MaureenMcGowan

Post about trends

Hey! My niece is still with me and is currently patiently waiting for me to take her to the CN Tower… (or as patiently as an 8 year old can pull off) So no time for a real post.

But if you happen by here… and want to read my 2 cents on writing to trends, it’s my blog day on Drunk Writer Talk.

Pictures!

I’m away for a few days… Going to the megatropolis (kidding) of Regina, Saskatchewan for the 50th anniversary of my aunt and uncle. Dad’s younger brother.

Should be fun as all my cousins are going to be there.

When I return on Monday, I’ll have my 8 year old neice in tow… She’s attending “Camp Auntie Maureen” for a while–as my sister likes to call it. So, with entertaining an 8 year old and all… not sure how much blogging is going to happen.

Thought I would tide you over with a few snaps from the conference!


Just a few of the Chick Lit chapter writers who have sold or had a book come out this year. Chick lit didn’t look dead that night! Aryn our wonderful and brave president congratulates Lois Winston, Diana Peterfreund, Nadine Dajani and Marley Gibson. (Nadine, Diana’s right… get that web site up!) Congrats girls!


Thurs night, I tagged along to a Florida/New England dinner at Aunt Pitty Pats. Amazing food. Even more amazing fun. Too bad I didn’t frame this better. Sorry Kelly! Cheryl is holding my drink, the red one, which was called an ankle breaker. The menu didn’t have a description of the ingredients, just a testimonial that some general or other had broken his ankle after drinking a few. Luckily, I only had one and my ankles stayed in tact–barely. Thanks to our great waiter for selecting the drink for me. I told him to surprise me. :-)

Yes, that’s the amazing Betina Krahn sitting across from my vacant seat. What a fun person! Great sense of humor. So glad I had the chance to meet her. (To see another version of this photo, check out Diana’s blog.)

Would love to post a few more snaps, but a car is coming to take me to the airport in an hour and I still have to vaccuum my bedroom, make the bed, finish packing and shower. YIKES!!! I am the Queen of Last Minute Land.

Firefly

Okay, I totally missed this series when it was on TV. I’m not a huge sci fi person and don’t even remember hearing about it. But last year, my good friend Sinead talked me into seeing the movie SERENITY and I was blown away. Now I’m watching the DVD of the FIREFLY series and if you’ve never seen it, you should.

I mean a western set in space—what’s not to love? Such a cool mix of futuristic elements and the American west of the 1800’s. Makes sense, too… I mean, why wouldn’t the new frontiers go a little wild west when they start to be colonized?

Joss Whedon is a great writer. The characters are all unique and the more episodes I watch, the more questions he sets up so you can’t wait to see the next episode to find out what happens.

Check it out!

It’s not the humidity, it’s the heat

Okay, it’s the humidity, too—but yesterday, Toronto made last week in Atlanta feel like Alaska. (And yes, I know we lucked out with a relatively mild week in Atlanta.)

Yesterday in Toronto it was 36 degrees but with the humidity, it felt like 47—according to the weather folks. For you Americans, 36 is around 98 and 47 is about 118. Freakin’ hot.

Some people are heat people and some aren’t. I’m not. Call me crazy, but a breeze that feels like a blowdryer isn’t my idea of pleasant weather. Since I’ve been back in Toronto, there have been maybe 20-30 days in each year when I’ve asked myself why I ever left the weather paradise that is Northern California. Those days when I question my sanity usually include some in January or February. But it’s not always the coldest days. It’s the days when it’s slushy or sleeting or raining. The yucky days.

But forget the winter. The bulk of my I-hate-Toronto-weather days are in the summer. The days when it’s so hot and humid and smoggy I just want to curl up and die. Me? I like temperatures in the mid to high twenties—hot in the sun, comfortable in the shade, maybe a nice breeze, a bright blue sky dappled with clouds. I don’t ask for much 😉

When I lived in California, many of my friends would ask me how I ever survived Canadian winters. One word—jacket. You can dress for the cold. If you need to, you can cover virtually every inch of your body with warm fuzzy things to shut it out.

When it’s over a hundred all you can do is wilt or stay indoors.

Too many conferences…. too little time

Okay, too little money, too…

Eileen Cook, whose novel, IN THE STARS, hits shelves in February 2007, just told me about a great conference today, the Surrey International Writers Conference. (Surrey’s just outside Vancouver.)

What a great sounding conference. And I like to mix things up with some non-RWA events. Interesting to actually have male writers around, not to mention writers of other genres. Since I’m not writing romance right now, it’s nice to attend workshops that aren’t so focussed on the genre.

Hmmmmm… It’s a lot of money. Hmmmmm… I already committed to the New Jersey Romance Writers conference that same month for no good reason except that my friends are going. Hmmmm… I made a rule that I wouldn’t go to any more conferences unless I was either a speaker or had a book to promote.

Well, it was more of a guideline really…

An Ode to the Praline

I was a bad conference blogger. (Bad blogger! Bad blogger!) I had great plans to post every night to keep those of you who couldn’t make it to Atlanta at least partially up to date… What is it they say about best laid plans?

Sorry.

I simply had too-too much fun and was wiped every night when I got back to my room. You could probably smell the drink on the posts I did manage to make. I loved the chance to hang out with other TKA clients (my new sistahs)and got to know many of the New England Chapter members, through Marley Gibson. What a fun/friendly group of writers! So, while I was only partially successful on my stalk Emily Giffin goal… I did do pretty well on my meeting-new-people-instead-of-falling-into the-comfortable-trap-of-hanging-with-friends-from-home goal. Yay, me!

Anyway… this post was supposed to be an ode to the praline, and I have seriously digressed before even starting. Oops. (Premature digression?)

Back to our regularly scheduled program:

On Tuesday evening, The Knight Agency threw an amazing party to celebrate their 10th anniversary. Great setting, great food, great drinks, great music, great company, amazing hospitality AND PRALINES!

My favourite ice cream has always been pralines and cream, so I’d heard of the southern US version of pralines before and assumed I’d like them… (Minor digression… Don’t the Belgians–masters of all things chocolate–call all fancy prepared chocolates pralines? Must do some research. Here’s a start.) But until this week, I’d never experienced a freshly made southern praline.

Let me tell you… You haven’t had a praline until you’ve tried one made seconds ago in a copper kettle right before your drooling eyes. (can eyes drool?) Who knew butter, brown sugar, a squirt of lemon and some fresh pecans could combine to make such a delectably orgasmic treat?
Okay, now that I type out the ingredients, the whole tasty thing seems kinda obvious, but man, they were good!

Here in Canada, we have this treat called a butter tart, which I love (a little too much) and greatly missed during the 10 years I lived in the US. Butter tarts are a bit like like melting a praline into a pastry shell. (Mental note: Must make sure the TKA staff get to try some butter tarts in the future!)

Thanks again to everyone at TKA! I will be dreaming of pralines for months and someday may forgive you for getting me hooked on the hard stuff. Just what I needed–another sugar monkey on my back! (But seriously, thanks for an amazing evening.)

As a stalker? I suck!

Okay, I did forgo the Nora talk at the PRO retreat this morning in favour of Emily Giffin’s talk, (not a hard decision for me) but I totally missed some major stalking opportunities. An aside… the moderator of the presentation called her Emily Griffin 3 or 4 times… Cringe-worthy. Emily was pretty cool about it though.

While I was a total failure in my kidnap-her-for-lunch conspiracy, I did manage to ask the main question I wanted to. In a nutshell, “What was the major thing (other than a really great book) which made SOMETHING BORROWED break out?”

I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed to hear that it probably wasn’t anything in her control–other than writing a really great book (a relatively crucial ingredient ). Sounds like it boiled down to her editor’s whole-hearted belief in the book, and her editor’s ability to make things happen publicity-wise. Man, the kind of thing new authors dream of–and from what I’ve seen (and read!) it couldn’t have happened to a nicer, more deserving writer than Emily.

But even though I did get the last question of the workshop in and she (I think?) remembered meeting me in Toronto, I didn’t talk to her after her presentation. I did hang around a bit… but there were so many people waiting to see her and, well, I went all shy. I didn’t find her at the Literacy signing on Wed night, either. My excuses that night were equally pathetic: it was about 400 degrees in the room; and (this part isn’t exaggerated) over 500 authors signing. Seriously. Who were all those writers? It was crazy! I hope RWA raised a heck of a lot of money for literacy.

My new friend Nadine Dajani, whose book FASHIONABLY LATE comes out in 2007, was bold, though! She talked to Emily and gave her an ARC. You rock, Nadine! Diana, too. A little authorial bonding. Good job girls!!! I bow to your superior stalking–I mean networking–skills.

A New Chapter Begins…

Okay, so I stole the name/theme of this year’s RWA conference as the title for my blog post tonight… but it kinda fits the way I’m feeling right now.

I have that beginning of the conference excitement, wondering what the next 4 days will hold… Even more than that, however, being at Nationals this year feels different and I realize that a new chapter in my writing career has begun. Yes, I’m still one of the masses of yet-to-be-published authors out there, but I had a meeting with my wonderful agent today and just the fact that I have an agent to meet with is so, so amazing. Here’s a picture of Pamela and I at the amazing party The Knight Agency threw on Tuesday night.

Tonight, was the RWA Chick Lit chapter’s night for a party and although it was a smaller fest than in previous years, the mood was great–upbeat and friendly–and the more intimate size made it easier to connect with everyone there. President Aryn congratulated our members who sold or had their first book published this year.

Some of them are pictured here. I would have needed a wide angle lens to get them all in the same picture.
In spite of the dire reports, it appears that publishers are still buying chick lit — or did so in the past year, anyway. Congrats to everyone!

Walking the Thin Line Between Networking and Stalking

I’m off to the RWA National conference in Atlanta this week with 2000 or so other writers—published and unpublished. This will be my third National conference and each year I make an attempt to set some goals to justify the cost.

In 2004, in Dallas, my main goal was drinking margaritas with my friends. Not a lofty goal, I admit, but because I’d been planning to pitch my manuscript to a line at Harlequin that had just been cancelled, I couldn’t come up with a better goal at short notice.

Mission accomplished. Drunk writer talk works in Texas, too.

Oh, and in addition to eating Mexican food and drinking, I went to heaps of workshops and learned a ton about the business and the craft of writing. Bonus!

In 2005, the conference was in Reno, and my main goals were to make a great pitch to Deidre Knight and to drink margaritas with the new friends I planned to make at the conference. Goal number one went even better than expected and I’m now represented by her sister and fellow Knight Agency agent Pamela Harty. Goal number two proved trickier (and here I thought it’d be the easy one). I think my problem was, while there were lots of places to get a drink (anywhere–it was a freakin’ casino), there wasn’t the obvious hotel bar meeting place. Lots of conference attendees were hanging in the casino, but it was hard to know who was open to talking and who was more intent on hitting those triple sevens. The most obvious bar had about 5 tables. I mean, they want you to gamble, not sit around and talk. Then there was a dance club sort of bar, which I later found out many people I’d like to have met were hanging out… but my shy-side kicked in and walking into a dance club alone just didn’t happen.

All in all, I found the whole conference in a casino thing a bit surreal. Yes, even more surreal than a conference sharing a hotel with 10,000 Mary Kay reps draped in sashes and bows and berating authors for writing smut and (gasp) not wearing panty hose or lipstick in public. (If you were in Dallas, you know what I mean.)

Now it’s 2006. Another year, another conference. This year, I’m not sure I want to declare my goal for the public record, because it involves meeting a certain writer and pumping her for information and becoming her new best friend. I’m sure I’m one of hundreds who’ll have this same goal. (No, the target’s not Nora.)

This goal begs the question—when does networking become stalking? When does the desire to connect with a writer you admire—whose career you’d love to emulate—become just a little freakishly scary?

Hmmm… is it when you and two other writer friends have made plans to stage a kidnapping? (Don’t worry D & M. If the cops get me, I won’t rat you out. 😉

Wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Keanu Reeves – Reason to get a new camera?


I snapped this pic at the premiere of Thumbsucker at the TIFF last September. Sadly, my camera has quite a delay between pressing the button and the snap, or it would have been a great picture. I was sitting on the aisle; he walked right by me.

So, I need a new camera. Maybe not for Keanu Reeves per se, but in case I get a great opportunity like that with someone else snap-worthy. Not to mention my niece and nephew and my dog-nephew, none of whom are very good at keeping still.

On Keanu, though… He was exceptionally cute in person. I was kinda surprised. I guess I’ve been an on-again-mostly-off-again fan of his. He sucked so badly in Much Ado About Nothing a gazillion years ago, that I thought I’d never forgive him, (or Kenneth Branagh for casting him) but every once and a while, he’s pretty good.

He really surprised me in two fairly recent movies. One was Something’s Gotta Give, with Diane Keaton and the other was Thumbsucker. In Something’s Gotta Give I was shocked to find I really believed he was not only a doctor but was in love with Diane Keaton. (Of course, I heard rumors he may actually have been a bit in love with Diane Keaton, removing the need to actually act, but he was convincing.)

Thumbsucker, directed by Mike Mills, is a movie not many people have seen. I think the DVD is out now, so if you’re into indie films and would like to see a very fresh take on a coming of age movie, I highly recommend it. Keanu has a small supporting role that’s very funny and pokes fun at his real life persona as well as his Matrix role. He plays a dentist who doles out more therapy and new age babble than any real therapist would. He’s like a spiritual guide for the protagonist. Hey, doesn’t everyone go to their dentist for therapy?

Anyhoo… The plot of the movie revolves around Justin played by Lou Pucci, a 17 year old teen who still sucks his thumb and his attempts to stop and the affects that has on his life. In a sub-plot, his mother, played by the fabulously talented Tilda Swinton, considers an affair with a TV celebrity, played by Benjamin Bratt, who’s being treated at the drug rehab clinic she works in. Justin’s father, played by the enigmatic Vincent D’Onofrio lives in the past, pining after a career in football he might have had.

In the end, the son (in spite of his thumbsucking) shows the most maturity and to me, the film is about accepting who you are and explores whether treatments for some so-called problems are worse than the problems themselves. Great satirical bit on Ritalin in this movie.

Small excerpt written by Michele Maheux in the TIFF 2005 Programme Book:

“Adapted from Walter Kim’s novel, Thumbsucker boasts sharply written dialogue and eccentric humour that dissects the foibles of this idiosyncratic bunch. The young actors’ freshly expressive performances are perfectly balanced with the sublimely understated work of the film’s established stars. The sterile backdrop of suburban repression receives refreshing treatment in this tale of learning to take one’s medicine and reckon with reality.”

So, a round about way to say I’m buying a new camera today. Okay, not for Keanu photo ops but conference photo ops.

How exciting.