Graeme

Writer's Blog

A place where I write about the writing life and writing projects in progress
 

October 27, 2009

  • Time Unincorporated 2 Now Solicited
  • image Mad Norwegian Press has now solicited the Doctor Who essay collection edited by myself and Robert Smith?. Yay! A book with my name on the cover! (And Robert’s, though Robert is already hugely famous after he helped to mathematically model a zombie outbreak…)

    Time Unincorporated Volume 2: Writings on the Classic Series is one of the most diverse compilations of Doctor Who fan writing ever produced. Robert and I intended it as a full-blooded follow-up (in spirit) to Virgin Publishing’s 1997 collection of fan writing License Denied. We’ve tried to expand the scope, with nearly 75 essays that examine every era of the classic Doctor Who series that ran from 1963-1989. Featuring writing from UK, Canada, the US and Australia, the collection includes reprints from fanzines such as Enlightenment, Shockeye’s Kitchen, Burnt Toast, Dark Circus, The Whostorian and more. Also included are several original essays and an introduction by Matt Jones (Doctor Who: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, Torchwood: Dead Man Walking and producer of Shameless). There are also original essays from published authors like Simon Guerrier (author of some great Doctor Who novels including The Pirate Loop and The Slitheen Excursion, Lou Anders (an old friend who is Editorial Director at Pyr Books) and Jim Sangster (author of several brilliant TV reference books including the indispensable TV Heaven).

    The collection reprints several of my own Enlightenment articles including my piece on racism in The Talons of Weng-Chiang and my essay on Sydney Newman and how his work at the CBC contributed to the vision of early Doctor Who. These are pieces I’ve been immensely proud of and I’m thrilled to see them in book form. I also wrote several of the introductory essays.

    The vagaries of the publishing industry means the book is advance solicited by six months, so it won’t be out til May 2010. More details will come out about this in the coming months. Nonetheless I’m really stoked. Robert and I both have long wanted a book that showed the breadth of talent that exists in fan writing and I think we have it. I think this is one of the best collections of writing about a TV series, never mind Doctor Who, ever done. The breadth, intelligence and wit of this collection is astounding. I’d say this even if I wasn’t a contributor. Honest.

    You can pre-order Time Unincorporated 2 from the Mad Norwegian website or from amazon.com  and amazon.ca (wow, I’m on Amazon…!)

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    October 15, 2009

  • Pitching Woo, er, Whoa!
  • I’m in the middle of pitch week. Actually, it’s been two weeks so pitch semi-month.

    I recently decided I have been sitting on the sidelines of writing a little too often and decided to get off my butt, make a list of all the things I said I would submit and get on with it. So far, I’ve submitted a short story and made pitches for a newspaper op-ed and several magazine articles. I’m going to look at doing a CBC Radio proposal and a couple of other things besides that.

    It’s been an interesting exercise. It’s like throwing seeds out and not knowing what will grow or how long till you know either way.

    It’s also been good in terms of the writing. Most magazines and newspapers have a specific brief for making proposals—if you can’t follow that, they won’t trust you to write for them—so I’ve been working at fulfiling their brief and yet telling a story idea that is absolutely compelling. It’s been fun in a strange way. And I’ve enjoyed the process of coming up with different ideas for different publications.

    The not-so-fun part will be the waiting (one magazine only contacted me to acknowledge my idea yesterday, a week after I submitted it) and in the inevitable rejection that most of the pitches will face. But that’s a part of the process too.

    Next week, pitch week #3, I’m hoping to figure out how to write a query letter to send to some screenwriting agents and do that. The statistical likelihood of rejection increases here, but as with everything the past two weeks has demonstrated, I’m glad to be at least trying and putting myself out there because I’m not doing myself any favours just saying “I should do that one day”...

    Posted by graeme | (1) Comments | Permalink

    October 13, 2009

  • Telling Whose Stories
  • In my most recent column, I tell the story of my high school math teacher. It’s an honest account of my own encounters of a man I didn’t know all that well. It reflects the totality of experiencing someone in one’s adolescence, when our whole world is high school and we don’t necessarily have a complete picture of anyone.

    In it, I used a pseudonym for the last name of the teacher. I felt the man was owed some privacy and didn’t deserve to google himself only to find a former student writing about him on the web.

    Doing a first person column that occasionally (or often) steers into memoir territory is something that I find sometimes agonizing. I want to tell the stories of my life and experiences and yet I also feel some responsibility to the people whose stories I am telling. And honouring one does not necessarily honour the other. Because my truth is not someone else’s truth.

    I think I have to be responsible first and foremost to my truth, but at the same time try to not to harm others in telling my truth. That’s remarkably pithy to say here. It’s harder to figure out.

    On my old website, I wrote a column about some family friends we had in the 1970s. It was a great piece. I had wonderful feedback from people I trust about it. But it talked about a woman who had emotional issues and who died in ambiguous circumstances. And when it came time to put the old column back up I didn’t include it, even though I had used pseudonyms, because from the time I published it I thought “What if her two kids were to read it?” I’d like to think they would appreciate it, but it’s not like I feel I can ask, particuarly given the subject matter.

    It becomes judged on a case-by-case basis for me, depending on the story I am telling. For the most part, if it’s not controversial I let it go out with people’s actual names. Occasionally I get notes from people I haven’t spoken to in decades as a result. I once wrote a column about Junior High which mentioned one student who, as a joke, tried to get me to ask out his girlfriend (though I didn’t know that at the time) resulted in an e-mail from the student in question, who was amused and reflective about it now that he had kids that age.

    If it’s controversial, or at least deeply personal, I use pseudonyms or don’t mention the person by name at all. Even then I still hear back from people. One time I wrote about a friend who I had lost touch with and missed, and talked in detail about the story of our friendship, though I did not mention them by name. Years later, I (miraculously) regained contact with the friend and they expressed awkwardness about the column. I deleted the column soon after.

    It’s funny because I love the writing of David Sedaris and yet I could never be as cutthroat as he is in writing about his life and the stories he tells about his family and friends (even the stories he tells about himself). I think when it comes down to it, I’m way too nice about such things.

    Yesterday, I received a lovely note from my High School English teacher. She told me the math teacher I wrote about died 15 or so years ago and spoke of his end which sounded heartbreaking. She said “I find your written piece a fitting memorial to a fine teacher”. Which was kind of her to say. All the same, I’m not sure if I’ll change his name back to his real one.

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    October 01, 2009

  • Writus Interruptus
  • Ever notice how, just as you’re onto a really good idea or making a bit of prose finally work, suddenly the phone rings, someone comes in the room or you realize you have an appointment and you suddenly have to stop?

    I hate that.

    Posted by graeme | (1) Comments | Permalink
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