8 Days a Week

October 2014

Well, I guess it was nine days, or even ten, but the period just over was pretty packed. It kicked off on Oct. 15 at Voglers Cove, NS, with a full house at the community hall being as interested in hearing about Thomas and The Maze as any author could ever want an audience to be in his or her work. Then there were the many close to final revisions made to the text of what will be published by Nimbus next spring as Grand Pré, Landscape for the World, co-authored with Ronnie-Gilles LeBlanc. In the meantime, I had to prepare detailed review comments for Scholastic Press for a forthcoming YA book on Louisbourg, and put together a PowerPoint to go alone with my discussions to be offered at the University of New Brunswick and Mount Allison University on Oct. 22/23. In both venues, and at bookstore events, I could not have had a more engaged rooms of students and faculty. It seems my transition from historian to novelist, and how that came about via my experiences at the Fortress of Louisbourg, strikes a responsive chord. I’ll be giving something like that same presentation — it is ad-libbed using some images to keep me on track — at St. Mary’s University in Halifax in about three weeks and then at Cape Breton University in mid-January 2015. (And maybe something similar at Acadia University in Feb. 2015).

The three recent speaking events impressed on me yet again how diverse readers’ interests are. We are snowflakes, I guess: no two alike. We all look for and find what it is that interests us when stories come alive as we turn the pages in the books that we read. I really like these events, meeting readers and other writers and exchanging views on history, fiction or whatever they like.

 

A portion of the tenth day, yesterday, was well spent in Truro at the Colchester Historeum. I’m part of the Camus Productions team that is working with the Historeum exhibit group to develop an eye-opening exhibit that will present itself to the world in August or September 2015.

Plus ça change, plus …

October 2014

Maybe it’s because I have spent a lot of years studying the 18th century — yes, maybe that’s all it is — but I am constantly struck by how our current era seems to be moving headlong toward the same kind of economic and class separation that existed in the latter stages of the Ancien Régime. The gap between rich and poor, powerful and powerless, grows with each passing week, month and year. Everyone knows it, yet what is to be done? We have to find ways to alter the galloping imbalance or it will not end in a good way. The end of the Ancien Régime tells us that. What sparks this comment right now, far from a new idea, is that I recently crossed the country by air. As I passed through the front of the plane, where the “elite and super elite” stretch out in their 21st-century sedan chairs, while the rest of us parade to the back in our sardine-packed chairs, made me think of the world as it was, and is becoming so again.

Revisiter un sujet

October 2014

J’étais vraiment surpris quand j’ai reçu une invitation l’autre jour de faire une présentation à un colloque d’avoir lieu à l’Université Laval en juin 2015. Le sujet : les Récollets de Bretagne qui ont servi Louisbourg et l’Isle Royale au XVIIIe siècle, un sujet que j’ai recherché il y a 30 ans! Mais pourquoi pas? Pourquoi pas revisiter les Récollets et offrir une nouveau survol de leur travail dans l’ancienne colonie française. Merci à Paul-André Dubois, un professeur d’histoire à l’Université Laval, d’avoir pensé à moi. J’aime bien participer dans les sessions.

What a complete surprise to be invited to speak on a subject I published about 30 years ago, the Brittany Récollets who served at Louisbourg and on Ile Royale between 1713 and 1758. I thought, yes, maybe I should revisit the topic through a somewhat higher altitude lens, and now that I’m supposedly older and wiser when I first wrote about their missionary work. I’m very much looking forward to returning in June 2015 to Quebec City and the Université Laval where I did my doctorate. Sometime between now and then I’ll have to write a paper and come up with a presentation.

Version française

September 2014

Je suis bien content d’apprendre que la version française du livre sur les Mi’kmaq de l’île-de-Prince-Édouard sera bientôt disponible. La maison d’édition est La Grande Marée de Tracadie-Sheila au Nouveau-Brunswick. Le lancement est à temps pour l’ouverture le 10 octobre de l’exposition du même nom au Musée canadien de l’Histoire à Gatineau, Québec.

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Writing

August 2014

Following my recent visit to Isle Madame, where I had several good conversations about Thomas, A Secret Life and The Maze — and the novels yet to come to complete the quartet — I find myself once again mulling over why I have moved from a long career of writing history over the divide into fiction. The shortest answer seems to be writing is how I figure out the world. That’s writing of any and every kind. When it was history, writing about the research I had carried out was how I came to find out as precisely as I could what all the data and stories meant. But all along I knew it was an exterior understanding with obvious limitations, depending on the sources available. With fiction, I aspire to be inside the characters and with them in all the settings they explore. History versus fiction, outside versus inside: I don’t claim one to be superior to the other, but it’s through the writing that I continue to make sense of the world.

I have posted a few photos taken during my brief Isle Madame sojourn on Facebook at A J B Johnston, Writer.

Boston

July 2014

I was recently back in Boston for the first time in many years, and this time in the company of my two sons. Yes, watching the Red Sox at Fenway Park was the main reason for the trip. And sitting there watching baseball in such a great setting, rekindled affection I used to have for the game when I was a kid. Aside from the Sox, we also enjoyed the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum, North Boston, Newbury Street, Fanueil Hall / Quincy Market, Beacon Hill and Louisburg Square. I’ve posted a few photos, with more to come, on my Facebook site (A J B Johnston, Writer). It functions as the Visual Archives to go along with this web site.