February 27, 2014

first drafts and writing longhand

I was looking for something else a few weeks ago, when I found the original manuscript of my story "Mother Superior" (the first and title story of my first book). I wrote the story in 2004. Here's a photo!

In this one notebook, there were actually lots of first drafts of the stories I ended up publishing in that collection. I'd sort of forgotten that I didn't initially write them on the computer. Maybe I should write in unattractive spiral notebooks more often.

I like seeing the evidence of the instantaneous editing that happens in the initial writing of a story. Choices and quick changes like this happen all the time when you're writing (of course), but they disappear just as quickly on the computer and leave no traces. 

Up close and personal

It disturbs me a little that it has been so long ( a couple of years?) since I've written any fiction by hand. I like seeing it on the page like this. Why does it feel like such a novelty? 

February 26, 2014

Metaphysical Conceit goes to the movies

I stayed up late the other night watching Stuck in Love, a movie that was (unexpectedly!) about a family of writers. I don’t think it’s a perfect movie, but it’s sweet and funny, with that ring of honesty that seems to come from first-time writer-directors who are making a very personal film (not sure if this is the case, but it has that feeling). The performances are great, and the soundtrack is so, so good. If you like romantic dramedies (sorry, but that’s what they’re called!), you should check it out.

There were one or two small moments where the writing business part of it didn’t feel 100% true, but maybe that’s just me feeling more authoritative than I am. It’s hard to find a movie about writing that feels accurate. Adaptation is a great film, but it felt a little too psychologically true to be totally enjoyable. (Did it make anyone else super anxious?) Wonder Boys is my favourite movie about writers/writing, but since it’s based on a book I wonder if it should count. 

Oh, I just looked up Stuck in Love’s director, Josh Boone, and it turns out he will be directing the adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, a book I really enjoyed and a movie
 I'm looking forward to seeing when it comes out. (However, it looks like the screenplay has been handled by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the writing team responsible for (500) Days of Summer, a movie a lot of people seemed to love but which I really disliked.) 

February 25, 2014

Flashback: Kingston WritersFest

I've been meaning to share this lovely photo that was sent to me after my event at the Kingston WritersFest. It's me with Mark and Chris --- my wonderful Author Patrons of Montreal law firm MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier. It's thanks to sponsorship by their firm that the festival was able to pay my way from Montreal.

What a great idea to pair patrons with writers!

Photo by Cat London.  

(Maybe the government should look into a provision whereby individual authors can issue charitable tax receipts to philanthropic and culturally minded donors...! I'd happily dedicate my next novel to a generous sponsor!)

February 24, 2014

writing, word count, and sandwiches

Guess what? The silence here really does mean that I’ve been writing. Granted, most of that writing took place yesterday in a concentrated 10-hour flurry, but nevertheless…there was a certain amount of thinking and trying and failing and time-wasting that led up to yesterday’s marathon that definitely has to be counted as part of the process. As for whether or not the new story is any good, I’ll leave that to my writers’ group to decide. Even if it is only sort of good, I can make it better. It just feels good to do the work I need to be doing. 

My word count in this current project is now up around 65,000, even though many of those are rough and unpolished. I know that obsessing about word count can cut both ways (writing to a target might produce too much filler, or useless dialogue or exposition or otherwise rambling prose), but I find it a really useful way to move forward. And let’s face it: books are built out of words. 

               Here is the lunch that my husband brought me yesterday to keep me going!

February 14, 2014

Things I have learned this year

It was my birthday last Friday, which is always a good occasion to take stock of things. Here are the big lessons I've learned over the past twelve months:

  • It’s okay to answer questions on your own terms, especially when it comes to your own work.

  • Stand up to bullies. It’s the only way to break the pattern.

  • It’s okay to say no. It will make you so much happier when you do say yes.

  • Ask for the things you really want. There is little to be lost in asking and so much to be gained.

I'm not perfect about putting these into practice, but when I remember, I'm so much happier. 

February 4, 2014

Coffee badgers, Chinese New Year, and Carleton University

  • This morning I made coffee for the first time in a couple of weeks, and unfortunately it was crazy strong!  Now I have the shakes and a burrowing anxiety badger in my chest.  Not to mention an upset stomach. Eeeep.  If anyone has a sure-fire method for combating this unruly animal, let me know. My techniques so far include exercise (best), drinking hot water (pretty good), eating something carb-y to send myself into a sugar crash (untrackable but probably terrible), and complaining about it on the internet (acceptable).

  • K came for a fun visit for a few days this week, which means we have now officially had our first overnight houseguest! Another milestone for our new home. 

  • We had a wonderful Chinese New Year celebration on Saturday, with singing and dancing and glitter and new slippers and tons of delicious food. Thanks to the hosts and the cooks and the fellow attendees for a great evening. Happy Year of the Horse! 

  • I started reading A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, which I’m really enjoying so far. A friend of mine listened to the audiobook, and I have to remember to ask her how on earth they handled the footnotes in that format. 

  • I was so sad to hear about Philip Seymour Hoffmann and I’ve been growing sadder by the day as my original disbelief has faded.  Knowing he was in a movie was enough to make me watch anything, and it’s terrible to think of all the performances the world will be missing out on now.  His death is another tragic reminder that addiction is an indiscriminate killer.     

  • It was lovely to see a review of Bone & Bread in Room Magazine here! And even more jaw-dropping to see my upcoming event at the College of the Humanities plugged yesterday on the front page of the Carleton University website (as one of a rotating series of pictures…click through if you don’t see it at first). Seeing it was a pretty gratifying moment for me. 

  • Speaking of which, I’m not sure how to approach taking the podium at my old lecture hall. It’s a little bit intimidating to think about! However, I feel really honoured to have been asked, and the honour is outweighing the nerves at this point. If you’re going to be in Ottawa on Saturday, why don’t you stop by? I’m looking forward to the alumni dinner that will follow --- I wonder if any other graduates of 2002 will be there?