Suggestions for your 2016 Oscar party menu

Entertainment

Snacks

  • Devilled eggs (Room)
  • Crackers and brie (Room)

Entrees

  • Sushi (The Revenant)
  • Potatoes cooked any method (The Martian)

Drinks

  • Bloody Mary (Mad Max: Fury Road)
  • Irish whisky / Guinness (Brooklyn)

Dessert

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Call me ADORABLE, more like it

Books, Uncategorized

This project does a really sweet job of capturing those intimate experiences people have with books, those lasting impressions that you carry around for the rest of your life, when you finish the last page and you whisper, “No one talk to me for a while.”

It’s called Call Me Ishmael, and it essentially involves people leaving voicemails about a book they love and a story they’ve lived. Then they (s/he?) transcribe it and it’s just all the sweetness. Here’s one about The Fault In Our Stars:

I’m considering leaving one about Anne of Green Gables and the 18-year-old copy I still have. (It has a Clifford the Big Red Dog stamp from the school book sale where I bought it!) Speaking of which, does anyone know where I can buy raspberry cordial in Toronto?

On that Amazon vs. Hachette kerfuffle

Books, Culture, Entertainment, Politics and Current Events

I really like Stephen Colbert this week. (Well, more than I usually do.) Most people don’t care about what’s happening between Amazon and Hachette (which is understandable, but unfortunate!), but when Colbert goes to bat… well, demons run when a good man goes to war. You can read all about his war against Amazon here, which is the latest development in the ongoing kerfuffle between the mega online bookseller and book publisher Hachette. The stakes? The future of a great publisher, the livelihood of everyone who works in the book industry, including authors, and, ultimately, readers like you.

The sticker Stephen Colbert wants you to download from The Colbert Report website (http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/) and put on things you don't buy from Amazon.

The sticker Stephen Colbert wants you to download from The Colbert Report website (http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/) and put on things you don’t buy from Amazon.

There are valid points on both sides of the issue (after all, low low prices on Amazon get people buying books, but they don’t really support the publishing industry in the process of providing great books in the first place), but I’ll just say that I think Amazon could benefit from understanding how much work and money goes into creating books, and how valuable publishers (and editors and agents, etc. etc. etc.) are to that process.

Speaking of which, John Green also weighed in on the issue (on the anti-Amazon side), and — oh, what a coincidence! — I just saw The Fault in Our Stars movie last night. It was screening a day early as part of The Night Before Our Stars special event, with a live, post-movie Q&A with the cast and crew being fed into a few hundred theatres around the U.S. and Canada. I really enjoyed the book (yes, there are good YA novels that well-read adults can enjoy and no, I’m not ashamed) and I thought the movie was a very faithful adaptation. And I have the tear-stained tissues to corroborate that.

Starting on my Jonathan Strange costume right now

Uncategorized

What’s that? A “Comic-Con” for books? All this needs now is Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and it’d be like it was tailor-made for me. 

…Oh, wait, THEY’RE THERE, TOO. (That page doesn’t have the title of Amy Poehler’s upcoming semi-memoir, but they actually just released the title and cover and I’m pretty damn excited.)

Sorry, I may have jumped ahead. I’m talking about BookCon, which you can read all about in this Vulture article. TL;DR: It’s a new-ish (they’ve been doing something similar for the last two years under a different name) part of Book Expo America (BEA), one of the biggest book trade fairs in the world, which is happening this weekend in NYC. While the multi-day fair is pretty much for industry types looking to buy and sell publishing rights, they’ve set aside one day for a public festival, organized by ReedPop, a more consumer-savvy and pop culture-oriented subsidiary of the BEA’s organizer, Reed. Book fans can pay $30 to interact with authors in a way that they hope is like those rabid fan conventions with Spock ears and overnight lineups. So far, 8,000 tickets have been sold, which is a long way from the ~150,000 attendees San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) gets. 

The article goes into some detail about challenges and issues (e.g. lack of diversity among the panelists, the lack of an actual literary focus in favour of more entertainment and blockbuster-y/commercial books, etc.), but I still think it’s a really neat experiment, and I’m bummed I can’t attend this year (though I’ve added it to my Google calendar for 2015). I understand the need to feature celebs like Neil Patrick Harris and Tina Fey alongside authors like John Green and Veronica Roth, though I hope that as the festival expands (if it does), they can offer room to lower profile, but equally awesome, authors. It’s super early, though, and no one really knows what form it’s going to take yet. (Publishers aren’t even sure if they’re going to sell books there or not!)

As a two-time SDCC attendee and a book nerd, I’m just so tickled pink to see things like “Literary quiz shows” on the docket and a policy about bringing weapons (as in, don’t) to the con, including “sharpened metal-bladed weapons (including axes, daggers, hatches, knives, kunai, shuriken, swords, sword canes and switch blades).” Oh gosh, I really hope book cosplay takes off.

Book publishing meets YouTube

Books, Culture, Uncategorized, Writing

If you’re a YouTube star with a robust fan base, you just got one step closer to publishing a book.

This NYTimes article from yesterday is all about a new imprint called Keywords Press — a joint venture between Simon & Schuster’s Atria Publishing Group and the Hollywood United Talent Agency — that wants to publish books by YouTube entertainers.

Judith Curr, the president and publisher of Atria, says signing YouTube celebrities “gives us access to a whole new talent pool.” Credit Nancy Borowick for The New York Times

Judith Curr, the president and publisher of Atria, says signing YouTube celebrities “gives us access to a whole new talent pool.” Credit Nancy Borowick for The New York Times

There is precedence for YouTube stars to publish books, and it is common practice for book publishers to mine for manuscripts from well-known individuals with built-in followings, but it’s really interesting to see a whole imprint dedicated to the gambit and to even tweak their publishing models to follow YouTube-like practices; most of these books will be crowdsourced, and they’ll be shot out into the marketplace faster than other books.

In the article, iJustine (one of five YouTube stars who have already signed deals with Keywords) says, “I’ve always wanted to write a book, but the proposal process is kind of crazy [….] I would say, ‘Why can’t I just do it?’ That’s what we are used to doing online.'”

I just hope these YouTubers are also good writers. Having a talent for making videos and a ready-made audience is great, but there’s something to be said for having the chops to write well, too. Being sellable shouldn’t be the only prerequisite to getting published. I also hope there’s still room in the publishing industry for all the aspiring authors who haven’t had time to build their own customer bases because they were, you know, busy learning how to write a good book.

 

Thematic food for your 2014 Oscar party

Entertainment

The below are suggestions for thematic food to serve while watching the Academy Awards on Sunday, March 2. All are inspired by the nine movies nominated for Best Picture, and I’ve linked to recipes where possibly needed. Why? Because brainstorming party food based on pop culture themes is one of my favourite things to do.

When possible, I’ve taken food right out of the movies (in 12 Years, Solomon uses a twig and blackberry juice to write a letter to his family; in Her, Samantha leads Theodore to a slice of cheese pizza at the fair, etc.). Other times, I’ve chosen things that encapsulate the spirit of the movie (floating fruit for Gravity; gold coins for The Wolf of Wall Street). And when neither of those are possible, I’ve suggested cuisine inspired by the setting of the movie (samosas/sambusa from Somalia for Captain Phillips; fondue from the seventies for American Hustle, etc.)

Enjoy! And check out the rest of the nominees here.

(If you use any of my suggestions, please let me know! It would make me so happy.)

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE

Hug a pen today.

Starters/snacks
Crisps with goat cheese, blackberries and honey* — 12 Years a Slave
Sambusas (also known as “samosas”) — Captain Phillips

Mains
Cheese pizza — Her
Tex-Mex (e.g. nachos, fajitas, quesadillas) — Dallas Buyers Club
Fondue — American Hustle

70show-fondue

Just wait until it cools a bit.

Desserts
Jello mould with floating fruitGravity
Chocolate gold coins** — The Wolf of Wall Street

The strawberries are Sandra Bullock. The kiwis are George Clooney.

The strawberries are Sandra Bullock. The kiwis are George Clooney.

Drinks
Guinness — Philomena
More/any alcohol — Nebraska

*When I make this, I’ll probably replace the crisps with much simpler baguette slices.
**I realize this is a Canadian thing. I don’t know if people in other countries have anything similar. Jelly bean dollar bills? I just don’t know.

Travelbots? Droid Guides? Virtu-Travel?

Travel, Writing

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about taking a trip (it’s been a while), but I’m not sure where to go that would be within my budget and still be adventurous. This morning on my way to work, I was thinking how great it would be to pay Nature a visit. Grand vistas. Tall mountains. Majestic rivers. And then I remembered that it’s winter for everyone above Florida, and also how I hate camping and inclines and stuff.

So, wouldn’t it be lovely if I could experience the majesty of travelling through the Rockies via some kind of android surrogate? It would be exactly like being there — I could breathe in the cool, fresh air, and reach down and feel the shrubbery (shrubbery? I have no idea what the Rockies are like), without any of the hassle of actually going there.

That’s me in the middle.

Of course, this would require a very sophisticated android set-up, and some kind of sensory deprivation tank to sit inside… Plus, I guess the same could be accomplished by a VR simulation. Or a really good IMAX movie. And I know it wouldn’t be exactly the same as being there, but at the very least, it’d be a cool promotional tool for travel agents, no?

Maybe I’ll just file this away for a possible future short story.

Also: PATENT PENDING.

Taking stock

Uncategorized

This is what’s getting me through today:

I was perusing this public list of people’s bucket list items, and I gradually realized that I’d done a lot of them. Like, a lot. It’s remarkable how a few bad months can make you feel like you’ve never done anything good your whole life. Or, like all the exciting, novel experiences and adventures in your life happened so long ago, on the other side of some awful schism in your life, that they may as well have happened to someone else. 

As I scrolled through them, I realized how lucky I am to have done a lot of these things, and it’s really interesting to see what things people hold on to as life goals or dreams. For some, the items are so small that it made me take stock of how many of the things I take for granted (ex. laughing until I cry) are actually really valuable experiences.

My 2013 wasn’t as good as some other people’s, but it did have its ups in between the downs. And, while I toasted to 2014 by drinking sparkling wine and saying “Good fucking riddance” to 2013, I should probably acknowledge that I did, in fact, accomplish some stuff…I guess.

Things I did in 2013:

  • Joined a writing group. I love meeting with my writing group. It’s a blissful hour that happens at the library every other week when I get to discuss writing and characters and stories and sci-fi with people who just get it, you know? It might be the only time I forget about all the other shit going on. Plus, it forces me to produce new material on a regular basis, and I think receiving and incorporating feedback (especially when it’s hard to hear) has really helped my writing.
  • Finally wrote some stuff I don’t hate. I didn’t publish anything (though I’m on track to do that in 2014), but I did finish some stuff and finishing all on its own feels pretty damn good.
  • Disembarked from a bad relationship. Related: started a new, much healthier relationship with a great therapist.
  • Got to be the Best Maid in my best friend’s wedding. It involved a surprising amount of crafting, a whole bunch of tears, and the best party I’ve ever been to and it was amazing.
  • Started a (hopefully long-term) volunteer gig that I totally dig. It’s at Story Planet and it’s spectacular.
  • Moved downtown. I finally live somewhere so cool I don’t even care that my ceilings are too low for upright bookcases.
  • Got a new job that fits my life a bit better.
  • Adopted my first pet. He’s a hamster named Doc who refuses to pose for photos, sorry.
  • …bought a PS3?

Okay, the accomplishments are kind of dwindling now so I’ll stop. My regrets include not writing more/faster/better (I think that will be a regret of mine every year), spending more time brooding and crying than enjoying life, falling back into unhealthy habits and not travelling more. Which actually creates a good starting place for what my 2014 is going to look like:

2014-make-it-so

  • I am going to write more/faster/better, and also remember that I do it because it’s fun.
  • Every time I start feeling sad, I’m just going to stop being sad and be awesome instead.
  • Exercise more and eat better.
  • Travel SOMEWHERE.

Giddy up.

Uncategorized

Grit

Uncategorized

“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” – Babe Ruth

I know how terribly obvious this sounds, so just consider this a preface: It’s so easy to get disheartened when you see people achieving more than you.

I’ve wanted to write novels since I was a tyke, but I only really started writing seriously about two or so years ago when I realized journalism wasn’t going to be enough for me. Since then, I’ve hated almost everything I’ve written. And, on days that end in “y,” I poor salt in my wounds by comparing myself to people who are out there, writing stories and sharing them with the world at a skill level and speed that I can’t seem to keep pace with.

During my last couple of years as a writer-in-training, I’ve tried out and discarded dozens of ideas, eventually landing on a premise for a novel about time travel that I felt was decent. I wrote about 30,000 words that I eventually threw out. (Though I remain committed to making that premise work in some way, some day…maybe tomorrow, actually, now that I think about it.) Over the last 10 months, I’ve taken a break from novel-writing to take a crack at writing a short story. And last night, I finished it. (I’ve come to love that word. Finished. Mmmmmm.) And, amazingly, despite its problems, I actually like it. Callooh callay! (Of course, now it’s time for the heartache of rejection, but I’ll cross that bridge when I have all of the wine.) (Am I over-using parentheses?)

I’m writing all this out because it’s important to remind myself once in a while that I’m making progress, even if it is painstakingly slow. And progress is so important, because it means I’m sticking to my goals even though I’ve barely left the starting line of this exhausting marathon. And that, according to my new favourite TED Talk, is how you succeed.

I don’t know if I’ve got talent. I don’t know if the world wants to read what I’m peddling. But if grit really is a key indicator of success, I think I may stand a chance, because it sounds like having grit is a choice. Every day, I can sit at my computer and choose to keep plucking away. I can choose to be gritty by simply refusing to give up. While I hope this perseverance leads to my eventual success (however I’m defining that on a particular day), it also serves a more short-term goal: it makes me feel like I have some control over this ridiculous, largely luck-based pursuit of mine, and that gives me something to hold onto on those days when I feel as though I’m typing nonsense into the abyss.

Image