The Fernie Library will be hosting Donna Macdonald at an author event on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. The majority of Macdonald’s writing prior to her new book Surviving City Hall was for newsprint and magazines.
“Most of my past work has been for newspapers and magazines, including articles and opinion pieces. I also worked as a technical writer for the Ministry of Forests, turning complex scientific material into something clear and interesting for the general reader,” said Macdonald. “That experience is reflected in the style of my book, which is very accessible and concise, yet with some literary touches. Readers tell me the book is educational and entertaining.”
The focus of the author event is Macdonald’s new book Surviving City Hall.
“I’ll be talking about and reading from my book, Surviving City Hall published by Nightwood Editions in May 2016. It’s a memoir of the 19 years I served as a Nelson city councillor. I came to see how local government touches our lives in countless ways,” she said. “I want people to understand how it works, and also what the experience of being elected is like. I tell stories – some funny, some sad – and reflect on experiences. I also consider issues like citizen engagement and women’s participation, and what makes a good mayor.”
While this is a memoir of the past 19 years for Macdonald, she has been writing it for 10.
“Once I found the structure for the book, the writing proceeded quite naturally, using files and media coverage I’d collected over the years. I didn’t have much time to work on it, but when I retired from City Council in late 2014, I looked at the very rough manuscript and decided the book would be my deathbed regret if I didn’t finish it,” she said. “So I hired a local editor and did a major revision. Luckily, I enjoy the revision process. And, luckily, I found a publisher.”
The event will be about more than just the book, Macdonald encourages anyone who is interested in their community and how it’s run to attend.
“The event is for people who love their community and want to understand how it’s run, and why decisions are made that no-one seemingly wants! I’d also invite both current and prospective local politicians, and staff. It’s always valuable to see a shared experience through someone else’s eyes. The number of people attending isn’t so important as the level of interest and curiosity. I’ve had great interactions with audiences ranging from three to a hundred.”
Macdonald is not new to the author event scene, and seems to have found a rhythm for her events.
“I start by talking about the why’s and how’s of the book, and then I introduce the content with a quick pecha kucha-style slide show,” she said. “After that, I read a variety of selections, and then open up for questions and discussion. I’ve found my presentation really engages people, gets them laughing, groaning and wondering.”
The author does not believe the tour – or the art scene in general – would be what it is in the Kootenays without help.
“I want to acknowledge the financial support for this tour provided by the Columbia Basin Trust and the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance,” she said. “Their assistance in helping authors share their work throughout the basin is much appreciated.”
The tour is also a part of a mission for Macdonald.
“I’m on a bit of a mission to get people more engaged in the local political scene, and to encourage some changes in how we practice politics,” she said. “So when people at events ask questions, share their own experiences or just laugh and shake their heads, I feel that I’ve taken a step forward on my mission.”