It probably goes without saying that I like to read (and I'm particularly fond of fiction) but mostly I'm not someone who seeks out author readings or wants to learn more about the author. The stories themselves are all I'm after.

The Year of the FloodHaving said that, there were two authors I hoped to see at this year's Word On The Street festival in Toronto. One was my favourite Toronto Star columnist, Joe Fiorito. Anyone who doubts that Toronto has a heart need only read his column to be proven wrong. You can check out his Star columns dating back to January 09 here. The second was Margaret Atwood who was scheduled to appear in person in Toronto and simultaneously via LongPen in Halifax and Vancouver. I heartily enjoyed Joe Fiorito's appearance but unfortunately by the time we arrived at the Scotiabank Bestsellers' tent all the seats (predictably!) were long gone and a sizeable crowd had gathered outside, straining to see and hear what was going on within. After several minutes of squinting at Margaret Atwood in the distance, unable to hear a word of what she was saying (the PA system obviously wasn't set up with a crowd that large in mind!), we decided to implement Plan B, which was shuffling off to a nearby theatre to see one of the movies we'd missed at this year's TIFF.

I'm sure The Year of the Flood discussion was scintillating and I'm very much looking forward to reading it (after I make some serious progress on the book I'm currently working on) but we pushed on from a dystopian novel to a family drama film. The Boys Are Back, directed by Scott Hicks, is based on the memoirs of Simon Carr and tells the story of British sports writer Joe Warr (played by Clive Owen) who is living in rural Australia when he's suddenly widowed and must learn how to care for his young son alone. During the course of the film the two of them are joined by Joe's teenage son from his first marriage. Things do not go smoothly, to say the least, but it's a wonderful movie, emotional without being the least bit manipulative or maudlin. Clive Owen's young co-stars shine as does Owen who delivers a three-dimensional portrait of a grieving father who was never around much and is now forced to confront his shortcomings and decide what to do about them.

The Boys Are Back

I'm also hoping to watch Bright Star, another TIFF film that I missed out on, in the not too distant future, but for the next little while I need to knuckle down and write.

So if things are quiet around here for awhile you know why, but before I disappear I want to send my congratulations out to Tanita S. Davis whose fabulous YA book Mare's War has been nominated as an Amelia Bloomer book (an annual list of recommended feminist literature for readers from birth to the age of 18). You can read some of my thoughts on Mare's War in this August blog entry.
Today you can find me guest blogging on They very kindly invited me to blog about whatever I wanted to share and so I talk about learning something that I believe made the biggest difference in my writing—creating three-dimensional characters.

Lately I can't stop listening to All is Love (by Karen O & The Kids) from the soon to be released movie version of Where The Wild Things Are. I think it may be impossible to frown while listening to this song.

Having listened to it several times this evening I have to say that I feel younger than when I rolled out of bed this morning!

To have a hit of feel-good music at the ready is especially important right now because man, the YA novel I'm currently working on is sad. And it's both crying out for me and pushing me away with both hands. Inconsolable is what it is.

Hmm, maybe I'll add another feel-good tune for good measure (Incidentally, Abba and I go waaaay back. The first pop album I ever had was one of Abba's greatest hit albums).

I was very sad to hear, earlier this week, that South African runner Caster Semenya had been placed on suicide watch. Semenya, as I'm sure most people are already aware, was determined by tests to be intersex after winning a gold medal in the 800 metre event in Berlin.

South African lawmaker Butana Komphela, chair of the country's sports committee, commented that: “If she commits suicide, it will be on all our heads. The best we can do is protect her and look out for her during this trying time.”

I hope that Semenya has supportive people around her at this terrible time and I hope that she can somehow come to the realization that the failure here is entirely ours and not hers. Every day we all walk through a world that insists on defining people according to X and Y chromosomes, as though there's some absolute meaning in this, a neat divide, as though possessing ovaries automatically imbues you with a nurturing spirit and compels you to worship the colour pink and adore shopping while having a penis makes you aggressive and forever bonds you to things like power tools and pro football.

And what do we have to say in response to these ludicrously small-minded ideas? Not a hell of a lot, mostly. Not enough.

Not only do binary ideas like the above create constraining behavioural expectations, they also exclude certain people from aspects of society entirely. No medal for you, they say. You don't belong here. You aren't either or.

Stats on babies born intersex aren't indicative of true numbers as “1 in 2000 infants is born with genitalia that are so atypical that the attending physician requests the help of the specialists in the team to assign a sex...[but] most hospitals in the world have no gender assignment teams and most intersex people have typical genitalia.” Apparently the real figure could be closer to 4%.

Isn't social exclusion and demanding that you attempt to adhere to one of the two approved genders awful enough without people pointing at you (now, thanks to the Internet millions upon millions of folks can do this without even leaving their homes), poring over the details of your ordeal while some of them are even ignorant and callous enough to call you a 'freak of nature'?

Just this morning I read that it's come to light that the governing body of athletics asked South Africa's top administrators for the sport to consider withdrawing Semenya before the race but that those officials declined without even informing her of the governing body's concerns.

To say this was handled badly all round is an understatement. This isn't entertainment—this is someone's life, her hope and dreams. We should be celebrating Caster Semenya's accomplishment in the world of sports and throwing our support behind her. If you feel the same, please write your support down where she, and others, will be able to see it—your blog, Twitter, Facebook, a message board, wherever.

Caster, my thoughts are with you.

We caught the world premiere of Irish film Perrier's Bounty at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday evening and it was much fun, markedly more violent than director Ian FitzGibbon's last film, A Film With Me In It (which we saw at last year's TIFF), but just as comical.

Here's the summary from the TIFF site:
“A tongue-in-cheek narrator introduces us to anti-hero Michael McCrea (Cillian Murphy), who is the perfect boy next door – or upstairs, if you're his best friend Brenda. Night after night, he patiently listens to Brenda's lamentations about her boyfriend Seamus's cheating heart. A real catch, right? The unfortunate matter is that Michael is estranged from his father, Jim (played by Jim Broadbent). And he owes Dublin's most ruthless gangster, Darren Perrier (Brendan Gleeson), a lot of money.

With impeccable pacing, Perrier's Bounty follows Michael during two whirlwind nights in the city. On the first night, he confronts his ailing dad, takes a swing at Seamus at the pub, seeks a loan for his debts, burgles a home, participates in blackmail and is implicated in the accidental murder of one of the crime lord's goons. For his deeds, a ten-thousand-euro bounty is placed upon the heads of him, Brenda and Jim. The twenty-four hours that follow are a veritable game of cat and mouse, with a trail of mishaps and mayhem left across Dublin as Perrier's gang closes in. Michael's fight to save his skin is complicated when he is forced to confront his emotions toward the eccentric Jim, who washes down coffee grounds with cold water, and Brenda, who is morose to the point of being suicidal after getting dumped by Seamus.”
Cillian Murphy & Jim Broadbent in Perrier's Bountry

I was surprised by just how much violence you can comfortably get away with as long as you keep the audience laughing, but what really struck me about this movie was how different it played having come from an Irish writer (Mark O'Rowe) and director than it would've from American or British ones. The Irish sensibility/wit renders this film brashly charming—charming with liberal use of expletives and blunt implements to the kneecaps. There's also something about it that seems humble at the core where an American or British film would've appeared arrogant and without half as much as heart. I think in large part this is due to the relationship between Michael and his rather eccentric father (played by Jim Broadbent in the film's most winning performance) who is convinced, for reasons that have nothing to do with the bounty, that he'll die the next time he falls asleep, but there's a sort of rough warmth between the F-words and batterings/shootings that makes itself felt throughout the script.

You can read notes from the Q & A here. While Ian FitzGibbon said the film will have quite wide distribution in Ireland and the UK, unfortunately it doesn't yet have North American distribution. I'm hoping that changes as I think it could make a big splash in North America given the opportunity.

Perrier's Bounty Into, TIFF, September 11, 2009 with Cameron Bailey

Perrier's Bounty Q & A with director Ian Fitzgibbon, Cillian Murphy & Brendan Gleeson, TIFF, September 11, 2009

Some YouTube footage from the Q & A:

Perrier's Bounty Q & A with director Ian Fitzgibbon, Cillian Murphy & Brendan Gleeson, TIFF, September 11, 200

On Saturday morning we headed up north to spend the weekend with some friends. Saturday was a gorgeous day to be out on Georgian Bay and we hung out on the water for several hours, enjoying the scenery and fresh lake air. The calendar may say September but I would've sworn it was August (except for a few stray trees already showing off their fall colours).

St. Ann's Church, Penetang,  from Georgian Bay, September 12, 2009

Discovery Harbour, Penetang, from Georgian Bay, September 12, 2009

Boating on Georgian Bay, September 12, 2009

Boating on Georgian Bay, September 12, 2009

Boating on Georgian Bay, September 12, 2009

Glorious, right? I couldn't ask for anything more from a weekend!

Summer came late this year but I'm glad we're seeing lots of sunshine lately. I'm all for a sunny September...and a sunny October...and, well, it'd be perfectly fine with me if we had this gorgeous weather all year round with maybe just a month of cold and snow in December. Because I think we can always use some of the fluffy stuff around Christmas to really get in the spirit of things.

Speaking of things that happen annually, it seems Canadians are staring election season in the face again. Most countries like to skip a couple years in between federal elections but not us and I'm beginning to wonder, now that this has become a yearly event for us, whether we should combine election day with October Thanksgiving festivities to jazz things up a little. Wouldn't going to your local polling station be more fun if they'd offer you a free ham or turkey or maybe a warm slice of apple crumble?

Our loveable leader Steve-o could gain a leg up on the competition by recording versions of current hit songs like I Know You Want Me and I'm Yours and handing out his CDs free along with the pie etc.
Stephen Harper/Pitbull

I mean, the lyrics kind of fit, don't they? There's his total disregard for the function the press should be permitted to serve in a democracy and for other people's rights in general:

“Baby, I don't care, I don't care, what they say”
—I Know You Want Me

Stephen Harper/Jason Mraz

And just today I saw in the paper that Stephen Harper told his party's faithful he believes a majority government is in reach.

“Nothing's going to stop me but divine intervention
I reckon it's again my turn to win some or learn some.”
—I'm Yours

Damn, Steve-o! Seems like it's always your turn to win some (what happened to the learn some?). I'm starting to think that it's because you lack charisma to such an astounding degree that whenever your name's mentioned or your image appears, folks simply stop paying attention. This would explain your apparent impunity. A hearty percentage of the electorate are too bored with you to want to hear about the latest wrongs you and your party have committed.

But wouldn't it be cool to have someone in power (at least until next year!) that we wouldn't have to ignore, someone we might be able to have a modicum of respect for, someone who might even give a shit if we were being held against our will in a foreign country. I'm just saying...

In other news, this feminist re-imagining of Twilight — Buffy vs Edward: Twilight Remixed is popping up around the Internet and it kicks ass.

Some other things that kick ass lately: Courtney Summer's has unveiled the cover for her new book Some Girls Are. It looks fabulous (just looking at it makes me feel antsy) and you can enter to win an advance reader copy at Courtney's site (draw date is the 14th).

Also, David Yoo, author of Girls For Breakfast and Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before has a terrific Writers Against Racism post over at the School Library Journal blog. I think Stop Me would make a great movie. Would love to see the roundabout scene and all those sweet sequences between Albert and Mia at the inn (and no, I don't mean that) played out on the big screen. Think about picking up the book if you haven't read it already.

We had to hit the CNE one last time to make the most of the last day in August —and because we'd previously missed daredevil Joseph D. Bauer's Wheel of Thrills act, which, let me tell you, is really something to see. If you're going to the Ex this weekend before it closes make sure to catch his act.

And say hello to my bear pals for me

and munch on some 'food' that would make your dentist cringe.

Here's Joseph D. Bauer walking and running (sometimes skipping rope and blindfolded!) inside and outside of a 45 foot long wheel that rotates 360 degrees on a beam. No harness! Just an impeccable sense of balance. Truly amazing.

Like hanging out at the Ex on the last day of August isn't nostalgia-inducing enough (summer, please don't leave us!) on its own, some band just off the midway was playing the Green Day tune Time of Your Life as we were on our way out.
Next Post Newer Posts Previous Post Older Posts Home