I received my official acceptance letter for my creative writing MFA through the University of British Columbia!
I'm very excited. UBC runs what is probably Canada's best MFA for writers.
Yeah, we had some fun last night. Hamilton scribe Amanda Leduc – whose novel The Lives of Ordinary Men comes out in May, which means you should get it – organized "Steeltown Speakeasy," a casual reading at the Baltimore House on King William (a truly excellent venue).
I read from Chance & King, my newest WIP. We also heard from Liz Harmer, Dave Pace (that's Dave in the photo doing his reading), and Virginia Ashberry, a talented bunch of writers.
Amanda tells me she's going to try and make this a bi-monthly thing. Sweet! Here are some links/connections so you can stay informed:
I love reading. But not always. I’m a writer who believes that a good writer has to read a lot, which means I take in a lot of literature. My interests are eclectic, but typically I try to mix up the kinds of books I read, so as to avoid what I call LNO, or “Literary Numb-Out.” LNO is a wispy disorder characterized by malaise and displeasure that critically-acclaimed novels can often blur into each other. I’ll follow up a literary heavy-hitter with genre pulp, a biography with short fiction, a chick-lit staple with a graphic novel, a CanLit critical success with...well, anything. Wow, you found a CanLit piece laden with the angst of our great outdoors featuring an immigrant wrestling with sexuality? Rare gem, indeed!
(For the record, I love CanLit, but more often when it tries new things and stops apologizing for itself.)
I have been privileged to read some truly remarkable contemporary work over the past few years, and I thought I’d share a few of them. This inlist, entitled the “Books that Made Me Love Reading Again” list, is my church-friend Emily Hill’s very good idea.
Neil Gaiman, American Gods
This was the work that made me want to write novels. Awesome writing about an epic battle between humanity’s new and old gods.
Ian Weir, Daniel O’Thunder*
A remarkable man boxes the devil in Victorian London. Right?!
Miriam Toews, A Boy of Good Breeding*
Small town Canada. Features a girl named Summer-Feelin’.
Stephen Kelman, Pigeon English
My favorite read for 2012. About an African immigrant child in London’s inner-city, written in his vernacular. Fabulous.
Nino Ricci, Lives of the Saints*
Didn’t know Ricci until he was assigned as my mentor through The Humber School of Writers. Now I do. He’s excellent.
Charlotte Gill, Eating Dirt*
Poetic memoir about tree-planting culture. I planted, too. She gets it.
Robert Olmstead, Coal Black Horse
Lush, literary Western.
Patrick DeWitt, The Sisters Brothers*
Deceptively simple Western about hitmen brothers. He got lots of awards. Well deserved.
Alfredo Vea, Gods Go Begging
Heartbreaking and human Vietnam War tale.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half a Yellow Sun
An excellent read, made all the better by having met and seen Adichie speak at the Galle Literary Festival.
Andrey Kurkov, Death and the Penguin
About a man’s relationship with Misha, a penguin, as they struggle together in a post-Soviet city. The penguin is an amazing character. Met Kurkov in Galle, too.
Romeo Dallaire, Shake Hands with the Devil*
Recounts his time with the UN during the genocide in Rwanda. Brutal and unputdownable.
Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
Am including this because I was able to read it again a short while ago. Absolutely the best Vietnam War novel I have read. Oh, the writing, the writing!
Markus Zuzak, The Book Thief
Learned this was a Young Adult work much later. Loved it.
Stephen King, 11/22/63
A very good yarn from a writer who makes writing look effortless. King’s best, I think, since The Stand.
Justin Cronin, The Passage
The first in a trilogy. Well-written, literary vampires. Who knew?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel
A woman’s struggle with conservative Islam. Tough read, especially if you’re of the “all religions have equal value” mindset.
Okay, I’ll stop now. Any books you’d recommend?
My redesigned website is now live!
I had three goals for the new design:
1. To be better looking than the old one.
2. To be leaner, simpler, and more focused on stuff that matters.
3. To make it easier for my readers to find and get my stuff.
Check, check, and check.
I hope you enjoy it.
You may recall that in October 2011 I came back from the Surrey International Writer’s Conference with a bunch of requests for the Aeden's Wake manuscript and ended up signing on with one of the agents I pitched. Well, it is my sad duty to report that we’ve parted ways.
What happened? In short, I think we share the responsibility. She cooled on the project based on my reluctance to make every change she suggested; there were many good ideas, but some of the bigger ones took my work in directions that did not meet my vision. I erroneously assumed that she would approach publishers when I had made the revisions and was happy with the final product, while she planned to go on submission only after all the changes were made and only if she was satisfied with them. I should have asked better questions. Our mutual error was, I think, in not letting go sooner: birds in the hand, perhaps.
So, the new year launches me back into the querying and pitching game. (Yikes.) I know it will be a slog with moments of heartbreak, but I’m not dreading it as much this time. This time around should be easier – at least in terms of the process, if not the success – because I know what to expect, how to pitch, and can focus my efforts even more. Also, with the new novels written and another begun, my regular column work and some freelancing keeping me busy, and starting a creative writing MFA in the fall, I’m also starting to realize how importance patience is to the writing game. Good things are happening: I just need to keep working hard towards my goals.
It’s also exciting to read the experiences of other writers and that the agent-author relationship can be more than about a single manuscript. I realize that this post might scare off agents who are looking to represent a work at a time – and to an extent I get that, we have to start somewhere – but am also hoping that it might excite the ones who would be willing to look at a bright career in the making.
For myself, as I jump into the next round of querying and pitching, here are my thoughts on “Finding an Agent, Part II”:
I hope it doesn't scare anyone off, but I have to be true to my aspirations too. Onwards and upwards!