Book Launch Speech – Nov. 13, 2016

Five years ago, when I began to write River of the Stick Wavers, I wasn’t even thinking in terms of publishing. All I wanted to do was write a story, based on an obituary I’d read in the Globe and Mail. It was about a woman who paddled her boat back and forth to an island, all by herself, well into her 90th year.  I thought “Who is this woman?”  “What is her story?” And everything that followed after that was designed to answer those questions.

First of all I needed an island.  That’s where my friend, Helen comes into the picture.  She actually has a cottage, or camp as they call it, on Four Mile Island in the French River.  So I took her out to lunch one day and got her to tell me all about it between mouthfuls of food.  Once I had chosen my setting, I started to delve into the history of the French River and found out its rich with stories of Samuel de Champlain, missionaries, voyageurs, and the native people who live there.  But what’s even more intriguing is there’s also a myth surrounding the history of the French River.  So I found a way to include this as well.

But I still needed to figure out what my main character, Grace was doing on the island.  So I invented a back story for her, and started to include other characters that would enable Grace to work through her many challenges.

Once I’d completed the first draft of my novel, I asked a few of my friends to read it and offer their feedback.  But what then, I wondered.  Enter Sara Saddingtion who, as luck would have it, I used to babysit.  Turns out she had gone to study literature at Dalhousie University and was currently living in Toronto and edited books for a living.  What luck.  Her mother, and a long-time friend of mine, Mia, asked Sara if she’d be willing to edit my book for me.  If Sara hadn’t agreed, I doubt I would have even considered looking for a publisher.  But because of the work we did together, my confidence increased.

I remember the first time we sat down together and she grilled me about the choices I’d made.  Why this, and why that?  I initially felt very defensive, until I realized she was only trying to understand my choices and the motivation behind them.  Whenever she wanted to offer a suggestion she’d use the Oreo cookie method.  She’d pump me up with something positive, then she’d hit me with the crunch.  Just kidding.  Even her suggestions were worded in such a way that I knew she only wanted me to write a better novel.

Now I was ready to look for a publisher.  I knew that I wanted to self-publish because it’s difficult to go the traditional route – that of a big name publisher.  That can takes years.  Besides, even with a big name publisher, I’d still have to do my own marketing and generate my own following, and they’d get the lion’s share of the profits.  I decided that since I did all the work, and would have to continue to do so, I may as well be the one to benefit.

I chose FriesenPress Publishing because they are a Canadian Company based in British Columbia, and have a very high rating with the Better Business Bureau.  They seemed like a pretty good bet.  We dialogued back and forth for a while until I was ready to make a commitment.  This meant sending them a big fat cheque to get things rolling.  I was scared to death.  With the simple act of clicking the send button on my computer, I had sent a chunk of change out into cyberspace to some publisher clear across the other side of the country.  I felt sick.  Had I done the right thing?  So I went out for a walk to calm my nerves.  But by the time I got back, FriesenPress had sent me a receipt to my email account.  I was able to breathe again.

Over the next few months my manuscript travelled back and forth through space at least six times while I made changes and more changes.  At one point I was getting so sick of reading that darn book.  But finally, it was done.  Well, almost done.  I still have some more work to do with FriensenPress on my marketing plan and setting up a web site.  But through it all FriesenPress held my hand through the challenges of making my novel the best it can be.

I’m very proud of this book, and grateful to all the people who helped and supported me through the writing of it.  And there are many.  Most of you are here in this room today.  I may or may not have been able to write this book without you, but I’m sure glad I didn’t have to find out one way or the other.  I’m just so happy that you were there to hold my hand, and let me cry and carry on when I was struggling, and I’m especially glad that my husband was willing to support my dream with his financial contribution. It is because of each and every one of you that I’m standing here today, holding this book in my hand and celebrating this incredible moment with all of you.  Thank you.

Categories: Writer's Notes


  • Carole Lucier

    Beautiful – so happy to be sharing in this wonderful journey of yours. I love Grace and her strength and innocence. So like the writer!! OO

    November 20, 2016 at 6:07 pm Reply
    • Gillian Andrews

      Hi Carole:
      I’m so glad you enjoyed my book. I never considered myself an innocent. It’s interesting how people perceive you. I do like the comment about my strength, however. That, I will accept with pleasure. Thanks for your comments.

      January 5, 2017 at 11:56 am Reply

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