my tragic right hip

Busting out bad joints all over the place

March 4th, 2008

What’s Wrong With Writing Fiction?

The most beleaguered category in literature these days, the poor traditional memoir, takes another beating this week with the news that Riverhead’s hotly reviewed Love and Consequences is fiction from start to finish. I get a little peeved when every bit of book media references James Frey in situations like this, if only because I still believe that there are parts of A Million Little Pieces that are true and the book in general is true to the form; but whatever, he lied, we all know that, maybe it’s time to move on and let the guy continue with his career.

But I do think that it’s quite different from writing an entire FICTIONAL book as this crazy woman has done and then passing it off as a memoir with the vain hope of ‘speaking for people who can’t speak themselves.’ Seriously? That’s the reason why? It had nothing to do with you sensationalizing other people’s misery and flaunting it all out so you could make a million or two from your book? (Perhaps not now that all the books have been recalled. Ouch. And poor trees. I hope the pulping machines can recover).

I’m kind of flabbergasted that Seltzer actually thought she could get away with it. That the little truth-meter in her mind wasn’t blaring when the media started calling and the NY Times raved about her book? And how mad must the sister be for to become the whistle blower? In this day and age, with fingers that fly and author pictures that appear on the web, did she think no one would recognize her? And when she started “speaking” for a neighbourhood, did she not think anyone would come forward and call her out?

It’s not so much the surprise that fake memoirs keep finding their way onto the shelves that surprises me, it’s more the fact that these writers are making it so much harder for the rest of the genre. Margaret Seltzer might just be an idiot (what would have been wrong with writing fiction?) who made a bad decision, but the more fake memoirs that come out and then are ripped to shreds by the Gawkers of the world, the harder it’ll be for people who honestly do have a story to tell and to sell to get published. It’s as if the memoir in its truly glorious, Joan Didion loving format, is dying a slow death.

And “homies”? Seriously?

February 13th, 2008

More Snow = More Sickness. Anger Is The Answer

Everyone in my office is out with some form of illness this week, whether it’s a cold or strep throat, I am in mortal fear that I’ll catch something and be even sicker, with the stupid cough still hanging around after three weeks I’m ready to toss myself in a snowbank and just be done with it. So I’m holed up in my cubby at work frightened to leave or breath any air. Which means I did a bit of surfing this morning before settling in with a cup of Wild Sweet Orange tea.

So, there’s an interesting article over at the Guardian blog about how publishers just don’t know what to do with the internet. And while it’s an interesting point of view, Nicholas Clee says:

It is 17 years since the creation of the world wide web, and still no publisher has any idea how to deal with it. Is it a threat? An opportunity? Will it be the medium for the spread of free, mostly pirated texts, or will it broaden the market for authors’ works? How do you promote books on the internet? By giving them away? By giving them away in snippets? By charging small sums for snippets? We haven’t got a clue.

And I don’t entirely agree. I mean sure, publishers may still be working out how to work with content online; but I think many, if not all, agree that it’s quite fun to promote books on the internet. In fact, many of my colleagues around the globe would agree that with the decline of traditional media devoted to books, the explosion of intelligent, well written and extremely well read book blogs, and the use of multimedia (podcasts, book trailers, author interviews, viral videos) books have found a natural home on the web.

And I think it’s absolutely clear, even with the two or three big news items he points to, Random House offering chapters for a small fee and HarperCollins offering up whole books from its digital warehouse project, that publishers are testing in the space. And isn’t that exactly what the internet is about? They’re learning from industries who are currently getting absolutely whooped by the ease of content flowing online (anyone think the music peeps did a better job; the movie guys?). And so what if both models don’t work: we’ll simply try something else next time.

And why do so many journalists focus on the idea of recreating the reading experience online as the key way for publishers to (for lack of a better word) play in the digital age? It’s just a part of overall strategy, one aspect of how book content can be used online, but it’s all the media seems to glom onto these days. There’s so much out there for books online, and every single person I know in the business is exploring many, many ways of not only promoting books, but building word of mouth, exposing readers to new authors, and breaking down the virtual walls that may have separated the publishers from the readers in days gone by.

Why so negative Nicholas? It seems to me that we’ve all got a pretty good idea that there are book lovers online who love not only to read our books, but to write about them, to talk about them, and to buy them. So what if we’re taking baby steps.

November 1st, 2007

Oh Amazon, Really?

Before reading any further, let me remind everyone about Kate Sutherland’s marvelous All in Together Girls, it’s a book of literary, some linked, some not, short stories that mainly take place in Saskatchewan. The music that gets referenced is mainly of the rock variety. Again, it’s a work of literary fiction.

That said, this might just be the best one yet:

Dear Customer,

We’ve noticed that customers who have purchased or rated All In Together Girls by Kate Sutherland have also purchased Christmas in the Hood by Nikki Turner. For this reason, you might like to know that Christmas in the Hood is now available. You can order yours at a savings of 32% by following the link below.

Christmas in the Hood Christmas in the Hood
Nikki Turner

List Price: CDN$ 17.95
Price: CDN$ 12.20
You Save: CDN$ 5.75 (32%)

Add to Cart

Book Description
The undisputed queen of hip-hop fiction, #1 Essence bestselling author Nikki Turner unwraps a talented new collection of writers with raw urban stories to jingle your bells this season.

Christmas in the Hood presents fresh talent alongside shining stars such as K. Elliott and Seth “Soul Man” Ferranti–all writing gritty tales that reveal what the holidays bring for the naughty and the nice who live by the code of the street. In “Secret Santa,” after her children’s Christmas presents are stolen, a woman has to decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to give them the holiday they deserve; in “Me and Grandma,” a senior sleighs more crack than candy canes to bring Christmas cheer to … Read more

Two words: Awe. Some.

October 11th, 2007

Doris Lessing And The Lettuce

It’s not verbatim what I’ve already posted elsewhere but I’m intrigued by all of the articles about Doris Lessing’s amazing Nobel Prize win that mention how she was out shopping during the time of the announcement. Like the press was so incredibly needy for bits of information that it’s essential to note that the significant author of a life of amazing (albeit unread by me) work was getting on with the business of life when elsewhere in the world she was being decidedly celebrated.

I know sometimes it’s hard to find a hook to a story, and I know that filling a word count is sometimes hard but, really, is that tidbit of information essential to the telling of the piece? I’m sure there are hundreds of authors out there just sitting by the phone waiting to be told they’ve just won the Nobel Prize.

Or not.

But you’re telling me that someone from some camp somewhere couldn’t have maybe let her in on the secret if only to make sure she’s home when they call?

September 17th, 2007

The Long Tail In Reverse

Another in a long line of WTF-type emails from’s “if you like this then you’d surely like this…”:

I ordered a copy of All in Together Girls, a book of short stories, by Kate Sutherland — as I haven’t read it yet, if anyone can illuminate me how exactly it relates to a second-rate movie novelization of a sports film I will never see, I’m all ears.



We’ve noticed that customers who have purchased or rated All In Together Girls by Kate Sutherland have also purchased Facing The Giants : Movie Novelization by Various Contributors. For this reason, you might like to know that Facing The Giants : Movie Novelization is now available. You can order yours at a savings of 27% by following the link below.

Facing The Giants : Movie Novelization Facing The Giants : Movie Novelization
Various Contributors

List Price: CDN$ 17.99
Price: CDN$ 13.13
You Save: CDN$ 4.86 (27%)

Book Description

Never Give Up. Never Back Down. Never Lose Faith.

After six consecutive losing seasons, high school football coach Grant Taylor believes things can’t get any worse. He’s wrong. With fear and failure defeating him in football and in life, the downtrodden coach and husband turns to God in desperation. Trusting that God can somehow do the impossible, Coach Taylor and his Shiloh Christian Eagles soon discover how faith plays out on the field.

July 2nd, 2007

You’re Welcome

I’ve been noticing for a long while now that people have stopped saying, “You’re welcome.” For the most part it’s become “no problem,” the California-surfer-dude’s reply meant, I would imagine, to reassure the person thanking you that it really was easy to do whatever was just asked or accomplished. But to me, it seems a hollow, unmannerly action to say, “no problem,” when someone takes the time to thank you. It sort of renders the thank you even more obsolete if it truly took no effort on the part of the replier. What’s even the point of thanking a person if all they’re going to respond with is a curt, cheery “no problemo” in reply?

We were at a dinner party the other Friday night when I was mentioning that this been been bothering me for a while. I make every effort to say, “you’re welcome,” and have to catch myself mid-“no probl–” more often than not. Once I brought it up, Jill, our delightful hostess, said that she had read an article in the NY Times Magazine about the slow disappearance of “you’re welcome.” While William Safire’s commentary is mainly about “pleasure” and the glaring appropriation of the word by US politicians, he does note that in the States, “thank you” is now the most common phrase to use once someone offers their own thanks: “no thank you… noooo, thank you…no, please, thank you.”

It could go on like this forever in a meaningless Saturday Night Live sketch kind of way. Safire suggests we should make every effort to say, “my pleasure,” when someone thanks us, which I’ll try to do as well. But in my own mannerly way, that lovely phrase will never be quite right either. I was brought up on “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome,” and maybe for the first time in my life, my language is truly starting to show my age.

June 26th, 2007

Mercury In Retrograde

After having a sh*t day that involved getting raked over the coals in the bank this afternoon trying to find some funding for our home renovations, a lovely lady in my office said: “Don’t do anything with money this week—mercury is in retrograde.”

Good advice.

But does it fark with all other elements in the universe too? Because this weekend, the RRHB and I went out on Saturday to Canadian Tire to supe up my bike with some fancy, but inexpensive gadgets. I got a lovely gel pad for my seat and a new rack for the back that holds some new pannier bags. All good.

So I take my pimped up bike to work this morning and lock it up outside where I normally do, by the reference library, which is far enough away from Yonge and Bloor to ensure that it should be safe from harm. Or so you would think.

Because when I went outside after work today, after my crap-ass day, I discovered someone had stolen my seat.

So I cried.

And then rode, seatless, which I’m saying is not easy, to the nearest bike store on Harbord only to be treated like I’m less than human for inquiring about seats, and then promptly leaving to ride further, again, with nothing to rest my ample ass on, until I came to The Bike Joint.

Ah, what saviours.

Not only did they fix my seat but they also replaced the ‘quick release’ (which I didn’t even know I had) with a bolt. Now it’s not as easy to steal the seat in the first place. But what’s even better, was that when I discovered they didn’t take my credit card, I paid half the bill with what money I had and will deliver the rest to him on my way home tomorrow.

And he even said, “I would have trusted you for the whole amount.”

I cried first out of frustration for my bad day, and then when I discovered that some jackass needed my new gel cap so much that they stole the ENTIRE seat, but when I finally landed in tears on the concrete steps of The Bike Joint and discovered plain, old kindness, I dried my eyes and carried on my merry little way to come home and complain about it all over again on the inter web.

So why punish the bikers? Seriously, I would have given the person who stole my seat, happily, the $20.00-odd dollars it was worth, if only they had left my bike in tact.


June 5th, 2007

Shut Up Rebecca Eckler

I know I’ll have more to say about this but for now, a giant, rollicking eye roll and a large dose of TWOP-inspired shut up, to Rebecca Eckler who is now suing Judd Apatow for copyright infringement. Because no woman has ever been knocked up before Eckler, and certainly everyone on the planet has read her book. Yawn.

Just for the record, I saw Knocked Up this weekend and haven’t read Eckler’s ‘book’ but have already made up my absolutely judgmental mind that I will come down hard on the side of Apatow on this one. Considering he’s got two kids, he’s had some experience with getting someone knocked up himself. That and the movie kicks all kinds of sweet, hilarious, and awesome ass. And Rebecca Eckler, meh.

EDITED TO ADD: And, the whole ‘poor me’ tone of the Maclean’s piece still has me groaning. Out loud. At work.

May 24th, 2007

Slice And Dice The "Dick"?

Hyperlinked via Bookninja, I jumped over to this NY Times article about Orion books publishing a series of pared down classics like Moby-Dick and David Copperfield. As I make a great deal of my writing living from paring down classics for kids, I’m always torn when I read about stuff like this.

On the one hand, I wouldn’t ever consider discouraging anyone from reading any book, abridged or otherwise, and if the classic Moby-Dick is just too much novel for you, then hey, at least you’re getting the gist of the story, right? But on the other hand, why on earth would you need to do this for an adult audience? What holy purpose does it serve? Books, in and of themselves, are microcosmic looks at a time and a place, and while we might consider some of the classics over-written, they have managed to earmark their place in our collective creative soul for a reason, and why change them?

My own Classic Starts are primarily for kids. But does that even matter? I think so, and I really believe, especially after my own classroom visit, that reading of all kinds inspires children. And Frankenstein, Robinson Crusoe, Little Women, they’re all great stories, ones that I worked extremely hard to retain the original essence of when abridging them for younger readers. Are the writers/editors of these adult abridged editions going to do the same thing? And do you really think there are classics out there that need to be trimmed for this day and age? Probably, but that’s not really for me to say, I don’t think…

To me, it sort of reeks of the Restoration, when they gave Shakespeare happy endings because that was the spirit of drama at the time. Necessary then, but I’m pleased to punch that Hamlet was restored with Ophelia entirely in her grave by the time I ended up at university.

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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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