Friday, December 28, 2012

The Best Reading of 2012: The Toronto Star

Well the press offices have officially gone dark for a couple of days, but we're re-emerging for just a second with a little Christmas candle: yesterday both Alice Petersen's All the Voices Cry and Anakana Schofield's Malarky were listed as two of the Toronto Star's Best Books of 2012. Congratulations to Alice and Anakana, a Merry Boxing Week to those of you braving the crush, and a very happy new year to you all. Peace and love (and good reviews!),

Malarky by Anakana Schofield 
"Unaccountably overlooked by this year’s prize juries, Anakana Schofield’s ribald story of an Irish farmwife’s descent into late-life cougardom and mental breakdown is a standout debut and one of the best Canadian novels of the year: the sort of book that forces you to read it over again as soon as you finish."

All the Voices Cry by Alice Petersen
"Why does Canada produce so many great short story writers? For the record here’s another. Alice Petersen’s first collection reads like the work of someone who is already a master of the form, her writing dense with understatement, subtlety and ambiguity."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Everybody That Matters and Then Some

"According to everybody that matters," wrote Kerry Clare yesterday, "this was one of the best books of the year, and when it comes out in the UK next year, the whole world is going to know it."
High praise indeed. And it's a good excuse to revisit an exciting piece of news that might have been overlooked in the year-end recap of last week: British rights to Malarky have been purchased by Oneworld, who will be releasing a UK version of the novel in 2013. This is in addition to the half-dozen best-of lists that Anakana's topped in the past month, including three new ones this weekend:
The plaudits keep on coming, but Michael Hingston at the Journal may have said it better than I could. I'll leave you with his comment. My congratulations to Anakana once more.
Great fiction takes risks. That's why descriptions of a classic and an utter fiasco can sound so similar. And yes, in theory, the debut novel by Vancouver's Anakana Schofield is far from a sure thing: it's an obsessive, voice-driven novel about a grieving Irish housewife that runs along irregular timelines and lingers at unusual places. It also never, ever apologizes for itself. More importantly, it all works. Joe Biden may have done more to repopularize the word "ma-larky" this year, but Schofield's electrifying novel will leave a much longer impression.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Daubers Press Exhibit & Reading: Dec. 14-Jan. 6

This just in from Amanda Jernigan. If you're in the neighbourhood, stop in. Their broadsides are beautiful.

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Dear friends and family --

John and I will be having a small exhibition of our Daubers-Press collaborations at the Sylvia Nickerson Studio (126 James St North, 3rd floor), opening during December's art crawl: Friday, December 14th, from 7 - 11 p.m. Please drop by for a mug of mulled wine, to help us celebrate. (I'll be giving a brief poetry reading at 7:30 p.m.)

For those of you who don't know, Daubers Press is the private press imprint under which John and I have issued a series of letterpress-printed pamphlets and broadsides, usually featuring a poem of mine and a photograph of John's -- sometimes a wood-engraving. Many of these have been holiday keepsakes, issued in small editions and distributed to family and friends. Sylvia Nickerson has been a collector of these keepsakes since the early days, and it is at her generous behest that we have chosen to gather the full run for this Christmas exhibition.

A poster is attached. Feel free to distribute, to others who might be interested.

With warm wishes from us all --
Amanda, John, Anson, & Ruby

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2012 in Review

As we were putting together the latest edition of The Draught, we at the Bibliomanse decided it would be fun to hop on Wagon Retrospect. Reflect a little on the accomplishments of 2012. Tip our hats to the authors and readers who make each year exceptional, perhaps say a few words to all of our new friends here in Windsoria (all of whom, by the way, we're delighted to see so often at 1520 Wyandotte East). Thirsty can never quite cover all that we do over here, and you only see so much from the storefront: we thought we'd try and bring you more of the story. Or at least a plot synopsis. A cover letter? Biblioasis for Dummies? Filemaker Made Easy? (Oh wait. Those last two are for me.)
Um. Without further adieu …  

We have a lot to be proud of in our little corner of the world. We’ve won awards, we’ve been written up warmly, and of course our new storefront was greeted with great enthusiasm by both the Walkerville community and Windsor at large. Yet—and as we hope will always be the case—our primary accomplishment remains the publication of stupendous authors. This year saw new works by Mark KingwellDouglas GloverMarty GervaisLiliana Heker,David HelwigNadine McInnisAlex BoydJessica HiemstraNorm SibumMike Barnes, and C.P. Boyko. Our stable continues to boast titles by Caroline Adderson, Clark Blaise, Charles Foran, Mavis Gallant, Annabel Lyon, John Metcalf, Alexander MacLeod, A.F. Moritz, Eric Ormsby, Ray Robertson, Seth, and Guy Vanderhaeghe.This year we’re especially proud to have added two books to our collection of astonishing fiction debuts: Anakana Schofield’s Malarky, which was selected for the extremely competitive Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program in 2012, and Alice Petersen’s All the Voices Cry (winner of this year’s QWF First Book Prize). As followers of theThirsty blog will know, Anakana's coverage this year has been exceptional, and we're happy to say that UK rights toMalarky were just sold to Oneworld; with a little luck her plaudits will continue long into 2013. We're also downright tickled about Alice, who it seems was only yesterday delighting audiences from Windsor to Montreal.

2012 saw Biblioasis authors win the Canadian Author's Association Award for Poetry (Goran Simic) and the City of Hamilton's Bryan Prince Award for Poetry(Amanda Jernigan,who was also shortlisted for the Pat Lowther). We had invitations to the Brooklyn Book Festival, WordFest, Winnipeg’s Thin Air, Blue Met, VIWF, IFOA, and Portland’s Wordstock. Both Malarky and C.P. Boyko’sPsychology made the Editor’s Picks list for 2012, and Douglas Glover’s Attack of the Copula Spiders appeared in the Globe Top 100 column and was praised in the Wall Street Journal. We’ve had multiple features in each of The National Post, The Globe & Mail, The Vancouver Sun, and The Montreal Gazette, as well as American reviews in The New York Review of Books, The Economist, Reader’s Digest andThe San Francisco Chronicle. This builds upon the recognition our press has received in previous years (including shortlists for The Giller Prize, The Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, The Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Award for Nonfiction, The Red Maple Award, The Winterset Award, The Danuta Gleed Award, The Archibald Lampman Prize, the B. C. Award for Canadian Nonfiction, the Relit Prize, The Frank O’Connor Award, a Commonwealth Award, the Thomas Head Raddall Award, and much else). We’re happy to say that critical recognition for Biblioasis titles is growing.

On the whole in 2012 Biblioasis made exceptional contributions to its fiction, non-fiction, and poetry lists, and we continued our mandate to publish exciting new authors. As Thirsty readers are by now extremely aware, for a debut novel Anakana Schofield’s Malarky received overwhelming attention, both for the exceptional nuance of its voice and the extraordinary likability of its protagonist. “Schofield starts at a pitch of inspiration most novels are lucky to reach at any point,” observed The Montreal Gazette, “and remarkably sustains that level all the way through”: her 20+ other reviewers largely agreed. So did the selection committee at Barnes & Noble Discover Program (“it was the voice that got me,” commented Program Director Miwa Messer); “Quirky, raucous, and utterly unconventional,” said Reader’s Digest. And a contingent of elite online bloggers (including Ann Kjellberg of the New York Review of Books, Kassie Rose of NPR, and Scott Esposito of Quarterly Conversation) have called it everything from “a miracle” to “the most engaging storytelling ever encountered.” Now, approaching 9 months after publication, Anakana has been to many of the premier festivals in North America (including Brooklyn, Portland, IFOA, VIWF, and Victoria), and continues to receive invitations to speak in her home province.     
Yet Malarky isn’t the only one of our fiction titles to be well-received this year: Alice Petersen’s All the Voices Cry, edited by John Metcalf, was another remarkable debut, lauded for its facility with metaphor and (how many times can we say it?) awarded the QWF First Book Prize. And this fall we published the sophomore collection of Journey Prize-winning short story writer C.P. Boyko, glowingly commended in The National Post, The Toronto Star, Quill & Quire, and The Winnipeg Review. All three books had covers by Gord Robertson of Toronto; the Boyko and the Schofield in particular have been praised for their striking geometric designs. We had a strong showing from Nadine McInnis (Blood Secrets), as reviewed in The National Post and the Ottawa Citizen; our paperback reprint of Ray Robertson’s David is perhaps one of the most attractive books we’ve done, inside and out; and last but certainly not least we had Mike Barnes’s The Reasonable Ogre, hailed by the leading American expert on fairy tales as “a marvel, and a tribute to the power of story.” Altogether our 2012 fiction list demonstrates our commitment both to exceptional style and the genre of the short story (Malarky being the only new novel).

In poetry we were proud to publish sophomore collections by Jessica Hiemstra and the Lampert Award-winning Alex Boyd; we also published a new collection by veteran Montreal author Norm Sibum, whose debut novel (The Traymore Rooms) is our lead fiction title for Spring 2013. (Yes, that’s the one presently clocking in at a monumental 800+ pages.) Both the collection and the novel treat on American imperialism in a way we find exciting, moving, saddening, and frightening by turns. Hiemstra’s book contains a fine selection of pen-and-ink drawings done by the poet (also a visual artist), and Alex Boyd’s book marks the first Biblioasis title to be typeset by our new production manager, Chris Andrechek. Both Sibum and Hiemstra saw substantial excerpting in The Montreal Gazette.

2012 was an exciting year for Biblioasis nonfiction as well. Our two local history titles (Marcel Pronovost: A Life in Hockey and Marty Gervais’s Ghost Road and Other Forgotten Tales of Windsor) have both proved immensely popular and are also valuable contributions to the local history of the Windsor-Essex region. They contain a wealth of archival photos and are meticulously researched. There was Cooking with Giovanni Caboto, herculean, gorgeous.There was the postponed-till-there's-a-hockey-season book on the Detroit Red Wings (and man is it a looker). Last but not least we were especially excited to publish two nonfiction titles from acknowledged experts in their  fields: Governor General’s-Award winning novelist and creative writing instructor Doug Glover released Attack of the Copula Spiders and Other Essays on Writing, and longtime philosopher Mark Kingwell made waves with Unruly Voices: Essays on Democracy, Civility and the Human Imagination. The essays of both books demonstrate Biblioasis’s ongoing commitment to the publishing of critical works about literature (or, in Kingwell’s case, the literary imagination). So far Mark Kingwell has been excerpted and interviewed in Harper’s, has seen several reviews (with one forthcoming in The Rumpus), and appeared twice on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paiken.

Altogether it's a year to be proud of and we want to thank our authors heartily for their hard work. You're what we do it for, ladies and gentlemen: a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you from Biblioasis.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Malarky hits 2012 best-of lists

Malarky was singled out in The New Statesman's
Read-All-About-It list for 2012. Yup, that's it there.
To the left of the Acacia tree and to the right of the fire.
Morning folks, and happy Monday. Malarky's hit a few more best-of lists this past week, beginning with a shout-out in The New Statesman's Read-All-About-It section for 2012, where Jenny Diski called it one of her top three novels of the year, and remarked on its "notable style and imaginative power." What else? Malarky was also singled out on David Gutowski's Largehearted Boy's Top Novels of 2012, where he praised it as "a brilliant debut that depicts one woman's descent into madness with dark humour and an intimate eye for grief and sorrow."

Yep. Grief, sorrow, snowlessness, good news. It's Monday in Windsor. Want more? Both Malarky and Psychology and Other Stories were listed as part of Mark Medley's "The Underrated" column in The National Post last week, which highlighted "unjustly overlooked Canadian favourites from the fading year." And lastly Malarky was of course selected as an Editor's Pick for 2012 and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Authors selection. For a full range of coverage—which as Thirsty devotees know is quite extensive—you can take a look at the book's website, or visit its page later in the week.

On an unrelated note, for those of you who are just parched for want of The Draught, rest assured that your monthly slug is coming. It's in barrels. It's on the boat. The Coast Guard has their greasy envelopes. All that remains is to massage the kinks out of our new subscription model for spring 2013 ... so in other words, good deals ahoy! It's worth waiting for the real thing. Just ask Arnold Rothstein. 

(For those of you who aren't yet signed up for our monthly newsletter and would like to be, as you should like to be, indeed, if you're the discerning & capable souls I imagine you are in my heart: email me.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Celebrate the holidays, Biblioasis style.

It may be dreary and quite mild outside, but we here at Biblioasis plan to ignore the weather and unpack the festive cheer this month. We've decked the storefront with boughs of...garland. We've strung lights on the tree. Wrapped books in shiny paper, ribbons and bows. We're even adding some festive spices to our morning coffee.

Yes, everything here at the Biblioasis store says it is the holiday season, and what better thing to do during the holiday season than throw a little celebration?
We invite you to join us for some merrymaking of the best kind, the kind with books, food and drink!
All day long you'll save 20% off Biblioasis titles (including Marty Gervais' Ghost Road and The Caboto Club's Cooking With Giovanni Caboto) and 10% off all other books, including children's books.

Then from 5pm until 9pm, we will eat, drink and make merry! Mingle with other book lovers and members of the community and generally enjoy a cozy evening at your local bookshop. See you there?


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Round up, round down ...

Hi, folks, and happy Thursday. Lots of little publicity hits buzzing around the office the past week—must be the unseasonally warm weather, makes 'em breed?—so I thought I'd line some up for you. Like the bees in Black Books. Nutritious, delicious, pairs well with absinthe. Here we go!

Strange Voyages and Joyce Carol Oates: Nadine McInnis featured on Hazlitt's Shelf Esteem series
Join the author of Blood Secrets as she discusses her book collecting habits, her favourite poetry collections and novellas, and her unexpected fondness for travel narrative.

All the Voices Cry makes Steven Beattie's Books-of-the-Year list at Quill & Quire
"Finely crafted and pared down to their bare essentials," sings the heavenly Quire: "These are stories that work on multiple levels, and continue to divulge their secrets after several rereadings."

Malarky is one of The Georgia Straight's Best Books of the Year ... thrice over.
Quoth Alexander Varty: "The immensely gifted Anakana Schofield’s vivid study of a middle-aged Irish housewife’s nervous breakdown has a huge heart and a fierce brain; Malarky is, by a wide margin, the most memorable fiction I’ve read this year." (... I think the phrase is boo-ya?) Malarky is the first-ever book to be selected by three of the Straight's annual round-up critics, with other endorsements coming from Michael Hingston ("Joe Biden may have done more to repopularize the word malarky this year, but Schofield’s electrifying novel will leave a much longer impression"), and Books Editor Brian Lynch ("a fully realized marvel  ... raw, sad, funny ... and yet consistently surprising"). 

Emma Donoghue Comes Out in Favour of Malarky
No link for this one, but the author of ROOM has said this about Our Woman's saga: "A caustic, funny and moving fantasia of an Irish mammy going round the bend."

Monday, December 03, 2012

At the back of the bookshop: The Making of a Cover Design

I judge books by their covers. By their type design. By their choice of cover image. By their use of colour and line. Call me shallow, but what a book looks like strongly contributes to whether or not I will pick it up, read the back cover copy, flip through its pages, and ultimately buy it.

I would argue that many if not most people, despite whatever adage instructs us to the contrary, do the same. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. However, what it means is that book designers need to create the right impression with their covers. And this can be a lengthy process.

Take, for example, Marty Gervais' recent Biblioasis book Ghost Road and Other Forgotten Stories of Windsor, which looks like this:

However, it didn't always look this way. This book began life with a different title and a vastly different cover concept, using this image:

For anyone who hasn't read Ghost Road yet (PS you will enjoy it, so come in and pick up a copy!), this 19th-century image of Detroit and the Straits from the Huron Church certainly makes sense with the content of the book, which spans Windsor, Essex County and the Detroit area from the 18th through to the 21st century. However, there was something about the image that just didn't reflect the historical variety in Gervais' stories.

Ghost Road not only went through a few covers but several possible titles as well. With the final title Ghost Road came a new image and new direction for the cover. Marty, an accomplished photographer as well as a writer, provided the photo of the ghost road itself, a strip of abandoned drag racing road from the 1960s and '70s, now overgrown and hidden by farmers' fields.

I decided to take a more contemporary approach to the cover, and, inspired by the circular motif of the single tire, came up with this:

While I liked this design a lot, with the slightly feathered edges of the text giving it a slightly ghostly feel, the rest of the Bibliostaff agreed (and once they mentioned it so did I) that this version didn't look like a work of non-fiction; it had more of the aesthetic of a novel or short stories collection, and that could be misleading to the prospective reader.

This design was certainly getting closer though, and so I borrowed the circular motif, feathered texture, and of course the photograph, and combined them into what would become the final cover design for Ghost Road. I echoed the tire in the teal circle that holds the title (a similar teal to the Rumrunners cover, the companion book to Ghost Road). To balance the contemporary design elements and give a nod to the book's historic content I went with quite traditional fonts, Academy Engraved and Georgia, and altered them to suit the shape of the circle. After a good deal more fine tuning, and the blessing of Dan and Marty, Ghost Road had a cover. Tada.

While this particular book didn't go through a large number of different cover designs, some books take a few more tries before a suitable design is reached.

With Nadine McInnis' book, Blood Secrets, the initial idea was to go with an image of clothes drying on a washing line, to reflect some of the imagery in the title story.

Another concept was to use an image of peeling wallpaper. After dozens of different wallpaper options, some grungier than others, there was still something about this cover concept that was not quite working for the book.

When I started at Biblioasis, I was offered the chance to take a look at the Blood Secrets cover and see what I could come up with. My first offering drew from the prominence of hospitals and other care facilities in the book:

Yes, a bland and boring looking plate of hospital food. We quickly realized that while the layout and type treatment were working quite well, the image was so completely unappealing that it might turn the readership off the book. Bad sign.

So I tried this:
Still hospital themed, still a similar type treatment, but without the lunch meat. What stood out to me about this photo was its linearity and the strong contrast offered by the red panels. However, with the input of the rest of the Bibliostaff, it became clear that it also was more generally suggestive of minimal urban architecture than specifically of a care facility. I was moving a bit too far away from the manuscript with this one.

Anyone who has picked Blood Secrets will recognize this cover, the final outcome of the cover design process: a hospital window with curtains overlooking an outdoor scene that can read as quite hopeful or quite bleak depending on your view. To match the curtains and sky, I changed the background colour, and, as in the red panel version, added "stories" to the title of the book. Nadine felt this one was a lot more reflective of her book, and we all agreed it was a lot more appealing than a hospital dinner.