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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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Book links roundup: John Grisham’s $6 million regret, the first edible cookbook, and more

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Publishing at the polls: Arts and culture platforms

Tonight is the first televised leadership debate of the federal election. It’s unlikely arts and culture will be mentioned, so here’s a primer on how all parties (including the Green Party) stand on issues that impact the publishing industry. Here’s a summary of points, taken directly from each platform:

Bloc Québécois

  • Ensure that the federal government increases its support for our culture and contributes to its development

Conservative Party

  • We will provide ongoing support for the Canada Periodical Fund to support the distribution of publications to Canadians, while providing long-term, stable program funding
  • A Stephen Harper-led majority Government will also reintroduce and pass the Copyright Modernization Act, a key pillar in our commitment to make Canada a leader in the global digital economy. This balanced, common-sense legislation recognizes the practical priorities of teachers, students, artists, families, and technology companies, among others, while aligning Canada with international standards. It respects both the rights of creators and the interests of consumers. It will ensure that Canada’s copyright law will be responsive in a fast-changing digital world, while protecting and creating jobs, promoting innovation, and attracting investment to Canada

Green Party

  • Increase funding to all of Canada’s arts and culture organizations including The Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada, orchestras, theatres and publishers. The goal will be to make increases in this sector commensurate with increases in support over the years for other sectors of the economy such as transport, the auto industry, health care, and the oil and gas industry
  • Restore and improve arm’s length principles in the governance of arts and cultural institutions and agencies under the federal jurisdiction.  In keeping with such a position, we believe that the heads of Canada’s cultural organizations such as the CRTC, Canada Council, CBC, and Telefilm Canada should not be appointed by the political party in power but by an arm’s length committee made up of competent people representative of the various diverse stakeholders in Canadian society
  • Increase support for community arts programs and facilities across Canada by establishing stable base-funding at a set percentage of the federal budget
  • Equalize federal funding for Arts and Culture among provinces, territories, and municipalities to make it consistent with the provinces and municipalities that have the highest current standards
  • Provide incentives to all provinces and territories to restore and improve arts and culture components to schools and extra-curricular activities not only in urban but also in rural areas
  • Extend income tax relief and incentives to artists (on the very successful models established by Ireland and the city of Berlin).  Doing so will: encourage artists to settle in Canada and build businesses here; result in other (usually) white collar “clean” industries that follow the arts jobs and dollars; help to provide meaningful jobs to university and college graduates;enrich schools and their offerings thereby attracting immigrants to settle in rural areas; revitalize and discover talent in communities where traditional industries are declining and young people are leaving
  • Follow and implement recommendations of Canadian Conference of the Arts in order to enable artists to access various social programs including Employment Insurance, Worker’s Compensation, and Canada Pension Plan
  • Change the Canada Revenue Act to allow arts and culture workers to benefit from a tax averaging plan that will take into account the fact that lean years often precede and follow the good year when a show is produced, a book is published and a grant or a prize is won
  • Protect Canada’s cultural identity during trade negotiations

Liberal Party

  • The Canada Council for the Arts is a major force in supporting working artists. A Liberal government will significantly increase support for Canadian artists and creators by doubling the annual budget of the Canada Council for the Arts, from $180 million to $360 million over the next four years
  • A Liberal government will also restore the PromArt and Trade Routes cultural promotion programs, increasing their funding to $25 million. These programs play an important role in bringing Canadian culture to the world and increasing our exports. The new annual funding will help to create a domestic tours program as well
  • Digital technology offers many new opportunities, but enjoying content without compensating its creators shouldn’t be among them. At the same time, consumers should have freedom for personal use of digital content they rightfully possess. Liberals have worked to pass effective copyright legislation, including a private copying compensation fund instead of any new tax on consumers

NDP

  • We will promote the production and broadcast of Canadian content on Canadian television and in Canadian theatres, and will strongly support Canada’s performing arts, cultural institutions, and creators
  • We will ensure Canadian TV and telecom networks remain Canadian-owned by maintaining effective regulations on foreign ownership
  • We will increase public funding for the Canada Council and implement tax averaging for artists and cultural workers
  • We will explore the creation of a new international arts touring fund to replace the now-defunct Trade Routes and PromArt programs
  • We will develop a digital online culture service to broaden access to Canadian content
  • We will introduce a bill on copyright reform to ensure that Canada complies with its international treaty obligations, while balancing consumers’ and creators’ rights

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U.K. poets band together to protest cuts

It’s National Poetry Month here in Canada, an annual initiative by the League of Canadian Poets to bring public attention to poetry. But across the Atlantic, the beginning of April more closely resembles T.S. Eliot’s characterization as “the cruellest month.” On March 30, Arts Council England (ACE) announced cuts to over 200 arts organizations, including the Poetry Book Society, which Eliot himself established in 1953. Responding to the cut in funding, British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy said that it was “a national shame and a scandal” that “goes beyond shocking and touches the realms of the disgusting.”

In response to the denial of funding for the Poetry Book Society, a letter of protest has been signed by more than 100 poets. The Poetry Book Society claims it will have to shut down entirely if the proposed cuts kick in as of April 2012.

This reaction is to some extent predictable; what is less predictable is the reaction in opposition to proposed funding for British publisher Faber. In light of cuts to the Poetry Book Society and certain smaller publishers, the decision to give money to a relatively well-off publisher such as Faber has ruffled some feathers. From the Guardian:

Former Faber director Desmond Clarke, also a former chair of the board at the Poetry Book Society, said he found ACE’s decision to favour the publisher over the Poetry Book Society “extraordinary.”

“As a commercially profitable publisher, Faber is more than capable of investing in a small number of poets each year,” he said. “The reality is that Faber has made enormous amounts of money by publishing poetry, and out of the royalties of Cats which has provided it with many millions over the years.” T.S. Eliot, author of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which inspired the musical, left his literary estate to Faber.

Clarke added: “If I were still a director of Faber I would actually be embarrassed that we should take money when the Poetry Book Society has lost funding.”

The broader picture shows that literature is actually the biggest winner in ACE’s new budget, seeing a 10 per cent increase in funding, while all other cultural arenas experience a net loss. The same article quotes Rachel Feldberg, director of the Ilkley Literature Festival (one of the organizations that will benefit from ACE’s allocation of funds) as feeling “torn” between her own elation and sadness for those who lost out:

“It’s exciting for us but for our colleagues the outlook may be bleak,” she said. The increased funding will enable the festival to continue and expand projects including work with young people in Leeds and Bradford schools.

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New online writing community geared toward teens

Parents and educators spend a lot of time, and spill a lot of ink, debating how to get teenagers interested in reading. Anyone who stops to think about the phenomenal success of Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight series will realize this is a somewhat odd debate to be having: teenagers are already reading (although perhaps not the kind of books that parents and educators might prefer).

Jacob Lewis, a former managing editor at The New Yorker, and Dana Goodyear, a staff writer at the magazine, seem to understand this. Lewis and Goodyear have teamed up to create Figment.com, an online community where young readers and writers can connect and submit their own fiction, poetry, even cell-phone novels.

From The New York Times:

The idea for Figment emerged from a very 21st-century invention, the cellphone novel, which arrived in the United States around 2008. That December, Ms. Goodyear wrote a 6,000-word article for The New Yorker about young Japanese women who had been busy composing fiction on their mobile phones. In the article she declared it “the first literary genre to emerge from the cellular age.”

Figment is an attempt to import that idea to the United States and expand on it. Mr. Lewis, who was out of a job after Portfolio, the Condé Nast magazine, was shuttered last year, teamed up with Ms. Goodyear, and the two worked with schools, libraries, and literary organizations across the country to recruit several hundred teenagers who were willing to participate in a prototype, which went online in a test version in June.

The Beta version of the site is up now. It features new writing from Blake Nelson, author of the acclaimed YA novel Girl, as well as contests, reviews, and user-generated content.

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Scott Griffin brings poetry into Canadian schools

Canadian literary benefactor Scott Griffin is taking his passion for poetry – in particular, the live recitation of poetry – into schools across Canada with a new bilingual recitation contest that will award $10,000 to students and school libraries.

Griffin announced the initiative, known as Poetry in Voice, at a press conference in Toronto on Tuesday. A pilot program is currently underway at a dozen Ontario high schools, and the plan is to expand to Quebec in 2011–12 and across the country in 2012–13.

Griffin, who recites a favourite poem from memory at each annual Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist announcement, spoke of the importance of recitation in discovering poetry. “The best way to know a poem short of writing it is to memorize it,” he said. “It’s amazing how different emotional settings or scenes will resurrect that particular poem because it strikes exactly what you’re experiencing at the time.”

Griffin wants to change the negative attitude many people have toward the rote memorization of poetry. “We hope this program … will excite students to want to memorize [poetry], and then they will discover the value of the poem,” he said.

Students participating in the pilot program can choose three poems from an online anthology that currently comprises more than 100 English-language and 25 French-language poems in the public domain, as selected by Poetry in Voice director Damian Rogers (author of the collection Paper Radio, published by ECW Press) and three-time Governor General’s Literary Award–winning poet Pierre Nepveu.

According to Rogers, the contest will serve as a platform for bringing Canadian literature and contemporary poets into schools. “I want students to make the connection that poetry is part of the Canadian cultural landscape across the country,” said Rogers, who added that the group is currently in the process of securing rights to contemporary and Canadian poems.

Competing students will be judged according to a variety of criteria, including physical presence, voice and articulation, accuracy, and dramatization. Griffin says students who choose to recite at least one poem in their non-native tongue will have a slight advantage over other competitors.

The province-wide finalists will face off on April 12 at Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre, with the winning student receiving $5,000, plus an additional $2,500 for the student’s school library. The runner-up will receive $1,000 (plus $500 for the library), while the third-place student will receive $500 (plus $500 for the library).

In addition to the $10,000 earmarked for the Poetry in Voice program, the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry will hand out $200,000 to the nominees of the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize.

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Should writers be paying closer attention to the copyright bill?

There’s a lot of talk about Bill C-32, the government’s proposed amendment to the Copyright Act. Most of the discussion has focused on consumer rights. Not many writers have weighed in, perhaps because the word copyright seems tantamount to saying thorazine or income tax or let’s watch great aunt Irma’s vacation slides.

The bill contains a new educational exemption for fair dealing that could allow teachers to copy and distribute materials without compensating creators. Given the fact that annual public lending right cheques and other collective licensing schemes can sometimes provide more income than royalty pay-outs, authors should take note. But as always, it’s hard to parse what’s real, and what’s hyperbole. (Full details on the bill, provided you’re fully caffeinated, can be found here.)

Nino Ricci fills this void today in The Globe and Mail with a piece claiming that Canadians need to get angry, because should the bill pass, writers and publishers are going down.

Imagine if a government tried to reduce its education budget by requiring the makers of blackboards to provide them for free. Far from getting free blackboards, schools would soon find themselves with no blackboards at all, since every blackboard maker would have had to close up shop.

As far-fetched as this scenario seems, it is exactly what the government proposes in a new bill to reform the Copyright Act. Bill C-32, now making its way through Parliament, has a clause that will allow the free use of copyrighted material for “educational” purposes.

Many readers have commented that Ricci’s article is far-fetched and lacking nuance. But again, few of the opinions are coming from working writers. It would be useful to hear further perspectives, and not just from tech-celebs or pundits, but everyday working writers who represent the majority.

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Daily book biz round-up: new Oprah pick coming; money for Ontario textbooks?; and more

Today’s book news:

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Thursday’s links: Wylie bypasses publishers; McArthur scolds Alexis; and Cronenberg bares all

A smattering of links for you:

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Super Thursday in Britain, and what U.S., U.K. publishers will be taking to Frankfurt

Americans have “Black Friday,” the Friday after Thanksgiving, which is the start of the Christmas shopping fiasco season, and which can, on occasion, lead to actual loss of life. It’s hard to imagine book buyers trampling store employees to death to get their hands on the new Audrey Niffenegger title, but British retailers are boning up for what they’re calling “Super Thursday” this Oct. 1, when a staggering 800 titles will publish in advance of the Christmas selling season.

With the months between October and December accounting for anywhere from 30% to 40% of annual sales, publishers obviously have a lot invested in the books that will drop this week. But one wonders how anyone hopes to break out of the pack with so many titles appearing on store shelves simultaneously. From the Guardian:

“It’s nice to have a day that feels quite special, because it is a rare title that is truly big enough to be a publishing event in itself,” says Julia Kingsford, head of marketing at bookseller Foyles. “But the inevitablility, with 800 books coming out on this one day, is that there will be things that are missed. There are an awful lot of books published, and not everything can be number one.”

Of course, British publishers can breathe (somewhat) easier knowing that the behemoth blockbuster of the fall, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, has already dropped, so they’ll only have the ripple effects of its publication to deal with. Still, with new books from Terry Pratchett, Kate Mosse, Ozzy Osborne, and Stieg Larsson among those set to appear on Thursday, it’s a tight field.

Meanwhile, publishers in both the U.S. and Britain are gearing up for that other fall ritual: the Frankfurt Book Fair. Publisher’s Weekly gives a rundown of some of the big titles that reps will be taking with them to the annual fair, and it’s another cornucopia of big names and potential blockbusters. Some highlights:

  • Imperial Bedrooms, Bret Easton Ellis’s sequel to Less than Zero
  • 1Q84, Haruki Murakami’s doorstopper of a novel
  • The Living Dead, zombie maestro George A. Romero’s first novel
  • Stones into Schools, Greg Mortenson’s follow-up to the best-selling Three Cups of Tea
  • Insatiable, a modern-day sequel to Dracula by chick-lit mainstay Meg Cabot
  • Horns, by best-selling Stephen King progeny Joe Hill
  • The Memory, an adult novel from “Sisterpants” author Ann Brashares
  • Committed, the new book from Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat, Pray, Love fame
  • The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, a typically uncontroversial novel from Philip Pullman
  • Revenge, the fiction debut from Sharon Osbourne (what’s good for the goose…)
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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

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Lesley Strutt, Dean Steadman, Amanda Earl, Alastair Larwill and Frances Boyle

Frances Boyle, Dean Steadman, Lesley Strutt and Alastair Larwill

Amanda Earl

Jewel of the Thames launch

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