Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


What We Blog About When We Blog About Books

I recently got sent an advance copy of an upcoming book called Conversational Capital: How to Create Stuff People Love to Talk About. The title pretty much says it all – marketing is easier when what you are marketing is something people want to talk about. “The consumer does the marketing for you!” explains the press release that comes with the book. What could be simpler than getting someone else to do the work?

Things get a little more creepy and cultish inside the book, where various “engines” are identified that build conversation capital – things like Rituals, Myths, Relevant Sensorial Oddity, Icons, and Tribalism. It’s as if you hired Joseph Campbell to head up your marketing team.

Checking in and warming up

Hello all.

I’ll be hanging around here for the next few weeks, like an older sibling you quickly regret inviting to the party (think Frank Jr. in Saturday Night Fever), offering up ham-fisted jokes, conventional wisdom, useless advice, pointless complaints, warmed-over clichés, and generous helpings of self-promotion.

Blogging, in other words.

On Copyright

In an op-ed in the Books section of last weekend's Globe and Mail, John Degen, the head of the Professional Writers Association, argued that the panic over copyright in Canada is a false one. After years of defending copyright against those barking online that cultural products should be free (both in terms of access and monetary exchange), Degen ends his piece by declaring that, henceforth, his most recent novel, The Uninvited Guest, will be available as a free pdf download on his website.

Brian Linehan and the Notion of Celebrity

Over the course of this book tour – whether during our twenty-four hour train ride through the rockies or on a park bench in Halifax – I’ve been reading Starring Brian Linehan, a book offered to us writers in residence so graciously by the good folks at McClelland & Stewart. As a biography of the recently deceased Linehan by his good friend – and reputable entertainment writer – George Anthony, the book does a decent job of exploring the psyche of its lead. Linehan was one of Canada’s best celebrity interviewers and, as host of City Lights on the fledgling CityTv during the seventies, was able to meet (and develop strong personal bonds) with many of the most celebrated film stars of the era – from Martin Short to Clint Eastwood.

Farming, Pam's Legs and Elysium

It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind. Our book tour, that is. We’d always included it in our plans for Kickstart: How Successful Canadians Got Started. To go around Canada and tell people about the stories we’ve learned from interviewing so many interesting individuals. It was especially important since this book covers the country’s geography. We’ve included everyone from Cape Breton Island’s Annette Verschuren (now CEO of Home Depot Canada) to Vancouver MP Ujjal Dosanjh. And the tour has paid off. In spades. We’ve seen so much of Canada in all its diversity, met so many intriguing (and often hilarious) people, travelled by every form of transport (by foot, train, plane and, yes, automobile) and got to promote our book on television, on the radio, and in print.

Overcoming your inner introvert

Kent Allan Rees, the self-published author of Princess Molly and the Golden Tree (, sent us the following query:

"I have written and self-published my first book. If you could suggest three things to help gain the most exposure, what would they be?"

Here was our paltry and probably unsatisfactory response:

"Great question, and one we struggled with for a very long time. It's also a question most people within the publishing industry can't answer. They employ a very traditional model and seem committed to very traditional steps when it comes to marketing and getting their authors noticed.

Via One (Edmonton - Jasper - Kamloops - Vancouver)

The train was three hours late getting into Edmonton, so our trip didn’t start until after noon. We stalled several times in the outskirts of town and were forced to stare out at parking lots of uhauls and discarded farm equipment for what seemed an eternity. Lunch was already being served, so we went down to the dining car where a slim lady with a French accent handed us menus and took our orders. She told us she lived on one of the Gulf Islands, but that she’d grown up in Quebec City. We asked whether she’d be returning to Quebec for the celebrations that summer. With a shrug, she claimed she couldn’t afford the trip – which we didn’t understand since, presumably, any rail travel she took was free – and, besides, she was now a west coast girl.

The Diving Bell and Marsha Norman

In a DVD extra interview for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, American painter and director Julian Schnabel remarks that he made the film to help his ailing father overcome his fear of death. He goes on to say that, though the film wasn't finished at the point where his father passed on, the making of Diving Bell has at least partially succeeded in expunging the fear in himself.

A Word from Andrew - kinda

Paul here –

I want to try a little experiment. At the moment, Andrew is too busy hyping Kickstart on the tour to write a post. This is a shame, because I think he’d bring a very interesting perspective to Open Book. As a result, I’ve decided to write the following post as Andrew. You see, this is a little bit of a voice exercise. I’m going to try to piece together various conversations I’ve had with him into a coherent and artistically unified piece. As I have previously said, voice is a slippery fish. So, Andrew, don’t get mad if I don’t capture your inimitable buoyancy.

Writing as Political Act

Paul here -

It's often difficult to remember why you're doing what you're doing. With deadlines to meet and rent to pay and the constant pressure to produce produce produce, it's sometimes hard to remember why you're writing in the first place.

Thankfully, while sitting beneath a tree in Trinity-Bellwoods park today while my landlord showed my apartment to would-be renters, I returned to Noah Richler's This is My Country, What's Yours yet again. There, I found this:

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