By Cecilia Nasmith
News, Views and Tales That Amuse would have been a wonderful name for Diana Storen's column all those years she published it twice a month in Northumberland Today.
Now that she has collected dozens of her favourites into book form, it makes a perfect title for its eclectic content.
“I think I've always wanted to do this,” Storen reflected in a recent interview.
Hannah is the cover girl, who – along with her friend Thomas – is one of two tabby cats who have been in her Cobourg home for three years. A fitting choice, as the author has decided that all proceeds will support the Northumberland Humane Society. Furthermore, for every copy of the book she gives away, Storen will make a donation to that organization.
Her long-time readers will certainly know what to expect, essays and accounts on any and every topic that she considered worth putting pen to paper about.
The surprise will be the biographical element, said her best friend and partner Gayle Carver.
“There's a lot of Diana in the book,” Carver said.
In fact, Storen recalled a friend reading it and telling her, “I've known you since 1972, and I didn't know all that.”
Storen's book has the whole scoop in the dedication (to Carver and her sister Jo-Anne Storen) and foreword.
Many threads that began in Storen's childhood were followed to enjoyable and rewarding ends. For example, she discovered the violin at age nine and, as an adult, has enjoyed decades of performing with the Concert Band of Cobourg.
She loved the old Sea Hunt TV series, and has since discovered the wonders of scuba diving on her own.
As for the beloved black-and-white cat that her mother allowed her to have, Whisky proved to be the first in a long line of amazing animals she would take to heart.
She set up a darkroom in her parents' basement at age 13 and, in later years, became an accomplished photographer.
She was first published in Port Credit at the age of 11, when the home-town paper ran the poem she wrote. She would pursue writing on her own and, later, get a regular column in Northumberland Today (which often included some of her photography).
The author was raised in Mississauga, and travelled widely throughout Europe as she studied modern languages. She had never heard of Cobourg until she applied for a teaching job in that town, but would teach happily there for three decades.
Storen is grateful for the help of Julie Bogart, owner of Let's Talk Books and one of three principals of Morning Rain Press.
It was a pleasant surprise to meet up again with Bogart, whom she taught at CDCI West. She would also work with another West alumna, Joanne Clendenning, on the photography for the book.
“I did all the pictures, except for three,” she said.
Storen gathered roughly 100 of the columns she wrote for Northumberland Today and added four pieces she prepared as assignments for writing class and one poem.
Each column has the date it appeared at the top (going back as far as 2000), and she took months to organize them into categories.
“Jennifer said I should have three to five. I have nine,” she said.
Music Matters explores what music has meant to her, from her earliest explorations to her wonderful experiences with the Cobourg band.
Our Community And Beyond overlooks nothing, from the creatures in her back yard (she has a wonderful piece taking on the persona of Rosie, the single raccoon mother who scavenges in Victoria Park) to a true incident of domestic violence.
Important Issues covers matters both near (like the failed incinerator project that was slated for Wesleyville) and far (a warning to Americans about certain politicians) and even below the surface (a reflection on why we should care about the coral reefs, complete with her underwater photography).
Animals Enhance Our Lives introduces us to animals who have impressed the author, like Bonnie (the dog who struggled with a disability). Then there was the incredible array of fauna she encountered at her resort in Mexico (including a fascinating pair of pigs).
Special People includes three whom Storen considers among the most special. A piece on Carver's tenderly caring for her ailing mother has a beautiful and touching photo with it. Storen's mother Mavis rates a piece because of her timeless allegiance to the Montreal Alouettes. Then there's her father Hank, shot down during the Second World War in an accident that killed the pilot and left him seriously injured – his subsequent determination to return to duty challenged his care givers immensely.
A Scribbler's Potpourri includes reflections on the triumphant Vancouver Olympics and a new eco-friendly car that was barely bigger than a breadbox.
Mother Earth carries the warning that our love affair with plastic must end and a loving recollection of how her mother was a pioneer in the concept of recycling.
No Happy Ever-After is designed to challenge. Its essays include tales of animal cruelty in support of big business, a statement of solidarity with the murdered Charlie Hebdo journalists and a cry of despair over America's gun culture.
Tales To Amuse And Delight offer a happy ending (in spite of the name of the preceding chapter). Even so, it contains one charming piece about the exploits of Bruce the Moose around the Toronto area that has a melancholy undertone – it is the piece she submitted Nov. 27, 2017, before she learned that the newspaper had been folded.
It all adds up to a pleasant read that brings back wonderful memories, teaches us a few things and provokes more than a few hard questions. And every purchase promotes a cause dear to the author's heart.
Copies are now available at $20 each. Storen said that a limited supply may be available in Cobourg at the Northumberland Humane Society Thrift Shop on Covert Street or at Let's Talk Books – which reopens Feb. 1 at its new location at 25 King St. E. But she said it's probably easier for anyone interested in purchasing a copy to contact her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to make arrangements.