Thursday, June 4, 2020

Ten years (!) of Ego Burn

Me, ten years ago, a few weeks after I started this blog.

My my my. Ten years of Ego Burn. I'd say "Where did the time go! I can't believe it's been 10 years!" But I can believe it's been 10 years. And I know exactly where the time went; it went into hard work. My first Ego Burn post, which makes me cringe to read now, was on March 12, 2010. In it, I moaned about rejection. Over the years, I moaned a lot about rejection because rejection was the inspiration for this blog.

As I was writing and pitching my first novel, The Weather Inside, the rejection was brutal. To deal with it, I sought out other writers who were experiencing the same thing. And I found them in the blogosphere. Jackson Bliss, MB CaschettaJulie Farman and others. They were writing, struggling and putting themselves out there, just like I was. But they were also succeeding! Which meant that maybe I could succeed too! With their wind at my back, I started this blog -- both to help me figure out my writing life and to add another voice to that community of writers. To help another writer like Jackson, MB and Julie helped me.

I don't know if Ego Burn made a difference in the lives of any other writers, but it certainly made a difference in mine. This blog helped me develop my voice as a novelist. And it's partially responsible for getting me my first book deal. Did I ever go into that here? I can't remember. Long story short, a writer friend shared this blog with an editor at Freehand Books. What that editor read here made them curious about my manuscript, so they reached out to my then-agent. When that agent and I parted ways, I reached out to Freehand... and a year later, The Weather Inside was on bookstore shelves. Without this blog, it's very likely that Weather would never have been published. And if Weather didn't get published, I doubt that I would have had the confidence to write my new manuscript, Nine Dash Line.

So, this weird little blog has made my writing life possible. I owe it everything.

And I owe my Ego Burn readers, too. To all of you out there -- lurkers and commenters alike -- thanks for following this blog. I hope it's helped you with your own writing journey, or at least entertained you. And to Matt Wilson -- you're going to laugh, but this is true -- your support of this blog has been awesome since day one. Thanks for leaving comments; you always made me feel like someone was actually reading this thing, and that's meant a lot to me over the years.

And thanks to everyone who has read and supported The Weather Inside. Hopefully you'll get to read Nine Dash Line too.

Me, now.

(Also me, now.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Support diversity in literature

In addition to seeking out books that reflect variations in geography, ethnicity, race, culture, gender, ability, sexual orientation, and religion,* you can support an incredible literary festival held near Toronto called The Fold. From their website (*which is also where I got that partial definition of diversity in literature):

"The FOLD Foundation was founded in 2014 by author Jael Richardson. In May 2016, the organization launched the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) – the first literary festival devoted to celebrating underrepresented authors and storytellers. 
The festival takes place in Brampton, Ontario, providing an important space for writers to discuss their craft and the challenges involved in creating stories that ask difficult questions, expose hard truths and push literary boundaries."

There are two ways you can support The Fold. 1) You can attend the festival and 2) You can donate to The Fold to support their work.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Black Lives Matter

Well, the world sure is going to shit, isn't it?

Actually, no. It's been shit for a long time thanks to people who look like me.

I'm too scared of contracting COVID-19 to go to protests, but those of you who went on the weekend and who continue to go, you have my utmost respect. 

I'm finding the calls to "defund police" to be particularly enlightening. I had no idea that that much of my municipal tax dollars went to police services! So grateful that I know now. Energises me to advocate for and vote for candidates that will insist on a reallocation of a chunk of that money towards social services like mental health and housing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Can't do #booklook makeup for shit, but knows how to use layers in Photoshop

[Originally, I posted an image here of my face with an overplay of my book cover, but it creeped me out having to see it all the time! So I deleted that sucker! For truly stunning (not creepy) #booklooks, do yourself a favour and follow JENNY and TERESE. They do truly remarkable makeup looks that honour some of their favourite books.]

Friday, May 15, 2020

It is about you.

I think the most important questions a writer needs to ask themselves before they embark on a new literary novel are: Do I have the emotional awareness that I need to write this book? Can I be unflinchingly honest?

I think a lot of writers don't do this, or they do it too late -- I've read enough shitty emotionally-anemic books in my life to make a strong case. Other questions get a lot of attention, especially those concerning cultural appropriation. "Do I have the right to write this book?" "Why am I telling this story?" And there's other questions, too. "Am I smart enough?" "Do I have the stamina to see it through?" Those questions are very important, no doubt. But don't forget about the emotional requirements a novel demands. Check in with yourself and make sure you're ready to go to the dark, hard, true places. Because even if your book isn't about "you"... it actually is about you.

I'm doing that now as I prepare to write my third book. I'm checking in that I'm ready to unearth some other layers of myself, and question everything that I think about, well, everything. Because that's what it takes to write a novel worth anyone's time, in my opinion, a novel that's going to be remembered as good, maybe even great. Hell, maybe that's even what it takes to write a bad novel?

If you want a litmus test, I suggest reading Elena Ferrante. Anything by her will do, but I'm particularly thinking about her gut-wrenching novel The Days of Abandonment. Do you have what it takes to plumb those same depths that she does? Really? How far could you go? The husband abandoning part --  maybe that's fine. The rage, the broken heart. But the mother resenting her children...  could you write that? What about a failed seduction? Could you put yourself in the shoes of a woman rejected at her lowest, neediest point, and in such graphic detail? Could you draw on your insecurities and experiences to write about that? Refining it over months, maybe years? If not that scene, then picture the most shameful truth about yourself. What you would never admit to anyone. Could you write about it? For the world to read? I'm not saying that you have to lay it ALL out there and bleed on the page. (Remember that "Elena Ferrante" is a pen name, so even Elena Ferrante has struggled with writing like Elena Ferrante.) But what I am saying is that you have to be willing to explore it all in your own mind.

Even if you're writing purely for the fun of the actual act of writing, or to entertain readers as other writers have entertained you. Even if the plot has nothing to do with your real life. To write a good novel is to confront yourself... uncomfortably.

Sound good?

Great! Welcome to the club!

Friday, May 8, 2020