April Fool
1 April 2011

April Fool !

In the venerable tradition of the 1957 BBC documentary on the Spaghetti Harvest and other media hoaxes which combine familiar formatting and a plausible style with invented (and inventive) content, Canada’s book trade paper Quill & Quire has produced a clever online April Fool’s joke on the Canadian book world in its online publication Q&Q Omni.

Canada Council announces new travel grants for blog tours” is the headline of the special April 1 issue's first article, which quotes a (nonexistent) Writing and Publishing spokesperson named with the suspiciously Ottawa name of Kent Slater. “In what could be seen as a sign that the days of extensive author touring are truly over, the Canada Council for the Arts has announced plans to offer new travel grants for authors who conduct publicity tours entirely online.”

Authors must submit detailed tour plans outlining the number of book blogs and literary sites that will be hosting them, as well as the amount of effort they plan to put in at each site.

Authors are encouraged to set up e-mail interviews in advance, and to vary their questions according to the readership of the blog. “Though the idea is that all of this gets done online, we’d rather authors not phone it in,” Slater says.

Reached for comment this morning, Arash Mohtashami-Maali, head of Writing and Publishing, says the Canada Council had a few calls about the article, and there have been favourable mentions of the new “travel grants” on both Facebook and Twitter. The article is not that far off the mark, moreover. Mohtashami-Maali acknowledges that the Canada Council is currently studying ways in which new media can in fact be used in book promotion.

You might have to read past the “Margaret Atwood releases the Appwood for iPhone” headline to realize that Q&Q has taken Atwood’s entrepreneurship with the LongPen invention and her penchant for Twitter a step further in announcing an app that allows iPhones “to convert humdrum text messages, tweets, e-mails and Facebook updates into something that sounds as though they have come from the keyboard of the literary master herself.”

The article goes on to use Atwood’s interest in writerly issues – and in birds – to add both plausibility and humour. The app is offered free to users who have recently purchased one of Atwood’s books. “The Year of the Flood buyers, furthermore, are entitled to a free upgrade that will automatically sign their names to online petitions by The Writers’ Union of Canada and Ducks Unlimited.”

Gaspereau Press, which came under criticism for its slow production process when Montreal novelist Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sensationalists won the Giller Prize in fall 2010, is alleged to have announced that it will publish an instant book on the April 29 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Rounding out the April 1 issue are a series of “Book links,” including one to “a new system to extend library lending cap to print books” – which links to a time bomb and an image of book burning.

The hoax content was displaced by fresher, real news at noon. Hurrah for a literary sense of humour – and congratulations to Quill & Quire editor Stuart Woods and his tongue-in-cheek team, especially Sue Carter Flinn. 

[Posted on the Globe & Mail's "In Other Words" books blog on April 1, 2011.]

Linda Leith


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