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Photos provided by Jon Sinden.

Write On Ottawa: The Sh*tstorm That Was 2020 is the holiday gift you can swear by

By Hannah Manning on December 22, 2020

Local author Jon Sinden teamed up with illustrator Mark Lim to publish The Sh*tstorm That Was 2020, which they describe as “part ABC book, part yearbook, all sh*tstorm.”

After picking up a copy from a local bookstore, I’ve realized that it’s the book we all needed to round out 2020. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but by the time we got to the final few letters of the alphabet, we had tears in our eyes. Whether you laugh at the ridiculousness of the year or the hopeful message the book instills is up to you.

I reached Jon via email to learn more about this colourful (in both illustration and language) book. This interview has been edited for length.

Apt613: What was the hardest thing about putting together a book in 52 days? What was the best?

The Hardest: It was a wild ride. My goal was to get everything done in 60 days. I wasn’t sure it was possible. For every YouTube video telling you one thing, there is another video telling you the opposite. Not misinformation, just different opinions and methods. I was producing my first book but also learning as much as I could about the publishing industry. The deeper I got, the more I understood it to be somewhat flawed.

I’m a marketer by trade and marketing/promoting a book in the self-publishing world is usually the last part of the equation and little attention is given to it. So, once you’ve finished the heavy lifting of writing, illustrating, and producing, I believe most authors are like, “What now? Are people just going to buy this thing now?” My marketing background wouldn’t allow that. I was planning and plotting how to spread the word at the same time as pen was hitting paper.

So, the hardest thing for me was to absorb as much as I could about publishing and self-publishing, while filtering out what I felt was a waste of time and money and keeping the stuff that worked to my advantage.

The absolute best part of this experience has been seeing how the book resonates with people… Living through a pandemic has been a shared experience.

The Best: The absolute best part of this experience has been seeing how the book resonates with people. Once the book was released and word started to spread, it was a really cool feeling to see people start to connect with the book and share it with their friends and family. Living through a pandemic has been a shared experience. Like every single company that has emailed you during this year saying “We are all in this together.” Kidding aside, they are not wrong. Maybe that’s part of the reason why the subject matter of this book just works. We can all relate. This book is “helping you remember the year you’re trying to forget.”

Recently, I took my son to our local park and, while standing with another parent, we started chatting (at a safe distance) with a small group of other parents. One of them had just bought my book and was talking about it, sharing her experience. This is someone I had never met talking about how she bought a few books as Christmas gifts. I was blown away. I was like “OMG!! THAT’S MY BOOK!”

There are some pretty important and emotional moments that I was planning on putting in the book, alongside some humorous and silly moments… so I was looking for an artist that could walk that line for me.

How did you connect with illustrator Mark Lim?

Just found him online. There are plenty of websites that connect freelancers and clients. I looked at a lot of art and I was trying to find a balance between not too cartoony, but not too real. There are some pretty important and emotional moments that I was planning on putting in the book, alongside some humorous and silly moments… so I was looking for an artist that could walk that line for me. Mark’s art was perfect. I just sent him a DM and we started talking. We really hit it off. His artwork is what makes the book, in my opinion.

 

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Will this be an annual tradition? Any other books in the works?

Yes, I have three other books in the works. One on relationships and one on parenting, and a deluxe version of The Sh*tstorm That Was 2020. As for annual tradition, I’m hoping that 2021 and every year after that is not worthy of a Sh*tstorm book, but you never know. In a strange way, The Sh*tstorm That Was 2020 is a history book, and the stories and events that make up each year are always happening.

Was there anything you had to leave out that you wish could have been included?

Plenty. But the culled mink being raised from the dead in Denmark is pretty nuts. Zombie minks? Sounds about right for this year, but happened a little too late for this book. Maybe they make it into the special edition.

Anything else Apt613 readers should know?

I moved here with my family two years ago after being offered the opportunity to become the Director of Marketing for Ottawa Sports and Entertainment after a successful stint in the beer biz helping to run Toronto’s Festival of Beer. Before that, I was the Director of Marketing and Social Media for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and Director of Marketing for legendary rock radio station 102.1 The Edge in Toronto. Our family was a big part of the Junction Triangle community in Toronto, and leaving that was difficult, but we found a home here in our new community of Old Ottawa South. We love it here. Ottawa is equal parts big city and small town, which makes it great.


The Sh*tstorm That Was 2020 is written by Jon Sinden and illustrated by Mark Lim. The book is available from local independent bookstores as well as online retailers such as Amazon and Chapters/Indigo. Visit the website at www.theshitstormthatwas2020.com and follow along on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook