Moncton, New Brunswick native Sheryl Gordon has curated a very interesting book that defies categorization. It is entitled A ReWORDing Life: Finding Meaning in the Wor(l)d and it is an accretion of words and their meanings contributed from over 1,000 Canadians from all walks of life. It is all dedicated to raising awareness of (and funds for) Alzheimer’s disease as well as other disorders of the brain that fall under the dementia umbrella. The author’s own mother was a victim of this terrible disease; losing ‘the words’ that were so important to her, eventually forgetting to the point where familiar, everyday objects became ‘the thing’ (or la chose since her mother was Acadian).
The book itself is a veritable cache of various words in the English language (and some like tabla rasa that the English-speaking world has freely adopted) all encased in a brief sentence or two by authors, musicians, and other professionals to help us make sense of a particular word. Some words you may know, and others may be unfamiliar to you. The idea is to broaden your awareness of the language, giving you words that will stay with for the rest of your life and not get snatched away unmercifully by a disease like dementia.
The book contains eight heartfelt, emotional essays penned by Ms. Gordon (all begin with letters making up the word “dementia”) that help us to understand “how perplexing and ephemeral life can be”. In addition, a full 50% of the profit from each book’s sale goes toward funding for dementia research.
I recently managed to get a few moments of Sheryl’s time to answer a few questions, which she was only too happy to comply with.
Miramichi Reader: Sheryl, please tell me a little about your background, career and so forth.
Sheryl Gordon: After graduating from Dalhousie university (BA in French), I taught ESL in Japan for four years (Osaka and Tokyo). When I came back to Canada, I took an intense IT program in Ottawa called ITI and then ended up working as an instructional designer/technical trainer/technical writer. These jobs married my teaching and IT skills. I didn’t know it at the time, but having taught Word and Excel – something I wasn’t necessarily passionate about at times – did help me manage A Rewording Life (contacts, words, sentences, etc.).
MR: When did the initial idea of the ARL Project ‘hit’ you?
SG: As the E for Epiphany essay in the book states, it ‘hit’ me in Mexico, on a yoga retreat. It was 2008 and I was in between jobs. It would take me many years to realize I should act on it.
MR: As far as you know, has anything like this been done before?
SG: To my knowledge, no.
MR: Since you self-published this book, fill us in a little regarding the entire process of getting your project published.
SG: I attended a book fair last year here in Toronto and Blurb – a self-publishing company – was the main sponsor. They had a few panels on self-publishing so I attended them. I heard Terry Fallis speak, who mentioned that he initially self-published. He laid out the pros and cons in a simple manner. I then took a 2 day course on publishing and they highlighted both models (publishing vs. self-publishing). Because my project was unique, traditional publishers weren’t receptive to the idea. Because I wanted to raise money for the Alzheimer Society of Canada, it made more sense to self-publish. A traditional publisher takes 90 percent of the royalties, leaving the author with a mere 10 percent. Because I have an IT background, I believed I could figure it out. So I did. I initially wanted to use Blurb but they specialize in picture books (they’re owned by Kodak). When I found out that I couldn’t promote a paperback on amazon if I went with them, I had to find another company. Long story short, I chose createspace/amazon.
MR: I assume you have informed the Alzheimer Society Canada regarding the ARL Project. Did you receive any positive response?
SG: Yes, they are aware of my project. As you can appreciate, there are many people who have written books and they can’t promote everyone’s project. That said, because I’m trying to raise money for them, they are trying to help me get the word out, so to speak. J They have promoted my project via their social media channels. The Alzheimer Society of Toronto is writing an article about my project as we speak. I unfortunately don’t know the date it will be released. I, of course, can engage is self-promotion as much as I wish and I know this is something that most – if not all – authors do to give their works a fighting chance at succeeding when they hit the shelves of bookstores around the world. Social media is one of the most effective ways of doing this; some authors have a truly enviable amount of Facebook, Twitter, and instagram followers – someone like me can only dream of having the same audience as Stephen King, for example. I know some people who have used growth services to help give their Instagram accounts a little boost so that they can strengthen their presence and reach online organically. A healthier follower count can do wonders for one’s reputation.
MR: What’s next for you?
SG: I’ll be looking for work – I’m hoping this book will act as a springboard of sorts. While IT was challenging, it wasn’t a very creative environment and I’m the quintessential right-brained thinker so I’m hoping to find something that aligns more with that. Something I’m more passionate about. I don’t know what role or title that is yet, though.
MR: Downtime: what do you do when you’re not writing?
SG: I love to read, cycle, and spend time with family and friends. And eat.