my tragic right hip

Busting out bad joints all over the place

February 23rd, 2018

A Picture of Moss

This is my favourite moss. It’s a spot just up off the driveway of our cottage, set back into the woods a bit, near a bit of a clearing. I walk to it, by it, all the time, when heading out on adventures with our boy if his cousins have already left and he needs an adventure-mate. It’s unbearably grey and rainy here in Toronto, and cold. Perfectly acceptable end-of-February weather if you felt as though you could endure even another February day.

So, today in my my mind I’m brushing my hand against the fluffy pillow-like moss on the rocks by a place where I’ll be in a few months when the weather changes, and we’re in the rush-rush of the summer season. The colour is delightful, and green, proving that even the sight of something so hopeful and growing can help you through the end of the day, the end of the week, the end of the longest-shortest month of the year.

Over the last few weeks/months/years, I’ve been having a hard time concentrating. At first I put it down to the disease, and that never-ending “brain fog” it induces both from medication and from, well, disease. But it’s more than that, it’s too many decisions and questions during a day, it’s not enough exercise, it’s too much sugar, it’s too many hours spent with a phone, watching too much TV, it’s the in and out of how to spend the couple of hours at the end of the day after the boy is in bed before my mind can actually fall into a fitful sleep.

I decided this year to pump up my reading by making myself accountable to GoodReads. I set up a reading goal (52 books), and I’m tracking them on my phone. At times like this, fiction gets hard, but nonfiction feels like a breeze. I’ve finished Roxane (with one “n”) Gay’s excellent Bad Feminist. I’m really enjoying Worry-Free Money and felt like Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home wasn’t necessarily about being happy or being at home (goodness she’s a writer in love with quotes. So. Many. Quotes.). I’ve started reading a book about Monet’s Water Lilies series. Nonfiction has a way of soothing your over-worked mind, I find. Letting you puzzle in someone else’s thoughts for a bit as yours continue to be muddled and messy.

Reading has always been the way in which I sort out my world. But working in publishing means that I’ve gathered many, many books–my shelves are sinking at the weight of it all–and so, like many other years, I’m trying to work my way through them. Make some hard decisions. I have books from my very first publishing job that I’ve carried around for years, hoping to read, planning on reading, when is that moment when I’ll just know that no, I won’t get to this in my lifetime, and is it worth the emotional baggage and years of collected dust. I never imagined from that very first moment when I discovered reading could be a challenge (remember Read-a-thons? I took them as a personal gold-star-maker, used up both sides of the sheet and then some) that I could “succeed” at, that there might be a moment in my life where books didn’t give me pleasure. Now, with life so full and balance completely off, I’ve struggled for the last few years to find my way through the backlog of books I have on my to-be-read shelf.

But who am I without a book in-hand? What do I do without a giant stack of books beside my bed? How do I define myself if I’m not a reader.

I’m getting older. I’m outside of mainstream publishing. Beyond the books that win the Giller or the GG, I don’t know what’s hot at the moment (but if I read one more essay about Rupi Kaur through teaching I might have to give up entirely) and I’m not sure I care any more. Finding my way around the stacks that I have might be a valuable thing to do for a year, maybe two–to not buy the latest bestseller (or anything new, really, unless it’s for book club) but suffering from FOMO is a real thing when it comes to my reading.

Anyway, enough rambling for today. Perhaps I shall go home and finish something while my family’s at hockey practice.

May 25th, 2012

A Girl In Publishing: The Things We Take For Granted

Yesterday, a dear friend dropped by because she was in the area, and upon entering my “cube,” said, “It must be so nice to come into work and see a bookshelf full of books everyday.” And to be perfectly honest, I actually rarely even look at my bookshelf–two of the shelves have shoes on them, another is full of gadgets and cords and other ereading paraphernalia, and I’ve pared my work books down to the bare essentials (really just signed copies from visiting authors). I think, for the first time in my life, I have gotten to a place where books are no longer a romantic part of my life–I appreciate them, I feel they are inherently important, but as objects, well, they’ve utterly lost their hold on me. (more…)

May 8th, 2012

A Girl in Publishing: To Self or Not to Self?

As a girl who works for a fairly large and established worldwide publishing firm in Canada, I am more than familiar with the stigmas of self-publishing. For every lecture that I do, panel I attend, conference that I might speak at (and those are few and far between), it’s inevitable that some lone wolf will come up to me and ask me my opinion about self-publishing, and I always give the same advice, that perhaps it’s not a good idea, that your book, your work, will, at some point, find the right home. And, of this, I am probably wrong — there are some books out there that will never find a home, and there’s a whole world of industrious people out there making a living from self-publishing, right? (more…)

May 1st, 2012

A Girl In Publishing: Byliner, Atavist & Me

I’ve been reading a pile of Byliner and Atavist short content lately because I’m fairly obsessed with the format. At the recent BookNet Tech conference, Laura Hazard Owen had a great presentation about the many and varied opportunities that exist for people who want to do some testing in this area. Some of the things that I love about long-form journalism as ebooks: it’s an interesting intersection where magazine publishing and book publishing can work together for a common goal; they are amazing pieces of content that can be “downed” in a short subway ride (perfect for mom-type-tired-commuters like me); and the quality of the pieces highlights the fact that many, many longish non-fiction books could actually become these “shorts” and successfully work out their p&ls in ways that physical book sales can not support.

Of the Byliner originals that I’ve really enjoyed lately, obviously Buzz Bissinger’s After Friday Night Lights, where a third of the profits from the sale of the book go to Boobie, who has had some hard times post-FNL’s publication, film and TV run (and holy moly the craziness that came up around this between Apple & Amazon!). I found Ann Patchett’s The Getaway Car utterly compelling for two reasons: she’s such a genuinely good writer and her advice about her craft is simple, yet motivating. Because Jon Krakauer can do no wrong in my eyes, I thought his powerful rage-against-the-machine that is Greg Mortensen justified never having read that book in the first place. In addition to these ones that I’ve read, I’ve started a half-dozen others, including a great narrative nonfiction piece from The Atavist called Mother Stranger that I downloaded while at the Booknet conference as the speaker, Stephanie Syman, was giving her presentation.

So much of what I appreciate about the format, style, and length of this content comes from being a magazine reader/lover. One of my life’s goals that I have failed miserably at is becoming a magazine writer — let’s be fair, I’ve never really given it any kind of hard shot, because, mainly, I’m terrified of pitching and being rejected, and that my style of rambling, sometimes incoherent sentences might not make for the best kind of reading. Annnywaaay, with the current state of the marketplace, the complaints about pricing, about the agency model, about the royalty rates, none of which I’m going to get into here (and I did try last week to address some issues, but I’m sorry that I had to remove that post; I’m going to try to put a less contentious version up over the next couple weeks), long-form journalism as ebook is bright, shiny star in terms of content companies finding ways to connect with readers.

Why Byliner and Atavist are succeeding and, really, dominating this marketplace at the moment seems simple to me — they have great branding, which is something that escapes traditional publishing simply because of the nature of the business; they are attracting “name” authors who are also extending the life of their most successful content in new and innovative ways; and there’s active merchandising through the vendors. Without support of a program like Kindle Singles, would this content ever surface? I would imagine that some of the bigger names, the Atwood, the Krakauers, the timely news-worthy features like the short book on Joe Paterno, search will drive visibility as much as merchandising, as well as publicity around these topics.

How important is branding and visibility in terms of short content? Beyond any other kind of traditional publishing, it presents the biggest opportunity for publishers, authors, trying to monetize their “sawdust.” With any trade publishing program, and I’m speaking here of the big publishing houses, this is my experience, the ins and outs of what gets published doesn’t normally fit into a brand — there’s a sensibility, there’s a personality in terms of editorial direction, there’s even a general knowledge of what doesn’t fit into the program, but it’s very clear that it’s not like Pepsi, or Coke, or Nike, etc. Yes, Penguin has the Penguin, but other than it’s classics program, is that brand recognized for it’s current program to a general consumer? The bright yellow Byliner banner, the amazing photography, the clear, direct titles — these are the signs of a publisher who understands not only the importance of branding but how said branding looks in a digital marketplace. These covers are designed for virtual stores; they look great on a virtual bookshelf, and even though the content moves from fiction to nonfiction, from recognizable names to timely, newsworthy articles, it’s always apparent that they are Byliner Originals.

I could go on, and maybe I will. But for now. I’m wondering what makes someone buy a Byliner original or a Kindle single — driven by the content, the author, the price point?


about me

Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

my virtual self

deanna [dot] mcfadden [at] gmail [dot] com

classic starts by me

Friends & Foibles

and the simple things


recent comments