January 6, 2011


Feature Story                                                                                                                       

Next Stop Oprah

Choosing To Smile book starts picking up steam fueled by community support

Craig Hill/Voice photos



Valley Women's Network members listen to Mayor Sharon Gaetz speak at Undine's fundraiser last Thursday .


Courage is not the towering oak that sees storms come and go; it is the fragile blossom that opens in the snow Alice M. Swaim


hree Chilliwack women do have the write stuff to be top selling Candian authors. Now, all they need is for you to take them there.


Your best friend and co-author of your book, Julie Houlker, is in hospice and doesn't have long to live. On her bucket list is to see the book become a national bestseller.

To do that you need to sell 5000 copies. You've scrambled to sell the books every way possible and you're only at 1500. You've thought of every possibility this side of Oprah Winfrey. Wait, did you say Oprah?

Standeven is definitely on board the Oprah Winfrey train. "Its just a matter of when and how," she said.

In a bid to get their message out, Glenda Standeven and Michelle Rickaby, authors of Choosing to Smile, brought 35-40 best friends got together one bracing December evening to help by holding a benefit. Most in attendance were women with many from the Valley Women's Network (VWN).

When you have an event like this, you realize that it's going to be emotional and that's the way it was last Thursday at Undine's on Young Rd. where supporters gathered to shave heads, bid on auction items and buy books and jewelry.


Author Glenda Standeven Thursday at Undine's.

For many Canadian authors, hard copy Bestseller status is illusive at best given the information age with computers and the internet, but Standeven told the Voice that she and Rickaby are optimistic about making it and locally sales are good and that they can offer corporate donors tax receipts.

"We dropped 8 books off the day before yesterday to Coles because they weren't sure if they'd sell many after Christmas and she phoned that night and said "I'm sold out can you bring me 20?", she said laughing.

"Well we want to make this happen before we lose our Julie. Julie is the third Musketeer of our group and we decided that we're going to make this happen."

Standeven called the community a "giving circle" and said the books are going to people experiencing what they did and going to cancer patients through the New Page Human Service Society (NPHSS) in Hope.

"Julie's getting her bucket wish list, Choosing to Smile is donating back to the community that supports them and programs like the Robertson School, Families in Need program and the New Hope Literacy Project in Hope."

"These books are going to people who need help right now and who need hope, who need inspiration and who need to know there's light at the end of the tunnel and not always a train." she said.

The NPHSS is helping Choosing to Smile authors by having donations flowing through them so that tax receipts can be given and the organization is donating copies of the books, based on the donations, to cancer patients in Abbotsford and Surrey.

Arnice Asquin, who is a director at NPHSS, said that by reading the book, cancer patients will "understand more of what they're faced with."

"It's great to see people come out in support of it. To contribute and donate. It's so encouraging that there's human kindness."

According to Standeven, VWN member Caroline (sp) and her grandson Dillan Huston, circulated in the community and raised over $700 in pledges in just two-days and it's a win-win situation for all concerned.

Michelle Rickaby said she was feeling fine after beating back the disease once herself and also overwhelmed by the support from the community they've had.

"My health is good. I am a 22-year survivor. My Hodgkin's was in 1988,"   she said.


                                                   Macey (L), Melissa, Dillan, Taylor did the bookeeping and silent auction.


It's been a whirlwind ride for the literate trio since the idea first came up in April 2009 and it won't be slowing down any time soon. Aside from speeches at breast cancer fundraisers and book signings at Coles and Chapters in Langley, there are also readings planned at various libraries in the region. In addition, there are conferences in the US.

Rickaby, who works full time, started writing at nights in every spare moment. Even under the stars.

"Within 11-months we had it published together and in our hands and we self-published the book," she said. "That whole summer I was writing outside and when the mosquitoes got bad, I got a gazebo with a zip-up screen tent and sat outside until well after dark."

Rickaby says there are plans for a trilogy.

"We started our publication company as well so that we can do other books, so, three stories that could be any type of life story, surviving other types of adversities and then we're going to go from there."

Some people have submitted their stories she said but the women have been busy with their current project and haven't had to to review them plus she says that people from over 50 countries have been coming to their website frequently.

"We were just featured in Global Woman Magazine in the US and there's a big October summit coming up in the fall. They've been invited to an oncology conference in St. Louis," said Rickaby.

"We possibly may go to the summit in Washington DC, it's a Global Woman movement."


Silent auction items Thursday.

Rickaby laughed when asked if they will be embarking on a nation-wide speaking tour.

"We're open to offers," she said.

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz stopped in and had the honour of shaving the first head which she and everyone else had fun with couldn't agree more with where the books are going.

"This is what communities are about and when stuff like this happens, it's incredible," said Gaetz.

"I would ask each and everyone of you to give what you could to help get this book into the hands of people who really need it but, more than that, to make Julie's bucket wish come true."

Caroline Huston and grandson Dillan Spencer raised over $700 in pledge money had their heads shaved. Afterward, Huston said she felt great.

"I'm so impressed with the people that came here and have donated back, these ladies that have given up so much and so much of their time and community. The spirit is absolutely wonderful."

Commenting on the new do, Huston said that the scarf her grandkids gave her for Christmas is going to come in real handy.

Huston, also a member of the VWN, said it was a spur-of-the-moment thing after hearing about the Choosing To Smile bestseller book challenge.

"I said let's do a head-shaving at 2pm on Tuesday and by 7pm that night I had the phone call from Joyce to say it's a go."

Owner Undine (pronounced Oondine), Miller and her husband, who was in the military, moved to Chilliwack in 1984 after immigrating to Canada from Germany 4-years earlier. Later, In 1989 she went back to Germany until 1994 and finally returning to the city she had grown to love.

Miller said you don't see fundraisers where she comes from.

"This is the first time I've ever participated in something like this. I've have never seen anything like it in Europe," she said. "I didn't know what to expect, it was very surprising."

She said she has known Standeven for a number of years was happy to offer her hair studio as the venue for the event.

"I've always loved Chilliwack and it's really amazing at how people come together and care."

It's hard to find someone who's life hasn't been touched by cancer and Miller says she's one of those lucky few.

She was home-based Retreat and Day Spa on Airport Rd, and later opening the hair studio at 15-8635 Young Rd. (across from Chwk Alliance Church) 604-793-0337 or e-mail the store here or visit: www.undinesretreat.com

Those who want to donate can go to Envision Credit Union and ask for the money go to the Choosing To Smile Book Fund. That money is used to buy copies of the book and the books go to the Surrey Cancer Center, the Abbotsford Cancer Centre for patients currently undergoing treatment.

For more information visit: www.choosingtosmile.com

See the 40 photos in the gallery below.

Copyright (c) 2010 The Valley Voice



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