Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Keeping Ahead of Current Affairs

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Stack of Newspapers

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. You ever watch that TV show on A&E called Hoarders? Show me an author who doesn’t exhibit some slight neurotic behavior around collecting paper, clippings, magazines for research, and my name is Arsenio Hall. And you know me, I keep it real like Mordecai.

Anyways, while wasting away my prime earning years, or hours, at Book City, I began noticing how some of the long-form news features in the monthly and quarterly magazines were tired. There were a few stories about how Whitney Houston is making a grand return to the acting stage in the forthcoming Sparkle movie production. But why am I reading this a full week after Houston died?

This made me recall a moment during Bookcamp TO 2011, where the clear line of demarcation between the greybeards and the 2.0s showed its face. I was yapping away about whether there was a surefire way to produce and translate output from books into mobile devices, smart phones, from a singular content source. And then Ron Nurwisah from the National Post chimed in about the long lead time in the current print production cycle model, and that there might need to be a way to move into more flexible digital workflows. I was essentially saying the same thing, but with more Daltoganda mixed in, and with a hip hop twist. Essentially, in the pop culture and creative non-fiction world I occupy, I began to ponder how when the news cycles change quicker than Mitt Romney flip flops (how can you be both against and for immigration, same sex marriage, etc.?), it does impact the publishing production arc.

When Millennial demigod Steve Jobs passed away, what made his story all the more compelling to read about was that Simon & Schuster induced their production cycle labor and popped out that baby less than three weeks after his death. Dude was the penultimate control freak, and it almost felt like he orchestrated this auto-bio book move too, like he shortened the production schedule on his book of life, right as he was about to enter the spirit world.

Is there any way to quicken the book production cycle before hell freezes over (or when Starbucks develops a Working Poor blend)? This new school 24/7 news cycle is (sur)real. What might seem fresh to write about now, can become irrelevant or redundant by the time your book is released a year from now. Like, try timing the release of your next book about Mayan calendars for a March 2013 in-store signing at The Bookstore. I wish you luck. It’s a surefire formula for failure, you writing about the end of the world, when it’s already ended!

Yeah, yeah, industry insiders will always say that things move slowly because your book is amongst dozens being worked on at the same time and that sales, marketing and design staffers need to take the necessary time to prep your work carefully for the commercial marketplace, and justifiably so. Show me a publisher that can devote its entire operation to a few authors and stay afloat, and I’ll show you a Form 79. Or call 1-800-UR-BROKE.

If anyone could hypothetically keep a singular publishing company above water, it’s Peg. While you were waiting around for your release date to magically appear over the last few years, she was cranking out a new novel, new children’s and non-fiction books, working on coffee blends to aid in the conservation of migratory birds (The Atwood Blend!), participating in documentary film projects about her own book tours, engaging theatrical adaptations of her novellas, all the while staving off confrontations from big-city Mayor’s older brothers.

The idea here is that as a writer — whether you’re a fiction or creative non-fiction writer, a poet or a dramatist — it can be a problem if your protagonist or subject is pegged to something related to current affairs. People stop caring about whether OJ did or didn’t do it, or whether Bill Clinton in fact inhaled. At a time when I’m hanging out at the Daily Beast more often than ever, and when Digg.com has become my best friend, I wonder…is there an Espresso Book Machine about to crank out the definitive Book of Whitney or Book of Awesome (The Don Cornelius Edition) any minute now?

Dalton Higgins is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist, and radio and TV broadcaster who blogs and therefore is. Author of the forthcoming Far From Over: The Music and Life of Drake (ECW Press), Higgins has written four other books (Fatherhood 4.0, Hip Hop World, Hip Hop, Much Master T) that examine the place where the worlds of technology, diversity, hip hop and hipster culture intersect. His daily Daltoganda, musings, rants, jabs, pontifications and fire-and-brimstone blather can be accessed from his digital pulpit on twitter: @daltonhiggins5

Click here to read Dalton's archived articles on Open Book: Toronto.

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