How my big fat American family

Let it snow!.for Facebook  drove me to Canada

It’s been decades now, but my experience in my enormous family of origin was so deeply entrenched in my DNA that there was a time whenever I met anyone, the first thing I said was “I’m one of 14 children.”  And waited for the astonished replies. “Oh, you must be Catholic” / “What number are you?” / “Any twins?”

Our sheer numbers defined us, always in relation to each other. My Mother’s passport photo taken in preparation for the family traveling to Guam, (where my father was stationed in the United States Navy) showed her surrounded by eight children ages three months to nine years. This was her ultimate identity paper as a citizen. The United States of America saw Marcelle Prudell Hicks, not as an individual woman, but as a mother of eight children. And the flock of us were just ‘dependents’ with no names. Thereafter, they lined us up at least once per year to update the expanding family photo: my mother holding the most recent baby, my father grinning proudly while the rest of us, shoulder to shoulder, squinted into the sun.  Once there were fourteen of us, the caption “One Man’s Family” was engraved and fastened to the wood frame.

caitlin family bus I’ve got my own private mess hall, Daddy joked to strangers, since being a Navy Commander who survived Pearl Harbor was an essential part of his self-image. We were that passel of hungry mouths to feed, his Navy brats, used to being corralled and sorted for roll call, for Sunday Mass, for bedtime and suppertime. As such, we totally understood waiting our turn but we also knew about the essential importance of getting there first. At mealtime, ‘seconds’ vanished to the quickest, and to this day I don’t chew my food, I inhale it. At Christmas, each girl received a copy of a sweater, distinguished from five other sweaters by color and size; the boys got socks. Everything in quantity, in bulk, sold for a group bargain. So that’s who I was. A face in a crowd. A number in a line. A mouth to be fed. There were a lot of us and we had plenty of fun, but there was never enough. Attention. Personal space. Quiet. I hated hand-me-downs for the usual reasons; drew blood kicking and screaming because my sister’s bed had somehow moved over the invisible line I’d drawn in our crowded bedroom, or she’d ‘borrowed’ the dress I’d just finished sewing, or stole my diary (the one place I thought I had some privacy) and read the embarassing confidences therein.

Then I grew up (an oversimplification of this phase of my life) and fell in love with an average Canadian, Gord (self-described). When I first visited Toronto, (which heretofore I’d pictured somewhere in Australia), my gut response was, “This is a beautiful city! Why hasn’t anyone discovered it?” We were living in New York, and I could just tell that Canada’s biggest city had a more reasonable number of people. Gord confirmed my hopes: Canada’s entire population is the same as and could fit into the state of California. ‘Foreign country’ never looked so good to me: gorgeous landscape, clean & shiny cities with the occasional Mountie on horseback and a colonial edifice here and there for authenticity. Most importantly, not too many people.

Instinctively understanding what this meant to me, I yearned to live in Canada. In New York, the competition was all-too-familiar: as an actress, I routinely waited hours in line-ups for auditions that sometimes lasted only seconds.  Gord was an illustrator & visual artist, and had begun making contacts with New York agents. Then he landed a commission back in Toronto and asked me to wait for him in our one-room New York apartment (with cock roaches and a postage-stamp kitchen), and I thought: “Are you kidding?” Of course The Big Apple was exciting, if you had a lot of money. It was also crowded, filthy and filled with people clamoring to survive, just like I had been in my family. Why would I stay in this New York dive when I could live in that sparkling country called Canada? The place with all that room? To Gord, New York was everything Canada was not: opportunity, fame and fortune on the Number One world stage. To him, New York was Canada’s big brother.

I already had eight of those.

Besides, I was in love. Ten months later, we were married in our semi-detached heritage rental on Collier Street three weeks before our son was born. So what if no one from my family came. I had Canada all to myself.

Thirty years later, even as the looney sinks below 70 cents, as we look to welcome Syrian refugees, I’m glad that the relentless striving to survive in my Big Fat American family drove me to Canada. In that family, my son is just one of 42 grandchildren; in Canada he has relationships with six of his seven cousins. Here, I benefit everyday from Canada’s ‘je ne sais quoi’ – a culture that is so much more than the space, the ‘eh’ or the ‘sorry’. Here I play ice hockey, I speak french, I vote in a political environment that is not toxically dead-locked. My brothers call us a ‘socialist’ country as if that were a fault but I am proud to live in a country that works to provide for its most vulnerable. A country that thinks of itself as a peacemaker. As an artist, I struggle and flourish, encouraged to express my own unique voice. I don’t have to sell everything I’ve worked for over the years to pay for my health care. I eat with a fork in my left hand, so my food stays on my plate long enough for a conversation.

I can say the word ‘sorry’ not out of self-depreciation, but out of respect. Instead of feeling road rage in a queue, I can let the car in front of me filter into the inching traffic ahead. With a simple gesture like that, I can make somebody’s day.

BIZ CARD AD theory

CAITLIN HICKS is a playwright, performer and author. Her debut novel A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE (published in 2015) explores the landscape of a large, military Catholic family in Pasadena, California in 1963. (www.caitlinhicks.com)

THEORY, a Finalist for INDIEFAB AWARD

NC Small Press Celebrates Book Award Finalists

Three titles from Light Messages Publishing have been named Foreword Reviews’ 18th annual INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards Finalists: A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE by Caitlin Hicks, The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley by Susan Örnbratt, and Relentless Savage by Dave Edlund.

2015 indiefab finalists promo-caitlin
Each year, Foreword Reviews shines a light on a select group of indie publishers, university presses, and self-published authors whose work stands out from the crowd. Over the next three months, a panel of more than 100 volunteer librarians and booksellers will determine the winners in 63 categories based on their experience with readers and patrons.

The three books chosen from Light Messages were lead titles for 2015. A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE  and The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley received resounding praise from reviewers and readers alike. They were each recognized as Top 50 Reads of 2015. Shortly after its release, Relentless Savage topped the charts on iBooks for Best New Mysteries and & Thrillers. The announcement comes just weeks ahead of the release of Edlund’s third Peter Savage novel, Deadly Savage, which Kirkus Reviews has praised for its “crackling action, brisk pace, timely topic…”

“As a small press in today’s climate, we feel like we have to work twice as hard to secure strong authors and meaningful books and ten times as hard to get their works into the hands of readers. Having a voice as influential as Foreword Reviews recognize three of our titles for their excellence and their contributions to the literary community means the world to us,” says Elizabeth Turnbull, Light Messages Senior Editor. “As the fictional Gillian Pugsley would say, we’re so tickled you could push us over with a guinea pig’s whiskers!”

FOREWARD review
Foreword Reviews will celebrate the winners during a program at the American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco on Friday, June 26 at 6 p.m. at the Pop Top Stage in the exhibit hall. Everyone is welcome. The Editor’s Choice Prize for Fiction, Nonfiction, and Foreword Reviews’ 2014 INDIEFAB Publisher of the Year Award will also be announced during the presentation.

About Light Messages
Light Messages Publishing, founded in 1998, is a family-run, general trade publisher located in Durham, North Carolina. We pride ourselves in bringing to light meaningful books by emerging and award-winning authors. For more information about Light Messages Publishing and its services, please visit our website.

About Foreword
Foreword Magazine, Inc is a media company featuring a Folio-award-winning quarterly print magazine, Foreword Reviews, and a website devoted to independently published books. In the magazine, they feature reviews of the best 170 new titles from independent publishers, university presses, and noteworthy self-published authors. Their website features daily updates: reviews along with in-depth coverage and analysis of independent publishing from a team of more than 100 reviewers, journalists, and bloggers. The print magazine is available at most Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million newsstands or by subscription. You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. They are headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan, USA.
Elizabeth Turnbull, Senior Editor
Light Messages Publishing
elizabeth@lightmessages.com

The trouble of Christmas

Ah, it’s that time again. When a lifetime of expectations flood our being with a few bars of a remembered song. Every year, as dusk cuts the day in half, as sparkling colored lights and candles glimmer against the black, I find my self yearning for the elusive magic that winter used to hold for me, the excitement of being an innocent child, about to be landed upon by a benevolent man whose bags were full of gifts.

We don’t tell anyone, sometimes not even ourselves, why we go through all the trouble of Christmas.

Frannie as Angel#1But I can remember even now, the thrill of imagining the black night sky over Jerusalem’s desert sands as a star in the east announced the birth of a very special baby. I knew the inside story because I was a fully initiated  member of a special club whose president was nothing less than the creator of this amazing universe. In our family, there were so many of us, we even had a role for the donkey. I made costumes for my brothers and sisters and staged the nativity play and sang the songs we all knew by heart. That’s a towel on my head but we all know I’m one of the shepherds.

Blurry singing#2Nate & Santa325

As adults, we re-create the world of Christmas for the little ones in our lives. Ever since I was old enough to be a big sister, there was no one so cherished as the baby. Their smell, their cluelessness, their vulnerability and their unmitigated joy. We want to be close to that innocence. We love being next to them as they get that look on their small faces, even as they are too young to articulate what they’re feeling: their world is Christmas morning, and every adventure ahead is part of the discovery of a magnificent life.

Holding baby#2Who doesn’t want to climb back into that safe and happy place – even for a moment – when everyone you loved was alive, and maybe even in the same room?


 

This year my first novel, A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE was born and pushed out of the nest by my cherished publishing family LIGHT MESSAGES, in whose company I am proud to be. They also produced The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley by Susan Ornbratt, Tea & Crumples by Summer Kinard and Worlds Between by Carl Nordgren, three beautiful books.


ibooks best small w circle

ibooks stickerA THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE was in good company on iBooks Best New Readers Favorite Reduced 250Fiction with Judy Blume, Sara Gruen, Kate Atkinson, Toni Morrison and more, and received a 5-star award with Reader’s Favorite.

 

jdc 50 MUST READ of 2015 BlueThe novel shared the list of JDC’s Top 50 Must Read Books of 2015 with Susan Ornbratt’s The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley, both published by Light Messages.

A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE:

One of the 8 titles showcased in the Debut Fiction ForeSight editorial Summer Issue. https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/a-theory-of-expanded-love/

One of 17 Recommended (fiction) Books of 2015 (Publication Coach & Gray-Grant Communications), along with Kate Atkinson’s “Life after Life”, Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See”, Emily Gould’s “Friendship” (Wall Street Journal’s Book of the Year), Gillian Flynn’s “Dark Places” and more.
http://www.publicationcoach.com/recommended-books-winter-2015

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In Iceland, books are exchanged on Christmas Eve and everyone spends the rest of the night reading. Sitting around the fire, drinking hot chocolate. It’s called Jolabokaflod.

 

Give the gift of expanded love:

A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE is available on Amazon, KOBO, Kindle, iBooks, CHAPTERS / Indigo in the Lower Mainland (BC,Canada), BARNES & NOBLE in the US, (especially in Los Angeles), at BOOK WAREHOUSE in Vancouver, Earthfair  & Talewind Books on the Sunshine Coast, and wherever books are sold. If you don’t see the book on the shelves, you can always request it.

People bring their lives to your work

Here’s Magdelanye’s book club in Sechelt where I was a guest last week. In addition to compliments they  gave me about enjoying my novel, one of the readers had found something within that resonated with her – something no one else had noticed. Although the novel has been out for almost six months, although I have 45 pages of articulate and detailed reviews, no one had discovered yet what she discovered.

Magdalyne's book club

As a playwright and performer on tour, I noticed that this happened with my work. In the question and answer period after the final curtain, audiences would  share their discovered links, connections and questions within the work that I had not been aware of myself. Sharing the work in community opened it up to the many layers of complexity that had filtered through their experience of it.

Whenever I’m invited to speak at a book club, I disclose that I wrote A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE to answer an important question for myself. Then I ask the readers if they can guess the question. No one has yet to discover, themselves, the question that drove me to write the book. I tell them it’s not an obvious question, but once they know what it is, they will see it everywhere.

The best part of this exercise: Every one of their answers seems to address another aspect of the story. The aspect that resonates with them.

People bring their lives to your work. This is why I write. It’s exhilarating to share deeply with others. To create something that someone just gets. They get it. It’s something I long for – to be connected across age, class, gender, culture and even spiritual beliefs. It’s a moment of profound connection in the universe.

One reader sent my book to her sister who hadn’t spoken to her for years. Here’s what she sent after reading

A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE

Kath writeS MOE re Theory

 

Lily Park RoyalAt West Van Park Royal Indigo store I met this young girl. She’s 11. We hung out a bit at the Meet & Greet the Author. She’s a reader and wanted to read my book right away. I told her she could read it when she turns 12. Then her dad came along. I asked her name. “Lily” she said. I had a moment. Lily! Whenever I read from THEORY this is the chapter I read. It’s my favorite. It’s called Lily. And here was Lily. In person. As it were. She had that energy. That young person  energy that you just want to be around.

 

From an upcoming Vancouver Sun interview: The protagonist of A Theory of Expanded Love is a 12 year old girl. Can you speak to why, as readers, we can often identify with youths or children as protagonists, regardless of our own age?

 “It’s the innocence that attracts us. We can see ourselves in that person – before we were disheartened, before we were discouraged, before we were convinced we couldn’t have everything and live forever with the world at our feet. I think that as human beings we need to re-visit that innocence because it’s still a vital part of who we are. We like being in the room with that person, that innocent person with her eyes wide open to the wonder and terror of what life has in store.”

Meet & Greet the author

Here’s the tour schedule for OCTOBER for A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE
Drop by and say hello at one of these bookstores!

Saturday, October 10                    1 – 3 pm
Chapters – Strawberry Hill –                  (604) 501-2877
12101 72nd Ave,  SURREY

Bitchen Bookclub
Saturday, October 17

Indigo – North Vancouver    –                2 pm
1025 Marine Drive, North Vancouver   (604) 501-2877

People’s Co-op Bookstore                     Story-Structure-COVER1
7:30 PM
1391 Commercial Dr                              604-253-6442
With author PJ REECE                             http://www.pjreece.ca/

 

 

  • *
    Saturday, October 24
    Indigo, Park Royal                                  1-3 pm
    900 Park Royal S, West Vancouver      (604) 922-3222

Laura Marshall w Book Club!
Billy Bishop Legion                               7 pm
1407 Laburnum St, Vancouver           (604) 568-4130

If you send us a photo with A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE & you, we’ll post on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

Readers Favorite – 5 Stars for THEORY

My favorite pic of cousins

Review Rating: 5 stars!

“I simply loved this book. Loved it”

Reviewed By Tracy A. Fischer for Readers’ Favorite

I just finished reading A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE by author Caitlin Hicks and I have to say, I absolutely loved this book. Follow the story of spunky, 12-year-old Annie Shea, one of thirteen children in a very traditional Catholic family in 1963. Pope John has just died and President Kennedy has been assassinated, and life in the Shea family is about to change as well. When Annie’s sister gets pregnant out of wedlock and her parents are willing to do just about anything to protect their reputation as a “good Catholic family,” Annie realizes that it might be up to her make things right for her sister and her family, but to do that, she has to challenge everything she’s ever known.

As I said earlier, I simply loved this book. Loved it. Caitlin Hicks has done an absolutely masterful job at creating a book that is funny, fun, heartwarming, and just an absolute joy to read. I read A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE straight through from beginning to end without a single break. I just could not put it down.

#2 Cartwheel final LARGE REVISED

But I was sad when it was done. The characters, and especially young Annie Shea, are written so realistically that by the end of the reading, I truly felt that I knew them, and I was so very sad to say goodbye. A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE is a book that would appeal to any reader. Period. Any reader who loves great writing should read this book. This is the first book that I’ve read by author Caitlin Hicks, but it certainly won’t be the last. I am eagerly awaiting the next book by this extremely promising author, and I hope she’s hard at work on it already!

Dear Pope Francis,

pope reads no quoteI just know you will like A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE!

First of all, I think you’re a really good pope! For instance, washing the feet of the poor people. I’m not sure if it’s going to do any good, other than clean up a few smelly feet, but it’s really subversive.

You sure cut through the smog with that encyclical on global warming! Fox news says you are one of the most dangerous people on earth. But a lot of people thought Christ was dangerous; that’s why they crucified Him! His ‘love thy neighbor’ speeches  were threatening the world order.  If everybody really did ‘love thy neighbor’, the poor wouldn’t be so dirt poor and the filthy rich wouldn’t have so much more than they need. That’s gotta ruffle a few feathers.

Don’t worry, I don’t think you’re in danger of being crucified, but one thing I know: it takes guts to be subversive.

May I ask you a favor?

Could you please read my book A THEORY OF EXPANDED LOVE? I think you will enjoy it, because I have noticed that you have a sense of humor!

And if you like my book, could you write a few words about how my book made you feel?

I know you’re busy! But could you go to AMAZON.COM or AMAZON.CA  and post your ‘review’ online? So others will buy the book?

Because if your review is not on AMAZON, how is anyone going to know how good it is?

Below I’ve posted a few examples from others, in case you are intimidated by the term ‘review’.

Yours in Christ,

Annie Shea, Age 12, St. Andrew’s parish, Pasadena, California, 1963

KIRKUS

“Annie’s disarming voice evokes nostalgia for a bygone era and hope for humanity in a weary, modern world.”

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“a worthy debut”

FOREWARD REVIEWS:

“enough charm to fill the corridors of the Vatican twice over”

JUDITH COLLINS:

A W E S O M E! Hilarious and moving! A HIT! Judy Blume, Lena Dunham, Jennifer Weiner move over!