Howard Green up for the NBBA

Thrilling news! Railroader by Howard Green is up for the National Business Book Award. I edited this book for Page Two, and the whole team couldn’t be prouder.

Here’s the citation:

Green provides a detailed account of a legendary and controversial business leader who played a pivotal role in the North American rail sector as CEO of four railways (including CN and CP) over several decades. He captures the personality of Harrison and his passion for railroads and enhancing their efficiency. In telling Harrison’s story, Green edges beyond corporate biography and into the clubby nature of Canadian business, the tight circles of influence, and the intersection of the public and private sectors.

Things Are Good Now

Things are great now! Djamila Ibrahim’s debut short-story collection, Things Are Good Now, is up for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award. I edited this book for House of Anansi Press.

Here’s the citation:

Situated at the intersection of the political and the personal, the moving stories in Things Are Good Now tell of immigrants and refugees, freedom fighters, and civil servants. The characters in Djamila Ibrahim’s collection are grasping for a better future amidst the chaos of displacement and the burden of memory. Fiercely emotional and richly rendered, Things are Good Now highlights our universal need to belong, our struggle to come to terms with our pasts, and the complexity and intensity of human connection. A necessary and captivating read.

Write without a plan

In their book Rework, Basecamp co-founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson write about the pointlessness of having a long-term business plan. “There are just too many factors that are out of your hands,” they say. “Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control.”

I think of outlines—especially detailed outlines—as business plans for your book. The trouble is that you write them before you start writing the book, when you have the least information about how the writing will actually go and what new discoveries you will make along the way. A lot of authors write in order to learn what they know; sticking to an outline can shut you off from realizing what you’re actually trying to say, or prevent you from the necessity of changing your mind.

Continue reading “Write without a plan”

Arborium Symposium

It was a total pleasure to speak about my Tracking Giants project at the PoCo Heritage Museum and Archives’ Arborium Symposium on Saturday. The symposium accompanies the current natural history exhibit, The Secret Life of Trees. I spoke about searching for big trees, and the challenges of preserving these Champions. Thanks to the organizers!

Principles for writers

In a recent episode of her podcast, Hurry Slowly, Jocelyn K. Glei examines the difference between rules and principles. She sees rules as “a narrowly circumscribed set of actions for how you can accomplish a certain thing,” whereas “principles are broadly defined values or ideas that you believe in that govern your behaviour and actions.” She regards rules as “externally motivated” and principles as “internally motivated.”

Using the example of exercise, Glei shows how the rules can quickly break down when faced with change. If you commit to going to the gym a certain number of times per week in order to lose a set amount of weight—establishing a rule for yourself—and then life intervenes (illness, injury, work), have you broken the rule and thus failed your exercise goal? A guiding conviction to move more in order to “be in your body” and feel healthier would be more of a principle. So what if you don’t make it to the gym? Go for a walk instead, or dance in your kitchen.

I really like Glei’s idea, as it feels less stressful and easier to adhere to principles. But I disagree that rules are “externally motivated,” for when I set a rule it feels like it’s coming from my very core and fires me up…before burning me out. When I’m trying to finish a project or work through a problem, I drop into rule-setting mode. I must be up at 5 am to work. I cannot buy a latte until I pay off my debt. But rules present only an illusion of control, they feel too constraining, and they really do collapse when circumstances change—say, I’m experiencing insomnia and need the extra sleep, or my mom is in town and we’re going out for coffee. Plus, I spend my days resisting rules, so it seems illogical to invite them into my life in order to “improve” it.

I’m curious about applying this idea of rules vs. principles to writing and the creative process.

Continue reading “Principles for writers”

Fishing for readers

I’m always angling for books about “simple living.” I’ve read numerous approaches over the years—books on minimalism, “volunteer simplicity,” Scandinavian interiors, monasticism, and yes “sparking joy.”

I recently read a book on the simplicity inherent in fly fishing using tenkara: a telescoping bamboo pole, line, and fly. I don’t have any interest in learning to fish, but I was drawn to the sparseness and immediacy of the whole operation—a lightweight rod, no reel, appropriate bait. Tenkara emphasizes technique over equipment, and “reading” the setting, thus improving your odds of catching fish.

Simple Fly Fishing, written by the “O’Dell Creek Gang” (Patagonia, Inc. founder and owner Yvon Chouinard, Mauro Mazzo, and Craig Mathews), contains advice on slimming down your approach to catching fish, as well as some nuggets on simplifying your life. Their bare-bones approach also pertains to “hooking” your audience. Continue reading “Fishing for readers”

BC Book Prizes

Happy news!

Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris is a finalist for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize. I acquired and edited this book for Knopf Canada. It also won the RBC Taylor Prize.

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph is a finalist for the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award. I managed this project for Page Two. It has been a national bestseller, and BC bestseller since it went on sale in April 2018.

My first job in publishing was managing the Adopt a Library program for the BC Book Prizes, so these awards are near and dear. The winners will be announced May 11, 2019.