Writer's Blog

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

June 28, 2012

  • RIP Nora Ephron
  • If there is one film that defined so much of who I was and the relationships I was in during the 1990s it was When Harry Met Sally.

    When Harry Met Sally was also, by a striking coincidence, the very first screenplay I ever read. I borrowed it from a professor when I was studying screenwriting at university and never returned it. (The copy I had, it was still titled Harry…This is Sally and Rob Reiner and producer Andrew Scheinman are credited as co-writers on the script.) My copy is buried somewhere so I can’t quote excerpts but I was amazed at how vividly drawn Harry and Sally were even on the page.

    I love the closing scene. It’s such a beautifully smart ending. Harry needs to convince Sally he loves her and isn’t just lonely and confused and tells her exactly why. For 20 years I have adored the dialogue in this sequence. It’s such a wonderful payoff to the whole movie.

    If Nora Ephron is missed for a few things I hope this is one of them.

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    June 26, 2012

  • Borrowing From Ourselves
  • I love Aaron Sorkin. I love him when he’s brilliant (The West Wing, the first season of Sports Night); I love him when he’s lurching from bad to good to really weird (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the second season of Sports Night). I love his new show The Newsroom though I think it’s a bit from column A and a bit from column B.

    But he does something every writer does: He steals from his work, recycles it and uses it somewhere else. If only there was some means of editing that together, and then putting it on a website that disseminates short video clips via the internet. (Cue Jeff Daniels: “YouTube! YouTube! YouTube!”)

    Reading the comments about this fascinates me. People cite this as (and the ways his dramas tend to have similar type characters) as a case for Sorkin being unoriginal. Hell, I think it’s a case for Sorkin being a writer. Writers borrow from their past works all the time. John Irving writes novel after novel featuring wrestling and dominant females and boys schools in New England. Russell T Davies loves characters named Tyler and Jones. Have you seen a Steven Moffat episode of anything that didn’t feature some smart mouthed woman somewhere? And don’t get me started about Matthew Weiner…

    Someone who has read most of my screenplays commented, “You always have a gay character.” And it’s true. I do. And when writing non-fiction works like Who is the Doctor I found myself discovering I used the exact same phrase in three different places, reviewing three different things. And don’t get me started about our overuse of the words “astonishing”, “via” and “stunning”. People have quirks, and go-to things they like to write. I think it makes the work far more integral to them.

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    June 18, 2012

  • Why I Love John Irving (#1672)
  • imageAs I have said before, John Irving is my favourite living author. Naturally, I set my google calendar to send me a reminder to my blackberry the day his new book In One Person came out. And then had to navigate all sorts of hurdles put out for me when the main Chapters in Downtown Ottawa didn’t have the book in stock(!)

    Of course wouldn’t you know it, the book came out during a month where a) I was moving, b) I was starting a full-time job and c) said full-time job was keeping me very busy, when moving and my own book promotion wasn’t. Consequently, I’ve been proceeding through this book at a far slower pace. I’ve been enjoying it, though it is, to be certain, going to be one of Irving’s more middling books. I can tell early on.

    But there’s still enough of the genius of John Irving’s writing to keep me enraptured, so I’m happy. Such as this little bit of exposition, nestled in a conversation between our hero William Abbott and his childhood crush, the librarian Miss Frost:

    I confessed to her that I hadn’t come to the library to read. I told Miss Frost that I was trying to get away from friends—so that I could write.

    “You’ve come here, to the library, to write,” she repeated. I remembered that Miss Frost had a habit of repeating what you said. Nana Victoria said that Miss Frost must have enjoyed the repetition, because by repeating what you said to her, she could keep the conversation going a little longer. (Aunt Muriel had claimed that no one liked to talk to Miss Frost.)

    I love what Irving has done here: he’s finally drawn attention to a character tic which has been going for the previous 50 pages or so, but has done so through anecdotes from his bitchy grandmother and aunt, which adds to the setting of a small town where everyone gossips about the other, makes the relatives seem more judgmental and elicits more sympathy for the haughty Miss Frost. It’s a tiny piece of prose that accomplishes so much. I love that man.

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    June 06, 2012

  • RIP Ray Bradbury
  • “Can’t we,” he pleaded to the world, to himself, to the officials, to the Machine, “can’t we take it back, can’t we make it alive again? Can’t we start over? Can’t we-”

    - “The Sound of Thunder” (1952)

    Dawn showed faintly in the east. Among the ruins, one wall stood alone. Within the wall, a last voice said, over and over again and again, even as the sun rose to shine upon the heaped rubble and steam:

    “Today is August 5, 2026, today is August 5, 2026, today is…” 

    - “There Will Come Soft Rains” (1950)

    I can’t say all that much about Ray Bradbury except the man’s ability with prose has left me in awe since I was a teenager. And probably will do forever.

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    June 01, 2012

  • I Love New York! (or “We Have (New York) Launch!”)
  • Back when we were at Gallifrey, DWNY‘s Barnaby Edwards offered to do a launch event for Who is the Doctor in New York in the Spring.

    An event in NEW YORK? No hesitation there.

    For Robert and myself this meant one thing… ROAD TRIP!


    That’s Dr. Smith? in Boonville, New York. Boy am I glad we noticed that sign as we drove past.

    Road trips with Robert are highly enjoyable. We talk almost non-stop the entire time. We talk about everything: upcoming projects, proposed projects, publishers, Doctor Who, people we know, fan gossip, sexuality, Doctor Who, his work, my work, politics, Doctor Who… The next thing we know we’ve driven from Ottawa to Poughkeepsie.

    Poor Robert was knackered from the driving and slept the train ride from Poughkeepsie to New York, leaving me to fend for myself with a crazy old lady who began by informing us that Canadians “don’t know the whole truth about Obama” and then asking us “Do you have x in Canada?” X being universal health care, lakes, art galleries, the sun (in fairness she was asking if it set the same as it did over the Hudson River) and other things. She was entertaining. And she was old and had cancer so I wasn’t about to be mean.

    Then we were in New York. It was my first time, by the way.


    I love cities. New York is the citiest city I’ve ever been to. Needless to say I wanted to live there after 3 minutes there. Here’s me on the High Line, a wonderful urban park they’ve made out of a disused elevated train line.


    Barnaby was a sensational host, showing me around all sorts of great places.

    The launch event was held at a bar in Brooklyn called The Way Station.


    It has a science fiction / steampunk / Doctor Who theme. It even has a TARDIS for their washroom entrance!


    And of course Doctor Who themed drinks… The Tenth Doctor Sonic Screwdriver was quite tasty.


    Again, like all the events I didn’t know how many people we’d get. It’s a book launch on Memorial Day Weekend (a nice day outside no less). DWNY tends to show episodes of Who during their meetings, so we suggested they show Gridlock. During that I started counting…I was well over 60 when I was distracted by something.


    Our first bit of talking about the book was kind of flat. During Gridlock I realized we needed to pump it up a bit. Robert is brilliant at improv, so I just came on with huge enthusiasm and Robert picked up on it, and we started to argue on stage and suddenly things took off. Here’s us during our antics taking questions from the audience…


    And here’s me trying to get the microphone away from Robert when he started talking about how he hated David Tennant…


    Everybody loved it. I’ve heard British actors and writers say how incredible the enthusiasm of American fans are, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen it directed at us. It was really lovely. And the signing afterwards went brilliantly—we sold out of every single book in our consignment!

    It was a wonderful day. A wonderful weekend, though far too short. Thanks to Barnaby and DWNY for being such incredible hosts, and to our friends Gina and Jason for hanging out with us while we were there! And thanks to everyone who came out. We hope you love the book!

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