Sunday, July 30, 2006

An Ode to the Praline

I was a bad conference blogger. (Bad blogger! Bad blogger!) I had great plans to post every night to keep those of you who couldn't make it to Atlanta at least partially up to date... What is it they say about best laid plans?


I simply had too-too much fun and was wiped every night when I got back to my room. You could probably smell the drink on the posts I did manage to make. I loved the chance to hang out with other TKA clients (my new sistahs)and got to know many of the New England Chapter members, through Marley Gibson. What a fun/friendly group of writers! So, while I was only partially successful on my stalk Emily Giffin goal... I did do pretty well on my meeting-new-people-instead-of-falling-into the-comfortable-trap-of-hanging-with-friends-from-home goal. Yay, me!

Anyway... this post was supposed to be an ode to the praline, and I have seriously digressed before even starting. Oops. (Premature digression?)

Back to our regularly scheduled program:

On Tuesday evening, The Knight Agency threw an amazing party to celebrate their 10th anniversary. Great setting, great food, great drinks, great music, great company, amazing hospitality AND PRALINES!

My favourite ice cream has always been pralines and cream, so I'd heard of the southern US version of pralines before and assumed I'd like them... (Minor digression... Don't the Belgians--masters of all things chocolate--call all fancy prepared chocolates pralines? Must do some research. Here's a start.) But until this week, I'd never experienced a freshly made southern praline.

Let me tell you... You haven't had a praline until you've tried one made seconds ago in a copper kettle right before your drooling eyes. (can eyes drool?) Who knew butter, brown sugar, a squirt of lemon and some fresh pecans could combine to make such a delectably orgasmic treat?
Okay, now that I type out the ingredients, the whole tasty thing seems kinda obvious, but man, they were good!

Here in Canada, we have this treat called a butter tart, which I love (a little too much) and greatly missed during the 10 years I lived in the US. Butter tarts are a bit like like melting a praline into a pastry shell. (Mental note: Must make sure the TKA staff get to try some butter tarts in the future!)

Thanks again to everyone at TKA! I will be dreaming of pralines for months and someday may forgive you for getting me hooked on the hard stuff. Just what I needed--another sugar monkey on my back! (But seriously, thanks for an amazing evening.)

Friday, July 28, 2006

As a stalker? I suck!

Okay, I did forgo the Nora talk at the PRO retreat this morning in favour of Emily Giffin's talk, (not a hard decision for me) but I totally missed some major stalking opportunities. An aside... the moderator of the presentation called her Emily Griffin 3 or 4 times... Cringe-worthy. Emily was pretty cool about it though.

While I was a total failure in my kidnap-her-for-lunch conspiracy, I did manage to ask the main question I wanted to. In a nutshell, "What was the major thing (other than a really great book) which made SOMETHING BORROWED break out?"

I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed to hear that it probably wasn't anything in her control--other than writing a really great book (a relatively crucial ingredient ). Sounds like it boiled down to her editor's whole-hearted belief in the book, and her editor's ability to make things happen publicity-wise. Man, the kind of thing new authors dream of--and from what I've seen (and read!) it couldn't have happened to a nicer, more deserving writer than Emily.

But even though I did get the last question of the workshop in and she (I think?) remembered meeting me in Toronto, I didn't talk to her after her presentation. I did hang around a bit... but there were so many people waiting to see her and, well, I went all shy. I didn't find her at the Literacy signing on Wed night, either. My excuses that night were equally pathetic: it was about 400 degrees in the room; and (this part isn't exaggerated) over 500 authors signing. Seriously. Who were all those writers? It was crazy! I hope RWA raised a heck of a lot of money for literacy.

My new friend Nadine Dajani, whose book FASHIONABLY LATE comes out in 2007, was bold, though! She talked to Emily and gave her an ARC. You rock, Nadine! Diana, too. A little authorial bonding. Good job girls!!! I bow to your superior stalking--I mean networking--skills.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A New Chapter Begins...

Okay, so I stole the name/theme of this year's RWA conference as the title for my blog post tonight... but it kinda fits the way I'm feeling right now.

I have that beginning of the conference excitement, wondering what the next 4 days will hold... Even more than that, however, being at Nationals this year feels different and I realize that a new chapter in my writing career has begun. Yes, I'm still one of the masses of yet-to-be-published authors out there, but I had a meeting with my wonderful agent today and just the fact that I have an agent to meet with is so, so amazing. Here's a picture of Pamela and I at the amazing party The Knight Agency threw on Tuesday night.

Tonight, was the RWA Chick Lit chapter's night for a party and although it was a smaller fest than in previous years, the mood was great--upbeat and friendly--and the more intimate size made it easier to connect with everyone there. President Aryn congratulated our members who sold or had their first book published this year.

Some of them are pictured here. I would have needed a wide angle lens to get them all in the same picture.
In spite of the dire reports, it appears that publishers are still buying chick lit -- or did so in the past year, anyway. Congrats to everyone!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Walking the Thin Line Between Networking and Stalking

I’m off to the RWA National conference in Atlanta this week with 2000 or so other writers—published and unpublished. This will be my third National conference and each year I make an attempt to set some goals to justify the cost.

In 2004, in Dallas, my main goal was drinking margaritas with my friends. Not a lofty goal, I admit, but because I’d been planning to pitch my manuscript to a line at Harlequin that had just been cancelled, I couldn’t come up with a better goal at short notice.

Mission accomplished. Drunk writer talk works in Texas, too.

Oh, and in addition to eating Mexican food and drinking, I went to heaps of workshops and learned a ton about the business and the craft of writing. Bonus!

In 2005, the conference was in Reno, and my main goals were to make a great pitch to Deidre Knight and to drink margaritas with the new friends I planned to make at the conference. Goal number one went even better than expected and I’m now represented by her sister and fellow Knight Agency agent Pamela Harty. Goal number two proved trickier (and here I thought it'd be the easy one). I think my problem was, while there were lots of places to get a drink (anywhere--it was a freakin' casino), there wasn’t the obvious hotel bar meeting place. Lots of conference attendees were hanging in the casino, but it was hard to know who was open to talking and who was more intent on hitting those triple sevens. The most obvious bar had about 5 tables. I mean, they want you to gamble, not sit around and talk. Then there was a dance club sort of bar, which I later found out many people I'd like to have met were hanging out... but my shy-side kicked in and walking into a dance club alone just didn't happen.

All in all, I found the whole conference in a casino thing a bit surreal. Yes, even more surreal than a conference sharing a hotel with 10,000 Mary Kay reps draped in sashes and bows and berating authors for writing smut and (gasp) not wearing panty hose or lipstick in public. (If you were in Dallas, you know what I mean.)

Now it’s 2006. Another year, another conference. This year, I’m not sure I want to declare my goal for the public record, because it involves meeting a certain writer and pumping her for information and becoming her new best friend. I'm sure I'm one of hundreds who'll have this same goal. (No, the target's not Nora.)

This goal begs the question—when does networking become stalking? When does the desire to connect with a writer you admire—whose career you’d love to emulate—become just a little freakishly scary?

Hmmm… is it when you and two other writer friends have made plans to stage a kidnapping? (Don’t worry D & M. If the cops get me, I won’t rat you out. ;-)

Wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Keanu Reeves – Reason to get a new camera?

I snapped this pic at the premiere of Thumbsucker at the TIFF last September. Sadly, my camera has quite a delay between pressing the button and the snap, or it would have been a great picture. I was sitting on the aisle; he walked right by me.

So, I need a new camera. Maybe not for Keanu Reeves per se, but in case I get a great opportunity like that with someone else snap-worthy. Not to mention my niece and nephew and my dog-nephew, none of whom are very good at keeping still.

On Keanu, though… He was exceptionally cute in person. I was kinda surprised. I guess I’ve been an on-again-mostly-off-again fan of his. He sucked so badly in Much Ado About Nothing a gazillion years ago, that I thought I’d never forgive him, (or Kenneth Branagh for casting him) but every once and a while, he’s pretty good.

He really surprised me in two fairly recent movies. One was Something’s Gotta Give, with Diane Keaton and the other was Thumbsucker. In Something’s Gotta Give I was shocked to find I really believed he was not only a doctor but was in love with Diane Keaton. (Of course, I heard rumors he may actually have been a bit in love with Diane Keaton, removing the need to actually act, but he was convincing.)

Thumbsucker, directed by Mike Mills, is a movie not many people have seen. I think the DVD is out now, so if you’re into indie films and would like to see a very fresh take on a coming of age movie, I highly recommend it. Keanu has a small supporting role that’s very funny and pokes fun at his real life persona as well as his Matrix role. He plays a dentist who doles out more therapy and new age babble than any real therapist would. He’s like a spiritual guide for the protagonist. Hey, doesn’t everyone go to their dentist for therapy?

Anyhoo… The plot of the movie revolves around Justin played by Lou Pucci, a 17 year old teen who still sucks his thumb and his attempts to stop and the affects that has on his life. In a sub-plot, his mother, played by the fabulously talented Tilda Swinton, considers an affair with a TV celebrity, played by Benjamin Bratt, who’s being treated at the drug rehab clinic she works in. Justin’s father, played by the enigmatic Vincent D’Onofrio lives in the past, pining after a career in football he might have had.

In the end, the son (in spite of his thumbsucking) shows the most maturity and to me, the film is about accepting who you are and explores whether treatments for some so-called problems are worse than the problems themselves. Great satirical bit on Ritalin in this movie.

Small excerpt written by Michele Maheux in the TIFF 2005 Programme Book:

“Adapted from Walter Kim’s novel, Thumbsucker boasts sharply written dialogue and eccentric humour that dissects the foibles of this idiosyncratic bunch. The young actors’ freshly expressive performances are perfectly balanced with the sublimely understated work of the film’s established stars. The sterile backdrop of suburban repression receives refreshing treatment in this tale of learning to take one’s medicine and reckon with reality.”

So, a round about way to say I’m buying a new camera today. Okay, not for Keanu photo ops but conference photo ops.

How exciting.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Is 45 the new 75?

Okay, on the subway the other night, on the way home from the Emily Giffin book signing, I saw this ad for a government program to help unemployed people find work.
Good program, sounds like--usually these things are just for teens and young adults--but calling it a program for seniors??? Over 45 you’re a senior? Give me a break!

Okay, it says neighbourhood link/senior link. But just the word senior under the age 45 was enough to get my back up.

Maybe I’m just a little too close to that age, not to be taken aback by seeing that age group lumped in with seniors. I thought 40 was the new 30. Humph!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Emily Giffin in Toronto!

Last night at the Yonge and Eglinton Indigo bookstore, Emily Giffin was signing her new novel, BABY PROOF, which is currently #2 on the Globe and Mail’s bestseller list. (Was #1 a while ago... will be again after last night.) Congratulations, Emily! As she pointed out to the crowd, Canadian readers obviously have good taste. :-)

I had the pleasure of reading the ARC (advance readers copy) of BABY PROOF some months ago and it didn’t disappoint. My fellow drunk writer blogger Sinead and I are always debating what makes Emily’s books so compulsively readable and hard to put down. They don’t have big complicated plots. They aren’t suspenseful in a literal way. All three so far have had only one major conflict to be resolved… and yet, they’re gripping, page-turning—and really fun to read. Maybe Sinead and I will discuss this in more detail in a future Drunk Writer Talk Blog.

It was great to meet Emily in person and she was really engaging and funny as a speaker (and if by some chance, you happen to read this, Emily, I completely agree about that skank Angelina. I also hope you don’t hold your husband to his body part offer to bind your first manuscript—for his and your sake both!)

But as great as the evening was, it didn't live up to my naïve fantasy. I'd hoped I’d have a chance to chat with her more… Sob. As a writer of books featuring female protagonists who don’t always act in the most heroic manner, I really wanted to know more about her journey to publication—not to mention post publication. In fact, I’d planned to offer to buy her a drink after the signing. Little did I know that 200 people would show up. WOW. I stood for 2 hours. She smiled and posed for pictures and signed books for 2 hours.

But it was totally worth it. I can’t wait to see her presentation at the RWA Conference in Atlanta. It’s so nice to see a writer with such a great talent have so much success.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Doggie Home from Hospital

Okay, he's not home... He and his "parents" (my brother and sister-in-law) are staying with my mom because she has air conditioning and fewer stairs.

But he was much better today and the vets let him out. The final tests still aren't back on whether his soccer-ball-sized tumor was cancerous... or whether he has long term kidney or heart damage... But he's much better!

Thanks everyone for your kind thoughts.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Prayers for Jasper

Our camping trip didn't turn out as well as we hoped. And not because of the silly things I was worried about like no shower for four days... My dog-nephew Jasper (my brother's dog, pictured above with said brother) fell seriously ill while we were away. Hope brother doesn't mind me posting the photo... This was the best picture I could find of Jasper. He's usually running...

He had a great time on Thursday (the first full day we were camping). He went hiking with us, running through the woods and then scrambling over the granite boulders at the shores of Georgian Bay. (Other photo) He even swam with us for a long time in the icy cold water -- big contrast to the hot humid weather. But he never recovered from the exertion that day.

On Friday, my brother and SIL took him to the vet who thought it was just exhaustion... but he couldn't even stand Sat morning, so they took him back to the vet (an hour away) who told them to rush him to a vet hospital near Toronto (another 3 hours away).

Long story short, he had a HUGE tumor on his spleen which was removed Saturday night. So, while camping trip didn't cause the illness... it did bring it to a head and might have made the situation worse, because he'd been in shock a while by the time they got him to the hospital. He's still a very sick doggie.

Blogs and Self Promoting

Okay, I'm still pretty new to this whole blogging thing but when I learned that Diana Peterfreund was getting complaints on her blog , because she wasn't just talking about writing topics, but was using the blog for promoting her great book, I had to give my head a little scratch.

I mean, isn't self promotion what a blog is all about? Whether you're doing it for commercial purposes or not, if you're gabbing about something in public, you're self promoting. (or at least doing it to grab attention, even if it's anonymous)

This debate (that I didn't know existed until today) reminds me of the early days of the web. I was working at the Price Waterhouse World Firm Technology Centre at the time, which was in Menlo Park, CA just north of Silicon Valley. The place (tech centre, not Menlo Park) doesn't exist any more... which is sad because it was a very cool place to work. Anyway, most of my coworkers had Phd's in artificial intelligence and other areas of computer science and had been using the internet pretty much since they'd started university (some in the 70's). One day I asked my friend Jeff how someone like him had ended up working for a public accounting firm and he told me that with a degree in AI it was hard to get a job not involving guiding missiles... Since the internet was first used to facilitate sharing information between DOD scientists, it makes sense that these guys had used the internet for years... But I seriously digress...

My point was (I did have one) that a lot of these guys took great offense when corporations started to register domain names and use the web for commercial purposes. The first URL the tech centre had (I think we may have been the first accounting firm, perhaps first commercial entity, to have one?) was actually registered under the Stanford University URL. Those were the days when if I searched for my name on Yahoo (no google then) I'd get 4 hits and they were all about me -- academic papers I'd written etc. Now when I google my name I get 440,000 or so hits most of which aren't me... OMG. I just googled my old friend and coworker Jeff Delisio, with whom I cowrote some papers and who has a much less common name than I, and there are still links to some of my old papers! (digressing again, sorry)

Anyway, a few of my coworkers at the tech centre (or people they knew), seemed to feel that the web should only be used to:
  • make sharing academic papers easier than it had been with only ftp and

  • share cool stuff like photos and music with their friends who had the time to download stuff like that with the painfully lacking bandwidth most people had at the time.

So learning about the complaints Diana's getting on her blog took me back to 1993.

It's like as soon as a new technology catches on and people are smart enough to use it for commercial purposes, the early adopters get all up in arms. I kind of understand that... it can kind of take the fun or community feeling out of something if others use it for commercial purposes... but seriously... You can't live in the past.

Signed, Maureen...
Who started this blog largely to self-promote future books and plans to promote the books of her friends until she has one of her own. Anyone who finds that offensive, don't read my blog.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I'm going camping. Serious camping. No shower for five days camping. Okay, it's car camping -- not backpacking -- the kind of camping where you can bring everything but the kitchen sink as long as it fits in your trunk, but still... I'm not even sure if there will be flush toilets.

To aid this camping adventure, I bought a tent this week (I've always mooched off others in the past) and a new, lighter sleeping bag more suitable, I hope, to the hot weather we've been having lately.

It's been a while since I've done more than one night in a tent and I'm not sure how I'll enjoy four in a row... Also, I'm going with my brother and his friends. Yes, I know all these people, but they're his friends, not mine, so that might be a little weird.

Things I'll miss:

  • Results night on Rockstar... but this early in the competition, who cares? I don't feel super passionate about any of the contestants this year yet anyway... Last year, (after thinking it was the tackiest idea I'd ever heard of and that INXS had sunk about as low as they could go), I came across it while channel surfing the night JD was doing his encore performance of California Dreaming and I was hooked. Dilana is pretty intersting this year... I should vote for Lukas because he's from my home town (like JD), but I just don't really like him so far... He's so full of himself and not in a good way. Intersting that both seasons the badboy asshole of the house is the Canadian boy... Kinda goes against stereotype, don't it? (We're actually all jerks up here. We just act nice for tourists.) :-)

  • Canada's Next Top Model. (Down to the final 4) Yes, it's the same formula as the American one and yes, it's just as silly and just as compulsively fun to watch.

  • The internet. It's embarrassing how addicted I am to my blogs and my loops and my e-mail...

  • Washing with hot water... I fear for my contacts (not to mention my delicate skin). I'm rather prone to eye infections due to very narrow (nearly non-existent) tear ducts that make my eyes water a lot... Not being able to wash easily or often will be a challenge.

  • A mosquito free environment. Okay, there are mosquito's in Toronto, but not very many. The smog gets them. There was a huge amount of rain yesterday so I imagine there will be oodles of mosquitos. Not looking forward to bite-scarred legs at Nationals.

  • My critique group meeting. We had such a great meeting last week. Everyone seems to be in a great groove right now -- producing great work. I'm bummed I won't be there this week.

  • BLOGGING! Okay, I haven't been the most consistent blogger yet. But I'll miss making posts and checking the comments and obsessing over how many hits I get and from where... What fun!

Speaking of blogging. I have an announcement...

The Drunk Writer Talk Blog is launching next week! The first post should be up on Monday. There are 3 of us contributing and our drunken evil plan to conquer blogdom is to start by pointing on Mon, Wed and Fri. Most weeks, we think, Molly will do Mon, I'll do Wed and Sinead will do Friday. We plan to talk about lots of things... The kind of things we talk about when we drink together. Should be a lot of fun. Come check us out.

And.... I bought a full pass for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) again. I know... crazy. I could have/should have gone for something less grueling... There are 30 coupon books and 10 coupon books available... But I know once the time comes, I'll be glad I'm going all out. Except for the first night and the last day, there are usually at least 4 movies in each time slot I'm absolutely dieing to see... So many films, so liitle time.

One final thing... My CP Teresa Roblin was just interviewed on the Karen knows best blog. Check it out. Teresa is the sweetest person you'd ever hope to meet. (As long as you don't hurt anyone she cares about -- then, watch out!)

Bye for now... See you Monday! (If I dont get eaten by mosquitos--or a bear.)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Film Fest decision day...

Okay, the passes for the Toronto International Film Festival go on sale today and I need to make up my mind before the passes sell out.


  1. I always see amazing films -- many of which never hit the theatres or don't hit them until a couple of years later

  2. Most of the films screened have excellent writing... I find I can learn alot about character development or storytelling from watching well written films.

  3. I must admit, I love the excitement of seeing the films first and seeing the stars and having the opportunity to ask quesitons of the actors and film makers.

  4. I've met some cool people at past fests -- many of whom I run into each year.

  5. Cool stuff happens -- like Bono showing up at the screening for BREAKFAST ON PLUTO last year. Very interesting film, by the way... Cillian Murphy rocks. I had seen him in RED EYE and BATMAN RETURNS in theatres around the same time... and talk about a different role! And yes, Bono just showed up. Was hanging around the lobby shaking people's hands and then leaned against the wall near the back during the film. I could list more cool festival moments... but perhaps will save them for another blog entry...


  1. It's a lot of money... Over $500 including taxes for a Festival Pass -- which is what I've bought the past 2 years... A festival pass entitles the holder to up to 50 films... It's pretty tricky to actually see 50 films... It's officially 11 days, but other than the opening night Gala, for which it's impossible to get a ticket, there usually aren't many interesting (to me) films screened on the first night... And there's often not much on the final Sunday, either... so that leaves 9 or 10 days... Which makes, yes, 5 movies a day. It's possible to do six, (9ish, noonish, 3ish, 6ish, 9ish, midnight) but I never have. I had tickets for 6 one day during the 2004 festival, but ended up skipping the last one (which was THE MACHINIST with Christian Bale, another very cool film, which I eventually saw... but not at the midnight world premiere at the TIFF, big pout -- I was just too tired...) But I did do 5 per day most days last year...

  2. It's grueling -- see above. I basically have to be out of the house by 8:00 am for the first screening (even though I'm lucky enough to live in the city quite close to most of the theatres) and I'm rarely home before midnight -- usually closer to 1:00 am... It always takes me an hour or so to wind down, before I can sleep... so yes, very little sleep for Maureen during the festival. About 5 days into the festival last year, I was getting a cold, was very, very tired and swore I'd never do it again... But I do love it...

  3. It sucks up a huge amount of time... During the festival, I'm basically unreachable and don't get anything done... Not only is there the 11 actual days of the festival, but even with the amazing festival pass, there's a lot of work to do pre-fest... More on this in a subsequent post.

  4. I eat badly and don't exercise for a week. Okay, so anyone who's met me or has seen a photo is probably thinking, "She normally eats healthy and exercises????" But actually, while consistent healthy eating is a big problem for me... I do work out and missing that for a couple of weeks makes me feel crappy.

  5. I usually get a cold -- undoubtedly related to the popcorn and hot dog diet and the lack of sleep and exercise... not to mention breathing air shared by several thousand people in a confined space all day.

Hmmmm, my con list looks longer... but it's just because I ranted about the cons. Bottom line, even though the festival is really about standing in lines for 2 weeks... interspersed with great films and the opportunity to see movie stars... I love it.

Still slightly on the fence... Wish I had a crystal ball that would tell me what else will be going on for me in September... will I have a book deal? Will I be making revisions? Will I have something else pressing on my time...
Gah! Must Make Decision....

Friday, July 07, 2006

Attention: Contest on Diana Peterfreund's blog!

Diana's Diversions: On the T Minus 12th Day of Secret Society Girl, a Digger gave to me...

The wonderful Diana Peterfreund is holding a contest each of the twelve days leading up to the July 18th release of her debut novel, SECRET SOCIETY GIRL.
I was lucky enough to win an an ARC of this book back in February and let me tell you, it's a great read. Really fun, really smart, really witty, really everything a good book should be.

Go on over and enter her contest -- and buy the book ;-) If you're lucky enough to win one during the contest, too... it will make a nice gift! Or really, who wouldn't want two copies of this book? I mean, what if one gets wet during an initiation ceremony or something?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Film Fest!!

The passes for the Toronto International Film Fest go on sale in a couple of days which means... da, da, da, dum.... Maureen must make a decision about whether to fest or not this year.

I must say, the TIFF is amazing... Such a huge variety of films from the very obscure to the very strange to the Oscar contenders. Last year, I saw the North American premiere of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and CAPOTE and THE HISTORY OF VIOLENCE among many others...

And as much as I just love seeing great films -- lots of great films, I saw 45 in 11 days last year -- I have to admit I like a little star-gazing, too...

Like this night at the World Premiere of Bart Freundlich's TRUST THE MAN, a film I really loved... But maybe it was just the wild atmosphere in the room? There's something about seeing a movie seated a couple of rows in front of the actors who are in it, and their significant others and siblings (in Maggie Gyllenhaal's case -- see photo below). Seriously though... I thought this movie was great -- who know Billy Crudup could be funny? Okay, I guess he was funny in ALMOST FAMOUS, but sexy funny, not goofy funny like he was in this film.

Has anyone seen this in theatres yet? I saw a trailer a few months ago here in Toronto, but if it ever opened, I didn't notice... But some of the posts on IMDb make it sound like it's opened in the States? Anyone know?

Here's a pic of Maggie Gyllenhaal's boob when she got up to be introduced at the start of the film. You can see her boyfriend Peter Sarsgaard (who should be my boyfriend) beside her, and yes, that's her brother Jake's eye over to the right and you can make out David Duchovny to Maggie's right. Claire Danes was there to support Billy too... How sweet. (Like to bump her off, too. LOVE Billy...)She was in town because SHOP GIRL screened at last year's fest, too... and she was also at the 2004 Festival because STAGE BEAUTY premiered at that fest (the one where she met my man Billy...)

Well, I digress... but while I ponder my decision over the next few days, expect this blog to be heavily weighted with film fest trivia and decision angst... Some more pictures, too! (I didn't take that many... Note to self, must get a better camera if I go again this year...)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Myths, Lies and the Publishing Industry

A couple of recent posts on writer-lists I belong to have prompted me to do something I swore I’d never do with this blog (but already broke in the first week). I hadn’t planned to use this blog to foist my opinions about publishing on the world. Enough people already do that and do it well… But sometimes, it appears, I just can’t help myself…

So, at the risk of having cyber-tomatoes tossed my way, I find myself wanting to voice a few opinions about small pubs, e-pubs and (gasp) self-publishing.

I’m still very early in my—what I hope will be a—writing career… but, except for about ten minutes after one particularly disappointing bit of news, I haven’t even considered an option other than shooting for a contract with a major NY publisher.

Why? For me, it’s about knowing what you want. It’s about setting goals and sticking to them even if it requires a little harsh reflection and honesty—not to mention a lot of hard work on your craft and probably tossing a few early manuscripts into the trash bin.

Not that I think there’s any one right way to get published—or even a best way—I just know what I want and based on some things I read on the loops, some (emphasis on some) writers end up at e-pubs without much forethought or because they weren’t honest with themselves about their writing or about the industry.

In other words, if a writer decides to target a small press or e-pub, he/she should be very clear about why they've made that choice.

In my opinion, it comes down to goals. Writers (I hope) write because we love to write… So why do we want to be published? That’s a whole other question. Some writers may be happy just to see their name in print on a book cover. Maybe it’s being able to use that elusive title "author". Maybe they just hope a few people who don’t know them will actually read their stories. On the other hand, some writers have different goals. For example, seeing their book in major chains, reaching for or hitting bestseller lists, reviews in major publications, possible movie deals, having thousands of people read their books, earning a modest living…

If those latter goals sound like you… Then my advice is to stay focused on getting that contract with a major NY publishing house.

What saddens me most, I suppose, is when I see writers falling into the trap of believing certain myths about the industry that get perpetrated amongst we pre-published authors. Yes, it’s a tough business. Yes, the odds are against a new writer. Yes, it’s very subjective. Yes, there’s some luck and timing involved, but some things I hear out there just aren’t true. For example, I’ve heard people claiming that to get a major NY contract or even land a reputable agent:

  • You have to know someone

  • You have to be pretty

  • Your book has to fit into some kind of cookie-cutter mold

  • You have to learn a secret handshake no one’s willing to teach you

Yes, these little lies writers tell themselves can help take the sting out of the inevitable rejections that come in this business—but they are lies. Believing that you need an "in" to get published by a NY house, or that the major houses never take chances can lead writers into a world of delusion. Yes, small presses and e-pubs have launched certain fiction sub-genres -- they can take more chances because the costs are so much lower... But once those barriers have been broken and it’s proven a market exists (say with erotica or paranormal right now) NY starts clamoring for those types of books and if your writing is good enough, your storytelling gripping, your voice strong, you will find an agent and get a publishing deal with a NY house.


This is what I believe.

Am I the one who’s deluded?

I don't have a book contract yet. It took me 3 completed manuscripts to get a great agent and I recognize that it might take a few more manuscripts to get that contract... Don’t get me wrong… it will break my heart if the book my agent is shopping right now doesn't sell... But I'll recover. I also know each book I write gets better and for me (emphasis on for me) going with a small pub or e-pub is a compromise I'm not willing to make. It’s just not compatible with my goals. Your goals might be different. Just be honest with yourself and don't buy into the myths.
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