Thursday, 17 January 2013

Book Launch and Beyond ... By Anne Gafiuk

Thank you to Calgary PWAC member, Anne Gafiuk, for sharing her Book Launch experience ... 

In March of 2012, I drove south from Calgary to High River’s Museum of the Highwood to pick up a DVD with scanned photos related to the subject of my book, having met and talked with the director, Pat, a few weeks earlier to select photos from the museum’s archives. 

Knowing pictures are not cheap, from my experience with the cost of one photo from the War Museum of Canada, when I was handed the bill, I did a double-double take.....yikes, I thought...but I need them.  I could see Pat was also concerned about my reaction.  I handed over my VISA card and paid the invoice.

As I continued putting together Wings Over High River , a biography about Gordon Jones, pilot instructor during WWII, I stayed in contact with the museum’s director.  By the time the book was just about in production in the late fall, she proposed a book launch.

“A book launch?”

“Sure....we can host it here.”

I was not expecting this at all.  Pleased, surprised and a bit in shock, I replied, “We need to talk to the fellows in Nanton, they are the publishers.”

Another meeting occurred with Pat, and Dave, one of the directors from the Bomber Command Museum plus me.  We agreed on a day – before Christmas – workable for everyone involved:  Saturday, December 1, 2012.  Both museums created press releases.  The ball started to roll. 

Local papers in the area picked up the story:  Nanton, High River and Okotoks.  Talk Radio QR77 in Calgary wanted an interview.  People were calling the Museum of the Highwood wanting more information.  Pat fielded the calls, emails being sent to me to keep me in the loop.  I couldn’t have asked for a better response.

The day of the book launch arrived.....but an interview was scheduled beforehand at Gordon’s home.  Gordon was in fine form and the question and answer period went well....back to the museum and all was set up:  my family assisted Pat and her fellow staff members with the cheese, crackers and little cakes while I was at the interview; Dave brought the sparkling apple juice; coffee and tea, cups and plates, napkins laid out.......people started to gather in the open spaces.....Gordon and his wife arrived....more people...and more people....the museum was filling up.  Then it was time for the programme. 

Pat was the emcee.  She rang a loud school bell to grab everyone’s attention....and the event opened.  Pat spoke briefly, then invited Gordon’s daughter to give a brief history of the family in the  the President of the Bomber Command Museum gave his short speech about Gordon’s contribution to aviation....then it was my turn!  I had rehearsed what I was going to say for days beforehand, in the car, in an empty house....I thanked so many people:  Gordon and his wife, first of all....then the directors of the museums....then my photographer friend....and everyone was a collaborative effort all the way around.  Gordon had his turn at the podium, too.  Onward to the book signing – Pat kept the event moving right along.

Pat set up a table with books and pens.  (“I made sure they work, Anne,” she assured me.)  And people lined up for their copy.  (“A best seller at the museum,” I was told.)  Before we knew it, people were starting to head home, the museum quieted down.....then Gordon and I were asked for another interview with a reporter of the CBC Calgary Late Night News....

What a day December 1, 2012 was for me....and Gordon, too.  I had concerns the book launch might be anti-climactic....that the researching and the writing of the book would be more exciting.  Was it just like what people say about a wedding...months and months of preparation, planning....for one day...then it’s done?  Months and months of research....interviews...travels...meeting new this where the high comes from?

One person I met through the research of Wings Over High River posed to me, “What’s next, Anne?”   I’ve got a few ideas.....most of them connected to the BCATP....that acronym I had no idea existed nor what it meant....and had to practice saying....the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan....and the many men who joined the RCAF...and died for their country.

Two days after the book launch, I went to the post office to mail six copies of Wings Over High River....they were travelling, so to speak, across the country:  to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Saanichton, British Columbia and points in-between.  Since CBC’s The National covered the story in early January 2013, more book orders have been pouring in, including one from the US.  Gordon’s story has made aviation websites, newspapers, and the television, with online versions, too.

The book has taken on a life of its own.

“It’s grown amazing legs”, says Colleen Biondi, another PWAC member. 

Yes, that it has!

WINGS OVER HIGH RIVER - Conversations with A. Gordon Jones
by Anne Gafiuk