Kaleena Johnson holds her Grey County Reads runner-up certificates to Bishop's Landing and Casera Kitchen Table restaurants.
Richard Wagamese’s Starlight was a challenging selection for which to advocate, given that the author passed away before completing the story. But once Kaleena Johnson read the book’s synopsis, and knowing Wagamese as the accomplished writer behind the acclaimed 2012 novel Indian Horse, she found herself hooked and never looked back.
“I was also intrigued by the fact that he died before finishing it,” said Johnson, of the award-winning author and journalist’s work that would prove so difficult to explain within the confines of the Grey County Reads format. “It’s a book that doesn’t end,” she gasped.
Despite her challenge, Kaleena found the whole experience to be fun and rewarding. “I have to admit, though, I really wanted to win,” she said, slightly disappointed that in the end, it was Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice that took this year’s crown.
“I will read Moon of the Crusted Snow,” she confessed, but hadn’t had too much time to look over the other titles in the contest.
South Grey News recently met with Ms. Johnson as she was preparing for another season of engaging events on the Chi-Cheemaun ferry which travels between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island from May to October. Among these occasions, is the popular Month of Sundays words on water events series which pairs a local author with a local songwriter to perform together in an afternoon of stories and music set against the beautiful backdrop of the clear water and rocky shorelines of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron.
The series will run for the entire month of July with the first mash-up on Sunday, July 7. Tim Falconer, author of Bad Singer: The Surprising Science of Tone Deafness and How We Hear Music will ironically pair up with Craig Cardiff, a very good singer and veteran folk artist who has released sixteen albums over his accomplished career.
Falconer’s book is much more than the story of his own sometimes-humiliating attempt to sing in tune. It’s also about what we hear when we listen to music and why singing is so important to us all, while Cardiff was nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award as Contemporary Singer of the Year and his album Solo also garnered a Juno Award nomination in 2012.
Check the Owen Sound Transportation website for more details and other events in the Month of Sundays series.
The MS Chi-Cheemaun has been the connecting ferry between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island for over 40 years but the ship is much more than it seems. Docked in Owen Sound over the winter, it is a symbol of the city’s legendary hospitality. During the Spring, Summer and Fall, it carries the memories of thousands of amazing voyages across the crystal blue waters of Lake Huron. During that time, it has proudly introduced passengers to the rich Indigenous heritage and natural beauty of the region and hosts a number of local charitable and special events throughout the year.
Kaleena Johnson is the Manager of Customer and Media Relations for the Owen Sound Transportation Company, operators of the historic ferry service. Among her accomplishments, she has successfully co-conceptualized and co-curated the A Month of Sundays ~ Words on Water Event Series held aboard the fabled "big canoe". The event brings together three authors, three songwriters and one common experience. For three afternoons this past July, their stories and songs encountered one another, while the authors and musicians performed together during scheduled passages. Alysha Brilla, Karen Connelly, Ian Bell, Richard Thomas and Tom Wilson participated. Kaleena is excited to bring this one-of-a-kind event to passengers again next season. The event is free with ferry passage. Check the Chi-Cheemaun website for updated information on this and other special events.
"Although I have never read any of Richard Wagamese's novels, I was intrigued by it being his last novel and that he had passed away while writing it, so it was not complete. This gives the reader a chance to connect to characters and create their own ending," Johnson said, citing one of her reasons for choosing to advocate for the novel Starlight. "I am drawn to protagonists and the journey of personal growth and seeking change through compassion and their overcoming of personal struggle."
Penguin Random House describes Richard Wagamese as an Ojibway from the Wabaseemoong First Nation in northwestern Ontario and one of Canada's foremost writers. His acclaimed, best-selling novels included Keeper 'n Me, Indian Horse and Medicine Walk. Indian Horse was a Canada Reads finalist, winner of the inaugural Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature, and made into a feature film.
He was also the author of acclaimed memoirs, including For Joshua, One Native Life and One Story, One Song, which won the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature. Embers, a collection of personal reflections received the Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Award while he had also won numerous awards and was recognized for his writing including the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media and Communications, the Molson Prize for the Arts, the Canada Reads People's Choice Award and the Writers' Trust of Canada"s Matt Cohen Award. Wagamese died at the age of 61 on March 10, 2017 in Kamloops, BC. Starlight is his final work of fiction.
Grey County Reads is a county-wide reading program involving seven local libraries, including Grey Highlands, Hanover, Meaford, Owen Sound, Southgate, Town of Blue Mountains and West Grey. Five local celebrities will advocate for five Canadian books beginning in January.
Readers are encouraged to follow along with the contest, consider each book and it’s celebrity endorsement. Pick up your own copy of one or more of these books and give us your opinion too. Books are available in limited quantities from your local public library or may be purchased from your favourite local bookstore.
Read any or all of the Grey County Reads books and/or read each of the book synopses and celebrity installments posted on SouthGrey.ca starting January, 2019.
Grey County Reads is supported through advertising by these local businesses:
The Bicycle Café
Chapman's Ice Cream
The Colour Jar
ColourPix Graphic Design Services
Grey County Public Libraries
Grey Roots Museum and Archives
John Tamming Law
Larry Miller, MP Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound
Nature's Path Osteopathy and Alternative Healing
Owen Sound Transportation Company
The Restaurant - Leela's Villa Inn
Speaking Volumes Books and Audio
Bill Walker, MPP Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound
West Grey Chamber of Commerce