Monday, January 30, 2012

A cure for your Kindle Guilt

I love my e-reader, but man, do I ever feel sick about it.

Sometimes, after reading Quill & Quire, Publishers Weekly and The New York Times, I contract a serious case of what I have come to call "Kindle Guilt." The symptoms of Kindle Guilt (or KG) are quite serious and include a guilty conscience; a fear of reading at certain cafes in judgey, hipster neighbourhoods; sweaty palms that make gripping a Kindle nearly impossible; sore thumbs and, for some reason, a constant craving for a particular brand of generic Swedish Berries.

The latest source of this affliction comes to me from the very famous author Jonathan Franzen. On the topic of e-readers, Mr. Franzen is rather open about his dislike for the technology and was recently quoted as saying the following: “I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change.... Maybe nobody will care about printed books 50 years from now, but I do. When I read a book, I'm handling a specific object in a specific time and place. The fact that when I take the book off the shelf it still says the same thing – that's reassuring."

Many people are poo-pooing e-readers these days. But in defence of the technology (and in defence, therefore, of me) let me present you with this fact: My mom's boyfriend, who used to read a couple books a year, now -- thanks entirely to his love for his e-reader -- reads a couple books a month.

So, while people like Franzen are afraid of what e-reading technology will mean for the future of printed books, people like my mom's boyfriend are falling in love with books because of the technology.

Ah. I feel better already.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fun fact: I thought Hermione was pronounced "Her-mee-own" for about three years

My pre-husband and I are moving on Saturday so, as you can see, my desk is surrounded by boxes. The clutter and the dust and the stain on the white carpet that I have to pay to remove (or pay to re-carpet) are making it darn hard to focus on my book. But I have to. Because I have to sort out copyright with Jehovah's Witnesses (more on that later) and because my agent wants to know a) How I would describe my manuscript, in 3-4 sentences, and b) How I would describe myself as a writer, in 3-4 sentences.

The first one shouldn't be too hard. I managed to sum up the book okay in queries. But the second? This will take some thought. I have no idea what kind of a writer I am. I don't have many awards to mention or accolades. I've just been working away, quietly, at my desk for years. Hmm. I may need a little magic to help me with this one. I'm hoping Lego Hermione can wave her wand and sort it all out.

Lego Hermione is just one of the many treasures I've found while packing, including old journals filled with terrible high school poetry such as this work of genius:

Balled Up

was it the vinegar on my popcorn
the extra lemon in my tea
or the overwhelming sadness
that’s raining over me

my path is a windy road
as the old cliché goes
never knowing where to turn to
or where the river flows

if you want to come with me
I’ll hold you in my arms
I’ll carry your bags like they were my own
place your toys next to my charms...

Oh my God, you guys. And it just gets worse from there.

I also found a four-page "like" letter that I had long forgotten about. That "like" was in high school, mind you, and it was not reciprocated. I had no idea what to do with boys back then. Still don't, really.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It's my book's fault! (A convenient, BS excuse.)

For those of you who don't know me personally, you don't know that I'm looking for a new job and that I have been for months. You also don't know that I haven't had much luck, which is weird since I have an incredibly practical Master's degree in Political Science and I'm pretty much Anna Wintour... only with a vinyl purse from Claire's.

So here's the lie I'm currently telling myself to make myself feel better: my novel writing has something to do with my lack of luck in the job market.

This isn't true, of course. I just haven't found the right gig yet. But still, on my bad days, I can't help but wonder about the book-job connection. See, I've had several interviews with a major player in the Canadian magazine world and during each interview I've been asked outright if I am writing a book. The way they ask it, too -- as if they're checking off some HR-enforced list -- makes we wonder if they see book writing (on the side) as a negative; as if they worry that part-time novel writers listed on the company masthead will be working on their novels at work and, therefore, are wary of hiring us.

Again, while I'm aware, on my good days, that this book-job connection thing is RIDICULOUS, I think it still raises an interesting point for discussion. So chime in!

Writers, have you ever been judged negatively in the workplace for being exactly what you are, a fiction writer (on the side)? And to the rest of you, would you ever be turned off of hiring someone if you discovered that they write books (on the side)?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Writer, help thyself

I was at Chapters/Indigo Sunday night, loitering as per usual, when I wandered into the English Language Self-Help section. My eyes were immediately drawn to the "How to Write Books" books -- their optimistic, can-do titles sucking me in. I know these kinds of books get a lot of writers through tough times, okay, so I'm not poo-pooing the entire genre. But because I often judge a book by its cover, here's a few standouts and the reasons why they'd never be able to help me.

In my case, it was more like 1,460 days. (Imagination, daydreaming and crying time not included.)

All the tools you need, huh? Let's see: your brain; a couple other brains that are more realistic and sensible than yours; a willingness to subject yourself to both rejection and the lineups at Apple's Genius bar... Yep, that about covers it.

I needed to sweat, weep and hunch my way through tough times to get my book to where it is today. It was not easy. And if it was, my readers would have probably insisted upon the kind of refund guarantee that The Easy Way promises.

I cancelled my gym membership in 2010. Also, most writers are weaklings, so the boxing glove metaphor is a bit much. Maybe a picture of a carpel tunnel wrist brace or an ergonomic mouse instead?

Okay, I have to admit that the dragon and the busty lady are the only reasons I included this cover here.

Tips and writing journal aside, this snazzy little kit comes with a pen. A pen? I haven't written with a pen since 2001.

Um, unless this book was a blockbuster, I ain't buying it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The morning after.

I got some great notes from my agent yesterday, so I'm doing some writing and revising this morning. Nacho L. Bobblehead is surprised at how well it's going. But then again, he's an incorrigible optimist.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A question about style and suffixes

What's your style, writeristas? Oh no. That was terrible. Sorry about that. See, I was trying to make a play on that stupid, fake word "fashionista" but it just didn't work out. Let's try this again:

What's your style, writers?

I ask because I'm not 100% sure what mine is. I seem to write in so many different styles, depending on what the project is and the kinds of characters who populate it. In my current book, which is written in first-person, my style is free-flowing, the punctuation is relaxed and the dialogue rules over everything else. It's a style that feels more relaxed and free, and was incredibly fun to write in (I even got to play with tense). In my short stories, though, where I often write in an omniscient voice, my style is nothing like this. My punctuation is proper, atmosphere is tops, dialogue is sparse, and the tense is almost exclusively present.

I think I know what my second book will be about and, if I go ahead with it, my style will likely be radically different. Now excuse me while I dream big here, but I wonder if this will be a problem for readers. So let's talk about that, shall we? Does it bother you when you read one book by a particular writer and you go to read another only to find that the author's style has completely changed?

Personally, I'm all for a style change-up by my favourite authors. Take Jennifer Egan, for example. I read A Visit From The Goon Squad and a few months later I read The Keep. If her name was omitted from the cover, I never would have guessed that The Keep was written by the same author -- and I think that's amazing. I love that I never know what to expect from her, except for two things: compelling writing and storytelling. Jennifer Egan's ever-changing style makes reading Jennifer Egan an adventure, which in turn, makes Jennifer Egan an adventurista.

Ugh. Never mind. "Ista" will just never, ever work.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

This post has nothing to do with writing

Since a fat chance is my favourite kind of chance, I just entered a contest to win a free wedding in Hawaii. Woo hoo! This prize would be a dream come true because

a) I do not want to plan a wedding myself
b) I'm broke
c) of fate and karma-related reasons
d) only 30 people get to come, which gives me -- a colossal chicken -- an excuse to keep the wedding small without offending anyone.

So I typed up a letter, Photoshopped the New York Yankees logo off my baseball cap as per contest regulations...

... and crossed my fingers.

If you want to enter, too, go for it. Click here.

Hee hee! Now why would I want to compete against you? I may be broke and a chicken, but I'm not a dum-dum.