Farewell SouthWest Mission

I’m so sorry that the Southwest United Church in Verdun will close its Mission in Verdun Elementary School on Melrose Street at the end of June when their current lease runs out.

Community group members have known about this for a while and church members for a bit longer than that, but the decision became public after Sophie Poisson wrote an article in French about it for the Verdun Messenger last week.

A day later, SouthWest posted more info to their Facebook page.

The Wednesday community lunch and the Mini-market are relocating to Dawson Boys and Girls Club as of April 24th.
In case it is ambiguous from reading the article, SouthWest Mission will remain in the Verdun Elementary building until the end of our lease on June 30th. In terms of Bonhomme à lunettes and the Halte allaitement (not halte garderie), we are hopeful these services, as well as two weekly AA meetings, will continue in the Mission space after SouthWest leaves, but there have been no guarantees. We have encouraged these groups to communicate directly with the school board which will make all decisions about the use of the space.

It’s going to take Dawson a while to restart the lunches, so the last one will be April 17 and the new ones will start sometime in the summer.

For more than a decade, Verdun residents who speak English have counted on the Mission to get healthy local food, have a gathering place with immigrant and French-speaking neighbours, and get local community projects underway (Un plante de tomate, Good Food Box, Wednesday mini-markets, marché-mobile, Verdun sans Faim, and événement santé to name a few). This despite the fact that very little public funding can be distributed directly to religious groups. The SouthWest Mission worked with partners who served as fiduciaries.

Throughout all this time, everyone involved worked hard to keep the Mission and the Church aligned. Looking back now, it’s clear that the project has been teeter-tottering over the last few years. Cracks appeared in the happy dedicated ambience that marked the location in its early years. Volunteers and employees struggled to work happily together. I wish things had been easier for all of you. Thanks so much for your work.

And thanks especially to Darlene, Léonore, Sheila and the others who have stepped forward to continue their projects at Dawson Boys and Girls Club. Your efforts on behalf of the community are so appreciated. Thank you enormously. And thank you Dawson for offering to help keep the projects going. We so appreciate it.

And lastly, farewell to Reverend David Lefneski. Thanks so much for making Verdun a better place.

Throughout all his years working in Verdun, David worked tirelessly with Amy, Darlene, Léonore, Sheila and countless others to get vulnerable people assistance, attention, community, health care, nutrition and whatever else they needed. Most of those of us who work on community projects have his cell phone number. I can say first hand that he responded to needs almost any time of the day.

I’m sorry to hear that Verdun will lose him as a regular leader in our community. He has been splitting his time with a church in Cowansville for several months now and will move there permanently at some point in the future. I hope his new community appreciates his enthusiasm and good-will just as Verdun has for many years. If any of you are reading this, and you want to get to know your new pastor, please listen to my podcast interview with him. I hope he’s as successful at building community there as he has been in Verdun.

In some ways, it’s not farewell anyway. Knowing David, I trust that he’ll find a way to connect Verdun with Cowansville in some wacky project in the future.

At least I hope so.

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Create Your Best Life with Imagination

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Have you ever created something that you didn’t even think was possible?

You imagined it and then it happened.

For me, my whole life is a little bit like that.

When I first moved to Montreal to become a writer, I had no idea how exactly you create a creative career.

And now it’s 25 years later. I’m married I have two children, but more than anything else I’m a writer.

It’s astonishing to me that my dream came true.

If you had told me when I was a little girl that I’d actually be writing books and writing and being a journalist and doing all the things that I do to make a living, I wouldn’t have believed you.

It was like a dream that lots of us had.

There are entire worlds that get created out of imagination.

It’s not just my life but the entire world around us.

We have Elon Musk actually sending off rockets into space.

We have the device that I’m filming this on is a tiny little thing like which is even smaller than the shoe.

It gets even more amazing.

\When he was a kid, Barack Obama couldn’t imagine being president, nor could Jimmy Carter.

If anyone would have told him when he was a kid that that would have been possible, he wouldn’t have believed it.

Justin Trudeau was a teacher in British Columbia. At that time, I’m sure he didn’t think he would ever be Prime Minister of Canada. It’s so amazing what you can do.

Everybody knows you can create entire worlds out of imagination

Just look at what J.K. Rowling has done with the Harry Potter series. All of us, all of a sudden, can imagine flying broomsticks and playing quidditch.

We can actually imagine two different worlds where some people are magical and the rest of us are just muggles.

And she created that all of her imagination.

It works in nonfiction too

That’s what I really want to talk about today.

I want to encourage you to create out of your imagination the life that you want.

Obviously you can imagine it. And what you imagine isn’t necessarily what’s going to take place, but at least you can create something is different than it would be if you didn’t try imagining something great.

There’s all sorts of books that that make this really clear.

Have you read the Blue Ocean Strategy? This is just an idea and somebody created an entire new way of thinking about business with this just one single idea. Do what’s unexpected.

There’s another book by Norman Doidge called The Brain That Heals Itself. This is something that people never imagined was true. And he discovered it is true.

Look at black holes.

Look at Steven Pinker’s world. His ideas is that we live in a kinder more gentler world.

These were all initially moments of imagination

Then the person who imagined something went out in the world and went to see if they could find evidence for their idea.

And they did.

And then the idea got stronger and then we all imagined it.

The United Nations has just announced that they want the Zero Hunger by 2030 they’ve created a campaign.

They are there.

They want saner agriculture practices. This is something that I think all of us can imagine would be nice. What if everyone woke up with enough food to eat and that it was so nutritious that they didn’t get sick. This is an extraordinary moment of imagination that I hope we can all get behind.

What else can you imagine?

What moments can you think up would be something that we can all get behind.

Every community is based first on a vision that people imagine and then they share

Each person imagines something they share their ideas with others and then you create a joint vision which is just a joint imagination.

There is Dan Sullivan and Peter Diamandis from Exponential Wisdom who talk a lot about extending human lifespan. Peter Diamandis wants to live for seven hundred years. Dan’s a little bit less optimistic; he’s only aiming to live for 156 years.

These are imaginary moments but they’re working on actually making this happen.

Peter Diamandis has created an organization where you can go down and get your genetic background to see if you are going to get sick. Basically it’s like a health organization to work on where you are at now so you can treat anything that might be found before it actually gets worse.

Obviously if you find and treat an illness really you have a better chance of survival.

So I mean this is just the way you look at basic medical treatment. The past looks barbaric now because people imagined better.

Antibiotics didn’t exist. A simple piece of mould had no value until somebody imagined more. Then they did the work.

All good ideas start with imagination and then they take work to accomplish. And that’s the hard part. But you have to begin by actually imagining something that’s amazing.

I think that the world of nonfiction is built on proving that what we imagine is true.

I’d love to hear how your using your imagination to create a better life for yourself and just let me know in the comments.

Thanks.

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How do you write a press release?

Press releases are not news.

The best press releases read like invitations for a news story rather than the news story itself. They include enough information that can be used “as is” for a short news brief and yet also hint at bigger features.

Remember that bloggers, journalists and other influencers are creators. Keep it simple so that the people using your press release have room to make the story their own.”

Some companies use press releases and blog posts interchangeably, but I recommend keeping the two types of communication separate.

Every press release contains 10 elements

To make it easy on a journalist, make sure that every press release contains 10 elements:

the traditional

  • who,
  • what,
  • when,
  • where, and
  • why, that any news story contains

plus:

  • at least one good quote,
  • a contact person for the journalist to talk to if they need more information,
  • a date for publication,
  • good audiovisuals and
  • a clear delineation between public information and private information for the journalist to use.

Public and Private Portions

Press releases include two parts: a public portion and a private portion. The public portion can and should be used as a news brief. The private portion includes information that helps build a relationship with the author of the press release and the news media, bloggers or other influencers. Press releases that provide enough information for creators to do a bigger story build trust.

Unlike all other written material, writers of press releases want the public portion of their press releases to be copied as is. These items are the single exception to the plagiarism rule. They enter the public domain immediately.

Publishing the private portions of press releases, however, breaks trust. Journalists who release stories before an embargo time, or publish the names of media contacts to the general public won’t get access to press releases in future.

Who

Who are you and why should a journalist believe you? Who does the news your press release features affect?

These are the two who elements that go into the private and public portions of press releases.

Who are you and why should a journalist believe you?

Press releases must clearly come from a credible source.

Business letterhead from a registered company helps make this clear, especially if it includes a public address, public websites, director names and public registration numbers so a journalist can check who runs the company, who owns the property it uses and other such tests of credibility.

Creators, solopreneurs and students without business letterhead can establish credibility by linking to published work or providing a CV or resume for further information.

Who does your news affect?

The public title or first line of a news release should make it clear whether the news affects a single person, a collective or a group of people in the wider public.

Later in the press release, you’ll outline who else is involved in your story. If you quote others, provide clear source information so that a journalist can follow up easily. Consider a joint press release to save journalists time.

Make sure that your press release format doesn’t raise more questions than it answers.

What

Why should the public care about your news?

Make sure your press release makes the public interest clear.

Journalists serve the public interest first. They’re looking to inform, entertain and inspire readers. They don’t aim to improve shareholder value; they don’t want to help private companies sell products; and they don’t want to start trends, even if that sometimes happens. Think of news as accurate gossip. Describe your story the same way you’d tell it to your next door neighbour.

When

Make sure the date and time of your news is extremely clear. Include the year please. Press releases have a sneaky habit of reappearing after they’re stale.

If your news covers multiple times and dates, it’s worth including a full list. We all make mistakes with dates and times. Check the calendar twice.

Where

List the full address with rooms and directions as necessary.

Yes, these days many of us have smart phones, but our applications don’t always steer us properly. The CBC building in Montreal, for example, has an official address of 1400 Boulevard René-Lévesque East. If you’re driving there, however, using the address 1058 Rue Wolfe instead will prevent you from getting lost.

Why

Why is your news important now? Where is the urgent need to inform the public? Why should people think about this issue now? The media cover the present. You can write a press release about something in the past or future as long as you clearly identify why people need to learn about it now.

Quotes

Include one or many good quotes from experts to show the human side of your news. Ideally, you’ll quote the person who cares most so that the public will also care.

Journalist Contact

Provide an email, text and mobile phone number for a person that a journalist can interview about the story. They’re on deadline. Make sure that someone can be reached.

Date for publication

Journalists love to know about stories before they can be made public. Tell them the date that they can publish by saying something like: “for immediate release” or “embargoed until 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 4, 2019.”

Good Audiovisuals

Provide high definition photos, audio or videos via link to an online folder or using a USB key.

Public/Private Delineation

Make sure your press release separates the public portion from the private portion clearly. I use the old-fashioned  -30- from the telegraph days, but others use hash tags or a private note.

Sample Press Releases

I love Blue Met’s press releases. They’re never more than a page and they include everything you need without too much. Most of them aren’t public, but here’s one that’s on their website about the appointment of their board chair.

Santropol Roulant, a local non-profit, has wonderfully-clear press releases. See the one about their new elevator here.

The Canadian Alliance on Mental Health also produces very clear press releases, something that’s got to be a challenge considering how many partners they have. Check out their latest local champion award winners here.

Public companies have to be very careful to make sure that their press releases fulfill public market regulations as well as informing people. CP Rail makes the most complicated news easy to read. Check out their latest debt offering.

Templates

I think press releases are better when you just answer the questions above clearly, but many templates for news releases exist, including those by CanadaOne, Coschedule, Forbes, Hubspot, and  Wikihow.

 

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Roch Carrier: A Canadian Icon

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to interview Roch Carrier, a wonderful author who wrote a series of diverse works from La Guerre, Yes Sir to The Hockey Sweater to his latest novel Demain, j’écris un roman.

He also directed the Canada Council for the Arts in the early 1990s and became National Librarian of Canada in 1997.

Carrier became an officer of the Order of Canada in 1991 and also serves as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Most of our conversation focussed on The Hockey Sweater, which became a musical last winter in the latest of a multitude of diverse creations.

Roch turns 82 next month, on May 13. Happy birthday, Roch!

Listen to my conversation with Roch

Here’s a transcript of our conversation, which took place in early 2017.

So I guess the first thing I would like to say is congratulations. It seems like you’re everywhere these days.

Yes there is a lot of things that are happening and I’m very lucky.

Is there a strategy about this? Did someone reach out to you?

No, there is no strategy around that story. The story is getting more and more popular because I don’t know why. It’s a good story. There was never a special strategy around that story. You know, it was just an anecdote that I turned into a story.

People Connect

and they have been connecting for sometimes three generations.

[00:02:13 I was in Calgary some days ago. And there were grandparents asking me to sign the book that they had when they were kids. The grandmother told me ‘oh I read that story when I was a little girl. I read it to my kids.’

[00:02:43] That’s amazing. There is no marketing that can do that. It just happens.

[00:02:58] You captured I think the sentiment of a lot of people in that story

Yes you know when I go to schools by example and before reading, I ask the kids ‘did it happen to you that you had to wear something that you didn’t want to wear.

[00:03:23] All of the hands raise,  you know.

[00:03:28] Everybody has had that type of experience. Maybe it’s because of that that this story is successful.

[00:03:55]There’s the book, the NFB film, the play and the musical. It’s almost like every decade or so someone comes up with a new way to present it.

[00:04:23] Yes. Every activity is like a gift to me.

The Hockey Sweater at the Symphony

I have this symphony thing that I’ve been doing now for five years. Abigail Richardson composed symphony music around the story. And it started very small I think.

So I was I received a phone call asking me ‘would you be free for one evening to read the story with the symphony orchestra.’ I answer yes because I like a challenge I like to do what I never did. I like to do anything that I’ve never done.

[00:05:26] And then we were in Toronto. I think we gave 14 readings at the Roy Thompson Hall.

And I’m very happy because am going back to Toronto in two or three weeks from now.

When do you do that?

I would be doing the same thing again. Reading the Hockey Sweater Story with the symphony orchestra. I mean it’s wonderful. You know people come and they wear sweaters.

So for the musicians you know they put the sweaters over their outfits.  It’s such a good mood you know. Not once was there tension. There are always multiple sweaters. Everyone has so much pleasure with this hockey mood at the symphony orchestra.

The music is great.

[00:07:00] It’s amazing these. Just two weeks ago I was in Kingston, and I think the players in the symphony and so they were hockey boys and hockey girls too playing this music. And having fun and at the same time you know I heard them talking like musicians, between musicians, and talking about the quality of that music. It’s entertaining and at the same time, it’s good music.

For me, it’s a new experience because even if I listen to a lot of music and I know musicians, I don’t have a sense of rhythm. I have nothing as a musician. So for me to be to come into that universe is quite interesting.

[00:08:10] Now the Segal will be doing a musical.

Order of the Black Hat

Before talking about that, I want to tell you a story. After reading in Calgary, after the Symphony was applauded and all that, somebody came on the stage and I was made a Member of the Order of the Black Hat, and I received a huge white cowboy hat. And I had to make some kind of statement about how I would wear this hat. It was explained that it was like giving this hat was like I was receiving the keys to the city. And I had to declare that Calgary was the Queen of the cow town.

I had an objection. But if I say that, and another city doesn’t agree with that, they can sue me! But all that was made with humour with laughter.

Musical by Emil Sher

[00:09:59] And of course you mentioned the musical that is coming.

It is a very special project and it’s very exciting. I don’t know much yet about it. This morning, I just received the libretto, the text of the story.

But I told him that I didn’t want to get too involved you know because I want to keep a certain freshness if it’s a word around that story and I don’t want to turn it upside down. No. It’s there and it’s amazing to learn that.

Now it’s many years ago, over 35 years ago, when a publisher wanting to do a book and Sheldon Cohen, the artist would make the drawings and he was asking me a lot of question and I was very impressed by the way this at the time unilingual English speaking man would talk to my unilingual French-speaking mother. I was there with them and I could not talk to them. They were involved in something. I think they were discussing the curtains in my childhood room or something like that. It was a good encounter with Shelton.

And at the end what we were talking about the book and the drawings and I had two young daughters and they were playing a lot in the swimming pool and using another diving board. And so I said to Sheldon, this story is your diving board. And that’s what he did. And it’s just wonderful, inventive, fresh, a lot of action and a lot of humour.

So I decided to give the same advice and have the same attitude for Emil Sher’s project. I told Emil, I don’t want to be involved. I might give you information if you want, but I don’t want to be involved in the writing. Use it as your diving board.

So they can bring their own creativity to it.

I guess you would never have so many versions of The Hockey Sweater if you had tried to keep control over everything.

Yes exactly. Exactly. But again it wasn’t a strategy it was just what I was thinking at the moment I made a decision.

So it was just a happy strategy without knowing it, an unintentional strategy.

Maybe.

So you obviously enjoy working in new ways to present it.

Ste Justine Quebec

[00:14:27] I’m going to have another nice experience to celebrate Canada.

In St. Justine, Quebec, the small village I come from, they decided—it is a very small village, there is 1,800 population but there is a lot of dynamism there. (Roch recorded his memories of his small town in an NFB film.)

There is a lot of creativity and a group of students and citizens got together and made a theatrical adaptation for the theatre of one of my books. In French, it is called Les Enfants de Bonhomme dans la lune.

It was translated in English as The Hockey Sweater and other stories. They will have a premiere, an opening Saturday. This Saturday. So I’m going to my small village and there will be this opening. There will be 12 actors on the stage.  Oh my God, I think they have music all day. It’s supported by the Caisse Populaire and a big company called Rotobec.  They do some mechanical arms. You know. Like an arm that could go to the forest clean the branches off the trees and put the tree in the back of the truck. So they are producing that. It’s an invention of a gentleman in the village you know. He started in his small garage, he was building cars and suddenly we have engineers there. We have designers.

I think it will be wonderful.

I’m very very very curious to see them. You know, they make things happen. They are not waiting for somebody else to save them. They do the job.

Oh my God, that’s wonderful. And have you been back there very often?

Yes. Most of the time, I go once a year. Now I must say that most of the people I grew up with disappeared. I think I’m one of the last ones that are surviving so there is less on people that I know. But I still have some family, a sister, a brother. So I go at least once a year.

How old are you?

I will be 80 in two months in May. OK. Well, I think it doesn’t matter.

[00:18:22] Oh that’s good to know. It’s nice to be talking to somebody who is comfortable with their age and still have so many adventures. Almost like a new world. Now that leads back to the city. You’ve been living in Montreal for many years now?

Yes.

Can you tell me a little bit about how you feel about the city and how it’s changed and how those changes have influenced you?

Montreal’s Evolution

That’s a good question. Yes, the city changed.

My wife and I are big walkers, you know. Both of us, when we do our walking in the morning, sometimes we explore the city. It’s quite interesting to walk on Sherbrooke towards the east and we have to say that most of the buildings that we see now were not there when both of us arrived in Montreal. That’s quite something. You have new areas that are developed.

And there’s St. Henri. It’s an area that I know very well because sometimes I was working with a theatre company and we had our offices in St. Henri. So for three years, I was with that company in St. Henri so I know the place quite well and it’s amazing now to go back to the same streets and to see what happened…the changes that happened in terms of building, in terms of population. That’s really amazing.

[00:20:21] And can you tell me how that affected you? Has it affected the projects you take on? What do you think about Montreal these days?

It’s a very pretty city. People are open-minded. There is a lot happening. We have a lot of freedom. I like Montreal.

We have to decide what we want to do. Even though there is a lot of dynamism, there is a feeling of what do we want to do? What do we want to do in ten years from now? And how do we want to reach that? For me, it’s missing.

[00:21:31] It’s sort of an ad hoc place of many orange cones.

Montcalm and Wolfe

[00:21:43] I spent 13 years writing a book about Montcalm and Wolfe and the end of a period that was the French ownership of what we call Canada now. And there was such a lack of political will. There was corruption and there was a lack of imagination. What do we do with this territory on the other side of the ocean?

And when I see what’s happening today in Montreal, and in Quebec, I feel that there is something like that. It’s not a way of having substance.

[00:22:39] Yes. We need a vision.

[00:22:42] But having said that, Montreal and all of Quebec is enjoyable.  We have our kids and they have access to affordable education. When I think that in the U.S. to go to university would cost $60,000 and more. To see the conditions, I think we should be happy and then say, I love those conditions and I’m saying we have to work.

[00:24:03] Well you seem to be doing your part.

A Lesson in Responsibility

[00:24:13] When I was something like 14 years old…in those days, at 14 years old, you were a man.

[00:24:21] I had to work like a man and I was working with a team of men and my job was like a man was to throw with shovels throw gravel in trucks for the trucks to bring this gravel to build the road.

It was Duplessis time and during the election time, they were building roads.

Like they are now.

So I had my blue jeans. I had brown working boots. I had blisters on my hand. That was painful. I remember one of the workers was not really good to me because I missed my turn throwing my shovel of gravel in the truck. And he asked me what are you doing? Are you a man? Are you made of a mans’ dung? Yeah. So I was 14 years old and had blisters and dirty and all that.

And the boss of that they took that guy and told him that he was a huge big fat nothing with swearing and that.

And then the boss came to me and he said, look you’re working. Your job is to put gravel in the truck. If you can’t put the gravel in the truck, the gravel will not jump in the truck.

Since then, I’ve studied at university. I studied Latin and I studied Greek. But the principle that drove my life came from this one man. “If you don’t put the gravel in the truck, the gravel will not jump in the truck.”

I told that story last June. I received a doctor’s degree from the University of Vancouver and I was speaking to something like 200 students graduating with BA’s and sciences and doctors of sciences. And I told them that story and I got letters and e-mails saying thank you for this. And while many of those students were from Japan or China now you know and I was really amazed, because I was just saying an anecdote but it touched them.

[00:27:49] Yeah but the principle of your life. You’re able to accomplish things because you always keep moving forward.

Latest Book

You were saying you were publishing a new book. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Yes. It’s done. It’s in French. It’s not yet translated, but I think it will be. It’s called Demain matin, j’écris un roman. [Tomorrow, I write a novel.]

It’s about me that after having spent more than 30 years writing history, doing research, and checking documentation, checking history books. So I’ve finished with that and I’m going back to fiction. About what happens in the head, in the brain of a writer who’s going back to fiction and he’s enjoying so much his freedom.

And everything happens and a lot doesn’t happen too. And when something is not happening is happening you know it’s wonderful.

The Hockey Sweater Book Cover The Hockey Sweater
Roch Carrier, Sheldon Cohen, Sheila Fischman,
Juvenile Fiction
1984
24

With every boy in a small Quebec town wearing the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens to play hockey, one child is horrified when, because of a mail order mix-up, he is forced to wear a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater.

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