Sunday, September 27, 2009

Writing Style Shift

With a brand new baby girl, a toddler, and my wife all competing for my undivided attention, and with a notoriously short attention span to begin with. I need to make a shift in my writing style. Starting another huge project right now isn't feasible, even though I have two novel length stories simmering in my head. Instead, I'll let the plots and characters develop and unfold there for now.

Instead of working on a story, or series, I'll be working on small pieces. I'll be writing short stories, poetry, articles, opinion pieces, and dabbling at satire when I can find the time, which apparantly isn't right this moment, as my son insists on showing me how to take the hard top off his hot wheels toy car.

Coming Zack...

22. Getting It Out There II: Dan Graham on self-publishing and print-on-demand

I have mixed feelings about this session. While I feel I got some useful information , I feel I paid $25 to have someone give me a sales pitch.

While Dan Graham was an enthusiastic representative of a self publisher, if I'd called him up, arranged a meeting, and talked about self publishing my book, then I could have gotten the same thing out of it for free.

On the bright side, like the other seminars and readings, it humanized an industry I had little knowledge about. Dan also provided interesting information on how books are made, and faux pas that might be made and avoided with a good self publisher.

A few months ago, I contracted an editor to work on part of my novel, paying several hundred dollars. In the end, I felt he made few concrete suggestions for improvement. I found a lot of corrections he missed, and few corrections he actually made. So finding someone who can provide me with a quality editor, and who has a personal stake in making sure they are good, might turn out to be the most valuable piece of information I get out of my entire Kingston Writers Fest experience.

21. Getting It Out There I: Billeh Nickerson/Jon Paul Fiorentino on submitting to literary magazines

The second master class I attended had two literary magazine editors dishing out the goods on how to get published in a literary magazine. The most valuable things for me with this seminar is it provided a human face to the submissions that people like me hand in. It also gave me a sense of where a lot of up and coming writers start. You name the big Canadian author, and they've been published in one the Canadian Literary magazines circuit before literary circles had even heard their names.

As much as I've been over the lit-mag query letter stage, you can never get enough dos and dont's, especially from the mouths of those who read your work and what they're looking for.

One of the editors suggested responding to themes. One of the advantages of keeping a blog is I spew out different stories all the time. While my blog isn't always submission level, it provides me at least a story a week for almost three years now. Some of my stories can usually be adapted to the themes and provide me an important base to start from.

The editors also gave me two useful websites for Canadian writers trying to get publshed that I'll share.

Master Class One - Through a Child's Eyes: Writing for children with Shelley Tanaka

Shelley gave an interesting and well designed seminar on writing for children. She concentrated on voice and character and covered kidlit from toddler books all the way to writing for teens.

While some of the things she said seemed like revision, common sense, or long ago learned writing tips, other things she said I found really useful. A few tips I'll share below.

The Dolch word list, 200 words that children under the age of seven should know, and keeping a young childrens story mostly to that list is important.

As she discussed teen lit, she outlined the exact ingredients I saw in the story I have in mind for the genre.

I'll share some of them below, you'll find many relate to all genres, not just kidlit. I won't give away everything she said, just hints that were new, or particularly useful for me.

Write in your head, think through chapter, outlines, scenarios, etc.*
Start writing when your fingers itch.*
Concentrate on small moments.*
Get feedback, especially from the target market.*
Write a well known story from a different POV. (ie The three little pigs from the Wolf POV)
Consdier how a child shows anger, fear, emotions.*
Practice free writing (as fast as you can for 3 minutes.)

And with that, I'm setting my watch. I'll finish the sentence at three minutes.

My wife had a baby on Tuesday. I stood over her in the hospital room smiling as she had an incredibly intense contractions. She was in major pain, zoning out, holding the nearby rail, moaning and groaning.

And I was smiling. I found something funny in it. I would be a father soon, my wife was going to give me a daughter. I shouldn't have been smiling though, there's nothing funny in seeing someone you love suffer, although I knew she wouldn't die.

I tried to stop smiling, and succeeded by reading a poster on the wall. It gave tips on what a partner can do to support their spouse giving birth. I followed the guidelines.

"You're doing great... I think it's peaked now, it's subsiding... You're doing well... Keep it up honey...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Great news X 2

I have two bits of great news to share. Firstly, my daughter Alia was born on Tuesday at 5:24 a.m. Both mommy and baby are doing fine.

Secondly, after waiting for over a year and a half in an exhaustive screening process, I finally got the job I really wanted to get.

I want to say, as I proceed on a career that might place me in positions of controversy and require discretion, this blog is for my writing and to get my creative juices flowing, whether it be opinions, satire, politics, sports, travel or whatever. As you can see with my recent satire, I sometimes try to sit on the other side of the fence and poke fun at political movements I actually support.

The thing I want to avoid most is using my future position and rank to solidify or legitamize any of my opinions. My future job is one where discretion and confidentiality are of the utmost import, so from now on, if I haven't already, I'll try to water down any political opinions or other controversial commentary on my blog.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alien Conspiracy Theorists Suspect Harper's gotten to Layton

Alien conspiracy theorists, some of whom claim to have been abducted, have raised the alarm that the aliens may have infiltrated the NDP. Such theorists have suspected for some time that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is an alien. "How else would you explain his incredible control over his underlings and MPs," said one alien expert, who refused to be named for fear of repeat abduction. "They don't say anything without his approval. They even ask him if they can go to the bathroom. And look at his eyes, if those aren't freaky alien eyes, like the teletubbies have, then I don't know what is."

And now, there is fear he's infected opposition leader Jack Layton with his mind control probes. Yesterday, after a behind-closed-doors private meeting with Stephen Harper, Jack Layton emerged and was mum with the media.

Jack Layton, mum? Is that even possible. "I'm sure Stephen Harper somehow brought him under the same control his ministers are under. Every word out is strictly controlled by the man himself," said a conspiracy theorist who gave only his secret anti-alien code name, Thelula.

It may be true that this is the first time in the history of his leadership that Jack Layton, aka windbag, didn't blather on about some aspect of government.

"We need Doctor Who!" read one man's sign, as he stood outside parliament protesting the alien influence. When queried, he referred to Slitherens, a group of slimy green aliens who wear Human skin suits and fart and giggle a lot. "They've taken over!" he said loudly, his voice an eerie monotone. He went on to say he heard an MP, who this article will not reveal for issues of liability, let one rip on her way out of parliament.

More to come...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Satire - Vote NDP 2009

The top ten reasons to vote NDP in the upcoming, perhaps, federal election.

10) Because the NDP will never deal with Stephen Harper, or vote to pass Stephen Harper's legislation, unless they're strapped for cash and the Liberals and the Bloc won't play ball either.

9) Because the NDP is not afraid to increase corporate taxes, even if it means scaring away all business from coming to Canada.

8) Because the NDP believes in equal rights for Gays, Lesbians, Minorities, and the Taliban.

7) Because recreational drugs should be, umm, what was I talking about again?

6) Because Jack Layton's been around a long time, and, come on, just give the poor guy a chance.

5) Because the NDP is the champion of Health Care, Welfare, and no hair.

4) Because we're Democrats, like Barrack Obama, just newer.

3) Because given the choice between a spiteful, angry, right wing religious nutjob, an immoral divorced man with a mean streak who's just passing through the country, some separatists trying to rip apart the country, and a champion of social justice and equality, who would you choose?

2) Because Jack Layton doesn't need to waste taxpayer money with a makeup maven to powder his nose and primp his hair. A quick polish and he's ready to go.

1) Because by passing lax drug laws and having an openess to safe and sustainable prostitution, the NDP can put the party back into politics.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Political Satire - Vote Liberal

Top ten reasons to vote for the Liberal party 2009:

10) So that we can introduce Rae Days to the entire country.

9) So Ruby Dhalla can be made Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and show those ungrateful Phillipino maids a thing or two about employee/employer relationships, and foot rubbing.

8) Because the Liberals will continue their sponsorship of National Unity.

7) Because Michael Ignatieff loves the USA, which is okay now that they have a cool president who everyone in Canada thinks is awesome, well, everyone except the Conservative party members who tried to rat him out during the US election primaries.

6) So they can secretly bring back the Green Shift plan and save the world.

5) To once again provide a safe and friendly refuge for Peter MacKay's ex-girlfriends.

4) To once again provide a safe and friendly refuge for Conservative MPs ready to come out of the closet.

3)Because a Liberal minority has more than a chance in hell of working with the NDP and Bloc.

2) To change the traditional rules so that we can skip future elections and declare Ignatieff leader.

1) Because all thinking women could use more crumpets.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Just say no to the Hamilton Blackberries

Gary Bettman and his cohorts are wondering when Jim Balsille will take the hint and go away. "He's undesirable. He's of ill repute. We don't want his type of character owning an NHL team." One NHL management insider, Chuck U Farley, is quoted as saying, "How many billionaire Italian Canadians do you know who aren't tied to the mafia? We don't want people like that associated with the NHL," he said.

When it was pointed out that Jim Balsille is the billionaire owner of a wildly successful telecommunications company, Mr Farley said, "The NHL owners are well experienced in judging character, I'm sure time will prove them right."

But Mr Bettman contradicts the statement that the NHL has a problem with Balsille himself, it's about the NHL's rights, he says, "This is not about whether or not we want a franchise in southern Ontario, and whether or not Mr. Balsillie would make a suitable owner," explained Bettman. "This is about the League rules and the enforceability of our rules, whether or not Mr. Moyes (owner of the Phoenix Coyotes) even has the authority to file a bankruptcy petition is something we're going to get into.”

We asked acclaimed hockey and business lawyer, Jaques Strap, about the definition of bankruptcy and his response was, "Generally, if you're out of money, losing millions of dollars, and the banks are after you for debt that keeps growing, then yes, you can declare bankrupcy and start the court process."

When queried further and asked for an example, Jaques said, "Look at it this way. If you made some incredibly terrible financial decisions, such as borrow a lot of money to buy Nortel stock, or invest in a hockey team in the desert, then when you run out of money and the creditors and other stakeholders are threatening to cut your balls off, then you can declare bankruptcy."

"So why wouldn't Mr. Moyes be able to declare bankrupcy, as Mr. Bettman challenges in the courts?" we asked him.

"I really don't know, at the end of the day, you can't get blood from a stone, especially a sun drenched Arizona stone."

We asked hockey insider Chuck U Farley, "Why is Balsille deemed by the NHL to be of poor character, but people like William Del Biaggio and Peter Pocklington owned NHL franchises?"

"Del Biaggio and Peter Pocklington are good people," Farley said. "Pocklington ran for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. I'd wager he's as reputable as Stephen Harper himself. And Del Biaggio, well, he's innocent until proven guilty?"

"But he was found guilty?"

"Not by the NHL he wasn't, and that's what counts!"

When queried further, and it was pointed out that Hamilton would be a market guaranteed to make money, Mr. Farley refused to comment. When we went on to point out that 12 NHL teams lost money last year, and another eight teams barely turned profits, some of which had very successful seasons with deep playoff runs, Chuck Farley responded by saying, "Shut up stupid head, you don't know nuthin!"

We managed to calm Mr Farley down and asked him why the NHL won't just let the sale go through and move a struggling team to a viable market?

"A lot of reasons."

When queried further, he said, "Cuz he's a bad man. Cuz Hamilton sucks. Cuz, Cuz, Cuz..."

And with that, he convinced us. So in conculsion, just say no to the Hamilton Blackberries. Keep hockey in Phoenix!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Having a go at Political Satire

It's Federal election positioning time in Canada, and what better fodder for stirring up emotions for a good satire than a Canadian mudslinging, no-holds-bar, federal election. I can feel the anger sizzling up as the various politicians berate each other over and over again with in your face television ads.

Over the next weeks and months, I'll have a go at writing Political Satire, something I love to read. I was inspired by a recent version of political satire that resonated with me. You can read it here...

Huntley case helps Darfur survivors gain perspective.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The "South African" refugee and Canada's Immigration Woes

The headline story in the Globe and Mail this Morning is called, South African's refugee case causes backlash against ‘racist' Canada.

I'll start by quoting what I see as the main underlying issue.

St├ęphane Mal├ępart, a spokesman for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, said the board cannot release the Huntley decision or make any comment on the ruling since all of its cases are heard in private and its tribunals operate at arm's length from the government.

The Canadian government deflects responsibility by saying the decision was made by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board. It views this board much like it views the police and the courts. Political interference is all but forbidden. Just like the government wouldn't go and tell the police to drop a manslaughter case against a political ally, they also won't tell the Immigration and Refugee Board to accept or deny a particular application.

This raises a dual issue. It's good on the one hand, because it's not fair for a government minister to push through his maid's, or his foreign lover's, or his immigrating friend's immigration or refugee application without proper invesigations. David Blunkett of England found this out when he was forced to resign over personally handing in his maid's immigration forms, which were subsequently fast tracked in a fraction of the usual processing time.

On the other hand, giving immigration courts complete autonomy raises serious issues when their decisions have political implications. Canadian immigration refused entry to British Minister George Galloway. Most people saw his "actions in question" as being charitable to Palestinians. Some Canadian official saw it as supporting terrorist organisations.

In the case of the South African Refugee, as in many others, it causes serious diplomatic dilemmas for the Canadian government. This case is an embarrassment for Canada, as was Galloway, as was Abdelrazik, Arar, and the thousands of unreported stories of incompetent and unfair immigration official decisions that have occurred throughout the world.

South Africa does suffer from high crime. It suffers from underlying racism left over from apartheid. But South Africa also prides itself on reconciliation, which started with Nelson Mandela's famous forgiveness, and continues to inspire its people, and the world today.

If racism, a higher than normal crime rate, and equal opportunity/affirmative action/nepotism practices are all that's needed to accept a refugee, then perhaps Canadian citizens will soon be seeking refuge overseas as well.