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Book Camp Toronto 2011 Recap

August 21, 2011

I’m home and exhausted from my latest work trip to South Carolina. Last Sunday I drove up to North Carolina to meet with Lauren and we went to Biltmore, and again on Tuesday I went up and we had dinner together. On Wednesday I got to hang out in Spartanburg (my base when I’m in SC) with Kathy of BermudaOnion and Erin from Hub City Books, where I know I will spend too much money on future trips to the area! They both also convinced me that I need to register for the SIBA Tradeshow in Charleston, as I will be in the area for work that week… so I did! If you will be attending do let me know. Oh, and I also worked about 65 hours in 5 days.

Needless to say I’m a bit over-tired, but that didn’t stop me from attending BookCampTO yesterday! (Though I do admit to being a few minutes late, unfortunately.) While I seriously considered staying in bed and catching up on sleep I am very glad that I went. There is nothing better, as a book lover, than spending time with others who share your passion and enthusiasm and talking about books. I may have not made sense any time I participated (sorry if I rambled!), dropped things constantly all day, put an open water bottle in my bag, etc, but overall I stayed awake and enjoyed myself so I call that a success!

The website reads:

BookCamp is a unconference – a conversation instead of a keynote.  That means all attendees are potential presenters and expected participants at the event. All points of view, backgrounds, and levels of experience are welcome. That also means all participants are responsible for themselves. While there is a certain amount of mob rule at a BookCamp, attendees are encouraged to vote with their feet, clean up after themselves, and speak-up when they encounter something they don’t like — in other words attendees are generally encouraged to act like adults.

The event definitely followed the description above! During each time slot there were four to five session options with a number of panelists on each session. The panelists were more like moderators starting the discussion and leading the conversations. And oh, the conversations! I am writing this recap after only partially catching up on sleep so again, my apologies for the fact that I may ramble and may not make sense :)

I started off with the session on Genre. I missed the beginning as I was a bit late but the agenda online lists the presenters as Blake Sproule, Sandra Kasturi, Jack David, Monica Kuebler, and Melissa Anthony – I would note that one great improvement for following years would be to link to presenters websites or twitter feeds? During the session there was a lot of discussion of CanLit, of genre in Canada vs the US, hardcore fans, and more. It was interesting to listen to.

Next up, after running into Trish from Anansi and meeting Steph, I went to the session on Booksellers. This session was led by Stephanie Van der Meulen and Mark Lefebvre and the room was full of publishers and booksellers. The discussion centered a lot around helping customers, what publishers can do to help, and more. I found it interesting listening to the discussion even though it’s not so related to me – other than how often I buy books either directly from publishers or from bookstores!

The third session I attended was on the topic of Social Media and was led by Ron Nurwisah and Ben Dugas. This session started more panel-like with Ben discussing social media and how he sees it being used… until he made a comment about social media bringing news TO him rather than going to find it, at which point the room erupted. It was a really interesting discussion about the benefits of social media and the various ways in which it is used.

On Ben’s point I, of course,  have a lot to say! I think the danger of the internet is that we can create increasingly small bubbles where we live and where we are subjected to information loops of the same or very similar information and we lose out on what is happening in the rest of the world. I think the message that this is an acceptable way to use the internet is a dangerous one, and the actual practice is also dangerous.

That being said, if you cultivate your circles to be large and diverse and search out mediums to find diverse offerings, then this practice for finding things is great. For example, I find out about great African lit from African book bloggers. I follow news sites from various African countries, as well as blogs that dissect the news from those sites. In this way I am not searching for news, it is coming to me, but I am being careful to keep my circles wide enough to get this news. So I agree with what Ben says, I just think that we have to be very (VERY) careful that we keep the range wide and varied.

The next session was on Bloggers which is, of course, quite related to the topic of social media and was the session I was most looking forward to. Leading the session were Steven Beattie, August Bourre, George MurrayBronwyn Kienapple. The session started with the predictable talk about the demise of literary blogging (because you know, only reviewers who also review for trade publication seem to ‘count’ in these discussions often – not that I’m necessarily a literary blogger, but I definitely think there is a huge demographic that is always discounted who are literary). The discussion also covered how genre blogging is bigger now than literary blogging (partially true, I think it depends where you look) and how people don’t read blogs as much (tell that to my Google Reader please!).

Luckily this session turned from the usual and actually included the rest of us ‘regular’ bloggers. There was discussion of author blog tours, the importance of consistency, the importance of voice, the importance of quality, and more. I, of course, spoke up probably a bit too much but really enjoyed the discussion and debate. And I can’t help but plug, again, the Toronto Area Book Bloggers facebook group – join us if you want to connect!!

The last session I attended was on Women in Publishing which was led by Crissy Boylan, Julia Horel O’Brien and Margie Wolfe. This was really interesting and the discussion focused a lot on the pyramid and why men end up with the higher paying top jobs. A few people talked about if it is women’s fault and there was a discussion of culture and its impacts and how women shouldn’t blame themselves for cultural things. There was also discussion about business degrees and how publishing is not the industry to get into if you want to make money.

Definitely had a great time and met some fantastic people. I love living in a city that has such a great literary scene! I do have some thoughts on diversity and equity in publishing but this is getting a tad long so I will save those for tomorrow. If you went, what did you enjoy most?

21 Comments leave one →
  1. August 21, 2011 10:05 am

    Oh my gosh, it sounds like you had the bet time! First off, I am so glad that you got a chance to get together with Kathy and Erin. They are both very cool ladies, and I had such fun with them at SIBA last year! I also am so excited that you might be there this year because I am so, so psyched about perhaps getting the chance to meet you! It also sounds like BookCamp was an awesome event, and I would have loved to be at some of those panels, especially the blogging panel. Such a great recap of all this, even if you are a bit sleepy!

    • August 23, 2011 6:03 pm

      Yes, they are great zibilee. I’m sorry that I can’t make it to SIBA anymore to meet you but hopefully some day! And yes, BookCamp was great!

  2. August 21, 2011 11:21 am

    Wow, this sounds amazing! Toronto’s literary scene seems much more active than PEI’s. ;)

  3. August 21, 2011 2:55 pm

    Gosh, that sounds like a great event, and how interesting that the blogging panel started out the way it did (sounds like the terrible Book Reviews Online panel at BEA) and then took the turn that it did. I wonder if the moderators’ eyes were opened at all or if they assumed that everyone else there just wasn’t “literary.”

    I’m intrigued by the unconference idea, and I wonder if it would be a good model for the Book Bloggers Convention, or at least for part of it. After all, I think mostly what those of us who go really want is to interact with each other.

    • August 23, 2011 6:05 pm

      Yes, thankfully it improved. At least one member of the panel was more of a regular book blog but the others had different ideas about what counted. I am unsure if the unconference idea would work as well for BBC just because the groups are so much bigger. With 30 or so people it works good but with 50 or more… I’m unsure Teresa!

  4. Jillian ♣ permalink
    August 21, 2011 6:44 pm

    Thanks for covering all this, Amy. Really interesting to read. (I couldn’t attend being in the US, but still find the topic interesting. I didn’t realize people actually meet officially and discuss the relevance of blogs.)

    • August 23, 2011 6:05 pm

      Only one session was on blogging Jillian, the rest was on various facets of the book industry as a whole :)

  5. August 21, 2011 8:44 pm

    It was so much fun seeing you last week! When I got halfway home, I realized I forgot to take pictures! We’ll have to get together again the next time you’re in the upstate!

  6. August 22, 2011 10:12 am

    I’m glad you stood up for the bloggers :) I agree with Teresa — sounded like the Book Reviews Online panel which missed the mark pretty badly.

    • August 23, 2011 6:06 pm

      Thanks Kim :D Much better than that panel, but it did start off similar unfortunately!

  7. August 22, 2011 1:37 pm

    Phew! Great recap, Amy. I’m glad to have read it because you went to some of the panels I didn’t go to but wanted to.

    I understand what you mean about keeping our range on the internet wide and not so cliquey or narrow, and it makes sense to me. At the same time, sometimes I feel much too spread out and then I’m not getting much quality but rather skimming the surface of everything. I get easily overwhelmed too if I’m too wide-ranging. But I think I do know what you mean, it’s more about being well-rounded, better informed, and in that case, I’ve no argument.

    In your summary of the bloggers panel you hit on something that I’ve felt, too; that literary blogs seem only to be counted as such if you’re published elsewhere, like in the Q&Q or NatPost or whatever. I consider my blog, and yours, literary. We don’t really fit in any other category, the main ones being more YA or genre focused blogs.

    Your other points, about people not reading blogs as much (I agree that this isn’t necessarily true). I was a bit disappointed in that panel; I’m not sure what I expected but I felt it was a bit too monopolized by George and his examples of his now-defunct blog; maybe I didn’t like that very much because it didn’t seem pertinent to the type of blogging many of us do. I did agree we should have a consistent voice and the quality needs to be top and also consistent, but there is no way I’m posting daily or even multiple times daily. That fits news-type sites, perhaps, but I can’t keep up with blogs, so if they start posting even more often, I fall further behind and then feel disinclined to read them at all. I also haven’t found that I lose readers if I don’t post daily. Apparently the ideal is 3 times a week, but even once is okay, I think, at least, for our kind of reviews and posts.

    All in all, though, it was a great time and I look forward to next year. I too thought the women’s panel quite interesting. I was afraid it would turn into this women are victims thing, and I’d like to discuss it further in a more focused way. So I look forward to your post on that.

    • August 23, 2011 6:12 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading Steph. I know what you mean about being too spread out. My concern is all those who say they only get their news from online. At the very least there should be many options for news, and not ONLY local news!

      Thank you for the compliment re: my blog being literary. I know that my ‘voice’ is much more informal than ‘literary’ really should be which is why I always hesitate to use myself as an example. But either way, we do need a place to fit! I think that people who don’t review in other ‘established’ places like Q&Q and etc still count and shouldn’t simply be dismissed as we so often are. I think the reviews are still of the same or often of higher quality, depending on the blogger, and they are still very relevant. It’s a really odd situation where those that call themselves ‘literary bloggers’ control the discussion and discount everyone else.

      I was disappointed for the same reasons, it was really heavily aimed at his defunct blog. Interesting, but could have been better I felt. I blog very often but only because of my circumstances. I definitely prefer the blogs in my reader who post less frequently because it’s easier to manage and follow them.

      I also look forward to next year :)

  8. Jodie permalink
    August 23, 2011 3:59 am

    Sounds like it was an interesting event. I’m always interested in that distinction between lit blogging and genre blogging, because one of the most literary blogs I can think of (as in critical analysis, including analysis of language and style) is heavily dominated by genre fiction – Eve’s Alexandria. I think there’s huge possibility to combine the two, both by reviewing a whole range of books and taking lit-crit skills into genre.

    • August 23, 2011 6:07 pm

      Yes, I think there is a huge overlap and definitely some blogs do both. I dislike the assumption that none of us or literary or that genre can never be literary Jodie.

  9. August 23, 2011 12:45 pm

    How could I have missed this? I’ve attended for the past two years – actually met my agent Denise Bukowski at one of them – awwww shucks! Sounds like there was much fun to be had and thanks so much for summarizing your time there for us!

    • August 23, 2011 6:07 pm

      Oh no, I’m sad you missed Leopard! Definitely a fun time.

Trackbacks

  1. Racial Diversity in Canadian Publishing – Does it Exist? « Amy Reads
  2. August 2011 Reading Wrap Up « Amy Reads
  3. A Book Blogger Unconference « Amy Reads

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