Young Abbotsford immigrant dares to dream in new book

The cover of Shervin Azer’s new book Dare to Dream, which aims to empower other pre-teens.

— image credit:

by Owen Munro, Abbotsford News

Shervin Azer came to Canada as a curious eight-year-old Iranian immigrant with a dream of becoming an author, despite having no grasp of the English language.

Less than four years later, Shervin is a Grade 7 student at Chief Dan George Middle School in Abbotsford and speaks English fluently.

He has reason to be confident: he has already written and released his first book, called Dare to Dream, which is now available on in both paperback and Kindle formats.

“When I came to Canada with my parents, it was pretty hard,” Azer said. “But I had a mission to learn the language as quick as possible so I could write a book. That was my dream.”

He has become accustomed to extensive travelling within the country. Azer’s family has already lived in New Brunswick, Ontario and B.C. in the past few years because of his father’s job in the tobacco industry. He said the most difficult thing for him has been the changing landscapes, forcing him to re-settle in a new and foreign environment each time.

Azer spent just over a year writing the book, which encourages other pre-teen students to set their own goals and never give up on them.

He used a self-publishing tool called CreateSpace, and had two editors help him with punctuation, grammar and sentence structure. Azer has now set his sights on continuing his story, with plans on writing second and third books about the same subjects.

He was motivated to write his first book because of what he describes as a lack of positive books for pre-teens in comparison to adult “self-help” books.

And if his quick command of English is any indication of how committed Azer is to becoming a writer, he’s adding a third language to his arsenal: French.

“It was tough at the beginning but one of my main advantages was I tried to be really communicative,” he said. “I’m learning it pretty fast too. Je suis vraiment bon à ça [I’m really good at it].”


Was Ceylon the Dream Island of Thomas More’s Utopia? — Part III – Sri Lanka Guardian

by Laksiri Fernando

( January 1, 2017, Sydney, Sri Lanka Guardian) We have just commenced the five hundredth anniversary (quincentennial) of Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ as it was first published in Latin in December 1516. The publisher was Thierry Marten in Louvain, (now in) Belgium.

As we have already said, born in 1478 to an aristocratic and intellectual family, More was an enigmatic character. He served the King Henry VIII, but became beheaded for his persistent convictions in 1535. When he wrote ‘Utopia’ he was 38. It took just 14 months to complete this book between July 1515 and September 1516, among his official duties and family commitments, as he said. More is considered a Catholic Saint, a great Guru of the Theosophists, a Liberal and a Socialist, among other portrayals. As far as the vision and the principles of ‘Utopia’ are concerned, he is undoubtedly the first modern thinker of ‘Socialism,’ although that word does not appear in the book.

To celebrate this great book and the great writer, we publish the chapters of ‘Thomas More’s Socialist Utopia and Ceylon (Sri Lanka)’ by Laksiri Fernando (CreateSpace, 2014) every Sunday until the book ends, courtesy of Colombo Telegraph and Sri Lanka Guardian. This will allow the students and others who wish to leisurely read it, free access to the book at any time. The publication link to the original for those who wish to obtain a printed copy is

What is published today is Chapter 1 of the book after the Preface and the Introduction previously published.

Ceylon, the Dream Island 

“There is no island in the world, Great Britain itself not excepted, that has attracted the attention of authors in so many distant ages and so many different countries as Ceylon.”             

Emerson Tennent[1]

WHEN Thomas More wrote his Utopia in December 1516 he had a dream island in mind. There are indications that the island in his mind was Ceylon, the present Sri Lanka that he heard from a Portuguese traveler during his visit to Antwerp. As Susan Bruce said “The relations between the early modern utopian and the travel narratives are many, and apparently obvious.”[2] Although More’s thesis on ‘socialism’ or ‘communism’ was written as a fiction or semi-fiction, as any other fiction writer, he took inspirations from his own experience and what he heard from other people. It is not that More thought Ceylon or the country he heard was socialist or ideal, but he seemed to admire certain life style features and practices that he heard from his informant that could go along with his ‘socialist’ dream. It is also possible that he received the information from a travel manuscript and not necessarily from a traveler himself. More precisely, the description of Ceylon was apparently useful for sketching out his dream island. Apart from Ceylon, he heard about Calicut (Kerala), New Castile (the Philippines) and other Asian countries from this traveler and he was knowledgeable about many more countries and continents as well. Utopia also reveals his knowledge about Persia.

Utopia consists of two books. The story is written in the form of a true narrative when Thomas More meets Raphael Hythloday, the Portuguese traveler, through Peter Giles in Antwerp. Book I is about the initial conversations between the three with strong criticism on the evolving capitalist system in England and Europe during that time. Not only the economy but also the system of governance was criticized. More (or Morus) himself is the narrator appearing in his own name. Peter Giles and many others are also historical characters. But Raphael Hythloday is fictional. The family name Hythloday in Greek means ‘speaker of nonsense.’ Raphael is a common name those days in Portugal and Italy deriving from the name of the archangel in the Bible.[3]

Raphael is introduced as a man “for there is none alive that can give so copious an account of unknown nations and countries as he can do.” What are these nations or countries? He had undoubtedly been to many countries in the East and a particular mention is made of New Castile and that is Luzon in the Philippines. Then he was lost. After that “by strange good-fortune, he got to Ceylon, and from thence to Calicut [Kerala], where he very happily found some Portuguese ships, and, beyond all men’s expectations, returned to his native country.” It is said that he lived in Utopia (i.e. Ceylon?) for five years. It is not the mere mentioning of Ceylon that warrants our speculation that it was More’s ‘dream island.’ When someone is lost in the high seas in the Indian Ocean, according to More, you get to Ceylon by ‘strange good fortune.’ This is a clear indication that More knew about Ceylon and its strategic importance at least in sea travel.[4]

In Book I of Utopia, there is some description about the Philippines islands. They are all positive. Raphael reportedly travelled with some others. For example, as it says, “After many days’ journey, they came to towns and cities, and to commonwealths, that were both happily governed and well-peopled.” There are certain ‘other things’ that the people of these new countries are ignorant of. But they were not averse to learning them from the visitors. “He got wonderfully into their favor, by showing them the use of the needle, of which till then they were utterly ignorant.”


Book II begins with the description of the island of Utopia. That description matches more or less with the island of Ceylon; taken into account the exact geography was quite unknown during that time particularly for a person like Raphael, who was an accidental visitor. It says, “The island of Utopia is in the middle 200 miles broad, and holds almost at the same breadth over a great part of it; but it grows narrower toward both ends. Its figure is not unlike a crescent: between its horns.” The length of the island is given more or less correctly but not the breadth. The actual size of Ceylon (today) is 268 and 139 miles; the length and breadth. The two horns mentioned can be the Northern cone (Point Pedro) and the Southern cone (Point Dondra). It is rather imaginative to consider Ceylon is like a crescent.[5]

More importantly, there is a harbor described, very close to Trincomalee. Its natural environs are depicted with its importance. The following is the narration in three paragraphs separated for emphasis.

“In this bay there is no great current; the whole coast is, as it were, one continued harbor, which gives all that live in the island great convenience for mutual commerce; but the entry into the bay, occasioned by rocks on the one hand, and shallows on the other, is very dangerous.”

“In the middle of it there is one single rock which appears above water, and may therefore be easily avoided, and on the top of it there is a tower in which a garrison is kept; the other rocks lie under water, and are very dangerous.”

“The channel is known only to the natives, so that if any stranger should enter into the bay, without one of their pilots, he would run great danger of shipwreck; for even they themselves could not pass it safe, if some marks that are on the coast did not direct their way; and if these should be but a little shifted, any fleet that might come against them, how great soever it were, would be certainly lost.”

Amaurot,[6] is the name of the capital of Utopia and its geographical account is very much closer to Kotte, the capital of the kingdom of Kotte (1412-1597), as described follows.

“It lies upon the side of a hill, or rather a rising ground: its figure is almost square, for from the one side of it, which shoots up almost to the top of the hill, it runs down in a descent for two miles to the river Anider; but it is a little broader the other way that runs along by the bank of that river. The Anider rises about eighty miles above Amaurot, in a small spring at first, but other brooks falling into it, of which two are more considerable than the rest. As it runs by Amaurot, it is grown half a mile broad; but it still grows larger and larger, till after sixty miles course below it, it is lost in the ocean, between the town and the sea, and for some miles above the town, it ebbs and flows every six hours, with a strong current.”

It is important to note that it is not exactly a hill that More was talking about but “rather a rising ground” near the city; then the ground “descents for two miles to the river Anider”[7] and most probably the river Kelani. The traveler that gave the description to More had been in the country for five years and most probably he had given a sketch of the city and its location. About the river it says, it “rises about eighty miles above” the city and it is almost exactly the length of the Kelani river. The other descriptions are also matching perhaps common to many rivers in the world. Then comes an interesting depiction of something similar to the Diyawanna Oya and it goes like the following.

“There is likewise another river that runs by it, which, though it is not great, yet it runs pleasantly, for it rises out of the same hill on which the town stands, and so runs down through it, and falls into the Anider.”    

One could argue that if More at all took a description from what Raphael said about the East Islands, then Utopia could well be in the Philippines archipelago and not Ceylon, because he was reportedly there for a longer period. But there are some clear reasons to discount that assertion. First is the following: “But they report (and there remain good marks of it to make it credible) that this was no Island at first, but a part of the continent.” There is no continent near the Philippines islands, whether Ceylon was ‘first’ a part of the Indian (sub) continent or not. It is however believed that Ceylon was well connected to India by land until the 15th century or at least the separation was shallow.[8]


Second, the story that Raphael apparently related is also mixed up with the Vijaya story. Vijaya is considered the founder of Lanka or Ceylon. It goes like the following. “Utopus that conquered it (whose name it still carries, for Abraxa was its first name) brought the rude and uncivilized inhabitants into such a good government, and to that measure of politeness, that they now far excel all the rest of mankind; having soon subdued them, he designed to separate them from the continent, and to bring the sea quite round them.” There are of course similar stories to Vijaya in many other countries. The legend of William the Conqueror who created modern England is one. Caboja (or Kambuja) that founded Cambodia is another.

A later socialist thinker, Karl Kautsky, expressed the view that the island Thomas More talked about in fact was England. He said, “The island of Utopia is, in fact, England. More designed to show how England would look and what shape her relations with abroad would assume, if she were communistically organized.”[9] But England itself is not an island and More would not have selected England as his Utopia for the very reason that he wanted to bring lessons to England and other European countries from Utopia. It also should be mentioned that More also noted “many things that were amiss in those new-discovered countries.” He didn’t consider any country to be perfect including his imaginary Utopia.

Many of the other European commentators perhaps without much attention to details believed that the description of the island came from one in the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps the reason for this belief might be the existence of legendary ‘Atlantis’ since Greek times. This belief or speculation became reinforced after Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis in 1624. Another reason for this speculation was the mentioning of the ‘new world’ by Thomas More. While the ‘new world’ was generally considered as (south) Americas after Americus Vespucius’ discoveries, there were many instances where authors referred to the newly discovered countries in many continents as the ‘new world.’ It is clear from Book I, that the countries that were focused upon in Utopia were the Philippines, Ceylon, Kerala and Persia. There is no mentioning of the islands in the Atlantic. There is a clear indication that when it came to social practices, family and community life, and religion, More expressed very clear admiration for the ‘Eastern’ ways of life. In this sense, he must be considered one of the first ‘Orientalists.’ Perhaps he was correct and perhaps he was utopian. The following however are some evidence.

There are two aspects to Utopia. On the one hand, it is the first modern conceptualization of socialism although the term ‘socialism’ was not used. In conceptualizing socialism, perhaps what was dominant was More’s own ideas and theories how the social system should be organized or reorganized. In this respect, More was an inventor. On the other hand, it was an admiration of ‘another system’ which he believed existed, right or wrong, in newly discovered countries primarily in Asia. It is in this sense that he was an Orientalist. If not for this admiration, there was no need for him to bring Raphael into the picture or talk about newly discovered countries. He was basing himself on another person’s discoveries. This is the second and more profound aspect.

Social Aspects

This chapter does not focus much on the socialist aspects of More’s thesis. It focuses on the argument that Ceylon probably was his imagery as an ideal country particularly in social practices combined with the information he received from Kerala, the Philippines and other Asian countries. When More explained agriculture, trades and manner of life, as told by Raphael, this is what he reported. “Agriculture is that which is so universally understood among them that no person, either man or woman, is ignorant of it; they are instructed in it from their childhood, partly by what they learn at school and partly by practice.” Then there were the trades.

“Besides agriculture, which is so common to them all,” he said “every man has some peculiar trade to which he applies himself, such as the manufacture of wool, or flax, masonry, smith’s work, or carpenter’s work; for there is no sort of trade that is not in great esteem among them.” It is possible when he talked about trades he wanted to mention trades that are known to the Europeans. Otherwise there were no major trades related to ‘wool or flax’ in Ceylon, except in Jafanapatam later.[10] His main purpose was to introduce new ideas in terms of social practices. With an indication of a loose caste system, very much peculiar to Ceylon, it was said: “The same trade generally passes down from father to son, inclinations often following descent; but if any man’s genius lays another way, he is by adoption translated into a family that deals in the trade to which he is inclined.” The flexibility of the caste system was one aspect in Ceylon influenced by Buddhism unlike in India.

The following is what is said about the family life, reminiscent of the extended family institution both in Ceylon and Kerala. “Their families are made up of those that are nearly related to one another. Their women, when they grow up, are married out; but all the males, both children and grandchildren, live still in the same house, in great obedience to their common parents.” But to return to their manner of living in society, More reported that “the oldest man of every family, as has been already said, is its governor. Wives serve their husbands and children their parents, and always the younger serves the elder.” Some of the practices came very closer to what appears in Buddha’s Sigalovada Sutta.[11]

The last sections of Book II of Thomas More are on ‘Religions of the Utopians.’ These are the sections that very clearly show that More not only expressed his views through his ‘imagined island’ and ‘imagined people’ of that island, but in fact reported what he actually heard, imprecisely though, about the newly discovered Asian societies particularly Ceylon irrespective of his personal views. Thomas More was a strong Roman Catholic of that time who was not in favor of the emerging Protestantism. Religious pluralism was unfamiliar to his experience in England or Europe of that time. But as a committed intellectual and a man of letters, he was grateful to report what he heard from the person he called Raphael Hythloday of course with his own interpretations. It is extremely possible that the information was sketchy and he opted to brush it up with his own imagination. But other than from Ceylon or other Asian countries, the description could not have emerged as it is recorded. Here he goes.

“There are several sorts of religions, not only in different parts of the island, but even in every town,” “Though there are many different forms of religion among them, yet all these, how various soever, agree in the main point, which is the worshipping of the Divine Essence.” He also said “there are no images for God in their temples,” perhaps referring to a Buddhist temple. He also refers to strong God worshiping, obviously referring to the Hindu or Islamic faith of that time. During this period, in Kerala and also in the Philippines, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam were in existence side by side without rancor or conflict. This is apart from Ceylon. But it is quite possible that he received information about Ceylon during the period of Parakramabahu VI (1415-1467) although his informants visited at a much later time close to the end of the century or most probably early 16th century. This was a period when peace and prosperity prevailed in Ceylon and the country was well known for literature, scholarship and art. This was apart from religious pluralism.

The most interesting is the description of the ‘common temples.’ As he said,

“They have magnificent temples, that are not only nobly built, but extremely spacious; which is the more necessary, as they have so few of them; they are a little dark within, which proceeds not from any error in the architecture, but is done with design; for their priests think that too much light dissipates the thoughts, and that a more moderate degree of it both recollects the mind and raises devotion.”

Another reason to speculate that More got some information from Ceylon through Raphael, or any other, is some of the following. “All the people appear in the temples in white garments, but the priest’s vestments are parti-coloured.” This description appears akin to both Hindu and Buddhist practice, perhaps more to Hinduism.

“As soon as the priest appears in those ornaments, they all fall prostrate on the ground, with so much reverence and so deep a silence that such as look on cannot but be struck with it, as if it were the effect of the appearance of a deity.” ‘Falling prostrate on the ground’ is predominantly a South Asian custom. This custom is performed, according to More, not only before priests but also before husbands and parents. This is how it is said.

“In the festival which concludes the period, before they go to the temple, both wives and children fall on their knees before their husbands or parents, and confess everything in which they have either erred or failed in their duty, and beg pardon for it.”

Perhaps More conflated this custom with Catholic ‘confession.’ However, the main thrust of the practice is akin to what prevails in Sri Lanka even today or fast disappearing.


There is no need to exaggerate that Thomas More fully well knew about Ceylon and unequivocally admired it as his ‘dream island.’ It is not the case. But there are indications that he came to know about Ceylon and perhaps for reasons of artistic creation used some of the information in describing the island that he called Utopia. The size of the island, its natural harbor, its closeness to the continent and the legend of Utopus come very close to Ceylon. There is no other island known to me closer to the description.

In addition, there is another indication which was not mentioned before. It is also about the history. As More says, “Their records, that contain the history of their town and State, are preserved with an exact care and run backward 1,760 years.” This is very much closer to the recorded history or the claimed recorded history of Sri Lanka or Ceylon. Utopia is an island very much similar to Ceylon, rich with pearls and gems but no iron. The most interesting perhaps is More’s admiration of social practices and customs of the newfound Asian countries of that time, Ceylon being pivotal, which apparently gave some inspiration for him to visualize a future socialist society. They include, as discussed above, the family system and the respect for parents and elders. Among them is also religious tolerance and multi-religious practices. These are unfortunately the vanishing or already vanished practices in Sri Lanka and other Asian countries. There are many other aspects of similarities which would be dealt with in other chapters whenever appropriate.

End Notes

[1] Emerson Tennent, Ceylon: An Account of the Country, Longman, London, 1859, p. 2.

[2] She further said “the writers of such texts felt impelled to offer a plausible explanation for the fact that the imagining lands that described were unknown to the audiences to whom they described them, and to posit an unknown nation in the middle of the Indian Ocean or off the coast of the Americas.” Susan Bruce (ed), Three Early Modern Utopias, Oxford University Press, 1999, p. xi. But the present author argues that it could be the other way round and also both ways. There is reality and fiction.   

[3] If it is any indication ‘Sao Raphael’ was one ship in Vasco da Gama’s fleet to India in 1497. Even the journal of the first voyage described about the island Zelong.

[4] According to Emerson Tennent (op. cit.), many Portuguese travelers were excited about the “discovery of Ceylon” at that time, an expression of which De Barros and San Romano used to describe the landing of Lorenzo de Almeyda in Galle in 1505 ‘by accident.’ Tennent also mentions that Thome Lopez (Navigatione verso l’Intie Orientali, 1502) had described Ceylon [apparently in great detail]. The original is lost and what remains is an abridged Italian translation. This could have been one of Thomas More’s sources.

[5] It was Moore traders (of Arab descent) who described the shape of Ceylon as a crescent.

[6] Amaurot means ‘dim-city’ in Greek, and More, in his wit, used it to mean the opposite.

[7] Anider also means ‘water-less’ again to mean the opposite.

[8] Philip Baldaeus, the 17th Century Dutch traveler said, “In ancient times it was without question was annexed to the Continent,” in his Great and Most Famous Isle of Ceylon in 1672. Here he was talking about geography, not politics.

[9] Karl Kautsky, Thomas More and His Utopia, International Publishers, 1927. Kautsky was Karl Marx’s one time Secretary.

[10] Even in Jafanapatam, sheep were introduced by the Portuguese later but not by this time.

[11] Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, Gordon Frazer, London, 1959. Pp. 119-125.  

Swift thinking made Paxton woman’s dream come true

PAXTON — For a while, Shanna Canarini kept the secret.

The 23-year-old graphic designer, however, was looking for a job — and showing her prospective employer the top-secret masterpiece she created seemed like it might give her a leg up on other candidates.

So, she figured out a way to reveal during the interview process what few others had already seen.

It was a book cover she designed, and not just any book cover. It was a book cover that won her $5,000, part of a contest sponsored by publishing house Simon & Schuster. And it was one that Canarini was particularly proud of, given that it was for a book about her favorite musician, Taylor Swift.

Months earlier, Canarini had won a contest that had tasked “Swifties” — die-hard Swift fans — with helping create the book.

“There’s never been a book about Taylor or her life or anything, and this is like her 10-year anniversary of her first album, so they decided they wanted to do a book and they wanted it to be made by the fans,” Canarini said. “So they had a contest for the author; they had a contest for the title; and then they had a contest for the cover art.”

Canarini said she was notified she had won the cover-art portion of the contest in late May, but she was not permitted by the publisher to disclose the news to anyone until the book would be released.

“I wasn’t allowed to talk about it. I wasn’t allowed to tell anybody I’d won. I wasn’t allowed to show anybody my cover,” Canarini said.

But when Canarini applied for a graphic-design job at Champaign-based Agrible Inc., she thought she would ask if a small exception could be made. Fortunately for Canarini, Simon & Schuster agreed to allow her to use it as part of her portfolio.

“I think it definitely helped,” said Canarini, who graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from the American Academy of Art in Chicago.

Canarini landed the job, giving her just one more thing for which she can credit Swift’s influence on her life.

A match made in Myspace

Canarini, who moved in August to Paxton from her native Lowell, Ind., has been a “Swiftie” since Swift released her first country-music album in 2006.

“I’m not sure what it was about her, but something clicked in my head and I was like, ‘I love this; I love the sound; I love her voice,'” Canarini said. “And I did a lot more research on her on the internet, and I found her on Myspace when that was like the big thing.

“She had a really good online presence with fans, even though nobody knew her yet. In the beginning, I would post things on her Myspace page, and she would post things on mine. Thinking about that now, it’s like ‘Wow! That was something that actually happened.’ I have screencaps of the things she had sent me on my computer, in the archives.

“That’s where it started, and ever since then I just continued to follow her.”

Since attending her first Swift concert in 2009, Canarini has seen her perform 11 more times — in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Indianapolis and several shows in Chicago.

“It was difficult first starting out because I was so young that I couldn’t drive, and my parents are like, ‘You’re not going to a concert by yourself,'” she said. “So my mom went to a lot of them with me when I was young.”

Canarini actually met Swift in person in 2010 — “very briefly,” she said.

“She did a 14-hour meet-and-greet, where she just signed autographs all day for free,” Canarini said.

Canarini also was able to be one of “maybe 50 or 60 people” who were invited to be part of a “small crowd” in one of Swift’s music videos. The video was for the song “Mine,” and it was filmed at a private recording studio in Nashville.

‘You did it! You won!’

When Canarini heard that Simon & Schuster was sponsoring the contests for Swift’s book in fall 2015, she jumped at the chance.

“You were supposed to design something that tells the last 10 years of Taylor’s life,” said Canarini, who had designed book covers before but “nothing this big.”

Canarini said she spent “probably about two weeks, on and off,” planning for and actually designing the book’s cover.

“I just kind of locked myself in my room for about a week,” she said. “I had the albums playing. I was going through the art that was in the booklets for the albums. I was watching music videos, just kind of taking in anything and everything.”

After finding some concepts to use, Canarini “had to ink everything after I drew everything out in pencil,” she said. “I laid it over with tracing paper and inked it all.

“After it was inked, I had to scan it into the computer and digitalize everything. And then it was a matter of composition — playing with the actual composition of the book cover. That took a while.”

The cover that Canarini created looks simple from afar — with the name “TAYLOR SWIFT” in white letters, with a red backdrop — but a closer look reveals much more.

Each letter is created using images and symbols from Swift’s albums, music videos and song lyrics. The images and symbols help describe each “era” of Swift’s career over the past 10 years, Canarini said.

“Every two letters is a different album or era, which is what we call them as Swifties,” Canarini said. “So the ‘T’ and the ‘A’ come from the first album, and so on.”

Late last spring, Canarini received an email from Simon & Schuster informing her she had won the cover art contest.

“I started reading my email and I almost couldn’t finish reading it,” she said. “It was from Simon & Schuster, and I was like, ‘OK, it’s probably just letting me know the contest is over and the winning design has been chosen and it wasn’t mine.’ But I started reading it, and it was like, ‘You’ve won.’

“I was like, ‘Uhhh …’ and I gave it to my fiance (Adam Kyrouac) and was like, ‘Can you please finish reading this because I don’t think I can?’ So he read it and was like, ‘You did it! You won! You need to call them!’ It was very exciting.”

In October 2016, Canarini was invited to a release party at a New York City bookstore. There, she met up with the author of the book — Tyler Conroy, who had won a separate contest to be able to author it. Another contest allowed a Swift fan to choose the book’s title, which ended up being “Taylor Swift: This is Our Song.” The title is a reference to a song (“Our Song”) that appears on Swift’s debut album.

Swift did not show up at the book release party. Canarini has not spoken with her yet, either.

“Unfortunately, we don’t keep in touch anymore,” Canarini said.

Wedding invite on the way

Winning the cover art contest was the proudest moment of Canarini’s graphic design career. But she hopes it doesn’t end up at the top. She said her “big dream” is to someday design album covers and merchandise for Swift.

“It should have a pretty good foot in the door, I feel like,” Canarini said.

In the meantime, Canarini is getting ready for another milestone event. On May 28, she plans to marry Kyrouac, a 2010 Paxton-Buckley-Loda graduate whom she met at Indiana Beach when she was 16.

A bunch of “Swifties” are part of the wedding party, including the author of Swift’s new book.

The only thing that could make the occasion even better is for Swift to make an appearance.

“I’m going to invite her,” Canarini said. “She’s shown up to bridal showers and weddings of fans in the past.”

Will Brumleve is editor of the Ford County Record, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit

Wish Book: Miami family living in decrepit mobile home has big dreams — and big needs

The trailer home where Elsa Petit and her two children live in northwestern Miami is too small for the family’s big dreams.

The children — Sara, 14, and Jaime Padilla, 12 — want to be FBI agents so they can “solve complicated cases” and “help people.” And they are serious about it.

Sara is a member of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corp at Booker T. Washington High School. Now in the ninth grade, she plans to study criminology and law at the University of Florida.

How to help: Wish Book is trying to help this family and hundreds of others in need this year. To donate, pay securely at

Jaime, who’s in the seventh grade at Horace Mann Middle School, is a Boy Scout and said he hopes to go to Harvard “because to get into the FBI, you have to go to a good school.”

Standing next to a refrigerator that works only every once in a while, in a tiny kitchen where the rickety cabinets barely hold up the sink, Petit listened to their big dreams and smiled.

“Yes, Jaime. But remember that to go to Harvard and then the FBI, you have to bring up your grades,” she told her son. Everyone laughed and Jaime muttered, “I know, I know.”

The inspiration for the Padilla siblings’ desires to become federal law enforcement agents comes from the TV series “Criminal Minds,” which they watch on an old TV that has no remote control because it has lost several buttons. They know the details of most of the shows and can talk about the personal qualities they share with the characters.

Petit, a single mother, has tried to make sure that her children have time to dream and study so they can achieve their goals. But what little she earns cleaning houses and washing clothes does not go far.

“Sometimes I ask myself how we survived, because we have lived through some tight situations,” said Petit, who arrived from Honduras in 1998. “The help we receive comes from God.”

The family needs a stove and a refrigerator. The freezer does not work in the one they have. They also need to replace their old washer and drier, which they keep on the porch of the mobile home because there’s no space inside.

The home has two bedrooms, but Petit closed one of them while she saves money to repair it. It is an old home, and the family has been working slowly to fix the walls and the roof.

Sometimes I ask myself how we survived, because we have lived through some tight situations. Elsa Petit

“It was so bad, you could hit it and it would fall,” Petit said, proudly showing off two newly rebuilt and partially painted walls. “I had to spend everything I had on the repairs.”

The three sleep in the one working bedroom. The children share a bed, but the mattress they received as a gift several years ago is now well worn. They would like to get a new mattress.

The bedroom walls are decorated with drawings by Jaime, who likes to paint, and the school report cards of Sara, who gets excellent grades.

The repairs to the home left Petit short of money, and she could not afford the insurance or registration on her old car. It’s now more difficult to take the children to their activities, like Jaime’s Boy Scout gatherings.

“I’ll go back when my mother fixes the car,” Jaime said.

The family has always received assistance from friends, like the members of their church in Hialeah who drive them to services. When Petit could not afford $160 for Sara’s school trip to Orlando, the school helped. Jaime’s Boy Scout troop covered his trip after he was “salesman of the month” during a gift-wrapping campaign at the Dolphin Mall a year ago.

Despite the difficulties the family faces, Elsa Petit hopes that her children’ dreams ‘will be the wings’ that take them to a better future.

“This family deserves the help because they fight every day to get ahead. They are very humble, and I have never heard them complain about anything,” said Chris Jeong, a specialist with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization in Greater Miami, who nominated the family for Wish Book. “The gifts would change their lives drastically because, practically, there is no way they could afford the things they wish for. Most of their appliances are failing.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a program that pairs children and teenagers with adult mentors. The goal is to provide the youngsters with adults who can serve as guides and models and look out for their interests.

Jeong recalled that Petit came to the organization six years ago, looking for help with the children’s homework.

“She is a fearless mother who is always trying to get her children involved so they can get the best out of our program,” he said.

Petit said the program has been immensely helpful to her family because the mentors take the children to sports and cultural events, as well as helping with homework.

“It helps me because their Big Brother and Big Sister do things with them that I can’t do,” she said. “It’s not possible for me to give them gifts, to go out to restaurants with them, to take them any place. Thank God they understand.”

Despite the difficulties the family faces, Petit hopes that her children’s dreams “will be the wings” that take them to a better future. For Jaime and Sara that future, aside from careers as FBI agents, includes a house for their mother.

READ MORE: How Wish Book helped people in 2015

“So, our plan is that Jaime and I want to build a house for the three of us, with three stories. The first will be for my mother,” Sara said.

“The second for Sara and the third for Jaime!” her mother and brother shout, finishing Sara’s sentence. It is another of their dreams, and they know the words by heart.

Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email [email protected] (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans.) Read more at

Jet-Age Dreams in the Vintage Posters of Pan Am Airlines

Pan Am poster by Aaron Fine (1958) (© Callisto Publishers)

Pan Am hasn’t existed as an airline since 1991, but its blue globe logo endures as a familiar icon of the Jet Age. Pan Am: History, Design & Identity by Matthias C. Hühne, recently released by Callisto Publishers, examines in its over 400 pages the company’s attention to its visual identity, from vivid posters of distant destinations, to modernist architecture for its terminals.

Cover of Pan Am: History, Design & Identity (courtesy Callisto)

Hühne authored last year’s equally colossal Airline Visual Identity: 1945–1975, which explored post-World War II graphic design in the airline industry. The planes were newly accessible in peacetime, and airlines like Pan Am promoted their own contributions to the war while encouraging customers to take advantage of the advanced technology in aircrafts helped by the military.

“Pan Am’s story also illustrates how publicity experts and commercial artists coped with this new mode of travel as it evolved from its early stages, when passenger flight was very prestigious and exclusive as well as still somewhat dangerous, to become the safest, most conventional and most important means of long distance travel,” Hühne writes in an introduction.

Pan Am started in 1927, founded by Juan Trippe, who was committed to making airline travel affordable for the larger public, and the consistent brand visuals reinforced that goal. Late 1930s and early 1940s illustrations by Frank McIntosh and Paul George Lawler portray exotic locales in muted, inviting hues, and in the late 1950s, Aaron Fine echoed this friendliness in his more vibrant and cartoonish posters that marked the debut of Pan Am’s commercial jet services. In one, a member of the British Queen’s Guard is craning his tall hat backwards to look at the trails left by the plane soaring through the sky.

Later advertisements incorporated photography, such as those in the early 1970s by Ivan Chermayeff that visualized remote destinations. The Museum of Modern Art acquired the series in 1972, citing how the “cultural fantasies and ideals are projected through monumental imagery, presenting people and environments as distant objects of beauty. Rather than engaging with each country’s everyday realities, the viewers of these images, potential travelers, remain aesthetic observers.” Air travel in this American Dream was about becoming a journeying witness, and that little planetary logo branded how to get there.

“Today, the blue globe Pan Am assumed as its corporate insignia at the beginning of the jet age continues to represent the airline’s history and achievements and its perceived status as unofficial flag carrier of the United States,” Hühne writes. “This iconic symbol has taken on a life of its own, inseparable from the airline’s history but now representing an abstraction of what the airline once stood for.”

Pan Am poster by Frank McIntosh (1939) (© Callisto Publishers)

Pan Am posters by Paul George Lawler (1940) (© Callisto Publishers)

Image from a 1950 Pan Am brochure (© Callisto Publishers)

Pan Am posters by Mark von Arenburg (1947) (© Callisto Publishers)

Pan Am poster by Aaron Fine (1959) (© Callisto Publishers)

Pan Am posters by A. Amspoker (1955) (© Callisto Publishers)

Pan Am poster by an anonymous artist (1969) (© Callisto Publishers)

Pan Am posters by an anonymous artist (1975) (© Callisto Publishers)

Pan Am poster by Ivan Chermayeff, Chermayeff & Geismar (1971)

Pan Am: History, Design & Identity by Matthias C. Hühne is out now from Callisto Publishers.

Sunwing ‘all inclusive’ cruise packages aboard the Thomson Dream

Sunwing’s cruise packages will offer even more value this coming winter, with the introduction of a new exclusive beverage package, available with Thomson Cruises. With this new feature, guests can enjoy unlimited signature cocktails, wine or beer by the glass together with a wide selection of non-alcoholic beverages at no additional charge*.

The tour operator also includes return flights, round trip pier transfers, meals, cruise accommodation, and gratuities when customers book a Thomson Dream cruise vacation. What’s more, with this new package, customers can enjoy all the advantages of an all inclusive vacation combined with excitement and variety that only a cruise can offer.  Also available are 14-night cruise-and-stay packages.

This is the third time Canada’s #1 to the sun has operated as the exclusive Canadian provider of cruise packages with Thomson Cruises. Departing from Toronto, customers can choose from seven-different week-long itineraries sailing from Montego Bay, Jamaica on Thomson Dream on Tuesdays between November 29th, 2016 and April 4th, 2017. Depending on the chosen itinerary, travellers can see the best of the Cayman Islands condensed around Georgetown, marvel at many of the restored Spanish-colonial buildings in Cuba’s capital Havana, or experience both rich history and while discovering flawless beaches and ancient Mayan sites in Mexico’s Costa Maya.

When they are not exploring off shore, Thomson Dream has plenty to keep vacationers of all ages occupied. Time on board is action-packed from day to night, as the cruise line is known for its brilliant entertainment: from glamorous West-end style shows and Broadway comedy acts, to live music and daytime family-oriented entertainment. Parents can try their luck at the casino, hit the gym, relax in one of the two hot tubs, or take advantage of pampering treatments at the Ocean Spa. Little ones can enjoy a variety of activities offered through the kids club; from superhero-themed parties to exciting treasure hunts. The ship also offers a dedicated kids pool.

In addition to the highly-entertaining performances, couples and friends will appreciate the night club, casino and several elegant lounges. With six restaurants, culinary options are equally diverse with buffet-style and à la carte menus, daily afternoon tea time, and a weekly dinner hosted by the captain.

A one-week all inclusive cruise package on Thomson Dream starts from $895 per person, plus taxes, based on double occupancy, departing from Toronto to Montego Bay for sailing date of February 28, 2017.

Thomson Dream (CNW Group/Sunwing Vacations)

All cruise packages include return flights on Sunwing Airlines where passengers can sit back and relax with on-board award-winning Champagne Service, which includes a sparkling wine toast, complimentary non-alcoholic beverage service and buy on board selection of light meals and snacks with choices inspired by Food Network Canada Celebrity Chef, Lynn Crawford. Passengers also benefit from a generous complimentary 23kg checked luggage allowance.

For more information or to book visit or contact your travel agent.

*beverage service is only available between 10am and 2am. Certain exclusions apply.

About Sunwing

As Canada’s #1 to the sun and North America’s largest vertically integrated travel company, Sunwing has more flights to the south than any other leisure carrier with convenient direct service from over 34 airports across Canada to over 50 popular sun destinations.  This scale enables Sunwing to negotiate the best deals and exclusive offers at all of the top-rated resorts across the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America.  Renowned for its award-winning service, Sunwing is consistently voted the #1 leisure airline by travel agents and is the perennial winner of the Consumer Choice Award.  

Customers can look forward to starting their vacation off in style with Champagne Service, which features a complimentary glass of sparkling wine, tea and coffee and non-alcoholic beverage service; together with a buy on board menu of light meals and snacks (including kids’ choices) inspired by Food Network Canada Celebrity Chef, Lynn Crawford. Sunwing customers also benefit from the assistance of the company’s own knowledgeable destination representatives, who greet them upon arrival and support them throughout their vacation journey. 

SOURCE: Sunwing Vacations



President Obama plans to write a book once he leaves the Oval Office

President Obama confirmed what many political and literary observers have long assumed: After he leaves office, he’ll be writing a book.

In a CNN interview with David Axelrod, his former campaign strategist and senior advisor, Obama revealed he plans to restart his literary career after President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

“I’m gonna start thinking about the first book I want to write. We’ve got to unpack, and I don’t need your help on that either,” Obama said, prompting laughter from Axelrod.

The president isn’t a stranger to the life of an author. He published his first book, the memoir “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance,” when he was 34.

He followed that up with his 2006 book, “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream,” which came two years after he was elected to the U.S. Senate and two years before he become the nation’s 44th president.

It’s become commonplace for presidents to write books after they’ve finished serving their terms in office. Bill Clinton chronicled his time in the Oval Office (and before) in his lengthy 2004 autobiography, “My Life”; George W. Bush did the same with “Decision Points,” published in 2010.

Obama is clearly a reader as well as an author. During his time in office, he has visited bookstores in Iowa, Massachusetts and around Washington D.C.; regularly released lists of the books he’s reading; taken his family holiday shopping for books with cameras following along; and got a copy of Jonathan Franzen’s novel “Freedom” before it even hit shelves.

Speculation about Obama’s post-White House book has been building steadily as his term nears an end. In September, the New York Times suggested that books by Obama and his wife, Michelle, could fetch millions from publishers.

Literary agent Raphael Sagalyn told the Times that President Obama could earn up to $30 million for a multiple-book deal.

“His is going to be easily the most valuable presidential memoir ever,” Sagalyn said. “And I think Michelle Obama has the opportunity to sell the most valuable first lady memoir in history.”

Any literary effort by the president will have to wait a little bit, though — Obama told Axelrod that his memoir would not be his first order of business once he leaves the West Wing.

“Well, I think … my intentions on January 21 [are] to sleep, take my wife on a nice vacation,” Obama said, “and she has said it better be nice.”


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Entrepreneur: Paperbook Book Palace partners continue owner’s dream | Local News

Tammie Jo Olson and her father, Don Olson

• Describe your business?

We are a used bookstore that offers store credit to those wishing to trade in their old books.

Don: I guess you might call me a book store financier.

• What drove you to launch your own business?

Don: I was walking past the store and happened to see a “For Sale” sign in the window. I knew that my son had a passion for books so I relayed the information to him. That’s where it all started.

Tammie: My brother, Erik, purchased the bookstore from the original owner, Karen Meyers. Erik was an avid reader and wanted to be a librarian when he was younger. Owning his own bookstore was a dream come true. Unfortunately, Erik passed away unexpectedly 15 months after he bought the store.

• How many hours do you typically work in a week?

Tammie: I’m usually in the store 30-plus hours. But the behind the scenes work that I do at home seems never ending.

Two employees and one volunteer

• When did you start your business?

The store was opened in 1980. Erik purchased the store in January 2015

• If you left another job to start this business, what was it?

Tammie: It’s complicated.

• What sacrifices did you make to launch this business and to keep it running?

Tammie: My dad, Don, gave Erik a personal loan to buy the store. My dad is 77 and happily retired with no interest of running the store on a daily basis. So after living in New York for 27 years, I moved home to run the store for my dad.

Don: It took lots of money and lots of learning.

• What is the best thing about owning a business?

Tammie: The people I am surrounded with: We are very grateful that Joan continued working with us as she has been with the store for almost 20 years. She is a plethora of information. Amy was a librarian with a vast knowledge of authors, books, series etc. Karen is our local “angel” volunteer. She has been instrumental in helping us organize the store and back room. And of course, our customers. I’ve met and gotten to know some really nice and interesting people. I’m very touched by many of our repeat and new customers who have rallied around us and been very supportive and understanding with our situation.

Don: A feeling of satisfaction.

• What is the hardest thing about owning a business?

Tammie: Being the last to get paid if at all and a full day off is hard to come by.

Don: The bookwork, government papers and filings.

• What’s your hope for your business in the next year?

Tammie: Erik had a lot of ideas and plans for improving the store. I found the notes he took that I’ve been able to reference. Before we take the time and energy to make changes, I really need to get to know our clientele better so we can continue to improve the store based on their wants.

• What inspires you to keep doing it?

Tammie: My dad, our employees/customers and keeping my brother’s dream going. Erik was one to read about adventures, I was one to have adventures. He would always tease me, “You go ahead and sail to Africa. I can go anywhere in the world with a book.” Well, thanks to my brother, I now have a store full of adventures ready for the taking.

Don: Again, a feeling of satisfaction.

• Knowing what you know now, would you still take on your business?

Tammie: Yes. I have never seen my brother so happy, excited and proud as he was when he bought the store. So, although it’s been one of the most stressful experiences of my life (losing my brother and having a crash course in how to run a business I had no experience with), I’m glad Erik had those 15 months of happiness. Although we have had a heart-breaking year, we have also been blessed in many unexpected ways … to which we say “thanks” to all those involved.

Don: Only if I was 30 years younger!!

Entrepreneur spotlights the brave souls who own and run micro-businesses in the Rochester area. A total of 70,075 Minnesota firms had four or fewer employees in 2015. That’s about 60 percent out of the state’s total 117,124 businesses. Please pass on suggestions for Entrepreneur to Jeff Kiger at 285-7798 or [email protected].

Two books focus on Olympic hopefuls and their dreams | Arts & Entertainment

A new job, a big move, a new skill, a major purchase, a ring on your finger and “I Do.” Even if you knew you were on the right path and you could handle whatever came next, you still felt like you were stepping off into the unknown. It definitely took a leap of faith but, as in the new book “Courage to Soar” by Simone Biles (with Michelle Burford), sometimes, you just have to close your eyes and jump.

It all began with a rainy-day field trip to a Houston, Texas, gymnasium.

Simone Biles was 6 years old then, but she’d already endured more than many adults. She and her siblings were born in Ohio to a mother who was unable to care for them, so the children circled between foster homes, grandparents and mother. Finally, it was decided that the younger two would be adopted by their grandparents and would stay in Texas, which turned out to be a fortuitous decision: There was a trampoline at their Texas home, and Biles almost couldn’t stay off it.

Always an active child (and later diagnosed with ADHD), Biles was a tiny tornado on that first day in the gym. She flipped and ran and tumbled until she caught the eye of a trainer who invited her and her younger sister to classes. It turned out to be “the perfect outlet” for a “little bouncing bean” like Biles.

In short order, she worked her way up the various levels of training with her eyes on winning more and bigger. She was “a dork” at school and sometimes a “brat” but always a star on the mat, and she knew she wanted to “go the farthest I can,” even if a dream of a gymnastics career meant giving up a dream of “normal” high school and being on an NCAA team. Her parents helped her find the best coaches. They even built a gymnasium for her and her team. And after achieving the goal of landing a spot on the junior national team, Biles then “quietly asked God to please help me do everything I could to be part of the 2016 Olympics team.”

Out of my chair. That’s where I was last summer when author Simone Biles nailed that floor routine at Rio. But in my chair is where this book kept me this week, because I really couldn’t put “Courage to Soar” down.

Fans who notice that Biles (with Michelle Burford) is bubbly but focused will be happy to know that that’s how her biography reads, and it’s a delight. What’s also refreshing is that it’s not boastful athletic chest-thumping. There is some teenage-angsty drama here, but mixed with the pressure of competition, it’s not a distraction. Instead, it and the pure joy inside both serve to enhance the appeal of this book.

This is a story you can share with anyone; in fact, when you’ve finished “Courage to Soar,” you’ll probably want to. A book like this, you’ll fall head-over-heels for.

Olympics fans absolutely can not miss “Olympic Collision” by Kyle Keiderling. It’s the story of one of the biggest moments in the games’ history: the tangled feet, the fall and the finger-pointing when South African Zola Budd collided with American runner Mary Decker. What happened then, and what’s happened in the years since? I’m not telling — you really need to read this book!

Spokane sports icon shows softer side with ornament collection

Spokane sports icon shows softer side…

He’s a Spokane sports icon and a well-known radio and TV curmudgeon. But, if you get to know 700 ESPN’s Dennis Patchin, you’ll find he has an unusual hobby and a soft spot for all things Christmas.

On the radio, Patchin loves to mix it up with callers and has no problem loudly expressing his opinion. It’s how he’s made a name for himself for the last several decades on TV and over the airwaves. But, walk inside his north Spokane home and you see a completely different side of the guy we all thought we knew.

“I’m partial towards Santa ornaments,” he said, showing off his tree. In fact, he’s partial to ornaments in general. He and his wife Dorothy have more than 500 they’ve collected over the years. And, it’s not just any ornaments; all of them come from Hallmark.

Space is limited, so not every ornament goes up every year. They rotate the theme from year to year. He has cartoon characters, cookie sheets, Santas and sports figures.

He showed us a handful of Seahawks ornaments, proving his hobby doesn’t stray far from his day job.

“[I have a] Richard Sherman, and there’s Russell Wilson.. there’s Earl Thomas,” he explained. “I don’t know if Richard Sherman will yell at you if you open the box.”

Dennis and Dorothy don’t buy every Hallmark ornament every year. They sit down together and browse Hallmark’s “Dream Book” each year, marking the ones they might want to buy. But, he won’t order them online; he has to see them in person first. And, don’t even try to buy him one. If he likes it, he would rather buy it himself.

He doesn’t like the overly sentimental ones, and he thinks the comic book characters don’t reflect Christmas. He points to one with the two old guys from the Muppets, saying they’re just like he and co-host Rick Lukens.

While many of Patchin’s co-workers didn’t know about his side gig, he swears he hasn’t tried to keep it hidden. And, he has a pretty clear explanation for why Christmas means so much to him.

“My dad grew up in the depression… on a farm where, a couple of Christmases, he got an orange, that was his only gift,” Patchin explained. “So, when he had the money and the financial wherewithal, he went crazy on Christmas.”

The Patchins continue that tradition with their kids. When they were old enough to move out on their own, they received their own Hallmark ornaments. Daughter Lauren calls her dad “a mix of Santa and Clark Griswold.” Their love for their kids is reflected in the ornaments they choose, including Dennis’s favorite: three children in a bed, with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Two boys and a girl, just like the Patchins have.

“It reminds me of when they were little. They used to sleep in our beds on Christmas Eve.”

Just steps away from the Patchins’ tree, there’s a room filled with sports memorabilia. Shelves and shelves stacked with football and baseball cards, bobble heads and press passes. He even has shards of glass from when Gonzaga basketball player Casey Cavalry shattered a backboard at the Spokane Arena. While that’s the stuff you’d expect to see in Patchins’ house, it’s not what means the most to him.

For the Patchins, it’s about family and tradition – and, it’s reflected right there on the tree.

“I guarantee when I’m long dead and gone and not celebrating Christmases anymore, they will have an ornament on their tree thatw ill remind them, ‘oh, that was my dad’s deal.'”

Memories created, one ornament at a time.