Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The sins of self-promotion

I confess: I am "BookNerd."

Looks like "Anon" is on to me.

Why did I recommend my own novel in the comment section of The Millions "Most Anticipated"?

Because, according to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 19,900 new books were published in 1996 in Canada. A staggering number that, with the ease of electronic publishing, I can only assume has grown even more staggering since.

It’s every writer for herself, people.

Is it unethical to comment anonymously on one's own book? Tough call. I actually do like my own book, so it's not like I'm steering people towards a crappy read. I'm not a journalist recommending a friend's novel in the media even though I know it stinks. I'm not trolling blogs and media outlets or hiring Russian spammers. I'm a writer publishing with a small press just trying to find my readers in a bloated marketplace.

I'm not wholly innocent, of course. I used a screen name on The Millions and, through the wonderfully ambiguous third-person tense, positioned myself more as a fan of my work instead of the author of. Is using a screen name a lie? Is using third-person? Is asking my friends to plug my book in the comments section in the Globe & Mail a lie? Probably, yes. But before you judge me, did you know that 19,900 new books were published in 1996 in Canada?

Self-promotion is awkward for me. Not because I'm humble -- ha! -- but because I judge others harshly for their missteps. I roll my eyes on the daily over authors' self-congratulatory tweets, retweets and worst of all the *retweets of retweets.*

I'd love to find a self-promotion strategy that feels comfortable but, as you probably figured out, leaving comments on book blogs ain't it. Not because I think it's unethical. But because doing so made me feel like an enormous twat.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Believer

My pal Alana Trumpy just got her first byline in The Believer, which is the coolest lit journal around. And not just that, but her interview subject is a pretty major get. AND the author drops in a "director's cut" treat too. I like The Believer for the same reason I like The Paris Review: the Q&A feels like a conversation. A smart one. The kind you'd have in Europe. Over a glass of barolo. With maybe a nice piece of fish. Or huddled in a medieval fireplace with a hitchhike poet smoking Gitane blondes.

As a writer, this type of interview is basically the dream. To be asked intelligent questions by a person who's given your work a deep read, and even deeper thought. It doesn't get much better than that.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Book club fail

Thanks to Alana for putting me on to this show, Baroness von Sketch. It is comedy perfection.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Seven Stages of _____ Prize Disappointment*

(*The role of Emily Saso will be played by Emily Saso's adorable niece Quinn.)

Stage 1: Unbridled excitement
Yay! The novel I ordered is here! I'm so excited! It won the 2016 _____ Prize so I know I'm going to love it more than I've loved anything ever! Yay!

Stage 2: Premature super-fandom
The first chapter is AHmazing! I totally get why it won the 2016 ____ Prize! I'm going to tweet and Instagram and blog and Facebook about it even though I have 300 pages left to go and so much could go wrong! Wheee! 

Stage 3: Denial 
I'm 50 pages in! It's taking me longer than it should because I keep thinking about the butter tart I hid in the fridge and so I have to re-read each line! Does that mean the novel is boring? Impossible! It won the 2016 ____ Prize! It's perfection! Maybe if I eat the butter tart I'll be able to focus? My face hurts from smiling so hard, though, so I don't think I can chew... Oh well! Boooook!

Stage 4: Losing faith, but clinging to hope 
Um, excuse me for a minute, but where's the plot? This is mostly a character slinging his emotions about. Maybe plot will come into play soon? It has to. It won the mother-f---ing 2016 ____ Prize, yo! Keep reading keep reading...

Stage 5: Utter disbelief
There's no plot? Like, at all? So the whole book is just these three narrators with three different perspectives on the same non-event event? WTF?

Stage 6: All-consuming rage
You're kidding me! That's it? This horribly unsatisfying ending that raises more questions than it answers? %$%$*($()ing ####! How the hell am I going to talk about this book with my smart friends? I have NO IDEA what this ending means! And where is that goddamn butter tart?!

Stage 7: Recidivism 
But it's all okay because the winner of the 2015 _____ Prize just arrived! Yay!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The tiny humiliations of the copy edit

I finished the copy edit for my book on the weekend. Yippee! My copy editor was very professional and therefore didn't laugh at me or hurl insults. But if I was (were?) her, catching the kinds of mistakes that she caught, I don't think I could be quite so kind. If our roles were reversed, here's what my markups would look like...

1) Hey, Einstein! No one has yet to crack the space/time continuum! Until she/he does, sensical timelines actually matter!

2) An en-dash can be used in place of a hyphen in a compound adjective when one of its elements consists of an open compound or when both elements consist of hyphenated compounds. PS — no one in your life will give two sh*ts about this except for you. So STOP TALKING ABOUT IT.

3) There is a country called “Eritrea” in Africa. There is a town in Euboea, Greece, called “Eretria.” You are ignorant of both.

4) Characters who are sitting down cannot perform functions such as running or reaching for things on top shelves. STAND THEM UP, dum dum.

5) Ahem. It’s “lightning” not ”lightening.” And by the way -- your book has the word “Weather” in the title, so that’s not embarrassing at all.

6) Hey, Scottie! No one has yet to invent a teleportation device! Until she/he does, it takes eight hours to ride the bus from Toronto to New York City, not two!

7) "Smart" apostrophes and quotes are a thing, okay? Smart authors are too. Too bad you're not one of them...

8) If a character is feeling a powerful emotion, maybe describe the actual feeling? You know, instead of only writing "she feels"? Just an idea...

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I would do any-thing for book, but I. Won't. Do. That.

I've learned some hard lessons since I started writing fiction 13 years ago. There's too many to list without a psychiatrist on call, so here's the truncated version. I'm calling it "The 10 Writerly Thingys I Will Never Do Again."

This list is for my personal writing life; it's not a judgement on others'. I've done these thingys already, to some degree, and I am therefore sick of doing them. But this doesn't mean I'll judge you for doing them. I've just been-there-done-that in my own writing. Okay? Still friends? Good. Now let's talk about me.

I will never again…

1) Write a story with a narrator/main character who is a writer, author, aspiring writer/author. Gross/tired/enough already.
2) Ask other novelists to write guest posts for my blog. Writers are busy people! They're raising kids and writing their own blogs and working full-time and -- oh yeah -- writing novels.
3) Write about cancer. Cancer stinks. I don’t want to give it more publicity. (I will also never again write about anorexia, cutting, etc. for several reasons, one of which is Hanya Yanagihara, the other which is kind of a funny story)
4) Post incessantly about my second book. I think I’ve pretty much covered it all here. Maybe there will be some sophomore learnings, but buy me a drink and we'll chat about it. Even though I love this blog and it's partly responsible for my book being published, I sometimes think it's way cooler to be a mystery.
5) Get an agent who isn’t connected to TV writing in some way. I’ve got goals, baby.
6) Attend a writing workshop as an act of procrastination. I will, however, wrestle you to the ground if you try to stop me from making Kardashian-related videos.
7) Write a book in first-person present. Although I adore this POV, it was almost the death of me
8) Overuse the word “that.” My editor Rosemary Nixon has tried to cure me of this disease, for which I am grateful.
9) Employ the word "whilst." Confession: I've actually never used "whilst," but I'm reading a novel -- contemporary, child narrator, set in a forest -- and the writer uses "whilst" exclusively instead of "while" and it's pissing me off so much that I needed to tell someone.
10) Whine about how hard it is to be a writer when I am stupidly lucky to have found my passion and to have the resources (time, education, personal security) to be able to go for it.

*PS: I may break these rules -- especially #10 -- so let's never speak of them again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I came across an excellent podcast on literary editing the other day -- yes, even more helpful than Khloe Kardashian's wise musings. It's from the people behind the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) who are running that massive conference in LA right now. Like RIGHT NOW. My friend Alana is there and I am so very sad that I can't be too. (Alana you better bring me back like a tote bag or a pencil or something...)

Featuring an impressive panel of editors and the writers who love them (but may have hated them at the time), the podcast is a helpful heads-up for first-time authors who are as clueless as I was going into the publishing house substantive editing process. (Which is a marvellous, mind-expanding, exhausting, wildly educative process, btw.) Check it out here.

I'm super multimedia these days, no?