Review: Victoria’s Most Haunted

Victoria is often semi-jokingly referred to as a city of the newly wed and nearly dead. But as Ian Gibbs shows in Victoria’s Most Haunted, this Canadian coastal city is not just full of students and retirees – but also the not-so-recently departed.

Gibbs, a tour guide for Victoria’s popular Ghostly Walks, reproduces the experience of these nocturnal jaunts into the city in this attractive book from Touchwood Editions. Each section begins with an artful black and white photo of the building (many taken by Ray Shipka), and you get the feeling of pausing before each one, gathering around the site, while your tour guide spins tales of heartbreak, murder, madness, suicide, and accidental death.

Like the ghost tour leaders I’ve listened to in Edinburgh, New Orleans and Vancouver, the author shares his own encounters with the paranormal as well – often with a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour and snark. But, he assures his reader, he’s not out to convince you that ghosts exist. If you’re not in the believer camp, there is still plenty of local history here to tempt you (not to mention it’s a terrific tourism brochure, featuring several great-sounding hotels, pubs and chocolate shops. Although there are a few rooms and floors at the Empress I’ll avoid, thank you very much).

There were a couple of sections – “Cathedral Hall” and “The Deanery” – where I would have liked a little more research and background detail to go along with Gibbs’ personal experiences, but the author more than makes up for this in “Bishop’s Chapel” and (my favourite) “The Home on Fort Street.” I also noticed that Gibbs refers to “First Nations” in different tales, and I wanted him to dig further to find out specifically which First Nations group, village or settlement was involved – the same way he found out about the German family who lost a son to drowning, or the Second World War soldier who liked old hymns.

Despite these small missteps, Victoria’s Most Haunted will take you on a thoughtful walk around colleges, jails, brothels, saloons, alleyways and biker bars – and you’ll come away thinking maybe Victoria isn’t so staid and sleepy after all.

 

Full disclosure: my last book was published by Brindle & Glass, part of the Touchwood publishing family, and they provided me with review copies of this book as well as copies to give away to readers of my e-newsletter. All I promised was an honest review of the book in return!

Speaking on Panel about Reconciliation and Public History in Vegas This Month!

I am very pleased to be joining a distinguished panel of public historians, community activators and scholars next month at the annual meeting of the National Council of Public Historians. Our topic, Sharing Power: Reconciling Indigenous-Settler Narratives is near and dear to my heart, as is long-time collaborator and friend Miranda Jimmy, who will be making the trek from Edmonton.

In addition to Miranda and I, there’s the panel convener, Jean-Pierre Morin, and a bunch of other Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks from both sides of the 49th Parallel: Krista McCracken,
Brittani Orona, Morgen Young, James Grant, Patrick Moore, Aaron Roth, and Manuelito Wheeler.

SKY GIRL takes third place at RWA’s Emily Awards!

Really honoured to have my first (unpublished) young adult book, Sky Girl, place in this contest. I know it’s a tough competition with entries from talented emerging voices from around the world. Thanks to the West Houston chapter of the Romance Writers of America for coordinating all the submissions and judges, and to the first- and second-round judges in my category who provided such useful feedback – and much-needed encouragement!

Off to work on my ninth(!) rewrite of this novel, which I’ve been researching and writing since 2009. The process has been tough but it’s taught me so much about how to merge my love of history with storytelling. And I have loved every minute of deep research into the amazing female bush pilots and ferry pilots from the Second World War. Hopefully version 9.0 will see all those parts click into place and I’ll be able to share this story with all of you soon.

Oh – and before I forget! A big congratulations to my friend and fellow writer, Laura Mitzner, who snagged second place with her darkly funny contemporary YA novel, Because Heaven is Just Hearsay.

Demons and Better Angels: Writing Talk in Houston on April 2

Demons and Better Angels: Finding the Path to Our Truest Stories (and a Little Bit of Peace of Mind)

In this session, I will share my breakdowns and breakthroughs, and offer some of the best wisdom and tools I’ve discovered for getting past blocks and continuing to tell the stories that matter most to me. This will include the heartbreak of rejection and critique, dealing with mental health, and struggling with writing and researching stories outside my experience.

And I promise to do it all with lots of dark humour (and dark chocolate)!

 

Monday, April 2nd at 7 p.m.

FREE and open to the public.

Houston Chapter of the Society for Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
Tracey Gee Community Center
3599 Westcenter Drive
Houston, TX 77042

Want to Be a Writer? Come Learn More on March 24 in Fort Bend!

I’m very pleased to be part of this event at the Sienna Plantation Public Library in Missouri City, Texas. It’s FREE and open to the public. While it’s especially geared toward students in grades 9 through 12, there will also be lots of great information for adults who are considering new education or career possibilities.

Come with your burning questions and your curiosity! I have had a random, adventure-filled career so far and am excited to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with you!

 

Careers in Focus: The Arts
3/24/2018 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Are you considering a career in the arts? Join us as a panel of professionals shares their experiences working in different areas of the artistic field. This program will include brief presentations by professionals with arts-related careers, a Q&A session, and time for break out sessions.

No registration required.

Women in Aviation History Talk on March 22nd in Richmond, Texas

In recognition of Women’s History Month in March, George Memorial Library in Richmond will present a special program, “The History of Women in Aviation,” on Thursday, March 22, beginning at 7:00 pm, in the Meeting Room of the library.

In her presentation, local author and aviation historian Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail will showcase some of the famous (and not-so-famous) women from around the world who have made an impact in the aviation industry in times of peace and of war.

“From the earliest days of aviation, there have been women who have wanted to walk on wings, soar in balloons, tinker with engines, and – of course – fly,” says Metcalfe-Chenail, who shares her love for aviation history in her books For the Love of Flying, Polar Winds, and the forthcoming picture book, Alis the Aviator: The ABCs of Flight.

As the former Historian Laureate of Edmonton, Alberta, and the former president of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, Metcalfe-Chenail was able to combine her graduate degree in history with her passion for writing and aviation history.

This program is made possible by the generous support of the Friends of the George Memorial Library. Proceeds from the Friends of the Library book sales and annual membership dues help to underwrite the costs of special programming and various cultural events at the library.

The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call George Memorial Library at 281-342-4455 or the library system’s Communications Office at 281-633-4734. Richmond is in Fort Bend County outside of Houston, Texas.

If you can’t make it, but you’d like to learn more about women in the history of military aviation in Canada, check out this article I wrote for Legion Magazine last year called “The Job for Me”!

 

Canada’s History Takes Centre Stage in Ottawa-Gatineau


I’m just back from a whirlwind trip to Ottawa-Gatineau where I got to emcee the 10th annual Canada’s History Forum and gala. They were held at the Canadian Museum of History on the Quebec side, and it was a stimulating and inspiring series of events. At the heart of it all, I felt, were discussions about collaboration, respect and relationships.

If you’d like to learn more about the programme, speakers, projects and see recordings, please visit: http://www.canadashistory.ca/

Thankful that Canada’s History purchased 15 copies of In This Together, the collection of essays I edited last year, to give to speakers as gifts. Also incredibly grateful to have met Elder Claudette Commanda of the Kitigan Zibi Nation, who welcomed us to the Algonquin territory.

 

The theme was “Making History Relevant”, and the practical applications in government departments, classrooms, and in broader society. Perhaps nowhere is history more relevant than reconciliation and social justice, so it should come as no surprise that many of the topics focused on community projects involving First Nations and Metis partners/leaders – as well as the troubling situation in Poland about the history of the Holocaust, and the chilling effect legislation is having on free speech and scholarly investigations.

The following day at Rideau Hall, the newish Governor General, Julie Payette gave a rousing talk in English, French, and a bit of Anishnaabewomin about the importance of evidence-based history. I think we were all ready to follow her into orbit (and yes, there were at least three witty ‘space jokes’ during acceptance speeches).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was particularly pleased to learn about the Indigenous Arts and Stories winners, as well as the awards that went to Dr. Sarah Carter (whose book on captivity narratives blew me away in undergrad) and Daniel Francis, a popularizer of history whose book Imaginary Indians was seminal for my understanding of stereotyping and how we construct identity. These are two of the titles who helped push me toward cultural and social history!

I can’t wait to be a speaker at the National Council for Public History’s conference in Las Vegas in April, and keep connecting with folks who are digging deep into our past – and investigating how we remember. Maybe I’ll see you there!


GG02-2017-0417-065 November 22, 2017 Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, presented teachers and other outstanding Canadians with the 2017 Governor General’s History Awards for their efforts to further an interest in and understanding of Canadian history and heritage. The awards was presented at a ceremony at Rideau Hall, on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. Credit: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall, OSGG

 

 

Harvey the Cat at Sienna Library on Oct 29!

In honour of National Cat Day, the Sienna Branch Library in Missouri City, TX is hosting two hours of kitty purrfection on Sunday, October 29. From 2-4 p.m., come out to make DIY cat toys, cat treat recipes, see adorable cats up for adoption, watch funny cat videos, and get transformed by the talented Catherine Gauche Visagie of Sienna Plantation Face Painting.

I’ll be reading  Harvey the Cat at 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. So bring your stuffed animal cats and kittens to snuggle while I tell you this amazing, ‘nearly true’ story!

If you live on the south side of Houston and are bummed you missed my event at Blue Willow Bookshop, I hope you can come join us!

For more details, directions, etc, please follow this link to the library’s site.

 

Community Blooms through Love Thy Neighbor Initiative

15259498_10153861126245194_3213217001454732711_oLigi Varghese and her 3 year-old daughter clutched bunches of roses in front of the Maryam Islamic Center outside Houston, Texas before Friday prayers on December 2. They, along with a dozen or so community members of various faiths and backgrounds passed out more than 400 flowers to worshippers as they arrived at the mosque.

The attendees alternatively smiled or looked surprised as individuals of the grassroots Love Thy Neighbor initiative handed out single stems along with messages of love and support. Several people held up handwritten signs with statements such as “Houston Loves You.”

15235646_10153861233845194_1190003634274050853_oVarghese, who identifies as an Indian-American Christian, felt spurred to act after she saw a rise in Islamophobia and hate crimes in the media. She reached out to her friend Naheeda Spencer who attends the Maryam Islamic Center in Sugar Land with her family, to see if it would be possible to come out in a show of solidarity with the Fort Bend Muslim community. Imam Taquer Shah welcomed the idea.

Every Friday, hundreds of Muslims in the community – with very diverse backgrounds – come for prayers, and Varghese wanted to give a flower to each person as a symbol of unity. She was supported in this effort by private donors as well as Trader Joe’s, who supplied the long stem roses.

After being invited inside the beautiful mosque for prayers, volunteers and faithful alike listened to Varghese read a statement she had prepared. “We are all so much more similar than we are different,” she said. “We have to start getting to know each other.” This initiative was meant to do that – create awareness in the non-Muslim community, build trust, and forge relationships.

15235784_10153861233990194_3439498266227919922_oThe Maryam Islamic Center, for its part, has been doing community outreach since it was built in 2009, and even before then when it operated out of a trailer further up Sartartia Road. It offers public events such as a carnival annually, coordinates interfaith activities with area churches, and often does fundraising or volunteering for area nonprofits such as the Houston Food Bank.

Deputy John McCoy, one of several Fort Bend County Constables who direct traffic each week as well as during special events has seen this first-hand. “The mosque offers so much and these folks are really part of the community,” he said.

15288677_10153861233835194_3764588772864256438_oEven so, several attendees shared stories of how their children and teenagers have been targeted in school for being Muslim. This is something that troubles Varghese, a mother of a new baby and a preschooler, in particular. “Children aren’t born with hatred. Someone taught them to hate, and never taught them what it was to love.”

This initiative, along with increased connections between mosques and schools, Boy Scout troops, and other organizations are helping to break down these barriers and foster understanding. Varghese hopes small gestures like a flower will show a commitment from other Americans to stand by Muslims in the face of bigotry.

As volunteers cleaned up rose petals outside and carried the food the Maryam Islamic Center gave them, a man in his thirties stopped to shake hands. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “This is what America is all about.”

 

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One young reader’s thoughts on In This Together

I read In This Together, and wow. There were stories in there that I connected with emotionally, stories in there where I could relate to what the author was saying, and stories that made me question myself. All the stories made me think. Thank you for this book. I honestly believe that it needs to be read by all High School and University students.

Also, thank you for including the contact information for the contributors to the book. I’m in the process of contacting them just to thank them, and for a few, to ask questions. ~Salman Ahmed, college student in Edmonton, Alberta

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© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.