Monthly Archives: May 2015

My Polysyllabic Spree April 2015

The Savage Detectives update: I am definitely going to finish this one, just a part at a time. Not sure why but that is just how it’s going to be.

April 2015 was the month of Michael Chabon. I had just finished the first part of The Savage Detectives and the month was almost half over. I needed content so I looked to my bookshelf to find three short beauties by Mr. Chabon and decided to go for it. I also figured I would toss in a re-read of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray as it had been a while and who doesn’t like revisiting a classic every now and again?

Maps & Legends by Michael Chabon

704010This one I realized was also a re-read but I wasn’t conscious of it until I was halfway through the first essay and enthralled once again.

This is must read for Chabon fans but also for people who enjoy gleaning insights from writers about writing and the behind the scenes machinations of the writing process. The first essay, “Trickster in a Suit of Lights” delves into the idea of short story writers and writers in general as entertainers. Chabon writes about genre and how it can play both a positive and negative role in how stories are presented. What I loved was that his ideas echoed that of Hornby from his collection that inspired this column. As Hornby said, genre and mainstream versus alternative is simply just many people liking something versus only a select few and that writers, through no fault of their own, can be put into categories that were never thought of when they were sloughing through that first draft.

My other favourite from this one is “My Back Pages” where Chabon talks about writing The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. It’s a great read about a writer coming of age while writing what some consider to be his finest work.

Mentioned also is his love for comic books and a quick connection of dots brings you to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, once again giving insight, background, and context to another one of Chabon’s great books.

The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

This was a lot different than what I expected. The writing isn`t typical Chabon and at first I was questioning the effort. After the first two chapters, once the plot took hold, I was sold but it was a bit of a tough go out of the gate. It was a quick read though and a fun little story that features the world`s most famous detective in his later years putting his wits to good work.

A Model World by Michael Chabon

w204This short story collection was some great Chabon.

This first part deals with separate characters and separate stories all with the common theme of discovery. Highlights were S ANGEL and Smoke, the latter because it dealt with professional baseball players and I love baseball!

The second part of the story was entertaining but also a lesson in writing short fiction pieces with the same characters much like Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her. I have been thinking of doing something similar for my next project and got a first-hand tutorial from one of my favourite writers without expecting it.

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2015 Summer Preview!

HEY! Here’s some writing and performing related stuff happening in my fair city of Toronto this – 2015 – summer and fall. I’ve also included events that have already passed (and that I was too dumb to get ahead of) so you (and I) can plan for next year. If you say you’re bored, it means you’re boring, or you just need to read a book or something. Go see some damn art damnit!

Stratford Festival: Stratford, Ontario is home to this 61 year-old theatre festival featuring the work of The Bard performed by some of the world’s best talent from APRIL to OCTOBER.

Shaw Festival: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario hosts performances of plays written by or written during the lifetime of George Bernard Shaw from APRIL to OCTOBER.

inspiraTO: The 10th year for this theatre festival held at the Alumnae Theatre from MAY 28th to JUNE 6th, that features blocks of 10 minute plays all revolving around a particular theme or concept.

Pedestrian Sundays: Literally walk in the streets of Toronto’s coolest neighbourhood every Sunday from MAY 31st to the end of warm weather.

Breakthroughs Film Festival: Short Film festival featuring emerging female filmmakers at the Innis Town Hall on the weekend of JUNE 5 & JUNE 6th.

EXEE: Great beers and live bands every night at The Only Cafe during the week of JUNE 13th to JUNE 20th.

Female Eye Film Festival: “Always Honest, Not Always Pretty”, goes the tagline for this film fest featuring female filmmakers and it runs from JUNE 16th to JUNE 21st at The Royal Cinema.

Open Roof Festival: Music and films for $15 ever Wednesday at 99 Sudbury from JUNE 17th to AUGUST 19th sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

NXNE: A music and arts fest that takes over the city in a good way from JUNE 17th to JUNE 21st.

Pride Toronto: The annual extravaganza of LGBTQIA culture revs Toronto up for the summer and features fantastically flamboyant marches, parades, performances, and other great “p” words at various venues from JUNE 19th to JUNE 28th.

Luminato Festival: Everything art and all in Toronto at a variety of venues and times all around the clock from JUNE 19th to JUNE 28th.

Toronto Fringe Festival: Awesome indie theatre killing it with reckless abandon, and an outstanding beer tent at venues and times that only awesome indie theatre can rock from JULY 1st to JULY 12th.

Shakespeare in High Park: Once again High Park is home to a double-bill of Shakespeare wherein the same cast performs a comedy (“The Comedy of Errors”) and a tragedy (“Julius Caesar”) on alternating nights at their outdoor amphitheatre from JULY 2nd to SEPTEMBER 6th.

ReelheART International Film & Screenplay Festival: Festival that features film screenings and script readings at various venues including The Carlton Cinema and the AGO from JULY 6th to JULY 11th.

Christie Pits Film Fest: Free/pwyc outdoor movie screenings at Christie Pits park every Sunday during JULY & AUGUST.

SummerWorks Performance Festival: SummerWorks has performers acting, singing, and dancing sometimes all at once at venues across the city from AUGUST 6th to 16th.

Toronto International Queer West Film Festival: Queer West features films from local and international LGBTQ filmmakers and promotes the beauty of diversity and creativity at The Revue Cinema from AUGUST 7th to AUGUST 9th.

Buskerfest: If you want to see someone ride a unicycle while juggling live chainsaws and holding a torch aflame in their mouth then check out Toronto’s Buskerfest along Yonge Street between College Street and Queen Street and this is now going to be a run-on sentence because I promised myself only to write one sentence per event to keep things simple and so I can’t confirm the fire-mouthed chainsaw juggler but there will be music, juggling of some sort, acrobats, food and clowns and depending on whether you like clowns or are terrified by them the clowns might be nice or sinister and the clowns and others can be found on Yonge from AUGUST 27th to AUGUST 30th.

TOindie Film Festival: Fantastic event featuring indie films from Toronto and across the world held at the local gem known as The Carlton Cinema from SEPTEMBER 3rd to SEPTEMBER 12th.

Toronto International Film Festival: A world renowned film fest featuring talent, both renowned and waiting to be rewound, from across the globe and at venues across the city from SEPTEMBER 10th to SEPTEMBER 20th.

The Word on the Street: Books, magazines, and literary “stuff” can all be at Harbourfront Centre on SEPTEMBER 27th from 11am to 6pm.

International Festival of Authors: Writers are everywhere but during this fest they can mostly be found at Harbourfront Centre talking and signing and talking and probably writing from OCTOBER 22nd to NOVEMBER 1st.

NaNoWriMo: Join authors around the world and write a novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of NOVEMBER.

In addition to all of this, there is the Toronto Festival of Beer, various street parties throughout Toronto’s diverse neighbourhoods, and Yonge and Dundas Square always has something going on!

Stuff I’ve missed because I am an idiot but check it out to plan for next year:

Inside Out: LGBT Film Festival; Doors Open Toronto; Canadian Film Fest; Canadian Music Week (CMW); CONTACT Photography Festival; Hot Docs; TOindie Shorts Festival (affliated with the TOindie Film Festival)

 

SOURCES: NOW Magazine; The Toronto Star; the various festival websites listed above; my massive head and the memories contained therein.


What I (Re)Learned April 2015

Going back to the familiar doesn’t mean you are retreating or regressing.

Sometimes it just doesn’t go away.

Things are better said with clear eyes and a full heart, sometimes a full heart works on its own, but clarity of sight makes them a “dynamic duo” so to speak.

One moment can change everything.

No matter how many people believe in you, you have to believe in yourself.

The busier you are the more you get done.

Hype is febreezed bullshit.

The world will present you with opportunities and your actions will be right no matter what you decide.


The Writer’s Alphabet vol.16; “P” is for Perjury

The-letter-the-alphabet-22187494-2560-2560There are two types of perjury I’d like to cover which means I’ll probably end up only talking about one of them and then spending way too much time going on a tangent about something I have no business writing about which will all end with a much too long run-on sentence ending with a dreaded adverb(ly).

Character perjury is one of the perjuries I’d like to cover. What is it and why is it important? Character perjury, as defined here, is having a character knowing deceive other characters and just for the hell of it – themselves as well. Having characters perjure themselves, in and out of a courtroom setting, is a beautiful thing. It creates internal and external conflict and raises the stakes of the story as it will have the reader or watcher waiting for the deception to come to light and thus, a payoff is achieved. The best character perjury occurs when the payoff is almost forgotten only to have it come back at a crucial point and giving the reader the “wow” factor that comes with all great plot twists. Once again, it all comes back to conflict, stakes, and payoffs. Deception and lies are great framing devices for conflict and it is even better when characters don’t know they are deceiving themselves.

Writer perjury, defined herein, as plot inconsistencies, massive story holes, and laziness. Writer perjury is horrible. Writers perjure themselves when they sell a truth to the reader only to have it come back as utter bullshit. I’m not speaking of unreliable narrators. The unreliable narrator is a beauty thing and is typically established from the beginning of the story. An unreliable narrator can perjure themselves, however, when the payoff of the unreliability is so inconsistent with what has been established there is no rational explanation for the result. Basically the reader is left thinking, Seriously?, or, depending on how egregious the perjury, Fuck this!. Similar to how Bradley Cooper’s character reacts to Hemingway in the movie adaptation of Silver Linings Playbook.

Now I would like to talk about court perjury, except I don’t have any legal background and have decided that it probably isn’t a good idea. Thus, I will end this post here before anyone begins to have feelings about throwing their computers, tablets, or phones out a third story window.

Also, Meagan said this whole thing doesn’t really jive but she said she knows where I’m coming from and going to so hopefully you do as well. Who Meagan? I don’t know either. Oh wait! Here she is —-> Meagan’s Twitter!


The Writer’s Alphabet vol.15; “O” is for Opposition

O-fire-letter_graphicOpposition. It’s not as shitty as you might think. For writers (and everyone because writers aren’t as special as we think ourselves to be) opposition exists in 4+1 ways. 4 are in reality and 1 is on the page.

Opposition from the world at large: You might wake up and as your eyes flutter open, before leaving the quiet or hectic (un)comfort of your bed, you stare at the ceiling and think, “Fuck the world man. Fuck the world in its stupid ass. Every day I get up and write and while that goes well, I go out into this world everyone is talking about and get shit on, literally by animals and figuratively by everything else. World, why do you want me to fail? World, why must you blow horizontal snow in my face as I’m out for a walk to grab some inspiration and a coffee? World, why did I go out in a blizzard? World, why ya gotta be so all up against me B?”

NEWS FLASH: The world isn’t against you.

If the world is providing opposition it is because you are viewing it that way and need to change your perspective. Stop walking in horizontal blizzards and brew a cup of watery shit coffee at home. And if a bird shits on you, it’s not good or bad luck, it’s just the way shit literally happened. Grab some Tide and/or a bar of soap and shut it.

Opposition from the industry: Creative industries are hard to break into, be it film, music, publishing, or stage. This doesn’t mean that “the industry” is against you, it means that everyone with a brain has a story in said brain and a large percentage of those people write it down in some form or another. Then supply and demand take the wheel from Jesus and bam, economics ruins everything again. It’s not the industry, it’s Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes.

Rejection is a huge part of creativity. Besides “write everyday”, this is really the only other fact about creating. Whatever industry you hope to break into isn’t against you, it’s for you. Maybe not the you right now who is producing less than desirable work, but creative rejection is simply a push to make you a better writer/actor/singer/musician. The industry is fickle and can seem to be filled with the biggest assholes in the world who all hate your work. Maybe some parts of it are, but this still doesn’t mean it is opposing you. It means that you need to focus on yourself and your work and tune out the bird shit and the 100,000,000,000,000th rejection letter and better your creative self. Unless you have personally been a jerk to everyone in the industry and committed career suicide 100,000,000,000,000 times, the industry isn’t opposing you. Your arrogant, dumb ass is opposing you, you arrogant dumbass.

Opposition from loved ones: This is a tough one. The people we choose to have in our lives, our friends and family, are meant to be there for support. We for them and them for us. This is at least the ideal situation. In this situation, when you talk about your creativity, some of these people might tell you to give up. This could be direct or indirect, but it still stings. This is real opposition because it is from people, not a massive, inanimate glob. It is the opposition that can hurt the most because, again, it is from the people that you love and support and wish to have that love and support returned for whatever you decide to pursue with your limited time romping around in the world. Opposition from loved ones sucks. It really, really sucks. Should it lead you to give up though? No. And I’ll leave Charles Bukowski to explain why:

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. If you’re going to try, go all the way. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs and, maybe your mind. Go all the way. It could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail, it could mean derision, mockery, isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your
endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And you’ll do it despite rejection and the worst odds and it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like
that. You will be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. Its the only good fight there is.” – From “Roll The Dice”

Who wouldn’t want to ride anything to perfect laughter?

Opposition from yourself: While opposition from loved ones can hurt the most, opposition from yourself does hurt the most, because sometimes you don’t even realize how much it actually is hurting you.

Every creative person goes through times of doubt and ennui, where nothing is good and everything else sucks. Steven Pressfield wrote an entire book about the phenomenon so I will say two things. First, read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Second, you only live once and every day you spend devoting your time to self-opposition, you are being a bigger asshole to yourself and causing more harm than any outside asshole could ever hope to reap. Mental health issues might play a role, and, if so, get some help. Self-opposition is the absolute worst thing, and the only way to fight it is to fight it with creativity. Even just reading or listening to music can help as it stimulates your brain with other creative energy. Go for a walk and start asking, “what if?” to everything and anything that crosses your path. It works for Stephen King. I think I’m changing my name to some variety of Stev(ph)en, as they seem to do quite well with words and such.

Opposition between characters: Now for the “+1” of the group, opposition in stories and on the page. Noted Canadian stage and screen actor Colm Feore killed it when he said, “(a)nything you do, I can do better and scarier”, when asked about his character on FOX’s Gotham. He plays a villain so the scarier part works here quite well, but I like to focus on the first part of the quotation as I feel it sums up exactly how two characters should be thinking. I have spoken enough about conflict for a lifetime so blah, blah, blah, conflict is awesome, but with one sentence Feore nails all you have to think and know about creating conflict and, thus, opposition, in your work. This works for any genre, all it takes is a tweak for your lovely, original, amazing characters.

Now stop procrastinating and opposing yourself and go and create something. Anything. Nothing is not an option.


The Writer’s Alphabet vol.14; “N” is for Negative

The-letter-N-the-letter-n-22189339-2560-2560

N is for negative because all the other words were taken. Being negative is a negative way to be, so be positive and the negative takes care of itself.

That is all.

Except for this part, which is the rest of it. I read a short story – “Tableau Vivant” by Robin Black, from her collection If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This – where one character describes another in the negative, as in “not too fat but not too thin, not too smart but not a genius either.” I thought this was interesting. I have heard time and time again that great writing is brief, direct, and adverb-free. Taking those first two into account, describing something or someone in a negative sense seems like it takes more time and effort than simply describing that person, place or thing as it is, but it works in this sense because the word “average” is so subjective. It really is indefinable. Or better, a question, average in comparison to what?

My take away from this was that less is more in the way that Black only does this once in the collection and so it has impact. Second and last it was just a really cool way to use words to create a picture of a character. Yes, it took more than might have been necessary but, used sparingly, negative description is more impactful than going for the jugular and saying, “she was a babe”, “he was a stud”, “the ice cream melted like ice cream melted”, “the carpet was red and set my soul on fire”, “my bum bum hurts because of this pimple”, “the sky was blue.”


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