Category Archives: Writing

Book Titles You Wish You’d Come Up With: What are your favourites?

lifeistremendous Choosing a title is hit and miss for me. Sometimes, I get the title first and I have to work to live up to it for the sake of a my poetic genius. Other times, no matter how great I think my story is, the title is limp and simply a result of having to refer to it in one way or another.

The title may have no bearing on the quality of a story, but man, when I have a great book with a correspondingly heavy title, it adds an extra narrative to my subconscious life. It becomes the song stuck in my head.

For example, when I was reading, Wuthering Heights, I repeated the title over and over in my mind while I walked down the street, as I dropped boxes of cereal into my cart at the market, and right before I went to bed. In this case, it was to the tune of Kate Bush’s Gothic-pop song, which is a bonus.
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David Foster Wallace, Elizabeth Gilbert, Suicide and Infinite Potential

DavidfosterwallaceThe “This is Water ” [shown below] video that someone made of a David Foster Wallace commencement speech was floating around the internet today and I watched it again even though I remembered taking issue with it the first time I saw it. It reminds me of the author Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk about mental health and artists and how we need to look out for our geniuses and keep them healthy by not making depression glamourous.

Of course, Gilbert’s talk came to mind because David Foster Wallace killed himself. And when I watched that Ted Talk, I thought that it was a little presumptuous of Gilbert to imagine that her experience is similar to the “typical” ruined genius. She basically writes self-help books, right?

Then I felt like a jerk, because maybe that’s a shitty thing to think. What do I know?

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Post-Thesis Blues and How I Became a Job Ninja

trendsSome artists find creative fortitude in depression. Some people make themselves upset on purpose in order to produce the sad self-reflection that devastation can bring about. These artists have offered up their insides to the world. Lovely people like Joni Mitchell, Hemmingway, Joan Didion, Paul Simon and Chopin wrote break-up songs and love letters that created a shared space for the human experience.

It’s important to be where you are and to appreciate being alive enough to feel big feelings and then to use those insights to open your mind to better empathize with our collective human experience.

I wish I was one of those people, brave enough to dance with my own demons, but I’m often not. I thrive on momentum and inspiration. And though I know that the down and dark parts have to be experienced, that they won’t go without a fight, I am not prone to embracing them. I try to avoid them.

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Reluctantly Yours, The Artist.

Only children actually want to be artists – children, rich people, and boring people who are afraid of being exposed as boring people. Most of us grow up, and either learn that we aren’t interested/talented/crazy, and we move on because we are intelligent/responsible/hungry. The rest of us are either rich people/children/boring or reluctant artists. When I was a kid, I didn’t want to be an artist, I wanted to be an astronaut. And I often blame my mom for my not becoming one.  She refused to send me away to Space Camp. But really, I was never going to be an astronaut. She knew from the start what I was.

Artist is a nebulous term that I don’t have a definition for exactly, but so far as I understand, here are some of the symptoms:

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Un-Friend All of Your Writers

Don’t make friends with writers. I am a writer and I have a bunch of friends. I’m not bragging, I’m just telling it like it is. The fact is, I think I should have fewer friends.

My friends are nice friends. They love me and tell me that I am talented and they go to my readings and proofread my atrocious grammar and spelling. They are there for me when I need to quit my job, again and again. They validate my unjustifiable laziness and unsuccessfulness. They do this for me because I encourage it and I am entertainingly embarrassing at parties.

Little do they know that I’m a whining, way less than prolific, self-righteous, know-it-all with a Goddess-complex (maybe they do know this and wonder why I keep coming around).

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The Day Job vs. Bliss

It happens from time to time that a tortured artist toils and bleeds for her craft, only to die before it means anything to anyone. It also happens that an artist toils and bleeds for her craft and no one reads or cares about her work, dead or alive. But hopefully, the artist is dead by then and, presumably, doesn’t care.

No one likes to think about these things, but it’s true. Sometimes, the thing you love doesn’t love you back. Just like a girlfriend who doesn’t love you back, it so happens that, a person can follow his “bliss” (just as Joseph Campbell tells him to), and nothing comes of it. Sometimes people get hit by Mack trucks. It’s not personal, it’s physics.

So, in the mean time (the space between being a raging success and the Mack truck), you’ll probably need to get a job. You’ll want a job for the moneys that keep writers in mac laptops, gluten-free muffins and five-dollar lattes. But, what should a writer do? Isn’t a job selling out?

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Thank you, Science Fiction

Today I caught a Sunday matinée of Prometheus — a heavily criticized film that is meant to be something of a pre-Alien movie. I’m just going to come right out and say that I thought it was fine. I don’t know if I thought that because so many big block busting sci-fi films have let me down so spectacularly or because it actually was fine (please direct all of your well-composed thoughts to the contrary to someone who hasn’t thought of them already). It made me think about my beloved science fiction genre (or Speculative fiction, if you please) and I realized that I haven’t yet posted about my heart, my genre, my raison d’écrire.

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“I only read Non-Fiction” and other arbitrary dogmas

I’ve never understood why people feel better about themselves when they tell me that they only read non-fiction. It’s as if they think of themselves as less silly than the rest of us “dreamers” or “artists”. Whenever someone tells me that, I am immediately offended. It’s as if they’ve just told me to get a real job.

Much to the horror of some of my colleagues, I have been known to say that I don’t believe in Non-Fiction. And even though, all of my super serious, seriously funny, and extremely adventurous NF writer friends have already written me off, I have to say, I love Non-Fiction genre books. I do. Does that sound like a contradiction? No, I guess it doesn’t. It sounds like a semantics argument. It’s always about semantics, isn’t it?

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The CCWWP: What on Earth is a Writer’s Conference like?

 Before I left on my trip to the CCWWP in Toronto, people asked me, “What exactly do you do at a writer’s conference?” Though I made things up, I didn’t actually know.

I figured we’d talk about the state of the publishing industry or the fate of the Creative Writing Program in Canada. There would definitely be lots of talk about the frontiers of poetry. Believe me, no one really wants to hear about the theoretical frontiers of poetry (even poetry lovers, like me), but people love to tell you about them.

Here’s how it went:

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Things You should know about Stephen King and 11/22/63

I have planned on writing a review of Stephen King’s new book, 11/22/63, for a while now but I just haven’t been able to get around to it. I think what has been holding me back is the fact that I haven’t been in the mood to entertain snotty comments and harsh judgments about Stephen King. I didn’t want to hear about how people “don’t read horror”, “have books they have to get to before King” or whatever boring argument that people who have never read anything by King come up with. But, today, an article crossed my path (which you can find here) that put a fire under my tush and now I’m going to let you all have it

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