrating, but there are higher royalties from e-books,” he admitted.

The harsh reality about the world of writing was insightful for a group of creative writing students who made the trip from Vancouver Island University’s campus in Nanaimo.

Jennifer Davis the Internship Co-ordinator who accompanied several third and fourth year interns on the field trip asked McAdam for his best advice he would give to up and coming writers and his words of optimism were well received.

“You’ve got to work and stick with your ideas.  With budding writers 90 per cent of them don’t write the novel. That’s the hard part. It’s a really lonely business. You have to ask yourself why am I doing this. Do I want to suffer these lonely days?”

McAdam touched on the the cut-throat side of the business and said booksellers only give a book 30 days to take off and remove it from inventory after 45 days if it doesn’t sell. He said gone are the days when people will publish an author regardless of sales. He agreed it is hard to find loyalty in the business which has many ups and downs.

McAdam is fortunate that his debut novel Some Great Thing won the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award. He was a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.

His second novel, Fall (2009) won the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for fiction and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.


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