Friday, March 28, 2008

Echo Reading or When Loris Caught Cold

If anyone wondered what the barking, chanting and hooting coming from Voodoo Records was all about the other week, I can tell them -- a bunch of boys, a gaggle of girls, and me in the middle were all making a sampler CD of my poems.

We did a lot of "echo reading," saying the poems out loud together, giggling at all the best places, doing the sound effects with considerable enthusiasm. It was really fun.

The only thing I'd suggest to other authors with publishers who have a similar, brilliant promotional idea as this is: NOT IN THE WINTER.

Every single one of us, myself included, were at some stage of a cold.

Mike, the technician, probably had to use every single knob on his giant console to clear up the coughing, sniffling, horking and wheezing that wove in and out of the poetry recitation. The rough cut sounded like a jolly hospital ward.

But he did it, and it turned out just fine -- and certainly authentic, no phony teevee kids here, no fake-smiley hostess: we were genuinely enjoying ourselves and each other. We even did the first page of Boy Soup.

Of course, at the next school I went to, the children were all cold-free, had the voices of angels, and showed no interest whatsoever in changing the words of my poems while chanting them out loud (YES, Jack, that is you I'm talking about! He's the creative fellow on the CD who edits my poems for his version of "echo-reading"!)

This career just gets better and better...
Loris Lesynski

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A New Holiday? Yes, math can be everywhere!

When Cora Lee and I wrote The Great Number Rumble: A Story of Math in Surprising Places, my friend and math-teacher-extraordinaire Nancy Rawlinson gave us lots of useful advice. Last Friday, March 14, Nancy turned up at my house with a lovely, freshly-baked pie. Why? Because it was Pi Day!

Pi Day? Yes, it's the third month and the fourteenth day -- 3/14. And what is pi? 3.14 approximately.

Nancy had wanted to celebrate Pi Day with her students but it's March break in Ontario, so she she thought of her fellow pie and math enthusiast -- and my family got a delicious dessert that disappeared faster than you can say "irrational number."

For those of you who really love math, the pie was unveiled just before 2:00 o'clock -- 1:59 to be precise. Can you guess why?

Gillian O'Reilly

Friday, March 14, 2008

Getting My Web Feet Wet

Laurie getting her feet wet...

Today I launched my first website I’m the author of Cowboys and Coffin-Makers: One Hundred 19th-Century Jobs You Might Have Feared or Fancied, but I’m also a book editor, and editors tend to like staying in the background. Fortunately, the folks at Annick urged me on, and writing a website turned out to be a creative, painless process.

My designer, Jason Maher of Shiny Paper, had these tips:

1. The Web doesn’t need more promotion pieces. Be sure your site has links and information that readers can use.

2. Suit the design to the site’s readership. Make it kid-friendly and easy to navigate.

3. Keep adding new material.

4. Consider setting up a blog.

A blog? Oh no..... That’s enough to send me racing back to the 19th century!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mattland reviewed on Just One More Book

Click here to listen to a podcast review of Mattland by Hazel Hutchins, Gail Herbert, and Dusan Petric from the fine folks at Just One More Book!!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Subtle Censorship?

I had planned to blog about censorship and prepared notes on how it is a subtle, sophisticated practice these days. But then a dramatic example of the antithesis of subtle and sophisticated emerged, and it has commanded our attention. The letter below, which I recently wrote, describes a very troubling scenario in which a special interest group is working to impose their values and morals on our publishing program and on your book reading decisions. They are campaigning to tarnish a title, even to the point of suggesting it violates the criminal code. But as publishers we won’t back down; we must not become self-censors as a result of their intimidation and we will hold true to our highest value which is the freedom to dialogue with youth on subjects that matter. As a publisher who dares to take on difficult subjects, we understand that there will be those who will not agree or are uncomfortable with some of our publications. So be it. But when a single point of view or bias gains influence over what we read, our society has lost its most precious right.

I am the Director of Annick Press Ltd. We have been publishing Canadian children’s literature for 32 years. We are also a living example of why any group or panel that sets itself up as a court of public opinion is a profoundly dangerous undertaking. Last year Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, unleashed a wide-ranging and hostile attack on one of our publications, The Little Black Book for Girlz: A Book on Healthy Sexuality.

Written by youth for youth, and vetted by doctors and a variety of health professionals, the book encourages teen girls to learn about issues, such as relationships, safe sex, STI’s, sexual assault, etc. in order to make choices that are most appropriate for their well-being. But McVety didn’t see it that way and with a series of media interviews, blog campaigns and frantic political lobbying, he set out to defame the book. He labeled it “deeply, deeply offensive” and was quoted in the media as saying it put forward terrible pornographic statements and claimed that the book said 80 per cent of our country is bisexual (I found that shocking too; I can’t imagine where he read that.) He attacked the fact that we receive support from the government and sought to have the book's distribution terminated. (His campaign was partially successful as one major corporation did de-list the title.) Like most censors, he got a lot of the details wrong, pulled descriptions out of context, and confused our publication with material on the creator’s web site. We had no opportunity to defend ourselves or set the record straight.

His campaign has now faded, but the book has gone on to receive one accolade after another including a listing on the New York Public Library’s prestigious Books for the Teen Age 2007 list, stellar reviews, and a good number of international rights sales, including Random House in Germany. But here’s the lesson for all of us: following McVety’s attack we have not received a single letter of complaint.

So the McVety “court of public opinion” delivered a wildly inappropriate verdict, one dramatically out of step with public opinion. Isn’t any guardian of the public taste vulnerable to judge according to its own interpretations? At Annick, we encourage critical thinking and self-awareness. But here is an example of ideologues who would impose their values with the full conviction that they know best what’s right for teen girls. Well, we know countless young women across the continent, not to mention libraries, schools, and community agencies who disagree with this approach in the strongest of terms.
Rick Wilks