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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How is Writer’s Block like a Pop Star?

 So, I might have Writer’s Block. But, I don’t have any of the Wikipedia symptoms. I haven’t run out of ideas or inspiration — at least then I could do something else. So far as I can tell, the reason that Writer’s Block is so uncomfortable is because I know what I have to do but, I can’t seem to figure out how to do it. I could recite volumes of ideas and reasons to compose them but I cannot for the life of me write them down.

This conundrum has led me to a few sweeping generalizations about the affliction we call Writer’s Block. For one thing, how can you be sure you really have Writer’s Block? I have come up with a more comprehensive and realistic list of symptoms and tell-tale signs to look out for. They are as follows:

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How to Write an Unimpressive Author Bio

Before I began to think seriously about writing, it hadn’t occurred to me that the ultra-flattering, commanding write-ups on the back of the books and in magazines were written by the author. Now that I know that, I’m uncomfortable. The idea of writing my own bio freaks me right out.

Sure, I think that I’m an interesting person with interesting interests, but I don’t want to be the one to tell you about them.

I’ve had to write an author bio exactly three times and each one was a disaster.

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5 Stages of Recovery from a Rejection Letter

Every writer gets rejection letters. You’re supposed to take them in stride. They say that “only the persistent writers make it anywhere”. They also say, “maybe the story wasn’t a good fit with that publication”, “it’s hard to get published these days”, “no one reads anymore”, and “try not to take it personally.” But, I want to know if there is a person alive who can manage not to take it personally.

Actually, I don’t. If you are such a person, keep it to yourself.

I am willing to bet that most people go through something like this:

First Stage: SWEATING

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COLLINS: The Hunger Games Trilogy

I got to The Hunger Games — the YA book phenomenon by Suzanne Collins, way late. In fact, I didn’t expect to read these books at all. If it hadn’t been for my YA writer friend Alison Mills, they may never have crossed my path.

Upon her suggestion, I downloaded a book (not this one) that came in a package with The Hunger Games for a few more dollars. I had heard of the trilogy and that it was going to be made into a movie.

Since I love a good pop-book event, I decided to read them before that happened. Because, as we all know, seeing the movie before reading the book, makes the possibility of creating your own imaginationscape pretty difficult.

So I queued it up on my KOBO and strapped it to the display of the elliptical machine at the gym. I’m all about atmosphere. Continue reading

Murakami: 1Q84

I made the hideous mistake of unabashedly disliking Haruki Muarakami’s novel 1Q84 in front of someone who had just started reading it and I may never forgive myself for it. So, allow me this moment to redeem myself and explain my position on subject.

You see, I LOVED The Wind Up Bird Chronicles so much. That book did so much for me. It reminded me that there was still a lot that a novel could do. It was the first unapologetic piece of surrealist literary fiction that I had read in a modern context. I needed that book to exist if I was ever going to hope to write the kind of fiction that I like to write.

I could hardly wait to read 1Q84 and as soon as it became available on KOBO, I was on it. I started reading right away, expecting to be otherwise unavailable for the entire 1031 page duration.

Very quickly, I felt obviously manipulated by the author. I could sense that this book was written to be a “great work”. I didn’t believe in the characters or their motivations and I could barely slog through the clunking, repetitive prose. There was nothing of the subtle, brave Murakami who wrote The Wind Up Bird Chronicles. This was in your face, heavy-handed, bludgeoning the reader to death with over sentimentalized symbolism.

I thought to myself that, surely, this is a translation issue. Or, 1Q84 had suffered the same fate that most serialized novels do with its redundancy, over explanation, and over exposure. And I might have been able to excuse him from it if it hadn’t been so consistently boring as a result. Continue reading

The Hardest Things to Write

A writer buddy of mine and I were chatting about topics that are traditionally difficult to write about and how writers are attracted to them — like flies to a dead bunny. Our original list was Sex, Death, and Boring. So, we held a competition among our fellow writers to see who could write the best sex scene. I sat down in the morning and didn’t get up from my desk until the early evening. It was one of the best spent days ever.

The results of the competition were unfortunate. Despite the wide range of ideas, styles and topics (and I mean a very wide range), what we learned was that sex scenes are all fairly similar give or take a hand here or a member there. In the end, all of our hopes for a stimulating afternoon were drowned out by the cider and the loud mouths at the table beside ours.

Nonetheless, the afternoon I spent with my first real attempt at erotica was a great one — one that I followed up with a glass of wine and a bubble bath. Because that’s what one does, clearly.

So, if you’ve got a half hour, a tub and some bubbles, here’s a little something to help you pass the time.  A Family Man. Continue reading