The municipality of Témiscaming is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and to help commemorate the milestone, Gary Pickering created Souvenirs de Témiscaming Memories, an anthology of stories about the community.
Released in January, the book showcases various recollections from residents past and present about their experiences living in the area. At a hefty 300 pages, the volume presents a unique history of the town, as told by those who lived it.
As such, the book has been well-received, with over 900 copies sold to date, “and they’re still selling,” Pickering enthused.
“And it’s all because of the enthusiasm and generosity of people from Témiscaming,” he added.
The book is available to purchase at Ross Electric Home Hardware in Témiscaming, although copies are running low. Amazon.ca also carries the title, which can be printed and shipped on demand.
All profits from the book’s sale will be presented to four local Témiscaming charities this September.
La Maison de La Famille, Place au Soleil, the Handicap Association of Témiscaming and Kipawa, and Maison Des Jeunes will all benefit, Pickering explained.
“I had a great childhood in Témiscaming,” and donating the profits “is my little way of giving a bit back.”
As a young adult, Pickering left his hometown to work as a corrections officer in the Toronto area, before becoming a superintendent at a jail in Peterborough. Currently, he lives in Barrie.
“You can take the boy out of the town, but you can’t take the town out of the boy,” he joked, mentioning that he “absolutely” has a soft spot for Témiscaming, and visits a few times a year.
After retiring, Pickering took up the pen and began writing about his time as a corrections officer. At parties and gatherings, people would often ask for these types of stories, and with more free time he began dedicating a few hours each day putting them to paper.
This resulted in his first book, If the Walls Could Talk, which he self-published through Amazon. Another book followed, The Maraca Murders, a fictional piece “about the perfect crime.”
Compiling and editing Souvenirs de Témiscaming Memories was a new venture which was inspired by seeing people’s positive reactions to stories about Témiscaming on his social media pages.
With the book’s success, “there was overwhelming support to do volume two,” Pickering said, adding that he is already undertaking the new project.
Pickering plans to launch Volume 2 this October, with profits once again used to support local charities.
For those interested in contributing, Pickering welcomes submissions. Those who contributed to the first volume are welcome to share another piece as well.
Submissions should be about 250 words and can be in either English or French. Pieces will be published in the language he receives them.
“The idea of that is to kind of reflect the character of the town,” he said. “Some people speak French, some speak English, they switch back and forth, that’s the way Témiscaming is.”
For those shy to share their work, Pickering wants to reassure would-be contributors that he polishes each submitted piece, returns it to the writer for approval, then adds it to the manuscript.
“Just get the words out of your head onto a piece of paper,” he said, and he will take care of the rest.
Not sure what to write about? “Everybody has memories,” Pickering said, “pretend you’re sitting at a table with a stranger, and that stranger asks you, ‘what is your best memory of Témiscaming?’ What would you tell them?”
“And that becomes your story.”
And those are the stories Pickering wants to collect for Volume 2. Those interested in submitting can contact Gary at email@example.com
David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca