What is this local author reading this summer?

By Jared Davidson – 

Tudor Robins is on the forefront of a new school of thought on published writing, one that embraces the DIY and scoffs at the ivory towers of established publishing venues. Some have likened the change to a revolution; others see it as a fad. For Tudor, self-publishing has allowed a level of creative freedom, and likely of fame, that is hard to come by in the publishing world.

 Tudor Robins’ summer book choice hits close to home.  Photo by Marilyn Mikkelsen
Tudor Robins’ summer book choice hits close to home.  Photo by Marilyn Mikkelsen

However, doing it oneself does come with some sacrifices, especially scheduling compromises. As a mother and a writer, Tudor often finds her life becoming rather busy. However, she still finds time to read, and when we invited her to contribute to this year’s KT Reads, she was more than enthusiastic about her recommendation.

River, Road and Rail: Woodroffe Memories is what would traditionally be called a coffee table book, but it invites so much more than just a casual glance. As Tudor explains, this is the ultimate book for the Kitchissippi-dweller. It is a book that delves into the area’s past, detailing the construction of important landmarks, and uncovering much of the hidden history of the region.

It has been self-published by a group of venerable local historians and community members based out of the Woodroffe North Community Association, among them Dave Grosvenor, Katherine Day, Wayne Jackson, Phil Goldring and Bob Grainger. It traces a history of Woodroffe through imagery and lore, from its founding to the present day. In it, readers will discover the story behind the creation of the Parkway, the original City of Ottawa buildings, and one particularly famous castle-shaped house at the corner of Byron and Courtney Avenues.

“It’s really engaging and well written,” says Tudor. “And if you live in this neighbourhood, you’re inclined to enjoy it anyway.”

For Tudor, the book holds special significance. Her own family has long lived within the boundaries of Kitchissippi, and reading River Road and Rail gives her insight into her own heritage, as well as a better sense of her neighbourhood. It’s like stepping back into a world that, until now, she’s only heard family stories about. For Tudor, that is a fascinating journey.

Tudor herself has often toyed with the idea of writing about the past, but historical novels aren’t always the most lucrative or sustainable means of making a living as an author. Though a traditional publisher may see it as initially interesting, books like that are gambles, and many are never embraced.

“It’s something that publishers like, and it’s something that the Canada Council likes, but it’s not exactly the most marketable idea,” she says. And in the world of self-publishing, an idea that sells is a good idea.

If that’s the downside of doing it yourself, Tudor says it’s well worth it. Last month, Tudor was featured in a Globe and Mail article that presented multiple takes on self-publishing. Hers was decidedly positive.

“I think the vast majority of writers in the vast majority of cases are better off self-publishing,” she says. “I’m really lucky in that, in just a couple of years, writing has gone from something that I just do on my own, to something that, while it doesn’t make me a living, earns me money.”

Tudor points to the new, ever-changing publishing landscape as crucial to her success, and sees River, Road and Rail as another example of DIY done right. The book, she points out, would likely have not been accepted by a traditional publisher.

And while Canadians have been slower than the US to catch on to the value of new digital platforms for publishing, books like River, Road and Rail (and of course Tudor’s own writing) are providing excellent arguments for diving into self-published writing this summer.

This post is part of our KT summer reads issue. Read all of our other profiles right here.


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