Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My new(t) project

I know I haven't been posting every day as of late. And I know this makes it seem as though I've been slacking off. But I promise you -- those of you who don't know how A-type I can be -- slacking is one thing that I do not do. I've just been busy writing that darned pilot. As a matter of fact, I'm done the first draft! A table read with some brave souls on the weekend and I'll be ready to ship this thing out to the agent in L.A.

I don't think I need to state how badly I need this agent to like it. But even if he doesn't, I do. I actually like it a lot -- a hell of a lot more than my manuscript, as a matter of fact. The story seems to work so much better as a TV show. My characters have the room to grow longer legs and my brain seems in love with the pace and potential that TV allows. I don't know why I ignored my true love and even bothered with the book in the first place. I have the attention span of a retarded newt. And exposition and wordiness are my kryptonite.

In case you doubt that this pilot actually exists and that it's just something I made up so I could get blog-lazy, here's the opening paragraph:

FADE IN:

INT. BEDROOM – EARLY MORNING

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.

I'll post the title eventually, but I'm still not sure that it isn't lame.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I'm a hozer

So the Toronto Transit Commission Kindness Experiment continues. This morning, after another overly warm welcome, the "driver" of my subway car offered this thought for the day. And I swear to God this actually happened. "Aim for the stars," he said. "You will at least reach the clouds." Not sure if that's the kind of advice a person who alternates between pressing a go button and a stop button for nine hours a day should really be doling out, but hey -- who am I to judge? Have you seen my rejection pile lately?

Ironically, as this pay-it-forward announcement was being made I was listening to the song "Loser" by Beck on my iTouch. Talk about your mixed messages. Speaking of mixed messages, remember that post I wrote on Friday? The one you can see poking out just below this one? The one about how proud I am to write a tv pilot that's set 100% in Canada? Yeah, well, that changed this weekend. I've decided to set the show in Chicago. The main character is Canadian so I haven't completely gone off track but still, so much for my nationalistic pride, eh? But the reasoning behind this decision is, I think, sound.

I actually believe that this angle will be more interesting in terms of character development. If you think about it, a Canadian in an American city is much more complex than a Canadian in a Canadian city. It will make for some comedy (other characters will tease her aboot twoonies and loonies and national referendums -- ha! ha! ha!) and drama (why did she leave? what is she running from?) and blah blah blah.

All this bull$#!% aside, the ironic truth is that while writing this pilot I found myself becoming a victim of a large part of what defines us as Canadians: the Canadian inferiority complex. As much as I wish they would, I don't think American agents will buy into a show set in Canada. And really, when it comes right down to it, I don't think I will either.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The appeal of Canada

So now that I'm high in the sky of U.S. pilot land, I have a question: Will Canada fly? Can I use my home and native land as the setting and still get taken seriously by U.S. networks and agents? Because I'm afraid, in fact, that the use of Canada (Toronto specifically) as the location for my show will screw me over rather fantastically. Here's what I fear agents and networks will do to my pilot when "Toronto" appears on page three:

1) Shred it.
"Who is she kidding? Stories about Canada just don't sell here, just like they don't sell in Canada!"

2) Google-map it... "Hey Harvey! Where's Canada again?" ... then shred it.

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?

See, I think Canadians are interesting, maybe even more interesting than Americans. And it's not like I'll be whipping viewers in the face with a maple leaf. Just some wild weather and oversized pocket change now and then.

Sigh. I'm going to St. Lawrence Market to buy some of that maple candy and have a think on this.

*
*
*

Okay Canada. I'm back. And the sweet sweet sap of your magic trees has won me over.

It's on, Canada. It is on.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I must be nuts.

So you know those rules of writing and querying that I whine about on this blog? Well, when it comes to the world of tv writing at least, be prepared to chuck them all out the window.

After submitting a spec script to a tv agent in LA a few weeks back, I actually managed to have a phone conversation with the guy. I know. My mind is still blown. Anyhoo, as Tuesday's post so embarrassingly demonstrated, things got a bit out of hand inside my brain, but when I finally worked up the courage to call him back the news was, if not as good as I'd hoped, certainly interesting: Write a pilot, he said. Then call me back.

As any of you writers know, getting a foot in the door with tv people is even harder than with book people. And to do so, or so I've always read and been told, you need to write a spec script (a script for a show that is already in production) and then another, and likely another. Not the case today, said the tv agent. A spec is good, but to get meetings with the big U.S. networks, what you really need is an original show idea and a script with big t!ts to back it up. Okay, I added that bit about t!ts, but I'm writing tv now, people! T!ts sell.

So I'm doing it. I'm turning my manuscript into a tv show. I've always tinkered with this idea but it seemed so incredibly far-fetched, so utterly impossible, that I didn't dare dream that big. But why not? I've got nothing to lose except, well, pretty much everything. Sigh.

If you don't hear from me in a week, please, call someone.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Oh Wesley! Save me from myself!

I have a rich fantasy life apparently. I got a voicemail last night, which I have yet to return, that prompted all kinds of outrageous ideas to pop into my head. And from the womb of these ideas, this list was born.



Things I have to develop once I land my New York or LA agent

1. a cocaine habit. Obviously.
2. a treatment for a biopic about my rise to greatness despite my short stature and working-class background. Oh wait... that's the log line for Rudy.
3. a sweatier, firmier handshake.
4. a love of oversized men's watches and decadent rims.
5. an outward projection of love for cupcakes even though I despise them on the inside.
6. a crush on a Weinstein.
7. a passion for earthquakes, riots, brush fires, muggings and street-smart ROUSs.
8. my own clothing line.
9. an interest in international adoption.
10. an understanding of the cellular telephone technology.

Do you see? There is clearly something wrong with me. In my mind I have already moved to LA or NY, spray-tanned my inner thighs and bought some friends. Because of one voicemail! Why can't I calm down about everything? I'm always in such a rush to dive off the deep end. I need some Paxil or a glass of red wine or an intracranial massage. Or better yet, I actually need an agent to say those three magical words: "As you wish."

Volca-no!

Okay, somebody somewhere had better sacrifice an Icelandic virgin to that angry b%&%$ of a volcano already because nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to take my European vacation away from me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Good advice

Got back from my (woo hoo!) girls' weekend late last night and boy, is my liver tired. (Sorry, Liver. More on you later.) This being the case, I have decided to forgo my usual low-grade intellectualizing and read about writing more than actually write about it. Right? Right. Alright. In doing so, I came across a fabulous agent blog that I both congratulated and kicked myself for finding. While most literary agent blogs are a bit of a bitchy yawn, this particular agent offers some seriously good advice that I wish I'd had six months ago.

In the post, she talks about how to stagger and time your queries so you don't waste a bad pitch on a good agent. So smart. I was such a naive crumb-bum that I queried my top picks at the very beginning of this miserable process. Had it worked out, well, bully for me. But it didn't and, since the first outgoing draft of my pitch was essentially this, I can see why:

Hello AGENT,

PLEASE rep me. My book is about the Jehovah's Witneses and is really good I promise.

Please.

Thanks you,

Id.

Now, in Chinese medicine you, Liver, are associated with many functions, both physical and emotional. Irritability, inappropriate anger, resentment, frustration, bitterness... I’m starting to feel all of these things, Liver. I’m hoping they’re more related to the 13 drinks I stuffed you with on Saturday night but that agent’s soothsaying post is pointing me in a different direction. And I don't like it, Liver. I don't like where all this is going.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Girl on girl ('s fiction)

The Toronto Transit Commission is being too kind to me lately. I think they're trying to make it "the nicer way" with some sort of forced policy of friendliness or something because today the mayor said "hello and thank you for riding with us" over the intercom and -- and -- the TTC operator was awake before I clunked my wake-up quarters in his alarm clock fare box. Before. What kind of Wonderland is this? Thankfully, the passengers are still jerks like me, but still, nice is not inspiring.

Good thing I'm taking a real train ride today with the jerks at VIA Rail. And this is not just any train ride, but a train all the way to Montreal for a girl's weekend! Oh yeah. Can I get a woot woot!? Thro' yo' hands in the aiya and wave 'em like you etc etc...

So this is all a nice and cozy coincidence because lately I've been trying to wrap my head around a particular women's issue: women's fiction. This literary category has been rather trying and limiting for me and my book because many agents and publishers say explicitly that they don't accept women's fiction manuscripts. But what is WF exactly? My book is far from chick lit but, based on everything I've read (like this this and this), it seems the category is much broader than that. (Broad - ha!) So this all leaves me hanging and a bit mystified. Does my book fall into this women's fiction category because it

a) has a female protagonist,
b) there's some kissing and sex in it, and
c) I, the author, am woman (roar)?

The first point alone insults both males and females. Why wouldn't a man be interested in reading about a fictional woman from a woman's point of view? Let's give the guy more credit, shall we? I'm pretty sure he can handle it. And another thing. I read stuff written by and about dudes all the time and I'm sort of a feminist. Clearly, this point of classification is weak, publishers and agents. Very very weak. Speaking of, can you open this pickle jar for me?

The second, well, duh. Yes, there's kissing, light petting and some sex in my book but last time I checked out the demographic makeup of the porn aisle at Jumbo Video, men found kissing, light petting and sex interesting too.

And "C"? Don't get me started on "C." This point is just ridiculous because lady authors can write for any audience: male, female and the fascinating in-betweeners. We're not all Candace Bushnells mashing the keyboard with our Manolo Blahnik stilletos, you know. Some of us actually have something of value to say. But I'm PMSing so maybe I'm just feeling bitchy.

So, agents and publishers, my advice to you is this: Get on the fiction train of equality, bitches! Can I get a woot woot!?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Characters don't grow on trees, you know

"How do you invent such rich, multifaceted characters?" I get asked this question a lot by my fans. Okay, I don't have any fans (hi mom!), but if I did, I'd like to think that they'd want to know about my character development process. Because for me, my characters are what will keep my readers (once I get some) coming back for more. Their realism and humour and relatability will ensure that I can tell the stories that really matter and still generate sales. What are the other options? Writing in gratuitous sex scenes or putting a picture of an adorable puppy on the cover? Puh-leese. I would never stoop so low.

Anyhoo, every writer has a different way of going about character generation and every writer, at some point, gets screamed at by a crazy, paranoid uncle ("You-a make-a fun of-a my accent in your-a book-a or what-a?!!"). True, some writers steal every inch of the souls of those around them and sell their lives as fiction. But where's the fun in that?

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.

It + Wiggle = Character

It's simple math, really.

For character development tips from someone who matters, stop reading my useless blog and check out this article.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sex Ed for Lapsed Catholics

Apparently, I'm more of a fighter than a lover. Give me some catty dialogue to pen or a breakup scene to scratch onto the page and I'm your girl. Sex scenes, however, well... ewww. But because I'm a girl and a book is not a real book without a bit of snogging (what? Canada's part of the Commonwealth -- I can use that word) I knew I would eventually have to write one into my manuscript. And (as has been previously established), since I'm a masochist, I actually wrote two. But doing so made me very very uncomfortable. I didn't know where to start. I mean, I know where to start, but... ugh... See? Even writing about writing about it makes me squirm.

Before I even tried to write these scenes, and because procrastination is important, I searched the internet for legitimate sexy writing toolkits. This is harder (tee hee!) than you might think. I thought I struck gold when I came across Harlequin's "How to write the perfect romance!" guidelines. I was sadly mistaken. This is a sample of their best bits of advice:

I ♥ my characters: At the heart of all great romances are two strong, appealing, sympathetic and three-dimensional characters.

I ♥ my conflict: Emotional, character-driven conflict is the foundation of a satisfying romance. Conflict spawns tension and excitement.

I :( secondary characters. Use with caution! You’re writing a romance—readers are interested in your hero and heroine so keep the focus on them.

While the cutesy hearts and frowny faces were appreciated, all I could really think was "What the eff? Where is the dirty thesaurus?"

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:

He kissed me again, desperately this time, and we fell back onto the carpet. He bumbled with my pants and didn’t bother to take off my shirt. I could tell that he hadn’t been with a woman in some time because once I undid his fly and he climbed on top of me, it was already over. This wasn’t quite as I’d fantasized things—in a four-poster bed. On a boat. Floating across the Nile. After a tornado had torn both of our clothes off—and I felt awkward as hell. But it was enough to get me even more attached to him, to stake some sort of superior claim over his body.

There. Now let's never speak of this again.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Because I'm not feeling very funny myself

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

Inspiration in likely places

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:

MARCH 23

Wed. 1949:

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

The madness of the method

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

Prologue

“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

Dress/Wednesday

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

Prologue

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

Chapter One

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

Subway Makeup Lady

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

Interns in bikinis!

Interesting development in the U.S. the other day. It seems that a pretty major publishing company has decided to pay their interns some sort of living wage. Wacky, I know. You can read intelligent musings about it here.

This got me thinking about my own internship days. I've already fessed up to the fact that I did a turn at McClelland & Stewart, one of Canada's finest literary publishers. While I only got paid $1000 for three months of full-time labour (and zero educational credits - many book publishing internships are post-grad), the time I spent there was likely the most important in my career/life thus far. Here's why.

1. I met two of my best friends (and met my partner through one of them. Hi muffin!);
2. I learned how hard it is to get a book deal in this country (and how little most authors get paid when they do);
3. I got my first real publishing job because of that internship (and a little bit of strategic cultural/professional exaggeration);
4. In my tiny intern office surrounded by stacks of catalogues and the unholy wailing of my boss ("Leonard!"), I began writing my first novel.

Obviously this story would be more inspiring and romantic if my book would hurry up and get published already, but even still, I'm 100% supportive of the internship process. What I'm 0% supportive of is the lack of pay. The argument, from the employer's perspective, often goes like this: "But you're young and you don't have any experience in publishing so why should we pay you more, or even at all?" True, but I didn't have any popcorn experience when I worked the candy counter at Cineplex yet they still paid me $10 an hour.

The issue is a complex one and veers into all kinds of dangerous territory (class, connections, exploitation...). But right now my main concern is this: interns who don't get paid are more likely to grow up to become professionals who don't get paid. Just look at the going rates for online and print writing these days. $1 per word? Ha. We'll pretty much take anything we can get. A can of ham? A gluten-free granola bar? We're just so f%$#&ing grateful for the opportunity, don't you know.

Despite the coffee gofer jokes that get made, the publishing industry would fall apart without interns. As such, this is Edward the Bear giving a high five to the progressive folk at Atlantic Media on my behalf:











And this is me hoping that others here in Canada will soon follow suit:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rainbows and gun analogies

Everyone who's anyone. Click on it, browse through briefly, then return. E-mail addresses! Hundreds upon hundreds of editors' and publishers' e-mail addresses! I felt like I won the lottery when I found this site. It was the pot of gold at the end of an Internet rainbow: 011010110100010100 = gold!

I don't know how he got them (who he had to kill, sleep with, insert your favourite cliché here _________) but the author of the above-mentioned site, Gerrard,* is an embittered, crotchety gift to struggling first-timers like myself. He levels the playing field, takes the secrecy out of publishing, knocks down the Berlin walls of injustice and inequity that stand between New Author (desperate, slightly sweaty) and Editor (all-knowing, crumb-covered).

But with great freedom, there often comes a greater price. Al Gore, Godfather of the double u double u double u, let me pose this question to you: When you have this kind of power at your fingertips, what do you do with it?

Now that I can, should I query editors, Al? All the "rules" are telling me no, but as Sunday's hot tubbing post proves, I have little respect for "rules." In fact, I mock them outright and place quotation marks around them! So what if I do it, Al? What if I make use of all of the terrible powers of this list and send my queries directly to editors? And what if they say no thanks without reading my ms, or blacklist me altogether because they are terrified of my supreme power ("how did she get my e-mail address? and how does she know about the crumbs?"). And then, after all this blood has been spilled, what if I actually do manage to get an agent (it could happen)? Then, then... then what? Will agent casually ask me of my querying history and recoil when I tell him what I've done? Will all my efforts have been for naught? For horrible horrible naught?

I have long had a tendency to jump the proverbial gun, Al. So by trying to get an editor to read my stuff, to circumvent the agent altogether, am I guilty of gun-leaping once more? Tell me Al, is "proactivism" in publishing just another made-up word for shooting myself in the foot?


*A reader alerted me to the fact that some anti-Semitic opinions have been expressed on the Everyone who's Anyone site. This is unacceptable, obviously, but I'll leave the link up since the publishing contact info on the site is so useful and unavailable anywhere else.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hot Tub Writing Machine

Hot Tub Time Machine. I saw it last night. And I can't believe I'm writing this out loud, but it made me think. It made me think about the "rules" of hot tubbing and how they are analogous to the "rules" that apply to writing and publishing a first novel. And then I ate lots of sugar and decided to write them all down. I'm so sorry about this.

Hot Tub Rule #1: It is best, and usually more fun, to have someone in the hot tub with you. If you are in the spa alone, make sure someone responsible in the household is aware that you are in the tub and how long you have been in.

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

Sizemore or less

Hello Readers. You may have noticed that updates on my Adventures in the Land of Literary Rejection are few and far between these days. Unfortunately, this is due to the fact that there is little, if anything, to report. True, my querying has quieted down since I posted my List of Shame (click here if you missed it) but I haven't given up completely. I've tossed a couple of pitches and partials out into the world, but eerily silent my inbox remains. Sigh. I'm starting to miss being killed softly by those Friday e-mails:

1. Thank you so much for your query. Unfortunately, this project doesn’t sound right for me. I encourage you to continue to submit elsewhere, and I wish you every success in your writing career. Thanks again for thinking of me.

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.


I remember opening these e-mails like it was yesterday. I actually covered my screen with my hand when I read them so I couldn't scan ahead OR (depending on my blood-The Ring levels) so the words couldn't reach through the monitor and strangle me. Sometimes I think I should build myself one of those crude solar eclipse viewing boxes for the task; as if staring directly at the rejections will in fact make me go blind. Sigh #2. I can think of better ways.

But all is not lost! Right now I have manuscripts with an agent in New York and a small press in Toronto. And, because I must be some sort of masochist, I have a spec script sitting on some Hollywood agent's iPhone. (I'm pretty sure I'm his 117th priority so I'm pretty psyched, as you can imagine.) Now I just need something to help pass the time. *thumb twiddle thumb twiddle* Something that isn't Celebrity Rehab.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Darn you, Garfunkel!

There's something about a racing subway that makes me want to touch it. Every morning, when I'm sort of still dreaming, it takes all of my strength to keep my fingers in my pockets instead of raking their way across the fast metal. It's weird, I know.

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.