books on the radio


Advent Book Blog: Arriving December 1st, 2009
November 27, 2009, 12:06 AM
Filed under: Enthusiasms | Tags: , , , , , ,

On December 1st, Julie ‘Book Madam‘ Wilson and myself, will unveil our new collaborative project, The Advent Book Blog: Great Books Recommended by Great People.

The idea behind it is simple: authors, publishing professionals, bloggers, and booksellers will write short enthusiastic recommendations of their favorite books that have been published in the last year.  We’ll publish a few of these every day, including pics and links for the books.  We’ll also publish short bios and photos of everyone who contributes.

It’s what we’re calling the Digital Handsell 3.0.  Just in time for the Holiday Season.

Here’s how it works:

We’ve asked our participants to respond to the following imaginary scenario: You’re working in your favorite bookstore and a customer walks into the store and tells you that he/she needs a good book.  A gift for a curious, open-minded and adventurous reader.  The customer is someone that you’ve helped many times before and they trust your taste implicitly, but they’re in a hurry.

In 25 words or less (or more, depending on your sense of restraint) what book do you recommend?  What book, regardless of genre, format, relative bestsellerness, colour or shape, gets your unequivocal stamp of awesomeness?

Tune in on December 1st to find out!

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Marta Chudolinska: Back + Forth Launch @ Lucky’s Comics
November 25, 2009, 12:08 PM
Filed under: Events, Interview | Tags: , , , ,

Ok.  This is how it’s going down.

Friday, November 27th at Lucky’s Comics on Main Street is the date and time for your chance to meet the charming and talented artist/writer/linocutist Marta Chudolinska (that’s pronounced Hoo-doh-linska as in the Guess Who).

She’s in Vancouver from balmy Toronto to launch her new wordless graphic novel Back + Forth (A Novel in 90 Linocuts).  It’s gorgeous, check the poster below to confirm.

It’s a story of emotional and physical journeys. Vancouver and Toronto landmarks are beautifully rendered in 90 blocks of sublime evocation.  Her publisher, Porcupine’s Quill, have done an amazing job with the book.  The paper and print quality are their usual high standard.

Marta has brought some of the blocks with her and will be doing something with them at Lucky’s that night.  I’m not sure what she’s going to do but it’s probably gonna be magical.

So come check it out.  This Friday @ 7.  Also: Gabe will be sad if you don’t come.



TEDx Vancouver: Some Thoughts on the First Edition

Photo by Kris Krug.

The best conferences are like legal drugs.  They change you on a molecular level, you see and feel things that you’ve never experienced before and your body is charged by mysterious energies.

The first TEDxVancouver Conference, held at the sprawling Electronic Arts campus in Burnaby, was one of those experiences.

Cyrus Irani. Photo by Kris Krug.

It wasn’t a perfect day.  There were some flaws in the program but overall the successes of TEDxVancouver vastly outshone any of the problems that occurred during the day.

Cyrus Irani, the rest of the TEDxVan organizing team, the army of volunteers, camera men, technical wizards and whoever it was that made the call on the freshly bagged popcorn all deserve highest praise for putting on the show.

The theatre looked great.  The videos and the personal presentations were all of a very high quality, and a few technical issues aside, came across with a high degree of professionalism.

The location itself possessed a certain fluid feng shui as well as a pool table and lots of arcade style video games.

The crowd of conference-goers was a good mix of people.  On a few occasions I heard people happily comment that ‘it wasn’t another conference populated by the usual suspects’.  I met a bunch of new friends.  I also got to hang out with Monica Hamburg for the better part of the day.  This was great because we’d recently met and hadn’t yet had time to get to know one another.

* Continue reading



On Keeping an Open Mind About TEDx Vancouver

An Open Letter to Cyrus Irani, the TEDx Vancouver organizing team and everyone who has raised concerns about the event,

Welcome to a crash course in the difficulties of shaping and guiding something that belongs to the Public Trust!

That people feel passionately about the TED Lectures is beyond question.  The organizing team are passionate enough about it that they’ve dedicated their time and energy to making it happen. The people who have made their thoughts known since the event was announced many months ago – who put their ideas forward to speak at the event, who applied to attend and, perhaps especially, those who have turned up the volume across the social media channels over the past day – are just as passionate about what TED means to them.

It’s been a fascinating conversation to watch, a very public conversation and I’ve tried to bite my tongue on it but I just can’t do it.  There’s a few things that I am feeling compelled to say.

But first an admission: I will be attending TEDxVancouver.  I will be listening and speaking to people at the event that day with an open mind.  It’s about respect.  Make no mistake, I am honoured to be a part of the first TED event in Vancouver.

My expectation is that the presenters at TEDxVancouver will deliver an amazing, inspirational and life-affirming day and that optimism and a renewed commitment to action will reign.

But that doesn’t mean that I am exactly enthralled by how the organizers have handled things or that I’m 100% in agreement with what the dissenting voices are saying.

For those of you coming a late to the party, a little background.

TEDx Vancouver was announced some time during the early summer, I believe, and during those early months people could apply to present a lecture.  I applied to present but was not chosen.

Then the organizing team opened the registration for attendees.  I applied to attend (I know how ridiculous that sounds and I will leave it to others to pick this aspect of the whole thing apart and offer creative solutions) and was accepted.

I printed my evite when it arrived and happily waited for the event.

Then yesterday the TEDx Vancouver organizers announced the line-up of speakers and the shit hit the proverbial fan.

Twitter and Facebook lit up with links, opinions and commentary like your drunk uncle had just found a secret stash of roman candles in the attic.

People were outraged that only 1 of the 11 speakers chosen to present that day is a woman.  There were questions about the racial mix of the speakers’ panel and the intellectual pedigree of some of the speakers.

People wanted to know: is Vancouver really best represented by video game designers, television personalities, film makers, web strategists, environmental entrepreneurs and Terry McBride?  (Does any Vancouverite really want an honest answer to that question?)

Was the agenda of the organizing team too narrow in its scope?  Did the organizing team bother to look any further than the corporate rolodex at the EA headquarters where the event is being held?

Some people weren’t ‘feeling’ the vision.  They weren’t sure that venture capitalism, advertising and cinematic special effects were the stuff of ‘inspirational genius.’

The voices that were speaking out wanted something.  And they were passionate about it, but what did they want?

They wanted to be heard.  They wanted to feel like they were a part of TEDxVancouver even if they weren’t going to attend the actual day.

I’m not sure that their outrage really had too much to do with the speakers on the panel.  I think that it’s actually more about how the organizing committee communicated their vision for TEDxVancouver to the public over time, and how they handled the backlash when it happened.

The best expression of how people felt was written by Stephanie Vacher in this post that appeared shortly after the news broke.

A very eloquent and thoughtful letter.

Those are not the terms that I would use to characterize TEDxVancouver’s response posted on their site the next day.

Their letter, in my opinion, sucks.  It’s appallingly generic and does little more than gloss over the concerns expressed by Stephanie and others.  It reads like a form letter from Telus and I think it exposes the true root of the problem.

The Root of the Problem: a perceived lack of accountability/communication on the part of the organizing committee for 2 things that people feel very strongly about: a very personal vision of what the City of Vancouver represents to them and the founding ideals of the TED brand. Then mix in a sensitivity to how the rest of the world perceives Vancouver and its relationship to the TED brand.

Especially in this city of boundless interconnection and frenetic, highly-caffeinated intellectual and artistic energy you’ve got to meet people on their turf and share the info.

It is better to have transparent processes and more open public communication when handling things that are so connected to people’s aspirations and sense of place.

To me, that is what we have learned over the past 36 hours.

I think that Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD said it best in his response to the letter posted online:

There is one point that I think is far from obvious and that I want to address in print. TED’s success in promoting “ideas worth spreading” hinges on successfully exploiting the scalability properties of information flow in a networked society. In other words, for TED to succeed, the videos and talks need to go viral and have the broadest reach in the shortest amount of time. Best medium to accomplish that? The online world.

And the online world favors transparency and accountability.



Makers: The Cory Doctorow Interview (Built from Scratch)
Cory Doctorow Banner

Cory Doctorow Photo by Jonathan Worth.

This interview has it all.  Well, some of it.  In pieces.  Kinda glued together.

Click here to hear the podcast of my interview with Cory.

I called Cory on Thursday November 12th, 2009 from Control Booth B at CJSF.  He was in his hotel room getting started on a day of media publicity for the launch of his new book, Makers, published by Tor Books.

I have no idea whether I was his first interview of the day but I am certain that I wasn’t his last.

He did TVOntario, CBC’s The Hour with George Strombo and countless other interviews throughout the day.

He eventually finished with a talk at the Toronto SF reference library, the Merril Collection, where his old friends at Bakka Phoenix Books (where Cory once worked as a bookseller) sold out of books for him to sign.

His talk the next day at the National Reading Summit was a huge success according to all of my sources in Toronto.

Well, all of my sources except the Globe and Mail’s John Barber, who apparently couldn’t be bothered to actually show up.  Not that a little detail like being physically present prevented him from writing about it.

But back to the interview that you may or may not have already started listening to.

It’s a bit of a reanimated corpse brought together by magic and electricity.  The sound quality is off and my recording software kinda crashed about half way through then came back to life again and then died for good.

So I apologize for the quality and I promise that I’m going to get this whole ‘sound’ thing figured out.  I finish the show off with a recording of Cory’s reading from the Makers that night at the the Merril Collection Science Fiction Reference Library in front of his home town audience.  It’s a great piece about Suzanne Church’s first encounter with a few of the Makers. A scene that I allude to earlier in our talk.

I still like the interview, though.  I’m sorry that an infernal machine ate chunks of our conversation about DRM and most of the talk on Google Books and everything about his With a Little Help Project that he’s cataloging for Publisher’s Weekly.

Here’s the video from his excellent talk on TVOntario:



Me and the Book Madam: We’re Cookin’ Somethin’ Up!

Some of my most dedicated readers know that I’m good in the kitchen.  I’m always workin’ with the heat and mixin’ the ingredients and layin’ surprise concoctions of extreme tantalization upon your tongues!

Well… this Holiday Season I’m stepping away from the charcoal broiler, the freshly oiled cedar planks and the dwarf-sized oak peppermill and I’m stepping back into the ring of Bookseller.

A kind of Bookselling 3.0 Digital Handsell / Best Books of the Holiday Season by the People Who Should Know – the Writers, Booksellers, Editors, Designers, Publicists and other Creators who help bring great books into the world.

The irrepressible Julie Wilson aka the Book Madam (and the artist formerly known as the Seen Reading lady, who may or may not be making a surprise reappearance of her own in a certain iconic American digital periodical)  is joining me in largest non alcohol related herding of book publishing professionals in Canadian History.

The 2009 Advent Books Calendar

Julie and I are working to gather some of the best people that we know in books – from the booksellers to the writers to all points on the publishing compass – to bring you their selections for the best books for gift giving this holiday season.

We’ll be publishing 3+ book reviews a day on out TBA Blog.  Each review will be written in 25 words or less!

That’s right.  Maximum enthusiasm, minimum space.

Micro-reviews of the best books available to make your shopping easier.

If you’re in publishing and we haven’t contacted you yet and you’re sure that we would because, seriously, what are we, crazy?  Then drop me a line sean[at]booksontheradio[dot]ca.

It all starts on December 1.



DIY Incendiary Codex: The Robert Chaplin Interview

Chaplin Vault 02In the vault with Rob Chaplin: to listen to our conversation click this link.

I’ve known Rob Chaplin for a few years.  Ever since he walked into Sophia Books – back when I was buyer there for art books & graphic weirdness – and asked me to take a few copies of Ten Counting Cat into stock for general sale.

10 CountingNo problem. After all, the writing was funny, the drawings were great and the design was bang-on.

It had everything that I wanted from a book: independent spirit, unique and well realized vision and a sense of humor.

So we took the books, put them in the shelves and displayed them in the window.  It didn’t take long for them to sell.

Part of the magic of Robert’s books is that he does all the work himself.  He writes, illustrates and designs each of his books.  Then he sends the files to Friesens in Winnipeg and they send him a couple thousand books a few weeks later that he then sells to people, bookstores, libraries, whomever.  It’s an act of fine art, true dedication to his vision and more than a little wariness toward the entanglements of the standard book publishing process.

Brussel SproutsRobert and I have a tendency to bump into each other a couple of times a year at various speakeasy establishments and nocturnal gathering places where we’ll sketch out plans for global conquest on napkins on the bartop.

When I was helping to plan Bookcamp Vancouver I knew that I had to include Robert in the program somehow.

He showed up in his trademark sweater with a backpack full of books.

Every time I turned a corner Robert was singing the rhymes of the Brussel Sprout or leading small groups of confused conference goers in the Oath Regarding the Existence of Unicorns.

It was hilarious.

I really like Rob’s energy, his enthusiasm and his desire to demonstrate his independent approach.  He’s out there slinging funny rhymes, perpetrating great design and generating new ideas every day.

I just can’t argue with that kind of dedication.

I’m really happy to be able to share this interview because we really get a chance to hear the fundamental breakdown of how Rob sees the creative/publishing process.  It should be like manna from heaven for anyone out there looking for inspiration or help in their own DIY book projects.

For more information on Robert Chaplin, Library Editions and sterling silver brussel sprouts check out his website.