MaureenMcGowan

Is 45 the new 75?

Okay, on the subway the other night, on the way home from the Emily Giffin book signing, I saw this ad for a government program to help unemployed people find work.
Good program, sounds like–usually these things are just for teens and young adults–but calling it a program for seniors??? Over 45 you’re a senior? Give me a break!

Okay, it says neighbourhood link/senior link. But just the word senior under the age 45 was enough to get my back up.

Maybe I’m just a little too close to that age, not to be taken aback by seeing that age group lumped in with seniors. I thought 40 was the new 30. Humph!

Emily Giffin in Toronto!

Last night at the Yonge and Eglinton Indigo bookstore, Emily Giffin was signing her new novel, BABY PROOF, which is currently #2 on the Globe and Mail’s bestseller list. (Was #1 a while ago… will be again after last night.) Congratulations, Emily! As she pointed out to the crowd, Canadian readers obviously have good taste. :-)

I had the pleasure of reading the ARC (advance readers copy) of BABY PROOF some months ago and it didn’t disappoint. My fellow drunk writer blogger Sinead and I are always debating what makes Emily’s books so compulsively readable and hard to put down. They don’t have big complicated plots. They aren’t suspenseful in a literal way. All three so far have had only one major conflict to be resolved… and yet, they’re gripping, page-turning—and really fun to read. Maybe Sinead and I will discuss this in more detail in a future Drunk Writer Talk Blog.

It was great to meet Emily in person and she was really engaging and funny as a speaker (and if by some chance, you happen to read this, Emily, I completely agree about that skank Angelina. I also hope you don’t hold your husband to his body part offer to bind your first manuscript—for his and your sake both!)

But as great as the evening was, it didn’t live up to my naïve fantasy. I’d hoped I’d have a chance to chat with her more… Sob. As a writer of books featuring female protagonists who don’t always act in the most heroic manner, I really wanted to know more about her journey to publication—not to mention post publication. In fact, I’d planned to offer to buy her a drink after the signing. Little did I know that 200 people would show up. WOW. I stood for 2 hours. She smiled and posed for pictures and signed books for 2 hours.

But it was totally worth it. I can’t wait to see her presentation at the RWA Conference in Atlanta. It’s so nice to see a writer with such a great talent have so much success.

Doggie Home from Hospital

Okay, he’s not home… He and his “parents” (my brother and sister-in-law) are staying with my mom because she has air conditioning and fewer stairs.

But he was much better today and the vets let him out. The final tests still aren’t back on whether his soccer-ball-sized tumor was cancerous… or whether he has long term kidney or heart damage… But he’s much better!

Thanks everyone for your kind thoughts.

Prayers for Jasper



Our camping trip didn’t turn out as well as we hoped. And not because of the silly things I was worried about like no shower for four days… My dog-nephew Jasper (my brother’s dog, pictured above with said brother) fell seriously ill while we were away. Hope brother doesn’t mind me posting the photo… This was the best picture I could find of Jasper. He’s usually running…

He had a great time on Thursday (the first full day we were camping). He went hiking with us, running through the woods and then scrambling over the granite boulders at the shores of Georgian Bay. (Other photo) He even swam with us for a long time in the icy cold water — big contrast to the hot humid weather. But he never recovered from the exertion that day.

On Friday, my brother and SIL took him to the vet who thought it was just exhaustion… but he couldn’t even stand Sat morning, so they took him back to the vet (an hour away) who told them to rush him to a vet hospital near Toronto (another 3 hours away).

Long story short, he had a HUGE tumor on his spleen which was removed Saturday night. So, while camping trip didn’t cause the illness… it did bring it to a head and might have made the situation worse, because he’d been in shock a while by the time they got him to the hospital. He’s still a very sick doggie.

Blogs and Self Promoting

Okay, I’m still pretty new to this whole blogging thing but when I learned that Diana Peterfreund was getting complaints on her blog , because she wasn’t just talking about writing topics, but was using the blog for promoting her great book, I had to give my head a little scratch.

I mean, isn’t self promotion what a blog is all about? Whether you’re doing it for commercial purposes or not, if you’re gabbing about something in public, you’re self promoting. (or at least doing it to grab attention, even if it’s anonymous)

This debate (that I didn’t know existed until today) reminds me of the early days of the web. I was working at the Price Waterhouse World Firm Technology Centre at the time, which was in Menlo Park, CA just north of Silicon Valley. The place (tech centre, not Menlo Park) doesn’t exist any more… which is sad because it was a very cool place to work. Anyway, most of my coworkers had Phd’s in artificial intelligence and other areas of computer science and had been using the internet pretty much since they’d started university (some in the 70’s). One day I asked my friend Jeff how someone like him had ended up working for a public accounting firm and he told me that with a degree in AI it was hard to get a job not involving guiding missiles… Since the internet was first used to facilitate sharing information between DOD scientists, it makes sense that these guys had used the internet for years… But I seriously digress…

My point was (I did have one) that a lot of these guys took great offense when corporations started to register domain names and use the web for commercial purposes. The first URL the tech centre had (I think we may have been the first accounting firm, perhaps first commercial entity, to have one?) was actually registered under the Stanford University URL. Those were the days when if I searched for my name on Yahoo (no google then) I’d get 4 hits and they were all about me — academic papers I’d written etc. Now when I google my name I get 440,000 or so hits most of which aren’t me… OMG. I just googled my old friend and coworker Jeff Delisio, with whom I cowrote some papers and who has a much less common name than I, and there are still links to some of my old papers! (digressing again, sorry)

Anyway, a few of my coworkers at the tech centre (or people they knew), seemed to feel that the web should only be used to:

  • make sharing academic papers easier than it had been with only ftp and
  • share cool stuff like photos and music with their friends who had the time to download stuff like that with the painfully lacking bandwidth most people had at the time.

So learning about the complaints Diana’s getting on her blog took me back to 1993.

It’s like as soon as a new technology catches on and people are smart enough to use it for commercial purposes, the early adopters get all up in arms. I kind of understand that… it can kind of take the fun or community feeling out of something if others use it for commercial purposes… but seriously… You can’t live in the past.

Signed, Maureen…
Who started this blog largely to self-promote future books and plans to promote the books of her friends until she has one of her own. Anyone who finds that offensive, don’t read my blog.

Camping!

I’m going camping. Serious camping. No shower for five days camping. Okay, it’s car camping — not backpacking — the kind of camping where you can bring everything but the kitchen sink as long as it fits in your trunk, but still… I’m not even sure if there will be flush toilets.

To aid this camping adventure, I bought a tent this week (I’ve always mooched off others in the past) and a new, lighter sleeping bag more suitable, I hope, to the hot weather we’ve been having lately.

It’s been a while since I’ve done more than one night in a tent and I’m not sure how I’ll enjoy four in a row… Also, I’m going with my brother and his friends. Yes, I know all these people, but they’re his friends, not mine, so that might be a little weird.

Things I’ll miss:

  • Results night on Rockstar… but this early in the competition, who cares? I don’t feel super passionate about any of the contestants this year yet anyway… Last year, (after thinking it was the tackiest idea I’d ever heard of and that INXS had sunk about as low as they could go), I came across it while channel surfing the night JD was doing his encore performance of California Dreaming and I was hooked. Dilana is pretty intersting this year… I should vote for Lukas because he’s from my home town (like JD), but I just don’t really like him so far… He’s so full of himself and not in a good way. Intersting that both seasons the badboy asshole of the house is the Canadian boy… Kinda goes against stereotype, don’t it? (We’re actually all jerks up here. We just act nice for tourists.) :-)
  • Canada’s Next Top Model. (Down to the final 4) Yes, it’s the same formula as the American one and yes, it’s just as silly and just as compulsively fun to watch.
  • The internet. It’s embarrassing how addicted I am to my blogs and my loops and my e-mail…
  • Washing with hot water… I fear for my contacts (not to mention my delicate skin). I’m rather prone to eye infections due to very narrow (nearly non-existent) tear ducts that make my eyes water a lot… Not being able to wash easily or often will be a challenge.
  • A mosquito free environment. Okay, there are mosquito’s in Toronto, but not very many. The smog gets them. There was a huge amount of rain yesterday so I imagine there will be oodles of mosquitos. Not looking forward to bite-scarred legs at Nationals.
  • My critique group meeting. We had such a great meeting last week. Everyone seems to be in a great groove right now — producing great work. I’m bummed I won’t be there this week.
  • BLOGGING! Okay, I haven’t been the most consistent blogger yet. But I’ll miss making posts and checking the comments and obsessing over how many hits I get and from where… What fun!

Speaking of blogging. I have an announcement…

The Drunk Writer Talk Blog is launching next week! The first post should be up on Monday. There are 3 of us contributing and our drunken evil plan to conquer blogdom is to start by pointing on Mon, Wed and Fri. Most weeks, we think, Molly will do Mon, I’ll do Wed and Sinead will do Friday. We plan to talk about lots of things… The kind of things we talk about when we drink together. Should be a lot of fun. Come check us out.

And…. I bought a full pass for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) again. I know… crazy. I could have/should have gone for something less grueling… There are 30 coupon books and 10 coupon books available… But I know once the time comes, I’ll be glad I’m going all out. Except for the first night and the last day, there are usually at least 4 movies in each time slot I’m absolutely dieing to see… So many films, so liitle time.

One final thing… My CP Teresa Roblin was just interviewed on the Karen knows best blog. Check it out. Teresa is the sweetest person you’d ever hope to meet. (As long as you don’t hurt anyone she cares about — then, watch out!)

Bye for now… See you Monday! (If I dont get eaten by mosquitos–or a bear.)

Film Fest decision day…

Okay, the passes for the Toronto International Film Festival go on sale today and I need to make up my mind before the passes sell out.

Pro:

  1. I always see amazing films — many of which never hit the theatres or don’t hit them until a couple of years later
  2. Most of the films screened have excellent writing… I find I can learn alot about character development or storytelling from watching well written films.
  3. I must admit, I love the excitement of seeing the films first and seeing the stars and having the opportunity to ask quesitons of the actors and film makers.
  4. I’ve met some cool people at past fests — many of whom I run into each year.
  5. Cool stuff happens — like Bono showing up at the screening for BREAKFAST ON PLUTO last year. Very interesting film, by the way… Cillian Murphy rocks. I had seen him in RED EYE and BATMAN RETURNS in theatres around the same time… and talk about a different role! And yes, Bono just showed up. Was hanging around the lobby shaking people’s hands and then leaned against the wall near the back during the film. I could list more cool festival moments… but perhaps will save them for another blog entry…

Con:

  1. It’s a lot of money… Over $500 including taxes for a Festival Pass — which is what I’ve bought the past 2 years… A festival pass entitles the holder to up to 50 films… It’s pretty tricky to actually see 50 films… It’s officially 11 days, but other than the opening night Gala, for which it’s impossible to get a ticket, there usually aren’t many interesting (to me) films screened on the first night… And there’s often not much on the final Sunday, either… so that leaves 9 or 10 days… Which makes, yes, 5 movies a day. It’s possible to do six, (9ish, noonish, 3ish, 6ish, 9ish, midnight) but I never have. I had tickets for 6 one day during the 2004 festival, but ended up skipping the last one (which was THE MACHINIST with Christian Bale, another very cool film, which I eventually saw… but not at the midnight world premiere at the TIFF, big pout — I was just too tired…) But I did do 5 per day most days last year…
  2. It’s grueling — see above. I basically have to be out of the house by 8:00 am for the first screening (even though I’m lucky enough to live in the city quite close to most of the theatres) and I’m rarely home before midnight — usually closer to 1:00 am… It always takes me an hour or so to wind down, before I can sleep… so yes, very little sleep for Maureen during the festival. About 5 days into the festival last year, I was getting a cold, was very, very tired and swore I’d never do it again… But I do love it…
  3. It sucks up a huge amount of time… During the festival, I’m basically unreachable and don’t get anything done… Not only is there the 11 actual days of the festival, but even with the amazing festival pass, there’s a lot of work to do pre-fest… More on this in a subsequent post.
  4. I eat badly and don’t exercise for a week. Okay, so anyone who’s met me or has seen a photo is probably thinking, “She normally eats healthy and exercises????” But actually, while consistent healthy eating is a big problem for me… I do work out and missing that for a couple of weeks makes me feel crappy.
  5. I usually get a cold — undoubtedly related to the popcorn and hot dog diet and the lack of sleep and exercise… not to mention breathing air shared by several thousand people in a confined space all day.

Hmmmm, my con list looks longer… but it’s just because I ranted about the cons. Bottom line, even though the festival is really about standing in lines for 2 weeks… interspersed with great films and the opportunity to see movie stars… I love it.

Still slightly on the fence… Wish I had a crystal ball that would tell me what else will be going on for me in September… will I have a book deal? Will I be making revisions? Will I have something else pressing on my time…
Gah! Must Make Decision….

Attention: Contest on Diana Peterfreund’s blog!


Diana’s Diversions: On the T Minus 12th Day of Secret Society Girl, a Digger gave to me…

The wonderful Diana Peterfreund is holding a contest each of the twelve days leading up to the July 18th release of her debut novel, SECRET SOCIETY GIRL.
I was lucky enough to win an an ARC of this book back in February and let me tell you, it’s a great read. Really fun, really smart, really witty, really everything a good book should be.

Go on over and enter her contest — and buy the book 😉 If you’re lucky enough to win one during the contest, too… it will make a nice gift! Or really, who wouldn’t want two copies of this book? I mean, what if one gets wet during an initiation ceremony or something?

Film Fest!!

The passes for the Toronto International Film Fest go on sale in a couple of days which means… da, da, da, dum…. Maureen must make a decision about whether to fest or not this year.

I must say, the TIFF is amazing… Such a huge variety of films from the very obscure to the very strange to the Oscar contenders. Last year, I saw the North American premiere of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and CAPOTE and THE HISTORY OF VIOLENCE among many others…

And as much as I just love seeing great films — lots of great films, I saw 45 in 11 days last year — I have to admit I like a little star-gazing, too…


Like this night at the World Premiere of Bart Freundlich’s TRUST THE MAN, a film I really loved… But maybe it was just the wild atmosphere in the room? There’s something about seeing a movie seated a couple of rows in front of the actors who are in it, and their significant others and siblings (in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s case — see photo below). Seriously though… I thought this movie was great — who know Billy Crudup could be funny? Okay, I guess he was funny in ALMOST FAMOUS, but sexy funny, not goofy funny like he was in this film.

Has anyone seen this in theatres yet? I saw a trailer a few months ago here in Toronto, but if it ever opened, I didn’t notice… But some of the posts on IMDb make it sound like it’s opened in the States? Anyone know?

Here’s a pic of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s boob when she got up to be introduced at the start of the film. You can see her boyfriend Peter Sarsgaard (who should be my boyfriend) beside her, and yes, that’s her brother Jake’s eye over to the right and you can make out David Duchovny to Maggie’s right. Claire Danes was there to support Billy too… How sweet. (Like to bump her off, too. LOVE Billy…)She was in town because SHOP GIRL screened at last year’s fest, too… and she was also at the 2004 Festival because STAGE BEAUTY premiered at that fest (the one where she met my man Billy…)

Well, I digress… but while I ponder my decision over the next few days, expect this blog to be heavily weighted with film fest trivia and decision angst… Some more pictures, too! (I didn’t take that many… Note to self, must get a better camera if I go again this year…)

Myths, Lies and the Publishing Industry

A couple of recent posts on writer-lists I belong to have prompted me to do something I swore I’d never do with this blog (but already broke in the first week). I hadn’t planned to use this blog to foist my opinions about publishing on the world. Enough people already do that and do it well… But sometimes, it appears, I just can’t help myself…

So, at the risk of having cyber-tomatoes tossed my way, I find myself wanting to voice a few opinions about small pubs, e-pubs and (gasp) self-publishing.

I’m still very early in my—what I hope will be a—writing career… but, except for about ten minutes after one particularly disappointing bit of news, I haven’t even considered an option other than shooting for a contract with a major NY publisher.

Why? For me, it’s about knowing what you want. It’s about setting goals and sticking to them even if it requires a little harsh reflection and honesty—not to mention a lot of hard work on your craft and probably tossing a few early manuscripts into the trash bin.

Not that I think there’s any one right way to get published—or even a best way—I just know what I want and based on some things I read on the loops, some (emphasis on some) writers end up at e-pubs without much forethought or because they weren’t honest with themselves about their writing or about the industry.

In other words, if a writer decides to target a small press or e-pub, he/she should be very clear about why they’ve made that choice.

In my opinion, it comes down to goals. Writers (I hope) write because we love to write… So why do we want to be published? That’s a whole other question. Some writers may be happy just to see their name in print on a book cover. Maybe it’s being able to use that elusive title “author”. Maybe they just hope a few people who don’t know them will actually read their stories. On the other hand, some writers have different goals. For example, seeing their book in major chains, reaching for or hitting bestseller lists, reviews in major publications, possible movie deals, having thousands of people read their books, earning a modest living…

If those latter goals sound like you… Then my advice is to stay focused on getting that contract with a major NY publishing house.

What saddens me most, I suppose, is when I see writers falling into the trap of believing certain myths about the industry that get perpetrated amongst we pre-published authors. Yes, it’s a tough business. Yes, the odds are against a new writer. Yes, it’s very subjective. Yes, there’s some luck and timing involved, but some things I hear out there just aren’t true. For example, I’ve heard people claiming that to get a major NY contract or even land a reputable agent:

  • You have to know someone
  • You have to be pretty
  • Your book has to fit into some kind of cookie-cutter mold
  • You have to learn a secret handshake no one’s willing to teach you

Yes, these little lies writers tell themselves can help take the sting out of the inevitable rejections that come in this business—but they are lies. Believing that you need an “in” to get published by a NY house, or that the major houses never take chances can lead writers into a world of delusion. Yes, small presses and e-pubs have launched certain fiction sub-genres — they can take more chances because the costs are so much lower… But once those barriers have been broken and it’s proven a market exists (say with erotica or paranormal right now) NY starts clamoring for those types of books and if your writing is good enough, your storytelling gripping, your voice strong, you will find an agent and get a publishing deal with a NY house.

Eventually.

This is what I believe.

Am I the one who’s deluded?

I don’t have a book contract yet. It took me 3 completed manuscripts to get a great agent and I recognize that it might take a few more manuscripts to get that contract… Don’t get me wrong… it will break my heart if the book my agent is shopping right now doesn’t sell… But I’ll recover. I also know each book I write gets better and for me (emphasis on for me) going with a small pub or e-pub is a compromise I’m not willing to make. It’s just not compatible with my goals. Your goals might be different. Just be honest with yourself and don’t buy into the myths.