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Is Hi the new “Instagram for writers?”

A new Web app called Hi is being touted as “Instagram for writers.”

Conceived by Craig Mod, a writer, designer, and digital publishing entrepreneur based out of San Francisco, the “networked storytelling tool” is designed to share stories attached to specific geographic locations (referred to as “narrative mapping”).

A post starts out as a “Sketch,” which includes a photo, a geo-tag, and up to 20 words describing the moment or place. Each Sketch can then be further developed into an “Extended Moment,” allowing writers to write multiple drafts and longer stories, without the pressures of time or character limits.

In an lengthy essay posted on medium.com, Mod speaks about the “balanced risk” involved in the process of making creative work “publicly visible just enough to raise self-awareness, but not enough to paralyze – establish[ing] a tension required to create well, to create interestingly.”

If readers find a Sketch appealing, they can subscribe to its associated Extended Moment by clicking a “Tell me more” button. Hi stories can be shared, but there is no commenting feature. Stories can be recommended to others and readers can send a one-line “thank-you” note to the author.

Ultimately, Mod hopes that Hi’s ease of use and unobtrusive response system will keep people writing: “Anyone who creates for a living — is creative, has output — knows you need to produce more to get better. There are no shortcuts. The algorithm is painfully simple: Sit in the chair and write, paint, compose. Every. Damn. Day.”

The app is still in beta, but eager writers can register here.

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Andrew Pyper story featured in the inaugural Twitter Fiction Festival

Proving that social media is useful for more than stalking celebrities, the world’s first Twitter Fiction Festival kicks off today.

Until Dec. 2, a dedicated Twitter page will showcase 140-character experimental fiction, including a story from Toronto author Andrew Pyper.

Pyper’s “White House,” a retelling of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw set in the present-day White House, will be featured from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2., 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Look for Pyper’s story under the name Hannah Bly (@whnanny).

 

 

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Poll: what’s your favourite Penguin-Random House merger name?

Penguin House?

As soon as news broke that Penguin and Random House may merge into a mega-publishing house, social media began musing on the would-be company’s new name, with some pretty hilarious results.

Twitter quickly embraced the hashtags #RandomPenguin and #PenguinHouse, and a parody account called @Penguin HouseGo, whose bio claims “I’m in your House. Randomizing your Penguin,” appeared a few hours ago.

Quillblog has collected some favourites from the Twitterverse. Vote for yours, or add your own suggestion below.

 

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Book links roundup: Emily Schultz on The Blondes, Ontario illustrator featured on Batman comic cover, and more

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Book links roundup: Ryan Gosling memes book to be published, social media’s effect on book criticism, and more

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Flash mob targets Windsor bookshop

(Photo: Cash Mob Windsor)

Flash mob, meet the buy local movement. That’s what happened at Juniper Used and Rare Books last Saturday, when more than 50 customers simultaneously descended on the Windsor, Ontario, bookshop.

The shopping spree was organized by Kelly Ouellette and Pat Ryan as part of Cash Mob Windsor, a grassroots consumer activist group dedicated to supporting merchants in the community. Ouellette and Ryan arranged the meeting over social media, and encouraged participants to drop at least $20 each. The book-buying horde doubled the day’s sales at the store, and did so just a couple of hours after owner Roger Wurdemann had unlocked the doors.

In an interview with the Windsor Star, Ouellette said she wanted local retailers “to understand how valued they are.” She added: “If we don’t we’ll lose these people who are truly gems in our city.”

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J.K. Rowling signs deal for an adult novel; Twitter goes hog wild

Five years after finishing life at Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling is back with a new publisher and a book deal for her first adult novel. Little, Brown will publish the untitled novel in the U.S. and in the U.K., and Hachette Book Group Canada will handle Canadian sales and marketing.

Rowling’s best-selling Harry Potter series, published by Bloomsbury in the U.K. and Scholastic in the U.S., was initially published in Canada by Raincoast Books, which enjoyed record-breaking sales until 2010. Canadian editions are now available through Penguin Canada.

In a statement Rowling said:

Although I’ve enjoyed writing it every bit as much, my next book will be very different to the Harry Potter series, which has been published so brilliantly by Bloomsbury and my other publishers around the world. The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry’s success has brought me, and with that new territory it seemed a logical progression to have a new publisher. I am delighted to have a second publishing home in Little, Brown, and a publishing team that will be a great partner in this new phase of my writing life.

Although the release date and details for the new book are unknown, Rowling, who does not have a social media presence, is trending worldwide on Twitter. Here are a few entertaining tweets out of the thousands already posted:

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Spring preview 2012: international books

In the January/February issue, Q&Q looks ahead at the spring season’s new books.

FICTION

Two prolific American literary novelists are set to publish new titles this spring. Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison is back with her 10th novel, Home (Knopf Canada, $25.95 cl., May). Exploring themes of masculinity and belonging, the short novel follows a self-loathing Korean War veteran as he surmounts defeat and finds a place to call home. • Also in May, part-time Toronto resident John Irving returns with his 13th novel, In One Person (Knopf Canada, $34.95 cl.), a tragicomedy narrated by a bisexual protagonist who reflects on life as a boy, a young man, and an adult.

Jack Kerouac’s first novel, The Sea Is My Brother (Da Capo Press/Raincoast, $26.50 cl., March), was written in the 1940s but never published. One of several Kerouac manuscripts that has recently resurfaced, the story follows the divergent fortunes of two sailors and explores an important theme in Kerouac’s later work: rebellion. • A book of little-known stories written by Anton Chekhov at the end of his career is forthcoming from Biblioasis. About Love ($12.95 pa., May), the Russian writer’s only linked collection, is translated by David Helwig and contains illustrations by Seth.

One of the most buzzed about debut novels of the season is Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles (Bond Street Books/Random House, $29.95 cl., June), a unique coming-of-age story about a young girl who wakes up one morning to discover that the rotation of the earth has begun to slow, upending life as she knows it.

Jodi Picoult’s new novel, Lone Wolf (Atria/Simon & Schuster, $32 cl., Feb.), tells the story of two siblings who disagree over the treatment of their comatose father. • Best known for his 2003 novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, British author Mark Haddon returns with The Red House (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., June). The book is narrated by eight characters, all related, who spend a week together in a countryside vacation home.

From the best-selling (co-)author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies comes another new take on an old story. Seth Grahame-Smith’s Unholy Night (Grand Central Publishing/Hachette, $27.99 cl., April) reimagines the personalities of the three kings of the nativity, injecting the well-known Bible tale with thievery, escape, and intrigue. • The author of 12 previous novels, Christopher Moore continues in the surreal, satirical style of Lamb and Fool in his latest book, Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art (William Morrow/HarperCollins, $34.99 cl., March), which follows friends of Vincent van Gogh as they vow to uncover the truth behind the painter’s death. • Neurosurgeon and medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, whose non-fiction books Chasing Life and Cheating Death were New York Times bestsellers, makes his first foray into fiction with Monday Mornings (Grand Central/Hachette, $27.99 cl., March). In the vein of TV medical dramas, the novel follows the daily lives of five surgeons.

From Argentinean writer Liliana Heker comes The End of the Story (Biblioasis, $19.95 pa., April), a novel about Argentina’s Dirty War translated by Andrea Labinger. Set in 1976, the book follows a group of women living against a backdrop of state-sponsored violence. • Waiting for the Monsoon (House of Anansi Press, $24.95 pa., Feb.), by Threes Anna and translated from the Dutch by Barbara Fasting, is about a British woman’s relationship with the Indian tailor to whom she rents a room in her crumbling mansion.

Australian author Elliot Perlman’s third novel, The Street Sweeper (Bond Street Books/Random House, $32.95 cl., Jan.), explores the unlikely intersection of two characters’ lives: a history professor whose career and relationship are unravelling, and a black man from the Bronx who struggles to reintegrate after serving a prison term for a crime he didn’t commit.

MYSTERY, CRIME, AND FANTASY

Stephen King’s latest novel, The Wind Through the Keyhole (Scribner/S&S, $29.99 cl.), is set to publish in April. The eighth book in the Dark Tower series – chronologically set between volumes four and five – tells the story of gunslinger Roland Deschain’s first quest.Camilla Läckberg is a household name in her native Sweden. In The Drowning (HarperCollins, $19.99 pa., April), translated by Tiina Nunnally, a man is found murdered and frozen beneath the ice. After discovering a similar incident, police realize the killings are connected and look into each victim’s past for clues. • Best-selling psychological suspense writer Brian Freeman returns with Spilled Blood (Sterling/Canadian Manda Group, $29.95 cl., May), the story of two Minnesota towns locked in a violent feud over the carcinogenic waste one town’s research corporation is releasing into the other community.

U.K. writer Benjamin Wood, who completed a master’s degree in creative writing at the University of British Columbia, is set to publish his debut mystery novel. In The Bellwether Revivals (McClelland & Stewart, $29.99 cl., March), bodies turn up near an elegant Cambridge house, and the young narrator and his lover become entangled in the search for the villain. • The 500 (Little, Brown/Hachette, $28.99 cl., June), a first novel from Matthew Quirk that is in development as a feature film, follows a young lawyer at a powerful Washington, D.C., consulting firm as he is pursued by two of the world’s most dangerous men. • A New York family is involved in a financial scandal in lawyer Cristina Alger’s debut thriller, The Darlings (Penguin, $28.50 cl., Feb.).

In Sara Paretsky’s latest crime thriller, Breakdown (G.P. Putnam and Sons/Penguin, $28.50 cl., Jan.), girls from some of Chicago’s most powerful families stumble upon a corpse in an abandoned cemetery. Detective V.I. Warshawski investigates childhood secrets to get to the bottom of the killing. • In Cloudland (St. Martin’s/Raincoast, $28.99 cl., March), the latest crime novel from Joseph Olshan, a newspaper reporter gets involved with the search for a serial killer after discovering a murder victim’s body. Meanwhile, a failed love affair surfaces and acquaintances emerge as suspects.

BIOGRAPHY AND MEMOIR

Sally Bedell Smith’s biography, Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch (Random House, $34 cl., Jan.), chronicles the public persona and private life of the reigning English monarch, offering a close-up view of her routines and relationships. • In Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World (HarperCollins, $24.99 cl., Jan.), biographer Simon Callow explores the Victorian novelist’s status as an early celebrity and his little-known love of the stage.

Iconic American singer-songwriter Carole King is set to publish a memoir, A Natural Woman (Grand Central/Hachette, $29.99 cl., April). Chronicling King’s early years, her musical career, and her present-day activism, the book features behind-the-scenes concert photographs.

Revolution 2.0 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Thomas Allen & Son, $29.95 cl., Jan.) is former Google executive Wael Ghonim’s first-hand account of his capture and interrogation in Cairo during the Arab Spring protests. The memoir also looks at how social media helped foment revolution. • Norwegian writer Halfdan W. Freihow reflects on his attempts to help his son, who has autism, make sense of the world in Somewhere Over the Sea (Anansi, $14.95 pa., June), translated by Robert Ferguson with a foreword by The Boy in the Moon author Ian Brown.

What Do You Want to Do Before You Die? (Artisan/Thomas Allen, $23.95 cl., April) follows four twentysomethings during their journey to complete a 100-item bucket list. Five years into their quest, Ben Nemtin, Dave Lingwood, Duncan Penn, and Jonnie Penn share what they’ve accomplished.

POETRY

Political activist, writer, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo has become a symbol of the struggle for human rights in China. His collection June Fourth Elegies (Graywolf/D&M Publishers, $27.50 cl., April), translated by Jeffrey Yang, honours the memory of fellow protesters in the Tiananmen Square massacre.

GRAPHICA

Following his internationally acclaimed debut, The Wrong Place, Belgian graphic novelist Brecht Evens is back with The Making Of (Drawn & Quarterly, $27.95 pa., May). Using watercolour images and deadpan humour, the book details the misadventures of an honoured guest at a country art festival. • Tom Gauld reimagines a familiar Bible story in Goliath (D&Q, $19.95 cl., Feb.). Focusing on the reluctant fighter, the graphic novel pairs minimalist drawings and witty prose. • In My Friend Dahmer (Abrams/Manda, $27.95 cl., March), cartoonist John “Derf” Backderf creates a haunting, intimate portrait of Jeffrey Dahmer, a high school friend who later became the notorious American serial killer.

POLITICS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS

New York Times Washington correspondent Jodi Kantor invites readers on a tour of the White House in The Obamas (Little, Brown/Hachette, $32.99 cl., Jan.), a detailed look at the family’s attempts to lead a normal life while juggling public roles and responsibilities. • The decade-long search for Osama bin Laden is the subject of CNN national security analyst and Holy War, Inc. author Peter L. Bergen’s new book, Manhunt (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., May). • In Newstainment: Why the News Is Bad for You (Picador/Raincoast, $18.50 pa., June), Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll argue that brief, up-to-the-moment bulletins are revolutionizing news media but failing political discourse.

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid confronts crucial questions about U.S. foreign policy in Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (Viking, $28.50 cl., March). A follow-up to the acclaimed Descent into Chaos, Rashid’s latest explores solutions for achieving stability in the war-torn region. • In Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Shari’a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia to the Streets of the Modern Muslim World (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/D&M Publishers, $31 cl., April), U.K. human rights lawyer Sadakat Kadri takes an historical approach to explaining the evolution and implications of Islamic law.

An economics historian, British MP, and son of African immigrants, Kwasi Kwarteng explores the global reverberations of colonial history in Ghosts of Empire: Britain’s Legacies in the Modern World (Public Affairs/Raincoast, $34.50 cl., Feb.).

HISTORY

Long before the earthquake that ravaged Haiti in 2010, the country had a history of poverty and corruption. In Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (Henry Holt and Company/Raincoast, $29 cl., Jan.), Laurent Dubois traces the Caribbean nation’s troubles back to the 1804 slave revolt and sheds light on the country’s overlooked successes. • Jenny Balfour-Paul probes the roots of the world’s oldest dye in Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans (Firefly Books, $39.95 pa., Jan.). Covering the history, science, and cultural significance of indigo dye, the full-colour book also explores its use in sustainable development initiatives.

LIFESTYLE, SCIENCE, AND SELF-HELP

Following his quests to read the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover (The Know-It-All) and live according to a literal interpretation of the Bible (The Year of Living Biblically), A.J. Jacobs is back with another experiment. Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection (S&S, $29.99 cl., April) follows his efforts to become the healthiest man in the world. • Tae kwon do master Jim Langlas discusses seven principles of the martial art that also build character in Heart of a Warrior: 7 Ancient Secrets to a Great Life (Free Spirit/Georgetown, $17.50 pa., April). • For fans of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret comes another guide to living a fulfilling life. The Tools (Random House Canada, $29.95 cl., June), by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels, identifies and offers solutions to four common barriers that hold people back.

FOOD AND DRINK

First Lady Michelle Obama argues for the need to improve access to healthy, affordable food in her first book, American Grown: How the White House Kitchen Garden Inspires Families, Schools, and Communities (Crown/Random House, $34 cl., April.). • Food writer (and son of Baskin-Robbins founder) John Robbins goes undercover in No Happy Cows: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Food Revolution (Conari Press/Georgetown, $18.95 pa., March) to investigate the feedlots and slaughterhouses that satisfy modern appetites. • In The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier (Morrow/HarperCollins, $38.99 cl., March), best-selling author, blogger, and ranch wife Ree Drummond shares easy country cooking recipes.

The fine print: Q&Q’s spring preview covers books published between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2012. All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. • Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.

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Two iconic Toronto bookstores hit hard times

Two of Toronto’s longstanding independent bookstores will face major changes in 2012.

This morning, Sue Houghting, owner of The Book Mark in the city’s Kingsway neighbourhood, announced she will close shop after 46 years in business. In a press release, Houghting cites an “unaffordable rent increase and high property taxes” as factors that have made the bookshop, believed to be Toronto’s oldest surviving indie, unsustainable. Houghting is aiming to shut down by Jan. 21, “but if stock dwindles before that we will close earlier,” she says.

News of The Book Mark’s demise follows reports that Glad Day Bookshop, the city’s iconic LGBT bookseller, is seeking new ownership. Last week, owner John Scythes told the Toronto Star he’s hoping to find a buyer within his customer base before opening the sale up to the general public.

Glad Day, the world’s oldest existing gay and lesbian bookshop, has struggled financially throughout most of its 42 years. A 2010 social media campaign by store staff brought its money problems to public attention. At the time, co-manager Sholem Krishtalka chalked them up to a steady decline in book sales, combined with significant legal fees left over from a decades-long censorship battle with the Ontario Film Review Board.

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Book links round-up: social media and the slush pile, e-book charts take off, and more

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Book Pictures

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Steve Artelle

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Hall of Honourers

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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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