A Creative Book Launch

A Creative Book Launch


It all starts with SLICE (Sussex Literary Initiatives and Cultural Events). We are a group of about 30 people in Sussex, New Brunswick, a small town surrounded by hills and rivers, not far from the Bay of Fundy. We’ve done lots of events: brought in authors, held a day dedicated to honeybees, created a symposium to celebrate nature. We have no executive, no dues, no regular meetings. We charge nothing for our events. All we have is a name. And creative minds.

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We have one initial meeting at which we brainstorm the shape of the event.

For my new novel, A Measure of Light, we began with a vision of darkness becoming light. We would create a 17th century atmosphere, with the evening beginning in hushed obscurity and moving towards movement, animation, colour, and vibrancy.

We decided to have 17th century music; to ask people to come dressed in black so that we could give them costumes; to have a “village” of people in full costume, demonstrating handwork of the era; to make food of the period and ask a local brewery to make a special ale. Of course, I would read! And there would be a bookstore present.


At the first meeting, someone offered to be in charge of each idea. Cathy volunteered to make a spreadsheet. Patricia said she would be the publicist. I would find and secure the animators. Younger members volunteered to set up facebook and twitter accounts. Others chose to research and prepare food, find a venue, secure musicians.

This was October. The event would take place on March 13. We set up an group email and, until the very final days, corresponded entirely on-line, letting each other know what had fallen into place, or what was needed. Ideas came flooding in, and soon we had added a painting (to be made by the audience), a photo booth (with a tickle trunk), a stuffed wolf, a giant carrot cake and several tables for charities. Not to mention the room’s decorations: quilts, lanterns, candles, brooms, snowshoes…..

I visited Plimouth Plantation, in Massachusetts, and borrowed a costume.

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Then we knew what to make. We held sewing bees to make costume pieces for the audience – collars, cuffs, aprons, caps. We raided the high school theatre department for costumes to outfit the animators.


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Many of us made gallons of succotash and dozens of loaves of bread.

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Knopf Canada provided a poster. Picaroons Brewery began making a special bitter, called “A Measure of Light Ale.
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The Frye Festival (an International Writers Festival) became a partner. They signed up a bus-load of people to come from nearby Moncton. People began cutting trees and hauling them out of the snow-bound woods on snowshoes. We prayed that we would not have yet another blizzard! We spent two days decorating the Royal Canadian Legion (capacity 500.)

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And the evening arrived. Everyone wore black. Everyone put on cuffs or ruffed collars The room smelled of spruce boughs and freshly baked bread. The ale was gnarly.

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Hundreds of cups of succotash were served. The carrot cake was devoured. In the Legion kitchen, many hands chopped, sliced, washed and dried.

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Everyone asked questions of the skilled animators.

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And bought books.

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We had wanted everyone to feel as if they were IN the world of the novel. And they did!

It wasn’t a book launch, really. It was a community event and a celebration of friendship and creativity that will be talked about for years to come.

We’ll do another one in four years. Promise!