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Son's Surprise Launches Poetry Book "AV Times article"

File 181When Sixty-Five Years Till Now, a collection of poems by Victoria R. Hazlehurst, was unveiled to the world no one was more surprised than the author.

It happened at a book launch and reading Saturday afternoon at Naesgaard's Market, but the author had no idea it was in the works.

Hazlehurst, better known in Port Alberni by her married name, Victoria Roscoe-Roumanis, has been writing poetry all of her life. While she had always thought it would be nice to have her poems published, she never really expected it to happen.

On Saturday afternoon, her youngest son, Alexis Roumanis, picked her up to take her to a Silver Tea in Nanaimo for her 65th birthday. On the way, he said, they would make a quick stop at Naesgaard's Market to pick up his wife Dayna, who was buying fruit for the trip.

Victoria had no idea, as her son guided her past the succulent table in the newly expanded nursery portion of the market, that he had published a collection of her poems. Nor was she aware that he had organized a book launch, notified the media and arranged for her to be interviewed by Cheryl MacKay on CBC's North by Northwest Sunday morning (click here to listen to the podcast & drag the play bar 1/5 of the way across). "Where did you all come from?" she asked as she entered the area prepared for the event and saw her friends, family and fellow members of the now-inactive writing group Rainwood Writers ready to greet her.

"What a wonderful family I have, that you should create such a surprise," she exclaimed.

Alexis recently graduated from Simon Fraser University's Master of Publishing program, and he has since started a publishing house called Engage Books. So far, he has mainly produced reprints of classics. But what better way to start showcasing original works by new writers than with his own mother's work?

"I always wondered about those times that my mom was staring off into the distance," Alexis said, in his introduction to the volume.

It seemed to the young boy that his mother was doing nothing. But when he read her poems, he realized that his mother's reveries had been part of her creative process. All of Victoria's poems were handwritten. He scanned them into his computer on the pretext that they would be lost if there was ever a fire, and he wanted to preserve them. As she had always said that if she ever published, she would as Victoria R. Hazlehurst, that is the name that appears on the volume's cover. Hazlehurst is Victoria's maiden name.

Victoria learned to love poetry at her father's knee. Instead of a bedtime story, he would read her Robbie Burns' poetry, then explain what the Scottish dialect meant.

"I'm always writing, not so much for publication, but for my own healing," she said. "When things happen in my life that I feel are important, when something really moves me, it comes from within. It's very strange how words come together, like part of me on a page. Then my challenge is going back and condensing."

Victoria was born and raised in Cheshire, England. In 1974, she immigrated to Canada and started a family in Port Alberni. She has three sons, Nikko, Yorgo and Alexis. Poetry is one of her passions, the others are family, photography and horses. A few years ago, she joined Rainwood Writers. The group included haiku poet and photographer Jim Swift, local mystery plan writer Pamela Walker and photographer and writer Pauline Hannaford, among others. Together, they practised "stream of consciousness" writing, putting down whatever came into their heads for 15 minutes, and did various other literary exercises. Victoria credits that group with helping her hone her craft.

"I learned a lot from the other writers, especially Jim Swift," she said. "I don't do haiku, but I like the idea of using very few words."

Haiku is a form of poetry that originated in Japan, which involves evoking a feeling and an image in three lines of five, seven and five syllables.

While Victoria enjoys the old masters like Wordsworth, as well as Robert Service, she is inspired more by individual poems than by other poets.

"The poem has to speak to me," she said. The Village Blacksmith, by Longfellow, touches her because it evokes memories from her own past in rural England.

"A poem is like a memory or a photograph of a moment - a moment frozen in time, that's what a poem is for me," she said. "It's my way of keeping a diary."

Sixty-Five Years Till Now is available in Port Alberni at Naesgaard's Market and Curious Coho Books for $19.95. Or you can order it online from Engage Books.

Florentia Scott, for the Alberni Valley Times
Published: Tuesday, June 01, 2010

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Surprise Book Launch of 'Sixty-Five Years Till Now'

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Thank you to everyone who came the the book launch of Sixty-Five Years Till Now by Victoria R. Hazlehurst. The book launch was a surprise for my Mom's 65th birthday. Victoria has written poetry for a number of years now, but she did not expect them to be made into a book. Having scanned these poems from various handwritten notebooks on the ruse that they would be lost if there was a fire, a book was created from 161 of her poems.

I presented the book to my Mom five minutes before her book launch. She was shocked that one of her pictures was on a book cover, and then amazed when it dawned on her that she was holding a book of her own poetry. Then we entered Naesgaard's Market where more than fourty of her friends and family were waiting for the look on her face, as she realized that she was walking into her surprise book launch. What followed was a book reading of several poems, a televised interview with Shaw Cable, an interview with the AV Times, and a book signing. There was an added shock when Dayna Roumanis announced that Victoria would be on North by Northwest with Sheryl MacKay the following morning (click here to listen to the podcast & drag the play bar 1/5 of the way across).

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A special thank you to Dayna Roumanis for planning such a wonderful event, to Tom McEvay and Ron Paulson for organizing the PA system, to Bruce, Marlene, Matt and Justine Trenholm for all your hard work, to Nikko and Becky Niamath for organizing the treats, and to Naesgaard's Market for hosting our event at such a beautiful site. Click here to see more pictures from the book launch.



The book is available in Port Alberi at Naesgaard's Market and Curious Coho Books or on our website.

I will announce when the AV Times article and Shaw Cable video are released.

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The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1000 Copy Limited Edition)

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The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of the first twenty four short stories. This hardcover edition is limited to 1000 copies, and will make a great collectors item.

Get your copy here! 




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The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is now available

File 121The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is an illustrated collection of short stories. If you're wondering what will happen in Sherlock Holmes 2 then this is the book to read as Holmes' greatest nemesis, Professor Moriarty, is introduced for the first time...

Get your copy today!




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Engage Books interviewed by the AV Times

I was recently interviewed by Alyson McAndrews from the Alberni Valley Times. Below is the article in full.

From wrestling ring to the publisher's desk

Alexis Roumanis has come a long way from the wrestling mats at Mount Klitsa Middle School and Alberni District Secondary School where he spent most of his youth. The four-time provincial wrestling champion now spends most of his days surrounded by books.

Or at least everything to do with books. Since moving from Port Alberni to the lower mainland in 2000 to wrestle and attend Simon Fraser University he has earned two degrees and started his own book publishing company -- Engage Books.

File 119"When I got to Simon Fraser I didn't know what I wanted to do and originally tried business," says Roumanis. "I didn't like that, but I liked English because of Mrs. Smith at ADSS, whose enthusiasm and encouragement in the classroom inspired me to pursue literature and writing, so I decided to do a degree in English."

His undergraduate degree inspired him to pursue a career in book publishing.

The tenacity he learned in wrestling helped him land his first job in the industry at Ronsdale Press in Vancouver.

"I sent out resumes to as many book publishers as I could find in the area, and landed a job at Ronsdale, which produces a great product, basically from home, which really appealed to me," he says.

From there he entered the Masters of Publishing program at SFU, one of two of its kind in North America, and before he officially graduated he had started Engage Books, which publishes classics and new science fiction. That was in May 2008.

About two years later he has published roughly a dozen classics, a cookbook, an Alice in Wonderland colouring book and will publish his first new science fiction book later this year, titled Planet Janitor: Custodian of the Stars by Chris Stevenson.

He employs a business model, print-on-demand, which allows him to reduce overhead and publish more books. Instead of warehousing thousands of copies of a title, his printer will print and mail a book within 24 hours of it being ordered.

"Using this system has greatly increased my ability to publish more titles because I don't have a ton of overhead wrapped up in storing thousands of copies of something I'm not sure will sell."

It's a competitive business and margins are tight, so Roumanis uses freelancers for cover art and book illustrations, instead of hiring employees.

"I come up with a concept for a book and choose the font, the lay out of the text and write the book information, but I use freelancers from places like Emily Carr to actually create illustrations and artwork.

When I'm working with new titles, like Planet Janitor, I have a freelance editor who works with the writer," Roumanis explains. "When I started this company, I had no idea if it would work. Given that I'm really happy to be continuing to grow the business two years later and be doing something I love."

Roumanis credits his background in wrestling and the support he received in the Alberni Valley with much of his success. "The people who influenced me in Port Alberni like Tom McEvay and John McDonald taught me valuable lessons about challenging myself and chasing my goals.

Tom got me into wrestling, was my neighbor and the officient at my wedding in 2007. John coached me to four provincial championships, was the Canada Summer Games coach where I won gold and we traveled to Russia and Georgia on a wrestling trip in 2000."

The lessons he learned from these men about sportsmanship, taking pride in his work and being part of a team have served Roumanis in good stead in business.

"My goal is to produce a good product and be a good business partner. I think having an upstanding reputation and treating people fairly, like providing good royalty rates to authors, is the best way to conduct yourself in business."

For more information, including latest titles like Alice in Wonderland, visit

This article in the AV Times was published on Friday, March 12, 2010.

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