Cottaging, Camping & Book Promo: My Summer at Home

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Camping on Little Coon Lake in Algonquin Park

 

“It is always quietly thrilling to find yourself looking at a world you know well but have never seen from such an angle before.” 

― Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life

Since I’ve been living and working away from home over the last couple of years, I’ve taken every opportunity to travel during my holidays.

For me, the purpose of travel is to deepen my understanding about people and life. Through exposure to new people, places, and cultures, travel has broadened my perspective about the many different ways that one can live a happy and meaningful life. It has also helped shape my identity by reinforcing which values I held onto and which ones I let go of.

So it may seem strange that I chose to stay home this summer during my holidays from teaching…especially since my bucket list keeps getting longer and longer.

One of the main reasons that I stayed home was to promote my first novel, See What Flowers, which I recently published through Amazon CreateSpace. As I self-published my novel, I’m required to do all of the marketing and promotion myself. While this work has been very fun and interesting, it’s also quite time-consuming. As writing a novel has always been a dream of mine, it was important to me that I invested the time and energy into making this happen.

Another reason that I stayed at home was to spend time with friends and family. Several of my closest friends live abroad and came home for parts of the summer and it was important to me to hang out with them as much as possible while they were here.

By staying at home, I was able to go to the ROM in Toronto for the first time with my friend Meira who lives in Israel. I was able to meet my friends’ Lisa and Jessie’s new babies. I was able to attend my friend Paige’s wedding in Creemore. I was able to have some long chats with my friend, Laura, who lives in New Zealand, and attend a Blue Jays game with my friend Jill who lives in Colombia and her awesome dad. I was able to explore a few of Ontario’s Provincial Parks with friends and family. Oh, let’s not forget that I was also able to spend last Saturday night alone with my parents at the cottage listening to Taylor Swift on repeat.

While I still intend to travel to as many different places as I can, my summer at home has helped me see the value of making time for the people and places that matter most to me. Although travel has been one of the most incredible teachers in my life, some of the most formative experiences for me have resulted from building deeper connections with the people and places I’ve known forever. Turns out that some of my best adventures have happened in my own backyard.

Here are a few photos from ‘local adventures’ that I partook in this summer:

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First annual cousins canoe camping weekend in Algonquin Park!

 

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Pink Hues over Little Salmon Lake in Frontenac Provincial Park
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From South Africa to Collingwood, E-Bay and I make excellent wedding dates! (At our friend, Paige’s wedding in Creemore, ON)
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Kayaking at my cottage in Norway Bay, Quebec
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Canoe camping with friends I met in the Arctic in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park
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Practising my nature photography skills while canoeing and kayaking
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I spent a lot of time in the kitchen…Cooking fajitas in the backcountry at Frontenac Park!
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Camping with my cousin, Jenn, and her son, Cameron, at Bronté Creek Provincial Park
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Book signing at Café 349 in Shawville, Quebec
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Book Promo! Scruffy says “It’s a page-turner!”
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Teaching fitness classes at Goodlife whipped me in shape for this 1.5 km portage at Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park
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Exploring my neighbourhood of Mount Pleasant Village in Toronto
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Practising my French and Spanish at Mundo Lingo in Toronto
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Checking out the Blue Whale exhibit during my first visit to the ROM (even though I’ve lived in TO for 4 yrs on and off)
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^ My heroes ^ Many evenings at the cottage were spent binging GOT with my parents!
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My first novel, See What Flowers, is on the shelves at Indigo, Canada’s largest bookstore at Yonge & Eglinton in Toronto

^ I started teaching myself how to windsurf at the cottage…this involved at least 20 wipeouts. Thanks to my Aunt Pat for rescuing me from a near storm.

In addition to these things, I also did a lot of NOTHING. (Although I’ll admit that a lot of this nothing was spent watching fan commentary about GOT Season 7 on YouTube!) I’ve learned that doing nothing every once in a while fuels creativity, reduces stress, and makes space for spontaneous surprises. It also makes me excited to get back to work in a couple of weeks once I feel fully rested and recovered (However, I’ll likely be saying something different on Labour Day weekend!)

See What Flowers Book Signing at Café 349

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Thank you to everyone who came out and supported my first novel at Café 349 in Shawville, Québec today! It was so nice for me to chat with some new and familiar faces about books, publishing, and summers in Norway Bay.

One thing I find hard about self-publishing, is that I am required to do all of the book promotion and marketing myself. This means that I have to sell myself and my work. As a shy and humble person, it is quite a challenge for me to ‘knock on doors’ and self-promote. Luckily, I have an enormous support network of friends and family who have helped me along the way. I have been touched and overwhelmed by all of the ongoing support you have provided for me.

Thank you to everyone from Norway Bay, Shawville, and the Pontiac who came to my book signing. Special thank you to Ruth Smiley Hahn at Café 349 for providing me with the opportunity to promote my work.

Paperback copies of See What Flowers are available to purchase in Café 349, or through Amazon.ca, and Chapters/Indigo. See What Flowers is also available as an eBook.

Upcoming Events

Thursday, August 24, 7:30pm-9:00pm

Ottawa Book LaunchTerrace on the Canal, Ottawa, Ontario, featuring acoustic performance by The Bristol Hum

Sunday, October 1, 1pm-4pm

Book Signing at Yonge & Eglinton Indigo, Toronto, Ontario

signing books at cafe 349

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Flowers on shelf 2

Flowers on shelf

 

IndieView about my début novel, See What Flowers

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The website “The Indie View,” an online forum for connecting indie authors with reviews and readers, recently interviewed me about my début novel, See What Flowers.

In this “IndieView,” I discuss the inspiration behind See What Flowers, my writing process, publishing, and a little bit about me. Click here to access the full IndieView.

“After finishing the first draft, I realized that the writing was more emotional, more honest, and more impactful when I put more of myself into it. So during the editing, I added bits of personal experience to add depth and emotion to the characters.”

Shannon Mullen – 3 August 2017

My Book is on the Shelves @ Yonge & Eglinton Indigo in Toronto

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It is pretty much the coolest thing ever to see my book on the shelves at the Yonge and Eglinton Indigo…with a special “signed by author” sticker.

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See What Flowers is currently available to purchase through Chapters/Indigo online store and copies will be available in some select stores in Toronto and Ottawa.

Upcoming Events:

Saturday, August 12, 11am-2pm

Book Signing at Café 349, Shawville, Quebec

Thursday, August 24, 7:30pm-9:00pm

Ottawa Book Launch, Terrace on the Canal, Ottawa, Ontario

Sunday, October 1, 1pm-4pm

Book Signing at Yonge & Eglinton Indigo, Toronto, Ontario

Ottawa Book Launch: See What Flowers

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Reading from See What Flowers at the Toronto Book Launch

I’m excited to announce that I will be launching See What Flowers in Ottawa!

The event will feature acoustic performance by Ottawa-based band The Bristol Hum, author Q & A with Megan Valois, and book reading and signing.

Event Details:

Thursday, August 24, 7:30-9:00pm

Location: Terrace on the Canal

Cost: Free, no tickets required, first come, first serve

Copies of See What Flowers will be available to purchase for $20, cash only.

Facebook Event: http://bit.ly/2vexe6u

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Signing books that I wrote at the Toronto Book Launch

Additional Information:

Amazon listing for See What Flowers: http://amzn.to/2u0yYQZ

Chapters/Indigo listing for See What Flowers: http://bit.ly/2vjY1Ok

Shannon Mullen’s Author Profile on Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1e6r62f

Louise Johnson’s article on the Toronto Book Launch: http://bit.ly/2f59Cuw

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Upcoming Events:

Saturday, August 12, 11am-2pm

Book Signing at Café 349, Shawville, Quebec

Sunday, October 1, 1pm-4pm

Book Signing at Yonge & Eglinton Indigo, Toronto, Ontario

My novel, See What Flowers, is now available at Chapters/Indigo!

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How exciting that Chapters/Indigo, Canada’s leading bookstore, has made See What Flowers available through the online store! You can find the listing here.

Paperback copies of See What Flowers will also be available in select Indigo locations in both Ottawa and Toronto soon.

See What Flowers: Upcoming Events

Saturday, August 12, 11am-2pm

Book Signing at Café 349, Shawville, Quebec

Thursday, August 24, 7pm-9pm

Book Reading and Author Q & A at Terrace on the Canal, Ottawa, Ontario

Sunday, October 1, 1pm-4pm

Book Signing at Yonge & Eglinton Indigo, Toronto, Ontario

Have you read See What Flowers? Please support me by writing a review!

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 11.44.14 AMIf you have read the book, you can support me by writing a short review and providing a star rating via:

Amazon (if purchased through Amazon)

Indigo (if purchased through Indigo)

Goodreads (if purchased directly from me, borrowed from friend, purchased through any platform)

Thank you and happy reading!

Toronto Book Launch for See What Flowers

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The night was absolutely magical.

That’s the only way I can describe the Toronto Book Launch for my first novel, See What Flowers.

Magical. 

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So many of my closest friends and family gathered together at The Steady Café and Bar to celebrate my book being published. I could feel the warmth of love all night. I truly appreciated that so many people made the effort to partake in this special night.

The night, MC’d by Rachael Glassman, began with a musical performance by my amazingly talented friend, Keira Loukes. Her choice of songs: hopeful, angry, sad, accepting, perfectly captured the theme of love and mental illness that centres the novel.

Keira’s performance was followed by an “Author Q & A” led by Toronto-writer, Louise Johnson, a friend of mine from summers spent in Norway Bay, Québec (who I previously interviewed for the Inspiring Women Series). Louise asked me about my writing process, the inspiration behind the book, and some content-specific questions about See What Flowers.

I closed the night by reading three passages from the novel that I felt showed the characters of Adam Davison and Emma Watters, as well as two of the settings: Toronto and the Canadian Arctic.

Oh, and then I signed the book that I wrote! How cool!

For more photos and details about the book, check out Louise’s post about the Toronto Book Launch for See What Flowers.

 

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See What Flowers is available to purchase as both a paperback and eBook on Amazon.

Stay tuned for info about an Ottawa event in August!

                  

See What Flowers Longlisted for Novel Beginnings Competition 2017

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Not sure how I missed this, but See What Flowers was longlisted for the “Your Writeful Place Novel Beginnings Competition 2017.” Your Writeful Place is a Paris-based agency which runs writing retreats in inspiring natural settings.

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While See What Flowers did not win, it’s an honour to have my work recognized amongst esteemed writers. Congrats to American novelist D.K. Dailey for her winning entry, Pearl Passing.

See What Flowers is available as an ebook on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Amazon.co.uk, and is currently available as a paperback on Amazon.com.

Paperback copies of See What Flowers will also be available for $20 at the Toronto Book Launch on June 15th at 7:30pm at The Steady Café & Bar, 1051 Bloor Street West.

For more info about my book launch, check out the listings on BlogTO and NOW Magazine.

 

 

 

Where I Wrote It! The Making of See What Flowers

Toronto Reference Library
My début novel, See What Flowers, is available on Amazon in paperback and eBook

The first draft of my début novel, See What Flowers, was written in Toronto, after I’d returned from just over a year of teaching in Nunavut, Canada. (Check out my interview in Shedoesthecity for details on how living and working in the Canadian Arctic influenced the writing and research for my novel. )

In addition to Vancouver and the Arctic, much of See What Flowers is set in Toronto, particularly on Dufferin Street and Bloordale Village. Landmarks such as Christie Pits Park, the Baldwin Steps (Spadina stairs by Casa Loma), Snakes & Lattes, Toronto Western Hospital, High Park, and the #29 Dufferin bus are described in the novel.

Not only is Toronto featured in See What Flowers, but various locations in the city also inspired the writing of it. Here’s a few Toronto landmarks where See What Flowers was written:

1. Boxcar Social (Summerhill)

Boxcar

Boxcar Social is my favourite café in Toronto. I love the ambience, the lattés, and the back patio. One Sunday afternoon, I even saw Andrew Coyne, one of my heros in Canadian writing, there. He was writing too. I was writing. He was writing. I thought, maybe one day, we’ll both be Canadian writers. Maybe one day.

Boxcar will always have a special place in my heart because that is where I finished the first draft of See What Flowers.

It was a Saturday night in October 2015, just a few weeks before I left Toronto for a year to teach in Colombia. I arrived at the café at about 7pm intending to stay for a couple of hours. The café turned into a nightclub and I didn’t even notice. At midnight I was still writing. Some guys came over to ask me if I was freezing and if they should close the back door. I didn’t even notice that the back door was open. I didn’t even notice that it was dark out. I didn’t even notice that the café had turned into a bar. It was like I was in the zone on a long run. All I could focus on was what I was doing right then. The writing.

The last thirty or so pages of the book contain the strongest writing. They are also the most autobiographical and get as close to the truth of life as I know it. I’m really proud of them. So thank you, Boxcar Social…maybe it was the music, maybe it was the coffee, maybe it was the beer, maybe it was the crowd, but you certainly inspired something in me the night I finished the first draft of my first novel.

2. Toronto Reference Library

Reference Library

In 2015, I took almost a year off teaching high school to write. But I kept my job as a fitness instructor at Goodlife Fitness Clubs and taught lunch time classes from Monday to Friday at the Yorkville, Manulife Centre, and Bloor Park locations. My days usually involved writing at my aunt and uncle’s Forrest Hill mansion (where I was living) in the morning from about 8:30am-11:30am, then I would go teach my class from 12:15-1;15pm, and in the afternoon, I would go to the nearby Toronto Reference Library from about 2:00-5:00 pm.

Luckily, my good friend, Keira, was writing her Master’s thesis at the time, so we would often meet and write together at the library. This enabled us to take coffee breaks together and support each other in what can be a very isolating process.

One thing I loved about writing at the Toronto Reference Library was that I was surrounded by thousands of books. The books were written by humans. Maybe I could write a book, too. It was also great to have a free space to use for the afternoon during a time when I had very little income.

3. Balzac’s (Toronto Reference Library)

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All of those afternoons spent writing at the Toronto Reference Library made for many, many coffee breaks at Balzac’s. I often brought my laptop with me and stayed there for an hour or two for a change of scene. Balzac’s coffee is some of the best in Toronto. They even have an Atwood Blend, named after Canadian literary icon, Margaret Atwood. So perhaps Balzac’s coffee contains some secret ingredient to inspire great writing.

4. Saving Gigi

Saving Gigi.jpgSince she lived in the west end at the time, often my friend Keira and I would meet at Saving Gigi a hip café on Bloor at Ossington. It serves coffee, beer, brunch, and amazing salads and sandwiches. The part I loved most about writing there is that it attracts the staring artist type. I was always surrounded by others working on screenplays, articles, blog posts, graphic design, and other creative projects. Their work made my own creative venture seem less of a silly fantasy and more of a worthwhile venture.

I was inspired and motivated by others struggling to pursue their dreams at a time when social pressures were encouraging me to develop a sustainable financial plan and settle.

5. Bloomer’s 

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Just west of Saving Gigi is Bloomer’s, a homey vegan café which serves coffee, tea, beer, whiskey, salads, sandwiches, and delicious home baked goods. It is an amazing space to write, especially in the summer. It has big booths and tables, a positive vibe, and a garage-style open window which allows you to write while people watching the passerby’s on Bloor Street.

Bloomer’s is the only café in Toronto that I wrote at which is actually featured in the novel, See What Flowers. Adam and Emma’s basement neighbour, Jess, describes a terrible Tinder date experience that she had at “Bloomer’s, you know, that great vegan café at Bloor and Ossington?”

6. TTC

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Most of my writing happens when I’m not writing. I get ideas when I’m walking or running or biking or thinking or staring into space. Or reading. I get inspired by ideas that were written by other authors and incorporate them into my characters and plot.

So when I get an idea in the midst of doing another activity, I often stop and write it in my phone. Then I email it to myself and incorporate it into the draft of my writing.

In March 2015, I marked the OSSLT (Ontario Literacy Test), which is a great opportunity for teachers to gain experience in assessment. But it is also a bit soul crushing. It is like an assembly line for grading essays. I marked the same answer from thousands of students across Ontario for two weeks straight! It took me over an hour to travel to the location of the OSSLT at the Toronto Congress Centre. I had just started writing the first draft of Parts 1 & 2 of See What Flowers, and much of it was written on the 52 Lawrence West bus as I worked a little creativity into an extremely monotonous work day.

Where I Wrote It: Outside of Toronto

While I wrote the first draft of See What Flowers in Toronto, much of the editing happened outside of the city.

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Many of the edits were done at Juan Valdez café in El Cable, Manizales
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I went to Kaffe Florida almost every other day while I was working in Manizales. Much of the second draft was written here.
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The final draft and edits were completed at my cottage in Norway Bay, Québec in August 2016.

See What Flowers is available as an eBook and paperback on Amazon. Thank you everyone for all of your support.

5 Day Promotion: Free eBook of See What Flowers

To celebrate my upcoming book launch for See What Flowers, I’m offering a FREE five day promotional giveaway of the ebook.

See What Flowers is a novel about love and mental illness, and currently has a 5 star rating on both Amazon and Goodreads.

Click here to download your free ebook. If you like it, there are many ways that you can help me promote the book. Thank you so much! Happy reading!

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