Good Things Happen for Bad Things Happen

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On Monday, July 16, 2018, it was announced that Bad Things Happen by Kris Bertin has won the 2017 ReLit Award for Short Fiction. The award was founded by Kenneth J. Harvey to acknowledge the best new work released by independent publishers. The award has no purse, but winners in each category (novel, short fiction, poetry) receive the distinctive ReLit ring.

This is the second award for Bad Things Happen, Bertin’s debut collection of short stories, which also won the 2017 Danuta Gleed Award. Bad Things Happen has attracted major critical praise, including positive reviews from Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Quill & Quire, and other outlets.

Bad Things Happen was published on February 23, 2016. The characters in this debut collection—professors, janitors, webcam models, small-time criminals—are people at the tenuous moment before everything changes, for better or worse: jobs and marriages, states of sobriety, joy and anguish, who they are and who they want to be.

Bertin’s stories have been published and anthologized widely. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

 

“You’ll never need to read another book.”

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Today’s post is sponsored by independence, and self-governance, and your humble Biblioblogger (along with her Production Goon) being extremely excited about the book we’re about to send off to print: The Children’s War, by the man, the myth, the self-blurbing legend C.P. Boyko. I’d toss in an author photo here, but this is the best we can do. If you’ve never read him, you’re in for a treat, and if you have, well, you know exactly how we feel. Fans new and old can get a head start with “In the Palace of Cats,” excerpted from the story “Andrew and Hillary.”

I sat down (at my keyboard) a few weeks ago to ask Mr. Boyko some questions about his new book, and this was the result.

A Biblioasis Interview with C.P. Boyko, Author of The Children’s War

Q. This, your fourth book, is also your fourth collection of short stories. What draws you to this format, as opposed to, say, novels?

A. I love novels, but often find them too long. I love short stories, but often find them too short. It strikes me as odd to say the least that most fictional stories produced nowadays are under five thousand or over fifty thousand words long. I’ve given myself permission to write stories of any length; in this book, they range from about seven thousand to about forty thousand words long. I am also rather a contrarian, and the mere fact that fictionists seem to be expected to outgrow short stories for novels has probably made me stubborn. I haven’t, however, been able to shake altogether the idea that one unit of fiction is equivalent to one book’s worth. Consequently, I write my stories in groups, with an eye to the collection as a whole. The result, though it is not for me to say so, is, I think, not so very different from a novel.

Q. You seem to have eschewed first-person narration since your first book, Blackouts. Are you aware of this? Is it intentional?

A. Yes. Yes.

Q. Can you tell me more?

A. Yes. I thought I perceived a tendency of fiction written in the voice of a character to be slangy, sloppy, swaggering, longwinded, and pompously declarative: “Here I am, washing my hands.” There also are many things that a character cannot, or should not, say on their own behalf—because it makes of them either a monster of self-awareness or a monster of self-disclosure, or both. Moreover, to write, as first-person narration encourages one to do, an entire book, or even an entire story, from the point of view of a single character seems to me an impoverishing constraint—like shooting an entire film from a single stationary camera, or telling only one side of a war story.

Q. This is a funny book, the result of finely-tuned irony. Yet despite that, I also found it deeply compassionate: while the characters are often quite comical, in word or deed, they’re not one-dimensional. Could you talk about the role humor plays in your work?

A. I did not set out, as I did with Novelists, to write a funny book, but I’m glad you find it funny. The highest aim of art, John Davidson said, is to give delight. Also, if I may say something unfunny, I think that to leave comedy entirely out of the worlds one builds in prose is to build unrecognizable worlds. The same could be said about tragedy, and about horror—and about love.

Q. As a recovering academic, I was thoroughly taken by “The Purpose of the Music Club” and “The Takeover of Founders’ Hall,” which open and close the collection in institutions of learning—high school and university, respectively. (I also thought the portrait of the writing prof at the end of Novelists especially funny.) Does your interest in academic settings have any particular origin?

A. I am a fully recovered academic.

Q. “Year-End” looks more like a play than a short story. As I was reading, I kept wanting to see it staged, and the central conflict—the clash between owners, management, and unionizing workers at a faltering factory—made it easy to imagine as a performance. How did you decide on the form?

A. It is indeed a play. I hope it’ll be staged often. As for the form, I had never written a play in five kinds of crypto–blank verse before, so I thought I’d give it a try. Even if one cannot altogether reinvent oneself, one tries at least not to repeat oneself.

Q. The vast majority of the characters in “Infantry” are women, which is unusual in itself, and all the more so in a story about soldiers at war—though beyond the names and pronouns, the narrative itself isn’t particularly gendered. Could you talk about the choice to re-imagine the war story in this way?

A. To the extent that this was a conscious decision, I was probably trying to use the plight of the low-ranking soldier to illustrate the plight of women, and at the same time to use the plight of women to illustrate the plight of the low-ranking soldier. But it was largely an unconscious decision.

Q. What was the last book you reread?

A.God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. It was a little disappointing, to be honest, particularly in the prose.

Q. How do you hope your own prose will be described?

A. “Crystalline,” thank you.

Q. What is your dream blurb?

A. “You’ll never need to read another book.”

Q. Who are you writing for? Who is your ideal reader?

A. Myself, I suppose, in a few years’ time, after I have forgotten the toil of writing and my good intentions, but before my taste has improved too much. If you don’t write to please yourself, pleasing others will never make you feel less lonely.

Q. Well, thank you for your time.

A. [Unintelligible]

 

In the Media: Flock of Seagulls

As you head for the beach this long weekend, consider the story of Ray Eccles, a city clerk “past the age when anything interesting was likely to happen to him,” who one day is struck on the head by a dying seagull and wakes up compelled to obsessively paint the last thing he saw before he was knocked out: an unknown woman on the beach. What happens next is anything but uninteresting: Ray’s paintings are discovered by husband-and-wife Outsider Art dealers and quickly take the art world by storm.  Meanwhile Jennifer, his anonymous muse, ponders the surprising turns and odd connections that characterize a life.

No, I’m not knee-deep in Mai Tais: I’m summarizing the Harriet Paige’s debut novel, Man with a Seagull on His Head, which Kirkus Reviews calls “elegiac…emotionally precise…not only pleasing to the eye, but also profoundly engaging to the heart. A gentle fable about the mystery of artistic creativity.”

Bookseller blurbs, which we’ll be printing in finished copies of the book, have been rolling in. Are you a bookseller? Would you like to join our flock? Contact us for an ARC, or flap on over to our inboxes and tell us what you think.

Praise for Man with a Seagull on His Head

“The story is told in a slowly unfolding prose that I found to be lovely, quiet and quite beautiful. My copy has dog eared pages with underlined sentences such as “She’d sat in front of him for three weeks and he hadn’t seen her. How odd to discover one didn’t exist.” Another favorite: “…it was magic just to watch him when he did not know himself to be watched. One could love someone very easily that way.” I found myself slowly reading so that I wouldn’t miss any poetic descriptions of people and places. Admittedly, it’s a hard novel to pin down—is it a mystery? A family story? A story of mental illness and art? It’s unlike anything I’ve read, really, and I find it hard to describe and truly convey its beauty. I will recommend it to readers of literary fiction who aren’t in a hurry to barrel through a book, but who enjoy the slow unfolding of a lovely novel that leaves them thinking of the characters for days afterward.” —Sarah Letke, Redbery Books (Cable, WI) 

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“Man With a Seagull on His Head is an enthralling read unlike anything I have ever read. It makes you feel crazy, sane, upset, and euphoric. The story of Ray Eccles is a strange tale that provides inspiration can rise from the strangest of places. Harriet Paige is a remarkable writer with an amazing muse.” —Nick Buznaksi, Book Culture (New York, NY) 

“Ray Eccles is leading a modest, unassuming existence when he’s abruptly struck on the head by a falling bird and finds his whole life changing course. Read Harriet Paige’s new novel and you may find yourself similarly affected. The opening of Man with a Seagull on His Head tempts you with its brisk prose and summery seaside setting to pick it up as a momentary diversion, but it quickly establishes powerful links among its many characters, connecting hearts and minds across distance, time, and cultural barriers. By the end it will have taken them, and you, much further than you’d have ever expected.” —James Crossley, Island Books (Mercer Island, WA) 

“Sometimes the strange thoughts that compose a novel are curious; sometimes they are loveable.  This is a wonderful mixture of both. As the Xerox clerk Ray Eccles becomes an Outsider Artist from his works of “She,” the woman who witnessed a seagull falling from the sky and causing a life-changing injury, you’re never quite sure where it’s going. Endearing in an unobtrusive observational perspective, you want to extend a hand and wish the characters well. A fine read.  Refreshingly recommend.” —Todd Miller, Arcadia Books (Spring Green, WI)

“Harriet Paige has written a memorable piece of fiction that manages to subvert the idea of what defines a muse – and the symbiotic relationship the inevitably blooms from the act. The books explores the somewhat psychotic lengths inspiration can take someone paired with the exploitative facets of the art world – and it’s rendered with such a fantastic combination of distance and intimacy. The world could maybe be made better if more seagulls fell on our heads.” —Rebecca George, Volumes Bookcafe (Chicago, IL) 

 

Productions Notes: June 22, 2018

  • Class Clown by Pino Collucio won the Trilliam last night! No wonder the judges were drawn to this book with such a lovely cover that pairs so well with Pino’s witty poetry, designed by our own Ellie Hastings.
  • I have also been working on typesetting K.D. Miller’s Late Breaking. What is most important when I typeset a book is for my typography to quietly supplement the text.  To make the actual typesetting as unobtrusive as possible to allow the author, not the design to do all the talking. Robert Bringhurst said it best: “typography should be richly and superbly ordinary, so that attention is drawn to the quality of the composition.”
    Another consideration is previous books. I like when the design of books by the same author is similar—as long as the setting suits the tone of each book. So to get going on this one I looked back to the interior design of All Saints. So far it is coming together well.
  • As we have finally settled on a name for Patrick Brode’s new book, I got started on some cover designs. The title is: Dying for a Drink: How A Prohibition Preacher Got Away With MurderHere are a handful of the cover designs I came up with as possible directions for the book.
           

Read With Your Friends!

It’s true that the best thing about reading is that it keeps you from having to talk to people. HOWEVER: if you’re going to talk to people, books make a fine topic—and three of our recent titles are making waves as summer book-club picks. Get it? Waves? Because it’s SUMMER?

I’ll show myself out.

First up, Be Worldly: Read Lit in Translation! from Shelf Awareness recommends twenty translated titles from cultures around the world, with two Biblioasis titles among them.

Reading group guides for Catherine Leroux’s The Party Wall and Ondjaki’s Transparent City are both available on our website.

Next, Paige Cooper’s Zolitude is All Lit Up’s Summer Book Club pick for July. Of this mesmerizing debut collection, they write: “The badass ensemble of Zolitude‘s women characters don’t so much take the reader for a ride as they snatch the reader up and jerk them along an austere, dystopian road of twelve short stories. Written with unapologetic intelligence and complexity, this incredible collection refuses to ever give up—and you don’t want it to.” Click through to read a sample story, buy a copy at 15% off, and follow along with upcoming events related to this title.

Don’t have a book club? I happen to know that dogs particularly enjoy this title.

Production Notes: June 15, 2018

  • It is always both exciting and terrifying when boxes arrive from the printer. Opening a box always begins with an apprehensive inspection for errors—from the printer, from us, from the shipper—which is normally followed by a sigh of relief and finally the excitement at just how good the final product looks. Such was the case this week when we got a couple batches of advance copies for Original Prin and Be With. Both ended up looking fantastic!

  • Now available in bookstores near you: Alison Moore’s The Pre-War House! The MUST READ story in this collection is “Sometimes You Think You Are Alone.” This story is super creepy and without giving anything away, maybe not as obvious as I thought it was when I started reading it. The brilliant Zoe Norvell’s grungy cover suits perfectly the tone of this and other stories in the collection.

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  • The final installments of door signs (I’m sure we can find more doors, actually) went up this week:

    Biblioasis’ office door, featuring our neighbours.

    The Mail Room

    My Production Assistant

    The Publisher’s Office

IN THE MEDIA: Cooper & Huebert + Ondjaki & Pheby

It’s mid-June, which means the Bibliomanse is abuzz from production all the way to publicity. Fall books are being finalized, media coverage continues to roll in, and we’re starting to look ahead to next year’s books.  Mid-June also means Gemini season, so in honor of the Twins, please enjoy this pleasantly paired round-up of recent media hits.

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Dynamic duo Paige Cooper and David Huebert, short fiction superstars of spring and last fall, both appear on CBC Books’ “18 writers to watch in 2018.”

And double the love from our friends at Publishers Weekly. Of Ondjaki’s Transparent City, they write: “darkly pretty…peppered with poetry…These disparate stories are woven into a beautiful narrative that touches on government corruption, the privatization of water, the dangers of extracting oil for wealth, and the bastardization of religion for profit.. The novel reads like a love song to a tortured, desperately messed-up city that is undergoing remarkable transformations.” In a second review, PW calls Alex Pheby’s Playthings “intricate and intelligent…effectively transports readers into Schreber’s experience and tragedy.”

Production Notes: June 8, 2018

  • The Children’s War has arrived on my desk finalized and ready to go into production and we are getting an Advance Copy underway. I know I wrote about this book a couple weeks ago but Boyko is a genius and you need to read this as soon as we get it out there!
  • The inexhaustible Ellie, has come up with some new t-shirt designs and they should be available by the end of the month, check ’em out!
  • We are still getting settled at the new office, but we are finally getting some décor up to make it feel more like home:

    The gateway to Biblioasis Production

    The entry to Regional History

     

    Publicity . . .

    . . . and Marketing Central

    Operations Headquarters

New Releases On the Way!

It’s Wednesday, which means we’re less than a week out from our biggest summer pub date: June 12, which brings the triple threat of Terry Grigg’s The Iconoclast’s Journal, Alison Moore’s The Pre-War House, and Mauricio Segura’s Oscar.  Here’s a quick round-up of some of the press they’ve gotten so far, along with a few sneak peeks of what’s to come.

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In addition to a starred review from Foreword, The Iconoclast’s Journal has garnered indieNEXT nominations from booksellers like James Crossley at Island Books, who writes, “From the first lines of The Iconoclast’s Journal, it’s obvious that you’re being carried away by a real writer. That’s the first great pleasure that Terry Griggs gives to her readers. But where is she taking you? Ah, that’s the second great pleasure. Whenever you think you know where this tale of a runaway groom and his vengeful bride is heading, Griggs zigs once and zags at least twice, bringing you to places you never imagined going.”

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Both Kirkus and Booklist have raved about Alison Moore’s short story collection The Pre-War House. Kirkus writes: “[There’s] a quiet sense of sadness that dogs these characters. As they navigate their lives, Moore slowly unearths their essential fears, regrets, and unmet desires, producing a subdued and beautiful feeling of yearning that leaves the reader ruminating long after the final page. A masterful collection.” Booklist similarly praises Moore’s skilful restraint, proclaiming in a review that goes live on June 13, “Moore is the real deal.”

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Finally, Mauricio Segura’s Oscar has had me humming “Summertime” all week, and the author himself is slated for an upcoming guest post on Largehearted Boy, a US-based music and literature site. In it, Mauricio chooses a playlist to accompany his mesmerizing novel about a young musician named Oscar P., a classic story of artistic struggle inspired by the life of legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. Reader, I have seen his playlist, aka the new soundtrack of my summer months. Make some space in your music library, and in the meantime …

Production Notes: June 1, 2018

  • Original Prin cover has landed.  Personally I have to say this one has exceeded my expectations. Michel Vrana really knocked it out of the park. Send along your thoughts in the comments.

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  • Robert Earl Stewart has sent in the final manuscript for The Running-Shaped HoleI’ve started typesetting it for Advance Reading Copies. Sometimes when I am typesetting a book I get drawn into the stories and find myself reading chunks of the book. This is one such book that I am looking forward to bringing home to finish reading.

 

  • Work on the next CNQ is still ongoing. The back cover has come together quite well:

    The back cover of CNQ #102.

Did you know that the cover makes an excellent mask?