Our book fundraiser
As we celebrate the holiday season, let's think of our blessings and how we can help others. Today's blog is about a unique fundraising program for our local foodbank that I was involved in this year. A book was put together of donated short stories and poems in our local community in British Columbia, Canada, called the "Tri-Cities."
I want to tell you my part of the story behind the book, “New Beginnings.” Below is the cover for the book. Notice at the bottom our pledge regarding the proceeds.
Five years ago, I joined a local writers group in Port Moody BC. They would meet weekly and bring something to read to the group for feedback. I participated for a year or more but have found that travels interfere much of the time, so I have not been active with them recently. The members of the group all write very well, though only a few are published authors.
This writers’ group plugged me into a lot of writers circles locally that I find are fun. I have, for example, built and do maintenance on a website for one local writers’ group, the Tri-City Wordsmiths. That got me rather quickly added to their board!
Another link from the writers’ group was to meet Erik D’Souza, a local writer and publisher. He is a stay-at-home Dad, and during the weekday school hours, he writes. He also had completed the task of self-publishing a book of his own. In the past 10 years, many authors have taken this route, and self-publishing is now taken seriously. It is not just ‘vanity publishing’ anymore. Erik and his wife Stacia have begun a local publishing firm called TimberCrest Publishing
“New Beginnings” stems from Erik’s learnings about publishing and a desire to build a stronger local writers’ scene. He saw many authors who had potential but are not published. Many of these authors would say it’s just not worth the trouble. Erik had the idea of doing an anthology of short stories and poems to raise money for our local food bank (SHARE Family and Community Services).
The CEO of SHARE, Claire MacLean, was delighted with the idea. The book would sell for $25, and all proceeds would go to SHARE. Claire has written a lovely forward in the book.
The ensuing book includes poems and stories by thirty-nine BC authors, one of which is me. Some writers are award-winning authors, many are first time published authors, like yours truly. Information and contact details for these authors is presented at the back of the book. I personally now know most of them, and that has been a pleasure.
The book short stories are both fiction and non-fiction. Quite a few are autobiographical stories of survival. Some are selections from larger works. All authors were given instruction to write stories aligned to whatever the term new beginnings meant for them. The actual phrase New Beginnings comes from SHARE’s refugee assistance program.
The book began with a December 2018 deadline for submissions. My first attempt was not well suited for the audience, being a more essay-like tome to solve climate change. So I lightened up a fair bit and wrote a short story about two Grade 7 girls who are given a school project to ‘save the world’. At first, the story was fantasy-like. Heather helped me make it more real. I got a taste of the creative muse, at one point saying to Heather I couldn’t come just now for dinner because I was nearing the climax of the story and had to see how it came out. I was literally watching the story unfold on my computer!
I took the revised draft story to a writers group and got some constructive feedback. The re-written version made the grade – as per Erik – and so the story was then off to the editor. Working online, the editor in Victoria and I traded comments and versions back and forth. We met the final deadline, which had by this time, moved to the end of April 2019.
Next came the fun part, at least for me, being a marketer at heart and enjoying the thrill of business creation. The launch date was set for July 20th, 2019. How would this be promoted? How many books should we print?
Working with a smaller marketing group, several of our writers came up with dozens of great ideas. We called ourselves the “Writers for SHARE.” We began doing readings at a local restaurant, the Gallery Bistro, which supports the local arts. Unfortunately, the Gallery Bistro burned to the ground late July, a real blow to the community. We hope it may be rebuilt.
The audience at the Gallery Bistro
Some of the local 'Writers for SHARE' with on the far left our SHARE representative, Michelle Murray.
We began marketing online. Erik and I read a series of books on how to sell books online, which resulted in our doing some advertising on Facebook. Our Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/groups/NewBeginningsBook/. We also took some pre-orders for the book we delivered on the opening day.
The cover for the book was designed by the daughter of one of the writers, Wafaa Al-Showbaki. The actual art for the book was created by author and painter, Lyn Ayre.
We surveyed our authors for sales potential and eventually decided we should print 500 books. This quantity helped keep the cost per book down but was a substantial commitment. Local printing was arranged, and by early July – a week before the launch date, we filled up Erik’s garage with books.
We did some advance promotion for our book launch at a summer session of the Coquitlam Farmer’s market, pictured below.
The July 20th launch was a big success, selling well over one hundred books the first day. We were given a large foyer at the Port Moody City Hall to conduct our launch. Almost all the writers were in attendance, as was a representative from SHARE. Lots of friends came to hear us read and buy a book. We even had our local Member of Parliament Ron MacKinnon, and his wife Chris, attend.
Launch Day July 22nd in the large galleria at Port Moody City Hall.
We had door prizes, including lunch for two with the Writers from our local restaurant, Pasta Polo. We had sponsorship from several sources. The City of Port Moody, Bart Aldrich Notary, Pasta Polo, The Hard Rock Casino and MyArtClub.Com. Here is a version of the bookmark we used as a poster, showing the sponsors, designed by my daughter Christie.
Here several of the "Writers for SHARE" are celebrating our book launch in September at sponsor’s Pasta Polos restaurant.
We had sold about 200 books by the end of summer 2019, but that still left us 300 more to move. Plus, we had by now covered our expenses, so the rest of the sales would go 100% straight to the charity.
Ideas were tried. We got some publicity, but could not seem to break through into local newspapers or radio. We sold books to all our friends.
We did a book club reading in October that was a great success. We hope to do more book clubs in the future. Below right is the book club hostess Tish Carris, selecting a prize-winning name for a free copy from a cup I am holding. Thanks Tish for organizing this fun event!
Left is Claire Lawrence, who has set herself this mammoth goal to be published in every genre of writing. She has done a great many already.
Below is Colleen Van Niekerk, whose story has been selected for publishing in New York next year.
Below is very interesting and amusing poet Gerry Bradley reading for the book club
Award winning Farida Somjee also read at the same book club meeting.
The big sales push we saved up our energy for was the Christmas gift market, specifically craft shows. We knew that this would make an unusual Christmas gift for many who have everything they need, and would appreciate something that gives back to the community. One person I know bought 35 copies to give to his clients at Christmas.
We had a booth at the Port Coquitlam Christmas Craft Fair. The fair was a great success. Eileen Holland, pictured below, is a born salesperson. She vivaciously reads her entertaining children’s stories to acclaim. She also read for the above book club.
We also had booths and sold at two December Farmers Markets knowing gifts would be sought by many of the customers. This went well too.
So there you have it, the story of our book, New Beginnings. There is so much more I could say about everyone’s contribution. You may be wondering how much money was raised. Recently Erik reported that we have raised over $4,700 for SHARE. We are now almost sold out of our printed first run.
Everything that my wife Heather and I donate to charity we have matched by my former employer TELUS, from which I have retired. So a logical question to ask of TELUS (Heather’s great idea) was whether they might match our efforts on this book. I wrote to them, and the great news is that TELUS did match our fundraising with a donation of $5,000!
All in all, a tremendous charitable success. Writers have banded together in a project which is unlike any other. The local writers’ scene continues in 2020, and I look forward to being part of it.
Want to read the book?
Printed books are carried by two book stores in the Tri-City area:
It also is available here online: