MaureenMcGowan

Shooting yourself in the foot

Why do so many aspiring writers get so angry about the industry? Yes, we get rejections. Yes, they can be arbitrary and subjective. Yes, there’s plenty of conflicting advice out there. Yes, lots of good books don’t get published. Yes, lots of mediocre ones do.

If you can’t accept these things, (and others), don’t try to be a published writer.

What’s got me riled up?

One of my e-loops has a visiting agent this week. Great opportunity for un-agented writers to ask questions, get a feel for said agent, etc. Also, apparently, a great opportunity for a writer to be rude and ensure said agent will never accept him/her as a client.

This particular agency doesn’t respond to queries unless they ask for a submission. Fair enough. “We’ll contact you if interested” is a pretty common practice in the job hunting world. It’s perfectly fair for a literary agency to do this.

The agent also explained how rare it is for a query to catch his eye. Really? This was news to people? Anyone who has spent even a minute in this industry also knows this is just the way it is. Agents get oodles of queries and can’t possibly request pages from all of them. He explained this quite well from his perspective in his post.

Why then, would a writer reply with a really snarky note to the agent suggesting that if the agent isn’t looking for submissions, why he didn’t just state that on his website and not accept queries.

I want to scream at this writer.

He is looking for clients. If he weren’t, he wouldn’t be answering questions on the loop. He wouldn’t be looking at any queries. He accepts queries in hopes of something truly exciting (to him) catching his eye and finding a new great writer.

Dear writer: All he told you was the truth–that he can only request pages for a very small percentage of the queries he gets in. This is true of all agents–especially those who are well-established.

Okay. Rant over. I’m done.

Borat

Continuing on my mini-reviews of films I saw at the festival that have recently hit the theatres… I thought I’d touch on Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

Freakin’ hilarious. Super offensive.

It’s hard to describe just how offensive this movie is. Offensive to residents of middle Asiatic countries, offensive to Jews, offensive to blacks, offensive to gays, offensive to women, okay, basically offensive to human beings.

But hilarious.

I already blogged about the midnight premiere of this movie at the TIFF… (Donkey carts, a broken projector and Michael Moore on the first night; Dustin Hoffman sitting in the audience the back up night.) But I don’t think I touched on how truly funny the film is.

Part of me thinks I should be ashamed of myself for finding this movie so funny. It makes you wonder when joking about something crosses the line. But perhaps the reason Sasha Baron Cohen’s satirical comedy works so well is that every topic he tackles is so far far over the line.

Also shocking is how little some of the unsuspecting people he interacts with in the movie react to his blatent racist and sexist comments. Many don’t bat an eyelash. Scary comment on American society.

What American Accent do you have?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: North Central

“North Central” is what professional linguists call the Minnesota accent. If you saw “Fargo” you probably didn’t think the characters sounded very out of the ordinary. Outsiders probably mistake you for a Canadian a lot.

The West
The Midland
Boston
The Inland North
The South
Philadelphia
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
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Outsiders mistake you for Canadian a lot. LOL.

How does Kate keep her eyebrows plucked?


A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting my aunt, who is not a fan of Lost. I made her watch it anyway. When I asked why she didn’t like it, her major complaints were things like: why hasn’t Hurley lost more weight. I admit I’ve wondered the same thing, on occasion, but they explained that partially with the food from the hatch, and I was surprised during one of the early episodes this season to find out how few days they’ve actually been on the island. (42? Can’t remember, but it was fewer than I thought.) And really, worrying about those kind of details misses the point and the fun of Lost in my opinion.

Still…watching it tonight I had to wonder… How does Kate keep her armpits so hairfree? Her eyebrows so nicely plucked?

Hmmmm…..

Marie Antoinette

Okay, I know this movie’s been open for a few weeks and is old news… But I was out of town when it opened and in spite of being very excited about this movie, didn’t get to it until tonight… I’m a big fan of Sophia Coppola. I also liked the idea of using modern music and sensibilities in this film to make Marie Antoinette’s situation more relatable. To emphasize how very young the last King and Queen of France had been.

I wasn’t at all discouraged about the lukewarm reviews or the booing the film received in Cannes. I figured the movie was bound to piss off the French, who wouldn’t like an American filmmaker using American and British actors to tell the story of this important (albeit Austrian) woman from French history. I’ve also learned over the years that I often like films the reviewers don’t…

But the movie fell flat for me…

There was much to like. It’s great to look at and I actually think Kirsten Dunst was very good in the role. The look she gives the camera during the opening credits was worth whatever they paid her. I also liked Jason Shwartzman as the King and found their developing relationship cute and kind of sweet.

So what went wrong? It occurs to me that this film is a good example of why storytelling is so important. But I’m not typically a stickler for straightforward storytelling in movies. (Me and my drunk writer buddies often disagree on films because of this, I think.) I do like movies that don’t tell an obvious story as long as it has compelling characters I love watching… And some of the characters in Marie Antionette were interesting… Notably Antionette herself…

But this film just didn’t work for me. It spent a lot of time (a lot) showing us how much time it took for Louis and Marie to figure out how to make a baby… (Did we need to see him turn away from her in bed or prematurely ejaculate so many times? Did we need to see more than one letter of concern from her mother on the topic?) And then, after spending too much time on that, and an inexplicably long time watching her walk through gardens, it basically skipped forward to the revolution, with the most abrupt movie ending I’ve ever seen. Maybe cutting off the end of the movie, was supposed to symbolize cutting off her head?

Anyway… didn’t work for me. I also didn’t see why Sophia bothered to show Marie having an adulterous affair, without really exploring how this affected her or her marriage. A wistful look out a window one bored afternoon was all we got. Was the affair just to show she’d had good sex at least once in her life? Or just to get a sex scene into the movie? Didn’t feel like it needed to be there, to me.

Sorry Sophia. I guess not every movie you make will be perfection for me.

Fun Quiz

Fun? I guess that says something about me that I find taking a little mini-test fun. Sometimes I do miss school. Is that sick or what?

You paid attention during 97% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don’t get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
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Anyway… I want to know which question I got wrong! I thought the test was pretty easy. I’ll bet it was the religion one. Since when are religious topics taught in high school anyway?

Have fun if you do the test. :-)

What is it about Princess Diana?

I went to see The Queen last night not because I’m obsessed with the monarchy or Princess Diana, but because I’d heard Helen Mirren was amazing and the film was getting really good reviews.

I thought the film was good… and shows the other side of a media frenzy story we all know from the other side… (The Queen’s tepid response to Diana’s death.) But other than the great performances I didn’t think the film was amazing

What I did find amazing is how, after nearly ten years, I can still cry when I see the images of people putting flowers in front of the various palaces in London after Diana was killed. What was it about that woman?

She was a twit, in my opinion. The worst kind of upperclass bimbo twit. Yes, she did have a bad marriage that wasn’t entirely her fault. We can feel bad for her for that. Yes, she did do a lot of good charity work. We can admire her for that. (But most of the Royal family do charity work–notably Princess Anne–yet they don’t get the same media coverage for it.) Yes, she appears to have been a very good mother. Good for her. Doesn’t make her less of a twit.

But I was wrecked when she died. Devastated. I teared up for months each time I saw her photo on yet another magazine cover. And I teared up big-time several times during the movie last night, even though the character we were supposed to be sympathetic with during that movie was Queen Elizabeth II, not Diana.

For me, I think my unnatural attachment to Diana comes partly with my age. She was exactly a year older than I am and when she got married at such a young age in such an elaborate ceremony… Even though I hadn’t thought I had an ounce of Cinderella fantasy in me… Seriously… who wouldn’t get caught up in that spectacle as an eighteen year old or whatever I was. My sisters and I had a party in our parents’ basement and a bunch of our friends spent the night. The big plan was to stay up all night and watch the wedding in the morning while drinking champagne. Sadly, we fell asleep at some point, but we only missed a little of the run up stuff around 5:00 am EST.

But I remember it so vividly. I also got up to watch her funeral. I figured if I could get up at 5:00 am for a wedding, I should do it for a funeral.

I can’t believe it’s been nearly ten years… or that I can still cry about it.

Tagged!!!

I was tagged last week, when I was away and cut off from blogland, by Sara Hanz to reveal 5 interesting things about myself. Hmmm…. I’m not that interesting. This’ll be my challenge of the year.

Well….

1. I’ve jumped out of an airplane at 13,000 feet without a parachute. Okay, I was strapped to a strapping young man who had a parachute. Tandem skydiving. Don’t know if I ever need to do it again, but I’m glad I did it.

2. In high school I did musical theatre. Sadly, being short I never seemed to get parts for adults, though. When I was 17 I played a 9 year old boy… Oliver. Yes, sad but true.

3. I ruptured my achilles tendon about 14 years ago… Unfortunately, my stupid doctor (don’t even get me started about HMO’s in the US) thought I was just being a wimp and I walked on it for six weeks before she’d refer me to a surgeon, who immediately scheduled me for emergency surgery. I’ve got a 24″ scar up the back of my leg ’cause they had to graft tendon from up near my knee.

4. About a year after the achilles tendon repair I hiked to the top of Half Dome. This photo of some guy climbing the cables doesn’t really capture the steepness. Being short, I basically had to pull myself up these cables with my upper body (couldn’t reach the cables any other way.) This photo also doesn’t capture the traffic. I was almost crushed by a huge football player guy who was on the way down as I was going up and was terrified. Actually, terrified doesn’t quite cover it. His friends tried to get me to move off the cables so he could go by more easily but I decided I’d rather leave one boot braced on a post and let the shaking but huge man slide over me than let go completely. what you can’t really see in this photo is it drops off to the right and left, too…

5. Now I’m on to physical feats… I’ve done a 100 mile bike trip in one day. The Solvang Century. Not an easy ride. It’s not only is 100 miles in one day, there’s about 4000 feet of climbing, some of it steep. Boy, I have got to get back into shape!

I tag…. Margaret Moore, Christine D’Abo, Nadine Dajani , Mel Francis, Michele Ann Young

Halloween Scrooge

I don’t know when it happened. I used to love Halloween. I trick-or-treated up to an embarrassingly high age… I think the last year I officially went out I was 13, but my friends and I were into the pillow case collection receptacle method by then (the serious stuff) and went home to change costumes mid-night so we could return to the houses that gave the best candy. Hard core.

I even went out trick or treating one year in University to a subdivision near my residence. I don’t think we fooled anyone, but a few of the good-sport homeowners actually gave us some candy. And I used to love dressing up, going to a party or two, handing out candy to kids. Fun.

But for the past 6 or so years I’ve been a total scrooge. I just can’t be bothered. I don’t even know how many kids go out in my neighbourhood because I’ve never been home. The first few years I lived in this house I had an excuse. Oct 31 is a month end and since I was the CFO of a hedge fund, we had to value our fund at month end and I rarely got home before midnight — long after even the most die-hard teenage trick-or-treaters had called it a night. Then, I think the next Halloween came on a Thursday, which is my critique group night… One year I think I went to visit my sister and her family in Ottawa… (love seeing my niece and nephew in costume)
But tonight I’m turning off the lights and going to the movies. Can’t be bothered. Don’t want the candy in the house. Don’t know any kids in my neigbourhood. TV’s upstairs and don’t want to keep going up and down to the front door. (How lazy is that???)

Bah, humbug.

Halloween… love it or hate it?