(In)Frequently Asked Questions

Graeme
What does 'Gem, Geek or Rare Bug' mean?
It's an anagram for my full name, Graeme George Burk.
What's the deal with writing a column? I see you've done it before
In the first incarnation of my website, which ran from 2003-2006, I attempted to write a weekly column on a variety of topics. The column was only truly weekly for the first year or so, then it became biweekly, monthly, random and, finally, defunct. I had several things on the go in my life at the time and I was starting to do more paid writing. A big reason was that the software I used for that site attracted comment spam by the boatload and the time it took to administer it was more trouble than it was worth and I gave up until I found a Content Management System with better methods of handling such things. Now that I have that I'm coming back to writing online columns!
How frequently will you write your column now?
The column will be an 'occasional' thing. I'll write when I can when I have the time and energy. Hopefully that will be at least monthly, if not more frequently.
Why do you do a column? Why don't you have a blog instead?
I have a somewhat...ambiguous feelings when it comes to blogging. While I like a lot of blogs, I'm not interested in writing the talk-about-the-minutae-of-your-life-and-opinions-to-the-entire-Internet type of blog that is so prevelant. (The most you'll get out of me on that front is the microblogging I do on twitter-- and I hardly do it all that often).
For me, a column is very deliberate exercise in writing. There's a craft involved in how one expands upon a particular theme. Blogging, to me, seems like the exact opposite. It goes against all my writerly instincts and my sense of personal space.
That said, I have decided to keep an ongoing blog about writing and writing projects I'm working on, because I like the immediacy of blog writing and I enjoy contributing to blogs around a specific purpose. Over the years, I contributed to a collaborative blog about arts and politics, Horizon (now sadly defunct) and I continue to contribute to DWIN's Doctor Who Blog
Did you republish all your columns from the old site on this new site?
No. There were some I cut because I wasn't wild about them back in the day and some that elicited negative feedback and some I deleted for personal reasons.
What are your most popular columns?
Based on comment feedback at the time of the old site, 'Surviving Breakups: An A to Z' (Google gave it a high page ranking back in the day). This is an honour more than I can say--I wrote it for myself while in a place of total brokenness and I'm moved if it can help others..
Why don't you lose some weight?
I'm working on it, okay Mom?
What's this about your screenplay getting nominated for an award?
The Writers Guild of Canada had a prize for new screenwriters almost a decade ago. I performed an extensive rewrite on one of my old scripts from film school and to my astonishment I was one of the five shortlisted. I went to a very, very, posh reception at the WGC's annual awards, where I stood next to Nicholas Campbell (but was too shy to say anything to him) and Ken Finkleman tripped over me (I felt a strange sense of satisfaction from that). Best of all, I got to find out what it's like to have someone say 'and the winner is...not you.'
Will you ever go for this award again?
Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to do so. The Writers Guild of Canada is holding a competition for the prize again (for substantially less money, but with mentorship opportunities which are even more valuable)...but they've changed the rules. Whereas in 2002 I was able to apply having had published fiction, they've now limited it to people with actual film credits, which to my mind is tremendously limiting. My complaints to the WGC were in vain. Idiots.
What current writing projects are you working on?
I've just finished my first non-fiction book, Who is the Doctor, which I co-wrote with Robert Smith? and we're talking about the next one (or two) with various publishers. I've written some screenplays and TV pilots, one is currently in development hell and a few others have been pitched to little success but I'm still trying. I'm looking to do some magazine writing again, but it's hard when you have a day job! Of course, there's also the column on this website.
How did you get your Doctor Who short fiction published?
The short answer is: dumb luck, a fair amount of disappointment, and a lot of waiting.
How did you get Who is the Doctor published?
Much of the same as the above.
In your Doctor Who short story 'Turnabout Is Fair Play', why did you only show the story from Peri's point of view?
Read the book version of Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers and you'll see why. 'Turnabout' is both an affectionate homage to that book as well as a literary disciple to its core belief that less is more.
Under what conditions do you like to write.
I enjoy writing anywhere than at my desk, so Starbucks tends to be my default location (and they have skinny vanilla lattes, which also help). As a result, the first draft of anything tends to be written in longhand.
Do you write to any particular music?
Generally I don't. I often find writing to music very distracting and so I tend written in silence. But I've become more comfortable about doing this. Often I'll listen to music if it helps be get a sense of the mood or 'feel' of a piece. My story in Short Trips: Steel Skies used a lot of jazz references and I wrote a lot of it with the songs referenced in the story playing in the background. I recently wrote a screenplay set in the 1940s and found listening to music from that era while writing helped a lot.
What writers have influenced you?
Michael Ondaatje's prose exhilarates me in ways that normally only narcotics can do, as does the prose (even in translation) of Milan Kundera and Henri-Pierre Roche. I'm not sure if any of them have influenced me, but I'd love to be able to write with such grace. My poetry, when I wrote it, went through a period where I needed to learn to love Bruce Cockburn a little less. My screenwriting has been similarly unduly influenced by Russell T Davies' stylistic tendencies and Aaron Sorkin's dialogue. My favourite writers are the above plus John Irving, George Orwell, Margaret Lawrence and Douglas Coupland.
Is there any particular type of writing you'd like to try that you've never done before?
I've been intrigued with the idea of writing for children for ages. And there's part of me that would love to write a novel.
How do I break into the film industry?
When you find out, could you let me know?