Bah Humbug!

Dearest minions,

Long time no blog! "You??" I can almost hear your gasps of surprise. I know, forgive me. I've gone missing longer than usual.

Have you been good for Santa? I for one think the naughty list is far more interesting than the nice one. Although, after 31 years on this earth, I don't think Santa cares much to fill my stocking with trinkets (the economy's hitting him in the boots too, I guess - "Buy your own!")

Curtesy of grumpycats.com
Although I love giving presents - that's the only good thing about Christmas most years - I have to admit that I am every bit the Christmas grinch. Somehow, I don't think this comes as much of a surprise to you. My place doesn't boast one single lonely decoration (mainly cause I don't have any - it was a toss between furniture and Christmas guarlands.. Hmm, I let the old reason win the toss on this one), but even if I had had some, I might not have put them up. Yes, yes, I know.

BUT, if you think I'M pessimistic, you should turn your frowns and arched eyebrows in the direction of the Mayans. They're the ones thinking we're all gonna kick the bucket before the day's out Friday. Eek! Ok, so how many of you have stocked up your bunkers and have a plan to repopulate the earth should there be a zombie apocalypse? (If I was you, I'd catch up on the Walking Dead series pronto! How DO they keep such white teeth while being so filthy all the time?)

Guess where I stand on the whole End of the World thing?

Have a very merry Christmas, minions, and a fab New Year full of published stories and autographs to pen!
Any resolution worth keeping in mind?

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A Well-Meaning Onion

20th February, 2012, 9.00pm

Hello minions! It should please you to hear that I'm not dead. Hurray! I have however been busy getting myself a nice job that stable and routinely, but that also pays the bills until a publisher looks my way.


In the meantime, I wanted to chat about layers of meaning with you this evening. And I'm not just talking about character depth (equally as important however, no one connects with a protagonist who has as much personality as a toothbrush), but layers of meaning to a story, subtext. "Show, don't tell", we've all learned our lesson well, but what about "suggest/insinuate/hide/dig, don't tell"?


I got thinking about this after a conversation I had with someone close to me about phoenixes. You know, the mythical bird that bursts into flames, only to be reborn from its own ashes (please refer to figure 1 *points to the right*.. ok, I think that one's from Final Fantasy, but since they're a myth, there aren't many snapshots around - you get the gist of it). Soooo, there I was, pondering what the myth meant to me and then what it meant for my book project - The Curse of the Phoenix. There is the element of rebirth, yes, but it goes deeper than that; it's about strength and rebuilding what is destroyed, but it's also about second chances, making a wrong right, recreating something new with old essence. Hell, someone might write a whole thesis on the title alone one day! (One can dream, don't burst my bubble. Tsk!)


Do you build them in intentionally by being crafty? Do they just appear when a story is well-built? Or do layers of meaning only appear to the reader and how they connect to a story? To each his own layer? 


I think sometimes, we give our stories layers of meaning without even intending to. Maybe this belongs more to interpretation than intention, but still, they are there. And I know I've said this before, but you can learn so much about yourself by your writing. It really is true that writers bare their souls when the lay words down on a page. Read me and you'll know me for I am an open book! You might discover more layers to yourself than you knew where there in the first place.


Do you tend to take a story at face value when you read, or do you look to analyse it and dig deeper to find what the author has hidden there for curious minds who know how to look? 
What about your own stories? What lurks in their depths? What do they reveal about you, perhaps?

 

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Happy New Year, Minions!

2nd January 2012, 8.00pm

 Hello to you! Welcome to this first post of the new year. If we're lucky and the Mayans were wrong, we'll be doing this again next year!

This year marks a bit of a landmark for me. I'm changing decades. Hitting the big 3-0 in style tomorrow! Well, not really "in style" since I'll be getting up at 5am and heading to work. But ya know, I'll be sure to remind everyone how much of a myrtyr I am for celebrating my 30th at my desk, waiting for those wrinkles to put in an appearance.

I'm pretty sure something's going on, but it's hard to say. Perhaps the surprise is that there IS no surprise. My family and friends have been pretty tight-lipped about the whole thing. And considering I can get any information out of my mother (she's a terrible liar and crappy at keeping secrets) anyday, that's really saying something. Who do I have to tickle to find out?

How was your Christmas? Did anything embarrassing that you're afraid might find itself on youtube or Facebook? Mine was good, thanks for asking. I spent it in great company and put on about 5 lbs (less great). So, thank God the festivities are over and I can go back to my normal eating habits.

What about those New Year's resolutions!? What have you decided to give up, start up, do more of, eat less of? I have the same resolution every year: None. However, I always promise myself to be happy.

So, to your health and happiness and all that jazz! Oh, and lots of love - duh!


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Dating Frogs and Smoking Hot Butterflies

27th October 2011, 8.15pm

Hello Minions!

I just wanted to let you know that I was still alive after my surgery! Minus an organ, plus a few scars, but all here otherwise.
What have I been up to, you ask? Well, I've been working hard trying to keep up with work and classes. Did I mention that I'm graduating in December? Only a dozen times at least, I think. Guess who'll be walking off the stage in June (yes, the actual graduation is later... and it sucks) with her brand spanking new degree in hand? That's if I don't flunk out of anything, that is, uhmm...I bet you can't wait for me to get my diploma and shut up about it already! Patience, minions, patience.


Besides that, I have recently re-entered the weird and wonderful world of dating. And when you get to be my age (nearly 30), well meeting people gets difficult. Everyone you know is already married and popping out kids like they're going out of fashion. And their other friends are also busy reproducing and you're left thinking "have I missed something? Where are all the other single people at?" Online, that's where... And boy, am I out of my comfort zone! 
If you have ever posted a profile on a website, you'll know how daunting it is to join the masses of hopefuls looking for lurve. Coming up with a good enough introduction that won't make you sound silly, vain or desperate is hard enough as it is (mine was obviously witty, you know me :D), but you still have to catch someone's attention long enough for them to write you a message (the best ones (and please note the sarcasm here) I've come across have consisted of "Sup" with no greeting and no punctuation to speak of. Let's not even start on the lack of content).
 I must admit that those dating sites are a bit brutal. Let's face it, we are but a picture amongst thousands, so how can a person NOT discriminate right there and then? If you do manage to attract someone's attention with your pouty photoshoped lips and doe eyes, or a picture of way back when, when you didn't have to suck in your belly for it to lay flat, and that they do send you a message (sometimes more than one if you persist in not wanting to respond to some creepy guy who doesn't say hi, but wants "ta get yo number"), you better pray they don't have the personality of a teaspoon when it comes to meeting them. But, credit where credit is due; once in a while, there's a silverlining. Complete with wit and punctuation, it makes you feel like replying!
AND, and this is the good part right here, sometimes you do get lucky (at least I've seen it happen to other people, I'm sure I'm next in the line). You may have to kiss a few frogs along the way, but one (hopefullyma really smoking hot one that's also sweet and wonderful - the kind that makes surprise visits to your house just to see you and that you just can't keep your hands off of - ;)) is bound to catch your eye at some point and give you some butterflies. And, suddenly, dating won't seem so bad. Fingers crossed! ;)

Ciao, peeps!

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Carpal Tunnel is a bitch!

28th August 2011, 12.30pm

We meet again, mignons! My fingers have recently been slapped for being absent (I'm a bad bad blogger) but, don't they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder? *Big cheezy smile*... You know you missed me.

Well, the summer has been kindda busy and I must admit that I have gone to bed at 8pm most nights during the last 2 months. (I'm a weakling, what can I say?) 

The original plan had been to sprint through a couple of summer classes and take July and August off to write, since there was no sign of work on the horizon. But an unexpected offer came along at the end of June and I found myself working full time as a Translator for a beauty products company after all (which is good for me, cause I enjoy it, good for the CV and definitely welcomed by the bank account, I tell you). As of September, I shall continue working while going to class, so I'll have to find time for homework in all that, and, if I'm lucky, have a bit of a life. If all goes according to plan, I'll stay on after graduation - which, shall I remind you, is in December (*happy dance and such*)!

The thing about working full time, writing (typing) all day long, is that you start to develop the most common ailment amongst writers and office workers: carpel tunnel syndrome. If you aren't yet acquainted with this particular annoyance, you are lucky (and I'm sure it's coming, don't worry). Sooo, I find it difficult to work on my book right now, as you may well imagine. HOWEVER, I have not been completely idle on that front. Book II has been in the hands of trusted beta readers, and so far, the feedback is really good. I'm really happy about that. I have been taking notes regarding Book III and I am itching to settle into the story once more! Unfortunately, I may not get to dig in until January; I really want to take the time to write it and the last thing I want is to have to put it aside for any length of time only to lose the thread of it when I finally manage to get back to my story. So, I shall bide my time, like a good girl.

When I say things are getting hectic, I mean it. I have to have surgery at the end of September and only have a 5-day window to get better - no time for more. Not to worry, the organ that'll be taken out is kind of useless anyway and I am assured I won't miss it!

Okay, I think that pretty much concludes this entry. What have you guys been up to?

P.S. I have added a taster for Book II on the CURSE OF THE PHOENIX page. I could have chosen something different, but I might have given something away - and we can't have that!

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Editing Pains

Tuesday, May 24th 2011, 4.15pm

Oh my God! I've done it! *little happy dance* I've finally finished editing Book II of THE CURSE OF THE PHOENIX! I've been starting, putting aside and starting over so many times that I didn't think I would ever manage it.

See, I gave myself a deadline. It had to be finished by July, because I plan to start writing Book III (Wild Fire) this summer. I want to spend as much time on it as possible before the end of August and the start of my last semester at university. Yes, my minions, I graduate in December! And with that will have to come a full time job (which I really need) and all the grown up stuff I have so missed during the hiatus I took from life to go back to school.

Anywho, so I am done editing (for now - any writer knows it's never over until it hits the shelves). I was ruthless. You would have been proud of me! The wrath of the red pen? This manuscript felt it, alright. I shaved off 13,000 words from it and it now stands at about 112,500. Chop, chop!

Now, I'm going to get it printed, before handing it over to my beta readers for some feedback. Result!

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Scratch That!

19th May 2011, 10.51pm

I'm currently taking a class on short fiction. The teacher isn't great and the theory she's given does leave me a bit *insert shrug and nondescript noise here* - you know what I mean. However, the reads are great. I had read a little of Canadian author Margaret Atwood's work before (she was ahead of her time in the 70's and 80's, writing about relationships outside of marriage and abortion in a time where a writer just didn't go there) and liked her style of writing, but her short story Happy Endings was a real treat. I love the way she jumps from pillar to post, thinks of "out there" things and still manages to make a really good point. All that with a sense of humour. 

In Happy Endings, she suggests that two individuals meet and fall in love. Then she proceeds to give different possible endings to that story, ranging from "happy ever after" to "and then he kills her" and you get to pick your own. She makes a fab point about thin plots, thin characters and clichés. Oh, damn those clichés! And down with those anorexic plots!

So, in class, the exercise revolved around looking at each ending and discussing why it was unsatisfying (in one of them, I was vehemently rooting for Mary to kill John - that bastard! - but she didn't and I was disappointed in her) and how we would make it better. That was the best part. Let my imagination run wild? Beware! Mary was suddenly a space cadet and John got a taste of his own medicine, shot with the gun that was meant to take Mary's life by his wife Madge. And Madge's real name was Tony. Ha! Okay. Maybe not... But it was a great exercise! That's actually how THE CURSE OF THE PHOENIX came about. I finished a book, but satisfying as it were, I wondered how a love story written by me would look like. What kinds of twists and turns might I come up with? The real story turned out to be miles away from my original notes, but what motivation! If not satisfaction, at least get motivation from reading crappy stories! Every cloud, right?

Have you ever read a book that just made you think "man, if I had written that plot, it would have been so much different"? Which book was that and what would you have done?

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The Wrath of the Red Marker

27th April 2011, 10.45pm

Oh, the shame! If you could see me now, trying to hide under the desk. I owe you an apology, my minions, for abandoning you for a while. Am I forgiven? In my defence, I've been a busy bee (I know, I always say that). There were exams (the last of which I just wrote this semester), the beginning of the summer semester (next week actually. What you thought there would be a break in between? Pfff, I should be so lucky!), my nephew (who is still the bestest - he went through surgery at 3 weeks old like a trooper), my boyfriend (also the bestest, but for different reasons) and writing.

Yes! You heard right. I have been writing. Well, mostly editing. Again. The same bits. For the hundredth and seventy sixth time. Technically, I finished writing Book II of THE CURSE OF THE PHOENIX last spring. I had promised some of my beta readers a read by June. Well, I have kept my promise - I never said June of which year! (Horray! for loopholes). The problem is that I have to keep putting my manuscript aside, sometimes for long periods of time, so that when I pick it up again, I feel like just starting over from the top. And I still find things to change (no book would ever be published if there wasn't someone somewhere pulling the plug and declaring that it was enough messing around, editing is a never-ending process). The other problem is that the first 125 pages have been polished to within an inch of their page, but the other 200 keep getting neglected and have yet to experience the wrath of the red marker.

How do you edit? Do you take breaks, do it all in one shot?

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Stringy Black Poo and Hysterics

21st March 2011, 8.15pm

Poo and hissy fits? What is she talking about? I can almost see the question marks in your collective peepers as you read this. There's only one thing I could be talking about: a baby.

Hold your horses! I'm not pregnant (although I like to think I would make a great mom). You may or may not remember a post from last August when I announced that my sister was expecting? Well, holy diapers, Batman, it's already been 9 whole months! Time flies. I watched her get bigger and bigger and lose sight of her ankles (she'll kill me for  this) since then. But it seems like it was just yesterday when we were talking about stretch marks, the possibility of embarrassing mishaps on the table and her hips getting wider. Oh wait, it was actually yesterday. When everyone else was busy telling her that she wouldn't remember the pain when she held this miracle of life in her arms, I was the little ray of sunshine, reminder her that she would soon have to check her modesty at the birth room door. Uhmm...

So, yes! My nephew has finally come out of hiding this past week. At 2.42am, on the 16th March. He's sweet when he's sleeping, right? But you should hear the pipes on him. He's got more lung capacity than Celine Dion and more vocal chords than an opera singer. At 5 days old, that's something. I reckon he's already practicing to be a rock star.

Do not fear, I have already told him I was going to buy him lots of books and that I was recruiting him to my readership. He was fast asleep in my arms, but we understand each other, Antoine and me. And while I stared at him, his little tiny fingers tight around my pinky, I sang him a bit of a lullaby. I think we understood something else, Antoine and me. That on top of all the promises I already made, I think he knows that it's ME he's already got wrapped around HIS little finger.

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Writing Up Romance: The Sticky Question

11th March 2011, 1.25pm

I've just finished reading Dear John, by Nicholas Sparks (I know, I'm a bit late there). It got me thinking about romance. I liked the fact that the story was told from a man's point of view - and written by a man altogether. It was nice to delve into the male psyche when it comes to love. People tend to think women are more vocal about love than men are. Personally, I have no idea what goes on in a man's mind at the best of times - and they say we women are the complicated ones - but I'm getting off track, here...

Writing a good love story takes skill. It needs the right amount of mush and cheese, but toe the line carefully.

What is too much cheese? To answer that question, I think that it's important to establish what "cheese" is to begin with. We all have a different tolerance level to romance. If you edit your manuscript and weep at how beautiful the imagery is and just wish you too had a tall, dark and handsome specimen like the one you dreamt up on paper - that's one thing. But if you cringe when editing, thinking that you might have pushed the mush to a whole new level, one that would make even Harlequin hardcore readers switch off because it no longer feels realistic - it's time to delete and start over. But if everyone perceives romance differently, then, what IS too much cheese? Well, I think there are three ways to approach romance: what the feel of the audience is, what the story calls for and your aim as a writer.

Unless you are writing romance novels for Harlequin, where pirates are supposed to kidnap damsels in distress who are later destined to fall in love with them or where quivering members are meant to put in appearances at least once a chapter (okay, I'm poking fun a little here, but take me with a grain of salt, I probably never have read a Harlequin novel), it's hard to know when to stop. Romance expert readers will probably expect and WANT more Fabio-put-his-hands-through-Ophelia's-hair-and-violins-struck-up-a-waltz-in-time-with-their-heartbeats kindda romance. They want that fantasy. Realistic or not.

But what if the story calls for love, without needing to be consumed by it? There, I would refrain from descriptions that last over a page about how mysterious Fabio's eyes were and how devine Ophelia smelled. Then again, too little feeling will make the characters depth-less, just as too much will only make the readers roll their eyes and disconnect. Figure out what dose of romance your story needs. Write it as you see fit. Walk away and edit later, in another frame of mind: does it still pass muster? What do your beta readers think?

Finally, it's about what you, as the writer, want too. After all, it is your story. Just make sure to justify the cheese, I would say. It's impossible to be objective when looking at our own work, just as we can't be objective in matters of the heart (on and off the page).

Do you think we write better heart-wrenching stories when we are lonely and single (so that we can pour into our characters all of our hopes and dreams) or when we are happily paired up (so that we can write from experience)? And another thing - does age matter when writing from experience? Could I write as good a love story when I was 20 years old as I can now? No way, but that's just me. As always, I have more questions than answers, but I like to get others thinking. It's not always about posting a solution, but more about the thought process sometimes.

What I think? Go with your guts and get a feel for your intended audience. The best advice I've ever been given? Be subtle. I think it's especially important when writing about romance. If it can be felt through the story, it'll be just as powerful - if not more so - than if you take the reader by the hand. Show, don't tell, as they say. I, for one, am still working on that!

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Heehawwww, Cowboy!

5th March 2011, 10.43pm

Well, the only things I have been able to write lately are translations and reviews. I am taking a fab class this semester (you have to keep it interesting and motivating if you don't want to find yourself sitting in a corner, rocking back and forth, singing an Electric Prunes song - or maybe that's just me) about Rock n' Roll. I just love it. Although we do touch upon the Electric Prunes, it's mainly about the hay-day of Rock n' Roll between 1953-57. I've been listening to some much of it that I'm getting this urge to buy a cadillac and a poodle skirt.

As part of our journey through time and tunes, we were sent to a place called the Wheel Club to sample live performances of Hillbilly, Bluegrass and Honky Tonk. I was told Hillbilly Night is known around the world (to those in the Country music know), so if you're ever in Montreal, into steel guitars and have a crush on Kitty Wells or Bill Munroe, stop by. Here is my concert report (a bit of a plug for the Wheel Club!):

Heehaw, Cowboy!


It’s Monday, the 28th February 2011, and I’m heading for Hillbilly Night at the Wheel Club. It’s windy out and my friend and I can’t wait to find our way there. It’s about 8.30pm when we finally spot the place. The club is not easy to find as it is tucked away on the side of a building, only identified by a sign dimly lit by Christmas lights. Wooden steps lead into a small indoors area. From there, another door opens onto the club. It feels a little like discovering a hidden gem. The place is very simply decorated with wooden panels on the walls, checkered linoleum flooring, a bar and a pool table. Tables and chairs of different sizes and shapes, topped by mismatched tablecloths and daisies in vases, are arranged about the room and the stage area. The club has a wonderful homey feel to it. We can’t feel uncomfortable as we walk in, with the barman throwing a smile and a wave our way. Jeanie Arsenault then warmly welcomes us – she knows we’re students, she sees a lot of those. “Make yourselves at home. Grab a seat and a drink.” Before we have a chance to sit, she already has us laughing. Like an experienced tour guide, she tells us a little about Hillbilly Night, anticipating our questions.

Hillbilly Night is celebrating its 45th birthday this year. It was started by a man named Bob  Fuller, who, Jeanie tells us, has had a bad fall and has been in the hospital for 8 months now. So, a few volunteers, herself included, have taken over as event organisers. The event is not financed per say. The owner, a lady in her 80’s as I can gather, with nothing planned on Mondays, had offered the club to the mysterious Bob if he could bring the people in. The only money that changes hands is that of the draw (25 cents a ticket, a steal!) that takes place at midnight with CDs as prizes. The profits are used to buy more music to give away. Besides this, Bob is the only one who receives a percentage of the bar profits, “even from his hospital bed – that’s unfair!” adds Jeanie jokingly.

We choose a table with a good view of the stage as the club starts to fill up slowly (the weather is bad out there, but people are still showing up). We learn that the owner herself has a preferred seat at our table and we leave it free in case she comes. Everyone seems to know each other. People chat, greet each other. Some of the musicians are cramming in last minute rehearsal. The place is already buzzing with the promise of good tunes and good old-fashioned fun. Most of the audience is made up of men and women of different age brackets ranging between 40-something and 80-something (the lady at our table informs us chattily that she’s 89 years old and comes here every week with her friend Rosie (whom she has met at church), who is performing tonight. I ask our table companion why she comes and if she enjoys the music. “Very much, she says with a smile, I come here to see people, talk with friends, to have a bit of a night out.” I suspect this is the case for many of the attendants. Most are regulars like her; they come every week for their fix of good ol’ Country music, as well as to see each other (friends and fellow music lovers), have a chat and a catch up, dance, sing along and enjoy the show.

By the time performances are underway, each introduced by Jeanie for the benefit of those in the audience “having to take notes,” it’s already a full house and more trickle in as the evening draws on.

“Anyone wanna play?” Jeanie throws the invitation to the crowd. There seems to be an open call to everyone wanting to take to the stage and an order is established. A “main event” will follow. But Mr Main Event is running late. It doesn’t matter, everyone is having fun.

Many of the performers are also club regulars. Bob Hill is on steel-guitar. Rocking a denim shirt as well as the upright bass, the guitar and, later on, the mandolin, Steve also sings a little. Jeanie is also part of the line up, which changes with every song. She plays guitar and sings. A man called Jimmy is playing the fiddle. Other performers (who sing and play the guitar) jump on stage: Glenn Fournier, Bernie Ritter, Leo Fontaine, Peter, Roxie, and Rosie as well, to name but a few. Craig Morisson also graces the stage, belting out a couple of tunes and accompanying others on the bass.



The club is heating up with the sounds of Honky Tonk, Bluegrass and Hillbilly music (the latter announced proudly on a wall banner on the side of the stage). The instrumentation used is characteristic of the styles played tonight. Honky Tonk’s guitar (albeit not electric), bass, steel-guitar and fiddle –are all present in the line up. There may not be much movement on the stage to make Hank Williams proud, but there’s plenty of sincerity in the playing to make up for it. The Father of Bluegrass himself, Bill Munroe, would also have been proud. The musicians aren’t crowded around the same microphone, skilfully “dancing” around each other for their spot in front, but, then again, the stage is cramped.

The repertoire is true to the styles, with songs like New San Antonio Rose by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys; Wooden Heart by Elvis Presley (based on a German Folk song, it was released in 1960 and used in the film G.I. Blues. It was also covered by Jo Dowell); Have I Stayed Away Too Long (penned by Frank Loesser and performed by Willie Nelson, Glenn Campbell, Jim Reeves and Perry Como, amongst others); Can’t You Hear Me Callin’ by Bill Munroe (1949); Rocky Top by the Osbourne Brothers (from 1967 and covered by Lynn Anderson in 1970. Both are in the Bluegrass style); When I stop Dreaming, by the Louvin Brothers (a hit in the 50’s which was covered many times); Put Your Sweet Lips Closer To The Phone by Jim Reeves, to name but a few.

The people were warm and friendly and, given a drink or two, I might have gotten up and showed them all what a lousy line dancer I am. I love music. Live music? Even better. You can really feel the vibe. The ambience was fantastic and given at least four more drinks on top of the first two, I might have broken out into song too (for a rendition of
Crazy, a Patsy Cline classic I love to sing in the shower). I enjoyed myself very much and I would love to go back.

Unfortunately, I left around 10.30pm, before the fun got a chance to really get going – I could feel it – but a two-hour trek home was on the cards and Cinderella’s bus would have turned into a pumpkin if she had stayed any longer. Shame!

The Wheel Club, 3373 Cavendish (below Sherbrooke), in NDG, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Free admission. Starts at 9PM.
For videos, pics and the like, hit Craig Morrison's website (who happens to be teaching the class I'm taking).

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What's In A Title?

10th February 2011, 2.00pm

I should be studying for the grueling week ahead, filled with overheated brain cells because of midterms, but alas, I am here instead. All because I got distracted from hard work (I'm easily led astray) by the Internet. And by a blog title from Shannon O'Donnell entitled Exploding Cats. Well, I just had to check it out, now didn't I? It was intriguing. A little weird. And I didn't know what to expect. So, of course, I clicked and read.

That, to me, is the importance of a title - for a blog entry, for a chapter, for an entire book. The title is what draws me in. I don't know if you're anything like me, but when I walk into a book store, I go through every section, savoring the smell of dusty paper and inhaling the promise of evasion into a good story. But there are so many, row after row. How do we pick a really good one?

I let me eyes inspire me first. Does a book's colour attract me? The design? Sometimes. Then, it's the title. Make me think "Ooh, what's that about?" What could possibly make a cat explode? Will it be gruesome? Will I want to cry? Will I laugh, because (phew!) there is no actual cats about to be blown to bits and it was just a cunning ruse to catch my attention? Well, once a book has my attention, it has to work harder to keep it while I read the back of it.

I'm a sucker for a genius title. What does YOUR book radar go on? What are some of the best titles you've ever come up with?

The Translator and The Author: A Tale of Two... Writers?

3rd February 2011, 10.20pm

What do you think a translator's job entails? Mirroring an author's words in another language? Partly. Reworking a story to make the original author's message resonate within another culture? Yes, that too. Although some translators will argue in favour of keeping as close to the original text as possible as to not ruin its flavor, translation is inevitably a transformation of sorts. And believe me, it takes just as much skill to "rewrite" a story in a language alien to the original author and their intended audience and make it work, as it took to write the piece in the first place. Both translator and author have something in common - they both have to be writers. And creators. Okay, so that makes two things.

Do you think Dickens was thinking about reaching a French-Canadian audience when he came up with Bleak House? Do you think he pondered whether his satire, clever play on words and general Englishness would be understood by people living at the other end of the world? I very much doubt that somehow.

It's not an easy task. Dickens, as wonderfully witty a writer as he was (and I love him for it), is a total annoyance to translate. Admittedly, being a fiction writer does help a tad in this particular predicament, but it isn't everything. I may have a way with words, but what about Dickens's? I'm not Dickens. What he would have liked his story to be like in French? Well, I have no idea.

There are two schools of thought on approaching a literary piece in translation. There are those who think a translated text should "smell" of translation. That it should stay as close to its source as possible and be obvious in its nature, as not to change the texture of the text, even if it means that the new audience might not understand references, play on words or local colloquialisms.

On the other hand, there are those who feel a text should be adapted to its new readers. Names might be changed to more commonly known ones, expressions and jokes reworked so they are understood in a different culture. Basically, the translator is given a lot more freedom with the original text.

The question is now this: where do I stand as an author? Do I feel rewrite someone's novel to make it accessible to everyone or do I prefer to keep its flavour, because, if someone was translating my work, would I want them to rewrite me and somewhat lose the ME part in my story?

What do you think?

Identifying With Your Characters

18th January 2011, 6.30pm

Have you ever given any thought to how your characters came about? Maybe you've written them a list of personality traits beforehand that helped shape them and the story, or maybe you just let the personality chips fall where they may and ran with it. Whichever way you tango with your writing, some of you is bound to rub off onto them (is the opposite true as well?).

I think you can learn about yourself a bit more than you thought possible by analysing your characters. I was pondering this today on my two-hour public transport ride home from university. I think the thought came between desperatly trying to block out the guy who was hacking up phlem on my left and the twenty year old girl on the right, sharing (without bursting out laughing, which is a feat) with her friend: "I think I'm totally going to grow up to be a midget, you know." There. Right there when I felt like clicking my boots together and wishing for home, I chose to drift off towards my happy place. From my happy place, safely out of hearing range of the weird and wonderful world of buses, I realised I was Clara. 

I thought I had given her a few of my personal traits without really meaning to already - like my uncomparable wit (eek!) and some nervous ticks, like making jokes when I'm nervous. And something else. Although we are equally crap at dealing with heart ache, both of us are strong and can withstand pretty much anything. We take the hit. We deal. We carry on.

I also realised I gave Miles my Mr Right's traits (no wonder, really): tall, dark, handsome, 5 o'clock shadow, a square jaw. A real big teddy bear of a man with a big heart, but strong and a bit edgy. I want some MAN with my man, thank you very much. Grrr, salivating. Sorry... Um...

We are so much closer to our characters than we think. How much do yours resemble you? Which is your favorite?

A Great Start To 2011

1st January 2011, 10.21pm

...And I have no one but myself to blame! This past summer, I applied for an editorial internship with a children's/YA publisher in Montreal. It was for 3 months - and unpaid, but when you want experience (as well as first-hand help with editing and contacts for my own book), you take what you can get, right? I was ready to write off my entire winter semester for the opportunity.

September, October and the beginning of November came and went and I was gutted not to hear anything from them. I had given them a more professional email address than the one I check all the time, but still duly checked my inbox on a daily basis. After all, they would call me if they wanted to see me, right? Wrong!

Today, I decided to empty the inbox of that email address. As it turns out, the publisher DID get in touch, offering me an interview for the first week of December... I never saw the email and it is now the 1st January and... I have completely missed a kick-ass opportunity. Why did they just email? Why didn't they CALL?? I could cry!

Better luck next time, as they say...

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About Me

I am a yet to be published writer of fiction (I dabble in whatever genre my inspiration takes a fancy to) and non-fiction. I'm also a translator (because the bills won't pay themselves)!

I've been writing since I was old enough to hold a pen. As a matter of fact, my mother still has picture "novels" my sister and I used to write when we were 8-9. One of them was even published in a local newspaper (not that this would impress a publisher much).

I'm currently working on a 4-novel YA project entitled THE CURSE OF THE PHOENIX and I'm looking for an agent and publisher to get this baby on the shelves!

So, if you're an agent or an editor - hint, hint ;)

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