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Turnstone Press

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Book Review: Barker by Wayne Tefs


Harlan runs away with the circus, becomes a barker (the guy who calls in the crowds) and eventually ends up in bed with the knife-throwers’ wife. You can imagine where it goes from there. Harlan is one of those guys who is always on the run. He runs away to the circus. He runs away from the circus. He runs away to the army. He runs and runs but he can’t run away from the voices in his head.

This depression-era saga follows our man Harlan from prairie homestead with an SOB dad to the traveling circus and into the army. He’s almost fodder in the Pacific theatre but the war dries up and he finds himself in real estate. “I coulda been a contender,” comes to mind. Funny enough Harlan finds his way in the most unusual way.

This is the last book by Wayne Tefs, award-winning author of nine novels, a collection of short stories and two memoirs. I have always enjoyed his writing and he is one of the prairies noteworthy authors. I felt very sad reading this book and also very pleased to have a personal connection to him.

Barker by Wayne Tefs (published by Turnstone)

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

Monday, May 05, 2008

Book Review: The Good Lie by Don Bailey

I just finished reading The Good Lie by Don Bailey, novelist and coordinator of the Professional Writing Cooperative Education Program at the University of Victoria. Don is a great self-promoter and initially contacted me in October last year before my trip to Malta. We have some mutual friends, including novelist and editor Wayne Tefs.

Because of Don’s position in the literary community, I felt the urge to give this novel a rather academic reading. But I fought that urge and instead enjoyed it as a novel rather than as a literary exercise. What I like about the book most is that the ending is not the ending I expected.

The novel starts plainly enough. Paul is on a kayak trip, the last in a series of lessons. He and another guest become separated from the group during the foggy return trip. There is a boat that topples them into the water, some panic, and other drama, all of which results in the other guest going into a coma and Paul being investigated as part of a lawsuit.

The quote at the beginning of the book, by Ben Stillwell, Paul’s lawyer, sums up the main thread of the novel: “In this profession you see everything. The thieves, the cokeheads, the pimps and prostitutes—of course they lie. Everybody expects them to lie. But sometimes, the good lie, too.”

This is exactly what Paul does. He lies about Jenny, the other guest, panicking and nearly drowning him. He lies about knocking her off him with his paddle, which likely resulted in her coma. He lies to his wife about the sense of fear and threat he feels about the pending lawsuit. It’s a book of lies.

Normally Paul isn’t the type of character I have any sympathy for. He is a coward. I can’t say he is a redeemable coward but my sympathies for him do increase at the book goes on, and as I mentioned at the beginning, the end of this book is not what I expected.

The Good Lie by Don Bailey is quite an enjoyable read—part literary, part soul searching, part crime drama. Thank you Don for introducing me to The Good Lie.

For those interested readers of fiction, I noticed on Don Bailey’s website, TheGoodLie.com that there is a book club section that offers 27 different questions and conversation points. I definitely think The Good Life is book-club worthy and Don’s dedication to providing a worthwhile website for readers is commendable.

The Good Lie by Don Bailey (published by Turnstone Press).