The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Where the Learning is

by Tricia Dower

Feminist professor and author, bell hooks—she doesn’t capitalize her name—says she studies popular culture because “it’s where the learning is.” The images we see and the words we read or hear in all media available to us have the power to shape our everyday thinking, to have impact on what hooks calls “the politics of difference.”

Last week I tuned into some of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts— the major Canadian women’s curling event. CBC’s coverage on the weekend was particularly educational if you’re a student of popular culture and particularly frustrating if you’re a feminist.

It opened with a comment about the depth of the talent in the women’s tournament and brief interviews with skips who were former junior women’s champs—Kelly Scott, Jennifer Jones, Marie France Larouche. So far so good, except the interviewer asked the women to talk about the men: why aren’t there as many former junior men’s champs on the men’s tour? Who gives a rip? (The inference, by the way, was that men’s curling is more competitive.)

Next: at one point in the semi-final game between Ontario and Alberta, Ontario’s skip Sherry Middaugh faced a tough shot. Commentator Mike Harris said, “She should be okay. She’s seen Wayne make lots of these.” (I’m getting steamed again just writing these words.) Sherry’s husband, Wayne Middaugh, skips a men’s team. Co-commentator Joan McCusker could have noted that Sherry’s faced plenty of tough shots of her own in the 30 years she’s been curling, but she didn’t. She was too busy gushing about how grateful the women are that their husbands are willing to take care of the kids while they curl. Mike added his two bits about one guy he knew who was home playing “Daddy Daycare.”

And then there were the M&M Meat Shop commercials. Cute, entertaining spots depicting a woman in her cubicle at the office realizing she’s running late – “gotta make dinner.” Rushing to leave, she gets into all sorts of predicaments: hair in the shredder, car keys and glasses sucked into a pneumatic tube, knit skirt caught on a drawer and unravelling. The last scene in each spot shows her delivering to the table a beautifully presented M&M purchased meal to her anxiously waiting two children and her apparently incapable-of-opening-even-a can-of-soup husband. Men should be just as insulted as women by those commercials. (Last year’s M&M campaign included a spot in which husband and sons hide in the attic whenever wife/mom calls them for dinner until she starts cooking good stuff from M&M.)

Throughout the broadcast, we were treated to previews of CBC shows “The Week the Women Went” and “The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives.”

I was considering hara-kiri until the Quaker Oats commercial featuring a man who chooses a healthy diet because of the people he loves. Wow! A man who feeds himself and puts his family first. Such men do exist (I live with one), but you rarely see them on TV.

So here I am harping on something I started harping on more than thirty years ago. If the CBC curling cast is an example of “where the learning is,” we learn that, in popular culture, women are still defined by their reproductive roles and their relationships to men. We learn that men’s curling is more “interesting” and that women “get” to curl only if they have supportive husbands. We learn that women are still responsible for family meals but also get to work in offices. (That’s a bit of “progress” from thirty years ago.)

Maybe this is reality for many women who watch TV and advertisers and commentators are simply holding up a mirror to their lives. Maybe there’s just no way out of what bell hooks calls our “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

Maybe I should just give it a rest. Thanks for listening.

Photo: Skip Jennifer Jones from Manitoba whose team won the 2008 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. She’s also a lawyer.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How a Book Sings

by Andrew Tibbetts

Just some free-form rambling from thoughts I've been having about music and fiction:

A lot of people talk about the more abstract elements of fiction as if they are the opposite of the emotional elements. Writers are accused of being too interested in structure and linguistics and then compared to writers whose style is more direct. They are found too cerebral and unemotional in comparison.

I was thinking of David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas” the other day. One of the ten novels written in my life-time (so far) that I have most responded to and a novel I have not had much success in recommending to people. Friends who’ve tried and failed to make it through have said that they admired it. They’ve called it ingenious and even brilliant. And then turned around and showed their ‘buts’. But it left me cold. But I couldn’t get in to it. But that kind of (intellectual) thing isn’t for me.
Last night, I was reading Oliver Sacks book, “Musicophilia,” about music and the brain when it hit me. Music is abstract and yet it connects more deeply and directly to our emotions than any other art form. What is it about organizing noises into a shape and a flow that pushes our buttons like that? It’s a mystery.

Here’s a little clip of a young man playing the accordion. He is playing a contemporary piece by the brilliant Russian composer, Sophia Gubaidulina. She is of tartar background and places herself geographical and emotionally (and subsequently musically) at the meeting place of east and west. This piece, Et Expecto, would seem very strange, I imagine, to people not versed in contemporary music practice. One of the comments on Youtube wonders if the artist is hitting notes at random, for example. But surely whatever your comfort level for new music, you will recognize that this collection of little (and big) noises is pure emotion.

Hurray for you, Maciej Frąckiewicz! You play with heart and style.

So, back to fiction. Last night it hit me: I respond to the abstract elements of fiction like I respond to music. Rhythm, form, line, texture, dynamics, timbre, orchestration—all of those musical concepts have correlations in fiction.

David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas” is very much like a symphony, or perhaps a Concerto for Orchestra. Part of the pleasure of reading the novel is following the play of themes as they pop up transformed in the different movements. And this isn’t entirely an intellectual pleasure. It’s emotional. The book gave me a felt sense of human civilization, of people’s longings to learn from each other and build a better world for subsequent generations and also of the dark elements of human nature that keep subverting those goals, civilization upon civilization. It doesn’t pull together as a theory, as a set of concepts, I’d look to a non-fiction book by a political scientist or a philosopher for that. Instead, it’s the emotional consequences for the people who are at the nodal points of history. What it feels like to care and to be thwarted. As the characters in each of Mitchell’s narratives discover the journals, the letters, the films (and the sci-fi gadgets that document for the citizens of the future) of the characters from the other sections, we get a sense of love and understanding building bridges across time. His form reflects this emotionally at the macro-level. Each of the six sections from different times in history is nested inside the others. We contain our futures, the book says.

I think I’ll just stop here. These thoughts are bubbling around my brain and I’m enjoying the opportunity to spill them on this blog. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Samantha Hunt's The Invention of Everything Else

My review of The Invention of Everything Else here. Bonus points will be awarded to (1) anyone who reads it and (2) anyone who can identify which article by which writer informed this tangential approach to reviewing, which I have promised not to repeat...too often.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Workshop notes: II - Nursing an ailing specimen

By Tamara Lee

This is the second of a series of posts reflecting upon a writing workshop I am taking with Nancy Lee. The first post in the series may be found here.

Of the many discussion during the workshop these past two weeks, two areas newer writers (and, we were reassured, many seasoned writers) tend to struggle with concern backs and fronts.

Cracking the spineless tale

We read several story-drafts from writers perhaps too hesitant about the reader’s ability to comprehend, or of the writer’s own ability to get to, the story’s intended point. The result: The muck that is otherwise known as backstory.

Our latest workshop meme had many of us reaching for our pens (pencils for the feint of heart), in our attempts to ‘locate the story,’ an oft-repeated buzz-phrase for us recently.

Taking a cue from Robert McKee’s Story (a book ostensibly about screenwriting that explores storytelling better than any other book I’ve read on the subject), Nancy whittled down the process for finding the story in the muck: After the first draft, locate the controlling idea of the story. Pose that as a question to answer as you read your draft. Reviewing each scene, figure out what the engine of the story is by asking yourself if the scene furthers the story.

Simply, to paraphrase Nancy, a backstory is not a spine. She warned us not to get sucked into relying on backstory to develop a character or the current story. Most often the story to be told is the one in the present, so focus on that story.

A story will sometimes call for recollections. So how does the writer handle this? Nancy suggests considering, when reviewing a flashback segment, whether the character would think the way the flashback is presented. ("Madame X, crossing the street, thinks about the ups and downs of her love life...") Presumably a woman recalling her sexual history would need longer than the time it takes for the flashing hand to turn red.

Flashbacks usually don’t truly reflect how we think or remember things, and are sometimes too heavy on the narratorial directive. ("Madame X began adolescence a shy girl who disliked boys in plaid shirts...") But memory as reflection—on the place, or the connection between the place and the current memory—is ‘grounded in the sensory detail of the present.’ ("John's red-and-black mackinaw reminded Madame X of that dastardly Jimmy B...") This approach allows for a more seamless entry into a character's past without jarring the reader out of the current story.

Baggage Rx

Locating story isn’t just about the writer’s relationship to the piece.

Another buzz-phrase we heard a lot this week was ‘frontloading a story.’ The specimen for this discussion was a tight and rather moving piece that ultimately split the class into two camps, each rooting for how the story should be told.

The piece was presented in what Nancy called a diagnosis story, which half the group enjoyed; others argued that it was not the best telling of the story. The more effective structure, Nancy proffered, would be as a struggle story. Diagnosis stories rely on confusion and mystery, culminating in a Big Reveal. But in struggle stories, the struggle is revealed up front, and the story then becomes about how the character handles the situation.

Stories relying on some big reveal or epiphany are potentially manipulative, withholding important information from the readers instead of giving them the elements they need to get into the story. Nancy argued there is no value in being obtuse, of making the reader search for clues through the rest of the story.

Perhaps there is still a place for diagnosis story, outside of the mystery genre, but I agree the device is best used sparingly, when the story demands such a potentially manipulative form. I’m trying to remember the name of a story from the Thom Jones collection Cold Snap that worked well. But in that story the protagonist is a doctor, who himself isn’t entirely sure of the details of his diagnosis.

There are always exceptions, examples of how a writer has managed to wrangle out of the so-called rules. Fragmented sentences, second-person point of view. The challenge is to determine whether we're experimenting for the health and wellness of the story.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Work in Progress

Here's an excerpt from the story I'm working on right now. It's about a woman who is raised by perfectly loving parents, ill preparing her for any difficulties, however minor, she encounters in adult life. This section is about her husband Chris's childhood, which was nothing like her own:

Chris's dad had been military, always away on assignment, leaving his wife in charge at home. She was a chainsmoker and alcoholic, which complicated a lot of household tasks. She liked to have a glass in one hand and a cigarette in the other, so it would take her twice as long as any normal person to hang up a load of laundry, and even then there would sometimes be holes burnt through the sheets, especially if the boys were tumbling about nearby. She was constantly threatening to give them up to social services. She said that there was a special 24-hour hotline that military mums could call for help. For ages, they believed that at any moment an armoured jeep with bars on the windows might come to take them away so that their mother could finally do the laundry in peace. They laughed about this now. One Christmas, they’d laughed so hard that Chris’s thirty-three-year-old lawyer brother actually peed himself on Teenie’s brand new white puffy couch. This was all the more disturbing to her, because she didn’t get the joke. As far as she was concerned, there was nothing remotely funny about her mother-in-law. The woman’s crimes were beyond unforgivable. How could someone wish away a child?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Recipe for a Best-Seller

By Andrew Tibbetts

I’m a hurting for cash so I thought I’d write a best-seller this past long weekend. I did a little research, taking a look at the top ten bestselling books in Canada (according to The Canadian Booksellers Association.)

1. The Appeal (John Grisham); $CDN $33; Doubl; 9780385515047
2. Late Nights on Air (Elizabeth Hay); $CDN 32.99; McCle; 9780771038112
3. A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini); $CDN 34; Pengu; 9780670064915
4. World Without End (Ken Follett ); $CDN 42; Dutto; 9780525950073
5. Duma Key (Stephen King); $CDN $32.00; Simon; 9781416585558
6. 7th Heaven (James Patterson); $CDN $32.50; Littl; 9780316017701
7. Divisadero (Michael Ondaatje); $CDN $34.99; McCle; 9780771068720
8. For One More Day (Mitch Albom); $CDN $24.95; Hyper; 9781401303273
9. Confessor (Terry Goodkind); $CDN $32.95; Tor; 9780765315236
10. Playing for Pizza (John Grisham); $CDN 26.95; Doubl; 9780385525008

I haven’t read any of them but with a bit of googling I think I’ve gotten the gist. We have: a legal thriller; a story about a radio D.J. set in Yellowknife; a mother-daughter thing set in Afganistan; something historical about four children who witness a murder in 1327 and then stuff happens to them as adults; a horror thingy about a guy who loses an arm and learns to paint haunted pictures while recuperating; some women detectives investigate arson; some girls as close as twins have a love triangle and then grow up; a mother and son reconnect in the afterlife; a sword and sorcery fantasy epic clash of civilizations; a football player romps through Italy.

No doubt I've gotten something horribly wrong about each of them, but that’ll just help keep the plagiarism lawsuits at bay.

I pulled something from each, spun them slightly, and wove them all together. Here’s what I got:

An investigative journalist, Susan Stamatis, is called home to Nunavut for her father’s funeral. She suspects something isn’t right about the fire that destroyed the family restaurant and killed her father. Susan begins to look into the situation despite the protests of her mother to leave well enough alone. While there she gets to spend more time with her younger brother, once a promising athlete, who lives in a strange fantasy world (is he Aspergers or schizophrenic or some other diagnosis or is he just eccentric or perhaps brain-damaged from a sports injury? Not sure.) The sword and sorcery epic he spins her appears to give clues to some of their own family secrets. Susan decides to voyage back to Greece to explore the truth. There, she learns that her father had an identical twin brother who was at one point engaged to her mother. There was a family scandal involving arson and a trial. Also there she believes she is contacted by the ghost of her father who keeps showing up in her dreams in flames.

There! How does that sound? Go ahead and write it if you’d like- it’s all yours. I couldn’t be bothered. Send me 10% of your sales or make a donation to Pen Canada to help jailed or exiled writers around the world. Or keep it all to yourself and smother your guilty feelings with decadent escapades.

That’s going to be my best-seller: a struggling but serious writer whimsically blogs off the idea for a best-seller one night. A reader of his blog takes it and makes a killing, refusing to acknowledge where he got the idea. The blog-reader lives a life of decadent splendour until the money runs out. Then he is forced to crawl back to the blogger to beg forgiveness and to get an idea for a second best-seller. Ironically, he finds the blogger has been driven mad by jealousy and frustration.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Top 10-ish

by Steve Gajadhar

My posts have been wandering away from literature lately, so I figured it was time for something of the literary sort. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m always being asked what my favorite book is and I never have an answer. It’s such a complex question, almost existential in how my answer immediately pigeon holes and categorizes me. Am I a patchouli smelling hippie? Or am I an SUV driving, finger giving, cigar smoking country clubber? Perhaps I’m more of a non-fiction junkie, or a history buff?

Hmmm, this whole favorite book thing might have something to it! And seeing as how an afternoon of introspection and selection is never a bad thing, I’ve decided to attempt a list of my top 10 favorite books of all time! Disclaimer: this list is subject to change and revision. This list is also subject to whimsy, emotion, and life experience. Actual order of books on the list does not indicate the quality of the work, or author, only the opinion of Steve Gajadhar.

10. The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
This book makes you want to go out and club the unemployed, even if you are one. Not to mention all of those mewling and groveling co-workers! I don’t think there has ever been a more successful example of fictionalized philosophy.

9. The Book of the New Sun, and The Book of the Long Sun – Gene Wolfe
Wolfe is often called one of the greatest living writers in any genre. No argument here. His plotting and character development can be somewhat lacking, but he more than makes up for it with sheer imaginative power.

8. The Age of Reason – Thomas Paine
Paine wrote this from prison, and he quoted the scripture in the book from memory. This book is a journey and also one man’s religious epiphany. Paine then went on to become one of the founding fathers of America. Separation of Church and State anyone?

7. Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
Theme? Who needs a theme! Murakami simply tackles everything in this book. He also has a penchant for cats. If only I could read Murakami in his native tongue.

6. Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
From the first sentence, Marquez changed everything I thought I knew about the novel. A dazzling meditation on love, life and death that can be interpreted in a myriad of ways and yet never fully understood.

5. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
I love every one of Mitchell’s books, but this one is a masterpiece. How Cloud Atlas didn’t win the Booker is beyond me. I can only blame the somewhat bland opening. This one is also close to my heart because it features the Big Island of Hawaii. Mitchell writes individuals instead of characters. I dare anyone not to read this book twice. Then go buy the rest of Mitchell’s works.

4. Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
“Slaughterhouse Five” seems to get more attention, but this one deserves to be canonized. Bokononism and satire, woven together with beautiful and simple language that makes me hateful and hopeful at the same time.

3. Watership Down
Those darn fuzzy little bunnies. I’ve read this book four times now, and it only gets better. Great literature knows no age groups. This book should be a primer on types of government and it should be read in all college curriculums. After Marx. A story about getting where you are going.

2. White Noise – Don Delillo
Prescient. A must read contemporary novel. I compare the reaction of Delillo’s protagonist to the airborne toxic spill - and its aftermath - with the reaction of an ant to the shadow of a magnifying glass wielding eight year old. Then there’s the writing. Word after word of genius.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Who writes this as a first book? It’s completely unfair. Boo Radley exposed the judgmental nature of humanity better than any other literary character. Why do so many kids just gloss over their high school reading? It’s books like this that can change the world.

And since 10 is really never enough when it comes to fiction, here’s some more that could interchange with almost any book in the official list:

Catcher in the rye – J.D. Salinger
The collected fantasy/sci-fi works of Clive Barker and Stephen King
A Farewell to Arms – Hemingway - The ending is the best literary rain ever to fall.
Going After Cocciato – Tim O’Brien - How come I’d never head of this guy?
Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie - A Nobel lock. Book it.
The Inheritors – William Golding
The Demon Haunted World – Carl Sagan - Sagan shines a light on the unexplained. If this book doesn’t make you stop checking your horoscope, nothing will.

I hope some of you will share your own lists. It’s a great way to populate my wish list!

Monday, February 18, 2008

So many stories... so little time

By Antonios Maltezos

… that’s what it feels like when I’m using (or is that abusing?) flash fiction as a means to force the words onto the page -- getting myself through a writer’s block. Let’s make a game of it? One flash a day? Three flashes a week? Two? Four? Let’s say it’s three – in a month that’s twelve. In three months, which in terms of the writing life is like a snap of the fingers, you’ve written thirty-six flashes. What’s in these flashes, anyway? Assuming they’re all different, that’s a lot of trivia! How many memories can one person have? How many grudges can a body hold? Wrong turns? Missed opportunities? I wrote six dog stories in 2007. Wtf? It feels right, yet wrong at the same time. Right… because I can easily overcome a certain kind of writer’s block – the writing everyday thing, but also wrong because all of this crazy writing doesn’t do f-all for the major block keeping me from progressing with the novel. Apples and oranges. Flash fiction and novel writing. One doesn’t lead to the other. Yes, both is writing. But…

And I speak for myself here…

I write my flashes in one sitting. The beginning and end are so close together, physically, it’s hard to separate them as independent experiences of flash. With my novel, the beginning is one demon I’d love to conquer by itself, wouldn’t give a shit how crappy the first draft of the rest of the book. If only I could create a beginning to this novel I could feel proud of. It may hold the answers to secrets of the novel I’m not even aware of yet. It’s the key to the level of richness that could follow. That’s how I see it, anyway.

Working through a flash idea is like landscaping in the sunshine, where developing a story into a novel must be what mining is like, easy to block out the darkness outside of that circle of light. I realize this might mean I’m not cut out to write a novel – I’m scared of the dark, in fact. Or, I’ve ruined my chances as a writer of best selling novels, gorgeous house, nice cars, with all the flash writing. I’ve sabotaged myself by picking up a bad habit (flash fiction) I can’t easily kick.

Maybe I can do both?

Bah! Bullshit.

Maybe there’s a way for a flash writer to make loads of money, buy that gated mansion? Don’t think so. I sent my collection of flash (70 pieces) to a reputable Canadian agent. I was lucky enough to get back a response. Basically, no one would want to buy so many stories from an unknown writer. On one level, this is meaningless. But on another, it begs the question: why so many stories? On your death bed, will you think back on a hundred lives, or just your own?

Why so many stories… there’s so little time.

Maybe I don’t want to get over my novel-writing block. Maybe I’ve been entertaining the notion that there’s another, more interesting novel story I should be pursuing. Maybe that’s just me bullshitting myself, stalling, because I love the thrill off flash fiction too much to stay away for very long. Maybe I already know what I need to do to get a novel groove going – drop the flash for a year and do nothing else but read novels and work on my own best seller. But that would mean changing from the person I’ve become. Shit. Had I only thought of writing a novel in my twenties. Before life started flashing before my eyes.

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's Almost Here!

Long weekend coming up. The first take-a-day-off holiday in February for Ontarians: Family Day. I'm all for more holidays, especially one that breaks up the long dreary winter between New Year's Day and Easter. A few places in Canada have already experienced this sort of mid-February break. I hope the rest of the country catches on.

Thing is I'm not sure what to do on Family Day. I already spend a lot of time with my family members, either on the phone or in person.

What are other families planning on doing with this holiday? Going out for dinner? Staying in and playing board games? Checking out a movie together?

What are you doing this Monday?

Picture of what Elliott will likely be doing on Monday.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love Pain

by Tricia Dower

Gleaned from U.S. Census Data: Americans ate 26 pounds of candy and 160 pounds of refined sugar per capita in 2006. In 1866, candy manufacturer NECCO made the first “Conversation Hearts” — then called “Motto Hearts.” According to NECCO, eight billion of these little candies are sold between January 1 and February 14 each year. About 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are projected to be sold this Valentine's Day.
A week ago, an explosion – caused by static electricity igniting fine sugar dust – at an Imperial Sugar refinery in Georgia killed six people and injured 42. Eight of the injured were flown to a burn centre. The company had been criticized in a 2006 report of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for lack of preparation for such explosions. An investment analyst said if the plant is down more than a few weeks, it could have an impact on U.S. refined sugar prices. A shame about those casualties, too, eh?
In 2006, a man in Raleigh, NC, asked his girlfriend to marry him by writing her a 113-page proposal and publishing it as a paperback book entitled 50 Reasons Why You Should Marry Me…and 51 Reasons Why I Should Marry You. One of the reasons was, “I clean the bathroom every week.” She said “Yes”
In 2005, an Oregon man tried to organize a mass suicide through a Yahoo chat room, asking women to hang themselves naked on Valentine’s Day. A woman concerned that children might be harmed alerted authorities to the suicide plot. Detectives found six women who expressed interest, including a few who were mothers, but they denied planning to murder their children.
214 million roses are expected to be sold in the U.S. this Valentine’s Day and about a billion Valentine's Day cards will be exchanged. Teachers will receive the most cards, followed by children, mothers, wives, and the intriguing “other.”
It’ll be a tough year for the jewelry industry with gold pushing historic prices of $920 an ounce. Some jewelers are trying to increase traffic by offering old jewelry exchange programs and credits to help with purchases of gold encrusted jewels. Maybe Bono can organize a benefit concert for starving jewelers. JewelAid?
Can’t afford jewels? There’s always sex. For several years, the sales of pregnancy tests and fertility test kits have spiked six weeks after Valentine’s Day.
The New York Times reported that a Bronx woman who turned down her boyfriend’s Valentine's Day marriage proposal in 2004 didn’t live very long after that. He cut out her heart and left it on the floor near her body. According to a friend of the deceased, she had told her boyfriend, “I need my space.”
The legend of how the priest who became Saint Valentine was put to death in third century Rome is just one of the “fun facts” at a website for kids.
If I could eat chocolate, it would be the bitter-sweet variety.
Happy V-Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

This Post Has Picked Itself Up, Dusted Itself Off and Started All Over Again

By Andrew Tibbetts

Of Christopher Booker’s seven basic plots, the last, Rebirth, has the most contemporary vibe. These days there’s a run on ‘rebirth’ stories. In pop-culture, we love a good comeback. On day-time talk shows, we like to see people getting over drug addiction, infidelity, trauma. We eat up the self-help books that will ignite our own change processes. We look back fondly to the freedom of impossible childhoods and the warmth and security of improbable prior times. We want our innocence back. We want the future back, a future we can be positive and excited about. We want to be a tiny baby.

As an ur-narrative, this ‘rebirth’ line is among the least complicated. Someone dies and is reborn. Of course ‘death’ is metaphorical. What ‘dies’ can be someone’s career, someone’s marriage, someone’s emotional life, someone’s faith in her own self or in humanity.

The classic story is Scrooge’s. A man dies emotionally due to a love affair gone wrong. He becomes a kind of money-grubbing monster at odds with his fellow man. A supernatural lesson occurs and he changes. His humanity is reborn. The story ends with him being kinder, happier and connected to his community instead of alone.

For a writer, there are several options depending on how far back you want to go. You can run the gamut in chronological order creating a story in the shape of an inverse mountain, a giant ‘U’. You can begin with your character fully alive, show him gradually beaten down by adversity, reach her lowest point, and gradually climb his way out to eventually regain her zenith. (And no, you don’t have to them transition genders as you go!) The recent comedy smash Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is a fine example of this broad curve. A race car driver loses and then regains his mojo.

The trouble with this curve is that you get your most depressing moments at the point where other movies climax (i.e., in the middle!) In fact, after establishing the high point at the very outset, it’s all downhill for the first half of the movie, the first half of that ‘U’. And not every movie is blessed with Will Farrell’s genius at making depression and anxiety bracing and hilarious!

A much better route is Dickens’ Christmas Carol approach. Begin in the middle and make the turnaround dramatic. We meet the character, poor Ebenezer, at his lowest. That initial half of the ‘U’ is presented in brief flashbacks as part of the rising second half, i.e., we learn how sweet Scrooge was before his insides died and we learn what killed Scrooge’s heart, only after he is already on his way to regaining them (That modern genius, Dr. Seuss, does the same thing with the Grinch, and he doesn’t even bother too much with the explanation. Ron Howard adds the flashbacks for the movie, to little effect.)

My favourite rebirth in Canadian Literature is not a particularly classic example. It’s too complicated by other layers, but you’ll see that rebirth ur-line underneath if you look hard. I’m thinking of In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje. Not everyone is reborn touchy-feely! Sometimes it’s a wrathful phoenix that rises from the ashes. But fear not, this story has a kind of double death and double rebirth. It’s genius.

I’ve been a might ticked off by the predominance of ‘aftermath’ literature, especially in Canadian Literary circles. Stories that begin with their most dramatic moments in the past. Perhaps I need to look again at these stories to see the ‘rebirth’. Or perhaps, if I’m correct, and these stories do suck, it’s because they don’t allow their characters much of a journey back up the other side of the ‘U’. You know those stories: a man watches too much television after his fiancé is murdered, a woman cuts pictures of babies out of magazines and eats them after having a miscarriage, a teacher cannot return to work after a school shooting, a woman whose drinking problem escalated after being raped thinks about going for therapy but decides not to. We enter these stories in their dull post-traumatic silence and leave them there. This isn’t a plot. It’s a sketch of a psychological state.

I wouldn’t mind a few of these sketches. To cleanse the palette. In fact, if I watch too much TV I quite appreciate them: FANTASTIC! A story where nobody learns anything and nothing gets any better for anyone! HURRAY!

If I read too many Canadian Literary Journals, I get the opposite feeling. PLEASE, I beg these characters, get off the couch! Why don’t you seek bloody revenge at least? Do something! Let’s have a ghost or an explosion or a community burst into song. Let the rebirthing begin!

I think the preponderance of aftermath-stories-that-don’t-go-anywhere in literature and the glut of touchy-feely-rebirth-stories in pop culture are two sides of the same coin. Our western world is exhausted. It feels like there’s been too much shit. And it feels like we don’t have the resources to fix it. High culture is too cool to get ‘pollyannaish’ about rebirth and pop culture is too frightened to look the exhaustion in the face.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Continuing Story of Robert Weaver: Godfather of Canadian Literature

By Anne Chudobiak

These days, without meaning to, I’ve been learning a lot about journalistic practice, by following the media response to the death of Robert Weaver, influential Canadian editor and anthologist. I’d just read and reviewed his biography, by Elaine Kalman Naves, and was surprised, one Monday evening late in January, to see this unassuming subject quickly become national news, with stories from all of the major outlets posted at least online before the night was through.

These early stories appeared to have been written quickly. It was clear that some of the journalists hadn’t read the biography, but the reviews, and had based their obituaries on those. Everything in these articles was cribbed from somewhere else. I recognized my own contributions!

By the next day, the quality of the media response had improved, with the most detailed information coming from the CBC, which must have had a thick file on hand documenting the life of one of its most important former employees. There was also moving commentary, in the National Post and the Globe, from people like Robert Fulford and Alice Munro, who’d known Weaver well.

I thought that that would be the end of the coverage, but that Friday morning, on my local CBC morning show, the books columnist profiled the Kalman Naves book. I listened with surprise as she summarized the argument I’d made in my review. (I’d related recent complaints by novelist Stephen Marche on our ageing CanLit canon to Weaver’s efforts on behalf of an earlier generation of authors.) I was both flattered and worried. The columnist probably had no idea where that argument had come from. Maybe it had never really been my own. Do we always know when we’re cribbing?

Later that same day, I came across a photo online of Weaver’s Toronto tribute. Michael Ondaatje was in the forefront of a crowded reception room. Everyone around him had hair as white as his, so much so that the photo had a soft glow about it. Underneath, someone had posted an anonymous comment: “Somewhere, Stephen Marche is staring at this photo, rubbing his hands together and muttering “See? See?!?! What did I tell you?” I felt as though this unlikely joke had been written just for me. It played on everything I’d been thinking about for the past several weeks. It was so bizarre, to have this seemingly obscure focus of my inner life reflected in the media.

The story continues still. The Weaver biography was reviewed in this Saturday’s Globe and Mail, in a very strange piece, by a writer who'd himself pitched a somewhat similar project to Weaver, with no success. Talk about full disclosure!

And tonight at 9, CBC will air the first half of the two-part radio documentary, The Godfather of CanLit, that Kalman Naves prepared, in conjunction with her book, for the show Ideas. I will definitely tune in. I wouldn't want to miss any of it.

The book, Robert Weaver: Godfather of Canadian Literature
My review
Early news of the death
The CBC obituary
Fulford remembers
A behind-the-paywall Globe article about Weaver and Munro
Stephen Marche's comments on the ageing CanLit canon
Ondaatje and friends at Weaver tribute
Last Saturday's Globe review

And, if you can handle one more (unrelated) link: My review of Julie Doucet's diary, 365 Days, which I hope will win the author a Governor General's Literary Award for both French-language non-fiction and French-to-English translation. How do I go about influencing the juries? (Edited to add: Just realized it's too late for the French version. Must focus on the English.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Workshop Notes: Getting over it

By Tamara Lee

Two weeks ago, I found myself in a familiar but near-forgotten situation: Surrounded by a diverse group of strangers, in a workshop led by a well-known Canadian writer. Over a dozen years after my last university writing workshop, I've started a weekly “Master Fiction Class” with Nancy Lee.

It’s been some time since I was in a face-to-face workshop. I’ve occassionally met with writers to discuss work and I’ve workshopped in other genres over the years, but those times, and my Internet workshop experiences, were rarely as focused, or as committed to the fiction-editing process.

Nancy, off the top, let us know what her goal in this class would be—the “Master” part of the workshop. We’re meant to leave the class with a much stronger sense of how to edit our own work well, and the ability to read others’ work with an eye open for how our readings and commentaries reflect our own writing.

The writer’s ego is a hell of a thing, the newer or emerging writer especially fragile. In university, a 20-year-old's sense of self seems more dependent upon the class’s glowing acceptance of her undeniable brilliance. But as mature adults, life experience tends to provide more than deeper story-wells. Our worlds are less likely to crumble by the inevitable negative criticism: we all have husbands, wives, children, careers; outside lives acting as retaining walls.

Another trait mature emerging-writers carry with them is a greater personal craft-awareness. I’d not once been asked as a young university writing student: “What do you want to get out of this class for your writing?” The young student couldn’t possibly answer such an open question, presuming she’s there for the same reasons everyone else is: to become a writer, to validate her sense of self as a writer, and yes, grudgingly, to learn a thing or two.

But in Nancy’s class, while many of the students’ goals overlap, it was interesting to hear others’ responses; how they’ve a vested interest, a certain self-awareness, and genuine insight into their craft weaknesses and what they hope to achieve during the next 10 weeks. Each of us is at a different level, working in a different style or genre, much like any university class, yet in some ways I feel more among peers than when I was at university.

What’s scarce, but certainly not missed, is the competitive tension many university workshops have. Nancy described two common workshop models:

1) The Iowa-based Writer’s Workshop-style: using judgement, criticism/opinion, and competition, where the writer learns through defending his choices with the aim of creating a strong writer’s voice, but often the result is writers who don’t write again for a long time;

2) The other model, Nancy’s preferred approach, is more supportive, based on informed response and considering the writer’s intention, allowing the writer to develop through more balanced critique, and learning from others’ work.

Admittedly, I became nervous at this point, thinking I’d maybe entered into the wrong class. While it’s nice to feel a bit of love, as someone whose first experience leaned heavily toward the combative approach, I’ve also experienced enough workshops to know that namby-pamby niceties will not inspire me, either.

Nancy was quick to point out that the feel-good, ‘you’re so great’ book club approach is not helpful either. In the end, she reminded us only about 10% of what’s said may be ultimately useful. Careful and informed consideration is the key; learning to ask ourselves: “Exactly why isn’t that suggestion appropriate? Why might that comment, the one I immediately resented, be the sort of advice worth truly considering? And what criticisms about his story may I apply to my own work?”

Then, as though she were reading into my well-guarded character-flaw diary, Nancy pulled out another nugget for those concerned about lacking motivation and momentum to complete a story: A writer’s inability to finish a story stems from the subconscious desire to maintain the story’s potential, as long as it’s not finished, it forever remains full of possibilities.

This week I workshopped a story I’ve been working on for years, and it didn’t go nearly as badly as I’d feared it would. Memories of angst-filled workshops-past needn’t have resurfaced. I was able to sit once again at a round-table full of strangers, staring down a growing mountain of our writerly weaknesses, as part of the communal process of just getting over it.

(Image credit: f/1.4)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Long List of Love II

In honour of love week...
1. Writing
2. Writing about food
3. Reading
4. Reading about food
5. Knitting
6. Most Haunted
7. Coronation Street
8. The guy who plays Liam on Coronation Street
9. Skyping with Bob & George
10. My cat, Elliott (again – see pic)
11. Jiffy Lube and nice people who work there
12. Fresh snow

13. Fresh sheets
14. Extras (the TV show)
15. The Office (the TV show)
16. Steve Carrell
17. Michael Cera
18. Febreze Noticeables
19. Bailey's Caramel
20. Cheese (all of them)
21. Peonies
22. Stamps
23. Postcards
24. Sleeping in
25. The scent of new tires (no clue why!)
26. Cargo cosmetics (the Blu-Ray HiDef make-up is awesome)
27. Wax museums
28. Coast to Coast A.M.
29. Truman Capote
30. Andy Warhol
31. Steve Martin
32. Plaid
33. Dundurn Castle
34. Aquariums
35. Macs
36. Big Macs
37. Sushi Kaji
38. Paul Thomas Anderson
39. Philip Seymour Thomas
40. Gordon Ramsay
41. Fixing something
42. A good cry
43. A good bra
44. Jeopardy!
45. Lawren Harris
46. Lily of the Valley
47. Origami
48. Fountains
49. Fountain pens
50. Fog
51. Nintendogs
52. Creemore in a frosted mug
53. Living smoke-free
54. Free shipping
55. Chocolate
56. Playing with chocolate
57. Midnight Plum nail enamel
58. Faulkner
59. Rumer Godden's books about dolls
60. Making lists
62. Scattergories
63. Trilliums
64. Lilacs
65. HDTV
66. The colour pink
67. Somerset Maugham
68. The Brothers Grimm
69. Stripes
70. Polka-dots
71. Polka-dot pumps with red heels

72. The Rajasthani Bride Barbie that arrived unexpectedly all the way from India
73. The Beatles
74. Globes
75. Digital cameras
76. Flossing
77. May
78. June
79. July
80. Church bazaars
81. Garage sales
82. Victorian Valentines
83. Valentine's candy the day after Valentine's Day
84. Valentine's day cooking show specials
85. Homemade cupcakes

86. Crazy Aunt Purl
87. The Canadian Writers' Collective
88. The number "88"

Have a wonderful next week, everyone. Show your Valentine how much you love them, even if your Valentine is yourself. Do something special.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Sweet Route

I hesitate to start this blog entry. It seems too big of a commitment for someone who just spent four days working on a 700-word piece and still isn’t entirely pleased with the outcome. What if that happens here? I don’t want to miss the weekend. I have plans.

So, in the spirit of self-preservation, I’m going to refer you to something that I wrote a while back: “The Sweet Route,” on page 24 of the February/March issue of VIA Destinations magazine. It's my first-ever article for a glossy and also conveniently doubles as a nice memento of some of my travels last year.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to those 700 words.

p.s. I just realized that the whole article isn't available online, but you get the idea.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Close Encounters of the Rat Kind

by Tricia Dower

At the risk of being accused of appropriating someone else’s culture, may I remind you Chinese New Year begins today? The Year of the Rat. If you're a Rat, you're considered courageous and enterprising.

Rats are a symbol of good luck and wealth in China and Japan. And in India, there’s a rat-worshipping temple. In the West, we raise them as pets, enslave them for research, and fear them as infectious disease carriers.

Helping to fuel my antipathy for the creatures was George Orwell’s 1984 where Winston is taken to the infamous Room 101, strapped to a chair, his head clamped so that he cannot move, and shown a cage full of enormous, squirming rats. When he’s told the rats will leap onto his face and eat it, he cracks and betrays his lover.

The first non-human rat I can recall was one my father and the next door neighbour, Mr. Gardner, cornered one between our two houses. I was just a kid and it looked gigantic as it reared up on its hind legs and challenged Mr. Gardner’s spade. “Get in the house,” Dad said.

I didn’t see another one until in my early thirties and on an early autumn trip to New York. Strolling into Central Park one crowded lunchtime, I spotted a man wearing a red toque, fishing in the pond in the southeast corner of the park. That pond looked so murky and dead, it was hard to believe it could support bacteria much less fish. He had a big, simple smile for everyone who went by. Part of New York City’s charm is that it’s full of nuts. I sat on a nearby bench and watched him cast. He must have been watching me, too, because before long he turned to me and said, “Don’t move. There’s a big rat behind you. When I tell you to, get up slowly and walk toward me.” Yeah, sure. But, what the hell. With all eyes on me, I followed his instructions. Once safely away, I turned and saw a huge rat under the bench where I’d been sitting. Maybe there were fish in that pond.

Flash forward to 2005 in Toronto and a smallish rat, but a rat, nonetheless, skittering across the stone steps in our backyard and nosing its way through the dill and parsley. I talked to the neighbour behind us who said, nosiree, it wasn’t his open compost heap with the corn cobs and egg shells in plain view. He fingered the guy on the corner of the street, a junk collector who’d been told by a city inspector to clean up his place. We didn’t see the rat for a while and thought it was gone until Colin opened the barbecue one evening and slammed it back down again. “I don’t know which of us was more surprised,” he said.

So, there you have it: only three rats, so far, in an already long life. How about you? Do you count rats as pests or pets? Tell us about your close encounters of the rat kind.

Images: Top — some of the rats who call the Karni Mata or “Rat Temple” home. This Hindu temple in Deshnok, Rajasthan, India is devoted to Karni Mata, a goddess who is said to have reincarnated her devotees into rats upon death. Right — a bomb sniffing rat “employed” by the U.S. government in Brooklyn, NY. Left — pet rats.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Team Spirit vs. Power and Control

by Andrew Tibbetts

I’ve always wanted blue hair, but I’m forty-five now and I think that window’s slammed shut. I’m not sure where the time went. One minute I was pinning a Nina Hagen button to a second hand army jacket and the next I was wondering if I should downgrade the risk level of my retirement savings portfolio as I was sliding my galoshes over my loafers. Now, I’d need a good reason for blue hair — a role in a sci-fi film, fundraising for a worthy cause, or losing a bet. I came pretty close last week when I was outraged to hear about that Barrie teenager suspended from school over his blue locks. I was about to launch a support campaign when I saw Don Cherry already had. Let me back up…

When Adam Zussino and his teammates got into the playoffs of their local hockey league, they all died their hair blue. The Barrie 13-year old then found himself suspended from school under orders to die it back. The principal believed that he was contravening the dress code and the will of parents. A board spokesperson said, “hair colour is a concern to parents because there are a lot of different styles related to gangs." (His teammates got very different reactions at their schools. His teammate Cameron said, "My teacher loved it. He said it's good for team spirit.")

The parents wrote to Don Cherry who showed up in a blue afro wig with a lot to say — “My dog, Blue, was very offended,” for example. Apparently, the team parents began wearing similar ‘fros to the games, in support. I figured Adam didn’t need my hair-sympathy.

But I do want to say that schools shouldn’t take on the role of haircut police. There are better uses for our educational dollars. If you want get to your knickers in a twist, school administrators, how about getting riled up about the treatment of gay kids. Like Shaquille Wisdom, the thirteen-year-old from Ajax, who was thrown into a garbage can at school the week before he hung himself. It’s harder to catch oppression and marginalization than to catch blue hair, so you’ll have to look at bit harder. Put a bit of effort in. Stop being superficial. And hey, that would set a great example for the kids, though, wouldn’t it?

There’s a rich tradition of school administrators vs. the blue-haired in the U.S. The ACLU in 1999 took a Virginia school board to court over the suspension of blue-haired teen Kent McNew. In Michigan in 2001, junior high student Maria Alexander, was suspended for ‘disruptive hair’. The Supreme Court even ruled on a related matter earlier in 1969, when the haircut police were more concerned about length of (boy’s) hair than colour. Their very stirring conclusion was that students "do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate." Our own Canadian Supreme Court has never had a hairdo case, but I bet they’d rule similarly, despite the fears of Barrie being decimated by warring gangs of green-haired and purple-haired hooligans.

Go, Colts, Go!

(photo of Adam Zussino, proud Colt)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Or, Reality as they know it

by Steve Gajadhar

Scientists are a crazy bunch. Especially those darn particle physicists. Despite what the rest of the world gets up to, they continue to find out new things that simply make me think, huh?Imagine it, a few guys (the lucky ones) get to go in an underground tunnel, accelerate particles up to 99% the speed of light, and see what bits fly off after they smash into each other. Later when they are sorting out the pieces, they try not to think about the implications of what they pick up. You see, physics is in a bit of a reality crisis and I think philosophers and writers need to step in and help.

Science - quantum physics in particular - postulates some pretty freaky stuff about the nature of reality, and it seems no one is attempting to interpret and communicate what these theories might actually tell us about reality as we know it, or think we do. I’m going to provide a reasonably current list of the realities that quantum physicists use to explain what they observe on the sub-atomic level. Hopefully this will get us all thinking and maybe a story or two will pop out of it!

Quantum Reality 1
Also known as the Copenhagen interpretation because it was developed by Neils Bohr and others at his Copenhagen institute. The Copenhagen interpretation basically asserts that there is no reality. That’s right, no reality. Believe it or not, this is the prevailing viewpoint of established science. “No reality” doesn’t mean we should deny the evidence of our senses - like the table I just stubbed my toe on. No reality simply means that the reality we observe floats on a world that is not real. I guess you could think of it as there being no deep reality. It gets better!Copenhageners deny deep reality, but they recognize the existence of something called a phenomenal reality, or a reality created by observation. What we see is real, but without someone there to observe the phenomena, it doesn’t exist. Think of it as a sort of Kantian idealism. Summed up, the Copenhagen interpretation asserts that there is no reality in the absence of observation and that observation creates reality.

Quantum Reality 2
The world is whole. Seamless and inseperable. The Toa of Physics delves into this as does The Dancing Wu-li Masters. If you hear someone mention the similarity between the quantum world and oriental mysticism, they are referring to this particular quantum interpretation of reality.But this isn’t the “everything is connected” wholeness of 1980s new agers, it is much more than that. In this view objects and particles are connected across the universe. The observer and observed are one and the same, inseperable and whole.

Quantum Reality 3
The many worlds interpretation. A favorite of SF writers, allowing for space jumps like John Scalzi uses in Old Man’s War, where a ship simply uses a quantum probability drive to jump locations and arrive in a universe where everything and everyone on the spaceship simply exists in a different physical location vastly removed from where they started out. Many worlds states that for every instance of observation or measurement, a multitude of new universes is created.Think of flipping a coin, or any other act with different probability based outcomes. Some many worlders believe that all outcomes actually happen with only the one we observe happening in our universe and the rest occurring in a new, created universe. Many copies of yourself and your world spawning many more copies and many more copies and so on. Huh? And this view is gaining considerable support because of its ability to explain some of the weirder aspects of the quantum measurement problem.

So now we have folks who don’t believe there is any reality, butting heads with folks who think there are an infinite number of realities, each as relevant and real as our own.

Quantum Reality 4
Quantum logic. There’s quite a few books out there that fictionalize this idea. Ghostwritten by David Mitchell is a great one. Think about throwing away every notion you have about the world and starting over. Then master the structure and rules of mathematical logic and throw them out in favor of wacky rules of logic. Change your thinking, don’t change the physics. Change the rules inside your head, and then rely on experiment rather than common sense.

Quantum Reality 5
Neorealism, the world is normal and made of ordinary objects. Heresy! And it is to most physicists. Objects posses attributes whether observed or not. No mumbo jumbo observer/observed, multi-verse, or logic traps. A couch is a couch is a couch. Einstein – ironically, since Einstein’s early work basically invented the field - was a member of this bunch, as was Planck, and Erwin Scrhodinger, all pioneers of science and thought. Unfortunately, neorealism flies in the face of the observed facts at the quantum level. Bohr’s school of thought (quantum reality 1) is the dominant one, and Bohr was utterly confident in his interpretation that ordinary objects are impossible in a quantum world.

Quantum Reality 6
Consciousness creates reality. Yikes. Someone pass the bong. This version of reality is the bailiwhick of a small number of the observer created realists of quantum reality 1. Only something endowed with consciousness can create reality. For me, this one makes a strange sort of sense and it also made sense to John von Neumann who built the mathematical structure for it that physicists still use today. Von Neumann also used math to prove that if quantum theory is correct, there can be no ordinary objects and the neorealists would be out in the cold.

Quantum Reality 7
Potentials and actualities, or P and A for short. There exist two worlds, one of potential and one of actuality. If there is no reality, and the observer creates reality, what is this reality created out of? As with all things quantum, the limitations of language make it really hard to explain exactly what is going on, but I’ll try. Atoms and particles are not real. The observed phenomena they create are as real as any other phenomena, but the things that create them, the atoms and particles are not real. Think of life. We make concrete choices with concrete outcomes, no multiple histories or universes, only one event happens, and to us it really happens. In the quantum world this is not the case. The quantum world is full of tendencies that are constantly shifting but nothing ever actually happens. It all stays in the realm of possibility. P and A’ers say that it is the act of measurement that bridges the gap between these two worlds. During measurement, one outcome surfaces from this shadowy world of probability into ours. Until measurement, the world is nothing more than potential. The world as we know it, is nothing more than an agreement between what we see and what is possible.

This stuff isn’t science fiction, it is science. And the cool (and unsettling) part is that each of these separate versions of reality predicts exactly the same observed phenomena. They are experimentally indistinguishable. And make no mistake, quantum physics works. It reliably and accurately predicts all sorts of things. It is a perfect guidebook for anything and everything scientists have so far used it to search for. Maybe some of you writers out there can use quantum realities to write the next great Murakami-esque novel. So get writing!

Monday, February 04, 2008

A couple notes on flash fiction

Here’s an observation: Whenever I’m looking to rework or improve (expand?) an existing flash piece of mine, I head straight for the middle. There, I know I’ll find that one paragraph, or string of words, where I allowed a story to emerge ever so briefly. It doesn’t matter how long the original flash. There’s always a passage that moves slower than the rest by slipping out of the ‘moment’ of the piece.

Another observation: Writing the beginning of a flash seems to use up more energy per word count than any other kind of writing I’ve done. It’s emotionally draining, as well, because there’s so much riding on that beginning getting the reader into the moment, getting your self into that moment. Is it enjoyable, sitting down to figure out where you’ll begin? Not really. I find the opening a stressful place to be. The middle is much more relaxing.

About the ending: 99.9 % of the time it’s wrong, or it feels better, more right than it should. The leaner the flash, the easier it is to get away with an ending that seems to fit, but you don’t know why. And 99.9 % of the time, the reader will come away from the piece thinking the writer was trying to do something here. Hmmm.

Back to the middle and then back to the end again: There’s so much pressure to get that flash in quickly, to rein in the moment, keeping it intense and emotional and satisfying. So in the end, while we’re puffing away on a cigarette, we can’t help asking: was it good for you, too? But what if the flash doesn’t have to end there? What if you could go back to the middle, find that passage where there was the promise of something more? Mmmm. What if life were like that? Think of the possibilities.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Taking a Snow Day

Definitely not the world's greatest photographer, me, but it's pretty lousy out there today.
Have a terrific weekend, and if you're driving, be safe.