Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sctaching Post

Back in October we told you about the new local magazine being published called "Temiskaming Shores In Season" published by Kelly Ouimet. You may have noticed that I wrote one column for Kelly called "Scratching Post". I by no means consider myself a writer, but I thought it would nice to post something longer that a paragraph on our blog. Anyways I hope you enjoy the write up and continue to enjoy "Temiskaming Shores In Season".


Sratching Post Issue #1

I had the great pleasure this summer of meeting Will Ferguson, “the funniest writer in Canada” according to the National Post. I waited in line for about an hour for a copy of his new book Spanish Fly which is due out this September. When it was my turn to amble up to the counter and ask for Will's signature, I gave my usual spiel. Hello my name is Paul McLaren, my wife and I own a Independent bookstore in Northern Ontario, if you are ever up our way we would love for you to stop in. Will took a quick look at my name tag, and said hey you are from New Liskeard! How is Miss Clay Bell doing? Did you know I lived in New Liskeard for a summer working at the agricultural college? I was there when they put Miss Clay Bell up. “No”, I stammered “I had no idea.” “Ya it 's all in my book Why I Hate Canadians” he said. I was a little embarrassed that I hadn't read the book, but we chatted a bit more about the area and the family he lived with while he worked that summer in New Liskeard and then I went on my way. It wasn't until a few weeks after we got back from Book Expo that I remembered I needed to get a copy of Why I hate Canadians. I also checked out Will's website ( and lo and behold under his biography I read the following:

“After Katimavik, Will lived in Quebec City, and the following summer he joined Canada World Youth, an overseas exchange program between Canada and the developing world.
Will's tour of duty with CWY (1985-86) took him first to New Liskeard, Ontario and then to Ecuador in South America. In New Liskeard, Will worked at an agricultural college where his duties included shoveling manure, herding sheep and--on occasion--helping to deliver calves.”
So it got me thinking what other great works of fiction are out there about our area. It didn't take me long to find Mary Lawson's The Other Side of the Bridge published in 2006. You may remember her first book Crow Lake, winner of the McKitterick Prize and the Books in Canada First Novel Award, published in 2002. Ms. Lawson was actually in our area in 2003, working on research for her then new book The Other Side of the Bridge, unfortunately for us we were still under construction and we would not be open until October that year, well after Ms. Lawson had left the area. But why did Ms. Lawson choose Northern Ontario for the setting of her novels? I thought I would try her website since I'd been lucky with Will Ferguson's. Unfortunately, she does not have one at this time, but I did come across an author interview based on her first book Crow Lake on the Random House website:

“Q. Why did you choose northern Ontario as the background for this novel? How much did you draw on your own childhood experiences?

A. I grew up in southern Ontario, but my family spent a lot of time in the North, and it is the North I think of when I think of home.

The community I grew up in was larger than Crow Lake, less isolated, much less homogeneous, and less remote, but it was isolated enough that people depended on each other, and took care of each other. There is a downside to small communities of course–they are hell on earth for those who don’t fit in–but I remember it with affection, and Crow Lake is in some respects a tribute to it.

Small incidents in the book did take place in reality–people regularly go through the ice out on the lake, for instance, and the winter storms I’ve described are drawn from life. The ponds are drawn from life too–as in the novel, they were back beyond the railroad tracks, and were full of all manner of marvelous wriggling creatures.”
( if you would like to read the full interview you can go to

In the novel The Other Side of the Bridge, New Liskeard is mentioned as the much larger town southeast of the fictional town of Struan and each chapter begins with a quote from the Temiskaming Speaker.

Another famous fictional town from our area is featured in the novels of Giles Blunt. Algonquin Bay just happens to be North Bay's darker alter ego. In Forty Words of Sorrow Mr. Blunt introduces us to Detective John Cardinal, a small town detective with a knack for solving crimes . Mr. Blunt is a former resident of North Bay, who was living in New York City but has recently moved to Toronto. He's written scripts for Law & Order, Street Legal and Night Heat.

These are just a few of the many interesting books that feature northern Ontario. Next time you're looking for a good read keep them in mind.

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