The Problems of Being Monolingual

20151009_big squirrelI am sure all of you were eagerly waiting last night for a blog post. And perhaps you even waited until this morning, wondering how the Epic Journey of Erin and Michael is going. Finally, perhaps around 9:00 this morning (which is 7:30am over here; I was awake, but not aware yet), you realized the awful truth: Erin did not write a blog post concerning the events of October 8th. How dare I!

Quebec is a very confusing province for two monolingual individuals. As we do not speak its main language, we come across as being either boorish or ignorant, or perhaps even both. Highways that lead into the cities are *confusing*, and traffic is pretty nuts. It’s likely similar in Toronto, I am aware. I am already dreading it.

I always knew that Quebec was going to be my least favourite part of this trip. As much as I want to see Old Montreal and the Biosphere (and now the Planetarium), I knew it was going to be confusing and messy, and basically outside of my comfort zone.

It was certainly outside of Michael’s.

On the plus side: We are out of the worst of it now. All we have to do is get out of Montreal in two days (and we plan on doing this rather early in the morning to make it simpler), and drive through on our way back home in 6 weeks. We can calm down now.

I think we are finally calming down.

Continue reading The Problems of Being Monolingual

“Where’s the Red?”

charlottetown church

Heritage Charlottetown is lovely. It has big houses, and lovely churches, and different coloured lines on the sidewalk so dumb tourists like my brother and I can find our way around. We spent an hour walking around in downtown Charlottetown, going, “Where’s the red?” as the Heritage Walk we went on was marked out by a red line on the sidewalk. It worked really well, except when we were on red cobblestone. Then we just got fairly lost. My main course of action was to find the prettiest building and aim for it; it worked almost every time.


I know I’ve been saying that the Atlantic Provinces are very much like Newfoundland (understandably so, since NL is also an Atlantic province…), but it’s starting to look different here. Yes, the fog is super strong here today (which is why we haven’t gone to the beach to see the sand everyone keeps talking about), but the trees are so tall and so colourful. It kind of reminds me of downtown Kelowna, actually, more than anything.

I like it here. I think I could even live here, possibly.

We blew a fuse this morning – I guess I wasn’t meant to dry my hair. They got it fixed for us fairly quickly though, so I don’t really mind. It almost felt like home, being plunged into the dark without warning. It keeps you on your toes, and at least there was free breakfast downstairs.

We also went to see Anne & Gilbert, which is this lovely three-hour play where everyone talks about how much Gilbert loves Anne of Green Gables, and how she loves him too. I was bouncing in my seat for almost 10 minutes before it began, and then grinned madly throughout the whole thing. The end deviated from the books a little, which annoyed me slightly because I love how she realizes that she loves Gil, but the songs were cute, and the girls who played Diana and Phillipa were delightful, and Michael enjoyed it enough that he now wants to watch the movies with me when we get home (YES *pumps fist*). Anne was as dramatic as ever, and the guy who played Gilbert was very cute. And very good too.

Continue reading “Where’s the Red?”

“We May Have Style, But We Have No Sense of Direction.”

So! Big day today. Many things happened – enough things that I actually made a list. I have since lost the list, but the point is still made by the fact that I had to write a list at all.

(It’s probably in the car somewhere; I just don’t feel like searching it out.)

First things first: Mom, Dad, Erica, and Kyle – you were right. The ferry was no big deal. (I made Michael drive.) I can’t even tell you much about it because I was asleep before 10:30pm, and the ferry didn’t disembark until 11:45. I mean, every time they made an announcement, I was rudely woken up, but I was asleep again within a couple of minutes.

Am I a real person yet? Not quite, but I am getting there.

Continue reading “We May Have Style, But We Have No Sense of Direction.”

I Always Forget How Beautiful Newfoundland Is

Part One: St. Johns to Stephenville

As some of you may know, there’s a river that runs by my property. It goes through a circular culvert (or, it was circular until 2 months ago), under the road, and then out past this open field we’ve always called The Meadow. When I was a kid, I used to run through this culvert in my rubber boots, with Mom calling out encouragements from the other end. I tried to do this 18 months ago, and I understood why Mom never ran through it with me; it’s cramped!

Anyways. My point is that last night as I lay in bed, my chest felt like it was that culvert, except it was getting smaller and smaller. Every breath was a push through this shrinking space, and the more I thought about it, the smaller the cavity became.

Yes, I was freaking out. I was singing the first verse of Anastasia‘s “Journey to the Past” over and over again, crying on my mom’s shoulder, and texting one of my best friends trying to explain that my laptop could potentially be squashed by some crazy accident on the ferry ride and that would be terrible. (Thanks for listening, btw.)

My dad calls it The Law of Inertia. You know the one: an object at rest stays at rest, an object in motion stays in motion. Basically this means that that old cliche about the first step being the hardest one is completely accurate. I didn’t want to leave my house this morning. No matter how much I have shook the last couple of days (with excitement, mind you), I decided that it wasn’t worth it and I should just hide in my house for the next 7 weeks.

Continue reading I Always Forget How Beautiful Newfoundland Is

Can Something Be Both an Introduction and a Warning?

Erin Vance, Editor
Erin Vance, Editor

I suppose I should start out with a greeting of some sort, because I feel as though most of you don’t know who I am; which is fine! I don’t know who you guys are either. The beauty of the internet, I guess. Those of you who do know me are probably here because you found a link on my Facebook (in which case: Hey. How you doing?).

My name is Erin Vance. I am a student in suspension (because I don’t know my next step), I am an editor at Engen Books, and I am a Sobeys’ clerk (you may have seen me there once or twice). I am often called any variation of weird, odd, strange, or crazy, and am owned by 3 Newfoundland dogs. I have a trampoline named Frank and a Grand Caravan named BeueI. I have 3 younger siblings, and a new cell phone that I am not yet comfortable with. I am also about to embark on a grand adventure: I am going to drive from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia with my younger brother, Michael.

You may wonder why I’m telling you this, and the reason is: Because people want me to write a travel blog. And because I am curious about this idea, and on occasion like to make people happy, I have agreed to their request. Which is what this post is all about: My upcoming trip.

I’m not an author like Matt and Ellen – not yet, anyways – and so I don’t have any thoughts or words of wisdom on how to write. All I have is my own random thoughts concerning a trip that’s going to span, according to Google, over 7500 km, or 78 hours of driving. And that’s if we go straight across, which we’re not. Not really. We have too many things to see and do on our way.

(I’m kinda excited; can you tell?)

Continue reading Can Something Be Both an Introduction and a Warning?

A part of our (literary) history: Quotes

Smoke and Mirrors (Black Womb series) original back cover
Smoke and Mirrors (Black Womb series) original back cover

Longtime readers of Engen Books might remember when, in the early days of ashcan-like editions published in Pocket Paperback editions by Calgary-based printer Blitzprint, the back covers of the first five books in the Black Womb series looked like this one, on the left.

The covers were simple: plain black background with white text, title above. Sometimes issues with the printer made them faded and illegible — such are the woes of starting out in publishing. But while we’ve improved immensely, there are some things that have been lost along the way as we’ve gotten more polished: avant-garde ideas that traditional publishers wouldn’t try that made us stand out on the bookshelf. And that was, ironically enough, the back cover.

We had the interesting idea of not wasting the back cover with a hook or synopsis or out-of-context trailer to try and force the reader to buy: we wanted to bring them in with our storytelling ability and our sharp, witty dialog. So we did something very few other novels have done: we made the back cover a part of the story.

Instead of touting reviews or plots or spoilers, Engen back covers were short stories in and of themselves: short monologues written from the first-person (sometimes second-person) perspective of the characters within the story, as though they were being interviewed after-the-fact. Engen back covers didn’t waste space: we were given a venue to tell stories with, and we wanted to use every page and surface available to us to tell a story.

Continue reading A part of our (literary) history: Quotes

Get to Know Erin Vance, Editor

Erin Vance, Editor
Erin Vance, Editor

You may have noticed a new face at the Engen Books booth at Avalon Expo this year and in the photos that found their way online after it. You may have also noticed that Cinders, the latest Engen title and first title in the Xander Drew series, was by far one of the best quality-wise that Engen Books has produced, on par with Infinity even. All these things have one thing in common: Erin Vance, Editor.

Erin Vance is a graduate of the Memorial University of Newfoundland English Honors Program who has, recently, accepted the position of the main editor for all Engen titles: both new titles coming through the Engen machine, and new editions of existing titles.

Erin wrote her Honors thesis paper, The Song of the Mockingjay, explored the nature of Katniss Everdeen’s agency in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series. She is creative, spiritual, and loves reading, writing, and anything to do with words.

“Erin is one of the most fiercely intelligent people working in literature today,” said Engen founder Matthew LeDrew. “She takes the time to understand each character in a novel and understand their voice. She’s not just checking for errors: when you hire Erin, you’re hiring one of the best writing partners you could ever have. She’ll remove your flaws and make all your good parts better. I like to think I have a sixth sense for creatively brilliant people. I scooped her up immediately.”

But who is Erin Vance? Get to know her better with her first Engen Interview!

  1. What is your favorite word?

Erin:  “Befuddle – because I like it at this moment. Ask me again tomorrow – I’ll have a different one.”

Continue reading Get to Know Erin Vance, Editor


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