Showing posts from 2013

You can't be a Pony at Horse Camp.

For a film about a bunch of young toughs, the boys in THE OUTSIDERS sure spend a lot of time crying.  As far as I could tell when I watched part of it on TV the other night, not a single one of them ever shed a tear for their idiotic names.  If I were known as Pony Boy, Two-Bit or Soda Pop, I would have some angst about it.  Perhaps that is the reason they end up in the Greaser gang--their silly names forcing them into thug life--desperate to prove themselves against their ridiculous sobriquets.

Watching it, I felt like cranky old Mr. Griffin from my week at horse camp one summer.  "Cry a little louder!"

Gang life is tough.

Horse Camp is tougher.


I just don't know what I think of Charles Dickens.  I want to like him. I really do, because the man can turn a phrase and his description is some of the best out there.  But seriously, I am 500 pages into Bleak House and the plot is still maddeningly obscure.  It is like he got so wound up in laughing at the creation of the ridiculous Messrs. Boodle, Coodle, Doodle, Foodle…all the way down to Zoodle that he forgot he was writing a story about Esther Summerson and her mysterious parentage.  (At least, I think that is what the story is about--but I could be completely mistaken because chapters on end will pass without the slightest mention of her.)  Mr. Guppy, Mr. Snagsby, the Turveydrops and goodness-knows-who else are all so elaborately painted that I have forgotten their relation to Miss Summerson completely by the time their introduction has run its course.  Or, perhaps I never knew their importance.  Perhaps it was never revealed--and that I erroneously assumed I had missed th…

Spending too much time reading? How to kill your desire in hundreds and hundreds of pages...

If you read the websites of literary agencies, (which I do) you will often be given the advice to read widely.  There was a time when I considered myself a voracious reader.  However, last year I undertook a project to read all of the unread books on my shelf.  This is what I discovered: They were unread for a reason.  The undertaking almost killed my desire to read completely.  Invariably, all of the books that comprised my To-Be-Read pile were hundreds and hundreds of pages long.  There was Anna Karenina, Middlemarch, Villette and  The Aenied--to name a few and they almost destroyed my love of books.  Perhaps if I had interspersed some more enjoyable titles into the mix, it wouldn't have been so devastating to my reading habits, but instead I slogged away--sometimes only a page at a time--and then almost stopped reading fiction altogether in an effort to make the pain stop.

I have learned a few crucial things as a result, though.

1) Certain 'classics' need a lot of edi…

A Bit Galling--and Offensive.

I got two rejection letters last week.  One was received within half an hour of having sent it off; the other about six hours later.  I like to think that I broke a record when I received the first one; unless the agent in question is so busy that she has an auto reject button--rather like an out of office setting.  Nonetheless, it was nice to get the letter in response.  Nice to get both letters--despite their dream-crushing contents.  There is just nothing worse than the de facto message of no response at all.  That message is:  You are unimportant.  You are so unimportant that you don't even merit a form letter email.  Basically, to us-- you don't even exist.  
This is a bit galling and offensive, especially in light of the fact that a query is essentially a business offer.  
Every store on the planet wants to send me an email.  Every cyber-huckster wants to post comments on my website for free advertising, but these agents? No response for you!  In one sense, they are doin…

Creativity According to Plath-- or, Pinterest?

I hate writing.

In the same way that I hate weight loss.  Sure, having lost weight is amazing and very gratifying.  But the actual day-in and day-out of losing weight sucks.  I started the day on a lathery high note.  I read Maclean's cover page article and got myself nice and worked up in response.  I was composing such elegant lines while drying my hair that I couldn't avoid crafting them into a letter to the editor.  Naturally this letter was tight and full of quips--just as a good letter to the editor ought to be.  I was so pleased with myself I had to read it to several people on the off-chance that Maclean's responded petulantly by not printing it.  After the dream of job offers made in response to my brilliance dissipated, I stopped worrying the sentences to death and just sent it in.

Ever since, I have been worrying sentences to death.  This is a bad thing, too, since I am on a late edition edit.  Now, I've made a mess of my novel's timing and can't fo…

Trouble with the Free Fall

I have a copy of a great little book called "Steal like an Artist" by Austin Kleon.  I've now read it over a couple of times and am trying to take his advice.  In essence, his premise is that all art is an exhibition of thievery. Creative originality is putting together all the elements lifted from the ideas and works of others whom you admire and wish to emulate.  This is completely true.  Every character I write is an amalgam of other characters, fictional and real; pieced together like a patchwork quilt.  However, since I am not Margaret Mitchell, no rogue I write will ever be Rhett Butler.  My creation may echo him occasionally, but he will never be the man who waited until the cause of the Confederacy was utterly lost before joining in the fight to save her.  Likewise, I may terribly admire the self-possession and restraint of Jane Austen's Anne Elliot, but I would never have written her romance myself.  If I am skilled enough, I might be able to incorporate som…

The Emperor Has No Clothes, or Why Query Letters Are Not Art.

I keep imagining a different life for myself.  A week or so back I went to an art auction for the very first time.  I wasn't bidding myself, but, boy, did I want to.  I love how laid back and unpretentious Calgary is.  All the big time bidders who spent thousands and thousands of dollars on art were there in their Kirkland jeans.  I can't speak for the people who had proxies handling their bids over the phone--I imagine they were at home lounging on a divan; sipping Veuve Clicquot.  (Although, if they were Calgarians, probably not. ) While I sat there, immersed in the action, I imagined that working for an art auction house would be a brilliant job.  First off, it's Calgary, so it isn't convinced of its self-importance.  Secondly, it was a blast.  I was astonished.  I took one art history class in university (History of Post Modern Art) and it was a terrible mistake.  The paramount lesson I learned was that if it is labeled "post-modern", I won't like it.…

One for the saps.

Maybe you're like me.

You poor, sad sap.

I feel sorry for you.  I really do. Almost as sorry as I feel for myself.  We are only partially to blame.  We bought the lies.  We believed the hype we were fed almost as early as pablum.  It probably came in the form of some sort of slogan printed above the blackboard on a banner.  "Believe in the power of your dreams." Or, the particularly grating, "Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss.. blah, blah, blah."

It all amounts to the same thing.  We were sold a bill of goods that isn't exactly working out the way that we had hoped.  For me, it was writing.  (If you just dropped in on a blog named after punctuation, I'm guessing we might be kindred spirits.)  I had hopes of making a career out of being a writer.  Three years; a comic miniseries, a webcomic, a novel and 25 rejections later, I feel somewhat less bright-eyed than when I first began.  I have had one comic story accepted for publication.  Just one.  I…