A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Arsenal Pulp Press

Friday, October 30, 2009

Four New Books Arrived

Four new books arrived on my desk today.




Looking forward to reading this weekend.

Monday, March 16, 2009

SXSW: No Think for Old Publishers

New Think for Old Publishers panel at SXSW drew a lot of frustration from the crowd of book lovers and supporters.

The official description of the session was:

This is not a discussion of whether ebooks are killing treebooks, or whether it’s possible to get cozy with an Amazon Kindle. It’s about how participatory culture and the online world interact with good olde book publishing.Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, Deborah Schultz, and fellow panelists will share with the audience a variety of perspectives on what’s going right and what’s going wrong in publishing, assess success of recent forays into marketing digitally, digital publishing, and what books and blogs have to gain from one another. Penguin Group (USA), which houses some 40 plus imprints and publishes an extremely broad variety of physical and digital products everything from William Gibson’s first ebook in the 90’s to Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food to Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels (the source for HBO’s True Blood) is deeply involved in exploring ways that old and new media might better collaborate. Audience members are invited to speak up about what they think book publishers could/should be doing to better provide relevant information and content to blogs, websites, and online communities. Come tell old media what you want and how you want it.

Clay Shirky ITP
John Fagan   Mktg Dir,  Penguin Group (USA)
Deborah Schultz   Founder/Chief Catalyst,  deborahschultz.com
Peter Miller   Dir of Publicity,  Bloomsbury USA
Ivan Held   Pres GP Putnam’s Sons,  Penguin Group (USA)

They certainly told publishers what they think. The summation was “you suck at this is the biggest way possible.”

I think it’s unfair to attack the folks on that panel but as representatives of the industry they do have to go back to their houses and understand that they need to convey, not that bloggers are an unruly bunch, but that publishers need to get off their asses and get involved with social media. Enough is enough.

BookSquare says
If you’re going to hold a session called “New Think for Old Publishers”, you gotta come with some new thinking. Either that or tell the audience that it’s a research session…and the audience is supposed to bring the new thinking. Good idea, needed better execution. Nobody read the panel description to mean “we want the audience to tell us what we’re doing wrong and how we can fix it”.


The publishing people on stage said, essentially, tell us what we’re doing wrong and how we can fix it. You have 300 people who give up an hour of their lives to hear the cool things the traditional publishing business is doing…and you can ask them to consult on your business?

Watch a video of the panel here.

Other links to conversation about this panel:
Medialoper has a fairly neutral assessment of what unfolded.

Twitter stream of comments on this panel #sxswbp

Monique’s summary
What went wrong is this:
* Publishers have not listened to the crowd for a long time.
* The crowd is restless.
* Publishers wring their hands about the web.
* The crowd offers options publishers don’t like.
* Publishers weep into their hands.
* The crowd wants to help and offers other suggestions.
* Publishers act like deer in headlights.
* The crowd plows down publishers and reinvents the industry without them.

What this panel really came down to is that the wisdom of the crowds is not being tapped. The crowd is now sick and tired of trying to help people who won’t help themselves.

Hold me to this: I’m going to organize a panel in Vancouver. We’re going to create a model for publishing and marketing books. We’re going to move forward as an industry. Leaders will be identified. Roles will be assigned. If you’re not open to totally change everything you’re doing, then you are not ready for this revolution. Don’t come.

Who’s in?


Peter Miller Glibness. “Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Tips from a panelist who barely survived” in Publishers Weekly.
Read the article.

Michael Tamblyn of BookNet Canada on 6 Things That Revolutionize Publishing

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Book Review: Soucouyant by David Chariandy

Soucouyant is a novel about memory by Vancouver author David Chariandy. Soucouyant is Chariandy’s first novel, but I suspect that it’s his first published novel. I imagine he has a trunk full of manuscripts and journals chock full of notations about characters.

Soucouyant was shortlisted for the 2007 Governor General’‘s Literary Award and longlisted for the 2007 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Award nominations don’t normally impress me but to have two nominations for the top Canadian prizes and to be a first-time author—that’s impressive.

There’s good reason for the nominations. The novel is a twisting plot of memory fragments. Adele is suffering from dementia, she is near the end of her life and her son has returned home to care for her. The fragments of memory that tell the story are those of Adele’s childhood in Trinidad during the Second World War, of the son’s childhood in Ontario, in a house near the Scarborough Bluffs, and of both characters’ present day experiences.

The memories that comprise the whole are about discord, displacement and distance. The discord appears in stories of racism and classism that the characters suffer. The displacement is the us vs. them, the plight of immigrants, the settling in that never quite happens for this family. And the distance is that which they create between themselves. The mother’s dementia distances her mentally from the present, the father dies, which pulls the family slightly apart, the oldest son leaves home to become a poet, the youngest also flees but later returns, only to distance himself again by being emotionally guarded.

Quill and Quire did not give the book a great review, although the reviewer Dory Cerny certainly agreed that it was worth reading.

The Tyee does a much better job of getting in touch with the plotlines Chariandy is experimenting with. I highly recommend checking out what The Tyee has to say on this one. It’s a great interview with David Chariandy.

Soucoyant by David Chariandy is published by Arsenal Pulp Press, a great Vancouver publisher. If you want more about David, check out CBC Words at Large.

And, I thought the book was great. It would be an interesting book club pick because the writing is strong and the story provides ample topics to discuss. It reminded me a little bit of At the Full and Change of the Moon by Dionne Brand.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Book Review: The Convictions of Leonard McKinley

Every Labour Day Weekend since 1977, writers have gathered to sweat, cry and produce amazing 3-day novels. This “trial by deadline” is going on right now. www.3daynovel.com

But I have other things to do this weekend, like making peach pie, so instead of whipping off a novel, I’m reading The Convictions of Leonard McKinley by Brendan McLeod, a recently published winner of the 3-Day Novel Contest.

McLeod’s protagonist Leonard is a crazy piece of work. I imagine he was born amidst too much caffeine and too little sleep.

In some ways The Convictions of Leonard McKinley is a morality play. Wikipedia defines this as “a type of theatrical allegory in which the protagonist is met by personifications of various moral attributes who try to prompt him to choose a godly life over one of evil.”

For Leonard the morally bad take the form of round-bottomed cute girls, his desires to achieve NBA fame, and his increasing interest in deviance.

There is certainly a secular nature to Leonard’s desires that conflict with his visions of martyrdom. He promises God that if he performs well at basketball try-outs that he’ll open up an adoption agency when he’s older.

But what starts as innocent questioning of God and morals in the 6-year-old Leonard, even in the teenaged Leonard, gives way to a form of religious fanatisism that cripples him.

The Convictions of Leonard McKinley could be renamed The Ethical Trials of Leonard McKinley. As a child Leonard executes ethical trials for himself: if he is good, his father won’t have another heart attack. As a teen he believes that saying the Lords Prayer and volunteering at the Red Cross will ensure his mother’s safe return home from late nights at the office. But as Leonard enters university his convictions that well being is a reward or punishment determined by God lead to darker thoughts about homosexual yearnings and pedophilia. He creates trials for himself that were funny child-like behaviour earlier but are now disturbing.

Leonard is pretty creepy but the novel is good.

I agree with the quote by author Terence Young, “Brendan McLeod presents us with a protagonist who is at once mesmerizing and ridiculous, charming and offensive ... He draws our attention like a really good house fire.”

And with kind permission from 3-Day Books, here is a short excerpt:

The Convictions of Leonard McKinley by Brendan McLeod.

When Leonard turns six, his father buys him a bike without training wheels because he wants to learn to ride like he is escaping from assassins with lasers. Leonard’s father shuffles him up and down the street, breathing hard at his side until he sustains heart palpitations and Leonard takes off on his own. He flies around the suburban streets of Calgary until he can no longer see his house and has to stop at a store for directions.

“I can’t tell you unless you buy something,” says the clerk. Leonard has no money, so he kicks down the newsstand outside and rides away crying. Two hours later a policeman finds him sulking against a tree and puts his bike into the backseat. He drives Leonard halfway home, but pulls a U-turn after hearing the whole story. They return to the convenience store and the policeman disappears inside for ten minutes. When he comes back out Leonard asks him what happened.

“I gave the bad man a ticket,” says the officer.

“What for?”

“Being a dick.”

“Awesome,” says Leonard.

The policeman pulls away. “Did you kick down his newsstand?”



When the policeman pulls up in front of Leonard’s house his father is being wheeled away on a gurney. The large lights of an ambulance reflect off the gleam of the neighbours’ gaping mouths behind their windows. Leonard’s older brother Steve is standing on the walkway, his hands over his lips as though afraid something will escape from him.

Leonard’s younger brother Nick is wandering around outside wearing his costume from his fourth birthday party last week. Their mother had allowed him to dress up as the sheriff, so he locked his friend Pete in the laundry room after he hadn’t given him a present that involved the California Raisins.

Now, Nick moseys up to the police car. Leonard and the officer quickly get out.

“You killed Dad!” Nick shouts at Leonard. Then he shoots the police officer full of imaginary bullets and dives behind a bush.

“Shut up, Nick!” Steve yells.

Their mother runs up to Leonard and holds him tight to her waist. Then she smacks him on the bum for going missing and kisses his forehead to assure him their father is going to be okay.

Mrs. Shelbourne from next door comes over to look after them while their mother follows the ambulance to the hospital. They eat dinner in silence. Steve, who is in grade six, won’t talk to Leonard because he is just a stupid little kid who still gets lost. Nick won’t speak to Mrs. Shelbourne because she beat him at Hungry Hungry Hippos, except to briefly accuse her of cheating. Mrs. Shelbourne threatens to send him to his room for being impertinent, so Nick says he was just worried about their dad in the hopes that she’ll feel sorry for him and give him a cookie. She doesn’t fall for it and Nick refuses to eat his peas in protest.

Brendan McLeod is a writer, musican, spoken word artist, former Canadian SLAM poetry champion, and previous winner of the 3-Day Novel Contest.