Alison M. York – A Serendipitous Book Launch

By Stacey Lupky

Warm, inviting energy greeted the standing-room-only crowd gathered for the book launch of Alison York’s novel, Tartan Threads: Serendipity In Scotland. Throughout the event, hosted by the Manitoba Writer’s Guild, of which Alison is a member, Scotland played a welcoming role in bringing the crowd together. Scottish-themed dainties such as shortbread, scones and jam were on offer, while Scottish music gently lilted in the background. At the front of the room at Artspace, the Scottish flag draped over a table filled with memorabilia from ancestors whose lives played a pivotal role in the shaping of the novel.

MWG volunteer Jessica Smithies welcomed all with the land acknowledgement and housekeeping. Our attention was then drawn to Aiden, a videographer, who captured the event for posterity online. We were introduced to Alison’s husband, Roger York, who was an immense help to her writing and with his Toastmaster-trained voice, provided a reading from the novel.

Among the many thanks in Alison’s opening speech, she spoke of the close relationship she developed with her editor, Jenny Yates. Jenny spoke to the attendees briefly and brought up the important point of the trust relationship between an author and their editor. Authors must be open to suggestions and they must be courageous enough to take a germ of an idea and develop it.

Admitting she is a “pantser,” meaning she doesn’t strictly follow an outline, Alison said the story was borne out of a grade seven English Language Arts class assignment. Her student needed encouragement, so Allison wrote a short story alongside him. Gradually expanding her story into a novel, she wanted to see her book in print. Allison was told the market was swamped with new writers seeking publication, and that the process would take two years or more. Being eight years in since she began, the author decided to publish independently.

Alison’s reading introduced us to the character of Clare Wood, a young woman in 1978, who decides she “needs to go somewhere and some place that stretches her as a person”. That place is the Highlands of Scotland and Alison’s sense of humour and wit shine through the dialogue between Clare and her mother as Clare decides she needs to learn more about her extended family.

Roger York then took the podium and delivered a lively reading as the character Jim Bernie, complete with Scottish brogue. The novel involves aspects of time travel via a special geode, and in one of the readings, Jim considers an offer from his distant cousin to immigrate to America. The dialogue is sensitive and dramatic, conveying tender emotions.

There were few questions for Alison York in the Q & A portion, but someone did ask about the framed black and white photo of a gentleman on the display table. This was Alison’s great, great grandfather on her maternal side. The family is from the Isle of Lewis and while there are no real-life resemblances to the family in her fictional novel, some of the family names were used. The memorabilia on the table also featured a photo of her grandparents in the early 20th century gathered for a photo of the Gaelic Society of Winnipeg.

Another question came from someone asking about an inevitable sequel. Alison, a fan of MWG critique circles, said the novel originated from two separate stories that were combined into one on advice from the critique group. She is already hard at work on the next part of the saga. We may just see her again next year for that sequel launch!

The afternoon capped off with a prize being rewarded to people who had green tape on their chairs which led everyone scrambling to see if they had the lucky chair. Attendees who did were gifted a pin.

It was a marvelous launch which showcased the community of beta readers and editors, as well as family and friends it takes to commit oneself to the craft of writing. Attendees lingered to chat and meet the author who graciously signed copies of her book. How serendipitous that my first attendance of a book launch would be such an overwhelming delight.

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