Friday, December 28, 2012


A bit from an article entitled, "A Vested Interest in Palimpsest". The entire article can be read in the National Post at

"My favourite is 'palimpsest.' When I first noticed it in print, four decades ago, it struck me as odd, beautiful and full of promise. It’s a term that engages many writers and continues to attract new meanings but to some readers it still seems slightly far-fetched, maybe outrageous... Earlier this month, when an art gallery in England opened an exhibition called Love in Palimpsests, a reviewer called the word “an obscure, esoteric term.” Yet it’s now in the titles of more than 200 books in the University of Toronto library catalogue.

Once I spotted it, and fell in love with it, palimpsest began popping up everywhere, as a word will sometimes do. Coleridge used it when trying to recover something from his memory. Conan Doyle, in a late Sherlock Holmes story, had Watson say that he and Holmes were at work, “with a powerful lens deciphering the remains of the original inscription upon a palimpsest.”

Orwell used it as a metaphor in 1984 when describing Big Brother’s way of eliminating memory — “All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary.”

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On being a professional

I think I can now call myself a professional graphic designer. Sure, I received an advanced certificate in graphic through a college, but more importantly, I have designed a dozen or so logos, over 20 book covers, at least 40 interior book layouts, and countless posters, business cards, and pamphlets. And yes, I have charged for the majority of this work. But I have never been great with labels. Calling myself “professional” at anything is always a bit amusing to me. It requires that I (1.) make money at said activity, and (2.) am skilled at said activity. As a publisher I do both of these things, the level and success of which is debatable. As a writer, the same holds true. And for the sake of argument, you could say these things apply to me as a graphic designer. But the word “professional” sticks in my craw. It assumes a certain “authority” I have never believed myself to possess. It is true I know a lot about books, more than the average person, after all I sell them, market them, attend conferences and sales meetings about them, I blog, tweet, and facebook about them, I design them, read them, and even, occasionally, write them. I have studied print history, and took courses on bookbinding and letterpress techniques, but I still don’t feel adequately knowledgeable enough to call myself a book “professional.” The issue is that I know that I still have much more to learn. And when it comes to graphic design, I have merely scratched the surface. Perhaps, I have developed some of the professional idiosyncrasies that go along with being a designer—like having a font collection that would crash most computers, or noticing the typeface first, instead of the food, when I look at a menu—but those are merely trained-in quirks. If these types of habits were all it took to call oneself “professional,” then I would have deemed myself a professional writer when I stopped using the word “final” in my document file names (insert literary laughter here). Regardless, I have decided to call myself a professional writer/ publisher/ designer, because those who depend on me expect that I have more than just a skill set; they presume, rather, that I am an authority on the subject. And even if I am uncertain if this authority exists, I have decided that it does. And it is a choice. It isn’t like one day you finish university, you get a job, and then you start receiving money via instant deposit, and voila, you’re a professional. Well, in some cases, maybe that is the case, but it never was for me. It took me about six years of publishing and learning the trade before I could even think about calling myself a “Publisher!” Years ago, when people asked me what I did, I’d say I was a housewife, mother, or I dabbled in writing and publishing, but I never called it my profession. Given the amount of hours I spend working, thinking about, and stressing about all things book-related, I think I have now earned the right to call myself a professional. After all, I deal with an accountant, have an office, an assistant, a sales force, a graphic design client list, and my own book, soon to be published, so rather than flailing about in my own self-doubt, I have decided to be confident. *Gulp. It may just be that I never labeled myself anything, because if I did, then that meant I could fail at it. After all, you can’t fail at doing something if, technically, you never were a (insert appropriate title here). So I am going to risk it, fake it until it feels real if I have to, and throw all my reticence and cautious philosophizing to the wind—today I declare that I am a professional.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Q&Q Review of Not With a Bang

The entire review from the Quill can be read at

 "Alberta author Gail Sidonie Sobat’s latest offering is the tale of an unlikely pair who discover that age is no barrier to friendship. After being convicted for marijuana possession, Jan is ordered to work in a hospice for seniors. There he spends time playing board games with Al, the resident smart ass. Their initially forced companionship quickly develops into a deep bond as Jan begins to share his past, revealing the emotional scars that have shaped him. Al, a former poet, becomes a father figure to the fatherless Jan, encouraging the teen to write and helping him see life for what it is – painful but punctuated with moments of pure joy. Sobat realistically depicts the hormone-driven teenage mind. There’s an authenticity to Jan that is developed through the frank handling of his sexuality... References to T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” (from which the book’s title is derived) and Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” feature prominently throughout the narrative. Jan and Al frequently discuss the themes contained in the poem and song, which tie in nicely with many of Jan’s epiphanies and moments of self-discovery. This lyricism is also reflected in the book’s structure: in the early chapters, Jan is depicted as an empty, superficial character, and the sentences that form his thoughts and dialogue are short and choppy. As Jan begins to more fully understand himself and what it means to be a true friend, the sentences become longer and his sentiments more meaningful. Not With a Bang accentuates the power of words to heal and connect. This is a genuine, thought-provoking, and poignant novel that should hold wide appeal."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Book Trees

A few creative Christmas ideas for book lovers: