books on the radio

Lorraine Murphy aka Raincoaster Talks Power of Social Media for Writers

Click here tol isten to me & Lorraine talk social media writing at the new Irish Heather.

Lorraine Murphy is the woman behind the legendary social media phenomenon called Raincoaster.

She has been writing, blogging and teaching courses on social media for social good for over ten years.  She has directly witnessed the positive affect that blogging and social media engagement have had on the lives of marginalized people in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown East Side.

She is a passionate and outspoken advocate of using social media tools to help writers develop confidence in their writing while simultaneously building an audience and community for their stories.

Lorraine founded the Shebeen Club*, a monthly get together for the local literati that occurs at the Whisk[e]y Bar behind the Irish Heather Pub in Vancouver’s Gastown district.

Lorraine also appeared at Book Camp Vancouver 2009 where she facilitated a session called “Blogging as Writers Practice”.  A fascinating idea and one that we discuss at length in this interview.  She also has worked with the excellent people at the Surrey International Writers Conference.

Blogging as Writer’s Practice will be a a 10-week course taught by Lorraine starting in January 2010.  Stay tuned to the Raincoaster Media site for more details about this course and registration.

I had been wanting to interview Lorraine for many months and I am very pleased to add her to the Books on the Radio roster.

I hope that you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

*Lorraine has asked me to speak at the January 2010 edition of the Shebeen Club and I have tentatively titled my talk “Don’t Die Just Yet: New Life in New Territories for Book Publishing“.


New Rules of Engagement: Advent Books & Canada Also Reads

Natives are restless and have the tools to create the change that they want to see.

I have always read the Globe and Mail.  Still do.

In the morning with the first freshly brewed coffee of the day in hand, the G&M website is the first place that I go for news.

The quality of journalism and writing is quite high and I think that they’re weathering the sea change within traditional print media pretty well.  Generally, I believe that they do an excellent job and have earned my loyalty over the years for the good work that they publish.

Advent Book Blog: Digital Word of Mouth

So, it troubles me deeply how diminished and ineffectual the Globe Books section has become.

The truest evidence of this for me isn’t the tone and style that they’ve adopted in their digital incarnation but the inability for their writers to generate any kind of engagement or conversation among the readership.

The opportunity for healthy discussion often eludes them completely.

The casual reader might even be inclined to think that the choices made for their 100 Best Books feature is decided more based on preserving advertising revenues with the big publishing houses than finding the best books for any given year.

And book lovers, savvy, impatient and tired of the usual suspects in the usual places, have no limit of alternatives.

Enter the Advent Book Blog.

Real people, passionate about books and reading, recommending their favorite books in short bursts of enthusiasm with no strings attached.  Done out of love and a desire to share – bedrock fundamentals for a healthy book culture.

CBC's Jian Ghomeshi

Another alternative is the CBC’s Canada Reads competition, hosted by the affable and well-coiffed Jian Ghomeshi.

It’s essentially an opportunity to start a national conversation about Canadian books championed by celebrities and hosted in Toronto.

I am a fan of the competition and because of the CBC’s mandate to be all things to all people my expectations for the books selected every year is modest.

I’m just happy that we’re showcasing reading on a big stage and having some fun doing it.

But, of course, not everybody feels the same way.

This year there is palpable frustration over the selection of Ann Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees and Douglas Coupland’s Generation X.  Both hugely successful books have been devoured by countless readers all over the world.

Here in Canada, readers are apparently tired of being advised to read something that they’ve already read.  To have a conversation – evangelistic, enthusiastic or otherwise – that they’ve already had – 10 years ago!

Going through the motions isn’t good enough for them.

Enter the National Post’s Canada Also Reads.

Real books – that haven’t already been swaddled by Oprah or big literary awards – recommended by real people.

What a concept.


The Advent Book Blog and the National Post’s Afterword book section succeed because they give their readership a voice, because they engage them in genuine conversation from the very beginning and because they’re not seen to be publicity vehicles for big publishing houses.

These two places understand the power of the digital environment to connect directly with their readers and to offer their readers a platform to express themselves and to become a part of a larger community and conversation.

That is power.  That creates genuine enthusiasm and loyalty.

The conversation about books in Canada is big enough to include all kinds of publications, platforms and competitions.

The best one’s in 2010 will be inclusive, generally transparent and engaging.  If the traditional book channels can not provide those things then readers will go elsewhere or build their own better alternative.

They have the technology.


Please also check out my follow-up piece on this called Globe’s Book of the Decade: Zero Comments, Wrong Cover.

Joe Planta talks to Sean Cranbury about Advent Book Blog

Listen to Joe Planta interviewing me about the Advent Book Blog here.

December 2009 has been all about the Advent Book Blog for me.

The ABB – for short – has been an excellent project that has gathered together a huge range of people to recommend a huge range of new(ish) books for Holiday gift giving.

Julie Wilson is my partner in crime in organizing this viral online book community.  For those of you who don’t already know of Julie, she’s behind the voyeuristic literary blog Seen Reading and is currently dividing what remains of her personalities between her life as Bookmadam and the mercurial Rebecca Wilcott.

Joseph Planta

We have done a few online written interviews over the past few weeks, too.

Erin Balser was the first one in the water with her Q&A for the on December 1st.

Amy Logan Holmes and Clelia Scala of Open Book: Toronto interviewed Julie, me and ABE the Advent Book Elf a little later in the month.

Now, here’s a phone interview that I did with‘s Joseph Planta last week.

A great interview where we touch all bases of the Advent Book Blog from inception to execution.  We talk about Vancouver book stores, the power within the bookseller/customer relationship and my upcoming brief custodianship of the while Joe takes a break.

Listen to the interview and let me know what you think.

Advent Book Blog Banner!

Douglas Coupland Talks Generations A & X w/ Jian Ghomeshi

Apologies for the infrequent posts here but I’ve been spending most of my time working on the Advent Book Blog and a few side projects.

If you haven’t been checking the Advent Book Blog (@adventbooks) then I suggest that you get there, it’s a game changer.

In the meantime, check this interview with Doug Coupland and stay close for Books on the Radio’s Project 2010.

Thoughts on Generation X and Canada Reads 2010

Jian Ghomeshi poses with his Smithsonian Edition laptop and the Canada Reads 2010 Champions & their books.

I like a good party and I like books.  Throw those two things together and break out the mashed potatoes!

Mantan Moreland references aside, December 2009 is an excellent time to be a book lover because there’s some lively conversations about books going on.

I’d like to address just one of those conversations today.

On the Inclusion of Generation X in Canada Reads 2010

It took all of 20 seconds for the outcry to erupt and word to spread.

What's an Accelerated Culture?

Generation X?  Are you f*@&ing kidding me?” was the modest refrain most often repeated in coffee shop conversation this past week.  And last night I heard it again and again, this time of course, amplified by several swagger inducing rounds of local beer.

And ok, I get it.  Doug Coupland’s first book has a powerful hold on the Canadian imagination.  It’s a unique book that landed like a grenade on the literary scene in 1991 and its emanations have riffled past the standard circle of book conversation to permeate the fields of pop culture sound bites, marketing slogans and beyond.

It did things that almost zero per cent of books are capable of doing.

It transgressed boundaries at a strolling pace.  It brought a folding lawn chair to the abandoned parking lot on the outskirts of town and it sat there reading the newspaper. In blinding sunlight, wearing a fedora and smoking an absent-minded pipe.

The book always seemed like a taunt to me.  A kind of glib yodel from a passing car directed at the over-exposed suburban landscape.

And here it is again, taunting us anew, ruffling our hair, changing the channel when we’re watching something on TV, asking us stupid questions while we’re on the phone.

Questions like:

Cadence Weapon aka Roland Pemberton

What’s the problem with Generation X being a part of the Canada Reads 2010 shortlist?

Are Canadians so obsessed with historical fiction that any book that so cavalierly flaunts a contemporary mode – contemporary 20 years ago, of course – is immediately pilloried?

Do we expect less audacity from our literature?  More seriousness?

Does the inclusion of Generation X in the Canada Reads 2010 shortlist make people uncomfortable because it asks us to rethink our notion of what a great Canadian book looks and reads like?

Does it provide us an opportunity to create fresh context?

Is this a tremor in the landscape?

Are we afraid of Generation X?

Can something that has so suffused popular culture be considered literature?  Do we have a choice in the matter?

Does this book have the innate power to evoke a passionate cross-country conversation about what constitutes our literature?

It looks to me like that passionate conversation has already begun.

In the horse race of Canada Reads 2010 Generation X is out of the gate like a shot from a gun and the rest of the field has some catching up to do.

Roland ‘Cadence Weapon’ Pemberton made an audacious choice to champion Generation X in this edition of Canada Reads.  He’ll be hard pressed to make his case week after week against the Champions of the other books in the competition.

I look forward to reading and rereading all of the books in the Canada Reads 2010 competition and following the various arguments until the end.

I’ll be posting my thoughts and opinions here as the conversation develops.

Here’s a look at the Canada Reads 2010 shortlist with publication details:

Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott: September 2008, Freehand Books.

Nikolski by Nicholas Dickner: February 2009, Vintage Canada (French ed. 2007).

Jade Peony by Wayson Choy: October 1995, D&M Publishers.

Generation X by Douglas Coupland: March 1991, St. Martin’s Press.

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald: August 1997, Vintage Canada.

Back + Forth: Marta Chudolinska Interview

So, a weird edit of the Marta Chudolinska interview is up at the podcast place and you can listen to it by clicking this link right here.

Have some patience with the sound file.

You just gotta get thru the weird extended ending from the previous radio show on CJSF.

(The beginning of this file – which is the end of the previous radio show – is  actually quite interesting to me.  David K Levine talking about patents, innovation and copyright.  And steam engines.  Perhaps there’s a BOTR interview there.)

Also, there’s a classic hard cut edit at the end where I snap off the interview at the point where Marta glows about her parents.

I cut it there because it was such a positive comment, said with such obvious love that I decided that the best thing to do would be to drop a Great Lake Swimmers song at the end and call it a day.

Great interview!  Marta is awesome.

There was a cool book launch party at Lucky’s Comics on Main Street which is always a great place to be on a Friday night.

You can check the action on her sweet Back + Forth website which includes some snaps of the Vancouver Launch.

During the interview Marta touches on the influences of a few different artists like George Walker, Shary Boyle and Kara Walker.

If you’re looking for a great gift for visual artists or young women or older women or a favorite linocutist in your troupe, I highly recommend Marta’s book.

In fact, if you’re interested in suggestions for the best books to purchase during this holiday season check out the Advent Book Blog – fully endorsed by Books on the Radio.