Category Archives: Random Posts

Wanted: Book Covers from the ’70s

I came across this juicy little tidbit while scanning book news from the past few weeks, and I thought you would find this interesting as well. And don’t worry, if you have no idea who Lena Dunham or Chip Kidd is, that really has no bearing on what I found interesting about this article anyway.

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Does this book cover not look like it came straight from your parent’s bookshelf? I know I did a double take when I looked at this image-Kidd is completely right, this cover looks extremely outdated. In fact, it looks a lot like the yellowing copy of the Joy of Cooking that has sat at my family’s cottage for over four decades now.

This isn't a picture of the actual book at my cottage, but it might as well be

This isn’t a picture of the actual book at my cottage, but it might as well be

Does Lena Dunham think she’s being ironic by using an outdated type on her book? Is this another case of hipster nonsense? Or perhaps this what people in New York think is cool these days? Well, I’d  agree with Chip Kidd on this one-out with the old and in with the new!

 

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Literary Pun Names for Cats

BuzzFeed, you have done it again!!! You’ve taken two of my most favourite things-books and cats-and mashed them together to create a wonderful list of literary pun names for cats. Why is this important you may ask? I counter that question with another question-how is this NOT important?enhanced-3298-1405529451-8

I’m not sure if I’m focused on this inevitable connection between cats and books before in this blog, but I know I’ve mentioned it to my friends before, and I’m 100% sure I’ve mulled over it in my own head as well. This is a completely made up statistic, but I’m going to guess that 80% of book lovers are also cat lovers. At the very least,  I have the facebook friends to prove this.

Why is this such an obvious connection for people (largely woman, but some men)? Well, quite simply, and again these are my completely made up theories based on nothing but personal experience, I believe reading and interacting with your cat is something of a pastime,  I would even argue that doing one enhances the other, so it’s a natural connection for people to enjoy having a cat on their lap while they read a book. Other reasons that cats and books go so well together include:

  • Cat people and cats like sitting down. If we didn’t like settling into a reclining position, we would have dogs. It’s just as simple as that.
  • Cats are independent creatures, and so are readers. I’m not saying that all readers are shy people, because that certainly isn’t the case, but we do like being by ourselves for long periods of time, and we all know cats are the same way.
  • Cats don’t like being pet constantly. They like a few rubs every once in a while, but they’ll let you know (typically by biting you) that they’ve had enough, which is perfect for readers, because our hands are busy holding up a book and turning the pages.
  • Cats don’t take a lot of time to take care of. Which is nice, because readers would rather be reading.

Are those enough reasons for you? Because I’ve included two percentages in this blog, I feel as though I’ve dove into this issue deeply enough already.

My most dedicated readers will know that I try to include a photo of one of my cats with a book whenever I take a ‘shelfie’ for this blog, and it’s no coincidence that my views go up one those particular days that Pearl or Smokey make an appearance here. So, here you go-if my cat rant wasn’t enough to get readership, I’m sure these portraits below will be.

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WGA Conference: The Writing Life Panel

Hilary McMahon, Me, Steven Galloway and Leanne Shirtliffe

Hilary McMahon, Me, Steven Galloway and Leanne Shirtliffe

I just love the picture above, it’s one of my favourites from the Writers Guild of Alberta Conference because it so honestly depicts how fun the event was to host. The crowd in the background of this photo were enthusiastic, supportive and asked wonderfully insightful questions. The panelists Hilary McMahon, Steven Galloway and Leanne Shirtliffe were all great presenters as well-they were honest, open, and had a great sense of humor, which made hosting this event that much more fun! In fact, they were all so talkative that my not-oft tested moderating skills were hardly necessary, much to my relief.

The title of the event was “The Writing Life”, so I asked a few questions around the current state of publishing, what’s expected of a writer these days, the role of social media in a professional writer’s life, etc. A discussion like this could easily slip into a depressing rant about the good old days, but thankfully the everyone’s jokes and optimism prevented this from happening.

Why do we look at the publishing industry as if it’s golden age that is slowly fading away?  I’m going to try to sum this up as short and simply as possible. The publishing houses are losing money because of major cutbacks in their revenue, mostly due to the fact that big box stores and corporations (Indigo, Amazon, etc. ) are paying less that they ever did for their stock, because they have the influence and market majority to do so. Oh, and e-books are a big part of this, because they are sold for a lot less than their hard copy counterparts, but they cost just as much to produce (the main cost in book production is the editing and typesetting of the pages). As you can see, the cost of producing books is still the same, yet publishers are making less money for the same product, which means they are pressured to cost costs elsewhere. This in turn gets passed down to the authors themselves, because they are being paid less for their writing, and being asked to essentially provide the marketing for their own books. So, not only are writers paid very little for what they’ve already written, but they’re being asked to write other things for free (like twitter updates, blogs and facebook posts).frabz-WRITER-What-my-friends-think-I-do-What-my-mom-thinks-I-do-What-s-24d512

Similar reasoning can be applied to the demise of the newspaper industry, but lord knows I don’t the the time or patience to argue on behalf of all paper industries, so I draw the line at discussing anything other than books on this blog.

You’re probably wondering why I’m going on about this-if it hasn’t become obvious enough yet, it’s something that I’m passionate about, which is why I’m a board member of the Writers Guild of Alberta. The WGA supports Alberta writers and is doing its best to protect the rights of writers in this province, which is something that is constantly threatened by the shrinking budgets of publishers big and small. So please do your part, buy some books and hug a writer when you see one, because when not appearing on a super fantastic panel as part of a conference, the writing life is not as glamorous as you may think.

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Calgary Reads Book Sale!!!

I am forever indebted to my good friend Kayleigh for introducing me to the Calgary Reads Annual Book Sale. How did I not know about this before, and why has it taken me this long to discover it? The sight of walking into a big empty warehouse full of books and book lovers warmed my cold heart to its very core, and I was amazed to see people wheeling luggage filled to the brim with books!

I’ve included a photo here of what the room looked like, just to give you an idea of how many people were there. Who said the book industry was dead-it clearly isn’t! This is a great example of how publishing is shifting, and although used book stores aren’t as popular as some would like them to be, people are clearly still purchasing used books, and in this case, all the proceeds are going to a good cause.

My fellow book-lovers!

My fellow book-lovers!

And the variety of books! There was something there for everyone, and everything was meticulously sorted. Fiction was sorted into mystery, horror, historical fiction, beach reads, Canadian fiction, even a Governor General Award-Winning section was there. And of course tons of non-fiction: history, cookbooks, gardening, arts and crafts, self-help, travel books. Really, they had everything, even a section for children’s books and YA. Interestingly enough-they did not accept Harlequin romance novels as donations. I found that a bit baffling, because it’s such a popular genre that many people would have gladly picked it up should it be available, but who am I to judge?

I got all these for 20 bucks-yup, pretty good deal

I got all these for 20 bucks in total-yup, pretty good deal

The stack of books I brought home came to a measly 20 bucks-so a little less than the cost of one hardcover book. Now, I know that sales like this are the bane of booksellers’ existence, because it trains people to pay less for the books they want. However, what I like about this is that it brings the community together over something that’s important-reading! And I bet that the majority of people there make a habit of shopping for books all year long-this is just their chance to get a whole whack of them for next to nothing.  Most likely, they are also the people who visit their local independent bookstores, so you can’t blame them for wanting to save a couple of bucks. I got the first books of a couple of series at this sale, and if I really like them, I’ll probably go out and buy the second and third in the series, so I’m hoping that this sale will encourage more book purchases in the future, rather than stifle them.

If you missed it this year, now you know what to look forward to next year! Keep your eye on the Calgary Reads site for information about next year’s sale, because they’re a not-for-profit organization doing amazing work, and your support is greatly appreciated.

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W.O. Mitchell Book Prize Readings

On Tuesday night, I joined a small but mighty crowd of book lovers in the upstairs of the Rose and Crown on 4th to hear this year’s shortlisted W.O. Mitchell Book Prize authors read from their nominated works. Those were:

  1. Glenn Dixon for Tripping the World Fantastic (Dundurn Press)
  2. Juleta Severson-Baker for Incarnate (Frontenac House)
  3. Tyler Trafford for Almost a Great Escape: A Found Story (Goose Lane Editions)

Dixon gave a multimedia presentation from his book which included a recording of an ancient Egyptian horn being played for the first and only time. Baker read a few pieces from her first collection of poetry, including some racy love poems about her husband. What made this reading all the better was that her mother-in-law was in the audience! (I was most the likely the only one who felt awkward about this, judging by everyone else’s reactions). And Trafford didn’t even read from his book, he regaled the rapt audience with the story of the emotional genesis of his first full-length book, which was a great way to end the readings. To cap off these great performances, the crowd was treated to past winner Marcello Di Cintio starting off the Q&A period with some rousing questions of his own. I worked up the courage to ask a question and requested that Di Cintio give the shortlisters some advice on what it’s like to be nominated for this award-and hopefully win it! His advice was humorous, as I had hoped and expected. If you’re curious as to what it was-looks like you should have been there!

Glenn Dixon Reading

Glenn Dixon Reading

So, the mixture of non-fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction all worked together to create a memorable evening of readings, and I don’t say that very often, because I’ve been to some terrible readings in my time. Buy me a few drinks and you’ll hear all about those, but for now, I’m content to brag about the amazing writers I’ve heard read and perform like I am here. Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors, you’re all deserving in my mind, but may the best book win!!!

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Alberta Literary Awards Shortlist Announced!

Oh hi there Alberta book lovers (and book lovers in general). Many of you may already be aware that the Alberta Literary Awards Shortlist was announced, but if you’re not, you can find the list of nominees here. There, now that you’re up to speed, you can decide whether to purchase your tickets or not. If you need a little help deciding, just buy them anyway, because the money is going to a good cause-the Writers Guild of Alberta!*

A little back story on the Alberta Book Awards: they’re put on each year by the Writers Guild of Alberta, and they alternate between a Calgary and Edmonton location. This year, they’re in Calgary at the Fairmont Palliser. Nice huh? I know-right? Anyway, this is where the  Alberta Literary Awards are handed out, and it’s a fun, glitzy affair for all who are involved. And let’s be honest, when do writers attend glitzy affairs? Let’s just go ahead and say NEVER. Unless they’re invited to the Giller Awards, which is approximately 0.5% of the Canadian writing population, so any excuse for a party is a good one. Plus, the tickets are only $75, and that includes a delicious plated meal from the Palliser, so who can go wrong? Here’s another good reason to buy tickets-I’ll be there!!!!AftertheFlood_001

The Literary Awards are a part of the Writers Guild of Alberta Annual Conference, which theme this year is “After the Flood: Alberta Writers Reunite One Year Later.” And even more exciting is the fact that I’m going to be hosting a panel about the writing life. No, I don’t consider myself a writer, but I’ve been around enough of them that I do consider myself an expert on their habits, needs, desires, etc, all of which we will be exploring in this sure-to-be a good time event.

The Crystal Ballroom-our venue for the gala!

The Crystal Ballroom-our venue for the gala!

My shameless self-promotion is at an end for now, but I’ll be posting about this over the next few weeks as we draw closer to the event dates, June 6-9, 2014. Check out the event website to see what amazing authors are going to be making their way to us here in Calgary, and get your tickets while the early bird pricing is still in effect!

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*Please note, I am a tad biased when it comes to this organization. Full disclosure, I am on their Board of Directors, and I’m also the Chair of their fundraising committee.

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Another Reason to Rant: Annoying Facebook Posts

A good friend of mine posted this on my facebook page this past weekend. If you read it first, the following few paragraphs will make a lot more sense.  Now, there are so many aspects to facebook postings that are ripe for complaining about (see below). However, I think I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with friends that don’t post many of these annoying, thinly-disguised bragging posts and/or selfies, so I’m not necessarily going to rant about this. In fact, many of my friends who are also writers don’t promote themselves or their work enough, and I would welcome more articles and status updates about their successes.

Writers-just write it, you know you want to

Writers-just write it, you know you want to

What’s interesting about the mentioned article is the fact that the fake author in question is actually a publicist’s dream-a writer promoting his work, making connections with other writers and attempting to create his own buzz. As long as he doesn’t instruct his publicist  to pick all the blueberries out of his muffins on book tours, he’d probably be a great author to work with. What this article is truly complaining about is the annoying tone of people’s posts, and really, this could apply to anyone, writer or not. We’ve all done it, including me.  For example:

“What did I do to deserve such an amazing husband? Flowers, jewellery and a nice meal: what more could a girl ask for? Happy anniversary baby!”

No one cares what your husband got you. No one. Your friends don’t even really care that much, they just pretend to when they see you in person, but that’s only because they’re your friend. Your ‘pseudo’ friends and acquaintances on facebook really don’t give a shit. Oh, and stop posting ridiculous selfies while you’re at it: congratulations, you’ve perfected a way to smile at the camera that makes you look more attractive than usual. We all know you don’t normally look like that, so stop trying*.

This sums up my thoughts perfectly

This sums up my thoughts perfectly

But I’m digressing here-my ranting here is supposed to be a reflection on how to best utilize your facebook and social media outlets to better promote your own work. Personally, I’ve found that using my Linkedin page is a great way to get the word out, because people there are connected to you solely to see your career-related accomplishments. I also created a facebook page specifically for this blog to help promote it and drive more traffic. One last piece of fairly obvious advice-if you’re an author, for the love of Christ set up your own website so people are convinced you’re aware of the internet.

That’s about the extent of my ideas-limited and uncreative, I know. Many of my readers will have great insights into this topic, so please comment below if you’ve got some suggestions for me. Or if you’d like to defend your facebook posting ways…

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* I realize I’ve spiraled into a very harsh and hurtful place with this last sentence, but quite honestly it needs to be said, and truth bombs have their own special place in this world.

 

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James Franco wrote a book! And he does other stuff too…

There are a few reasons why I love this video. The first is that it’s a featured clip from the Jimmy Fallon show, which is, as you all know, awesome. And, Jimmy obviously doesn’t have poets on his show on a very regular basis, so you can tell he’s a bit ‘out of his element’ trying to come up with speaking points to discuss with James. But the best part of this clip? It’s giving a POETRY book a feature on a highly sought-after time slot, and exposing many non-readers to the joy of writing and reading. Is it a bit snobbish to assume that people who watch late-night t.v. also don’t read? I’m not saying that assumption applies to everyone, but if you’re a hard core reader (i.e. one of the enlightened), you’re using that precious time to catch up on your latest novel, not staying up late to watch t.v.. So how am I even aware of the Jimmy Fallon show if I don’t actually stay up late to watch television? I watch clips of it on facebook, obviously.

Oh yah, James Franco is pretty cool too, but I have never looked at him the same way after Spring Breakers. If you’ve seen that movie, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

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A Reason to Rant

I don’t typically use this blog to rant, although I like to ridicule many things offline so it was only a matter of time.  This article came up on my Facebook feed a few weeks ago because one of my contacts had shared it on his wall. For those of you who don’t want to click through and read through the entire thing, I’ll offer a quick summary. This ‘book marketing coach’ has suggested that authors befriend people who have purchased and read their book (which is creepy, right?), and then offer to draft a book review of their own book that the reader can then edit and post on Amazon. So essentially, the author would interview the reader about their own book, type up a review, and ask the reader to post it as if they had written the review themselves.

Ummmmmm ok, there are so many things wrong with this article, I have to start at the beginning. Firstly, what the hell is a book marketing coach? Is this another word for publicist with no media contacts? If so, I could have awarded myself that title after graduating from my Humber publishing program. Of course, maybe this is an extremely lucrative career move that I have ignored all this time? (my voice is registering a higher pitch at the end of this sentence, because I’m seriously doubting this logic).

Secondly, his line “writing an Amazon review is a mentally taxing task” is laughable at best, offensive at worst. Isn’t reading the actual book a mentally taxing task? And to call slapping a few sentences in a comment box a “mentally taxing task” is a bit of an overstatement, considering people do this every day, sometimes all day. Shockingly, some people even do this for a living! There’s a difference between writing formal book reviews (regardless of the medium), and writing an amazon review. One is difficult, the other is not, I’ll leave it to you to guess which is the more taxing.

I’d also like to say how annoying I find all the underlined words in this article. Stupidly, I thought they were hyperlinks, but when I realized this man doesn’t understand how to make use of online mediums (consequently forcing me to question his marketing skills even further) I became even more irate, because I realized the underlining is simply acting as emphasis, which is obviously annoying.

Do I even have to address the real crux of the problem here? Typing up reviews of your own book, and asking people to pretend those words are their own? Can you imagine anything more depressing for a writer? So desperate for reviews that they’re willing to coerce them out of people? If anything, I should feel validated by this article, because it makes it seem like what I do here (reviewing books, because I enjoy it) is some sort of feat that few others are even loath to attempt. When in reality, many online bloggers like myself enjoy relationships with publishing houses who send them books regularly, in return for HONEST reviews (that the bloggers have written themselves, go figure).

Please, if any authors read this blog, do yourself a favour and forget this was ever suggested to you. Keep on writing books, and writing reviews of books that you’ve read and feel deserve a review. If no one wants to review your book, it’s not a sign that you need to start bribing people to write reviews,  instead it’s a sign that you need to write better books. I know, that’s harsh. This entire post has been very harsh, but it needed to be said. Yes, yes it did. Now, this article has gotten me so worked up that I need to listen to some Chris Isaak to calm me down.

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Big News in the Canadian Writing World

Two important things happened this week in the Canadian book scene. The first, and probably most interesting (yet complicated) is the fact that the Writers Union of Canada will now allow self-published writers to join their ranks. Find out more about it here on their website. Some of you may not be aware of this, but before this ruling, to have become a member of TWUC, you needed to have published work to your name (so, obviously not just anyone could join). It’s important to note that with this latest policy, the self-published author’s work must have demonstrated ‘commercial intent’, and their work has to have been ‘peer-reviewed’ for acceptance into the union. Why does this matter to the rest of us? Well, it shows that the writing community in general is starting to view self-publishing as an acceptable form of publishing. It’s no longer the last resort for wannabe writers, it’s a viable option for people who may have published work in the traditional form, but are looking for a more flexible and profitable way to distribute their own work. So, there’s that.

Note to all self-published authors: this attitude is changing! First stop TWUC, next stop, publishing world domination!!!

Note to all self-published authors: this attitude is changing! First stop TWUC, next stop, publishing world domination!!!

Next is the fact that Canada Reads happened, which is also a big deal, because similar to the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the winner sees a big increase in their book sales, which let’s be honest here, is pretty much hitting the jackpot for any writer, no matter how successful you may be. This particular Canada Reads competition also seemed to have much more riding on it, mainly because they were trying to determine which book will change Canada. Pretty daunting task don’t you think? So obviously most of the books in the running were serious, and held dire consequences for their characters, not a bunch of funny ha-ha stories that you can read on the beach somewhere. Either way, Joseph Boyden’s Orenda won,  which I haven’t read yet, but would really like to now that its been determined that it’s a story that will change our country (!!!).  So, just a little info to keep you up to speed. Try dropping one of these two bits of info at your next dinner party, and people will be impressed, I guarantee it.

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