And to all, a very Merry Christmas

Posted 12.12.05

What a year it's been. It began with an almost-surprise 70th birthday party on December 23rd, in that I knew I was being taken out to dinner but didn't know who had been invited.

It would have been a very large group had Ottawa's first ice storm of the season not intervened, but there were still a dozen around the table at a delightful restaurant featuring entertainment by my old friend, Dick Maloney.

A real surprise arrived the first week of January, an e-mail from a friend who had been looking for me for some time, and finally thought to Google "Barbara Florio, Barnard Alumna."

Jack and I met when I was 12 and he was 14, remained friends (and occasionally dated) for eight years, and then lost touch. He lives in California with his partner of 18 years, and it's been a joy to be back in touch with him. We've been writing back and forth and since mid-summer he telephones about once a week.

In the spring I realized that I was almost out of copies of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing, and that if I changed at least 20 percent I could publish a 20th anniversary edition this year.

I started working on that, and was proud to launch this third book under the Simon Teakettle Ink imprint in October. Meanwhile, my course based on this book has been franchised to colleagues in five cities across Canada.

I also handled several intensive mentoring contracts last year. One of my clients, JackFruit Press, brought out their first book over the summer and have already sold more than 5000 copies. In addition, it's been nominated for a Silver Birch Award. I'm thrilled that she's using Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity as a guide to promote the company.

It's still difficult for me to decide whether to describe myself as a writer or a teacher, because I can't imagine concentrating on one of these to the exclusion of the other. Both have provided a great deal of satisfaction over the years, but hearing from former students or those I mentored over the years is a real thrill.

I still hear from three or four former Latin School of Chicago students (from my favorite class, the Class of '67), and staying in touch with them is sheer joy.

Last June was another special event. Both of my older sisters (Sherry and Audrey) came to visit and we spent a week having a wonderful time together. We went to a couple of jazz concerts, out to dinner almost every night (good thing, because they both cook far better than I do,) and one evening I had my closest female friends over because they all know Sherry (who has come here frequently over the past decade) and were eager to meet Audrey.

After they left, my summer intensified with revisions to the book, revamping my website, redesigning a new brochure (with help from dear friend Don Foss), arranging for the book launch, preparing two different fall seminars to help promote the book, and publicizing it.

I continue to teach online (my courses are now offered as tutorials, which I find easier to handle), and to promote all three books as well as my services. I contribute to several writers and editors' publications (some print, some online) and still write some humor as well. In January I'll be editing a young-adult book.

Simon Teakettle turned 18 this year (the equivalent of 90 human years) so I decided to throw a birthday party in his honor in September. He continues to be mentioned on CBC radio and receives e-mail, notes and cards from several fans. "His" book, MEWSINGS/MUSINGS sells slowly but steadily, available in many small stores within a day's drive from Ottawa (both in Quebec and Ontario) and from a number of SPCAs and rescue organizations in Canada and the U.S.

He and I both contributed to a new book, The Magic of Animals, Living Happier and Healthier with Pets>/I>, and also to the 2006 edition of Ottawa Gems. I also contributed to a book due out next spring, called For the Love of Pets, and to Patricia Fry's new book, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book. This brings our combined total of anthologies to 29.

The most exciting thing, however, is that all three books under the Simon Teakettle imprint will now be sold by Great Canadian Theatre Company (Ottawa's only professional theatre company, now in its 31st season) to help raise funds for their new building.

Since I took no vacation this summer, and have been away only once, to the Hamilton/Niagara region in May to attend the PWAC annual meeting with another delegate, I'm going south for the holidays this year. I'll fly to Big Canoe, Georgia, ,(where Sherry moved last summer) on Dec. 20 and return Jan. 3.

Later in the spring I plan to go to NYC to attend my 50th reunion from Barnard (flying via Boston so I can see two Grava nephews who live there), and then next fall to California for the Cat Writers' Association national conference. They're holding a space for me on the program, as they've been asking me to present another seminar.

Although it seems as if everything in my life is going well (it's about time!) I can't close without saying that this has been a difficult year for several friends battling serious cancer. I know some of you have had health problems this past year, or are facing treatment for serious illness. Please know that I'm thinking of you.

Let's also hope that 2006 brings no more natural disasters, and that the conflict in Iraq will finally come to an end, bringing troops from all countries home to their families.

Barbara Floria Graham is the author of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing, Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity, and Mewsings/Musings. Her website: www.SimonTeakettle.com

Copyright © 2005 Barbara Floria Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/12.05