Monday, December 29, 2014

Who's laughing now, Mr. Bond?

Right now I am making last-minute changes to my manuscript before the editorial staff at Dundurn takes a knife to it. The experience reminds me of how peculiar it is to be on this side of the writing and editorial process.

As a high school teacher-librarian, I'm used to advising students on research skills, documentation, avoiding plagiarism, formatting, grammar & syntax... And though it all seems so obvious in my day job, I'm finding it a lot trickier when it comes to my own stuff. For instance:

  • documentation is hard! The Works Cited runs to forty sources and I'm going crazy trying to figure out how to list old books reproduced by Google Books or reprinted three times by three different publishers in three different formats...
  • I thought footnotes were dead! I haven't taught them since MLA 6th edition and I have mercilessly made fun of the one teacher who wanted me to explain them to students (sorry Kenzie!) But of course, a book for the general public needs notes, not parenthetical references, and so I have had to fight my way through a couple of hundred obscure and complicated references (see previous point) with page numbers. And they have to be correct!
  • does Chicago Style mean that it comes with onion rings? After mercilessly making fun of the one teacher who ever enquired about it (sorry Andy!), I should have predicted that Dundurn would live and die by the 1026 pages of the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition. It's not just a way of formatting text -- it's a religion. There is no matter of faith or etiquette which Chicago Style has not examined and settled. I am a late -- but earnest -- convert.
  • who knew academic dishonesty was so easy? Can't find the page number for the endnote? Well, it was probably around page 134... Not sure where that little factoid for the caption came from? Don't bother citing it -- no-one will notice or ask... Don't have time to get right down to the primary sources? Just paraphrase the second or tertiary sources -- it'll probably be fine... The temptation to cut corners is all but irresistible in the face of deadlines and lack of expertise. I never thought that I would have to struggle so hard to keep on the straight and narrow. Must stay strong! I don't want to go to the Big House!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A renaissance of interest

At the end of October, I had the pleasure of speaking briefly to the Société d’Histoire de Toronto. The SHT is a petite, dynamic community organization that punches well above its weight. Over the last few years, it has realized the Sentier Partagé/Shared Pathway project along the lower reaches of the Humber; organized a regular series of talks on various historical topics; and conducted scores of guided tours of sites in and around Toronto. Next year, as part of the celebration of 400 years of francophone presence in Ontario, the SHT is re-enacting Étienne Brûlé’s 1615 trip down the Toronto Carrying Place (an expedition which the Société has kindly invited me to join). Ils sont débrouillards, ces amateurs d’histoire! They know how to get things done!
The SHT can take credit for this Shared Path/Sentier Partagé display focusing on Toronto's French heritage. The plaque in the centre of the grove is dedicated to Jean Baptiste Rousseau, Toronto's first European settler, whose house was located near this site.

The SHT is just one of the players behind the growing fascination with Ontario’s early history. The Mississaugas of the New Credit are the host aboriginal nation of the 2015 Pan-Am Games, and plan to highlight Toronto’s Native heritage next summer. The Town of Penetanguishene is restaging Samuel de Champlain’s 1615 visit to Huronia, and the Ontario400 project (run by the provincial government and several other organizations) is happily encouraging and promoting events to commemorate Ontario’s 400 French years...

Then there are the books. Just to mention a few of the most recent and readable:

I am delighted to find my own book in such distinguished company and to play a small part in this renaissance of interest in the history of Southern Ontario.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Welcome to the Toronto Carrying Place!

part of the Pine Valley Drive trail, north of Langstaff Road
Thank you for joining me today on the trail. 

One of my deepest interests -- and a prime reason for me writing a book -- is exploring how the past seeps into the present. The Carrying Place never had an imposing physical presence. It was, after all, a simple footpath through the woods; easily overgrown by bush or erased by anyone clearing forest. But it was an important part of life for people in Ontario for thousands of years, and it created ripples in Ontario's history that we can still see today. In this blog I hope to discuss some of those consequences and look at how the Carrying Place still flashes into our awareness from time to time.

Other issues that may well come up:
  • Southern Ontario's missing Native heritage
  • (the horror of) development in the Greater Toronto Area
  • les 400 ans de présence francophone en Ontario
  • Étienne Brûlé -- Carrying Place commuter or not?
  • the complicated business of archaeology in Ontario
And I'm hoping that readers will be able to help clear up some of the stickier technical details that stumped me during my trip and during the writing of the book. Was Emery Creek really "Drunken Creek"? How many horses did Lt-Gov Simcoe take with him up the Carrying Place in 1793? I'm sure that we'll be able to figure it out together.

Let me know about your interest in the Toronto Carrying Place. I'm looking forward to talking with you over the next few months.

With best regards,