This is the post where I announce that my upcoming YA novel THE CAMINO CLUB is now live on GOODREADS! It feels more real now, I swear.
Please consider adding it to a shelf on Goodreads and telling your friends and fellow readers about it. This book is so near and dear to my heart.
GOODREADS BLURB: After getting in trouble with the law, six wayward teens are given an ultimatum: serve time in juvenile detention for their crimes, or walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route across Spain over the summer holidays with a pair of court appointed counselor/guides. When it becomes clear the long walk isn’t really all that much of an option, they set out on a journey that will either make or break who they are and who they are to become.
No cover as of yet, so I’ll share a pic or two from my own Camino journey to add some colour to this post…
I wrote THE CAMINO CLUB after my first pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in 2014.
The church in the photo above is also found in my novel. This church is in Portomarin. The town moved it up a hill, and away from the valley they were going to flood, ONE BRICK AT A TIME and reassembled it up on the hill. The castle behind the photo of Michael and I on our September 2019 pilgrimage is found in Ponferrada. It is also the starting point in the Camino that the characters begin their own pilgrimage.
(ETA: This post has been edited to include a REGISTRATION LINK for Laurie Dennett’s SECOND TORONTO CAMINO TALK. Please see the bottom of post for the link. The event takes place at St. Thomas Church in Toronto on December 7, 2019.)
This past Saturday we attended an event at St. James Cathedral in Toronto, put on by the TORONTO CHAPTER of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims. Laurie Dennett was invited to speak about her book A HUG FOR THE APOSTLE, but more especially about Don Elías Valiña Sampedro (1929-1989), the parish priest at O Cebreiro in the Galicia region of Spain, who almost single-handedly reinvigorated the Camino de Santiago in his lifetime.
Having myself recently returned from the Camino, and being enamored with O Cebreiro from my own two quick trips through the village nestled in the mountainous region of Galicia, Laurie Dennett’s talk helped to revive my fascination with it. It is in the village of O Cebreiro where the world famous author Paulo Coelho professes to have found the courage to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a writer. In fact, in his will he has given instructions for his ashes to be interred in the village.
There is something about reaching the apex that leads to the village of O Cebreiro that makes one become a lifelong devotee to its streets. From the ‘Lady of O Cebreiro’ statue found at the entrance, to the church and the quaint buildings throughout, one immediately gets a feeling. The village stands out on the Camino, calls you back. It is poetic justice that the parish priest of O Cebreiro is the one who revived the Camino Francés. As Laurie Dennett spoke about Don Elías wandering the Camino with a pail of yellow paint and paint brush, I could visualize the happy and hopeful priest making his way through hill and dale, forest and town, painting yellow arrows all along the way…forever hopeful that the spirit of the Camino take hold for current and future generations of pilgrims.
Whenever Don Elías was approached along the way, paintbrush in hand, either by bystanders or police, his response to their questioning as to why he was painting yellow arrows everywhere was always the same, “I am planning an invasion.” He didn’t live quite long enough to see his vision come true, but trust me when I say the invasion occurred. 308,064 pilgrims walked the Camino de Santiago in 2018. 301,036 in 2017. The numbers have been increasing yearly. Though this ‘invasion’ Don Elías spoke of was one of love, of longing, of searching, of finding. He knew that at the time. I imagine him winking at whoever he spoke to whenever he spoke of the invasion, but I don’t imagine he could have ever foreseen the sweeping magnitude of it. Pilgrims from all walks of life, from all over the world, follow his arrows every day. His legacy is powerful, and yet many of his followers do not even know the story of the parish priest from one of their favourite Camino stops along the way.
Dennett was most assuredly enamored by the priest, whom she had the good fortune to call friend and cohort. She too spreads word far and wide of the pilgrimage route held so dear to the heart of the now late priest. Perhaps, in her way, she is carrying on with the work he began as its ambassador. Perhaps all who walk the route are, in some way, ambassadors. I know that one of my wishes with my upcoming young adult novel, THE CAMINO CLUB, (October, 2020 from Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press) is that it persuades even one reader to put the Camino de Santiago on their life’s bucket-list.
Below are a few pictures Michael and I took of our extremely brief blip through O Cebreiro this past September, while we were making our way to Santiago de Compostela.
Laurie Dennett will be giving a second talk with the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims on Saturday, December 7th, 2019, this time at St. Thomas Church in downtown Toronto. If you’re in the Toronto area and have even the slightest interest in the Camino de Santiago, I suggest that you make plans to attend the event. Laurie’s first talk was mesmerizing. I thank her for bringing Don Elías Valiña Sampedro to life for me! And I am currently finding her book as mesmerizing as her talk. I look forward to hearing what else she has to say about the beloved Camino.
To learn more about the Canadian Company of Pilgrims, click on the image below:
To learn more about A HUG FOR THE APOSTLE visit WORDSINDEED. Or, you can attend the second talk and purchase the book there and have it signed by the author.
Tomorrow marks the 2 month mark from the moment we first touched down on the Camino this year. We began our mini-pilgrimage in Astorga on September 13th (My 53rd birthday). It’s hard to believe so much time has gone by since then.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my young adult novel set on the Camino was picked up by Interlude Press’s Duet Books. As the release date is scheduled for sometime in October, 2020, the preparations are beginning to ramp up. This week, I’ll be talking with the cover designer and boy is my head spinning. The publisher usually has the last word on cover, but often the author is consulted and a discussion goes on behind the scenes prior to mock-ups. The problem I’m having this week is not what do I want on the cover of THE CAMINO CLUB. My problem is what do I not want. I want everything CAMINO. It would be impossible for me to distill my wants down to a manageable number.
All I have been thinking about is the symbols of the Camino. I thought I would gather them here and see what I come up with.
Everyone on the Camino carries a few things in common. One of those things–though they may look different depending on where you come from or where you picked yours up–is a CREDENCIAL. This is the little passport book we all carry to collect stamps from various places along the Camino (Hotels, Albergues, Hostels, Restaurants, Cafes, etc). There is one stipulation with the credential—a pilgrim must collect at least two a day from the 100km mark to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It’s up to the pilgrim to decide how few or how many they collect for the rest of the pilgrimage. Though not your typical ‘symbol’ per se, the credential is definitely a symbol to the pilgrim. Watching the stamps collect are such a part of the daily experience. It’s always thrill to add another stamp, turn another page…
As for the symbols one sees while walking? They are many…
THE YELLOW ARROW
The yellow arrow is EVERYWHERE. It’s how a pilgrim finds their way. They can be painted on the road, on houses, on trees, on fences, on everything.
Sometimes the arrows aren’t yellow, but you know they still represent the way…
Even the yellow ones come in a variety of different ways…
THE ROUTE MARKER
Aw, the glorious route marker! How the heart sings when one worries that they have strayed and they finally come upon this symbol that tells them all is well, they’re on their way!
Quite often, there will be offerings left on these route markers…from stones to seashells to shoes…
The Camino signage varies depending on where you are. If the arrows and the route markers are not enough to comfort the pilgrim, they’ll be reassured by the postage signage along the way…
ARTWORK AND STATUARY ABOUND
There is ALWAYS something to see on the Camino…whether it is something left behind by fellow pilgrims or something commissioned for the pilgrimage route. There’s as many statues as there is graffiti, as many messages as there is art installations. Statues and crosses and St. James representations…
One thing you don’t really think about until you see your first one? Remembrances. A lot of pilgrims don’t make it. There are markers where people have passed while attempting their pilgrimage. And remembrances for loved ones back home, as well.
THE CATHEDRAL AND THE COMPOSTELA
It’s all for one thing…to reach the cathedral at the end of the yellow brick road. Whether you are religious or not, by the time you reach the goal you had set your sights on so many days before, it’s a huge thrill to walk into the plaza at the end of the Camino and see the monolithic cathedral standing before you…
And also a thrill to pick up that certificate once you arrive…the compostela that serves as proof of the journey…
SOooooooo…yep! I’m having an extremely difficult time imagining what will make it to the cover of my book. The iconic seashell maybe? A yellow arrow? St. James? A route marker? You see my problem? Too many things! It remains to be seen…
I am beyond ECSTATIC to announce the sale of my young adult novel, THE CAMINO CLUB!!! It has found a home with DUET BOOKS, the young adult imprint of INTERLUDE PRESS!
When I first set out on my own journey on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route back in May of 2014, I did so with a kernel of an idea for THE CAMINO CLUB novel percolating in my writer-brain. I had dreamed of writing a young adult novel that would combine a Breakfast Club scenario with the famous Camino pilgrimage route known as Camino Frances (or The French Way).
As my feet touched down on the pilgrim path, I imagined six juvenile delinquents reluctantly setting out on the very same path. They would be there not because they wanted to be there, but because they were court-mandated to be there. THE WALK youth diversion program would give all six of them the option to walk the pilgrimage route across Spain or serve time in juvenile detention.
I imagined their juvenile delinquent hearts being in a very different place at the onset of their pilgrimage than mine was at the beginning of my own. But I also tried to imagine that they would arrive at the famous cathedral in the city of Santiago de Compostela as changed as I was at the end of my own pilgrimage. I envisioned them softened, transformed, and maybe even less broken than they were when they set out on their forced adventure.
As I completed my own Camino, I knew that the Camino de Santiago would stay in my heart forever. And I also knew that I had to share it…and I longed for that share to be impactful, meaningful. I wanted others to find the unbridled joy I discovered while walking The Way. If I could move just ONE person to discover the Camino and add it to their bucket list, I would feel as though I had won.
It took me a few years of meditating on the concept, but I finally set out to write the novel that had been living inside my heart ever since I took that first footstep on my own Camino path. I had, after all, walked with all six of my characters alongside me. It was time to sit down and write their stories. I even had an idea for a seventh integral character, an homage to a ‘character’ I met on my pilgrimage across Spain…a magical character who stays with me to this day.
I could not be happier about the home this novel has found. It’s the home I wanted it to have all along. I’ve been amazed by INTERLUDE PRESS and DUET BOOKS ever since I first discovered RUNNING WITH LIONS by Julian Winters. I’ve kept my eye on them, ever hopeful that The Camino Club would somehow one day be a good fit for their boutique publishing house.
Interlude announced the deal today, so I can now say it’s official! The Camino Club has found its WAY!
More details to follow, but for now I’m just thrilled to be able to announce the news! Eternal thanks to Annie Harper and the rest of the group at Interlude for taking a chance on this book that is so very near and dear to my heart in ways no other words I’ve ever written have been.
Time to celebrate! I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!
I am SO passionate about the last book I wrote, I find myself thinking about the characters all the time. It’s one of the only novels I ever wrote over a long period of time, as opposed to over a long weekend at the Muskoka novel writing marathon.
When I first had the idea for THE CAMINO CLUB, I was just about to set out on one of the greatest adventures of my life…a walk on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. The idea simmered slowly while I made my packing list back home in Toronto. I was picking up a spork and hiking socks at a camping store in Toronto while contemplating one of my main characters and how he would suffer a tragic loss while he was being forced to walk the Camino over his summer holidays. I was trying on backpacks while coming up with the name for another main character…one who loved her dog and hated her parents and fought the idea of walking the Camino with every fiber of her being.
I even came up with the tagline idea prior to actually setting foot in Spain. THE BREAKFAST CLUB MEETS THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO. As taglines go, it doesn’t even make much sense. The whole MEETS thing is to conjoin two books, two movies, two shows, two ideas, etc. Not to conjoin a movie with a place. But in my head it worked. Juvenile delinquents forced to walk the pilgrimage route as penance for their crimes. A youth diversion program.
Long before I wrote the first word of The Camino Club, I knew intuitively that it would be THE book…the ever-illusive ‘book of my heart‘ book. I heard others speaking of their own ‘heart books‘. I knew some of mine had come close, but I also knew I had not yet written my heart book. It was still out there.
I had planned to take notes every day I was on the Camino, to assist me in shaping the novel that I would eventually write once my own Camino pilgrimage was over. I really did. I thought I might even write some of it in the albergues at night, after my long days of walking. But the magic of the Camino that I had heard so much about for so many years prior to heading to Spain? Turns out, even though it was exuberantly described to me, it was still greatly understated. There is no describing what the Camino does to a person until one enters the Camino and discovers the magic for themselves.
As life-changing as the pilgrimage was, I still somehow managed to walk with each of my juvenile delinquent characters in my head and in my thoughts (mostly). I imagined them grumbling at the difficult bits and slowly melting into a softness of acceptance along the way. I imagined their dramas and their downfalls and their highs. I questioned why I would want one of my characters to experience the loss of a loved one back home while they were hiking across Spain and unable to do anything about it. Why would I be so cruel?
It was only while I was on the Camino that I realized there was a core character missing from my novel idea. I had to run into this magically delightful older Frenchman before the full bones of the novel began to fall into place for me. Upon meeting Claude, I instantly knew I had to immortalize him in my story…even if only for myself.
Today is actually the 5th anniversary of the day I met this man. I know this because this is what came up in my Facebook memories today:
He was telling us that life was still good even though he had just lost his wife. He was walking the Camino and bringing joy to everyone he met along the way. He held our albergue as a captive audience that night…told us stories that made us laugh and stories that made us cry. When he said the line quoted above, he had tears in his own eyes. And with that line, I received my AHA moment. This man will help my delinquents along on their journey! 5 years ago today, BASTIEN was born. Happy Bastien Day! It is my hope that one day you will be able to read this story for yourself and fall in love with Bastien the same way I fell in love with Claude. It’s the story of my heart.
EDITED TO ADD: THE CAMINO CLUB was purchased by Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press. It is on PREORDER HERE.