Mike Strobel’s Variety Village book lauded with prestigious award

File photo.

KAGAWONG—Retired Toronto Sun journalist may have largely stepped away from toiling in the media trenches of the Big Smoke for cottage life in the idyllic village of Kagawong, but he has never relinquished the Scarborough passion project he discovered and adopted while during his long and storied journalistic career—Variety Village.

As a fundraiser for Variety Village, a facility that champions “a place for children with disabilities to be themselves and to be better than ever,” Mr. Strobel put together a book ‘Small Miracles: the inspiring kids of Variety Village’ that highlights the stories of those children whose lives and own passions give meaning to that organization, including one with a Manitoulin connection. ‘Small Miracles’ was recently awarded Gold in the Health and Fitness category of the readerViews (readerviews.com) indie book awards.

“There is no way to describe how wonderful this book is,” reads Kathy Stickles’ review of the book. “It is captivating and there is no way that one can read the book and not have their sprits lifted and finish it without feeling happy and so proud of these children and the people that support them and help them every day at Variety Village. Plus, the pictures are so beautiful and you end up feeling so proud of each and every one of these children and what they represent to themselves, their families and those around them.”

“The opening line is a keeper, promo-wise,” laughs Mr. Strobel of the review, “it’s headed for my website.” (Mr. Strobel’s website is northchannelpress.com.)

Mr. Strobel is quick to deflect praise for the publication (although the prose is all his), noting that “you guys (The Expositor) can take a bow too. Kendra (Edwards formerly of the paper’s design department) in particular.” Mr. Strobel made extensive use of Island resources in the production of ‘Small Miracles’ as part of his indie imprint North Channel Press.

“There is an amazing amount of talent to be found on the Island,” he said. The main part of putting together a successful imprint is in sourcing professional-grade talent to undertake the various chores beyond writing the words. Mr. Strobel includes the services of Espanola’s OJ Graphix in his accolades, as well as former Expositor copy editor Kate Thompson. Having the right team in your corner is one of the keystones of success, he points out. “John Olinsky (owner of OJ Graphix) did a great job,” said Mr. Strobel. “The main job of a publisher is sourcing and co-ordinating all that talent.”

The result is that ‘Small Miracles’ is “a really good looking book,” he said.

Next on Mr. Strobel’s list of post-retirement projects is the tale of Tulip the Viking Cat, based on the adventures of his rescue Norwegian Forest cat. “Tulip was born in the ravines of the Don Valley,” he explains, “but until the move to Kagawong, Tulip’s seven years of existence has been as a condo-cat. The book chronicles Tulip’s victories over the Manitoulin wildlife she has encountered.”

The story may sound familiar to many urban dwellers who have made the transition from city skyscraper life to Manitoulin Island’s shores. “It’s quite a lifestyle transition,” admits Mr. Strobel.

Mr. Strobel has an extensive list of books that he is planning on producing over the next few years. “All Island-based,” he assures.

Small Miracles has sold out since its pre-Christmas publishing and Mr. Strobel said that “every cent it has made has gone to Variety Village.” That in itself is an award-winning accomplishment.