Wednesday, January 30, 2013

(Jan. 30) About research

About research
Last Sunday, I went to visit The PATH (Toronto's underground path linking downtown's major buildings. Then, I went back yesterday, to see how different it is on a weekday. It is QUITE different!

Without even noticing it, we're used to a certain mix of crowd in shopping malls. So when I walked through the food court in the Bay-Adelaide Centre, I had a "what's-wrong-with-this-picture" feeling. 

Nothing wrong actually, but it was all suits and business attire and no coats. The corridors were packed with the people who work in all the large corporations downtown. They don't go out. Why would they? Most large building includes its own food court.

I'm glad to say there's much more to The PATH than food court.
All in all, a great stroll to save for the rainy days.

I'll get to write it tomorrow, officially my last day to write the strolls description for the coming Toronto Urban Strolls before I send them to my proofreader. (Off the record, I think I'll still need two more day!)

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Behind the scene, at my local cafe

Pour la version française de ce blogue, lisez:

"Don't wait for an opportunity to be all that you want to be. When an opportunity to be more than you are now is presented and you're impelled toward it, take it."          – Wallace D. Wattles

This quote from a Victorian motivator seems to me like the best action plan for anyone who wants to accomplish anything (including writing a guide). 

We've been so brainwashed into believing that one's got to always "think big" that we're often blind to all of the small opportunities right under our nose. Ultimately, it's the combination of all the small actions we take daily which results in the successful outcome of a project. 

And I found a great example of this attitude into action in Te Aro, my local café in Leslieville.

Next time you visit and notice a pretty blonde with soft eyes, a radiant smile and an Australian accent behind the counter, say hello to Natasha Bouchard.

New in town
Born in the Ville de La Tuque, to a Québécois father and an Australian mother (who couldn't take the cold winters anymore and moved the family to Australia), Natasha returned to Canada in 2010, her first stop being Montréal (where she learned French!). She then chose to move to Toronto in 2012.

When she heard me place an order (I'm a francophone from Montréal), she switched to a relatively fluid French with a lovely accent. We kept at it every time I'd show up at the café and that's how I learned that she's a singer/songwriter. I checked her out on MySpace and was charmed by her sweet voice and the discreet but solid mastery of her guitar.

Working in the zone (of influence)
At the door of Te Aro, we can see a poster announcing Natasha Bouchard's coming show (her first in Toronto) on Friday February 1st at the restaurant/lounge House of Moments.

Working behind a counter in a cool coffee shop has its advantages! Her poster is well in sight (as are her promo postcards at the cashier, which she hands to the customers parading all day long in front of the counter) and the café allows her to sell her tickets on the premises. But it doesn't stop there.

"I've had amazing support from the community!", marvels Natasha as she sits in front of me for the interview after a long shift. Right on cue, a customer entering the café cracks a joke at her as he passes behind her.

In just a few months, the friendly singer has quietly woven cordial relations with a network of customers (you find lots of skilled people in Leslieville cafés). She's genuinely interested in people. And they gladly return the favour. That's why I'm writing this blog right now. And I'm not the only one  caring to give her a hand. See for yourself.

Everywhere she asked, local businesses put her poster up. A customer offered to take photos during her show, to build her portfolio and have more stock for her website (which another customer is currently building). Another one will be filming during the performance so she has decent clips to post on YouTube, the bass player in her new band is also a customer. Even the local naturopath brought her drops to boost her immune system so she's in top shape on the D day!

And to think that when she arrived here eight months ago, she knew one person.

Modest, she is...
Digging on the Internet, I found out that she's had great local success in Australia with a band she formed with her brother. I also learned that Canadian Tom Cochrane and his wife liked her songs so much that they invited her for a full week to record demos of her songs in their cottage-studio.

Natasha almost failed to tell me that she was recently awarded a recording grant and will soon collaborate with internationally acclaimed Producer Pierre Marchand (dealing with the likes of Sarah McLachlan and Rufus Wainwright).

Toute seule, she isn't!
On her poster, we can read "Toute seule" (meaning "all by myself"). I asked about it, she laughed and explained that there was nothing she could do about this as the text is embedded in the photo which was originally created for the cover of her solo CD.

On Friday, February 1st, she'll be far from alone as she will first play with a cellist, followed by songs with her band comprising keyboards, bass and drums. Her colleague barista Chris Chekan will open the show at 8 p.m.

You can get your $12 discounted ticket directly at Te Aro or pay $15 at the door on the evening of the show (cash only)

House of Moments (386 Carlaw Ave., north of Queen East) is a cool restaurant/lounge with sculpted buddhahs and ancient chiselled doors. Food and drinks will be during the event.

Like Toronto Fun Places on Facebook!

Intrigued by the book writing adventure? 
Read my posts on the making of Toronto Urban Strolls... for girlfriends 2.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

(Jan. 20) About balance

About keeping our friends

Working on the Ossington Stroll in my favourite Starbucks in The Beach, with chunky leather sofas by a large fireplace.

Mental note: Check with my friend Kerstin that she's all right with me using her photo on the patio of Bellwoods Brewery in the intro page to the Ossington Stroll.

Second mental: Check with my friend Kerstin that it's ok if I use her photo in this blog!

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

(Jan. 17) About balance

About building memories

In my first guide I focused on Queen East in The Beach, for the new guide, I'm writing The Beach Soothing Stroll (all about the waterfront walk).

As I go through the photos, they bring back fond memories of my friends Célyne and Martine. We spent a lovely afternoon enjoying a warm fall day on the trails by the lake. Being out of our routine certainly brings the best out of them!

I hope my guides will provide my readers with fun occasions to build good memories of their own with their friends.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

(Jan. 14) About sales reps

Meeting with the Sales reps

Once in a while, it's fun to be reminded that we're not alone in our venture! Today, I was meeting with the fun team of Sales reps at Ampersand Inc. (the national book & gift sales agency with whom I have had a contract for the last few years).

Ampersand Inc. recently moved their Toronto office from King West to Carlaw Avenue (two blocks from my house!).

As the publisher (and author), it is my job to get the team excited about my books. Today, I brought them some facts sheets to distribute to their clients. The ones they're currently meeting will be buying for this Spring. 

Of course, the Sales reps don't have my new book in hand, but they've already seen the quality of Toronto Urban Strolls... for girlfriends (Part 1). I explained to them what will be included in the new one, how the cover will differ. And I told them a few of my adventures on the field (my war stories).

I also gave them feedback I got from my readers so they have a better understanding of the market interested in this kind of product.
Bridge between the distributor and the Sales reps
Following this meeting, I'm to get from my distributor a break-down of the clients who bought the guides and the quantity they ordered and pass it on to Ampersand so they know where each client stands when they meet with them.

What my facts sheets look like

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

(Jan. 13) About taking notes

About taking notes

"What is that?!", asks Natasha Bouchard, a lively girl working at Te Aro this morning (who also happens to be a singer about to launch her CD and perform at House of Moments on February 1).

She's looking at the file by my computer. I realize that seen through her eyes, it looks like Chinese signs or some cryptic code.

It's actually a bunch of photo numbers I have to write down as I sift through the photos I took when researching for a stroll. In this case, I had to go through 990 photos to select the best of Harbord Village. Tough  job! I'm down to 176 photos... and I can only choose 28!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

(Jan. 12) About research The making of Toronto Urban Strolls 2

About research
Research certainly is a fun part of doing a guide. So many excuses to go out with the girlfriends. 

Yesterday, I called two of them last minute, for a 4 p.m. drink at a very cool place I visited this fall, with the funniest name: No on writes to the Colonel (460 College Street). As it turns out, it's the title of a small novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (El coronel no tiene quien le escriba).

It used to be opened from 10 a.m., as I noticed during the fall, and as still mentioned on their FB page, but we hit a closed door. (They now open from 5:30 p.m.)

My friends being the flexible gals they are, to kill the time, we went to Sneaky Dee's for a beer and some nachos (431 College). Totally funky place. Want to feel like a bad girl? Brink your permanent marker to leave a clever quote on the walls, pretty much anywhere...

The mojito (well... mojitos) were delicious at No One writes to the Colonel!

Back to work
Today, I'm writing my Harbord Village Dolce Vita Stroll, in which both places are included. Once again, as I sift through my photos, I fall in love with Toronto's neighbourhoods.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Skating trail, anyone? Etobicoke's got one!

Last year, I took some good photos of Colonel Sam Skating Trail. This is my favourite rink in all Toronto. 

It took me 350 steps to walk around its 8-figure shape trail by an historic building with a tall chimney. It includes an indoor changing room and has a Zamboni to smooth the ice. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Humber College uses the Victorian buildings which hosted a psychiatric hospital in a previous life. You can get a hot chocolate at the Tim Hortons on the campus nearby. (Take the path east of the rink and walk northbound.)

There's also Tatsu's Bread, the artisanal bakery just off the campus at 3180 Lake Shore, serving great treats and light meals.

Also read:
Skating in Nathan Phillips Rink

Monday, January 7, 2013

(Jan. 07) About research

About research
Saturday, when I tried to write the description of my Mount Pleasant Cemetery Stroll, I hit a dead-end. I did not know how to approach it. I has to be clear to me in order for me to write clearly about it.

So I went back to rethink the whole think.

I spent 5 hours revisiting every nook and crannies... in my car (there are over 12 km of paved paths in Mount Pleasant Cemetery!), getting out in the wet snow every 5 minutes to snap photos for my files.

I discovered statues I had never seen. I spotted my favourite sections and finally found a way to link most of them into a nice walk. Mission accomplished.

A security guard came to warn me that I'm not allowed... to photograph the names on the graves (OK, this might involve some photoshop on my part). On the other hand, he confirmed to me that we are allowed to park anywhere and as long as we want along the roads within the premises.

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

(Jan. 05) About editing

About editing
Oh boy! I could write a whole guide about Mount Pleasant Cemetery, the stroll I'm working on today.

There are so many great spots throughout this cemetery! I'm now facing the difficult task of choosing to mention one great panorama over another. 

Sometimes, I also have this kind of problem when the text is too long. I have to sacrifice a perfect little sentence to make room for more down-to-earth information for the sake of clarity.

The good news is that it's a bit like with renovations. Once it's done, you forget about all the great ideas you did not get to realize and you start enjoying what's been accomplished.

Still wondering which ones I should choose...

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