Posts by Trevor Neill

The Okanagan Story book launch

The Kelowna Story Book Launch

The Kelowna Story is a comprehensive, full-length history of the largest metropolitan centre outside BC’s Lower Mainland, a labour of love by a leading local historian whose family roots have been entwined with Kelowna’s for five generations. It embraces the full sweep of central Okanagan history, starting with the days of the S-Ookanhkchinx, who enjoyed a largely peaceful existence along the shores of the lakes and rivers before the earliest explorers came to trade, followed by Father Pandosy and his Okanagan Mission in 1859. It was the mission that attracted Kelowna’s first homesteaders, soon followed by cattle ranchers and orchardists, and much later by the empire-builders like the Bennett family who paved the way for today’s budding metropolis.

Author Sharron J. Simpson believes “history is best told through the stories of ordinary people,” while allowing today’s readers may not think it ‘ordinary’ to walk over mountain ranges to collect mail, or consider it ‘ordinary’ to climb into a narrow irrigation pipe to scrape the rust off the inside as it runs up and down the hillsides, or to row freight from one end of Okanagan Lake to the other. “In their time,” she writes, “those who did extraordinary things were simply doing what needed to be done to get ahead. Their stories are fascinating and tell of the remarkable investment early settlers made in this community.”

Simpson tells the story of her hometown with an attention to detail and a passion for narrative that bespeaks her own considerable talent and deep commitment. This excellent history has been a long time coming but, all will agree, well worth waiting for.

Historian and former city councillor Sharron J. Simpson is a passionate advocate for preserving community and family stories. Simpson has published numerous articles and local histories, including Kelowna General Hospital: The First 100 Years, 1908-2008 and Boards, Boxes and Bins: Stanley M. Simpson and the Okanagan Lumber Industry.

Poet Duo Cause Ruckus in Bookstore

Live in concert, this Saturday afternoon only, meet the freshest poet duo to grace Mosaic’s aisles since… well, this will be the first poet duo I’ve ever hosted, but I’m sure their visit will go down in infamy. Your first impression of Jake and Kevin may run something like, “Look at those swell fellows! I should invite them over for a glass of scotch and game of Mahjong!”, but be warned; when your guard is down, out come razor sharp shuriken-like words that will SHRED YOUR MIND. In a good way. Both English professors at the Okanagan College, Kevin and Jake have meddled frequently with Kelowna’s budding poetry scene, their efforts seen through poetry slams, book launches and literary discussions.

For their Mosaic debut, Kevin and Jake will be discussing, signing, and juggling their recent collections of poetry. However, you should know that this book signing may actually be cover for a more insidious scheme. Jake and Kevin are assembling a community-written novel titled Death Valley, and will be soliciting scribbles from event attendees, passersby, and anyone within lasso reach. If not to witness a true bromance in action, or to hear some truly innovative minds at work, come on by and help create a work of fiction that will leave the masses exclaiming, “Hrrrrrrm?”

As there are three works up for the taking, and I don’t think Awesome Okanagan needs to be dominated by a mile long collection of book reviews, check out our site for more information on Jake and Kevin’s notorious notables.

As a final, below the belt attempt at snagging a crowd for this event, I’d like to share the last line of Kevin’s recent email communication with me regarding tomorrow: “In anticipation of the event, I’ve already sent my translucent Batman costume to the cleaners!” Lookin’ forward to it, Kevin.

We Need Your Help to Save a Park!

It’s time for me to get a little political, but fret not, it’s for an awesome cause. Before I dive in, I need to address what make Kelowna and the Okanagan so darn awesome in the first place. You could draw up a laundry list of why we all love to live here, but I reckon the victor on most everybody’s list would be the abundance of parks and natural green space. I also believe that most of us would jump at the opportunity to create and conserve more of this land. Well, fellow awesome Okanagians, we have a rare predicament upon us, one that will test our spirit and dedication to this fare city and its beauty.

Kelowna City Council is being pressured to build condos with only a public walkway on a stretch of beach-front land between Kinsmen Park and Gyro Beach. On this Monday, April 18, they might just do that, despite over 220 people showing up at City Hall to protest!

The City long ago used your taxes to purchase the four waterfront lots south of the Cedar Avenue beach access, and the seven waterfront lots to the north. The stated purpose was to one day create a new lakefront park. Fifty years from now, we want to be remembered as having the vision and passion to create a real park for our community and families; not some “fancy sidewalk,” as one brave nine-year-old stated during the public hearing last week. On the east side of Abbott Street, there’s oodles of land waiting to be developed, so why not put buildings there instead of in the park? We want both the bike path and walkway through the park, and also a lake view from Abbott Street. We don’t want just a boardwalk that will be in the shade in the morning, and in the blazing sun in the afternoon (it’s hard to plant big trees in water.)

To prove to City Council that we do indeed prefer parks over pavement, a massive party has been organized for this Saturday, April 16, at 2pm. When head to head with a bureaucratic adversary such is the City, numbers are of the utmost importance, so we need as many bodies on that beach at 2pm as possible. This afternoon of organized mayhem will only go till 4pm,  leaving plenty of time to get dolled up for the evening’s Awesome Okanagan Launch Party at the Laurel Packinghouse. Save a park by day, celebrate at night! Captain Planet would be proud.

Who’s invited? We need a pile of old folks, moms and dads, kids and their dogs, girlfriends and boyfriends with Frisbees, bicycles, beach balls, blankets, books, and banjos to hang out in the “Almost Cedar Avenue Park.” Come sporting your best Speedos, swimsuits, trunks, tank tops and pedal pushers. It’s one afternoon of wholesome fun to make a powerful and visionary statement to Kelowna City Council.

It’s gotta be outrageous, so get creative, shame your friends into coming and take some time out of your busy Saturday, and bring your ass down to do something important for our city.

If you bring a car, park it far enough away and walk! We don’t need any excuses that the area cannot handle a park.

Please visit and share it with everybody you know!

Kelowna author Jack Whyte amongst BC Book Prizes Finalists

The finalists for the BC Book Prizes were announced last Thursday, and amongst the fray is Kelowna’s internationally bestselling author Jack Whyte. With 13 historical novels spread amongst three series under his belt, Jack is no layman when it comes to critical acclaim. His latest tome, The Forest Laird, book one of the Guardians trilogy, centers around the Scottish outlaw, hero, and kingmaker, William Wallace. Those unfamiliar with Wallace need only recall the Mel Gibson epic, Braveheart, which was based on William Wallace and his fight for Scottish independence in the early 12th century. Painstakingly researched yet cinematically illustrated, Jack Whyte’s novels are known for their historical precision and engrossing battle scenes.

At his book launch in Mosaic Books last summer, Jack was asked how such gorgeous battle depictions came to fruition, to which he had little explanation. Jack described his writing process as much of a mystery to himself. He said he falls into an almost unconscious trance where he would awake six hours later with pages upon pages of near perfect prose and no memory of creating them. An attendee of the book launch shortly exclaimed, “I think you may be channelling dead people!”

Surprisingly, not all awesome people reside in the Okanagan, and as such there are a few other finalists that need your immediate attention. CBC Radio 3 host Grant Lawrence’s first memoir, Adventures in Solitude, has been amazingly well received, holding a spot on the Canadian non-fiction bestseller list since the summer. Along with his witty show, fresh podcast, and new book, Grant is also an all around awesome and ruggedly good looking guy (I am often reminded of this by my lovely staff).

Vancouver’s Sarah Leavitt has earthed understanding and hope to an otherwise crippling subject in her graphic memoir, Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me. Spare black and white illustrations give way to a truly candid account of an outspoken and quick-witted mother starting to fade into a forgetful, fearful shadow.

The BC Book Prize winners include 34 finalists and will be announced April 21, 2011. For more information on the prize categories, finalists, and voting process, visit