It’s dark but there are signs of life. Beneath a thick duvet in a too-small double bed breathe two shapes: a WOMAN and a MAN. The man is sleeping soundly, curled up on his side, but the woman is very much awake. She is lying on her back, her blue eyes open wide, staring up at the ceiling. She’s gripping the man’s hand in hers. He squeezes back – an unconscious muscle memory thing. The woman seems tense or deep in thought, or both. Bits of light from the outside begin to creep in through the window blinds. A dusty ray interrupts the woman’s line of sight. It’s all she needs.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
1) Shred it. "Who is she kidding? Stories about Canada just don't sell here, just like they don't sell in Canada!"
This problem didn't exist when my project was purely a literary one. In fact, it was the opposite: my story wasn't Canadian enough for Canadian agents.
So what should I do? Twenty-five pages in and I'm still typing out Toronto (and writing a secondary character's dialogue with a moderate Newfie lilt). But I'm wondering if I'm making the right choice. Should I change it? Chuck the Canuck altogether and just sub in New York or maybe Chicago? And if I do, would I actually be making the show more salable? Or maybe, just maybe, the Canadian connection is the clincher I need?
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Okay, so sometimes I do recycle a story or two from my real life and twist it around a bit. (Especially in early drafts when my fiction confidence was quite low.) But overall, my characters are made up from only mere bits and pieces of friends and enemies from my present and past. In fact, more often than not, my characters are borne from the collected hands, faces and groins of strangers that I'm mashed up against on the 8:30 a.m. train.
I have an okay imagination but I'm best at (and prone to) exaggeration of things that already exist in nature and public transportation. So, usually, if there's something interesting about a person I meet or remember or see every day, I hold onto It in my brain, Wiggle It around for a while, and out pops Character.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
So here's a sneak peek at what I wrote on my own. It's pretty tame compared to the other one that's in my manuscript, which my Catholic guilt (however lapsed it may be) will not permit me to post. But it's a start:
Monday, April 12, 2010
When I was standing on King Street waiting for the streetcar to arrive, inhaling whatever the hell that unholy smell is that wafts around that neighbourhood (Is it a slaughterhouse? Because I heard it was a slaughterhouse.), I came upon some free wi-fi and soon after, came upon a joke:
Q. How many cover blurb writers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A. A VAST AND TEEMING HORDE STRETCHING FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA!!!!
I found it insanely funny for some reason.
Damn, this is a crappy post.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
It's often the simple things that make for a good story. I forget that sometimes when I read too much flowery prose from the Can Lit Canon or digest the advice of a poorly dressed writing teacher. But today, as I sit at our retro dining room table typing out my grandfather's diaries, I remember what makes me fall in love with a story. I don't even know if there's a word for it. It's more of a feeling I get. A sort of calm and a smile that happens when I turn each page. It's a gift for me as a writer to reconnect with words at their most basic and meaningful level. And it's a gift for me as a granddaughter to read the thoughts of the man I mostly remember as not remembering me.
Here's a page from his five-year diary that says so much without saying much at all:
Thurs. 1950: Forgot wedding anniversary. Sent bouquet of flowers next day.
Fri. 1951: Good Friday and our wedding anniversary, which I forgot. For which I don’t forgive myself. Was a beautiful sunny day and I enjoyed staying with family.
Sun. 1952: Spent quiet day around home. Took Mary to Sunday School. She is still very shy and won’t stay alone.
Mon. 1953: To-day is our wedding anniversary. Gave Myrtle pair of bedroom lamps but were not right colour. Snow going fast. Have hired Dutch girl.
An uneventful day. A forgotten anniversary. And another. And another (likely). Trying to get it right and a mysterious Dutch girl.
One day. Five years.
This stuff, more than any writing workshop or prize-winning novel, this makes me want to write.
Friday, April 9, 2010
I was shifting through the piles and piles of paper in my office the other day and came across old versions of my manuscript. I thought it would be funny and educational to post a few of my different opening paragraphs so the world can see just how schizophrenic my writing process truly is. The Joan Collins titles, the self-indulgent opening quotes, the post-modern forward slashes. Sigh. Franco would be proud.
Draft: June 2008. Title: The Biggest Sin
“Frak," I said after retching. "I’ll have to clean this thing again.” There was a tiny bit of vomit on my shirt that made me feel terrible about myself so I stripped it off. I flushed the toilet and sat on the floor with my naked back resting against the freezing bathtub. Sick, dumped and shirtless.
Draft: February 2009. Title: Happy / Armageddon
Blech. My coffee tasted like tar. I ran out of artificial sweetener last week and I failed to remember to replace it ever since. I blamed my grocery store. Too many distractions, all competing for my eye, for my dollar, for my stomach. I thought about filling my tiny coffee spoon with sugar and adding its thick white granules to my day, but I did nine sit-ups the night before and so, decided against it.
Draft: April 9, 2009. Title: A HAPPY ARMAGEDDON
The war of Armageddon will cleanse the earth of all corruption and wickedness and open the way for a righteous new system of things under the rule of God’s Messianic Kingdom. Instead of being a frightening cataclysmic end, Armageddon will signal a happy beginning for righteous individuals, who will live forever on a paradise earth. - Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
Draft: April 10, 2009. Title: A HAPPY ARMAGEDDON
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine. - R.E.M.
Draft: August 28, 2009. Title: A Happy Armageddon
It seems so cliché to start things off with a bang, or in this case, a crash. It’s one of those been-there done-that, over-before-you-know-it action movie formulas that I never took a shine to. See, I’m a slow girl. Not in the mentally-deficient or sexual sense, but in other ways.
Draft: November 2009. Title: A Happy Armageddon
No matter how hard the socially awkward and the extremely ugly try to convince themselves otherwise, nothing is more depressing than a table for one. It’s not a mark of independence, of confidence, or a purposeful rebellion against a socially-constructed something. No, to sit at a table by yourself, picking away at a plate with the wall for company means only this: you are unpopular, unloved and you likely chew with your mouth open. Or at least that’s how it was beginning to feel for me.
Draft: Like a month ago. Title: A Happy Armageddon
He did not smell like fish so I married him. Back in my town that was more than most brides could say. He was short but they were all short. Something about my people's men staying low to the ground in those days. Maybe their bodies knew the war was coming so they just didn't bother. So he was not perfect but he was good and he had no bad smell around him as I mentioned.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
This doesn't have much, if anything, to do with writing, but I saw something normal on the subway this morning and it both fascinated and bothered me. A lady in her late forties putting on her makeup. Again, completely normal. Happens every day. But I don't think it should.
What is it, Subway Makeup Lady? Am I not worth looking pretty for? Why do I have to see you before you've spackled on your "good" face? If it's not for me and the dozens of judgmental ogling strangers on the subway, just who exactly is it for? Jon, the 19-year-old who punches in your double double? Ed, the pudgy accounts guy who leers at you from his cubicle? Hank, the pervy manager who keeps promoting the hotter chicks over you?
And the thing is, and after all my complaining, you look almost exactly the same now that you've been sponged and lined and painted. Your eyelashes are a bit darker and there's a new creamy line separating your face from your neck, but that's it. You were fine all on your own, SML. You needn't have invested the time and surrendered your privacy to creeps like me. Yeah, I watched you. I couldn't help it. I also watched you glaring up at the young women who stood over you, hanging on to the rancid poles for dear life. You looked so desperate to be there again, to be in that smooth, unpuckered skin. But their subway ride is just as bumpy as yours, SML. They may be young and pretty, CoverGirls without all of your cover. But you SML, at least you know where you're going.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Book Writing Rule #1: It is best, but usually no fun at all, to have someone read your manuscript once you’re done writing it. If you insist on editing your first draft alone, make sure someone responsible in your life is aware that you’re a p^$$% and makes fun of you on a daily basis.
Hot Tub Rule #2: Do not use the hot tub if you have a medical condition without discussing it with your doctor first. While studies have shown a hot tub can be very beneficial, your doctor may advise you about specific temperature settings, how long it is safe to stay in, and any warning signs that you may be in trouble.
Book Writing Rule # 2: Do not try to write a novel if you have a medical condition, unless that medical condition leaves you trapped in the house with nothing better to do and you have been prescribed very powerful painkillers. Studies have shown that narcotics can be very beneficial when writing and trying to publish your first book so I advise you to take them.
Hot Tub Rule #3: No alcohol or drugs. Your judgment might be impaired, and you could become unconscious and drown.
Book Writing Rule #3: Bull$#!%. See above.
Hot Tub Rule #4: Be aware of the amount of time you have been in the tub. Soaking in the warm water can raise your body temperature to dangerous levels. 15 minutes in water no warmer than 104 degrees Fahrenheit is considered safe. If you want to use your spa for a longer time, take a break.
Book Writing Rule #4: Be aware of the amount of time you have been searching for a literary agent. Querying for too long can lower your self-esteem to dangerous levels. 50 attempts in less than 1 year is considered depressing but safe. If you want to query more than that, you are a big dumb idiot.
Hot Tub Rule #5: No glass containers for food or drink in or around the hot tub.
Book Writing Rule # 5: Glass containers for food or drink are encouraged around the laptop because no one will want to eat with you anymore, you sad mother$%^&er.
Hot Tub Rule #6: Be sure to check the temperature of the water before you enter the spa. A floating thermometer is very useful. If you want the water warm, keep the temperature between 100-104 degrees.
Book Writing Rule #6: Be sure to check the temperature of your laptop before you place it on your lap. A lap thermometer is very useful. If you want the laptop warm because you can’t afford to pay your heating bill because no one will buy your novel and you quit your job because you had an inflated ego and thought you could actually write even though you used the word “because” three times in the same sentence, well then, go right ahead you poor bastard.
Friday, April 2, 2010
2. Thanks for writing. This has an interesting premise and nice verve, but I’m afraid I didn’t connect with the voice strongly enough to fall in love. I’m sure others will see it differently, though, so I’ll stand aside with all best wishes for your finding the right match elsewhere.
3. Thank you for sending us your manuscript. Unfortunately, it's just not right for us at this time. I thought that Avery was a very interesting character and her humour and humility gave ________ some levity through the darker areas of the plot. I would also like to commend you on tackling religious conversion. I do not know of very many humourous and intelligent takes on the subject. Overall, the book is interesting and has a lot of potential. We wish you all the best in placing your manuscript elsewhere.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
So this morning, like the rest of them, I suppressed my urges and used my weird hands to press play on my iPod instead. And, like I always do, I ended up making an accidental playlist. Today's consisted of only one song: Simon and Garfunkel's "The Only Living Boy in New York." I love this tune but it always makes me upset that a) I have somewhere to be, and b) sorry for myself for no good reason. But mostly, and most obviously, it makes me think about street wandering and hot Central Park nuts and writing my bum off in New York.
Right now that city is drawing me to it like bees to knees and I don't know why. Maybe I'm bored. Or boring. Or both. Or maybe it's because I'm craving the romance of a real writers' city. If not New York (but almost always New York) then Paris or Havana. Toronto has its good writing places and its great writers, of course. But the energy and the drive and the desperation are not as they should be here. And today, thanks to you Garfunkel, this place is so much less than good enough. I want New York writers. I want their feast of books near coffee, their towering jumped-from buildings, their peanut-buttered keyboards. I want... oh f$&# me. I want what Franco's got.
Darn it, Garfunkel. Your soaring, sad harmony with whatshisface has made me even more jealous of Franco. It's made me want to apologize to him, Garfunkel. It's made me regret happening to him yesterday because all I want right now (and almost always) is a spot on his cold Greenwich stoop.