This Olympics Junkie Quoted in an Article by Victoria Ahearn

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Olympics Junkies article CP article on CBC Website

As Alex and Andi on CBC Olympic Morning were wrapping up with a replay of the team figure skating — and really, can one see that too many times (yeah, OK, maybe . . .) — Victoria Ahearn, writing for Canadian Press (CP), a news wire service, tweeted me that she was “doing a story on people staying up late/waking up early in the morning to watch the Olympics.” She asked: “You have time to chat today?”

Oh yeah! I did!!

The way CP works is it feeds articles to news organizations across Canada, some of which automatically run everything that comes over the wire from CP and others, like CBC, decide which ones to use and which ones to skip. It looks like many from local (like below) to CBC and the National Post picked it up. I wasn’t sure whether my interview would make it in, especially after hearing about the fan who’s sleeping in 10-minute blocks so as not to miss a single live moment! Whoa, I can’t meet that dedication. Quotes from that fan started off the article, but mine on live vs. taped-delay finished it up. Sweet!

Last Quote for CP Olympics by Victoria Ahearn

Brain Power

Brain Injury Friendly Way to Socialize: My Article in March 2014 OBIA Review

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My Article in OBIA Review!

Because of my Twitter activities and launching #ABIchat last year, the Communications and Program Assistant at OBIA, the Ontario Brain Injury Association, contacted me about writing an article on social media for their magazine OBIA Review. It’s rather nice to be invited out of the blue to write something, and so I did. Back in January. Just in time for their deadline. And then I promptly forgot all about it.

Forgetting isn’t always a good thing. But in this case  . . . 

Imagine my delighted surprise when the March 2014 issue (PDF) on social media came in my mail, and I opened it up. Actually, I opened it up after someone tweeted out their kudos, and I had to go look what they were talking about. Oh dear, brain injury strikes again. But wow — so cool to see my byline!

Brain Power on Five Members of a Club No One Wants to Belong to

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Groucho Marx got a lot of laughs for saying that he’d never want to be a member of a club that would accept him as a member.” (Katherine Wise)

So begins the article Brain injury Blogs: Voices from People Living with Traumatic Brain Injury about five bloggers, including me (!), whom they declare as being the people to read “if you are searching for encouragement, advice, or information from an authentic source.” All I can say is I agree with Groucho: this club of people with brain injuries — invisible injuries many deny to boot — is not one I would volunteer to join. But it sure is nice being tagged as a blogger to go to for encouragement and information.

I encourage you to check out Wise’s piece. And even if you don’t have a brain injury or know a person with one, you may find the stories of my four fellow bloggers interesting. One thing I noticed — we were all injured by (words removed for polite ears) drivers. A red-light runner, a truck rear-ender, a double-rear-ender with a push forward into fourth car (me), car crash, drinking and driving. Four sober, one drunk. There’s a message in that, methinks.


Responding to Self-Publishing Comments by House of Anansi

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CBC News interviewed House of Anansi’s Sarah MacLachlan about self-publishing today after a discussion with big-name authors and established publishers at Luminato on the same subject. I think it’s a bit disingenuous to have the big guns talk about something they don’t need and/or they’re in direct competition with. But OK.

As I read what MacLachlan had to say, I felt the urge to dissect it. So I did:

But for everybody else, my question is, “OK, you write a book, the thing you traffic in is ideas, do you also then want to become your own manufacturer, your own sales and marketing department, your own shiller of your idea?”

Years ago, I learnt a lot from published authors — not the big names, but the middle ones, the ones who sold well or not so well — about just how little publishers do to market a book. These authors did their own marketing; had to buy their own books (at cost) to sell to readers. This was before self-publishing hit the big leagues, before ePublishing began. As the traditional publishers cut back, these authors had to become their own sales and marketing department. Even if publishers did more than an initial flurry of publicity, they were unwilling to put in the long-term effort needed to sell books month after month, the kind of effort need to put a book into the backlist. With ePublishing, getting a book into the backlist may not be so important anymore as there will be no such thing as out of print. Still, traditional publishers expect authors to put in the bulk of the publicity effort without commensurate compensation. When I read about an author on the Times Bestseller list earning $25,000 while the publisher earned $250,000, the disparity really hits home.

As for the manufacturing, with POD, the Espresso Book Machine, ePublishers, really, how hard is it? The worst aspect of it is formatting a book, but you can hire good people to do good work (something I can’t say about some books from traditional publishers) from editing to cover design to interior design. And unlike with a traditional publisher, the author doesn’t have to compromise. Then companies like Lulu or Smashwords will distribute your physical and eBooks for you. Distribution really is the hardest, but even that can be taken care of for you.

We put a stamp of approval on something by accepting it and by saying, “Yes we want to get behind this and put our resources behind it.”

That’s true. But from everything I’ve read, most publishers do this only for a short time and only if it proves fruitful. Once the 3 months of “getting behind this” are up, then what? The author is still left with the grunt work of long-term marketing. Yet the author receives no extra royalties for the abdication of this role by traditional publishers over the years.

…but what happens on the day when Amazon decides not to pay you or takes two years to pay you? You’re still a lone ranger out there trying to get your money back from them.

Well, that’s a bit rich coming from a publisher. Traditional publishers don’t pay quarterly, they pay every 6 months. And they pay peanuts. They don’t always pay on time either. The author has to play lone ranger to try and get their money from them or even their rights back when they want to make something of their book and the publisher is holding them back. I’ve heard the horror stories. One of the reasons an author needs an agent is because part of what an agent does is to get traditional publishers to pay up and on time. So while traditional publishers bank your money, earning interest off your money, Amazon and Smashwords and iUniverse are sending you cheques.

…we have somebody devoted to web marketing because that is where we can get an audience that is knowable, trackable, with whom we can interact, which is a very important thing for us, to know how people are responding to the books we’re putting out into the marketplace. There’s no question that we will be coming up with ways in which to sell and market books that exist online and that will probably be online.

I can’t speak to House of Anansi, and I follow agents more than publishers, so this assertion is something I need to look into more. But as a casual reader and a big Twitter user, I see far more Americans online than Canadian publishers and agents. I also see that the Americans understand the point of Twitter (and thus social media) better than the Canadians. And I find the Americans are the ones who interact. There are some exceptions. But I wish Canadian agents and publishers would get off their duff and start being more enthusiastic and interactive on the web, not just put announcements out there like that’s what we really care about. Announcements are good but only in the context of actually talking and responding to your readers. The Toronto Public Library has been stellar on that front. Plus, publishers are assuming most readers prefer particular publishers. When I read a book a day, I didn’t pick them based on the publisher — I’d run out pretty darn quick if I read only certain publishers — I picked them based on first the genre or content and second the author. As I grew older and needed to look further afield for books, I began to care less about who published it, especially as publishers cared less about doing a good editing and proofreading job. I suppose Harlequin readers do stick to their favoured publisher, but that kind of publishing stream doesn’t apply to non-romance books.

I do believe that, yeah, we have to be able to offer things to writers as publishers that they may not be able to handle doing themselves, and might not want to handle themselves.

That has always been the best value a publisher brings to a writer. But more and more, publishers do less and less, yet want to hog most of the price of a book to themselves, along with the retailer, without monetarily reflecting their offloading of responsibility onto their authors (except the big ones). Anansi says that as an independent house, they don’t give up on a book after so many months. If all publishers went back to that model and, as well, upped their royalties, writers wouldn’t be looking to eBook publishers and self-publishing.

Self-publishing still has a kind of… it’s a little bit pejorative.

It’s kind of funny thinking that when well-known writers from long ago started off in the hinterland of self-publishing. I’ve also seen a change in the last two to three years in the way self-pub is viewed, going from marginal to mainstream. My readers also never said to me because Lifeliner is self-published, I don’t want to read it. It was more about content than how and who published it. Does that mean publishers are losing cachet? Is it becoming more about the authors and/or the books themselves? And with so much dreck in the traditionally published canon, is that another reason self-publishing is seen as more on par? In that case, self-publishing and ePublishing becomes even more attractive to the author.

…if you’re an indie band and you get published by Arts & Crafts or Maple Music, there’s probably a little bit more of a good stamp. I think a lot of the indie music scene and doing your own thing is a reaction against the big, giant music publishers. That could happen in books because they’re not dissimilar kinds of creatures.

Very true. And moreso if traditional publishers insist on locking eBooks with DRM and following the music industry down that self-destructive trail. Authors want their books to be read and if going through an eBook publisher or doing it yourself is the only way to ensure DRM-free eBooks, then more will do that as word spreads across the Internet.

And that’s really the key. Today, the Internet allows authors and writers to share, talk, learn from each other and so become more independent from publishers. It allows them to see there are choices. And those choices mean that publishers have to compete with different models and ideas about publishing, not just with each other.

Internet and Computers

Imagining “Lifeliner: The EBook” on the Apple iPad

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Back in the late 1990s when I was envisioning the different ways of publishing Lifeliner: The Judy Taylor Story, I had an idea for an electronic version. Back in the computer middle ages, the only way I could’ve does this was on a CD, a bit clunky as a medium I had to admit. But with Apple’s announcement of its new iPad, I have the perfect medium to execute my idea. Too bad it’s a bit late and I don’t have the energy or many of the raw materials anymore — though I did make a few attempts with a Flickr slideshow and YouTube video — to make it happen. Still, it’s nice to revisit my imagined Lifeliner: The EBook.

Back then, I didn’t think of it as an eBook, as simply an electronic version of the printed book. I imagined it as an interactive experience with photographs and videos, interview excerpts and audio, and of course the text itself. I imagined that in one package one could read, listen to, and watch Judy’s story.

For background research on Lifeliner, I had interviewed over 60 people, all of which I had taped (except when my recorder decided to act up or batteries gave up, having less stamina than humans deep in question and answer). I had borrowed and watched videos of Judy having a good time in her community or shilling for Toronto General Hospital. I had a plethora of Judy’s personal archival material, school records, family photographs, and my own photographs that I’d taken of her home. And I had medical records up the whazoo. I felt that seeing and hearing this material, judiciously edited, would bring Judy and her personal and medical experiences to life in a way that was different from reading a book or seeing a movie. The reader could decide what they wanted to watch or not, what they wanted to listen to or not. I don’t remember all the details, but I have a memory of it being like a game where the reader determined the path they took. Some would be more interested in the medical side, while others in Bobcaygeon life. Some would want to see the family side more, while others her doctor and fellow lifeliners. All would be possible.

With the Apple iPad, it’s at last doable.

Many are talking about eBooks as just electronic versions of printed books. In that form, eBooks, I believe, are best read on eInk technology because reading is more than just the cognitive act of processing words and sentences, it’s also the physical act of keeping one’s eyes sharp. And a bright screen isn’t always the best for long periods of straight reading. But I believe that one can do so much more with a digital book than just putting text in bits and bytes, particularly in the field of biography, and that’s where the iPad shines. Several decades ago, biographers really only had printed materials like letters, which could readily be photographed and reproduced on the printed page. But today, with modern subjects, we have video and audio, photographs and e-mails, as well as letters or articles. You can’t see those in books. But a well-edited choice of all of these could be shown to readers through the Apple iPad. When they’re reading about a television interview, they could click on a still shot and watch the interview. When they’re reading a letter, they could click on the letter and hear it being read in the author’s voice (author of the letter, that is, if still alive). They could read the book as the book author wrote it or perhaps follow a game format where they focus on one particular aspect of the subject’s life. Really, with digital media, only the author’s imagination and publisher’s innovation is the limit.

It’s too bad this technology came too late for me and Lifeliner, but perhaps if I find the right agent and publisher, we can work on a way to bring video and audio and photos to my newest book for the Apple iPad.

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The Toronto Star Quotes Me

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I had an amazing surprise this holiday weekend. I was reading the Insight
section of the Toronto Star, the front page of it, and decided to read Meme
of the Week
. I don’t usually read it but it had an intriguing title: “Miller’s cave.” So there am I reading it, and OMG
my name popped up! They quoted my “cave” comment from my blogspot blog!!

“I knew the city would cave,” wrote blogger Shireen Jeejeebhoy. (Daniel Dale, The Toronto Star, 1 August 2009)

Dale was quoting from my blog post titled “Toronto Garbage Strike Over. Property Taxes Will Rise in the Spring,” specifically from the opening paragraphs:

As soon as I heard the news, I knew it was too soon for the city and
Mayor David Miller to have achieved their stated aims. Actually as soon
as I heard the union’s ultimatum, I knew the city would cave, as if the
threat was some great tsunami they could never escape. All in their
head, especially as workers were already crossing the picket line, but
the union knew that and worked them good.
” (28 July 2009)

Well! I was so excited I didn’t read any more of that section. Instead I’m keeping it
pristine and putting it in my files.


Lifeliner in Malaysia’s Star

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My parents recently spent almost a month in Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam, my father Dr. Khursheed Jeejeebhoy having been invited to speak in those countries. They kept him busy giving lectures to both English-language and Vietnamese-language audiences. He was so popular, he was invited back not only to speak but to teach for several months as well. And, to top it off, the media were also interested in him and his work in nutrition. Shortly after he returned to Canada, one Malaysian journalist contacted me about an article she was writing on TPN. We started talking about statistics, then moved on to Judy Taylor’s resilience of spirit. It was a real pleasure chatting with her over cyberspace.

This past Sunday, Wey Wen Lim’s article titled “Nutrition via the veins” was published both in the online and print editions of Malaysia’s leading English-language newspaper The Star. There’s a great photo of Dad in the online version, and the print edition features a photo of Judy with her catheter. It has good information on TPN, great quotes from Dad, and best of all, Lim led off her article with the story of Judy’s last meal of fish ‘n chips and talked about my book on Judy, Lifeliner.

I’m very excited about this article — it’s the first to feature Lifeliner in a major print publication! Check it out!!