Vital Little Plans

Here’s the smashing cover for Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs, edited by Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring.

VitalLittlePlans_final cover
The US and Canadian cover, designed by Rodrigo Corral.

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Peaceful crossing, Ellen

Today Ellen Seligman, storied editor and publisher of McClelland & Stewart, passed away. Ellen worked with some of the most celebrated writers in Canadian literature, including Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen, Anne Michaels, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, and Jane Urquhart.

Ellen was truly one of the greats. I never had the experience of working directly with her (we were in different divisions and imprints), and for years was intimidated by her formidable presence. But when I finally worked up the nerve to make eye contact, I found she was smiling at me. From that point, Ellen usually had a smile or a kind word for me. I also appreciated those moments when we could commiserate over bureaucracy or a broken printer. When I was promoted to editor at Penguin Random House Canada, she sent me a lovely note of congratulations, which was an unexpected mark of encouragement that I treasure. I admired her poise and the way she commanded a room, whether making an editorial presentation at launch or asking a question that perhaps others in the crowded boardroom were thinking but were hesitant to raise. And she had impeccable style.

Thank you, Ellen, for encouraging us to fully inhabit books, as writers, readers, and editors.

I think that as an editor—to be a really good editor—you first of all have to be a really good listener. I don’t mean to the person. I mean to what you’re reading. You have to listen to what you’re reading…. You have to listen to what the book is telling you, and not impose your own ideas on it. And I think what makes a good relationship is that you’re able to have that dialogue with the author. That you’re able to say something about the manuscript that actually strikes a chord with them and [shows] that you’re both speaking the same language. In the world, it doesn’t always happen. But I think it can happen, if you listen carefully enough, and if you’re a penetrating enough reader.


Publisher Ellen Seligman
Ellen Seligman. Source: Open Book Toronto.

Repairing relationships

I am teaching a restorative yoga class at Ahimsa Yoga this evening, concentrating on the theme of forgiveness. How can you learn to forgive yourself and move through life without shame or guilt? How do you make peace with those who have done you harm, whether intentionally or unintentionally…and should you? We’ll be considering these questions while incorporating throat- and heart-opening poses, and balancing heating and cooling energies in the body and breath.

Forgiveness is much on my mind, for personal reasons and because of my interest in the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). Continue reading “Repairing relationships”

Vernal Equinox

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.

―Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Japanese rain capes

Today I visited the Textile Museum of Canada with my friend Anya. We gained free admission thanks to the Toronto Public Library’s system of distributing free museum and gallery passes to patrons.

I quite enjoyed one of the current exhibits, Eutopia, which explores social justice, politics, and grassroots activism through textiles. Featured artists include Christi Belcourt, Radiodress, Christina Zeidler, and Indian women’s cooperatives (apologies for not noting the names of these cooperatives).

A traditional kantha (embroidered tapestry), made by a women’s cooperative in India. The kantha depicts the spread of AIDS and shows women advocating the use of condoms.

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Don’t stop me now

In June 2014 I began a photo project. I had been seeing a lot of stickers that used the “stop” on stop signs as part of their message. I started collecting photos of them, only duplicating shots when I saw the same message in another city. “Stop Harper” and “Stop the Tar Sands” are common in Toronto and Vancouver, and I’m sure in other cities across Canada and perhaps the United States.

Most interesting are the stickers that are not strictly “activist” (the homage to M.C. Hammer, for example), and the stickers of stop signs that then rather redundantly appear on stop signs.


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“Never protest the same way twice.”

The End of Protest went on sale on Tuesday, and Micah White has had a whirlwind week of media and events. You can check out his Twitter feed for links to interviews and reviews. On Wednesday we took Micah out for dinner, to celebrate his book and his 34th birthday.

Last night’s event at the Toronto Reference Library capped off his time here. The discussion with Susan G. Cole of NOW magazine was sold out, with 500+ ticketholders plus a number of rush seats. Micah was electric and eloquent when he explained why we urgently need a revolution of how we practice activism.

Toronto Reference Library. Credit: Milan Ilnyckyj.

Continue reading ““Never protest the same way twice.””