By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – It’s been 20 years since author Steven Sandor was the editor of the local paper, but the author and journalist has never forgotten the community he then called home. The author will be coming to the Morinville Community Library Feb. 16 to read from his latest novel, Playing for Keeps, a story in which Morinville is as much a character as it is the backdrop.
The novel, Sandor’s third book and first aimed at youth, tells the story of a young soccer goalie making his way while living in a hockey town. Throughout the fast-paced story readers will find the Ray McDonald Sports Centre, Georges H. Primeau School and St. Jean Baptiste Park as the setting for young Branko and his story.
Sandor said there was a strong desire on his and his publisher’s part to set the story in rural Alberta, something not common in a lot of sports novels. Sandor said he felt with soccer’s growing popularity there was a chance to speak to the game and how it’s grown in Canada. But there was also the opportunity to make Playing for Keeps a prairie story, something that resonated with the author and his publisher.
Morinville became Sandor’s choice to set the novel because it was the first place he lived when he came to Alberta. As a reporter and then editor of The Morinville Mirror in the early 1990s, Sandor covered hockey in the community during that time. The choice of Morinville allowed Sandor to add some French-Canadian roots to his novel.
Sandor said he is looking forward to coming to the Morinville Community Library to read from his book. “Considering that one of the first-ever stories I ever wrote for the Morinville Mirror back in 1993 was a piece about a large donation to the library, it’s fitting that I’ll be back to read from my latest novel,” he said. “I spent my first couple of years as a paid journalist in Morinville — I was fresh out of school in Toronto and was pretty sure I knew everything about everything, and quickly found out I still had a lot to learn.”
The author has some vivid memories of his time as a reporter in the community.
“I remember being put through a smoke house by Chief Don Found and the Morinville Fire Department; spending Sunday afternoons at Morinville Jets games,” he recalled. “I spent a couple of days a week in the provincial courthouse and I’m pretty sure then-mayor Balsillie was pretty tired of me about three months after I’d started.”
Sandor said it was a couple years ago that he began to think long and hard about the time he spent in Morinville. “I was at the Heart in the Garden fundraiser that Cory Christopher puts on — and an attendee at the event didn’t recognize me as the editor of Avenue magazine, but as the guy who used to be the kid who wrote for the Mirror,” Sandor said. ‘”You’re from here,’ she said to me. And I guess, in some way, I am. And I wanted to reflect that in the book.”
Playing for Keeps is published by Lorimer Publishing and is available at all major booksellers. Sandor is currently working on his second sports novel. The book is about football and is also set in rural Alberta. For more information on the author visit stevensandor.com.
The author will visit the Morinville Community Library Feb. 16 at 10:30 a.m. in conjunction with Morinville’s Annual Snowman Festival.