Summer is as time for novels.? Two summers ago, I wrote a novel about a woman leader learning to deal with an Internet troll.? Last year it was about a young American senator taking on a president gone rogue.?And for this summer I’ve written a novella (defined as a short novel between 30,00 – 60,000 words – somewhere between a short story and a novel).
This past week I finished The Third Place– a story about an entrepreneur and his family who decide to use their business to support the dialogue of democracy and citizenship.? The protagonist is Everton Overly, who buys a vast older home in an old portion of a Canadian city and works to turn it into his dream of the Third Place.? He challenges his patrons to spend their meal times talking about community, shunning disrespect, seeking compromise, and assisting it during its recovery from difficult economic times. ?A chance meeting with a remarkable woman entrepreneur changes everything.
The term “Third Place” was developed by Roy Oldenburg, an American urban sociologist who, in 2000, talked about those places – third places – that are locations where people can escape the responsibilities and expectations of home (first place) and work (second place).? Third places are everywhere in our communities and perform vital democratic functions, though few recognize their usefulness in that fashion.? Stores, bars, coffee shops, hockey arenas, yoga classes, collective kitchens, houses of faith, markets, hubs of various kinds – venues such as these allow citizens to meet on an informal level and prove essential to community vitality.
Everton Overly decides to take his restaurant a step further, however, and challenge people to think about their shared public life and how to make it better.? On the back of the menu, he even puts some guidelines to go by to help with the process.? It’s a story of family, creativity, generational struggles, building a traditional gathering place in the era of the Internet, and ultimately about how to restore a city that’s been down and out on its luck and through a creative business mindset begins working its way back to a vibrant collective life.?The subtitle reads, “How One Family’s Efforts Saved a Community,” and that’s just about how it turns out.
I wrote about the Third Place in a column for the London Free Pressearlier this year and was captivated enough by Roy Oldenburg’s thoughts that I endeavoured to write a novella on what it could mean for cities like my own.
So, in an attempt to try something different, chapters from the book will be posted during the month of August on this site.? There are 22 brief chapters and they’ll all be posted by the end of August.? It’s a book about citizens and political renewal, not about politics and the intrigues that go with it, and serves as a reminder that when citizens decide to act together for the sake of their shared life, a meaningful community is inevitable.? Chapter One – The Restaurant– starts tomorrow.? In the book itself, it all starts with a quote from John Kennedy: “Democracy is never a final achievement.? It is a call to an untiring effort.”
The paper back ($6.99) – the cost of publishing – will be available shortly, as will a free digital download.? I’ll post the details when it’s officially published.