Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Dalton Higgins

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Dalton Higgins is a music programmer, pop culture critic, author, broadcaster and journalist. He is also Canada’s foremost expert on hip hop culture. His latest book is Hip Hop World, published by Groundwood Books/House of Anansi. He is also the co-author of two books, Hip Hop (Thomson Nelson) and Much Master T: A VJ’s Journey (ECW Press). His work has been referenced in many popular culture essays and has been cited in influential urban culture books such as Erykah Badu: The First Lady of Neo Soul (Sanctuary Publishing). As a print journalist, Dalton is a Canadian National Magazine Award recipient, and his articles have appeared in esteemed print and online mediums in the United States (Vibe, the Source, Urb, amazon.com) and Canada (Saturday Night, Now Magazine, Toronto Star, Quill & Quire and many others). As a broadcaster, Dalton has hosted his own TV show, and has appeared as a pundit on every major Canadian network, from waxing about Barack Obama on CTV’s Canada AM, and providing election coverage on CBC Radio One’s Metro Morning, to debating legal issues on CTV Newsnet’s The Verdict, musing on fatherhood activism on TVO to ruminating on black culture on OMNI TV.

Visit his blog at http://daltonhiggins.wordpress.com/.
Send your questions and comments for Dalton to writer@openbooktoronto.com.

Ten Questions with Dalton Higgins

Open Book: Toronto:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

Hip Hop World

By Dalton Higgins

Hip hop is arguably the predominant global youth subculture of this generation. Artists around the world have taken hip hop's blueprint and fused it with their own music, language, dance rituals and art to create something new and innovative to serve their local region's needs.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Hey Writer, Who’s Your Target Audience?

Marketing meetings. Sponsorship confabs. Who doesn’t love them? Outside of providing opportunities for you to figure out some new ways to spread the good word about your product (i.e. book) and generate revenue, these gatherings should also be treated like a point blank opportunity to advance your career pursuits as an author.

What Does Diversity in Book Publishing Mean To You?

In the literary scene and demographic that I occupy (one that is not old or homogenous but is digitally-inspired) there has been great buzz — accompanied by RTs, re-posts and Facebook debates — over Walter Dean Myers’ spread in the New York Times. The story spelled out some startling, but not altogether surprising facts, about diversity in children’s books.

Are You Getting More Reading Done At Home, On The TTC or On The Toilet?

Wow, that biography Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove, penned by The Roots quick-handed drummer is a great piece of music memoir writing. So today I’d like to graciously thank the management and staff at The Bookstore (aka Chapters Indigo) for freeing up them Big Comfy Couches for a brotha to read the book on. Next up on my in-store reading list is Autobiography by Morrissey. I hope it’s a good read; that he says some truly irritating yet profound things; and that I can find a suitable chair in the store – maybe with a foot rest – to get through all 464 pages.

Why Fordmania Has Got Me Thinking Ebooks

We have Generation Next to thank — not browbeat — for changing the publishing game, for good. Despite many publishing business pundits spending much of their air time and column space reminiscing of a past paradise, when they could rent videos at Blockbuster and not be forced to consider the ramifications of that new condo development around the block, I never knew the day would come when the 24-hour-news cycle would begin to play such a large role in how publishers prep new titles.

Remainder Bins: Literary Flotsam, Jetsam or Gold?

Honestly, some of the finest books I own have cost me little to nothing. For example, I just copped rapper Jay Z’s memoir Decoded for eight bucks. I’ve seen some local retailers try to sell this biography of everyone’s favourite ex-drug-dealer- cum-multimillionaire for up to 30 bones. For me, an eight dollar price point for anything Hova equals Buy Any Means Necessary.

Are You Spending More Time On Pinterest Than On Your Prose?

As a card-carrying member of this newer generation of entrepreneurs who believe in thoroughly cultivating all sides of our hybridized identities, I spend an equal amount of time working as a communications consultant as I do in the performing arts presentation and publishing worlds. So, the other day, this cool neo-folk indie musician Animalia tweeted something about how she perceives the modern-day musicians' work days are spent, and it struck a chord with me, both literally and figuratively, because I used to play the upright bass back in the stone ages aka grade nine.

In Praise of Free Stuff

Let’s say you’re the burgeoning author du jour in your ‘hood. We’ll call you Ezra for now. You have two advanced degrees, have taken an overpriced “writers workshop” in the past and have unceremoniously joined the large and growing ranks of the GTA’s overeducated underclass who feel they have been Huffington Posted, sometimes cranking out blog copy for low to no remuneration. Growing up broke in Eldirb Htap (that’s Bridle Path backwards) you learn to appreciate free stuff.

Remixing My Book Consumption Habits

While many book industry pundits have tended to focus their attention on the future of the book, bookstores and even book review sections, and justifiably so, I’ve been zoning in on the debates surrounding the future of the book consumer. And the librarian. Y’see, I used to be one of those gnarly dudes that would routinely peruse Toronto-area bookstores, from mom and pops' (A Different Booklist, Book City) and used (BMV Express, Seekers) to big box (The Bookstore, The Bookstore), looking to score some hot literary finds.

Top Five Publishing Trends in the World According to Garp (and Dalt)

Perspectives

This month I’m writing out of the tradition of the Chappelle Show’s Negrodamus (Paul Mooney), a satirical black fortune teller named after Nostradamus. Honestly, in today’s book business, Nostradamus’ book The Prophecies might be stuck in a warehouse because his distributor went under and his bungalow (or castle?) would be facing foreclosure because his publisher recently got acquired by another larger company, and his advance money instalments got delayed. Oh yeah, and about that little Parisian mom and pop bookstore that carried his predictions in book form? Kaput and bankrupt.

E-This: Self Published Ebook Authors Are Cashing Cheques

I’m working on my next book, an ebook set for release in 2000 and whatever. It’s going to be a spin-off of the War of the Worlds sci-fi series, only this time instead of tripod-fighting aliens invading the Earth, my extraterrestrial protagonists will be working as door-to-door, ebook tablet salespersons waging a relentless attack on the Hard Copier sect of the fading humanoid race who are hell bent on preserving their off-white paper prototype. Before I go this route, I want to make a few things clear. Ebooks can’t be used as toilet paper if you’re stranded on a remote island!

Far From Over: The Music and Life of Drake

When

Thursday, November 1, 2012 - 7:00pm

Where

A Different Booklist
746 Bathurst Street
Toronto, ON
M5S 2R6

Details

Please join ECW Press and A Different Booklist in celebrating the launch of Dalton Higgins'
Far From Over: The Music and Life of Drake.

All are welcome! 

Location

A Different Booklist
746 Bathurst Street
Toronto, ON M5S 2R6 43° 39' 50.706" N, 79° 24' 39.2688" W

Why Biography’s Rule: If Written With Care

How exactly did you spend your summer? Staycationing, because you, like many Torontonians, were too broke to travel to Tunisia? Or how about getting a tan at that fake man-made beach that rhymes with booger at Jarvis / Queens Quay East (hey, some Oakville teens ran amok with them tanning beds, and now all Ontarians have to pay the price as my namesake, Premier McGuinty, is issuing a ban to protect teens from the risk of skin cancer). These are clearly issues I don’t have to wrestle with, if you’ve ever looked at my headshot, so for me it was back to the laptop.

Perspectives

400+ Page Book City: The Place Where Old Schoolers and Long-Form Journalists Go to Die

Twitter. And 400+ page books. These are two diametrically opposed phenomena. The latter object of our pop-culture desires, I don’t mess with. Any book that clocks in over 400 pages, I ain’t reading it. Four hundred is my cap. I wouldn’t read any book that long, or longer, if you tied me down and forced it on me. Life is short, and so should be the length of the books I read.

Jan Wong Comes Out Of The Blue, and Into The Black

Jan Wong is, as we would say in the hip-hop parlance, gangsta. And not in the Geto Boysian sense either. In the hip-hop world, calling someone gangsta is the highest form of compliment. It means they write genuine words, flaunt the most skilled use of wordplay, metaphors and, most importantly, they “keep it real” (read: honest). Before we get into the here and now, here’s the back story on why I can make the case for a 60-year-old Chinese-Canadian woman’s inclusion into the hip-hop fraternity.

Of Libraries, LongPens and Loot

If not for the TPL (Toronto Public Library), there is no monthly Daltoganda. My literary output would be greatly diminished. Much of my adolescence was spent trolling the aisles of both the Maria A. Shchuka and Forest Hill library branches along Eglinton Avenue where I reside. I was that guy who y’know skipped out on such enviable teen activities like hanging out at The Eaton Centre or Yorkdale Mall for hours on end hitting on unsuspecting Lisa Bonet-like hotties (hey, the Cosby Show ruled).

Words From The Street: The March Madness Edition

With all due respect to the fantastic national book festival that I’ve participated in a few times over the last few years, with a moniker similar to the name of this column. And to the fact that my writing deadlines will have to be, er, “pushed back” because the NCAA chose to host all of these great playoff-styled basketball buzzer beaters during a time when authors with Fall 2012 titles are scrambling around to get the right pics to accompany their prose.

Keeping Ahead of Current Affairs

Rituals. We all have ‘em. One author friend of mine likes to crank out copy in his boxer shorts near the window in his attic. Hey, whatever turns his crank, youknowhai’mean. One of my rituals involves a bi-monthly putz-out session at Book City in the Annex — on either Wednesdays or Fridays — where I flip through a copy of Quill & Quire and other assorted publishing industry periodicals that I unfortunately don’t buy much because I am living on the web, and the idea of creating more hard-copy clutter in my crib scares me.

The Day The Earth Died and Ma and Pa Bookstores Rose!

When a bunch of crackpots at Yonge / Dundas, astronomers, some authors (Dan Brown) and other Holy Men and women have been opining the same thing – that 2012 will be the year that hell freezes over (or when ebooks completely replace hard copy tomes), it might be a time to reflect — and to genuflect to us bloggers or to some Higher Authority. It just might be that 2012 is when the Leafs will win the Stanley Cup, when us humanoids become full-fledged androids (“I am tweeple, hear me roar!”). You know the rest.

Guido Lit

I’m waiting for Snooki’s Confessions of a Guidette to hit the bargain or remainder bins in one of those pop-up bookstores downtown that carry crap loads of books that no one cares for too much. The title officially came out in late October, but there’s no way in hell I’d buy it at its normal retail price. While you were struggling to be heard by the literati, sifting through rejection letters from your first manuscript, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi has been cranking out novels and “how-to” guides. Guido Lit is here to stay! Not sure what Guido Lit is? Neither am I.

Is Your Book Idea Really That Original?

Sadly, my personal Gmail inbox gets completely jammed some days. I subscribe to a whack of e-newsletters concerning the digital age, African culture and cutting edge musics. Though I’m still not exactly sure who signed me up for Old Navy, La Senza Girl or Toys R US Canada e-blasts, I’m guessing it probably has something to do with my broader household interests and shared MasterCard purchases (read: tha wifey and seedlings).

Can Youth, Can Lit. DEGT.

When I’m not busy slagging the whole notion of Can Lit, and Bruno Mars’ music (but really, who is buying his CDs?), I spend some of my free time mentoring youth. I help them dissect and better understand things, like how does Douglas Coupland get all of these gigs handed to him? I generally hate to be the bearer of bad news (especially for my readers born before 1980) but when you hang around as many youth as I do, across cultures, you will begin to see that reading hard copy books is sooo '80s. It will become a thing of the past.

32 Questions (Inspired by BookCampTO and 50 Cent)

So I went to BookCampTO 2011. How did I end up there? Well, I was Jen for the day. (This is an inane inside joke that none of you will get, so don’t even bother trying.) Anyway, I roll up to BookCampTO fully armed with many questions, tough ones. Out of my pre-meditated arsenal of 39+ questions to be aimed squarely at all of these poor agents, booksellers, publicists, fellow authors, distributors, book clubbers, maybe one got semi-answered.

Tha Literary Life: Prophet Versus Profit

Hey you, Joe / Josephine Author? Yeah, you in the back over by the dining room table. Uhh, not to sound trite, but why exactly do you do this lit. thing? Y’know, scribing for hundreds of hours on end to produce a tome, which might engender some temporary social spotlight, media views and a few greenbacks every now and then. Is it all worth it in the end? Do you now feel like an evolved high-arty humanoid who can also pay some bills in one fell swoop? Are you doing this to make dough or bake dough (at the local bakery up the street, for minimum wage, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m.

The Death of Penmanship (and Penwomanship Too)

So, I was having a debate with tha wifey, Karen, about whether my daughter should write a BIO about herself, documenting her exploits over the only 11 years of her life for a local area neighborhood festival she was performing in. Write a BIO, as in, y’know, with a pen and notepad.

Forget CanLit, SportsLit Is Where It’s At

Next to The Real Housewives of Atlanta repeats, the sports world provides the best unscripted drama out there, filled with plotlines that not even the finest DWM CanLit author could have ever cooked up. Tiger Woods had romantic dalliances and trysts with how many hotties (and it all went unnoticed by deer-in-headlights Elin)? After watching an ESPN documentary on Marcus Dupree, the best running back that never was, I believe I have a great sports-related book project in me.

Who’s Your Audience, and How Are You Dazzling ‘Em?

Friday nights will never be the same. While you’ve been out boozing, sexting not-so random hotties, mourning the death of the CD format and its retail salability, and prepping for another losing season from Toronto FC (and the Leafs, and the Raptors, et al), I’ve been out hosting a series of Friday evening Diaspora Dialogue’s readings by several of Toronto’s diverse literary voices as part of the Toronto Public Library’s Keep Toronto Reading series.

Help Wanted: Literary Agent to Capture The Zeitgeist (And To Appreciate Kanye West)

Last week I had an epiphany. Strangely, it came after viewing the train wreck named Charlie Sheen on the telly. He was talking about working with his agent to score him some new work opportunities. He is, uhh, winning! Why? Well, because his reps and handlers are ensuring that as “he pays for sex because he has millions,” continues with his warlock ways and has most people like me wondering what the heck Tiger Blood is (A steroid? Something that boosts red blood cells?), that he is still fielding offers to do new Roman Coppola’s flicks, Major League Three sequels, and all the rest.

Cro-Magnon Kids and David Letterman

So, I’m walking with my daughter Shiloh to school last week. Part of our daily ritual is to get caught up on Grade Six rumor milling, and it’s a time for us to talk public school smack (eg. Valentine’s Day crushes, who’s using what cuss words). I tell her publishing business stories, fill her in on who got Key Portered. She couldn’t care less about any of this bunk. Smart kid. I notice that she’s slumped over, knuckles nearly dragging on the icy Eglinton Ave. sidewalk. It’s 2011, but she’s looking like a Cro-Magnon Kid.

Planning the Imperfect Un-Book Launch

I will be assisting an old friend I’ve known since the Stone Ages (read: middle school) plan his first book launch for the winter of 2011. The concept of a book launch is still fresh in my mind because I just produced my fourth one in November 2010. And as a bookish dude, I try to attend at least five to ten book launches a year. But that doesn't mean I enjoy them. In fact, most of the ones I attend, that aren’t my own, I find to be extremely dull and uninteresting.

TTC (Totally Terrible Cop-Out)

The work of the author, griot, poet sometimes is to project and predict future happening, trends, and patterns in our fair city and country - its why i refer to myself as a "streetcorner seer" at times - in my original blog post Unhomage to the TTC i described Adam Giambrone as being asleep at the streecar wheel, or as one blogger put it "a local trainwreck disguised as politician"...now that adam giambrone has withdrawn from the mayoralty race, admitting to having multiple affairs, my immediate thoughts are, has the Tiger Woods situation not taught him anything?

November 28, 2009

Dalt-Tang Is For The Children

For the last month I've felt just like my creative inspiration ODB did, having to run a much needed intervention up in this mofo. Before there was Kanye, Taylor Swifting stuff up, there was Big Baby Jesus. I work out of the tradition of the late Osirus, so thank you for letting me share with you some of my views From Another Kitchen, on what Canlit means, if anything, to my particular group of hypenated Canadians who might be less rooted to Canadiana cliches and/or dull, uninteresting prose. It's 2009, not 2009 A.D. What more else can I say to end this lovely relationship I developed with mi open book familia over the past 30 days.

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.

The Death of Printed Textbooks

If your a book designer you might want to systematically destroy every Kindle and Sony Reader in sight (over some hot beats by the Geto Boys!). If not, and you are a card carrying member of the digerati, it was inevitable. When Blyth Academy in Toronto became the first school in the world to begin the process of replacing their textbooks with Sony Readers, it made me think a bunch of things. Thats a great publicity stunt for the school to increase interest and enrolment (Blyth who?). Sony wins (once TDSB schools pick up on this trend, aided by the local digerati and blogosphere, it's Sony 3 Kindle 1, up by two).

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.

Street Sermons

Today's emcee's (rappers) are our nouveau streetcorner seers. Modern day griots who have mastered the art of storytelling, with much greater effect than your average everyday English Literature instructor (I had some lousy ones who produced weekly snoozefests on the TDSB's dime). Tonight its all about Mos Def, a rapper who Christian Lander, author of Stuff White People Like writes is "everything white people dream about: authentic ("He's from Brooklyn!"), funny ("He was on Chappelle's Show!", and not white ("I don't see race"). While he's arguably loved by the black community for altogether different reasons, still not enough people understand the man's essence, his breadth of lyric slinging.

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.

Hip Hop World, Part Deux?

I just back from a music conference in Copenhagen, and the sheer number of emcee’s and rap practitioners out there, that deserve their own chapters in my ever evolving documentation of hip hop culture around the globe is awe-inspiring.

As authors, once we close the book on a new tome, quite literally (and continuously question whether we should have included this particular tidbit of info, over another, and still a few others)...we find another four chapters of material (right after your book leaves the printing press, and a whole flurry of new ideas about the same subject that need to be written on said subject, pop up out of the blue.

Soul(less) On Ice?

Blame it on “indie” rock. My third book Hip Hop World has absolutely nothing to do with what is considered to be modern day "indie" rock music in Canada (read: rock n' roll is an African American invention, and mofo's need to look up what the word independent actually means). But the more I travel the globe, shilling books and Big Ideas, I often wonder if I am alone in feeling bamboozled into believing that anything could be more ”indie” in thought, resources and spirit than rap music and its global multi-culti constituencies.
My Hip Hop World-ing might hopefully help shift this paradigm.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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