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    Dreaded Deadlines

    by Janice - 0 Comment(s)

    “To everyone who has ever emailed to ask me for advice on writing, my answer is: get a deadline. That's all you really need. Forget about luck. Don't fret about talent. Just pay someone larger than you to kick your knees until they fold the wrong way if you don't hand in 800 words by five o'clock. You'll be amazed at what comes out.”
    Charlie Brooker The Guardian

    There was a time in my life when my best—or at least my most prolific—writing was done after nightfall. Something about the quiet and darkness, about working when most people slept, made the sometimes agonizing writing process easier and less anxiety-ridden.

    When I became pregnant with my first child, I assumed I would easily continue to find time to write. Surely I would maintain my nighttime writing routine, I thought, and there would also be time when the baby slept during the day, right?

    "A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all." Rita Mae Brown

    As it turns out, I was so preoccupied with parenthood (and sleep deprived) most days I could barely even think, let alone write. Any writing I did during that first year or so was paid writer-for-hire freelance writing. I was under contract and had no choice but to complete my work, whether or not I felt inspired, interested or well-rested. Was it my best writing? No. But I had signed a contract and made a commitment and I absolutely surpassed the NaNoWriMo 50,000 words in one month goal more than a few times.

    Even now, several years later, I am most productive when I am under pressure to finish by a certain date.


    The word strikes fear into the hearts of many new and established writers. For many, though, deadlines are at best welcome and at worst a necessary evil. If you find the pressure created by deadlines too oppressive, there are many books and articles on how to cope with that stress.

    If you work better under pressure but do not have an external publisher or editor or contract placing you under a deadline, there are ways to create it for yourself. Work with an editor (better yet, hire an editor) who'll give you a deadline. Commit to entering writing contests. Find a writing partner or group (online or in person) to put pressure on you to produce. Participate in events like the National Novel Writing Month or the upcoming Script Frenzy.

    And remember you're not alone.

    "If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word." Margaret Atwood

    Forget those creative writing workshops. If you want to write, get threatened. Charlie Brooker The Guardian

    Deadlines can give life to creative writing. Robert McCrum The Guardian

    Unstuck: a supportive and practical guide to working through writer's block
    by Jane Anne Staw

    Writing tools: 50 essential strategies for every writer
    by Roy Peter Clark

    "Deadlines just aren't real to me until I'm staring one in the face." Rick Riordan

    Writing about Food

    by Janice - 0 Comment(s)

    “It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.”

    ~M.F.K. Fisher The Art of Eating

    "And that’s why food writing can be so satisfying: Because it gives us stories about food that let us live more fully, because it fulfills us, and not just at the table."

    ~Eric LeMay In Defense of Food Writing

    Life. Death. Sex. Joy. Alienation. Society. Politics.

    These are weighty topics deserving of treatment by the best writers, are they not?

    What about food? I've always felt that excellent writing is excellent writing whether the topic is life and death, a film review or details about the best hot chocolate.

    I like food and I like to read and write. So it’s not a surprise that I’ve been a voracious reader of cookbooks and food writing since the pre-Internet days and that my views on eating and food (as well as life and relationships) have been shaped by some of the very best writers around.

    Take hot chocolate (please!). In 1994 my views on the beverage were forever changed after reading an article written by one of my favourite food writers, Corby Kummer, senior editor of The Atlantic (that original article is available for library members to read through our E-Library, but a more recent blog post contains his recipe for the perfect hot chocolate).

    Online food blogs and cookbooks that are as much about the stories told by the author as they are about recipes have become the norm.

    Food writing is not limited to food writers. The Kitchn website asked readers to list their favourite food scenes in classic novels and you may be surprised at the wonderful examples listed. Most of my favourite fiction authors have written about food or have food feature in their writing. Food is a strong element in all of Haruki Murakami's novels and I was happy to recently discover one of his short stories online: The Second Bakery Attack. Last night, while discussing Julian Barne’s Man Booker Prize winning novella The Sense of an Ending, some friends and I specifically discussed the signifcance of the following line:

    “She eased another egg on to my plate, despite my not asking for it or wanting it. The remnants of the broken one were still in the pan; she flipped them casually into the swing-bin, then half-threw the hot frying pan into the wet sink.”

    This seemingly unimportant detail from the memory of an unreliable narrator opens up a number of questions and may foreshadow an unexpected plot detail revealed at the end of the work. The egg, and how this moment was remembered, has little to do with food and everything to do with life, death, sex, self-awareness and character.

    Perhaps the art of eating is not that far off from the art of living (or the art of writing).

    If you need more convincing that food writing is worth your time (as a reader and a writer), you may want to read Eric LeMay’s In Defense of Food Writing.

    Are you a food writer? The Food Bloggers of Canada and The Association of Food Journalists sites may be of interest to you.

    The Library has countless cookbooks, many classic books on food and books on how to write about food. Here are just a few:

    American Food Writing: an anthology with classic recipes by Molly O'Neill

    The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook by Alice B. Toklas

    Will write for food: the complete guide to writing cookbooks, blogs, reviews, memoir, and more by Dianne Jacob (also in e-book format)

    Life is Meals: a food lover's book of days by James and Kay Salter

    The newest Canada Writes challenge is for all of you food-loving writers or (writing food-lovers).

    The Canada Writes Edible Nonfiction Contest challenges writers to submit 250–300 word “true personal” stories relating to food.

    The deadline is January 3, 2012.

    The Art of Revision and Self-Editing

    by Janice - 1 Comment(s)

    December is here and all of the intrepid writers who participated in NaNoWriMo may be breathing sighs of relief and under the (mistaken) impression that they can take a well-deserved break.

    Well, no.

    Hopefully you’ve been so inspired by the exercise that you’re continuing on a dedicated schedule of writing. For those who truly need a break from writing, however, perhaps now is the time to consider editing and revising what you have already written.

    Here are just a few books in our collection that can guide you through the murky waters of trying to self-edit your writing:

    Revision & self-editing : techniques for transforming your first draft into a finished novel

    by James Scott Bell

    Self-editing for fiction writers: how to edit yourself into print

    by Renni Browne

    Manuscript makeover: revision techniques no fiction writer can afford to ignore

    by Elizabeth Lyon

    If you found online support during your NaNoWriMo journey helpful, you may be interested in joining an online writing group to get feedback on your writing. Here are two popular sites:


    Patrick deWitt

    by Phil - 0 Comment(s)

    Only two sleeps (and probably not a lot of tickets) left before this year's winner of the Governor General Literary Award for Fiction AND the Rogers' Writers Trust Fiction Prize will grace the stage of the John Dutton theatre. Rather than butcher Wordfest's elegant description of this exciting event (the way I butchered that first sentence), I'm just gonna use their write-up:

    WordFest presents Patrick deWitt

    Sisters Brothers

    Tuesday, December 6
    John Dutton Theatre, Calgary Public Library
    7pm, 10$

    Author Patrick deWitt shares from his new book, The Sisters Brothers and discusses the challenges of depicting the Old West with Hell on Wheels producer Chad Oakes.

    The Sisters Brothers was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Scotiabank Giller Prize and received the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Film rights for the novel have been sold to actor John C. Reilly’s production company, with Reilly to play one of the brothers. Reilly recently starred in Terri, a film written by deWitt.

    Tickets: call the EPCOR CENTRE’s Box Office at 403.294.9494 or purchase tickets online.

    Click here to buy tickets

    If you're like me - very interested in this author and delighted by his success but haven't had a chance to read his work - the Calgary Herald has printed a couple of great articles recently that discuss some of deWitt's influence, history, the state of Canadian literature, and top-secret plans for a film:


    And this one appeared in the latest Swerve magazine - the author discusses some of his favorite films and novels of the Western genre:


    For library copies of The Sisters Brothers, place a hold today. The waiting list is long, and growing, but we also have his 2009 novel, Ablutions, which is another sweet piece of cover art and sounds like a very good read...

    In a famous but declining Hollywood bar works a barman. Morbidly amused by the decadent decay of his surroundings, he watches the patrons fall into their nightly oblivion, making notes for his novel. In the hope of uncovering their secrets and motives, he establishes tentative friendships with the cast of variously pathological regulars.

    But as his tenure at the bar continues, he begins to serve himself more often than his customers, and the moments he lives outside the bar become more and more painful: he loses his wife, his way, himself. Trapped by his habits and his loneliness, he realizes he will not survive if he doesn't break free. And so he hatches a terrible, necessary plan of escape and his only chance for redemption.

    Step into Ablutions and step behind the bar, below rock bottom, and beyond the everyday take on storytelling for a brilliant, new twist on the classic tale of addiction and its consequences.Terri film poster

    The library also has copies of Terri, deWitt's screenplay for a film starring John C. Reilly. The story "centers on a large 15-year-old boy in a small town as he struggles to adjust to his difficult life" and comes from the producers of Half Nelson and Blue Valentine.