When Alan Doyle (BA’92) left his hometown of Petty Harbour and moved to St. John’s to attend Memorial University, he admits his vision of the capital city was wrong.
“In my first days at Memorial I was immediately struck that the baymen and the townies could co-exist,” he joked. “As a kid growing up in a small community, I had always been under the impression that they were two solitudes. I quickly realized what a foolish notion that was.”
His celebrated success bringing Newfoundland and Labrador’s traditional music around the world is no doubt linked to that sentiment of togetherness.
‘Memorial made stuff feel way more possible’
Great Big Sea, one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most famous exports, played their first gig in the old Thomson Student Centre, now the Bruneau Centre.
Mr. Doyle has carried his Great Big Sea fame into a successful solo career. He was on the road for the largest tour of his career when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
It was a crushing blow, he says. He suddenly found himself with a lot of time on his hands.
It didn’t last long. Publisher Penguin House reached out to gauge his interest in writing a funny and light offering designed to bring a smile to the world that suddenly found itself in lockdown.
“[Writing a book] is like writing a song that’s 11 hours long.”
This wasn’t new territory for Mr. Doyle, as he has already authored two nationally best-selling books. But there was a catch with this one – it had to be written in a month.
“When the publishers called and asked if it could be done, I told them I don’t know but let’s see,” he said.
Despite making a living out of writing songs, writing a book is a different process.
“The hardest thing about writing a book is writing a book. I’m serious. Everything else in my life takes a day or a few days, at most. A book feels like a mountain by comparison because it’s like writing a song that’s 11 hours long. For a scatterbrain like me, it is so difficult to hold and attend to the arc of a story when it is more than two verses and a chorus or two.”
The show (or book) must go on
All Together Now: A Newfoundlander’s Light Tales for Heavy Times was published in November 2020 to offer a balm for those suffering from the COVID-19 blues.
The book brings readers to a location that Mr. Doyle has visited often – a Newfoundland pub – and recounts some of his most memorable experiences and stories, including celebrating a Grey Cup victory, seeing a ghost, parenting adventures and just about everything else in between.
When asked why he wanted to write a book in that particular style, he gave a quintessential Alan Doyle response:
“I was motivated by the desire to give people a smile when they needed it the most.”
Author event Oct. 13
On Wednesday, Oct. 13, beginning at 7:30 p.m. NST, Mr. Doyle will join host Angela Antle (BA’91), along with Memorial’s President Vianne Timmons, activist and author Gemma Hickey (BA’03), TV producer Perry Chafe (BA’92) and pub owner Brenda O’Reilly, at the Emera Innovation Exchange located at the Signal Hill Campus to chat about the book and take questions from book club members and viewers.
Participants can join in for a pub-in-a-book experience and celebrate Newfoundland and Labrador’s resilient literature, music, humour and pride!
Register here for the in-person event and to attend the livestream.