Monday, November 26, 2012

big deal

Last night, the 100th Grey Cup was played in downtown Toronto, where the Toronto Argonauts defeated the Calgary Stampeders 35-22.  

On Saturday, three writers I know were listed on the Globe's top 23 Canadian fiction books of the year.  Eva Stachniak for The Winter Palace, Grace O'Connell  Magnified World, and Heather Birrell for Mad Hope. 

Earlier this month, my writing teacher, friend and inspiration, Sarah Selecky had the US launch of her book, This Cake is for the Party.  
And, last Thursday, I was awarded the Random House of Canada 2012 Student Writing Award for my short story, Let Me Call You Lovely.

Each of these accomplishments is, in my opinion, a big deal. And deserves the recognition it receives. 
The publication where my short story appears, Three, is small but, a big deal. U of T faculty, Random House staff and the contest judges all had very positive things to say about my writing and the finalists writing like, "remarkable literary outcomes" and "fine writers" and "a fantastic achievement". 

I didn't realize just how big a deal the award was until I arrived at the U of T Faculty Club on Thursday night to celebrate the win along with the finalists and read this, from 2009 winner Anne Perdue, underscoring the importance of the award to her career.  

"A year later, Insomniac Press published my book. I am hugely grateful to the Random House of Canada Student Award in Writing for providing opportunity, prestigious acknowledgement, and validation."

Pretty big deal.

The evening was a tandem celebration for the award's 10th anniversary and at the door, one of the organizers told me they only had name tags printed for VIP guests, faculty, and finalists.  When I introduced myself, she said, "Oooooh, you are the winner! Congratulations. Of course you have a name tag."  

I was the big deal.

I also had to read an excerpt from the story, something the editor had failed to mention to me.  Finding out then and there saved me the worry and concern and neurosis of deciding which bit to read. No rehearsing, no overthinking it, no breathing exercises.

No big deal.   

I am more writer than sports enthusiast lately.  However, I am from Saskatchewan so that makes me a Roughrider fan by default.  My best Grey Cup experience was 23 years ago when I still lived in Saskatchewan. With two seconds left in the game, Dave Ridgway kicked a field goal giving the Riders a 43-40 victory over the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the 1989 Grey Cup.  We jumped in the back of a pick up truck and drove around downtown Regina after the game.  

It was a big deal.  

On Friday, my nephew and his girlfriend came to Toronto for the weekend to attend the game yesterday. They are huge fans (pictured here, front and centre, in green) and along with many other keen CFL lovers, have been roaming the city for the past week. I went to Nathan Philips Square and Yonge and Dundas with them where we did yoga on a makeshift field, tasted new flavours of Frank's Hot Sauce and tossed a football at some tires in a cage. Next year's Grey Cup is in Regina. 

It will be a big deal. 

Whether it's sports or writing or any other thing you want to make a big deal about, below is some wise advice from Natalie Goldberg, a big deal in her own right.  

“Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.” 

Friday, November 2, 2012

the blog heard around the world

No one knows how it started -- I don't, at least -- but writers are linking from blog to blog in a virtual game of 'tag, you're it.' 

In this 10-question interview, writers talk about the Next Big Thing they’re working on, then tag five other writers, each of whom does the same, tagging another five, and so on and so on...a kind of literary chain letter, only not annoying, but fascinating. Really.

For writers, it's an opportunity to share work-in-progress, perhaps refining an idea that hasn't quite taken full shape or revealing a book in the final stages of editing.  For readers, these linked blogs offer a chance to 'look behind the curtain' of the writer's imagination - to see stories before they become books, discovering what inspires and shapes them.

My thanks to novelist, poet and essayist Diana Fitzgerald Bryden for tagging me. 

At the end of this post, I've tagged a few other writers you might want to get to know. Visit their blogs and you may just discover a work-in-progress destined to become the 'next big thing' to read on your bookshelf or e-reader.


Here goes...

What is your working title of your book?
Moving Parts 

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I started writing short stories and they started to add up.  Now there are almost enough for a book.

What genre does your book fall under?
Short story collection.  Fiction.  Short fiction.  

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
If the story, Moving Parts got made into a feature, I think Keira Knightley and Jason Segel would make a good Edie and Ditch, a nerdy pair of star crossed lovers who met in a grocery store line up. There are also several linked stories, that could be a collection of short films where Frances McDormand would be a perfect Yvonne, the neurotic, bug-eyed, dog-loving narrator.  If Let Me Call You Lovely were a movie, Fred Willard should play Uncle Nick, Jennifer Coolige for the role of Charlene and Michael Cera as Jeremy.  My friend's cat, Rockford, could play Jarslberg (see photo below). 
Apart from Cera and the cat, I wish I knew more Canadian actors who fit these roles. 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In this collection of stories about striving and longing, sad yet hilarious characters encounter truth, fear, and love in their own peculiar ways; through speculation on the private lives of strangers, through imaginative digressions from the mundane and through careful observation of the ordinary.
A bit rambly, but that's the gist of it.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
To be announced.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Still in the works.  Going on three years. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

As an emerging writer I am going to shamelessly compare my work to writers I admire and their books that inspire me, which include Do the Windows Open? by Julie Hecht,  And Also Sharks by
Jessica Westhead, No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories by Miranda July, Open by Lisa Moore, and Pastoralia by George Saunders.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Reading the books listed above.  And, in a way, I was inspired to write these stories because I am fascinated by human behavior.  I notice a lot of weird shit and want to know more about it.  Examine it. Dissect it.  Laugh with it.  Live with it.  Survive it. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
My writing has been noted as:
“…remarkably assured prose and full of unexpected and wonderfully bizarre detail.” – Grace O’Connell
“…hilarious, smart, cutting, wry, careful, moving…” - Sarah Selecky
“…rich in voice, satisfying in narrative…” - Zsuzsi Gartner
“…compelling...with surprising leaps of imagination…” – Jessica Westhead and Matthew J. Trafford

Below is a short excerpt from Let Me Call You Lovely, winner of the 2012 Random House Creative Writing Award through The School of Continuing Studies at the University of Toronto.

Uncle Nick had named all the cats after cheeses.  Gouda, Brie, Kojak (from Colby-Jack) and Zola, (short for Gorgonzola).  They were all adoptions from The Toronto Cat Rescue, except Zola who came from the Internet.
“Have you seen that Kajiji?” Nick said to Jeremy, “Every five minutes another goddamn animal goes up for adoption.”
Last month, there was a new one.  Neither a rescue nor an adoption, but a little orange stray that started hanging around the yard.  Nick let her in and started feeding her.  He called her Jarlsberg. Jarlsberg had taken to sleeping in the basement with Jeremy. Repeatedly, he had woke to the cat curled up beside his head, purring in his ear. Not only did she sit outside the bathroom door while Jeremy showered, the cat followed him around while he dressed and stared at him while he watched The Dragon’s Den on his laptop. She would carry bits of particleboard from upstairs in her mouth and drop them at Jeremy’s feet and wait.  When Jeremy kicked the scrap wood away, Jarslberg would bat it around the room then bring it back to Jeremy’s feet.  She’d stare at it until Jeremy kicked it for her again.
Nick and Charlene had been renovating for the last nine years.  Any time Jeremy had stopped in with his mother to see Uncle Nick, the place was in a new state of disarray. Sheets of drywall were stacked against frames of two by fours in the dining room. An unfinished kitchen floor was lined with buckets of plaster.   Loose wires sprouted from light fixtures that were not fully installed.  But visitors were always welcome.  Nick would throw a sheet of plastic on the dining room table and offer them herbal tea and some gluten free cake or cookie--Charlene was allergic. 
It was difficult to have conversations with Nick and Charlene because they often spoke at the same time.
            “We’re going to work on the bathroom this week,” he’d say.
And Charlene, “Nicky’s changed his mind about the layout again.”
Nick loved anything with stained glass so the windows were the only parts of house that were finished. The front door housed a particularly intricate landscape design along with a small window beside it that was made of a combination of orange and yellow stars.  The three tall windows in the dining room contained sections of coloured glass that cast patterns on the plastic liner where they drank their tea.
“Isn’t it the most lovely and amazing thing?” Charlene said.
And Nick, “Would you look at that goddamn light.” 


And now I’m tagging a few talented writers. Visit their sites and find out about them and their work.  

Christna Fletcher

I had hoped to get five writers, but didn't.  
Some may still show up so come back.

Message for tagged authors:
Rules of the Next Big Thing

***Use this format for your post
***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
***Tag five (or as many as you can) other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:
What is your working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.
Be sure to line up your five people in advance.