Rob Gordon is a geophysicist and the author of the oddly titled, I Wayne Gretzky. It is a book filled with humorous stories from his life told in a down to earth manner. It spans several continents and features cameo appearances by the likes Phil Esposito, Nancy and Ronald Reagan, Gordon Lightfoot and the Great One himself. It begins by retelling how Rob got Wayne Gretzky’s first pro autograph. Rob and Wayne were high school classmates after Gretzky went to play for the Soo Greyhounds in Sault Saint Marie. They were seated alphabetically and the rest is, as they say, history. Rob stopped by to answer a few questions about his book and his experience with self publishing.
For anyone attending PDAC 2014, March 2-5, Rob will be signing copies at Caracle Creek’s booth, #150. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Mining Matters. An excerpt of the book can be found here (under the Click to Look Inside tab).
Let’s talk about the title, I, Wayne Gretzky, it’s a bit strange, but there is a connection. Can you tell us how you obtained Gretzky’s first pro autograph?
When you’re 15 and 16, you do mostly dumb things. In this case I simply asked him if I could write a book about him and he said sure. We were class mates, so idle chat in class was just what you did. After we talked about the book, I said, “sign this, so we have a record of it.”
Gretzky wrote the forward to the book, how did that come about?
As the book neared completion, my wife said that I better let him know what I was up to because we couldn’t afford to be sued. I scoffed, but she was relentless. I finally tracked him down through a mutual classmate from the day, who was still in touch with Walter. Anyway, I finally got the courage up to call one day after work, I woke his assistant up in the middle of the night , as he and Wayne were at the rematch of the 72 series. After I let him know what I was up to – showing pics and the autograph – about a week later, I received the forward.
The book is obviously not about being Wayne Gretzky, it’s about being Rob Gordon, what made you want to write this book?
I secretly thought that I could sell a million copies, I was going to get rich, and that autograph was going to help!!
The book looks lightheartedly at life but some of the stories deal with dark events. A Nightmare on Elm Street recalls your university days when you were at a house of female students when a disgruntled ex-boyfriend showed up brandishing a knife. You disarmed him and printed the apology letter from the ex and the thank-you card from the women. Were there stories you wanted to tell but felt they didn’t fit the tone of the book?
Funny you should ask, quite a few stories are a bit darker, or older. As my kids have been growing, there are always a couple that could come out later, or just come out after dark.
What was the editing process like? Were there many stories left out in the end?
Self publishing puts most of the pressure on the author or his friends. I am certainly not Margret Atwood and suffer a bit of criticism from Pulitzer Prize readers, but what I was trying to do was catch to the best of my ability how I told the stories. Capturing that is a challenge, because sometimes you are embellishing on the fly. As I wanted to finish it at a certain size, I found I kept thinking of more and more stories. As I mention in the book, life is a continuous story, so I made a list and include it in the back for a later date.
What was your experience with self-publishing and working with X-Libris?
I enjoyed it . It took a long time to commit – because I’m a cheap Scotsman. But once, I did, it really made me sit down and work it through. Pretty good group, they were bought by Penguin, so I name drop that a bit.
Do you have a favourite story in the book?
Not really, from time to time I pick it up and just read one randomly… they still make me chuckle, and then I think .. If I could just get it to the masses this would really work.
You wrote “solitude has greatly assisted the creative process.” This really resonated with me, I knew many geologists who had creative outlets because of the intense solitude of exploration camps. Those days are behind us now, but how do you look back on them and do you think the environment has changed with every camped rigged up with an internet connection and satellite TV?
Great question. It must change a bit. But some of the camps I was in (mine sites) had tv etc, but it was the long days outside that provided the openness for thought and wonder, tv took some time, but there was still enough time for some creativity. Surely, that time is shortened with internet connectivity though.
Have you kept in touch with any of the people in the book (Gretzky, Johnny Luxton, etc.)?
Little Johnny and I hope to play some golf this summer, we had to get over some issues. John basically said I over exaggerated how bad he was. In one email he sent me he said, “ and Rob , I never went with my Mother door to door with a wheelbarrow full of stolen toys… It was a wagon!” All is good there. Regarding Wayne, no, haven’t kept in touch at all. I sent him a copy of the book, and asked him to buy a few thousand to hand out to his buddies.. but I don’t think that’s happened yet.
Do you have plans for another book or writing project?
Not yet, although I did start writing a story down about a month ago, that wasn’t even on the list in the book, so you never know.