Reflections, The Best Job in the World

Jan 26th, 2018 | By | Category: Arts & Entertainment

By Jayne Rooney

Ottawa and the Valley’s favourite storyteller has just released her 12th book.

Readers of Y@H and her many fans know and love Mary Cook’s stories of growing up in the ‘30s.  She started her career as a broadcaster with the CBC and went on to become a columnist, author and sought-after speaker.

This new book, Reflections, The Best Job in the World is a collection of opinion pieces that she wrote for 8 different newspapers. Mary says that while these stories are a departure from her  ‘30s stories, she has been doing this kind of writing for decades.

“These are my take on everything from the government, to my husband –  who  is the butt of many of my jokes – to life in general,” she says. I think I was saying what a lot of people wanted to say … and I had the opportunity to say those things in a newspaper.”

When approached to write the book, Mary was surprised that over the years she had written a total of 836 stories and the Best Job in the World is a compilation of what publisher Burnside Publishing House felt were the best of her collection.

Her career started as co-host of Radio Noon on CBC. Along with reporting news stories, she looked for human interest stories. As the voice of Eastern Ontario, she covered  an area from the Quebec border, to Belleville to Algonquin Park. And doing, to her knowledge, what no was else was doing.

“I would take my tape recorder out into the field. My aim was to seek out interesting people … ordinary people doing extraordinary things. People with a story to tell.”

She admits that it was a tremendous amount of work editing hours worth of interviews down to a four-minute spot.  To get the right balance you  had to shift through everything and be smart enough to know what the interviewee wanted to say and what audiences wanted to hear.

“I’m blessed with a love of people. I just have to talk to people. I’m curious about everyone, because everyone has a story to tell. No matter who you are, you have a story just waiting to get out.”

And her listeners loved the stories.

Mary says that she had no intention of writing stories about growing up during the depression.

It all started back in 1976 on the CBC radio morning show In Town and Out. In her forward to the book, retired producer Shirley Gobeil-Gravelle writes of how Mary bailed her out – not out of jail but from escaping “dead air” – or a no show.

“Mary had mentioned to me an idea she had about telling stories of growing up on an Ottawa Valley Farm during the 1930s,” says Gobeil-Gravelle. “I asked Mary if she would be able to prepare a story to fill the “dead air.” What she wrote and voiced started a whirlwind!”

Mary continued to tell her stories of the ‘30s weekly on In Town and Out until 1994, which lead to writing bestselling books and winning seven ACTRA Awards for excellence in broadcast journalism.

Speaking engagements were a natural evolution and she still does approximately 50 to 60 speeches a year, all of which are booked months in advance. Anyone who has had the pleasure of hearing her knows that she as a keen sense of humour and innate ability to connect with her audience.

When asked why she thinks this is, she answered in her usual humble way that she really isn’t sure. But after prompting, said that “when speaking I’m not talking to 200 people, I’m talking to one person.  I have to make each person in that room feel that I am talking to him or her only.”

Mary donated thousands of her tapes to Heritage Radio in Renfrew and the stories are being played every Saturday. She still goes to Renfrew from time to time to tape her stories, and when she’s not in the studio the station will play one of the old tapes. So, according to Mary, the stories live on.

Reflections, The Best Job in the World ($25.00) is available in Valley bookstores. You can also request a copy by emailing Mary at: wick2@sympatico.ca Mary will be happy to autograph copies.

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