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“Too Many Words”

Jeff, I am very pleased to see that you took my comments to heart. Your latest posts don’t display the blatant commercialism that produced such angst in my heart (and indigestion in my stomach).

I thought I might, therefore, take a moment to suggest that your sentences are long and unwieldy at times. Rather like Mozart’s patron, Emperor Joseph II, who thought the brilliant composer used “too many notes,” (Amadeus, 1984) you might do a word count and consider whether you are using too many words…Please note that I am not labouring under the delusion that I am an emperor; I’m just giving you a little constructive criticism.

I look forward to your next writerly endeavour in There’s a Hole in the Bucket. You’ll get the hang of it, I’m sure.



Jane Goodall comes to town

Jane Goodall, 2008 Louis D. Hyndman Sr. Lecture Series at the Jubilee Auditorium, EdmontonWhen Cathie discovered she could not make it to Jane Goodall’s lecture at the Edmonton Jubilee Auditorium Thursday (April 10) night, she kindly passed me her ticket. I was already weary from two other big events this week—Ted Blodgett read Tuesday for The Olive poetry series at Hulbert’s Café, and Jerry Haigh and Ken Hoeppner wowed us Wednesday at Literary Cocktails—but I felt this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and a free one to boot!

The only condition was that I was to meet up with our Managing Editor, Peter Midgley, for an alleged photo op with Jane signing Jerry Haigh’s The Trouble with Lions, as she wrote the Foreword. The alleged photographer for this alleged photo op was to be yours truly.

I sauntered into the Jube in time to locate Peter and his daughters; we made a hasty plan to meet up with Jane and a couple of organisers at the book-signing table after the lecture but before the signing mill ramped up. I then found my seat and settled in for a talk that succeeded in heartening even cynical me.

Jane Goodal, 2008 Louis D. Hyndman Sr. Lecture, with MCThere were some very touching moments towards the end as the open-forum questions degenerated into the sincerest kind of star-struck hero adoration and as Jane began to flag from evident exhaustion (what do you expect from a 74 -year old who travels 300 days a year?!) but continued to speak from an indefatigable source of passion. I may have gotten just a little verklempt when a child took the mic and pronounced her tremendous admiration for Jane. “You are my inspiration…” she trembled and we all felt the love. A collective “awww” followed by applause erupted from the crowd.

I tried to steal a few photos at the beginning and end of the lecture, but had little success in the cavernous dark of the auditorium, since I had been repeatedly admonished against using my flash by signs posted all over the foyer and atrium. Makes sense, I figured, as flash photography during the lecture would be incredibly distracting.

After the talk wrapped up, I made a beeline for the books table. There was already a throng of Goodall devotees messily queued up across the entire atrium and a swarm of organisers milling about in black tshirts with “L’Institute Jane Goodall Institute” enblazoned between their shoulder blades. Peter, his daughters, and his youngest daughter’s Pathfinders group were there, but not the person who was to negotiate our little photo op with Jane Goodall’s people. The woman in charge of facilitating the autograph session had a job ahead of her, shepherding books and fans past Jane (who herself could hardly spare any pleasantries), so we made the best of it. The facilitator stacked Peter’s families’ copies of The Trouble with Lions preopened to the title page. There was a professional photographer on hand to take pictures of fans with Jane. We had little time to get in and get out before the real autograph factory got going.

Autograph facilitator, Jane Goodall, UAP Managing Editor—Peter Midgley—avec flashJane began signing copies of The Trouble with Lions, and Peter gingerly insinuated himself into the frame. That’s when I goofed. I had no idea the admonishment against flash photography was to protect Jane’s sensitive eyes. So when my flash erupted from that first photo of the facilitator, Jane Goodall, and Peter Midgley, everyone wearing a black “L’Institute Jane Goodall Institute” tshirt collectively turned to me and hushed “No flash photography!” Jane herself seemed unperturbed, but I meekly closed my flash and proceed to try and snap images of this hurried process without the advantage of the faster shutter speeds that bright light affords.

Autograph facilitator, Jane Goodall, UAP Managing Editor—Peter Midgley—sans flashAll said, it was a delightful time. University of Alberta’s Associate Director of Public Affairs, Richard Cairney wrote an excellent ExpressNews piece on the event. You can visit the U of A Research Ethics Office to learn more about the Louis D. Hyndman Sr. Lecture Series; or visit the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada to find out more about her and her conservation initiatives.

Feel free to download a PDF of Jane Goodall’s Foreword or Jerry’s Haigh’s own Preface to The Trouble with Lions: A Glasgow Vet in Africa.

Literary Cocktails…Biography & Life Writing Edition

With winter semester winding down, many people on campus look forward to a little R&R. And although the University of Alberta Press does not enjoy the same seasonal ebb and flow that many students and faculty enjoy—in fact, we are in the thick of a dense production schedule with new titles coming off the press at a blistering pace—we are, however, certainly prepared to blow off a little steam and fête some of our authors with friends and colleagues from on and off campus. Literary Cocktails, held yesterday between 4:00 and 6:00 PM in the Papaschase Room of the Faculty Club, gave us all a chance to do just that.

Literary Cocktails this year got to the heart of what makes UAP a vibrant, ambitious, and innovative publishing house—people. To celebrate some of our favourite people, whether they write our books or enjoy reading them, or both, we chose to deviate from the traditional roster of luminary poets, fictionistas, and literati in favour of showcasing biography and creative non-fiction titles. This is well timed as we have just launched a new literary travel series called Wayfarer.

Jerry Haigh and Ken Hoeppner

University of Alberta Press authors, Jerry Haigh (The Trouble with Lions) and Ken Hoeppner (The Ordinary Genius) were the stars of this year’s Literary Cocktails. Both travelled to Edmonton yesterday to talk about the peculiar demands of writing non-fiction, and how they were both able to bring forth two fine, yet vastly different, examples of life writing.

The Master of Ceremonies for the event was University of Alberta English professor and creative non-fiction guru, Ted Bishop, whose runaway hit memoir, Riding with Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books, has been picked up for a second printing by WW Norton. It was a supreme treat to have Ted on hand to spice up the afternoon with his wisdom and astonishing energy (and a singular talent for injecting suspense into life’s most underestimated details).

The turnout was better than anticipated; there wasn’t a spare chair to be found in the Papaschase room.

Ted Bishop introduces Ken Hoeppner, gives us a scare

In introducing Ken Hoeppner and his biography of Arnold Platt, Ted, exercising true storyteller savvy, began with a bang. Calling the remarkable Arnold Platt—the man who engineered and cultivated sawfly-resistant Rescue Wheat back in the 1930s and went on to become one of the greatest and most self-effacing generalists in the history of prairie public-policy making—a terrible man, Ted fixed us to our seats, breathless, looking anxiously to Ken for signs that he might be in on some daring joke.

Ted lambasted Platt because of the very first sentence of Ken’s book: “[Platt] spent two days at the incinerator, burning most of his private papers.” Ted noted that, as an archivist, he considered this to be a crime against both scholarship and history. Hoeppner’s opening line does its job, creating emotional tension, and elicits another masterful hook by our Bishop. I was relieved when Ted let us off the hook, but from then on he had my attention. I still don’t know if Ken was in on Ted’s cliffhanger of an introduction.

Not sure Ken Hoeppner is impressed with Ted Bishop\'s narrative finesse.

I wasn’t sure if the look on Ken’s face was one of collegial disinterest or simmering ire. Or perhaps he was simply anxious, waiting for Ted to deliver the punch line!

Ken HoeppnerTed Bishop’s introduction did highlight a key challenge for Arnold Platt’s biographer; namely, how does one find out anything about a person who was so self-effacing he went out of his way to destroy his personal writings?

Ken described the digging he had to do in order to find those precious primary sources that remained after Platt’s death. Being a consummate generalist who preferred to influence policy rather than pursue power, Platt led a relatively understated life. There were fortuitous moments—unimaginable finds—in Ken’s painstaking searches for documentation, which he shared with us, making us privy to an intimate look at this daunting craft. Ken revealed an admirable devotion to his subject—as biographer and friend.

Ted Bishop (Riding with Rilke, WW Norton & Co.) introduces Jerry Haigh.

Ted then introduced Jerry Haigh.

Jerry HaighJerry Haigh took the stand next and delighted us with stories he’s lived and cultivated over the years as a big-game veterinarian in various locales across Africa. It was quickly apparent that behind these often raucous and rowdy adventure stories about treating and studying wild lions, rhinos, elephants, and other wild animals lay a deep concern and conviction to help improve the quality of life for all indigenous species—including humans. The real-life stories that Jerry shares in The Trouble with Lions: A Glasgow Vet in Africa range from fun and funny to sobering, even harrowing, as he describes the tragedy of the bush-meat trade. No matter what his subject, and whether in print or in person, Jerry can spin a ripping yarn and keep a person fascinated for hours. I never tire of opening that book to a random page and plunging into the midst of some exotic locale populated with wild creatures and real characters.

(On an unfortunate note: Jerry lost one of the brilliant brass buttons from his blazer at some point during the event. What stings is that these buttons were an heirloom from his father’s regimental uniform. Hopefully someone has found it and can get it to either Jerry or to us at the Press.)

The stars of Literary Cocktails...Life Writing Edition—Jerry Haigh, Ken Hoeppner, and Ted Bishop.

The three stars of this year’s Literary Cocktails…Life Writing Edition: Jerry Haigh (The Trouble with Lions), Ken Hoeppner (The Ordinary Genius), and our MC, Ted Bishop (Riding with Rilke, WW Norton & Co).

Literary Cocktails was a wonderful affair this year. I am glad we chose to mix things up and feature non-fiction authors this time around. Who knows what we’ll do next year? Literary Cocktails…Lexicographers Edition?! No doubt we could find an author or editor or two to make it a swinging time!

And, if you would like to be notified of out next Literary Cocktails (whether it feature lexicographers or otherwise), please let us know!

UAP designers win an Alcuin…or four

The Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada honours the best designed books in several categories: Children’s books; Limited Editions; Pictorial; Poetry; Prose Fiction; Illustrated Prose Fiction; Prose Non-fiction; Illustrated Prose Non-fiction; and Reference books. We are very proud to announce that our own Alan Brownoff and Marvin Harder placed in four of these categories for the following UAP titles.

Third Prize in Alcuin’s Reference category, Marvin Harder for The Freshwater Fishes of British Columbia by J.D. McPhail, illustrated by D.L. McPhail

Culturing Wilderness in Jasper National Park, Alan Brownoff 1st prize for Illustrated Prose Non-fiction at 26th Alcuin Awards

First Prize in Alcuin’s Illustrated Prose Non-fiction, Alan Brownoff for Culturing Wilderness in Jasper National Park edited by I.S. MacLaren

Great Canadian Film Directors, Designer Alan Brownoff, 2nd Prose Non-fiction 26th Alcuin

Second Prize in Alcuin’s Prose Non-fiction, Alan Brownoff for Great Canadian Film Directors edited by George Melnyk

Third Prize in Alcuin’s Pictorial category, Alan Brownoff for Dressed to Rule by John E. Vollmer

This year’s judges were Sue Colberg, Associate Professor and Associate Chair (Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Art & Design at the University of Alberta); Jason Dewinetz (Greenboathouse Books, Vernon, BC), book designer, publisher, teacher; and, Tim Inkster (The Porcupine’s Quill, Erin, ON), book designer, typographer, and press printer. Their criteria were simple:

The fundamental principle of the judging process is that each book must be considered as a total entity. The judges examine every aspect of each book, including the dust jacket, binding, endpapers, half-title page, copyright page, title page, page layout, typography, integration of illustrations, chapter openings, running heads, reproduction of illustrations, clarity of printing, choice of paper, footnotes, and bibliographical references.

Winning books will be entered in the international book design competition in Leipzig, Germany, February 2009. For a full report of the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada, visit their website.

Congratulations Alan and Marvin!