A Good Home, Book Festivals, Book Interviews, Book lovers, Books, Children's Books, Paul Mason

The Multi-Talented Paul Mason

Paul Nicholas Mason is an actor, playwright and novelist. He’s acted in multiple films but confesses he has few photos of himself because he is bad at self-promotion.

Blog Photo - Paul Mason MCU

So I told him to have some taken! He sent a few, apologizing:

“With nearly 35 projects (including ten feature films) under my belt, you’d think I could offer you more.”

Blog Photo - Paul Mason in character as a butler

I wanted to introduce Paul on my blog for three reasons. He’s created a new career in film for himself after taking early retirement from teaching;  he will be appearing at the Festival of the Arts in Cobourg, east of Toronto on Friday Nov. 3 and Saturday Nov. 4; plus he has a new book on the market.

Paul’s published books include the novels  Battered Soles, The Red Dress and The Night Drummer. 

Blog Photo - Poppy book cover

The new book, A Pug Called Poppy, is his first chapter book for children. It’s illustrated by artist Sarah Berrino.

Blog Photo - Paul Mason Poppy and Human

Paul says he’s excited about the book because he feels its central characters — Poppy the Pug and Smudge the Maine Coon Cat — “will meow and snuffle their way into a great many hearts.”

“I have such fond and powerful memories of the books I enjoyed as a little boy — Winnie-the-Pooh, Paddington Bear, The Borrowers, Swallows and Amazons, the Narnia Chronicles.  It would make me happy to feel that I had introduced a character into the imaginative life of children.”

Blog Photo - Paul Mason and Reader

A Pug Called Poppy is meant to appeal particularly to 8 to 10-year-olds. But then there are adults like me, who love it too.

“There are a lot of little grace notes, little touches, that will amuse adults,” Paul says.

Yes!  I stand amused.

Blog Photo - Paul Mason Poppy


But let’s head back to Paul’s acting career. He has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard, and as a result, does a great variety of voice-over work for film. (One of his first roles was playing the part of a “lecherous duck”.)

To be closer to his beloved family and have greater access to movie shoots, Paul recently moved from Peterborough to Newcastle, a quaint lakeside town east of Toronto. Though he misses his Peterborough friends, he says he’s delighted with his neighbours, with the town’s library and swimming pool, and by being closer to family.

Blog Photo - Paul Mason and Granddaughter

If you’re in the Cobourg-Northumberland area this weekend, you can meet Paul at the book fair at the Festival of the Arts, November 3 and 4.

Blog Photo - SOTH Festival of the Arts Photo

And if you haven’t yet, then one of these days, you just may hear/see him in a movie.



A Good Home, Authors, Book Festivals, Books, Famous people, Great books, Poetry

The Introvert at the Party

Photos by Hamlin Grange

What’s an introvert like me doing at a party with famous authors?

Feeling a bit lost among strangers, is what. The room is packed with authors – the very well-known and not-so-well known –  from around the world.  A quick look at the program book for the prestigious International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront in Toronto and you’ll see names like Margaret Atwood, Joseph Boyden and Margaret Drabble.

Blog - IFOA Reception

I, meanwhile,  am new to this author thing: my book, A Good Home” was only recently released. Hamlin Grange and Leonie McKnight-Copeland, a childhood friend visiting from Connecticut, are with me. As usual, several people recognize Hamlin from his frequent appearances on CBC Television where he was a news anchor and journalist. But none of us knows anyone here.

We join the line for appetizers and drinks.  I use a cane and  can’t manage it plus a plate and a glass, so Leonie and I head to a table in a connecting room while Hamlin  goes back inside for the drinks.

Finally, we return to the party. I once possessed the fine skill of mixing and mingling with strangers and celebrities at cocktail parties.  I’ve been away from that world for such a long time since the accident, I’ve forgotten how;  I’ve become an introvert.  But my eye catches a young woman who looks as shy as me, and I go over to say a warm hello.  Then I realize that there are other people with her,  so I move on.

My companions and I are glad to bump into a relaxed-looking man who greets us warmly.  We spend several minutes chatting with him.

Blog - With Attila

He turns out to be Attila Berki, associate publisher of Quill and Quire magazine. He says that the young woman I  approached was Eleanor Catton, the Canadian-born author whose book, The Luminaries, just won the Man Booker Prize.

Feeling a bit foolish, I return and apologize to Eleanor for not having recognized her.

“And I really should have, because I was very proud to hear that a Canadian-born author won the prize. You live in – is it Australia, or…?”

The moment I say this, I know I’m wrong, and Eleanor corrects me gently. “New Zealand,” she says.

“I know that”, I groan.

But Eleanor smiles warmly at me. We part, with me feeling only slightly idiotic.

And then it occurs to me that there’s a whole roomful of other authors who don’t know anyone else here either.   I force myself to smile brightly and say hello to everyone I come across who looks a little lost. Each person smiles back warmly, almost with relief, it seems.

Blog - Small group

Ironically, the only famous author whom I recognize is wearing someone else’s name tag. Going along with this little deception, I pretend not to notice.

“You have to come say hello to Austin,” Hamlin says, returning to my side. “He’s across the room.” I go off to see Austin Clarke, a huge smile on my face.

Austin’s sitting in a dark corner. The winner of the Giller Prize and several other prestigious honours sits by himself on a black leather bench, looking regal yet removed. “Like a sort of eminence grise?”  I tease him.

“Or the lion of Judah,” he offers, laughing softly. I slip my arm through his and we laugh together companionably. I’ve known him for years.

Blog - Austin and Cynthia

Austin’s new book of poetry, Where the Sun Shines Best, is nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award, and he’s at work on his memoirs. As we sit together, looking at the crowd,  I, the brand-new author, am honoured to be chatting quietly with this famous Canadian man of letters. We laughingly compare the canes we use to walk around, and I have to agree that his brown wooden African cane is much nicer. (See above photo, extreme right of frame)

A man who works at Harbourfront approaches, bringing Austin a more comfortable chair. He almost-kneels, almost-reverently, to shake Austin’s hand. He’s a fan of Austin’s Giller-winning novel, The Polished Hoe, and he greets Austin as if meeting a head of state.

Leonie and Hamlin join us to chat with Austin. No-one else approaches us, and I realize that this roomful of mostly younger or foreign authors probably does not realize that this black man with the shoulder-length grey dreadlocks is Austin Clarke, one of Canada’s greatest.

Hamlin, Leonie and I take turns giving Austin a goodbye hug.  As we leave, we look around for Attila, to say thanks and goodbye. We don’t find him. But it’s been a good evening, and – introvert though I am –  I am grateful to Harbourfront  and the IFOA for  inviting us to take part.

A Good Home, Book Festivals, Book lovers

When Books and Music Go Together

Blog Cynthia reading at Word Northumberland

The charming downtown of Cobourg, east of Toronto, played host to two festivals last weekend: the Coal Train Music and Blues Festival and Word Northumberland, the region’s brand-new book festival.

Blog Felicity and Jessica reading

I got to experience both.

Standing in front of the Historic Firehall Theatre on Second Street, you could hear the voices of authors inside, reading from their books. And hear some pretty good live music outside.

There was no conflict between the two.

It was as if one was a soundtrack for the other.

Hamlin Grange, whose photo adorns the front cover of A Good Home, was invited to exhibit his photograph and I was asked to read from the book.  What a thrill it was for us both to share our work with an audience of book lovers – readers,  publishers, illustrators and authors taking part in Word Northumberland!

Blog - Erika pointing to Hamlin's photo

A steady stream of people dropped in to the book festival, where they heard a remarkable variety of readings and got to meet the authors.

In the afternoon, I sat outside with fellow writers Erika Rummel, Felicity Sidnell Reid, and Susan Statham (Word Northumberland’s lead organizer). Residents and tourists alike stopped to chat with us and buy our books.

Cobourg, Port Hope, Warkworth, Rice Lake, Grafton, Cramahe and the many other towns and villages that make up Northumberland County are teeming with cultural activities. Artists of all kinds live and work in this region that’s bordered by lake Ontario at one end, and stunning hills, valleys and farmlands on the other. More and more nature and culture lovers from the bigger cities are moving to the area, which many call “the best-kept secret in Canada”.

Blog - cynthia talking to guest

I met people who’d moved to Northumberland from Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and elsewhere. A former journalist with the Toronto Star. A dentist. Several writers and painters. A librarian. An office worker. A photographer. A corporate executive. And more. All professed their love for the region and its cultural offerings.

Congrats to Susan Statham and The Spirit of the Hills writers for their groundbreaking festival. And spirits were indeed high – despite rain in the morning. Visitors and organizers alike, thrilled with this inaugural success, are already expecting a bigger event next year.