Category Archives: Uncategorized

On Trying and Failing

I saw an interesting graph recently, as part of my work at the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.
The data set showed students in grade 11 math courses and their later progress into postsecondary education. It showed the eventual progress to postsecondary education for students who excelled, passed, and failed at all four levels of study (i.e. courses for university, college/university, college, and non-postsecondary bound students).
In all cases, the students were more likely to achieve a higher level of postsecondary study if they failed at a higher level, than if they excelled at a lower level.
For example, if you were taking the university-bound level of math, and failed, you were still more likely to end up in university than someone who excelled at the college/university-bound level of math.
This was true at every level of study.
Doesn’t this fly in the face of everything you’ve told yourself about not being good enough? You’ve probably said to yourself, oh, everyone in that level is probably way ahead of me. I’ll limit myself to the lower level instead.
You need to go for the highest level you could possibly qualify for. You need to fail at the highest possible level you can. You need to try at the highest possible level you can.
I know your chronic impostor syndrome is flaring up as you read this; mine does too. Stop it. Squash it. Throw it away.
Trying and failing at the highest possible level is more valuable than excelling at a lower level.
So go ahead and fail.
Fail spectacularly.
And see where it gets you.

Who’s stealing ebooks?

This infographic makes the case that the cost of ebook piracy is far less than the benefits of DRM-free distribution. It’s not a question of whether copyright ought to exist (which is where this sort of discussion often seems to go); it’s a question of how, in the current technological world, copyright holders are best served.

I knew about TOR Books removing DRM from all of its ebooks a couple of years ago, and by all accounts the experiment was a success. Most e-publishers (e.g. Kobo, Amazon KDP) allow for non-DRM distribution as well, although it’s rightly the author’s choice.

I think we’re going to see that, like the iTunes model, making content easily available for a reasonable price is what will win the copyright battle for the rightsholder. I know I’d much rather buy an e-book from Kobo or Amazon than find it, download it, and sideload it. There’s a real convenience in the current system and I’m willing to pay for it. I’m even put off when people offer free epubs, because I don’t really want to go through the hassle of getting it on whatever device I happen to be using.

I also had a recent issue where I bought an ebook from Kobo and discovered that I was allowed to read it only on their desktop reader, not on any device. I’m not one to stare at my desktop computer monitor for 200 pages’ worth of reading; the question is why that limitation would exist at all. I argued until I got a refund, which is something Kobo doesn’t normally offer. They ended up with hassle, a lost sale, and an annoyed consumer; I ended up without the book I wanted; the author ended up with nothing. We would all have been better off if the content were automatically available for multiple platforms.*

Am I wrong here? Is there any real benefit to keeping ebooks under DRM’s lock and key? I think it’s more likely that we should be working on streamlining distribution, ensuring that when readers want to pay for a book they can, and that everyone else in the chain – retailer, distributor, author, publisher – is paid in the process.


* It’s quite possible that this book was published a long time ago, and the necessary rights couldn’t be obtained from the publisher for some reason. Still, it was on the Kobo store, so it was reasonable to assume it would be readable on the Kobo app.

Coming soon: the Toronto Novel Marathon

In one month I will be running the only kind of marathon I’m likely to finish: the Toronto Novel Marathon. One weekend to write an entire novel. Yeah, that’ll be fun. I’ll be preparing all through July for this gruelling run… uh, this gruelling write.

But there’s a catch: it’s in aid of Renascent, a charity that helps those suffering from addiction in the Toronto area. So I need pledges! Please consider throwing a few bucks in the pot here.

More on the preparations will come as I get closer to the date…

“Unrest Among the Smart Cows” now available

I decided to put my short story, “Unrest Among the Smart Cows“, up on Amazon. I’ve had this story for a while — I started it when George Carlin died, because it’s one of his quotes that got me thinking about the themes in the story.

It wasn’t easy to put “Unrest” into epub format. I don’t do much HTML any more, and I was never an expert with it. There’s a table in the story, though, and I had to render it appealingly in HTML to make it display all right in the Kindle format. I ran it through the Kindle simulator and it seems to be okay.

In other news, my novel L.M.F., which has been available for the Kindle for a while, is free to download for the weekend. If you haven’t read it, now’s your chance. (Or you could actually pay the three bucks for it after tomorrow — that would give you a chance to read it, too…)

Time Magazine sucks

It’s pretty rare that I read anything from Time Magazine, and reading this article reminded me why that is. Not only are the irrelevant embedded links (“See pictures of Stephanie Meyer”) annoying and distracting, it’s apparently written for eight-year-olds:

>[“Slash”] can be a verb, something you can do

Really? A verb, eh? Something I can do? That’s really useful information! Thanks, Time!

In other news, this isn’t as far from reality as I thought.

Literary Event — June 11

This Saturday, Ben McNally Books at 366 Bay Street will be hosting a reading by two authors who are shortlisted forCanadian Authors Association literary awards. Those authors are:

  • Ken Finkleman is a Canadian television and film writer, producer and actor. He is best known as the writer, creator and producer of the CBC Television series The Newsroom (also aired on PBS). He produced a number of other series for Canadian television as well, including Married Life (Comedy Central, Atlantis Films), Foolish Heart (CBC), Foreign Objects (CBC), More Tears (CBC), At the Hotel (CBC), and most recently Good Dog(HBO Canada, 2011).
  • Garry Gottfriedson, from the Secwepemc first nation (Shuswap), was born, raised and lives in Kamloops, BC. He is a rancher with a Masters degree in Education. He was awarded the Gerald Red Elk Creative Writing Scholarship by the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, where he studied under Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, Marianne Faithful and others. His works include 100 Years of Contact (Secwepmec Cultural Society, 1990), In Honor of Our Grandmothers (Theytus, 1994), Glass Tepee (Thistledown, 2002), Painted Pony (Partners in Publishing, 2005), Whiskey Bullets (Ronsdale, 2006) and Skin Like Mine (Ronsdale, 2010). He has read from his work across North America, Asia and Europe, and frequently gives creative writing workshops and lectures.

The event starts at 1pm and goes till about 3pm, with both authors reading, signing books, and participating in a Q&A. There is no charge for admission and refreshments will be served. If you have any questions or want any further information, by all means drop me a line!

On Funding for the Arts in Canada

Maybe you’ve heard about Sun TV’s bobblehead Krista Erickson attacking dancer Margie Gillis in the pursuit of “grrreat TV”. If you haven’t, you can watch it here. Enjoy that.

And when you’re done with that, please take a look at Louis Laberge-Côté’s response, and find out what the arts are really doing for Canada and for Canadians — not just for artists.

In 2007, The Conference Board estimated that the economic footprint of Canada’s culture sector was $84.6 billion, or 7.4 per cent of Canada’s total real GDP, including direct, indirect, and induced contributions. Culture sector employment exceeded 1.1 million jobs in 2007…

[T]he Conference Board estimates that in 2007, the expenses related to culture on all levels of government together (federal, provincial and local) reached $7.9 billion.  This $7.9 billion generated $84.6 globally, something we all benefit from, and not only the “cultural elites” as Miss Erickson likes to believe…

I will conclude all this by quoting Laurent Simon who said, “The world that is coming scares the traditionalists, since its models are less controllable than the analysis of an economy centered around the classical schemes of production and return”.  It is very saddening to see that this fear now results in aggressive, partisan and close-minded “journalism” on Canadian television.

Devastating and, let’s hope, final.

Authors at Work

New project: Authors at Work. A directory of places where writers work outside the home. Coffee shops, libraries, pubs, cafes, restaurants… anywhere public.

If you’ve got a suggestion, submit it and it’ll be featured soon.

Authors at Work launched

Check out a new resource for Canadian authors who want to work in coffee shops and other public places:

Authors at Work

Coming soon to a coffee shop, pub, library, bar, or cafe near you!

Today: 600 words

I had time between work and my writers group to myself, for once, and I spent it getting some writing done, for once. I didn’t get quite as far as I wanted to — I am near the end of the scene but not quite — and the POV character is still supposed to be drunk but I’ve kind of forgotten to put that in in the last couple of pages.

But whatever. I’ll just have to catch it in editing. I should put tags on scenes for who’s drunk and who’s tired and so on. Actually that’s not a bad idea at all…

In other news, I ponied up the cash and bought myself a replacement fountain pen. Problem is, the nib isn’t as good as my sadly lost pen. S’okay, I have no problem going back to the store and demanding a new one — I paid enough for the damn thing!