Nanaimo-born children’s author Penny Chamberlain is releasing her first adult novel, ‘Songs from a Small Town (in a Minor Key).’ (Photo courtesy Frances Litman/submitted)

Nanaimo-born author releasing novel about a strange illness in a small town

Penny Chamberlain to hold live-streamed reading of ‘Songs from a Small Town (in a Minor Key)’

After writing three children’s books, Nanaimo-born and raised author Penny Chamberlain is unveiling her first adult novel about a mysterious malady affecting the girls in a small town.

On Oct. 15 Chamberlain’s Songs from a Small Town (in a Minor Key) arrives on book store shelves. Three days later Chamberlain, who now lives in Victoria, will present a live-streamed reading from Hermann’s Jazz Club in Victoria.

The story is inspired by a true case of sudden mass hysteria in the town of Le Roy, New York, in 2011, in which 14 high school students exhibited involuntary and impaired movement and speech, later diagnosed as conversion disorder and mass psychogenic illness. Chamberlain said she started work on her book shortly after reading about the incident.

“What intrigued me was how the town reacted to it, not just the thing itself. What people would do,” Chamberlain said. “Whether some people would be afraid and want to move away, some people would be curious and want to go and look at them and kind of gawk at them.”

While the town in Songs from a Small Town is never named and could represent “any small town,” Chamberlain said she sees the story taking place in the Fraser Valley, with her memories of growing up in Nanaimo also influencing her vision.

Chamberlain also drew from her professional experience while writing the book. She recently retired from a 30-year career as a physiotherapist at Victoria General Hospital, a hospital she said handles a lot of neurological cases.

“I’ve had lots of different patients so you do see how it affects the person themselves but also the family around them and how they try and cope with something that’s scary and the unknown,” she said. “Having a little bit of the medical background, that was helpful when I was researching this.”

In order to illustrate the impact the illness has on the townspeople, Songs from a Small Town is told through the points of view of 12 characters. Chamberlain said the book is about all the different ways people approach a challenge.

“Some people would take advantage of it and some people are afraid, their go-to response is fear, some people it’s kind of titillating,” she said. “It’s just the variability in humanity [when] faced with the same thing.”

WHAT’S ON … Penny Chamberlain presents a live-streamed reading from Songs from a Small Town (in a Minor Key) from Hermann’s Jazz Club on Oct. 18 at 1:30 p.m. For tickets to the event or to view the live stream, click here.



arts@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Books

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A concept of homes on Ronald Road as part of the Clark-Medd project. (Lantzville Projects Ltd. image)
Lantzville council moves along Clark-Medd project amid protest outside district hall

Council passes third readings of OCP amendment and zoning bylaw by 3-2 votes

Police executed a search warrant at a residence on Nicol Street in September 2017 in relation to a murder investigation. John Albert Buchanan was charged with second-degree murder. (News Bulletin file)
Murder trial begins in case of man who was beaten and died in Nanaimo’s south end

John Albert Buchanan charged with second-degree murder after 2017 incident on Nicol Street

A jail cell at the Nanaimo RCMP detachment. (News Bulletin file photo)
Woman reports she was injured by Nanaimo RCMP while being jailed

Independent Investigations Office of B.C. looking into Oct. 1 incident

B.C. Ferries has a mandatory mask policy on vessels and at terminals. (News Bulletin file photo)
UPDATE: No tickets for anti-maskers on B.C. Ferries

West Van Police say their intention was to ‘keep the peace’ after being called to terminal

Steven Michael Bacon pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder of Nanaimo teen Makayla Chang. (Photos submitted)
Accused pleads not guilty in Nanaimo teen’s 2017 murder

Steven Bacon appeared in Nanaimo court Monday via video link from Thunder Bay

Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals say Tory effort to set up COVID-19 committee will be a confidence matter

The Tories were originally proposing an ‘anticorruption’ committee

A injection kit is seen inside the newly opened Fraser Health supervised consumption site is pictured in Surrey, B.C., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. records 127 fatal overdoses in September, roughly 4 each day

Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria continued to see the highest numbers of overdoses

Investigators work at the Sagmoen farm in Silver Creek. - Image credit: Observer file photo.
Sex workers allegedly called to farm of Okanagan man convicted of assault, RCMP investigating

Curtis Sagmoen, convicted in relation to assault of sex trade workers, is prohibited from soliciting escorts

Candidates in the Nanaimo riding include Kathleen Jones, B.C. Liberal Party, top left; Sheila Malcolmson, NDP; Lia Versaevel, Green Party. (Photos submitted/News Bulletin photo/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Nanaimo candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Candidates in the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding include Chris Istace, B.C. Green Party, top left; Duck Paterson, B.C. Liberals; and Doug Routley, NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Candidates in the Parksville-Qualicum riding include Rob Lyon, B.C. Green Party, top left; Don Purdey, Conservatives; John St. John, independent; Michelle Stilwell, B.C. Liberals; and Adam Walker, B.C. NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Parksville-Qualicum candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

(Black Press Media files)
Early voters more likely to favour NDP, but overall B.C. election is tightening: poll

According to Elections BC, 383,477 people cast a ballot during advanced voting days

(Pixabay)
Wave of racist emails ‘unleashed’ on B.C. researchers investigating racism in health care

The team has received close to 600 calls and emails since the investigation started in July

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

Most Read