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Providing for a multi-media extravaganza

Yo! Hey! Can anybody hear me? I’m shouting out from deep in this rabbit hole on website-building. I hate to say the C-word, but it’s happening. No more a swashbuckling writer, I have become a lowly CONTENT-PROVIDER. Tell the truth, I am having a blast. I’ve been contemplating the traditional Author’s Website. You’ve got the books, with clickable elaboration. That’s the backbone of it and rightly so. You’ve got a brief, professional biography, some contact information, a few hi-res images of the guilty party . . . and that’s basically it. Utilitarian, right? Sell those books. But down here in the rabbit hole, poking around, I find a world of possibilities that I, for one, have failed to investigate. I’m dreaming of a website, dare I reveal it, that is less a marketing tool than a rough-hewn work of art – a multi-media extravaganza in cyberspace. Many authors, I know, have passed this way. Bear with me: I am a slow learner. But as content for my new website, along with the usual, I am providing short videos I've made and songs I've written, one photo-gallery of adventures and another of paintings by Sheena. Yup, she has been with me all the way and deserves to be acknowledged. What’s that? Who would want to spend time exploring such a site? Well, maybe nobody. I can live with that. But the same question pertains to any book you write: who will want to read THIS? Bottom line: I’m going with Field of Dreams. If you build it, they will come.
Ken McGoogan
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Celebrating the Indigenous contribution

Season’s greetings and hats off to the folks at the John Rae Society in Orkney. They’re the ones driving the restoration of the Hall of Clestrain, original home of Arctic explorer John Rae. Having purchased the Hall and the lands needed to build an access road, they’ve both broadened and refined their original concept. They’re creating not just a museum but an international heritage centre celebrating the peerless Rae and the contributions of Indigenous Canadians to Arctic exploration. Yes, I’ve been banging on about this since 1998, when I first visited Clestrain while researching my book Fatal Passage (2001). But look: it’s finally happening. Having secured the backing of key Scottish agencies and been accepted into the Repair Program of Historic Environment Scotland, the Society is forging ahead to make the centre a reality by 2025. This is not the place for a detailed breakdown, complete with “estimated timetable and cost (excluding VAT).” But I’ve laid hands on the project manager’s development plan. In a nutshell, the Society aims to renovate Clestrain – a Palladian villa completed in 1769 – into a world-class heritage centre “celebrating the memory of John Rae and providing a window into the world of Arctic exploration in the past, present and future.” The centre “places the John Rae story at the heart of the interpretation, connecting the stories of the Hall, Hudson’s Bay Company and Canada/Arctic exploration.” It will highlight the manner of Rae’s achievements, built upon “respecting other cultures [and] learning from the way of life of the people who lived there.” The interpretative plan is to “challenge views on who writes history; the role of indigenous peoples in Arctic exploration; climate change and the importance of the Arctic ecosystem. People’s changes in perception and intended future actions will be captured using state of the art digital feedback monitors at the end of the exhibition.” There’s a whole lot more. But as the Society’s Fiona Gould writes, the aim is “to create a centre which looks as much forward as to the past, and which will ensure a truly accurate historic perspective is compiled for future generations." Is this worth backing? You betcha.
Ken McGoogan
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Building a Citadel in Cyberspace

When every day you receive an email from a different website developer offering to design a new site for you, complete with razzle-dazzle graphics and up-to-the-minute Search Engine Optmization (SEO), well, then you know it's time to act. Time to build a new home in Cyberspace. How hard can it be, right? What you don't expect are these existential questions. What IS a website, anyway? If you're an author, is it just an engine to sell, sell, sell your books? For some, maybe. But for most, I think it's a heckuva lot more than that. I remember back in the day, when the Internet was in its infancy, how after publishing a book a writer-friend discovered a review online . . . a nasty, negative piece of work. Search her name and that review was the only thing you would find. Was she upset? I drew one obvious conclusion: I needed a website to defend against the hostiles. Trust me, they are out there, now in far greater numbers than ever before. A redoubt, then. A bastion, a fortress, a castle. And while you're building this castle, and going beyond the utilitarian, why not try to create something beautiful? Maybe think of it as a citadel -- as a glorious citadel that commands and defends a city. Too much? Am I getting carried away? Of course, I've heard the nay-sayers. A website? they say. Why bother? A website is so yesterday. Well, maybe for some. But not for writers it's not. Not for those who have stories to tell. And so after poking around, investigating author sites, I decided to call in the pros at AuthorBytes. What you see above is a wireframe -- part of a siteplan, if you will. What else can I tell you? A citadel is nothing without a populace -- not just to defend but to celebrate. So, yes, helping to populate this site will keep me out of trouble for the next while.
Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.