Out of the Warm Land

By Enise Olding

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Claudia Tenold is used to packing and unpacking cardboard boxes full of books, curiously sorting through the tantalizing contents to see which volumes will end up on the shelves of her used and collectible bookstore in downtown Duncan. Today, several boxes are different from the others, which brings a sparkle to Claudia’s eyes and quickens her pulse as she opens them. They contain the newly published Out of the Warm Land, a collection of stories and poems from Cowichan Valley writers and, of which, Claudia is one of the editors and publisher.

It all started when colleague Richard Neftin was discussing with Claudia a book he was preparing to publish. Her mind moved to the many writers she encounters through her profession, whose work might be gathered up and published in a book. “Hearing Richard talk about his book, I just thought, how hard could it be?” Claudia laughs, adding with hindsight, “Ignorance is bliss!”

No stranger to taking on new challenges, Claudia moved from Saskatchewan to British Columbia five years ago. Following up on a lead from someone she’d met in Mexico, she explored the possibility of running a B&B in Chemainus, but research made it clear it wasn’t for her. When a cousin showed Claudia and her sister Kathie around the local area, they came upon “two very nice bookstores” in Duncan that were available. They decided to just “do it,” and now they each run one of those stores.

Previously a teacher, Claudia finds much joy and satisfaction in books. She encouraged poets to post their works in her bookstore’s poetry corner and, eventually, Claudia’s file of local authors grew. So, the idea triggered by Richard’s publishing project was ripe for action.

Between them, Claudia and Richard, who worked at Kathie’s store, took the first step towards gathering the works of local authors for a published anthology. They weren’t sure what would happen when, in February 2009, they posted notices in the two bookstores that requested entries by May 2009. They waited.

“We were overwhelmed with interest,” Claudia says. Some entries were typed, some handwritten and lots were received by e-mail. Because they hadn’t put many criterions on entries, “we ended up with too many,” says Claudia. Mostly single entries were submitted, but one person sent in 30 poems. “And one high school student brought in a handwritten item with no name or contact information on it,” she says. “There were a lot of things we learned along the way!”

Now they had to tackle the tide of submissions and get them into some semblance of order before taking on the onerous task of deciding which entries to use in the anthology. “Britanny Fraboni who works in store was really helpful, entering everything into the computer and printing up two copies,” says Claudia.

Over 200 entries were received and, eventually, 54 people would be featured with roughly 70 articles in the anthology.

Richard took one copy of the entries, Claudia took the other, and they read each submission. They chose the ones they liked. “It was the only criteria we had,” says Claudia. Then they compared preferences and worked through the submissions to decide which would be too long, or better suited to other types of books, and to come up with a selection of works from a variety of writers. “We had differing opinions as to criteria,” says Claudia, “so many peoples’ work had possibilities and so [we] decided we didn’t want to be worried about judging it, but to put the emphasis on creativity.”

For Claudia, it came down to one thing: “I just wanted to see peoples’ work in print to give them confidence to keep writing. Not only for them to have their work published, but for them to get exposure without having to write an entire book themselves.”

Jerry Read is typical of a writer whose work found its way into the book.

“I told stories and wrote them for my kids and grandkids,” he says. “One day, I was talking with Claudia and she suggested I might submit one for inclusion in the book she was publishing. So I did.”

Jerry had never submitted his work for publication, but now he feels positive and encouraged. As an added bonus, “through it I’ve become aware of quite a few new local writers,” he says. “We share manuscripts and help each other out.” The story featured in the book, “The boy who wanted a Real Horse,” has morphed into a book for Jerry, in which this story forms the first chapter.

Poet John Steven saw the ad and was pleased to have the “opportunity for some of my writing to be shown to people in the community,” he says. This experience has given him the confidence to submit to other publications.

During the process, Claudia’s colleague Richard moved to Prince Edward Island, but she enthusiastically carried on with the project. She received encouragement from many, including previously published Chemainus author Eliza Hemmingway, who, Claudia recalls, reminded her that the book would not be perfect, and not to expect it to be. Photographer Jim Salt provided the book’s cover image, Britanny created some artwork, Jeff Downie, Pat Ormand and Kristi Koons of the bookstores also helped prepare the book for publication.

Learning each step along the way, Claudia eventually got the book to the printers, created the table of contents, page numbering and then went through a series of proof readings, making changes, and then modifications to the setup of the cover image before it all was signed off and went to print.

Now, Out of the Warm Land, containing the works of local authors can be shared with the community - and beyond. For Claudia, the process was a huge learning experience that called for patience and determination.

Would she do it again? “Yep!” is the firm answer. “People come into the bookstore, who I know belong to book clubs, or write stories and poems, but they would not put them up in our Poetry Corner display,” says Claudia. “People just felt too shy to submit their work, but now I show them the book and they say ‘I should have’ - and they promise to come forward for the next book.”




Out of the Warm Land is available at:

* Ten Old Books, 330 Duncan Street, Duncan, B.C. 250-715-1383 tenoldbooks@telus.net

* Gallowglass Books Ltd., 40 Ingam Street, Duncan, B.C.250-746-4104 www.gallowglassbooks.com

* Vancouver Island Public Library

Book presentation and readings by authors:

2 p.m., Saturday, February 6, 2010 at the Cowichan Branch of Vancouver Island Public Library.



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