November 6th, 2013

Tonight! Plus a guest blog

I know I’ve already seen the film of How to Keep Your Day Job 1 million times (not actually, but close) but I’m still so excited to see it tonight at the Toronto Short Film Festival at the Carlton Theatre. It will be special to witness this little film’s Toronto public debut. Also, people have been telling me how they feel about the film and where they laughed or were surprised, but I’m so curious to actually *be there* in a room full of strangers, hearing and feeling them reacting to the events on screen. There’s also a lot of other wonderful-looking stuff on the bill tonight–can’t wait!

Oh, and I wrote a little blog post for the Compose Journal blog. It’s about the origins of the story of mine they published, Loneliness and, more interesting to me in the present tense, what happened after I wrote it.

Oh, and Lynn Coady won the Giller??!! The first time I have been truly thrilled by a Giller-winning book! I wish she could come be mayor of Toronto!

October 2nd, 2013

How to Keep Your Day Job on the road again

I’m pleased to let you know that the film version of How to Keep Your Day Job is going to be screened at the St. John’s Women’s Film Festival on the evening of October 25. That link is the full schedule; scroll down to see the short-film evening on that Friday and all the films listed! Please share the link, either to the fest or the film itself with anyone you think might enjoy it.

The film also recently screened at Cinefest in Sudbury–lucky Sudburians!

September 3rd, 2013

*How to Keep Your Day Job* on YouTube

At last, the wonderful movie made from my story How to Keep Your Day Job is available for anyone who cares to watch on YouTube. It was directed by Sean Frewer, produced by Lea Marin, and stars Georgina Reilly. The executive producer was Tyler Levine and the screenwriter was Lesley Krueger.

Guys, I’m not one to shill too much for my own work, but somehow since I had nothing to do with the film, I have no trouble saying PLEASE WATCH THIS MOVIE. It’s so good, and it’s less than 10 minutes. It’s funny, and it captures the story while still being totally its own thing. It was a truly incredible experience to see this movie made in only 3 days with such a huge, professional, and dedicated cast and crew, and I really think this little film distills that experience into something shiny and brilliant.

Please watch and, if you like it, please share the link around! And whether you like it or not, of course I’d love to hear what you thought!

July 12th, 2013

Good literary news

This blog has been a bit quiet of late, and when I do post it tends to be vacation anecdotes or random rants, but here at last is a post with some actual literary news…

First off, in the ongoing adventures of the short film How to Keep Your Day Job, now a nomination for best short film at the Directors’ Guild of Canada Awards. I guess you can watch this space at the end of October to see who won, but it’s just so great to see the amazing cast and crew of the film getting some recognition!

In terms of my own literary accomplishments, my short story “Marriage” has been accepted for an upcoming issue of The New Quarterly. Longtime readers will know I have a long love of The New Quarterly and am thrilled that they like this story. Can’t wait to see it in their pages.

And finally, Monday of this week, I did a fun 75 minute class with Professor Rawding’s literature students at University of Waterloo. They’d read a dozen stories out of The Big Dream, then thought about their reactions and made lists of questions by theme. Each group took a turn asking questions–yes, I did over an hour of Q&A with people who a) knew their stuff (no softball “so do you write with a pen or on a keyboard?” questions) and b) had not chosen the book themselves and did not necessarily like it.

It was *intense* to say the least, but also thrilling–the best compliment is a careful reading, I say. And honestly, no writer worth his/her salt ever believes anyone who says “Great book!” and leaves it at that. But the thorough, insightful questions from these students made me feel truly flattered that the book inspired them. I hope my answers were as good (or nearly).

Here’s a picture with me and the class. I am slouching because I was worried about blocking the kids behind me, who were actually way higher so I just look odd. Professor Rawding’s on the left in the green check shirt.

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And finally, a photo of me with the professor’s cat (of course!)

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May 24th, 2013

How to Keep Your Day Job news

It’s hard to believe that the short film How to Keep Your Day Job, based on a short story of mine, has been in the world a year. It’s done some very cool things in that year, and the producer Lea Marin just emailed to share a few more.

If you’re going to be in NYC on June 26, you can see How to Keep Your Day Job at the Manhattan Film Festival. You should eventually be able to buy tickets at the link above, but for now you can just scroll down and look at the listings, which are in themselves pretty exciting!

And…if you’re flying Air Canada over the next little while, you can also watch it on their in-flight entertainment. I had noticed AC’s mini-tvs were getting better and better, but this is a new high. Very exciting!

If you get a chance to see it, I would love to hear what you think–I’m very very biased but can entertain other opinions. And if you know anyone else who might enjoy How to Keep Your Day Job and might have an opportunity to see it, please pass it on!

May 10th, 2013

Let Me Entertain You

I have come across (or remembered) a higher-than-average of quality stuff on the internet lately. Let me share it for your possible entertainment…

Allie Brosh, much-beloved blog artist behind Hyperbole and a Half, is back. She had this zany comic based on her life, illustrated in childish MSPaint drawings, for quite a while, and a lot of people loved it. She’s actually quite a good artist and her quasi-naif style is adorable but doesn’t really limit the range of emotions she can show (which is probably why I didn’t like Parenthood: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures, because those pictures are genuinely bad [though it’s still a sweet little book]). Anyway, then she disappeared for a few months and came back with a post about depression that was so sad and wise and actually quite funny. Everyone was happy she was working through it. Then she disappeared for a year and half, and returned yesterday with Depression Part Two, which accounts for the past year, in which things apparently got much worse. Hilariously so, at least in retrospect. I love her style and humour, plus I’d been worried about her (genuinely–it’s amazing what feelings you can feel about internet people) so I was really happy to see this. The post also got 5000 comments in a day, which is lovely. As we all know, most comments people post on internet forums are deranged rubbish, but the majority of the comments I saw were more “yay!” and “I’m glad you’re still alive” and “thanks for writing this.” It actually got a bit boring after a few hundred of those, so I stopped reading–if things got mean and weird later, please don’t tell me. I prefer my illusions.

I rewatched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off recently, owing mainly to the fact that people without Netflick or Apple TV are now sorely limited in where they can obtain movies to watch at home, and whenever our local library has a DVD I think I might like that doesn’t look like it’s been dumped in a food processor, I bring it home. This film definitely has its charming moments, but I found it much harsher and more callous than I’d recalled. Poor taken-advantage-of, abused-child Cameron! And I guess that’s the difference between the 80s and now, but I found I couldn’t get too excited about an entitled, unemployed 17-year-old white boy spending his parents’ money in Chicago and whining about no one buying him a car. A few years ago, an enterprising film editor reworked some footage into a trailer for what looks like a much better film–as we watched the real one, I found myself wishing for the imaginary one. But I still loved Jennifer Grey and Charlie Sheen’s little moment!

My friend Suzanne Alyssa Andrew wrote a wonderful book called Circle of Stones, and excerpt of which has now been set to music by Menalon and made available on Soundcloud. Enjoy!

My husband wrote a great post about how to read literary journals and, you know, enjoy the experience. It’s good reading of itself and will probably inspire you to go read some more!

Kay, that should keep you busy for a while. Have a great weekend!

February 10th, 2013

Lately

Lately, I have been completely failing to like things my friends adore, which makes me sad. If you know me personally, you know I’m rarely happier than when falling in line with my peers. Which is why I’m so sad not to be enjoying *Mad Men* and completely baffled by *The Silver Linings Playbook*. I really have to accept that tastes aren’t universal, but I so *want* them to be.

Here’s something I DO like–a video of Alice the kitten with her head stuck in a kitchen chair. It would not be funny if she hadn’t freed herself 20 minutes later, but she did so it is, so enjoy!

The reason I don’t like MM and SLP is not because they don’t have kittens in them–really.

September 18th, 2012

Exciting things

Sorry, there keep being all these distractions from the 1000 Things–I’ll get back to it soon, I promise. And it’s not like these things I’ve been posting about: cake, movies, my office…

Ok, number one, and this is a red alert: How to Keep Your Day Job, the film that Sean Frewer, Lea Marin, and Lesley Krueger, along with various other awesome, adapted from my short story by the same name, is premiering at the Calgary International Film Festival. It’s a part of Date Night, a collection of short films that will screen September 22 at 12:15pm, and then again on September 26 at 6:45pm. If you click on the Date Night link above, you can find out more, order tickets, etc. If you are in/near Calgary and can attend, please please do–I need to hear all about it.

In other, more October-ish news, I’ll be reading at the Vancover International Writers’ Festival on Octobre 19 and 21 (see the sidebar at right on this page for events). And the Festival programmers asked me to write a little mini essay on my writing space at home for the festival blog–if you’d like to read it, here it is.

That’s it for now–more lists soon, I promise!!

August 28th, 2012

Rose-coloured reviews *Ruby Sparks*

I wanted to see Ruby Sparks because it looked like a sweet comedy and I have low standards for films: if I can laugh along with strangers in a darkened auditorium, I’m basically always in. Even better, this sweet comedy was about fiction writing–it practically counted as professional development. Super-in.

Surprise, surprise–Ruby Sparks is way *better* than I expected. While I’ll watch almost anything, this film actually has genuine emotions, and is a genuine reflection of not only writers but the whole messed-up romantic comedy genre. RS isn’t a work of genius or anything, but it’s a pretty great movie for a Friday afternoon.

Less of a surprise is that this film has tonnes in common with Stranger than Fiction from 2006. Both movies are about characters who are helpless pawns of an author who writes them any which way s/he pleases, despite the characters having fully developed personalities and desires of their own. In both films, the author/character conflict stands in the way of romance. In StF, the story was told from the character’s point of view–a buttoned down, grimacing Will Ferrel in my favourite of his performances. In RS, the story belongs to the writer in both senses–Paul Dano stars as Calvin, the hotshot young novelist who can’t his personal life together. Sound familiar? He’s no Emma Thompson, who played the neurotic writer in StF, but he does the job pretty well. His sensible sidekick is his brother, played by Chris Messina, and I really enjoyed the realistically funny depcition of their relationship. However, Messina, one hardly needs to add, is no Queen Latifah, who played Thompson’s sidekick/assistant in StF.

That’s about where the comparisons end, though. The character Calvin creates is not just the protagnoist in a book but the girl of his dreams–Ruby Sparks, as played by Zoe Kazan. Kazan also wrote the screenplay, which caused me to meditate a little on the personality type that would write a film about a dreamgirl, then cast herself. It works, but I still wondered.

So Calvin writes about a girl he would love to have, and then she materializes in his kitchen. After a brief and funny freakout, he gets on with his now-perfect life of love and meatloaf with lovely Ruby Sparks. Except…

Before this all went down, his brother read the novel draft and pronounced Ruby Sparks a fantasy, not a girl–created to fill a need of the mind, not to be real and weird and difficult the way actual women actually are. And this is the problem with most romantic comedies–people don’t have real flaws, they have “quirks” that make them adorable, and which they aren’t really responsible for anyway. Because they are so darn quirky!

I get it–I love this sort of fakey-fake romantic comedy too. Who wants to see Reese Witherspoon actually behaving badly, and actually having to deal with it. I mean, maybe you would, but that’d be a whole other category of movie.

Or maybe not. *Ruby Sparks* somehow allows the viewer to slowly and gently probe the depths of Calvin’s fucked-up-ness. A visit to his parents, played by Annette Benning and Antonio Banderas (*very* funny) starts out as your typical “wacky parents” schtick, but gradually we see that they’re basically nice people with a little surface wackiness, and Calvin treats them rather badly. There’s also a nice scene late in the film where the dynamic with Calvin’s “awful” ex-girlfriend is revealed to be rather more complex than first expected.

This is not to say that Calvin is cast as the villian, or even an unlikeable guy. It’s just that he has some real-person flaws, unlike the usual rom-com fake-flaws-that-are-actually-other-people’s-faults, like fear of committment and trouble discussing feelings. Calvin is a control freak and unwilling to explore other people’s lives or personalities outside of the narrow confines in which he has placed them. These are flaws that many writers have to struggle against–written characters stay so beautifully still and passive in a way that humans just *won’t*. It’s frustrating.

That’s why Calvin’s betrayal of Ruby towards the end of the film is so gut-wrenching. While every rom-com has some kind of betrayal to drive the lovers briefly apart and create a crisis in the narrative, most of them involve crazy misunderstandings, things done while drunk or upset that don’t really mean anything, or any of a number of other constructs designed to keep viewers from liking the characters any less.

Calvin’s betrayal of Ruby is genuine, and genuinely horrible–even though the scene is based on silly magic, the emotion in it made me cringe like when I overhear couples arguing in restaurants. Calvin’s actions aren’t a mistake and he can’t take them back–they arise out deep and genuine flaws in his personality. I hated him in the moment, but I also totally got his motivations.

It’s not all as dark as this–there’s a hopeful ending that actually doesn’t make too much sense even by the magical laws that governed the rest of the film but, eh, I liked the spirit of it and the movie was over then anyway. This movie was far funner and sweeter than I thought it would be, and more of both than anything else in the category I’ve seen in ages. And it gives you some insight into the ways writers are screwed up, if that interests you. Highly recommended!!

May 21st, 2012

All Kinds of Awesome

First and foremost, the word is now on the street that Mark’s second novel has been acquired by Dundurn Press and will be out in Spring 2014. It’s called *Sad Peninsula* and it’s pretty great, I have to say. Kvell!

In other awesomeness, I found this nice review of *The Big Dream* on Niranjana Iyer’s Brownpaper. I’ll eventually track down the hardcopy in *Herizons* if I can!

And finally, as promised, on Friday night I went to the cast-and-crew screening of the newly completed short film, *How to Keep Your Day Job* and it was absolutely incredible. I think at its core the film has a great deal in common with the story, but not everything–it is an inventive reimagining of the story, and that’s what makes it so exciting–I knew what would happen next but I didn’t know how. It’s also a visually beautiful film, something us writers are never going to create–the way the film looked in snippets on the playback screen onset is nothing like the way it looks woven together into a seamless final product.

As an experience for me, the *Day Job* film has already exceeded my wildest expectations, but I know the filmmakers have even bigger ones. I certainly endorse these, and think they deserve every accolade available out there. I hope to be able to tell you sometime in the fall when *How to Keep Your day Job* will be coming to a theatre near you.

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