Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

dhiggins's blog

Sleeping With The Enemy

In one of Spike Lee's most enduring films, Do The Right Thing, one of the questions at the end of the film is whether Mookie 'does the right thing' when he throws the garbage can through the window, because he feels the black customers of Sal's Pizzeria are being continually disrespected. Every day we are given choices to do what's right or wrong based on our own morality that might be shaped by religion, culture, parenting, societal codes and the like. I grew up in the black church - like most Afro-Caribbean youth, I was forced to go, and some of the time that should've been spent in the pews were spent mastering Space Invaders and Pac Man at the local bodega. But I digress.

Hip Hop World - The Cookies!

If my third book Hip Hop World does not zoom to the top of the New York Times bestseller lists in a Gladwellian fashion, or get there glacially like Lawrence (Hill), I will pull a 50 Cent routine and just grow the brand. Hip Hop World condoms, Hip Hop World - the movie, Vitamin Water and clothing line that I can hustle on College Street where the neo-hipsters dwell. My wife and kids have already created the cookies...a dozen for $3.99. Hit up my publisher for more details!

Cover Stories & Cash Registers...

So, last week I got my first full cover story for Hip Hop World in Share newspaper, Canada's largest ethnic newspaper. I'd gotten a few great cover blurbs accompanied by my headshot appearing on the cover of periodicals ranging from the Toronto Star to York University's Excalibur, but this one had my sole big phat mug all over it. What does this mean? In a world that's slightly less digital, I should be able to parlay this major interest into cash register till clicks. And then zoom to the top of bestseller lists, right? Maybe. Well, not so fast. It really all depends on a number of variable. Research shows that almost 3/4's of newsstand purchasers buy magazines because of an article highlighted on the cover. But for free news weeklies like Share, I have no idea what this all means.

Synchronicity and Emmanuel Jal

If you were a young man left to die, starving in a remote land, after having been forced to commit atrocities and killings against total strangers, what would you do? When i write "starving", i mean quite literally (haven't eaten in days), with little to no hope in sight. Well, listening to former Sudanese child soldier and hip hop artist Emmanuel Jal speak his piece about being in this precise scenario, if it don't move you to tears, it would move you to action. You see, Emmanuel Jal and my paths have crossed a few times over the past six months. Total synchronicity happening here. I interviewed Jal in my new book Hip Hop World, to get his spin on the rap scene in Africa, and for him to provide tips to my readership on how to become better raptivists.

The Lawrence Hill of Hip Hop

I just read a story about Lawrence Hill's Book of Negroe's bestseller which stipulates that he "broke the publishing industry’s rule that black novelists don’t sell". That is some extremely corny prose. Black novelists in Canada don't even get a fair shot to get published, much less sell. That's why I'm going to set up an imprint in a few years, and disprove much of this nonsense being written by this particular brand of out-of-touch, non black Baby Boomer journalist.

Long Pen (or Bust)

It's time for me (and you, Joe/Josephine Author) to face facts. If you can't have some Long Pen activity happening, I'm sorry, but you just haven't made it. Your not quite there. Imagine the thrill of being able to sign books from your own preferred locale, for me that would be the confines of my comfy new Ikea bed set. Or being able to interact with your readership and fans while watching the Leafs lose (again). I've used Skype a number of times, so this is like the literary equivalent I s`pose. I got to hang with Atwood for a few minutes at the Word On The Street festival (PEEP THE ATTACHED PIC). She was signing right next to me, no Long Pen business there. Hers was the line that ran around the block.

If We Must Die

With every successive media opp, generally the more seasoned journalists who are known to go deep, like Jacque Cousteau, always ask me a question about "what drives me" or "what's my inspiration" and I'll always bring them back, way back to the country of my parents birth. Jamaica is a country of innovation and speed, urgency and bite. And word, sound, power. So, Miss Lou made it be known to the world that patois is not slang, but "nation language" to be recognized by non-Jamaicans and academics alike. Jamaica is the land of runaway slaves (Maroons) who formed their own communities and preserve African languages. Jamaica is the land of Marcus Garvey, an activist who Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X studied to sketch out their own theorems. Jamaica is Rastafari.

Hip Hop Literati

The most hyper literate people I know are emcee's, cats who walk around with rhyming dictionaries and thesaurus' in their backpacks, who's dense wordplay is littered with literary devices galore, rife with use of metaphor, similes and iambic pentameters. Dayum, the fact that I wax on Nietzsche and Nas in the same breath, oftentimes muse on Shakespeare and Snoop Dogg, and can write essays linking T.S Eliot to Missy Elliott, does have the tendency to leave the non-believers mystified. But they shouldn't be. It's a Hip Hop World, and they are just living in it.

You want some purposeful Web 2.0 styled prose? Then go out and buy my new book Hip Hop World. You want rhymes? I got plenty of those too (today co-supplied and signed by Mos Def).

Searching For Ellison, While Others Are Still Looking For Langston (and Richard Wright too)

I can honestly say I used to be annoyed at record company copywriters and marketing staffers who'd instantly suggest that a new record by Joe Recently Discovered Canadian Rocker carried traces of Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan and Peter Tosh, while simultaneously being so Beethoven. Certainly, in order to stick any pop culture produce in a section of genre that befits said product means that some kind of categorization might be necessary - either that or your new book can get dumped into the section that carries Croatian gypsy avant garde beat poetry produced in the 19th century.

Dalton Digital (In An Analog Industry?)

I carry more than a few sobriquet's (or nom de plumes). Blame it on hip hop. My Daltpak Chopra alias disseminates Big Ideas and delivers streetcorner spirituality to all who'll listen. Pure unaDalterated word of mouth transmissions. Usain Dalt, named after the famed Jamaican world record sprinter, comes from me having this innate ability to speed through most projects (excluding writing books, of course) at the speed of, well, Usain Bolt! Then there's Dalton Digital. This web-inspired alter ego of mine, is like the Andre 3000 of the literary world. He zigs when the rest of the literary world zags. And he's not as interested in the very analog aspects of the publishing industry. I transmit info at the near speed of light, and expect my ramblings to do the same. In book form. Or not.

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