Harvey the Cat: A Nearly True Story of Hurricane Harvey and the Houston Floods

When life throws overwhelming experiences at me, I write about them. That’s just what I (and most of the other writers I know) do in order to process and make sense of things. So when I recently went through Hurricane Harvey with my family and pets, I started writing.

 

 

 

First it was just a few notes and impressions, getting down the images seared into my mind from the media and our own lived experiences. I made notes of the things my five-year-old son asked us about or said (he’s highly quotable). How our cat, Guinness, acted as we hunkered down, packed up, and fled. What we did each step of the way through the storm leading up to our mandatory evacuation. [Read more about that on my e-newsletter]

I also made notes on a Twitter post about “Harvey the Cat” (real name Bailey) who ended up at the Fort Bend Office of Emergency Management, and then was reunited with his family a couple of days later through the power of social media. And, like everyone else, I saw the epic photo of “Angry Cat Swimming” as it inspired the internet to write memes (the internet sure loves cats!).

 

 

All of these true stories combined into one “nearly true” story of Harvey the Cat, and I’m so excited to share it with the world to help families with their own processing and rebuilding. We managed to make it out safely, came home to a mostly intact home and neighborhood, and now we’re trying help those who weren’t so lucky.

 

Harvey the Cat will make his first appearance at a live storytelling event at Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop on Saturday, September 23 @ 11 a.m. It’s free and for all ages.

UPDATE: the very talented Catherine Visagie Gauthier is donating her time to transform your kids into kitties for this event through face painting. If you have cat ears or tails at home from costumes, why not bring them too!

Like the storm, this event is evolving constantly, so I’ll post new details as they come up here and on the Facebook event page. The Houston Chronicle is our media partner on this project and will be recording the event and hopefully creating a digital version that we can share widely soon.

I’m waiving my usual speaking fees with this story and ask that you donate instead to Blue Willow’s Hurricane Harvey Book Drive or one of the other organizations listed on their site.


If you want to organize a book/donation drive event in your community (or through your school, church or library), please get in touch and I’ll try my best to accommodate as many requests in the coming weeks as possible! Click here to go to my Contact page. You can also find me on Twitter (@Danielle_Author) and Facebook under my full name.

Sneak peek at the story!

Harvey the Cat: A Nearly True Story of Hurricane Harvey and the Houston Floods

Dedicated to Zen the cat, Alonso Guillen, Sgt. Steve Perez and other Harvey heroes

“There’s a bad storm coming, Devon,” Mama said one morning, “we need to get ready.”

“A tsunami wave?” (I just learned about those).

She smiled, but her mouth was tight. “A hurricane. But it’ll just feel like a really long rainstorm here. We’ll watch movies, play games, and have special snacks.”

“Do I have to go to school?”

She shook her head. I didn’t really know what a hurricane was, but it sounded kind of like a vacation. Bayou, our cat, sat and watched us with his big green-golden eyes.

Q&A with Shawn Selway for Hamilton Review of Books

I really enjoyed getting the chance to chat with Shawn Selway, author of the recent book, Nobody Here Will Harm You, about the Tuberculosis evacuations of Inuit from the Eastern Arctic.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read our full conversation over at the Hamilton Review of Books website!

Airforce Magazine “highly recommends” Polar Winds!

A lot of the podcasts and interviews I’ve listened to about writing lately have centred on the idea of a book lasting for ten years. The question to ask yourself when you embark on a book project is: ten years after it’s been published, will it still be read and be relevant? I always aspire to this, so it’s highly gratifying when – three years after Polar Winds appeared – I received this lovely review in Airforce Magazine by Dr. Richard Goette, a historian and Associate Editor-in-Chief of the publication. I know Richard through the aviation history community and I know how rigorous he is in his own research, so this means even more coming from someone I respect and admire.

“Polar Winds is an excellent synthesis of various stories, accounts, and themes regarding aviation in Canada’s North during the 20th century….Metcalfe-Chenail writes with clarity, refinement, and also with a hint of humour.”

*Apologies for the slightly blurry first image. Tried re-scanning ten times and it just didn’t want to work!

 

RISE Book Club Reading Guide – In This Together

It’s been a year since In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth and Reconciliation came out, but the conversations we wanted to highlight with our essays are still relevant and ongoing.

That’s why I’m so excited that RISE-Reconciliation in Solidarity Edmonton (which, full disclosure, I mention in my intro) has selected In This Together as its third book in its book club. If you live in Edmonton, I hope you will join us for an in-person discussion Thursday, June 1 from 4:30-6pm at the City Hall School (in City Hall). You can find all the details here.

If you’re not in Edmonton, or you can’t make it out that day, we – all us contributors and RISE – invite you to consider the following questions. You can always contact us through the Twitter handles you see in the Bios section at the back of the book, or leave a comment below, with your thoughts and questions.

I hope you’ll use these questions for your own book club discussions wherever you happen to be. Maybe you’ll even set up a reconciliation book club like RISE did. If you do, please let me know about it!

 

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Here are some general questions about the book and reconciliation:

What impact has this book had on you? What have you learned? What sticks out for you from the reading?

What kinds of conversations have you had about this book?

Can you share your own “aha” or “lightbulb” moment, where you realized something important about our country’s colonial past?

What does it mean to say that we’re “In this Together”? What could your role be in moving towards reconciliation?

What are some of the ways we can move beyond words (apologies, reports, etc) and take action towards reconciliation?

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Here are some more specific questions the contributors brainstormed:

Week 1 –  pages 1-66 Intro + essays by Baker, Streetly, Luckert, Kane, and Todd

  1. Has there been a moment, an event, or an experience in your life when you came face to face with your own assumptions and biases about Indigenous peoples. How did that realization change you?
  2. Joanna’s essay suggests that personal connections are the strongest and most lasting steps towards reconciliation. What is more effective in creating change:  grassroots movements or government policies? Why?
  3. In Erika’s essay, she considers a historical act of mapping – that of Treaty 6 —its implications, and the ways it might be unwritten or rewritten. But this is just one map of one place, and there are many others. Think about the maps that shape your understanding of where you live. What are they? Who made them? What vision of the land do they create? What do they reveal, and what do they conceal? If you were to remap your home, what might you show that isn’t seen in the maps you already know?

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Week 2 – pages 67-132 essays by Kunuk, Cooper+Campbell, Edwards, Shaben, Palmer Gordon, and Kronyk

  1. Carol’s essay explored her assumptions and missed opportunities for deep connections with Echo and Rose. What can you do to foster real and meaningful friendships with Indigenous individuals you count among your circle of friends? How can you confide in, learn from, and work sympathetically with them to bridge the gulf of misinformation, misunderstanding, assumption and inequity that exists in Canada today?
  2. Rhonda’s essay argues we need to acknowledge the past so that we can deal with it in a just manner. Yet, as people like Senator Beyak and J.L Granatstein show, many Canadians aren’t willing to truthfully acknowledge our past. Senator Sinclair has said that we can’t get to reconciliation until we get to the truth. Do readers see people in their communities pursuing truth? What are some ways we can help Canadians understand and acknowledge the truth about our past relationship with Indigenous peoples?

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Week 3 – pages 133-208 essays by Larocque, Neilsen Glenn, Halton, and Mountain + conversation between Shelagh Rogers and Senator Murray Sinclair

  1. Emma’s essay centres on justice. What does justice mean or look like for Indigenous peoples?
  2. As a reader, did you experience empathy when reading any of the essays? When?
  3. Is it easier to reach across gaps between us when we think of reconciliation in terms of the individual rather than from a societal perspective? We must as a society address reconciliation but that can be overwhelming for Joe or Jane Canadian – what ways and means are there for us to hold our hands out to one person, or two or three at a time, that are more within our reach?
  4. What holds you (or people you know) back from talking about these issues? Are they afraid what they say will be controversial? Are they not ready to accept or reconcile?
  5. What do we need to do next?

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Two Upcoming Camsell Hospital Events in Edmonton

 
As part of the upcoming Reconciliation Week and in support of ongoing truth and reconciliation work in our city, RISE is please to be hosting two upcoming events related to the history and memory of the Charles Camsell Hospital. Both events are free and everyone is welcome. Donations will be accepted at the door and online to make the events possible.
Connecting to Camsell – Screening & Discussion
Tuesday, May 30 from 6-8PM at the River Cree Resort & Casino
What do you know about the Charles Camsell Hospital?
Learn more about the layered history from a segregated Indian hospital to a present-day housing development through a series of short films and a panel discussion.
Featuring:
“The Longer Trail” (1956, National Film Board of Canada)
“Lost Songs” (1999, National Film Board of Canada)
“Camsell” (2016, Edmonton Heritage Council)
The screenings will be followed by a panel discussion including former patients, local researchers and community members.Free event, everyone welcome. Please RSVP.
Donations gladly accepted at the door.
Sponsored by: Enoch Cree Nation Archives, River Cree Resort & Casino, City of Edmonton, and Edmonton Heritage Council.
 
 
Connecting to Camsell – Story Collection
Thursday, June 8 from 11AM-4PM at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, Enoch Cree Nation
 
What do you remember about the Charles Camsell Hospital?
Come to a safe community space to share your experiences, recollections, photographs, documents, and art and craft items from the Camsell Hospital.
Members of RISE and staff from the Enoch Cree Nation Archives will help collect information to catalogue for the archives so that others can learn about this important past.
 
Lunch and other refreshments served.
Free drop-in event, everyone welcome.
Donations gladly accepted at the door.
Sponsored by: Enoch Cree Nation Archives, City of Edmonton, and Edmonton Heritage Council.
 
RISE – Reconciliation in Solidarity Edmonton
Subscribe to our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/brmTiT
Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RISEdmonton
Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/RISEdmonton

“The Job for Me” for Legion Magazine now up!

“Whiplash is how they described it. In 1980, when captains Nora Bottomley, Deanna (Dee) Brasseur and Leah Mosher walked anywhere in their Canadian air force blue flight suits, heads snapped around. The three women were the first in the country to receive their wings for active duty, and they knew they were under the microscope from their fellow pilots, superiors, the media and Canadian society. As Major Brasseur said later of that time, ‘If one of us burped, Ottawa knew.'” Read the whole article by clicking here.

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A Q&A with Dean Jobb, author of Empire of Deception

Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation (Algonquin Books / HarperCollins Canada). By Dean Jobb. Now available as Hard cover, paperback, and e-editions.

 

I love historical true crime and creative nonfiction, so I was excited when I found out about this latest book by Dean Jobb, an author, journalist and instructor in the MFA program at the University of King’s College in Halifax, NS.  It’s still in my to-read pile by the side of my bed because of my research-heavy project on the Charles Camsell Indian Hospital, but Dean and I had the chance to chat about this book and his work-in-progress (which makes me think of Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City!). ~ DMC

EmpireDeception-pbk-high-res1. Tell us a bit about your book.

Empire of Deception is the untold story of Leo Koretz, a master of the Ponzi scheme and one of the most brazen and successful con men in history. He was the Bernie Madoff of the 1920s and ran an elaborate swindle in Chicago that raked in as much as $400 million, in today’s terms. He claimed to control vast oilfields in Panama and was so successful that some investors begged him to take their money. Not even the exposure of Charles Ponzi’s infamous scam in 1920, which gave the rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul investment fraud its name, aroused their suspicions. Koretz’s grateful investors nicknamed their financial guru “Our Ponzi,” never suspecting – until the fraud was exposed in 1923 – that the joke was on them.

It’s a story grounded in an era of wealth and glamour and a timeless tale of greed and gullibility. And Koretz’s story is inseparable from the crime and corruption of 1920s Chicago. Robert Crowe, the state’s attorney who brought Koretz to justice, was a controversial figure with underworld ties and, by coincidence, he and Koretz knew each other – they had worked together as young lawyers. Crowe’s lust for political power became a parallel story in the book, playing out as Koretz established and operated his massive fraud.

 

2. How did you come up with the idea for this work?

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Leo Koretz

When Koretz’s scheme collapsed, he fled to Nova Scotia, the Canadian province where I live. He took the name Lou Keyte, posed as a wealthy literary critic and lived like a king on his ill-gotten gains. While researching another subject in the provincial archives, I stumbled on a reference to his arrest in 1924 in Halifax, the Nova Scotia capital. I had never heard of Koretz, and soon learned that little had been written about him. I knew it was a great story and I was determined to find out everything I could about this charming, flamboyant character.

  1. How did you research your book?

My research turned up a wealth of material on Koretz and his scam in court files and archives in the United States and Canada. I also discovered the first-hand accounts of some of his associates and victims. The most valuable sources, however, were newspaper accounts of the fraud and the year-long manhunt for the fugitive swindler. Chicago boasted six daily newspapers in the 1920s, and their extensive coverage provided the detail I needed to recreate the story of Koretz’s scam and his times.

  1. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

This is the stranger-than-fiction story of a larger-than-life character, which made this book a joy to research and write. The challenge was to do justice to the material. Narrative nonfiction should bring people and events to life, transporting the reader to another time and place. The celebrated American author David McCullough, a master of narrative history, encourages writers to “marinate” their heads in a time and a culture so they can produce engaging, vivid accounts of lost worlds. He’s right. I thoroughly researched every aspect of the story and read as many books, memoirs and historical records as possible that touched on the subject and the era.

  1. What was the most exciting/surprising thing you learned?

My most amazing discovery was that Koretz acted alone. He didn’t have a company or a sales force to attract investors, like Charles Ponzi did. He operated in secret and didn’t have a high profile in the investment world, like Bernie Madoff did. Koretz created a make-believe world of phantom oil fields and fake profits, and fooled everybody he dealt with, even his closest friends and family, for the better part of 20 years. And he did it all single-handedly. It was a remarkable accomplishment.

  1. What are you working on now?

I’m researching a new true-crime book for Algonquin Books and HarperCollins Canada, the publishers of Empire of Deception, with the working title The Case of the Murderous Doctor Cream. It chronicles the crimes of Thomas Neill Cream, a Canadian doctor who was one of the world’s first serial killers. He murdered at least nine people in Ontario, the United States and Britain in a rampage that eclipsed the notorious crimes of his Victorian-era contemporary, Jack the Ripper. The press dubbed Cream “The Lambeth Poisoner,” after the London neighborhood where he poisoned four of his victims. This dark tale of murder and madness will be told in tandem with Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation of Sherlock Holmes, the iconic sleuth who transformed crime fiction. As Doyle’s creation solved crimes on the page, police forces on two continents struggled to link a string of seemingly random killings to a single, mysterious suspect.

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Book Review: Separate Beds

Separate Beds is an excellent academic treatment of the system of Indian Hospitals set up in Canada. Dr. Lux says from the outset that she is focusing on understanding the government bureaucracy through the documentary record, but still balances this well with some oral histories from Indigenous Elders, leaders and former patients of the hospitals. In particular, I found her exploration of the Blackfoot and Blood hospitals in southern Alberta really showed the hypocrisy and paradoxes inherent in government policy at the time – as well as the medical pluralism (traditional and biomedical) that occurred in these institutions. The Hobbema (Mascwacis) and Battleford examples in particular demonstrated how Indigenous communities fought for access to health care – a treaty right – on their own terms, especially in the face of discrimination in community hospitals. Finally, Lux shows convincingly that government and medical bureaucrats were often motivated by prejudice, avarice, and their own self interest, even as they cloaked their work in humanitarianism.
Separate Beds is an essential companion book to James Daschuk’s Clearing the Plains and Ian Mosby’s work on nutritional experiments on reserves and in residential schools. It shows so many of the root causes of health disparities between Indigenous communities and the rest of Canada, and how Canadians have benefited not just from the signing of the treaties, but through the medical cost savings the government squeezed out of Indigenous peoples. While Canadians are incredibly proud of our Medicare system and count it as a defining feature of our identity, it was in large part funded by the creation of a parallel system that penalized and underserved Indigenous individuals and communities.

Houston Talk: “Writing Stories of Humiliation and Hope”

If you live in and around Houston, I invite you to come to this free talk through The Final Twist Writers Society on Saturday, January 7, 2017!

“Writing Stories of Humiliation and Hope”

January 3, 2017 is Humiliation Day and is observed worldwide on the same day each year. Humiliation Day is thought to be originated from a reaction by the Chinese immigrants to the Chinese Exclusion Act in Canada in 1923. Humiliation can be at any level — individual, a class of people, a race, a nation, etc. And its best remedy is reconciliation.

Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, the editor of In This Together— Fifteen Stories of Truth & Reconciliation (Brindle &Glass), will talk about her professional experience. In this engaging presentation, she will discuss her interest in social justice and how things like Humiliation Day have prodded her to look deeper into Canada’s history through picture books, novels, nonfiction publications, radio, and short films.

Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail specializes in telling hidden stories. A historian by training, she is the author of For the Love of Flying (Robin Brass Studio), Polar Winds (Dundurn), and the forthcoming Alis the Aviator (Tundra Books).

She is the former Writer in Residence at Berton House in the Yukon, and the Historian Laureate of Edmonton (Canada). When Danielle is not spending quality time with her four-year-old son and traveling, she is working on a WW2-era novel, Sky Girl, and a creative nonfiction project based on her popular http://www.ghostofcamsell.ca serial blog

 

They meet at the Spring Branch Memorial Library in the room off the front entryway, to the right of the restrooms.

10:00 – 10:30 am (Networking)
10:30 – 11:00 am (Chapter Business)
11:00 am to 12:00 pm (Guest Speaker or Round Table)

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.