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This weekend in Canadian literary events: Aug. 24-26

Canadians have the chance to meet and see some of their favourite writers, artists, and poets up close and personal at this weekend’s readings and festivals, featured on Q&Q’s events calendar.

The August Sonata on Aug. 25 offers readings galore from the likes of Ken Chisholm, Julie Curwin, Russell Colman, Sandra Dunn, and several others. The event takes place in Boularderie Island, Cape Breton. Attendees are encouraged reserve seating, and bring four books for the annual book exchange.

The annual Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival kicks off in Vancouver on Aug. 25. The celebration fuses dance, theatre, and music with literary events, including storytelling, panel discussions on writing, and poetry readings.

Dan Parent, creator of Archie Comics’ first gay character Kevin Keller, will appear at Toronto’s Glad Day Bookshop on Aug. 26. The free event includes an interview, question period, and book signing.

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Some of Alberta’s finest poets and writers will gather in Calgary on Aug. 26 for Get Literary: Prose and Poetry. Local poet laureate Kris Demeanor will lead an afternoon of readings from Alberta’s literary magazines. Shannon Lee Bennett, Marcello Di Cintio, Jon R. Flieger, Barb Howard, Naomi K. Lewis, and Fred Stenson are set to attend.

Patrick Lane hosts a poetry reading that includes works spanning his half-century career. The event takes place on Aug. 24 in South Frontenac, Ontario. Admission is $40.

Who knows how much longer summer’s warmth will hang over us, so get outside and enjoy it at the Summer When it Sizzles Festival in Ottawa on Aug. 26. The free event invites the public to hear poets share their work over an afternoon of book launches, readings and open mics.

On the other side of the country, Vancouverites can head over to Comix & Stories for Vancouver ComicCon at Heritage Hall. The event puts the spotlight on alternative and small press comics, zines, and artwork; featuring Simon Roy, Brandon Graham, James Stokoe, and Marley Zarcone.

Be sure to check out Q&Q‘s events calendar for more of this weekend’s literary happenings.

Want to add an event to Q&Q‘s calendar? Send your literary event listings to Quill & Quire. Please include the event name, date, time, location, cost, and a brief description.

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Random House of Canada launches online magazine as part of digital overhaul

What does a major publishing house look like in the digital age?

Random House of Canada has offered one answer with today’s launch of a multifaceted digital strategy that includes an online magazine (known as Hazlitt), an ebook imprint (Hazlitt Originals), and a website redesign.

The centrepiece of the campaign is the online magazine, the subject of some industry speculation ever since Random House of Canada hired Christopher Frey, a founder of Outpost magazine and Toronto Standard, earlier this year. While Hazlitt, which takes its name from a 19th-century literary critic and essayist, will be hosted on the Random House of Canada website, the company says it will maintain editorial independence, relying on freelance journalists to provide much of the content.

“As the idea evolved, there was an understanding at several levels of the company that for this, as a magazine, to succeed and build an audience and have credibility, it will have to have its own editorial identity,” Frey told Q&Q, following a media launch earlier this week. “Many of the people writing for it will have to be non–Random House authors or working journalists. We will need to be able to write about everything in the culture, and not just Random House books.”

Contributing writers will include Lynn Crosbie, Kaitlin Fontana, Billie Livingston, Jason McBride, Drew Nelles, and Carl Wilson, as well as filmmaker Scott Cudmore (who will provide multimedia content). Frey says he views the magazine as “competing with any other Web-based magazine out there, like Slate or Salon or The Awl, or the Web versions of other print magazines.”

Hazlitt stories can be read online for free. At launch, the magazine features limited advertising, and cross-promotions for Random House titles appear low-key.

“This is an opportunity for us directly to engage with readers, and to bring the writers we represent close to readers,” says Robert Wheaton, vice-president and director of strategic digital business development. “Learning from readers is of tremendous importance to us across the entirety of our business.”

As for the other key facet of Random House of Canada’s online push, the digital department will work with the company’s book publishing division to produce ebooks under the Hazlitt Originals imprimatur. The first title in the series, which will focus on non-fiction and essays, is journalist Patrick Graham’s The Man Who Went to War: A Reporter’s Memoir from Libya and the Arab Uprising. It will be followed by U.K. journalist Steven Poole’s “anti-foodie polemic” You Aren’t What You Eat and Ivor Tossell’s The Gift of Ford, about Toronto’s mayor.

The digital-only publishing initiative takes a page from and the Canadian Writers’ Group, the writers’ organization behind the ebook Finding Karla: How I Tracked Down an Elusive Serial Child Killer and Discovered a Mother of Three by journalist Paula Todd. Likewise, the Organization of Book Publishers of Ontario’s Open Book project and the Association of Canadian Publishers’ 49th Shelf are both attempts to create an online hub serving the dual role of marketing tool and source for compelling content.

But the scope of Random House’s digital ambitions are unprecedented in Canadian publishing. “Ultimately, we view this as a platform for future innovations in publishing,” Frey says.

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Tosca Reno takes the reins at Robert Kennedy Publishing

Author and fitness maven Tosca Reno will take over as publisher and chief executive officer at Robert Kennedy Publishing in Mississauga, Ontario.

Robert Kennedy, who founded RKP in 1967 with the launch of MuscleMag International, named Reno as his successor before his death last week, Masthead reports. Reno, who was married to Kennedy, began her career at RKP as a columnist for Oxygen magazine. Since then, she has contributed to the company’s various health and fitness magazines and published 13 books under the Robert Kennedy imprint, including her best-selling Eat-Clean Diet series. Her latest book, The Eat-Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook was released this month.

From Masthead:

In addition to her work with RKP’s magazines and books, Reno has toured North America conducting health and wellness seminars [in] schools, companies, and other organizations. She has also spread the word of healthy living as a guest on numerous national television programs including The Marilyn Denis Show, Entertainment Tonight, The Doctors, and was the star of her own Gemini Award-winning reality show named Tosca: Flexing at 49.

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Robert Kennedy, 1938-2012: health and lifestyle publisher

Robert Kennedy, founder of Robert Kennedy Publishing, has died. The 73-year-old, who dedicated his life to inspiring readers to be “the best that they can be” through his line of health and fitness publications, passed away at his home in Caledon Hills, Ontario, due to complications from skin cancer.

Born in 1938 to schoolteacher parents, Kennedy spent his early life in Norfolk, England, fascinated by weight training, bodybuilding, and muscle magazines. In 1967, he moved to Brampton, Ontario, where he taught art and English before plunking down nearly $500 in savings to launch his first periodical, MuscleMag International.

Kennedy went on to write 53 books, develop a fitness store franchise and clothing line, and build one of Canada’s premier publishing houses for diet and fitness titles. Among RKP’s most successful offerings are Oxygen magazine, Reps!, Clean Eating, and the best-selling Eat Clean book series by Tosca Reno (who is also Kennedy’s wife).

Staff at RKP’s Mississauga, Ontario, office have posted a statement about Kennedy’s death. From the obituary:

A tireless worker, [Robert] maintained regular hours in the office (and the gym) into his 70s. Bob could often be found at the light table going over magazine pages, or snapping photos down in the studio. Always a hands-on boss he penned the publisher’s page for every magazine in his chain and trained his keen visual eye on each page of every publication; Bob made sure to put his personal “stamp” on every issue.

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Book links roundup: Daniel Karasick wins CBC short story contest, Invisible Publishing prevails, and more

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What Toronto budget cuts could mean for libraries

As Toronto’s city council enters final debates on the 2012 budget, here’s a look at what could be ahead for the Toronto Public Library.

TPL has been asked to meet a 10 per cent reduction target (cutting about $7 million from its annual budget) despite having the busiest year on record in 2011, with more than 19 million visitors borrowing over 33 million items.

A few motions on the table at city council argue for reversing budget reductions. One motion asks TPL to meet its 10 per cent target without cutting back on hours, instead saving money by buying fewer movies and magazines. Chief librarian Jane Pyper estimates that cutting 19,444 hours at 59 branches could save TPL $5.4 million, but this would likely affect all branches.

Another motion proposes that the $7 million in library cuts be scaled back to $4 million, using new revenue from property tax assessment growth to make up the remainder.

Toronto’s literary community has unleashed protests against proposed cuts, too. More than 100 well-known literary figures signed an open letter to Mayor Rob Ford and city council, and the Toronto Public Library Workers Union placed an ad in the Toronto Star this week.

Meanwhile, TPL continues to search for ways to bring in more money. The National Post reported on one new membership program designed to attract the bookish under-40 set to exclusive library events for a roughly $300 annual fee.

Just this morning, the TPL Foundation announced a $1.5 million donation from Toronto philanthropists Marilyn and Charles Baillie to support the Toronto Reference Library’s revitalization, an ongoing program with a $34 million price tag. The Baillies’ donation will go towards the Special Collections Centre, a new reading room set to open in 2013 that will display items related to Canadiana, performance, and documentary art.

Library cuts are on the agenda for debate this afternoon. Check out the liveblog at Torontoist for the latest updates, and keep following Quillblog for more information.


U.S. literary journals thrive with low overhead and dedicated audiences

A couple of weeks ago poet Michael Lista got the attention of the publishing Twitterverse with his National Post essay “Why literary magazines should fold.”

Now, we don’t need another American TV sitcom to point out the differences between our two cultures, but here’s an interesting article about the financial health of U.S. West Coast literary journals. Turns out, boutique publishers like The Threepenny Review, Zoetrope, and McSweeney’s Quarterly are doing just fine these days, but not for the reasons you might think. According to The New York Times:

If literary journals “are poised to do well,” as Laura Cogan, editor of San Francisco-based ZYZZYVA, said, it may be because they share qualities with many successful online ventures: skeletal staffs, low overhead and specialized audiences.

The article suggests journals associated with academic institutions have financially suffered the most over the last couple of years. Not that the successful print publishers are sitting around counting their money bags — they’ve been investing in the online side of their businesses by overhauling websites and promoting online subscriptions. McSweeney’s even hired a digital media director.

But, as the article concludes — and here’s where Canadians can nod in agreement — if these publishers are doing well, it is relative to their notions of success:

“No one has ever been able to make a good living writing or publishing literary fiction,” Stephen Elliott, a writer and founder of The Rumpus, said. “It doesn’t matter that there are exceptions. The rule stands.”

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In the April 2011 issue of Q&Q: Susan Musgrave talks to Lorna Crozier

It’s been more than a decade since the iconic – and iconoclastic – Susan Musgrave published a new collection of poetry. In the April 2011 issue of Q&Q, Musgrave discusses her new collection, Origami Dove (McClelland & Stewart), with fellow B.C. poet Lorna Crozier, whose collection Small Mechanics also appears this spring with M&S. Also in April, a profile of overlooked short story author Clark Blaise, a special report on B.C. publishing, and a feature on the financial struggles facing Canadian literary journals. Plus reviews of new books by Julie Booker, John Furlong, Joe Ollmann, Chester Brown, Nicola Winstanley, Elisa Amado, Mélanie Watt, and more.


On poetry and prose
Two of B.C.’s leading poets – Susan Musgrave and Lorna Crozier – discuss writing, self-doubt, and Al Purdy’s birthday cake

Special report on B.C. publishing
Industry newcomer Randal Macnair brings new life to Oolichan Books; B.C. BookWorld’s Alan Twigg on surviving lean times; New Society carves out a distinctive niche in D&M’s growing eco-book empire; B.C. booksellers find solidarity at this year’s provincial book fair

Rough cuts
A year after the Department of Canadian Heritage slashed funding for small-run periodicals, many venerable literary magazines are struggling to adapt

Clark Blaise’s return to form
An insider’s take on the collapse of H.B. Fenn and Company
Snapshot: Books for Business CEO Sean Neville
Best short stories: Alexander MacLeod on Alice Munro
Cover to cover: Gil Adamson’s Ashland
Guest opinion: Carmine Starnino on rebooting the CanLit canon
Kirstie McLellan Day’s hockey-book hat trick


Up Up Up by Julie Booker
Patriot Hearts: Inside the Olympics That Changed a Country by John Furlong with Gary Mason
Mid-Life by Joe Ollmann
Paying for It by Chester Brown
Touch by Alexi Zentner
Esther: The Remarkable True Story of Esther Wheelwright, Puritan Child, Native Daughter, Mother Superior by Julie Wheelwright
Underground by Anatanas Sileika
PLUS more fiction, non-fiction, and poetry

Cinnamon Boy by Nicola Winstanley; Janice Nadeau, illus.
What Are You Doing? by Elisa Amado; Manuel Monroy, illus.
You’re Finally Here! by Mélanie Watt
Banjo of Destiny by Cary Fagan
PLUS more fiction, non-fiction, and picture books


Cynthia Holz on a writer’s search for inspiration between novels

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Publishing: not always a downer

There’s some funny book stuff floating around the internets today. Lest the trolls be confused or angered by humour, this is indeed an attempt to offer some Friday afternoon levity:

Eye Weekly columnist Sarah Nicole Prickett defends Chapters as her favourite bland non-space to rest without people judging her:

They don’t complain about how many magazines I’ve read for free and possibly ripped things from. They don’t look askance at my taste. Their eyebrows don’t say, “Oh, you’re just getting into Murakami now?” They make no suggestions, having nothing to prove; they work at Chapters. “Are you sure you want The Paris Review?” says absolutely nobody to me. “What about The Believer?” I never feel like I have to buy anything, the way I do everywhere else books are sold, as though upon walking in I’ve been handed a bucket, and now I must scoop out my share of the water to prevent us all from drowning. Not here. This ship will float on.

Those crazy kids at CBC Radio’s Day Six provide us with an audio track of Giller winners reading from Snooki’s debut novel, A Shore Thing:

Linden “Giller Gorilla” MacIntyre is a journalist with CBC’s The Fifth Estate, the winner of eight Gemini Awards, an International Emmy, and the 2009 Giller Prize for his novel, The Bishop’s Man.

Johanna “Skib-WOWW” Skibsrud is the 2010 Giller winner for The Sentimentalists, and the author of several collections of poetry.

The New York Times points to a project by a group of history teachers with an inventive and bizarre way to engage students. They produce music videos for altered versions of their favourite songs that replace the original lyrics with lyrics based on classic books and historical figures. Witness – for serious -  “Jenny From the Block” as Mary, Queen of Scots.


Daily book biz round-up: Amazon’s bombshell, Kafka exposed, and more

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Eva Stachniak poses with a copy of her book, Empress of the Night

Tea and snacks inspired by Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak talks to the audience about the best and worst of Catherine the Great's favourites

Eva Stachniak smiles as she signs a copy of Empress of the Night for a fan

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