See the Media Release that has just been published about Ian’s win by pressing here: In The News
On September 18, 2013 we blogged an invitation to vote for Ian Moore-Morrans as he entered the first phase of The Authors Show 2013-1014 contest “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading” which ended on November 1st. We greatly appreciate any and all votes cast. Enough of you did vote for him so that now Ian is a finalist in the second (and final) phase of the contest. This is an invitation to AGAIN VOTE FOR IAN in this final phase.
Here is the information from Danielle Hampson, Executive Producer of The Authors Show:
The final phase of our contest is now open for voting through December 1, 2013. The top fifty authors with the most votes will be included in the 4th edition of “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading” to be published in January 2014. A special prize will also be awarded to the top winner in each book genre: Fiction, Nonfiction, Children and Christian. To view the names of all the finalists and to vote for your favorite author in our final phase, go to:
Thanks in advance to those of you who will cast a vote for Ian. We are including a copy of Ian’s entry into the contest which asked for him to write about his journey as a writer. We hope you will enjoy it.
Ian and Gayle Moore-Morrans
Why I Write – My Writing Journey
by Ian Moore-Morrans
Author of From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada
Folks remark that I have a gift for gab and storytelling. However, whatever free time I had was taken up by music-making. Important as it was to me, writing took a back seat to making music.
Though growing up in abject poverty in Scotland during the Great Depression, I was fortunate to attend school until I was 14. I liked learning and tried my best to do well in my class work. My English teacher had remarked about the quality of my essays and compositions. When she mentioned that I should become a journalist after I finished school, I found it an intriguing but totally impossible suggestion. I could only conclude, ‘What a picture that would be—me sitting at a desk with holes in my shoes and no underwear!’
When schooling was over, I had to find a job. Working as an apprentice to a local blacksmith, I had neither time nor energy to write, though I earned some money and built up muscle. My free time was spent learning to sing and play an instrument as part of the Salvation Army. Music-making became my passion.
Four years later I joined the Royal Air Force. Finally I had decent food, clothing and living conditions plus an opportunity to learn a trade—Flight Mechanic Engines—and to continue to play in a band. I served in England, Wales, Scotland and the Suez Canal Zone in Egypt. Being far away, I enjoyed writing letters home and hearing remarks about how exciting I made my life sound and how much folk learned from reading what I wrote. I was to benefit most by corresponding with my pen-pal. Mary and I kept up a steady correspondence and then met in Glasgow just after I returned to Britain. We were soon married.
Whenever I had a chance at work or leisure, I told stories when I wasn’t singing songs or playing my trumpet. I fancied myself an entertainer but never thought of trying to earn a living at it. After five years’ service, I left the RAF. Not only did I have a wife to support; we were soon blessed with two daughters. I found work as a machine fitter in the steel industry around Glasgow. After awhile I applied for a clerk’s job in a big steel company. When interviewed, the supervisor mentioned that one of the biggest problems in the job was reading what someone had written. He asked me to write the numbers from 1 to 10 and also spell each one out in longhand and then print the words in capital letters. “Very good” he said, “at least we’ll have one person whose writing is legible. When can you start?” I couldn’t believe that was the test! Soon, my “penmanship” earned me a better job as a shift scheduler.
Having been misled by the inflated promises of an unscrupulous Ontario official, we got “itchy feet” and headed for Canada. Arriving in 1965, we soon found that my promised machining job was not available, nor were we in a financial position to buy a house as we had been led to believe. After five years of misadventures finding and keeping jobs and suitable homes, we finally reached the level of prosperity we had had in Scotland.
My family and I continued to live and work in Canada, moving almost every year to a different house, town or province (and different band) as jobs came and disappeared. I never seemed to have time to write down my stories, though I told plenty of them, both true and made-up. Finally, in 1995 at age 63, I decided if I didn’t start writing, I’d never do it.
In longhand over three evenings, I wrote “My Friend Jimmy,” a children’s story about a budgie that had no wings. Then I bought a simple, used computer and studied a learn-to-type book. I rewrote my children’s story and sent it away to a publisher, thinking full well that he would deem it the very best children’s story he had ever read! Soon I could just about paper the wall with rejections. ‘Never mind,’ I thought, ‘where there’s life, there’s hope.’ I went on to write others, thinking that I’d give “My Friend Jimmy” a try again at a later date. (Now, 17 years later, my wife/editor is starting the layout for “Jake, Little Jimmy and Big Louie,” a highbred of the original story!)
Next, I tackled my life’s story. Several times I’ve encountered people who heard my Scottish “burr” and then told me of Scottish ancestors. After inquiring, I would hear they had died and the family didn’t even know where in Scotland they had originated. Finally, I vowed to write my life story to avoid that state. Thus began the long process of remembering and writing into the wee hours of the night over the course of several years. I ended up with two volumes called “From Poverty to Poverty” and “Came to Canada, Eh?” Again, I submitted manuscripts which were politely rejected.
In 1984, I taught an adult class for men who had metal-cutting lathes and wanted to learn how to better use them. I loved this first and only experience of formal teaching. Later, I wrote a “how-to” book about machining steel, written for the type of people I had been teaching. Completed in 1998, I called it “Metal Machining Made Easy.” I did all of the 60-odd illustrations by hand. This was published in 2002 through Writers Exchange in Australia.
Shortly thereafter, my wife Mary died. I vowed to go on with life, continue to write but also to socialize and enjoy what time I had left. Then came the most significant encounter of my life. I started a conversation with an attractive widow about the eclectic assortment of stories I had begun writing after retirement. When I learned that Gayle was working as a magazine editor, I began to envision a future of our living and working together. We married in 2003 and, after she took an early retirement, we bought a motor home and set out to explore Mexico. While basking along Mexico’s Pacific coast, Gayle started editing my stories while I sat at the laptop and did re-writes, as well as writing a story of revenge called “Legal Hit Man.” Later moving inland to the mountainous north shore of Lake Chapala, we became residents of the world’s largest community of English-speaking expatriates. We joined the local writers’ group and met some wonderful writers from around the world. Soon my short story, “The Moonlit Meeting,” was published in a local magazine.
We returned to Canada in 2007 and now live in British Columbia. We have since published two books with a Scottish flair—a novel of adventure and time-travel, “Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie” and my memoir “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada.”
Age has caught up with me. When I first started seriously writing, I sketched out a few notes and went to work with everything flowing fairly smoothly. I kept going at all hours and wherever I was. At present, after over five years of illness, it’s becoming harder to find the energy to write. Luckily, I have a number of manuscripts waiting for Gayle to work on. Then I read through edits, give my approval or comments, and let her do the rest. Aren’t I fortunate?
50 GREAT WRITERS YOU SHOULD BE READING – An Invitation to Vote for Ian Moore-Morrans
We are posting today because you may have received word in the past of our publication of Ian’s memoir, From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada. Perhaps you have ordered a copy of the book, received it as a gift, attended one of our book readings, read a borrowed copy, intended to buy a copy and never got to it, heard about it on Facebook or on this blog, and/or listened to Ian’s interview on The Author’s Show radio program online. Now we are announcing that Ian has entered a contest through The Author’s Show entitled 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading. We invite you to go to the following link: http://www.wnbnetworkwest.com/WnbAuthorsShow50Writers2013-Contest-submissions.html and check out Ian’s essay. The entries are listed alphabetically. Then, if you wish (and we hope you do) click on the voting link and vote for Ian.
Voting for the finalists phase is on now and will end on November 1, 2013. These votes come from the public that is being made aware of the contest through the combined efforts of The Authors Show’s ongoing marketing campaign and word put out by the authors themselves – in other words, by us. Our friends and family members are, of course, allowed to vote, as well as anyone else who wishes to do so. Both of us would really appreciate your vote.
Those named to the 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading for 2013/2014 will have their essays published in a book with that title. We’ve checked out some of the essays in the 2012 edition and find them fascinating, a great way to get introduced to a new book and a unique way to find out all about what makes authors tick and why they write. After conducting hundreds of interviews, it became apparent to the producers of The Authors Show that the number one issue common to most writers is the marketing of their books, rather than the writing and the production of the book itself. Boy, have we ever found that to be true! At least Gayle has. (Ian is sitting back and resting on his laurels, if that’s what you want to call it!)
As “THE AUTHORS MARKETING POWER HOUSE”, The Authors Show prides itself in giving authors a number of tools, many of which are free, to give their work the exposure they need. 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading, gives these writers an added element for their book marketing campaign tool box, and presents to the reader some of the best writers this new world of publishing has to offer.
On a further note, we haven’t posted for quite a long time as Gayle has been in Norway visiting her family there and Ian has been in respite at a local care home. Now we are back at home and Gayle is beginning the layout of Ian’s children’s book, Jake, Little Jimmy and Big Louie which we have posted chapters of on this blog and which we hope to publish soon. If she works hard and fast enough it might even be ready for Christmas. We’ll keep you posted.
Best wishes to all,
Ian and Gayle Moore-Morrans
Interviewer: Don McCauley of The Authors Show, an internationally-acclaimed professional book marketing audio program in which selected authors are interviewed.
Interviewee: Ian Moore-Morrans, Scottish-Canadian author of an autobiography entitled: “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada”
The recorded version is presently being aired for 48 hours (March 4 and 5, 2013). It will be available on this blog as soon as we receive and upload the MP3 copy. The Authors Show audio version is much shorter and less detailed than these prepared answers; in addition, several of the questions were not asked in the recorded version which very soon can be accessed on-line 24/7 for 12 months. The website is http://theauthorsshow.com. (Access to the audio version of the interview is on the “Non-fiction writers” page.)
I, the interviewee must admit that I became a bit flustered when the interview was taking place and being recorded. Instead of following the carefully prepared answers to the questions which the interviewer had furnished ahead of time, I scrapped my notes and “ad-libbed” the answers. My editor wife, who worked alongside me to formulate the answers and carefully rehearsed me through the scenerio several times beforehand, was a bit disappointed that I didn’t follow the script a bit better. Ah well, listeners will be able to hear my Scottish burr and hopefully understand the sincerity, if not the clarity, in my answers.
Q. Tell us about this book.
A. “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” is the first volume of my autobiography. It begins with my childhood in Scotland during the 1930s and ‘40s—years of the Great Depression and World War II. I’m certain that my fatherless family was the poorest one in Campbeltown, a small fishing town in the Scottish Highlands. I describe our level of poverty as “abject” meaning “utter, hopeless, miserable, wretched, dismal and horrible.” Four of us lived in a 10-foot-by-10-foot attic room—Mother, Granny, my older brother and me. Life was a constant struggle to find food and keep ourselves warm. Often there was no money for both food and coal so we had to choose between the two.
My schooling was finished when I turned 14. Around that time my mother married a man from Northern Ireland and our lifestyle became a bit better. We moved from the lowliest of slums to a slightly-less-lowly slum. My teenage years were spent working as a blacksmith’s apprentice, joining the Army Cadets and playing in a Salvation Army band—and sometimes quitting the band because I got tired of not being able to go to movies or dancing.
At age 18, I joined the British Royal Air Force and served as an aircraft engine mechanic and bandsman in Britain and Egypt. My time in Egypt coincided with the first rumblings of the Suez Canal crisis and I was one of those unfortunate enlisted men who was ordered to learn how to make decent drinking water from the inaptly named “Sweet Water Canal”—after the Arab workers who had been treating the water for the entire British military force walked off the job.
After I returned to civilian life as a machinist in Scotland, I married and fathered two daughters. Then, I got itchy feet and considered immigrating to Australia. However, encouraged by two of my wife’s relatives who had earlier immigrated to Canada and misled by an unscrupulous Canadian official, my family and I immigrated to Canada in 1965. A promised job didn’t materialize and, naive me soon found out I’d been told a boldfaced lie about how inexpensive it was to buy a house in Canada. Misadventures in finding and keeping jobs and suitable accommodations lead me to conclude that we had only moved “from poverty to poverty.”
Q. Who did you write this book for?
A. For my descendants, friends and anyone who wanted to know what made me tick. My principle reason for writing my autobiography was that I had met so many people on the Canadian side of the Atlantic whose backgrounds were Scottish, Welsh, Irish or whatever, who had no idea who their grandparents or great-grandparents were, what they did or how they lived. Thus I decided that my descendants, friends and even strangers should get to know me, if they so desired.
Several times I had found myself checking out through a grocery counter and spoken a few words to the clerk. Upon hearing my Scottish “burr,” she would invariably ask me if I was Scottish and then tell me that her grandfather (or grandmother) was Scottish. When I asked her where the grandparent was, she would then tell me the relative was dead. When I inquired where in Scotland they came from, she didn’t know. She didn’t know anything about him or her—and that happened more than once. On arriving home one day from a little bit of grocery shopping, I told my wife, “I’m going to write my life story for my descendants to read—they should know who and what their grandfather did while he was alive.”
Q. Is there a central message in the book?
A. Yes, I think so. I’ve found that it is possible to overcome a negative lifestyle like poverty but, in order to do so, one has to have a lot of grit, perseverance, sometimes luck and even humor to get through it all.
Q.What is the most important idea you share in your book that will add value to the reader’s life?
A. Perhaps it is that one must look for humor in each and every situation. When all else fails, a good laugh and then, determining to pick yourself up and start anew, will help you deal with most things that life throws at you.
Q. If you could compare this book with any book out there we might already be familiar with, which book would it be and why?
A. When I first submitted my manuscript for critique by a few people in my Writer’s Group, several remarked that it reminded them of “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt. I had not even heard of McCourt’s book at the time so quickly bought a copy. They were certainly right in that we both had appalling early lives of poverty—he in Ireland and me in Scotland. One could also say that we each, in our unique ways, were able to overcome our impoverished beginnings.
Q. Why did you choose the title “From Poverty to Poverty” for your book?
A. When my story started, I described living in appalling poverty in Scotland. Thirty years later I found myself again in poverty because of the misinformation about the opportunities of immigrating to Canada that I received from a Government of Ontario official in Glasgow. (Yes, by the time we had finally settled in Canada, we had a lot more “possessions” but they sure weren’t paid for! We were in debt up to our eyeballs!) I chose the title “From Poverty to Poverty” as I found it a perfect description for my life’s journey from 1932 until my first years in Canada. There I certainly found myself right back into poverty and, to make matters even harder to overcome, I had added three dependents!
Q. For readers of your book who have not experienced poverty in their lives, what one word do you think they would choose to describe your book?
A. (On the audio recording, Ian used the word “horrendous.”) “Eye-opening.” That’s the word my present wife and editor used after she first read my story before we were married almost 10 years ago. She was not brought up in poverty and was astonished and taken aback by all that I had experienced.
Q. You claim this book is an autobiography. Are all the stories in it true and all the characters taken from real life?
A. Yes, all of the stories are true. They, of course, are filtered through my own eyes and my own experiences so another person may interpret happenings from a different perspective. I’ve told of my own observations, experiences and occasionally things told to me by others or that I learned from school or research. In certain instances, I’ve chosen to change the names of people because I felt it necessary to protect their identity or maintain their privacy.
One prime example is the character I’ve chosen to call “Jock Campbel.” (In Britain, “Jock” is perhaps the most popular nickname for a Scotsman, just as “Mick” is for an Irishman.) As far as I know there never was a Jock Campbel who lived in Campbeltown during my time there or any other time. However, when I was a wee lad and our financial situation at home was even more dire than usual, my mother would occasionally ask me to go to that man and ask him to lend her ten shillings. This was about a dollar and a half, but it had a lot more buying power then than now. But before I would go she always cautioned me to wait until he was on his own. There never was any hesitation from him. Out would come his wallet and a ten-shilling note would be handed to me. As far as I know, my brother was never sent on a similar mission and I never thought to discuss it with him or even ask Mother why. That man was an upstanding member of the community and a married man with children. I never thought much about this strange mission until years later when some things my mother said about the man led me to wonder whether he could have been the man who sired me. I deal with that wondering in the sequel to this book which I call “Came to Canada, Eh?”—not yet published but in the editing process.
Q. You describe your early family life as rather disfunctional with no one showing affection to the others. How has this affected your adult role as husband and father?
A. I know my mother and grandmother cared very much for both my brother and me. We lived on welfare and Mother worked at degrading odd jobs on the sly to get a wee bit extra. She also put our hunger ahead of hers when there was little food to share. But none of us showed or spoke of any affection or caring toward the others. When we were growing up my brother was almost always either ignoring me or beating me up until I got big enough to defend myself.
Perhaps Mother and Granny had never been shown affection and didn’t know how to do so. And if they didn’t know how, my brother and I didn’t have a chance to learn by example. I don’t know where I learned it, maybe showing affection was something that just was innate in me and eventually came out when I had my own wife and children. As an adult I’ve made special efforts to tell my family members that I love and honor them and have always been ready and willing to take care of and help them to the best of my ability. I’m pleased to say that my brother and I were able to enjoy a cordial, though distant, friendship later in life.
Q. What role did your membership in the Salvation Army play in your early life?
A. It taught me how to live a respectable and God-fearing life. It gave me a place where I knew I belonged, was respected and valued (although I rebelled off and on at a lot of restrictions it placed on my choices of entertainment). Most importantly, it gave me an opportunity to learn to sing and play several instruments. Because of that I can truly say that my real avocation in life is music-making.
Q. Who influenced your early life the most and why?
A. A man called Jock McMillan. He was the band leader and music instructor at the Salvation Army in my hometown. Along with two of my pals, including his son, George, Jock taught us to read music and to play instruments. I learned to play the trumpet and trombone and spent a lot of time in my youth playing with the Salvation Army brass band. Then, after I joined the Royal Air Force, I played trumpet in military bands wherever I was stationed. For a period of almost sixty years (in Britain, Egypt and later in Canada) I played in military, dance and concert bands as well as in combos. I’ve continued singing Scottish folk songs for various festivals, parties and competitions even into my eighties, although my voice isn’t anywhere near as good now as it used to be.
Q. What was the greatest single decision in your life that started to lift you out of a life of poverty and how did it do so?
A. Quitting my apprenticeship to a drunken, cruel blacksmith and enlisting in the British Royal Air Force. Overnight I had three decent meals a day, a decent-paying job, a bed with sheets on it, all the decent clothing I needed and future prospects. Plus that, I could continue to play in a band and had money left over to send home to my mother to help her out a wee bit.
Q. I understand you use humor in your writing. How does this connect with the tragic circumstances of poverty?
A. Poverty is bad enough. If you can find anything humorous in whatever day-to-day happenings you encounter, then you should celebrate those things. Laughter can elevate you from the depressed hole of poverty – at least a wee bit. If you really look, there are comical aspects to a lot of things, even those that are essentially negative.
Q. What is your favorite humorous story in your book?
A. Soon after we immigrated to Canada, my wife Mary and I were at a dance in Toronto. A group of us were standing and chatting at the edge of the dance floor when I announced that I was going to the bar for a drink. When I returned, a young, good-looking woman put her arm through mine and I understood her to say, “I like the way you roll your arse!” (What we call “arse” in Britain is referred to as “ass” or rear end in North America.) I hesitated a little and looked down at one buttock and then the other, wondering what it was I did with my “arse” that got her attention. It wasn’t until I thoroughly thought about it that I realized that she was saying that she liked the way I rolled my “RRRRs!” I guess she enjoyed the Scottish accent. Boy, what a relief!
Q. You claim that musicianship is integral to your life. How is that reflected in your book?
A. When my wife/editor first read my story, she was struck by how much music was woven into the narrative. She encouraged me to expand on those instances, leading me to quote from songs or to fill out descriptions of the song connections with my own story. For instance, when I am describing my hometown Campbeltown, I mentioned the folk-song made most popular in the ‘60s by Scottish folk-singer Andy Stewart: “Campbeltown Loch, I Wish Ye Were Whisky.” We were unsuccessful in getting permission to quote the whole song in my narrative. So the next best thing was to show how it impacted my life and then paraphrase the verses.
I eventually wrote the following: “As we were growing up, three or four of us boys would go arm in arm down the street singing the first few words—‘Campbeltown Loch, I wish ye were whisky’—that’s all we knew at the time. I like to think that Andy (Stewart) heard those few words sometime in Campbeltown and created a song around them. ‘Oh, Campbeltown Loch, I wish ye were whisky, Campbeltown Loch, och aye! Campbeltown Loch I wish ye were whisky, I would drink ye dry!’
“The verses cleverly have the singer imagining how nice it would be if the loch were full up to the brim with whisky and he could anchor a yacht in the whisky-filled bay to go in for a nip and a dip ‘by night and by day.’ Clan gatherings would feature wading into the loch with toasts of ‘slainte bva’ (meaning ‘good health’). The only problem would be the police showing up in a boat and shouting, ‘Time, Gentlemen, please!’
“I find this a fitting tongue-in-cheek ode to a town that once boasted of 30 distilleries and still produces at least two very fine brands of single malt whisky – Springbank and Glen Scotia.”
Q. Your book is permeated with “Scottishness.” Why would someone who has no Scottish connection want to read this book?
A. Lots of people like to read biographies or hear stories of other people’s personal experiences, especially if they are out-of-the-ordinary. It also seems to me that a lot of non-Scots show a curiosity about and interest in Scottish things like tartans, kilts (or what is or isn’t worn under them!), bagpipers, Robbie Burns suppers, Scottish parties called “caleidhs”, Highland games and the like. I hope they’d enjoy a first-hand account of one Scot’s unique experiences. We Scots are known as folksy and sometimes blunt people who put our own colorful slant to our language. I attempt to reflect that in my writing.
Q. I understand that you didn’t begin to write down your stories until you were age 63 and nearing retirement from years spent as a machinist.
A. Yes, I was too busy trying to make a living or playing in some band somewhere so I never took time to sit down to write until I was close to retirement. I quickly realized then that I’d have to learn to type and use a computer if I wanted to get anywhere with my writing. So I bought a used computer and a “teach yourself to type” tape and went to town on it. That’s me, though. I usually get enthusiastic about something new and go whole hog, plunging right in and damn the torpedoes!
Q. Have you always been a storyteller and what made you think you could be a writer?
A. When I tell about my early schooling, I bring up a memory of my English teacher, Miss Sharpe, telling me a couple of times during my school years that I should become a journalist after I finished school. (She had remarked often about the quality of my essays and compositions.) Huh, I thought at the time—‘me a journalist—me who had just about no clothes on my back! What a picture that would be—me in an office with holes in my shoes and no underwear!’
After I left home I always liked writing letters, telling of my latest experiences. I’ve always enjoyed relating stories and jokes— to anyone who would listen—most of which somehow related to something Scottish. Many people over the years have remarked, “You should write a book, Ian.” So now I’ve written several.
Q. Other than selling your book, what do you hope to accomplish with it?
A. I hope to give my own unique spin on understanding an impoverished life in the Scotland of the 1930s to 1950s; of the pre-Suez Canal crisis atmosphere in Egypt; of the joys of learning to play an instrument and joining a band. I hope that the reader will move from seeing me as a victim of poverty to seeing me overcome that life and also overcome the challenges that an immigrant faces.
Q. Who should buy this book?
A. People of any age from teens to seniors, especially those with interests in Scottish history, Scottish life, music-making, biography, and understanding the causes and consequences of poverty and immigration.
I might also add that lots of people enjoy books with pictures. “From Poverty to Poverty” is full of old photos taken by myself or others during the period of which I write. I’ve also added a few simple maps and drawings of the slum accommodations in which I first lived.
Q. Where can people buy your book?
A. Online at Amazon, or Friesen Press. – Links to these sellers are on my WordPress blog (ianmooremorrans.com). The book is also available for sale at the Highland Scottish Gift Shoppe in Calgary, Alberta, and at the Gallery Vertigo in Vernon, British Columbia, Canada or from most book sellers by special order. I also offer signed books for sale at book readings. The book is available as an e-book in PDF or Kindle format, as a paperback and also in hard cover format. The photos and maps are included in all versions.