The Giller Prize Book Club: Book One

womenOne down and twelve to go… I’m off to an unimpressive start to my task of reading all thirteen longlisted novels by November 5th, but nonetheless, I am pressing on.

My first choice, Elisabeth De Maraffi’s book of short stories, How to Get Along with Women, was a page turner. I probably would have gotten through it a lot faster if I hadn’t just begun a new job at a cool place and if I didn’t care about keeping the job.

Despite the press in my time, what little I had to spare, was not wasted with Elisabeth’s book (I feel like I can call her by her first name because we have that in common and so when we meet some day, we will almost surely have the kinship that all Gemini and people named Elizabeth do).

The subject of women has been on my mind lately and not just because I am one. However, to my great irritation, my thoughts on the subject are not at all original. I’ve been thinking about the way that women are portrayed in media and how stupid that reality is. I’ve been thinking that there are not enough women teaching in universities, in politics, and business. I’ve been thinking about my experience with women and how shocking, terrifying and intense some of the stories I could tell are. I have known some real characters in my modest amount of time on the planet and have been witness to a lot of very powerful women.
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E-Readers. Get used to it.

Remember when film cameras were being replaced with digital cameras? I distinctly recall feeling super uncomfortable about that. I’d had digital cameras in my house since they started (my mom worked for a dot-com before the bubble burst). Our first one was a bulky device that took giant photos and saved them directly to a floppy disc that I could then insert into my computer to upload six photos, which took twenty minutes. The idea that those intangible cumbersome ideas of pictures would replace the thrill of pointing, clicking and waiting for your film to develop was such a bummer.

That sickening bout of nostalgia was quickly relieved, however, as cameras got better rapidly and the making and sharing of photography became practically free. I can’t imagine that there are any practically minded people out there that are still mourning the reign of the film camera.

***Remember: there will always be purists and nothing is ever really gone forever.

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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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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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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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