Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

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The Dirty Dozen, with Barbara Aggerholm

Barbara Aggerholm

Barbara Aggerholm grew up in towns across the Bruce County, and now spends her summers in Kincardine, where she was born. The area is in her blood and has inspired her two novels, The Phantom Piper and Stowaway in the White Hurricane (The Brucedale Press). Barbara will launch Stowaway in the White Hurricane, which tells the story of the Great Lakes Storm of November 1913 from the perspective of 13-year-old Lucy Clark, in Kincardine on Sunday, August 25. Visit our Events page for details.

Today Barbara takes on the Open Book Dirty Dozen and reveals her predilection for altering photographs, her appreciation of selective hospitality and her solution to the violent feline soap opera that unfolded in her home.


Barbara Aggerholm's Dirty Dozen


1. I?m known among friends and relatives for making pop-up cards that feature their heads on bodies that they would never envision for themselves. My husband has been James Bond, Cher and Gandalf. Cher was the best. People now think twice when I ask for a photograph of them for fear of what I?ll do.


2. I talk for my cats; not so much to them, as for them. Each of the three tabbies has a distinctive voice. Ringo, the big one, is kind of macho; little Patches is a bit crazy in an eyes-spinning kind of way and Moonlight is very much the cool, calm dudette. They have running conversations; each has its own rap song. ?My name is Ringo, you know I?m single,? that kind of thing. My daughter jokes that she can?t bring anyone home because of the voices. At least I think she?s joking. We landed with three tabbies when the beautiful little long-haired cat we adopted from the Humane Society turned out to be pregnant. After she finished raising the kittens, she told us she wanted them out of the house, and what was wrong with us anyway? She?d had the kittens; now we were supposed to find homes for them. She and Ringo fought daily. So now the mothership lives next door with our neighbour and the two adversaries gripe at each other over the fence. ?You told me she was dead,? Ringo complains.


3. As soon as I graduated from journalism school at University of Western Ontario, I loaded up my car and drove to Brandon, Manitoba where I had a job with the small independent newspaper there. I couldn?t find an apartment right away since there was a zero vacancy rate, and I didn?t have enough money for a hotel. So I pitched my tent in May at a provincial park outside Brandon. I?d rise early in the morning and head to the newspaper to clean myself up so no one would know my living situation. When it started to get busy at the campground, and a little creepy for a single woman to be there, I applied to stay at a women?s shelter which had room and needed the rent money. After a few nights, I found an apartment, but not before I learned a great deal about empathy and strong, struggling women.


4. When I was a teenager, I wrote my best poetry while sitting on Spirit Rock on the Bruce Trail in Wiarton with my feet dangling over the edge of the escarpment. I wouldn?t last long there today!


5. My Danish-born father promised my mother three things when they got married. ?I?ll build you a dream house,? he told her. ?We?ll dance the Vienna waltz in Vienna and we?ll bring home the Little Mermaid from Copenhagen. They did it all — before my mother died of Alzheimer?s disease in 1998.


6. My favourite time to walk on the Lake Huron beach is when the wind is at its highest, the waves are crashing, and the beach is mine alone. It?s the best time to find the stones that fill the bowls and containers in our home.


7. I love to listen to books being read out loud and now I won?t go on a road trip without a good audio book. My first memory of the pleasure of listening to someone read an entire book was when I was in elementary school and my teacher, Cam Addison, took time out of every day to read a chapter of Moonfleet, by English novelist J. Meade Falkner. It?s an exciting story about smuggling, a stolen diamond and Blackbeard?s ghost. The story mesmerized my rowdy class.


8. During the year, I collect outlandish glasses, masks, big noses, feather boas and pointy hats to jazz up the family photo at Christmas time. The photos aren?t something you?d send to the newspaper, but they?re a lot of fun to take as people choose their best look.


9. I like toys that dance or talk at the push of a button. At any one time, particularly when I?m vacuuming and need the diversion, I can have Gandalf shouting: ?You shall not pass?; Darth Vader stating: ?Most impressive but you are not a Jedi yet?; and a yodeling woodchuck. I used to have a fish that sang: ?Take me to the River? but it disappeared and my husband isn?t talking.


10. I love Emily Carr and her art. I especially like the story about how she used to keep chairs hanging above her head, on pulleys, in her studio. If she liked a visitor, she?d lower a chair. If she didn?t, the chairs stayed aloft.


11. I grew up in small southwestern Ontario communities, the daughter of a bank manager. My father was a bit of a rebel and we would often find pies and other goodies at our door from grateful farmers whose loans he?d taken a risk to approve, and which had helped them succeed. Decades later, my father, now 95 years old, still has former customers recognize him in coffee shops and thank him for a loan that other banks had refused.


12. I have a thing for Dr. Seuss?s Yertle the Turtle and Horton Hears a Who!; blue cheese, being able to see the sun and sky from inside a city building; visiting secondhand stores; William Shatner?s chutzpah, rocketman Chris Hadfield?s rendition of "Space Oddity" by David Bowie and Hadfield?s brilliant photos from space.

Barbara Aggerholm was born in Kincardine, Ontario, and spent her childhood there and in other Bruce County communities. She has been writing all her life: from high school yearbooks to more than 30 years as a newspaper journalist. Among her credits are thousands of articles, often on health, social services, education and ethnic issues. Barbara's writing has won many awards, including a citation of merit for the Michener Award. Her byline has appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press and the Brandon Sun (where she was Canada's youngest city editor), and currently in the Waterloo Region Record and Grand magazine in Kitchener, Ontario, for which she writes features.

She and her husband, Craig, their son, Kevin, and daughter, Tess, and their friends and family spend their holidays every summer at a cottage in Kincardine built by her father many years ago on land overlooking Lake Huron. Kincardine is also the setting for her first book, The Phantom Piper, published in The Brucedale Press Backpackers series. Stowaway in the White Hurricane is her second novel for young readers.

For more information about Stowaway in the White Hurricane please visit the Brucedale Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online from the publisher.


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