Great Ormsby Review of River Tales – Networking or Just Good Luck?


Here Forbes provides with a near-diary intimacy (seasoned with good humour and minus the angst present in much of anyone’s personal jottings in the moment) a perceptive and well-paced account of an important two-decade period of her life. A reader needn’t have lived in this region of Vancouver Island, let alone hobby-farmed or even homesteaded, to be able to relate overall to her “Cowichan years.” For most of us, this is what life is: a ride through personal growth, relationships, social change, successes, losses, and joys. And that ride takes us down a common channel, one with a combination of meanders, back eddies, tumultuous runs and, if we’re lucky, many long stretches of sweet calm. ~ Georgina Montgomery, Ormsby Review

River Tales coverI’ve always had a knack for gathering people, instantly looking for that connection, that three degrees of separation that delights us when we find it. Some might call it networking; I call it joy in meeting someone who looks interesting, or a little different—someone who could belong to my tribe.

Years ago, when I worked at the post office in Duncan, I frequently came across people who were new in town and I would often blurt out an invitation to a gathering at the river, such as the annual corn roast or a neighbourhood party.

I well remember one such event. There was a young social worker who had recently moved to Duncan, and I sort of befriended him. One day he mentioned that he and his wife were finding it hard to meet people.

“I’m having a pot luck this Saturday. Bring your swim gear and come on out,” I offered. “You’ll meet some people.”

I was standing near this young man as he was loading up his plate with tabbouleh and other semi-vegetarian options, when he stopped, slowly looked over to his wife and exclaimed, “My God Joan, we’ve found the alternative people.”

My ability to instinctively make instant connections has stood me well. When I wrote my first book, Growing Up Weird, I decided to self publish, and happened to meet Patrick O’Connor of First Choice Books at a workshop. There were other printing and self publishing outfits there, all with good reputations, but I was drawn to First Choice Books. I liked Patrick and his information booklet on self-publishing. At First Choice, I was fortunate to be able to work with Felicity Perryman, who, I found out later, was the person who had designed the booklet that influenced my decision to go with First Choice. Beside producing Growing up Weird, Felicity went on to design and do the layout and formatting of my partner’s book, View from the Tower, as well as my second book, River Tales. She also designed and manages my website Osborne Bay Books.

There was another meaningful connection that came along in this writing adventure. In one of the most serendipitous moments in my life, I gained a new friend and the best editor I could ever hope to find. In 2017, Grant and I were on an up-island book tour for View from the Tower, about his days as an air traffic controller in Port Hardy and beyond. I had an appointment to see the book purchasing person at the museum in Sointula on Malcolm Island, and I met Heather Graham, retired, a volunteer at the museum.

Two hours passed in which Heather and I covered almost every aspect of our lives; we were born the same year, both in Victoria, both at the same hospital; our lives took different paths but we connected with a capital C and promised to stay in touch. She only bought one of Grant’s books for the museum, but I acquired a wonderful friend.

A year later Heather asked to see my River Tales manuscript and offered to edit it at no charge.  I couldn’t have been luckier. She kept me focused. She was exactly the person I needed.

My book would never have been as well designed or as well written as it is without the expertise of these two women, Felicity Perryman and Heather Graham.

It was Heather who suggested that I contact Richard Mackie of the highly respected Ormsby Review and offer River Tales for a review.

And again, that was just another connection but look where it led: this brilliant review of River Tales by Georgina Montgomery, another writer and editor.

You may wish to call it networking, but I prefer to call it serendipity.


From Peanuts to Ann Patchett and Nashville


Sylvia, from my writers’ group, gave me an autographed copy of Ann Patchett’s latest book, The Dutch House. The cover, a portrait of a young girl wearing a red coat, is stunning but it doesn’t seem to go with the title. It wasn’t until I read the last page and put the book down on my night table and turned off my bedside light, did the significance of the cover hit me. And no, I am not giving it away; that was my ‘aha’ moment; it may not be yours.

I turned the light back on and studied the picture on the cover and I knew I would have to read the book again; something I seldom do. Ann Patchett’s books have that affect on me. The Dutch House, about families and the bond between siblings, is now my favourite Patchett book, knocking an earlier novel State of Wonder, down to second place.

Sylvia bought The Dutch House for me in Ann Patchett’s bookstore, Parnassus, in Nashville, Tennessee.

We have to go back a bit so you will know how this came to be. Last month I was reading one of those timely articles in our local paper on books to buy for Christmas. The book that caught my eye was a Peanuts book, and anything Peanuts being the perfect gift for my son, a fan since childhood, I immediately ordered it from my local bookstore, Volume One Books in Duncan BC.

The book came with a long title: The Peanuts Papers, Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang and the Meaning of Life. It was a collection of essays by well known authors and artists, fan letters if you will, on how the Peanuts cartoons changed their lives.

The Peanuts Papers, Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang and the Meaning of Life
The Peanuts Papers, Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang and the Meaning of Life

The newspaper article mentioned that the writer Ann Patchett, had an essay titled To the Doghouse in the book, but most importantly it also talked about her bookstore in Nashville that she co owned with her business partner and how her dogs spent their days at the store. I loved the concept of animals in a bookstore and if I were in Nashville, I would definitely go to Parnassus with the hope of meeting her.

In a lovely coincidence, I knew that my friend Sylvia Holt was visiting her musician daughter in Nashville at the time and I emailed her to say, if you have time, drop in to Parnassus and give me a report. Say hello to Ann if she’s there.

Sylvia entering Parnassus bookstore in Nashville
Sylvia entering Parnassus bookstore in Nashville

Sylvia did more than that, she sent me photos of the bookstore, pictures of herself reading on a big comfy couch in the middle of the store and she bought a ton of books, including the signed copy of The Dutch House for me. I think Sylvia petted one of the dogs, but I am not sure, as she isn’t a dog person.

Sylvia relaxing in comfort at Parnassus bookstore.
Sylvia relaxing in comfort at Parnassus bookstore.

Ann wasn’t there that day, she was on a book tour selling copies of The Dutch House, but here’s the thing about liking a person’s writing; you want to know more about them and find ways to build a connection and having my friend visit Ann’s bookstore and bringing back her signed book, in a bag with their imprint, plus a book mark with the Parnassus logo, was nearly as good as being there myself.

Musings of an island crone



Review of Growing Up Weird in BC Studies!

Liz Maxwell Forbes
Reviewed by Caroline Duncan

In Growing Up Weird: A Memoir of an Oak Bay Childhood, author Liz Maxwell Forbes provides a very personal account of childhood in a British Columbia community in the 1940s and 1950s. Drawing from her early experiences, Forbes describes a family life disrupted by the Second World War, her parents’ divorce, and her struggles to find independence away from the tensions of home and the expectations of society.

Although at times a disturbing and candid reminder of the vulnerability of childhood, Forbes’s account is punctuated with…

Read the full review on BCStudies.comFacebooktwittermail

our business cards

It is becoming real


We got our business cards last week. Business cards with our name, our web page and the names of our books. We are in business! I love the picture on our business card. It is reproduced from the photo on our webpage. The photo is of a foggy morning in Osborne Bay and  was taken by my friend Jean Ballard. Jean writes a blog featuring her photographs of animals and places around Crofton and the Chemainus Valley.


Heron - Nanaimo Marina Seawalk



I thought I saw Freddie on the Sea Walk the other day. I was quite far away but it looked like him as he was standing at a slight tilt with arms clasped behind his back. He was gazing out at the marina, perhaps at the great blue heron that owns that spot of shore line. My steps quickened momentarily and then I remembered. Freddie was dead.


Coffee and a muffin as restorative downtime.



I treated myself today. Not by shopping for clothes or stuffing down chocolate cake—I treated myself with downtime. My free time has been taken up with writing. Grant, my husband, and I are doing the finishing touches on our memoirs. Both of us leap out of bed in the middle of the night and scribble down a thought. Often in the wee hours of the morning I see the lights on in Grant’s study. Some days my head is in turmoil with scattered images and I can’t organize them into sentences. That is when I procrastinate by eating or baking.   


The sea walk gazebo in Nanaimo, BC



We didn’t go anywhere this summer. Usually we take picnics to the beach, swim in the ocean, and take day trips to all the small towns up and down island. This summer we lived like moles, tucked into our respective studies, writing. I was working on my memoir Growing Up Weird and Grant was writing View From The Tower, tales of his life as an air traffic controller in Port Hardy. It was abnormally hot outside and our house was cool.