Thursday, June 25, 2015

An unrequited love story

I've posted another one of my shorts on my web site. It's called Marie and it's a sort-of-sweet, sort-of-sick love story. Who doesn't love those, right?

Marie is a quick read because I originally wrote it for the CBC short story contest, which has a rather restrictive word limit. The original iteration of the story (The Swimmer) did pretty well in that contest, making it as far as the long list. 

In case you're wondering, I've posted this story and others online because I've chosen to withdraw myself from the literary journal submissions universe for the foreseeable future.
My reasoning is pretty simple: Life's too short. 

One of my stories has been in circulation for four years. Four! Gaahhhhh! Do you know how much hotter I was four years ago?? Plus, aside from the fantastic One Story, I don't even read any of the journals I've been submitting to, so I was basically a fraud. A fraud looking to pad my byline. 

I don't really care about that anymore. Maybe it's because I'm more confident now. Or broken and beaten down by the grind of rejections. Or maybe because my novel is coming out next year and I don't feel that I have as much to prove. 

Either way, I don't want these stories to spend the best years of their lives rotting away in some sad little folder on my Mac. For what? For the off chance that some journal I don't read will accept it in 10 years? Well, I say poo poo to that.

I want my stories to live and see the world while they're still young! I want people to %^$#ing read them. 

Speaking of, if you want to read Marie, you can do so here. I hope you like it. And if you do, please share it with your friends and loved ones... like that guy you've been stalking. I think he'll especially enjoy it.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Writing prompts and hip creases

I applied to the Writers On the Verge program a month ago or so, and as part of my application, I had to do this: 

Write a paragraph from page 253 of your autobiography. * 500 words

I think this a fantastic writing prompt, so I wanted to share it with you. The possibilities are endless. What point in my life will this page cover? How much can I squeeze into one paragraph? Do I start mid-sentence to be unique? But what if everyone else starts mid-sentence? What's interesting enough to share, but not too interesting so that oh isn't it convenient that you opened the book to THAT page of all the pages? 

I eventually made these life/death decisions, and here's what I submitted:
I was thinner then, and an intern, so the director used to stuff me into tight, strategic spaces. That particular day, I’d been loaded into a garbage bin. I held the boom microphone in my sweaty grip, pointing it in the direction where the dialogue would be coming from, and was told to stay invisible. The director called me Whatsyourname, which made me question my whole life thus far, every choice I had made that brought me to this point: broke, nameless, in a trash bin. And then Marcus walked on to the set. I was secretly in love with Marcus and his luminous half Chinese/half black skin. He was the star of this shitty movie, but his background was theatre so he shouted all his lines and the director was too scared to tell him not to. Earlier, when we were all on break and eating sandwiches, Marcus told me to get the hell out of his face. I hid in the bathroom for an hour, my boom and I stuffed in a stall. He apologized later, saying he was sorry if I felt he had hurt my feelings, but he was Method and responding as his character would. I asked Marcus if his character was a first-rate a-hole, and he took it personally, which was confusing for us both. Anyways, when Marcus walked on set that day, he gave me a look like I deserved to be stuffed in the garbage bin. Then he took off his pants and his underwear, and started thrusting into the actress’s hip crease. The camera angle was off because the cinematographer wasn’t getting paid, so the sex looked terribly unconvincing. It was the cinematographer’s fault that the film never made it out of the can. Or it was mine. I was too weak to hold the boom out of frame; it was always dipping into the shot.
I think this prompt is a good place to start when you have writer's block. Assign yourself a page number from your "memoir" and go to town. The freedom from context, intent and especially motivation was wonderfully liberating for me. Not to mention fun.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Ennui, thy name is short story submissions

I'm not really feeling the whole short fiction submissions process right now. So in that spirit of impatience, I've decided to give away a super high-tech PDF edition of my short story Fiona Fiona!

The story follows an hour in the life of Fiona, a NATO scientist in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Tormented by memories of her husband, Fiona struggles to move past the guilt she’s suffered since his death. She hasn’t made it easy on herself, though. As part of a top-secret bio-engineering team, Fiona has assigned her husband’s face to a super soldier. In him, she sees a chance for a new start at her old life. But as the town of Moose Jaw collapses, and her feelings for the soldier become ever more complicated, Fiona must make a choice between the man she loved and the man she made.

It's pretty weird, obviously, but so's the writer.

You can find the PDF here. Enjoy! Or not! It's free, so you can't really complain!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What my book's about

I don't think this is going to happen, you guys.

In case you're curious, here's what my forthcoming novel is about...
It’s summer in Toronto, and the snow and ice is relentless. Too bad no one but Avery can see it. 
Avery Gauthier can't get far enough away from her past: the death of her beloved father, the abuse she suffered as a teen, and the religion that tore her parents apart. A reality-refugee, she has managed to keep the chaos of her former life at bay… until now.

When her husband returns to the Jehovah's Witnesses, her estranged mother wants back in, and the snow—invisible to everyone but Avery—piles up and up and up, Avery is forced to face her greatest fears. She looks to the outside for help, to her mysterious superintendent and the comforts of a local weatherman, only to realize that the solutions lie where the problem does: within.

A twisted, darkly funny and redemptive tale, The Weather Inside will leave you wondering where the line is drawn between what’s real and what’s imagined, and why love alone is never enough.
It's not final cover copy or anything, but I'm pretty okay with it. My one-line brunch pitch can still use some work, though. "It's about a woman who has a very surreal breakdown when her husband leaves her for the Jehovah's Witnesses." Picture those words coming out of a mouth full of gluten-free pancake.... Yeah, I agree. It doesn't quite cut it. (and also: ewww.)

Since my hopes are always high that technology will save me, I put the longer description into an auto summary tool and crossed my fingers. Here's what it spit out:
A twisted and redemptive taleThe Weather Inside will leave you wondering where the line is drawn between what’s real and what’s imagined, and why love alone is never enough.
Which means that computers are even lazier than me! (And that I'm now very doubtful that flying cars will actually happen.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A mighty fine recline

In part two of my riveting "In a Chair" series, I give you photographic proof that my writing-whilst-reclining dream has come true! Not in my house, because my husband would divorce me, but in the apartment of a friend whose roommate had the good sense -- and courage -- to own this chair. The massage feature turned my breakfast, but the heat setting was pure joy. And the overall recline position -- minus a few postural no-no's on my part and a hoodie that visually extends my shoulders into my ears -- made my tired writer's spine very happy.

I've just learned that this chair is for sale! If you live in Montana and your husband isn't devoted to the Eames aesthetic, then your ship has come in, my friend! More details to follow...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The best podcast on writing I've heard in a while

This guy? This guy is something else.

Just thought I'd stop by to say hello because it's been a while, and to share this little goodie:

It's a fantastic podcast featuring Canadian screenwriter Ryan Knighton. He talks about how you sustain a career writing for Hollywood studios while living in Vancouver. But, more importantly, he talks about Story. I'm talking capital "S" Story; all the esoteric stuff that makes non-writers throw their popcorn at you. And maybe a fist if you're a real a-hole about it.

Anyways, all you authors out there will be fascinated about what he has to say about Story, so it's worth a listen. Especially the first half hour.

By the way, Ryan was an author of non-fiction before he ever wrote a screenplay and it's quite educational to hear him speak to how the one informs the other. You know how much I love cross-genre inspiration, so this part lit up my brain like a Christmas tree. 

You may have guessed that I'm in screenwriting mode right now. The deadlines for a few U.S. TV writing fellowships are just around the corner, and I'm working hard on my applications for Warner Brothers and NBC.

It's nice to have a deadline, plus I'm having loads of fun writing my spec script. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Reverse slides and clitellums

I was looking through old blog posts the other day because no children + no lawn care responsibilities = nothing to live for, and realized that I've never revealed what my novel is about on this blog, at least not formally. Sure, I've told you about all the agent rejections I've endured, my new straws, my very rational fear of supervolcanoes, that time I spazzed out and turned my book into a TV pilot and got a psychic reading... but will I actually tell you what my book is about? On a blog devoted entirely to my book? Pfhh. Of course not!

Truth be told, I've been putting it off. Since I've never been truly happy with any of the short, snappy descriptions I've come up with, I've been too damn chicken to include any one of them here.

This is a hurdle I need to overcome pronto because not having a good log line/elevator pitch/whatever-you-want-to-call-it is proving to be a problem. Especially at brunch. And brunch is enough of a problem for me (for everyone, really) without adding book-description-related anxiety into the mix.

Take yesterday's brunch, for example. I met this very interesting woman who summarized her PhD thesis pretty much like this: Worms + lasers + morphine = pain response. And I was like Oh my god, if this was a book I would buy it!

And then she asked me what my book was about and I was all "Um, it's about this woman who..." and then I trailed off and started picturing strung-out worms with sores on their clitellums living in shallow puddles of sizzurp on Skid Row.

So I need to perfect my elevator pitch is what I'm saying. For two reasons: 1) My book is coming out relatively soonish, and 2) It doesn't look like elevators are going away any time soon. Which is too bad because I invested heavily in reverse-slide futures.

Reverse slide (noun): Like a regular slide but also goes up.