Libby Simon looked long and hard to find just the right recipe for getting her first book published, and now that she’s found it, she’s ready to share the tome with the public.
Simon, a North End-raised resident of Rivergrove, has been published more than 200 times since she became a self-described "late-blooming freelance writer" later on in life. To her credit are bylines in Canstar Community News’ weekly publications, The Winnipeg Free Press, The Jewish Post & News and Geist magazine, among others.
Now, she’s compiled some of those pieces, along with some new work, in a book entitled Life is Like a Pot of Soup, the title playing off a Forrest Gump’s famous "box of chocolates" metaphor.
"In this collection of new and previously published works, you’ll find a mixture of flavours — joy, sorrow, fear, courage, and love," reads the book’s back cover.
"The author begins with a fundamental stock (nature and nurture), adds an assortment of ingredients (childhood friends, new family, career choice) and stirs the pot with life’s experiences."
Many of her pieces were originally published in op-ed sections of the publications she was featured in, and drew on her experiences from her previous career in social work.
"They’re on social-educational issues. For example, how does it feel to be spanked? Then there’s ‘Parents are Our First Teachers,’ ‘The Basics of Education’ and so on," she said.
But Life is Like a Pot of Soup contains pieces which speak to life’s various, but universal stages — childhood, parenthood, and one’s working life, for example, and it’s formatted to run chronologically to take the reader from one part of life to the next.
"I had a collection of different stories, some of them personal essays. There’s humour, academic essays," she said, crediting McNally Robinson Booksellers’ Marjorie Anderson with helping her arrange the varying pieces.
"I go through the stories from early life into married life, a professional life, current life, and reflections on life. The theme is universal and timeless, because that’s the journey for everyone through life. The details are different but the journey’s the same."
Parts of the book draw on Simon’s own childhood growing up in the North End, including anecdotes about family trips to St. John’s Park.
"Some of these (pieces) are humourous, some are serious," she said.
When she decided to put the compilation together, she was stumped as to how to go about it, as traditional publishing routes proved difficult, and she didn’t have the computer skills to do it all herself.
Simon eventually discovered the services of local shop Artbookbindery Inc., which worked with her to put it all together and design its cover.
"They were absolutely wonderful," she said.
"I call this independent publishing, because everything has been edited by professional editors."
"Whatever was new was looked at by Marjorie. So I can’t call it self-publishing. What I did was produce it."
Now that copies are ready for the public, Simon is holding a launch for the book at McNally Robinson Grant Park on April 28 at 2 p.m.
Simon said she has many more pieces in her archive and is considering doing a second book.