Monday, May 31, 2010

The Writer's Almanac

Two poems from David Starkey's A Few Things You Should Know About the Weasel made Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac this week, the first time a press author has cracked this popular program. To read and listen to A Very Rich Old Woman, please go here:

And to read and listen to Starkey's The Murderr Suspect, Moments Before He is Confronted by Police, please go here:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On the Perils of Technology; or Technochondria: BEA 2011 Post # 1

Today I am off to New York to attend Book Expo America for the second time in as many years, writing on a small electronic notebook, to post this onto Thirsty when I arrive at the hotel. This is simple but wonderful technology, which makes carrying work with me much less cumbersome than it would otherwise be. I've packed lightly for the trip: 2 1/2 days in New York, followed by 4 1/2 in Montreal, before I return home late on the 31st, with one carry-on dufflebag carrying all of my clothes and work materiels. A lesson learned from the fiasco of a volcano-interrupted London trip, when I packed far heavier and didn't use any of it. While away I'll finish two grants, submit one electronically, finish two other final reports, manage email, help put CNQ 79 to bed, do a bit of extra promotion in support of a few Spring books, write a handful of letters, finish a final edit of a manuscript, and still, hopefully, take in a new Mamet play when I am in New York.

A major part of the reason why I am going to BEA this year is for the professional development. There's a range of excellent sessions on this year, many of them dealing with e-books and digital technology. This is something I have to get a handle on over the summer: last year we digitized a good chunk of our list, we have a contract with Sony on our desk, and plans to pursue others over the summer. As Carolyn Kellogg wrote on Jacket Copy yesterday afternoon, e-books will be big here in New York this week. It's pretty obvious and bordering on a cliche to claim that e-books are beginning to play a serious role in publishing, and that any responsible publisher needs to start figuring out a digital plan. But it's no less true, and I'll be attending sessions on the coming digital revolution for a good chunk of this afternoon, tomorrow, and Thursday.

I've been trying to figure out a digital masterplan for Biblioasis in fits and starts over the course of the past year, but its not been easy: it's been hard enough keeping up on the day-to-day operations here. We need more help here, more time to think, less time bogged down in adminstration and bureaucracy and more freedom to actually sit down with a relatively clean plate and brainstorm. Don't expect that will be happening, alas, any time soon. In order to familiarize myself with the new technology I picked up a Sony E-Reader a little more tha a year ago, and though I only used it sporadically after the first month or so of ownership, I've been a big defender of it. It's small, attractive, easy to use, and I think it offers a far better reading experience than most of the other electronic reading devices I've handled, including the Kindle -- which I loathed on sight -- and the iPad, which is far too heavy, and too bright and hard on the eyes to read on for more than an hour or so at a time. I've used the Sony e-reader mainly for reading manuscripts, a few public domain books. So far I've only purchased one title: Peter Singer's The Life You Can Save, an impulse purchase after hearing him on the BBC last year, which made me realize the potential of these devices to increase sales. Determined to pack light, this time I downloaded three key manuscripts I wanted to get through while on this trip. Just today, on the way here, I was marveliing at the wonder and convenience of this technology, how its allowed me to pack far lighter than has been possible in the past.

But then the other shoe dropped. Carrying my bag on my shoulder, an egg and cheese sandwich from the airport foodstall, and my e-reader, my bag slipped off my shoulder and sent my e-reader flying. It only fell 2.5-3 feet, though it did so hard, from the unexpected force of the heavy bag coming down on my arm. It thankfully hit carpet, though hard indistrial airport fare. I didn't worry about it: the advertisements said that the reader should be able to handle this kind of fall. But when I turned the reader on to check on it the e-ink seemed to have spilled and pooled all on the one side of the screen. I tried to reset it, in the hopes that it might be okay, but to no avail: the damn thing is ruined, and I won't be getting to those manuscripts on this trip afterall.

If this had been a new book, the used bookseller in me would have had to downgrade the condition of the volume from Fine to Very Good: it would have suffered a bumped head or tail or corner. But it would have remained a fine book just the same, and I could have read it as I'd intended. If it had been a printed, unbound manuscript I might have had to reshuffle the pages, but I could have continued to work. (Thankfully I do have one of these with me, and it will benefit this trip from the extra attention.) But with an e-reader, a simple, everyday accident can ruin it, and leave you unable to continue. And you don't merely lose one book either: you lose a library, or at least the effort that goes into accumulating and organizing it. What I am now left with is yet another piece of attractive digitial junk.

I spent $300.00 on this reader, and would be surprised if I used it more than 100 hours in the last year. Not a very good investment, and it is unlikely I'll be replacing it any time soon. It's back -- at least in part due to financial necessity -- to good old hardcopy for this jet-setting publisher!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ray Smith's Cape Breton is the Thought Control Centre of Canada

Over at That Shakespearean Rag, Steven W. Beattie continues his 31 Days of Short Stories with a thoughtful and spirited exploration of the title story of Ray Smith's first book -- and our first Renditions title (& the reason why I thought of starting the Renditions series in the first place) -- Cape Breton is the Thought Control Centre of Canada.

The title story of Ray Smith’s 1969 collection is a postmodern collage that neatly puts the boots to the kind of earnest Canadian nationalism running rampant in this country at the time. Subtitled “A Centennial Project,” the story traverses the nation from Cape Breton to British Columbia, with detours to Poland along the way, in the process touching on subjects as diverse as American hegemony, Expo ‘67, and the literary technique of The Bible. Clearly, Smith’s story is not a typical piece of Canadian naturalism.

Commenting on the story in his introduction to the Biblioasis Renditions edition of the book, Smith says, “Large political enthusiasms (and there were lots about in the late sixties) seem to me to suffer loss of clarity, complexity, subtlety. ‘Cape Breton …’ was my attempt to retrieve and fix some nuances in a valid balance.” Readers unsympathetic to what Smith calls “soi-disant originality” may find little apparent balance in his story, which appears on its surface to be a series of unconnected, technically discrete scenes. But “Cape Breton …” evinces a deep structure, not on the level of plot (there is no plot to speak of) but on a thematic level. The balance in Smith’s story results from the involutions of his sustained examination of power dynamics on several fronts: personal, national, and international.

For the rest of Beattie's post please go here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Brown Dwarf Launch Photos

One of the problems with traveling so much these past few months is that I have missed, with one exception -- and even that looked unlikely for a spell, due to a certain volcanic ash problem -- every launch this season, and a few other events besides. One of these was Kathleen Miller's Brown Dwarf launch April 14th, in Toronto. Thankfully she's sent a few photos, and the text to her introductory speech, which I've tried to upload to blogger, but it's simply not having it, and after a half-an-hour of fiddling I'm going to have to put it off for later. Fascinating talk though, and when combined with the photos gives at least a taste of being there.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Biblioasis Translation Series Launch Photos

It's been a bit of a busy time around these parts of late, and I've been meaning to post these photos for some time now. At Blue Met last month two of Biblioasis's Translation Series Authors were in attendance. From all received accounts Horacio Castellanos Moya, pictured above, was one of the hits of the festival, with three scheduled festival events in English and Spanish. Rumour has it that one of these sessions was recorded by CBC for playback at a later date. We'll try and find out when it will run and post a link when we do.
We also launched the latest title in our translation series, Mauricio Segura's Black Alley. A novel about Haitian and Latino gang violence in the Cotes-des-Neiges region of Montreal, it was quite a controversial novel when first published in French more than a decade ago, and it has lost none of its edge in Dawn Cornelio's translation. We're planning to do other events in support of this one. Stay tuned for further details ...

Pictured above, Translation Series Editor Stephen Henighan with Mauricio Segura.

Rebecca Rosenblum...

has a new website (to go along with her new chapbook. More on this when I receive my copies.): check it out:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This Week's Biblioasis Bestsellers

I know, I know: Biblioasis and Bestsellers seems to be a contradiction in terms. Except that once this year when Rumrunners slipped in at number 10 on the Globe & Mail list. And that time in 2008 when Diana: A Diary in the Second Person made the Calgary bestseller lists for several weeks. But we *know* that that was Russell's parents buying up all of the available copies before anyone else could. I am, as always, profoundly grateful for family support: where would we be without our parents?

(If any of you other Biblioasis-o-philes have a work of literary smut out there to peddle, I'm beginning to think working in embarrassed families buying hundreds of copies makes just about as much sense as the rest of my business plan. At this point I am ready to try almost anything.)

But contrary to general belief, we do actually sell non-pornography from time to time. Just ask BNC. Though Russell's Diana is back in the top 5 titles, and has been for several weeks. I thought I'd post the top 5 selling Biblioasis titles this week according to Book Net Canada.

1. Marty Gervais. The Rumrunners.
2. Terry Griggs. Nieve.
3. Mauricio Segura. Black Alley.
4. Russell Smith. Diana: A Diary in the Second Person
5. K. D. Miller. Brown Dwarf.

*: Of course we don't know this. It's probably just all of those lonely oil men. Or women.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Atlantic Canada Reads

Chad Pelley, who had such nice things to say about Kathleen Winter's boYs last week, has started an Atlantic Canada Reads competition, and is asking readers from across the country to nominate their favourite book by an Atlantic Canadian. It got me thinking: I think we've published some of the best writing by Atlantic Canadians in the last several years, including the books you see here.

Amy Jones's What Boys Like anyone? Can't get more Atlantic Canada than Halifax.

Ray Smith's Century, winner of Kerry Clare's Canada Reads Independently? Any of you new converts to Smith want to try your hand at defending this book? Or how about his Cape Breton is the Thought Control Centre of Canada? Night at the Opera? The Flush of Victory?

Or what about Kathleen Winter's boYs?

No? then what about David Helwig's Saltsea, a novel taking place on the shores of P.E.I., and quite easily one of the best things David's done? You prefer poetry? Zach Wells's Track & Trace? David Hickey's In the Lights of a Midnight Plow? Shane Neilson's Meniscus? Help me out: let's get a Biblioasis title on Pelley's list!

Further information can be found here.

First Review of Black Alley

Mauricio Segura's Black Alley is this season's first installment in the Biblioasis International Translation Series, and the first translation we've published that deals with Canadian experience: in this case, that of Chilean and Haitian immigrants in the Cote-des-Neiges area of Montreal. Stacey May Fowles reviews it in the current Quill & Quire, and says in part:

It’s a shame that so few books explore Canadian urban themes (especially those unique to Quebec) as well as Black Alley does. This long-anticipated translation of Mauricio Segura’s acclaimed and controversial 1998 novel, Côte-des-Nègres, is a unique window into the immigrant experience, city life, and gang violence. ... As the novel progresses we become deeply invested in the poignant confrontation between childhood friends who have become divided by race and gang allegiances. ... What results is a crystal clear and unadorned look at the many intersections of class, race, gender, and generational divide in modern urban Quebec. Black Alley is a distinctly refreshing reading experience.

Friday, May 07, 2010

What the Story Writers are Doing...

So I gather that it is National Short Fiction Month. It's the first I've heard of such a beast, though I do think it's a good thing not to let the poets get all of the attention. If Gordon Downie had only penned a song with the lines "Don't tell me what the short story writers are doin'" perhaps we'd have a bit more respect. On Twitter the other day Tom Waits had quipped that Marcel Marceau gets more radio play than he does. Which, to stretch things more than they could possibly bear, might make short fiction Tom Waits to poetry's Gordon Downie. Downie may get a lot of airplay, but we all know where the real soul lies.

In any case, a few folks have been doing their best to try and shine a little spotlight on the short story this month. Steven Beattie has once again embarked on 31 Days of Short Stories, radically altering my reading patterns for the next year. The Globe is highlighting a story a day on the blog. And over at Salty Ink, Chad Pelley is posting on short story writers he's been most influenced by. This week, Kathleen Winter, for her (and our) boYs. Chad writes:

Her vibrant use of language raised a bar for me, as a writer.

Kathleen Winter’s vibrant collection of short stories, boYs, has won the hip-assuring Metcalf-Rooke Award and the prestigious Winterset award. If you haven’t read it yet, what more encouragement do you need?

This book is alive, sentences pop like firecrackers, you expect nothing and love everything. This is ultra-modern, punchy, lucid diction. What I enjoyed the most were her consistently jagged, unexpected, and yet remarkably apt descriptions, some of which catch you offguard, like, “Sponge flan soaked in red sauce that tasted like bandages,” and “[The wind] smelled like wildflowers and clouds and lakes with trout in them.” As I read the pages I saw images, not words. It is one of few books I’ve read that appeals to all of the senses: even the sounds blare off the pages, and then there are the smells, like “…sweet to breathe the mysterious scent of someone else’s blankets.” We all know that smell, right? This is a catchy, diction-driven book well-deserving of all of its attention.

For the rest of his post, please go here.

I have some other fabulous Kathleen Winter news, but will save it for another post.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Echoes in November

The National Magazine Awards were announced earlier this week, and Zach Wells was nominated in "the one of a kind" for an essay on a poem in another Biblioasis author's book: 'Echoes in November,' by Robyn Sarah, from Pause for Breath. It's an exceptional essay about an exceptional poem, and it is now online here.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Road Stories

Received notice today that Frog Hollow is set to release the next installment in their short fiction chapbook series. Rebecca Rosenblum might be known to a few readers of this blog as the insanely talented writer of short fiction, including Once and (forthcoming) The Big Dream. Though I haven't yet had a chance to read these stories, I'm certain that they will be fabulous -- little I've read by Rebecca does not qualify as such. I've ordered a few copies of each edition -- surely this is one of those occasions where one copy is not enough. As there are only 70 paperbacks and 30 hardcovers, it might be worth getting your copy soon.

For further information please go here.