Sunday, February 24, 2013

Rock. Paper. VIA.

Actually, scissors.  That's what I used to 'cut and paste' this article published in last Thursday's Kingston This Week. Katrina Geenevasen's writing added human interest, while Rob Mooy's photo puts me in one of my favourite places - trackside at Kingston's VIA station.  The paper has been doing a series on local authors and their books, and it was nice to be included in some great, and very creative company.

The article concludes with a nice tie-in to the Kingston Rail-O-Rama at the Ambassador Convention Centre and Resort on Princess Street on March 16 & 17, just a stone's mega-throw away from the station.  I'll be hosting a table there, with all three of my books available, my pen fired up for inscribing, and some other goodies for sale.

Hope to see you there,

Sunday, February 17, 2013

VIA + Bus = Book

I had a visitor from the east yesterday.  'X-CN Ken' Wadden,  former CN, VIA and AMT employee who wanted copies of my two recent VIA books. Ken is shown above on his second-last run in 2009.  We emailed back and forth, and from the discussion, I gathered that he rode VIA...a lot. I offered to deliver his copies to his train at Kingston's VIA station.  He said it was okay, he'd drop by my house.    He was looking forward to an adventure, having checked out Kingston Transit's online schedules.  Ken, you are The Intrepid Traveler!
Ken arrived on Saturday morning, we had a short chat and he picked up his books.  Gotta go - bus to catch! (While Kingston Transit is no longer operating GMC fishbowls, 7975 is shown at the PUC car barns on Counter Street, with Permanent Concrete in the background).  Both return-trip bus drivers were well-versed on the railway scene, and were also avid VIA riders.

Ken's suggestion, and I think it's a despicably daunting though tempting one, is based on his perusal of my books on the trip back to La Belle Province aboard VIA Nos 54/56.  Running 25 minutes late, that gave Ken some extra reading time, and he's suggesting a VIA Learning Centre in my basement, in an ex-Reading Crusader lounge car mockup no less.

Having clearly enjoyed his trip, this was yet another unusual and interesting method of delivery to a customer.  It's just another thing that makes the creation of these books so much fun. Merci bien et amusez-vous bien avec vos livres sur les trains, Ken!


Saturday, February 2, 2013

How to Write YOUR Book

All along, an important part of creating these books on VIA Rail has been to encourage you to write YOUR book.  Though most people I tell this to will immediately roll their eyes or shuffle their feet, it's completely within the realm of possibility.  If I can do it, YOU can do it too.  I'm writing this post as a suggested course of action, as inspiration, not as a how-to.  Having read several books on the topic of writing a book, I distilled some of their contents useful to my projects. (Top photo - VIA hogger Terry Brennan receives his VIA Rail book at Kingston's VIA station)

Headings are followed by bulleted points - these are things to consider.
Numbered points are steps I took in creating my books on VIA Rail.

  • Reflect on what your book will be.
  • Do an environmental scan.  Has this been done before?
  • If so, take a different approach
  • Are you actually going to finish this?
  • If so, decide on an approximate timeline
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Write for them, remembering you want readers to be able to read and understand your book
  • Don't be self-indulgent, but write for yourself, too.
  • Three C's: Commitment, continuity, confidence!
Define your scope:
1. What will you include, what will you not include?
2. What timeframe will you cover?
3. What is a comfortable balance of text and photos?
4. How many pages, what format will your book be?

Define your approach:
1. Lone-wolf or team approach?
2. If team approach, make contact with contributors
3. Always keep contributors informed of progress
4. Remember - you need them more than they need you
5. So, treat contributors responsibly and with care.
6. Don't be surprised if you need to modify your approach as the project evolves.

  • Do a little bit every day.  I repeat, every day!  If you do this, you will ensure completion
  • Write what you know, then expand on it as you learn more.
  • Constantly envision the finished product.
What worked for me:
1. Create feedstock file keeping your scope in mind: newsletters, magazines, online material
2. Use Post-it's or flags to mark pages.
3. Transcribe information in chronological information into notebooks
4. Include original source and that transcription is correct before moving on.
5. Organize information to find headings
6. Shake it out, filter it through
7. Broad headings: programs, locomotives, cars, disposition, operations
8. Organize information again - photocopy notebooks, cut and tape under headings
9. Write text under headings - sleep on it then reread/revise.
10. Print off drafts, keep in binder as mockup of book.

  • Select to support text
  • Match to headings for readability, unity, logical order
  • Avoid duplication, include as much variety as possible
(Photo above - Amtrak Superliner consist at Portage la Prairie, by contributor Brian Schuff)

  • Start a to-do list, what is still missing, what needs to be done?
  • Develop need-to-do's on Post-it notes
  • Feedstock file should be shrinking rapidly
1. Fact-check and triangulate facts as many times as possible.
2. Consult experts for specific critical information
3. Proofread and proofread again!
4. Send critical information to peer reviewers for typos, correctness of content, readability.
5. Submit to printer for proof copy.
6. Check proof copy. This may be the moment of greatest excitement you've envisioned.
7. Go to print.

At that point, it's time for the Highball! (Above photo - first printing of my Cross-Canada Compendium are delivered by Bryan Babcock...right to my door)