Monday, December 1, 2014

Kubrick and discomfort

The Actual Grady Twins' Dresses From The Shining
or: The Real Reason I'll Never Bear Children

I went to see Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition at TIFF yesterday. Aside from the gentleman whose dandruffy shoulder I was doomed to peer over for the duration of my tour -- (Can you just... If you don't mind scooching just a bit to... Excuse me, sir, but... Outta my way, old man!) -- it was a wonderful experience. Black and white production photographs, profit/loss sheets that read like gossip, threatening/entreating letters from Christian groups, costumes from Spartacus, a model of the War Room from my all-time favourite Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, HAL from 2001... there were more than enough goodies to satisfy even the most fanatical fan.

What Kubrick did better than anyone else, in my opinion, is imminent doom. Every second of every one of his films makes me feel like I'm standing on the lip of a volcano, just waiting for the perfect moment to fall in. If I had to sum up his genius in one sentence, this would be it: Stanley Kubrick makes me want the very bad thing to happen.

His films remind me that good art often makes people quite uncomfortable. And that maybe even the artist him/herself needs to be uncomfortable with it, too. Or at least that's what I chose to take away from this exhibit because I've been feeling very uncomfortable about my idea for my second novel. So uncomfortable, in fact, that I haven't been able to bring myself to begin to write it, or even blog about it here. But now I think I'm finally ready to go there. If Stanley can do what's uncomfortable -- and make it sing -- I think I'll give it a try, too.

Friday, October 17, 2014

They make pills for that

My cool sister eating grapes in Italy

Aside from being one of my personal heroes, my younger sister Kathleen is also an intrepid world traveller, and she just started blogging about her adventures.

This post in particular made me laugh out loud. Italian grandpas can get away with anything, can't they?

I see a travel book deal in Kathleen's future, and a serious inferiority complex in mine. But I'll be okay, really. Apparently they make pills for that?

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Girl With The Mr. Darcy Tattoo







These tattoos are a surefire cure for the "wannabe novelist" blues.

(I tried the brilliant "£10,000 a Year!" tat first, of course, but cocked the bloody thing up.)

Thank you for this gift, Alana. You are worth more than a thousand wet white shirts! 


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Will the real Emily Saso please stand up?

My mom emailed me today:




So of course I dropped everything and googled my own name, and here's what popped up:
Harpur Palate would like to congratulate Emily Saso, winner of the Undergraduate Flash Fiction Contest.
Her winning short story is posted up there. It's pretty good, which is a relief because, well, my name is on it. And her bio is there as well:
Emily Saso is currently an undergraduate at Binghamton University majoring in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing, and minoring in Cinema. Emily is originally from New York City, where she lives with her two mothers and her dog.
When I read this the first time, I felt like I was in the shallow end of a deep dream, the kind that midnight cheese brings on, and my brain flooded with questions: Did I arrange myself a double life in NYC/Binghamton and forgot about it? Is NYC Emily Saso the evil one, or am I? WTF is flash fiction anyways? And Why the hell is my mother googling me? 

But then my desperate ego took over, and those questions no longer mattered. Because YIPPPEEE! Emily Saso wrote a story and it won a prize! I don't care that it wasn't me -- Emily Jane Saso of Toronto, Canada, and two heterosexual parents. My name is on a winner, goddammit, and no one can deny me that.

I need to know more about this other Emily Saso, of course, but this URL is all I can find. So I'm putting this call out to the universe: Emily Saso, thee of New York City and two mothers, please get in touch with me if you read this. You're a writer, and I'm a writer, which makes this cheese-dream situation too weird an opportunity to pass up.


Friday, June 13, 2014

i don't deserve capitalization

oh horror of horrors.

i just opened a word document from 2006 -- way back when I first started toying with the idea of writing some sort of novel -- and i found this phrase:

"... like lightning unbound." 

i was planning on using that! in a book! with my name on it!

gah!

no offence to Lynn Connolly, of course:

i'm sure it's a fine novel.

Monday, May 26, 2014

An uncomfortable shopping experience

The sun kicked the polar vortex’s ass this weekend — a win I celebrated by rolling my jeans up an extra inch:

 What I've looked like every summer since I turned 13.
(Actress Shailene Woodley playing me.)

Aside from taking in the sunshine, I went to the Toronto Indie Arts Market at the Gladstone Hotel. It was nice to see all kinds of creative folks peddling their wares, but it was also stressful. The weather was too perfect, I think, because shoppers were few and far between. I felt so guilty passing by all the tables of stuff that I would never normally buy. Handmade cards for no particular holiday. Nihilist comics. Poetry books with boobs on the cover. Illustrations that were fantastic but too small to hang on my walls. And did you know that people still made zines? A LOT of people?

To be clear: these artists/writers weren't desperate. They were clearly talented, had glorious tattoos and they didn't seem too bothered by the thin crowds. But I know what it feels like to want an audience for your art. It’s a need, and it's primal and sweaty. And having my own need reflected back at me, no matter how many tattoos it was hidden behind? Well, it made me kind of uncomfortable.

My friend agreed with me, although for her own reasons, and as we took a breather in a room filled with Biggie Smalls photos, we agreed to get the hell outta there and go for smoothies.

The fair wasn't a total bust, though, because I met author Erin Bedford. I first stumbled across Erin while doing one of my standard Google searches — something probably like “giving up novel writing” or  “loser wannabe writer quit” — and this blog post came up:

HOW I BROKE UP WITH MY BOOK

Erin wrote and self-published a novel called Fathom Lines that I enjoyed as much as anything else I’ve read this year, so I was excited to meet her in person and pick up a few copies. Here she is at the book fair (Note the fries and beer taps behind her. Isn't she just so your kind of person?):


If you like Alice Munro, I highly recommend Fathom Lines. Erin's use of language is downright jealousy-inducing and she's created beautifully realized and relatable characters. If I was a publisher or agent, I'd be kicking myself that I missed out on the chance to work with Erin at the beginning of her career. She deserves as many readers as she can get. You can buy her novel here. (And you can buy a heck of a smoothie here.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sorry? Excel is a whatnow?


I came across a blog through my agent’s blog that's full of all sorts of goodies for writers. One of my favourite posts is about the process and — for lack of a better word — technique of revision. Check it out here.

The blogger, author Laurie Halse Anderson, and I have a very similar approach to revising, save for one area: the actual "roadmap" itself. While she prefers using large sheets of paper to outline her roadmap, I find an Excel spreadsheet to be most effective. Aside from being an organizational lifesaver, a digital spreadsheet is portable. Woo hoo! I just email it to my iPhone and I can refer to my roadmap wherever I go. (It came in very handy this morning when I was trapped on the subway for half an hour. The power was off and transit supervisors were searching the tracks for a dead body, but I was revising on the go, so who cares?)

I don’t think I’ve used Excel as it’s meant to be used more than a dozen times. I remember my husband casually mentioning that it's just a big calculator a while back, and I was all “Get the fu%$ out!” And now that I've discovered Excel art (see Mega Man above), it's safe to say that I'm going to be moving farther and father away from the software's raison d'ĂȘtre.

I don't do anything fancy on my spreadsheet roadmap. I just break my book down into scenes, making note of the most important events. I also use colour coding, which helps me with stuff like this:

1. Pacing my story
My book has a bit of a magical realism bent to it, but I don't want to overdo it and annoy my readers. To ensure that doesn't happen, I colour those moments orange. This way, I can easily see if there’s too much "magic" in any particular section.

2. Organizing locations
I like to keep my characters on the move. For example, my main character’s apartment is assigned the colour blue. Too much blue clotted together on the spreadsheet? Scenes will need to be shuffled to keep things interesting.

3. Periphery characters
I want to spread these guys around and colour coding helps me do that. For example, I’ve assigned Steve red and Margaret yellow. That way I have an instant visual map. Too much red in one area? Again, that’s a sign that scenes need to be shuffled. You get the drift. Now here's some more Excel art for you, you clever drift-getter you!


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