Revising My Beating Teenage Heart - back in October.

During the next couple of weeks I also look forward to squeezing in some time reading Lure by Deborah Kerbel. I love a good ghost story and this one takes place in the real-life setting of the {haunted} Thornhill Village Public library! Here's the book trailer:

And if you haven't seen the book trailer for Courtney Summer's Fall for Anything (out December 21st) yet have a look:

Even the trailer makes me sad. I'm sensing the novel itself will make me want to curl up in a ball and sob!

Naturally many of us (including the RCMP who have been handling this case with a sensitivity I wish we could see in all police forces when dealing with rape) are appalled and saddened by this crime, wondering what kind of society we're living in when not only can six or seven young men callously commit this kind of attack against a drugged girl but still more stand around and take pictures of the violent acts as though it's entertainment. That this extremely nasty form of voyeurism has expanded its audience over the Internet (some of the Facebook users who've been contacted by the RCMP and asked to remove the pictures have refused) demonstrates the scope of the problem which is a mentality that:

1) either doesn't discern or care what true female consent looks like


2) strives to shame girls and women and thereby exact some kind of control over them.

This mentality isn't created in a vacuum but is the natural result of a society that ceaselessly sexually objectifies women (promoting the idea that they chiefly exist for male approval and entertainment) while instilling in them the idea that they must tread a fine line of acceptable behaviour (a ludicrous, impossible  standard rarely applied to men) lest they be labelled a prude on one side of the line or slut on the other and punished accordingly for either 'wrong'. Unfortunately, this toxic mentality isn't on its way to becoming extinct anytime soon and instead seems sadly robust in the current generation of young people as evidenced by the amount of sexual harassment and even sexual assault going on within our schools. A couple of studies done here in Ontario during the past few years showed:
" 21 per cent of the students that were surveyed said that they knew at least one student who was sexually assaulted at school. Now there's sexual harassment, which is talking inappropriately and there's sexual harassment which is being touched inappropriately. So the 21 per cent are talking about sexual assault.

"Twenty-nine per cent of Grade 9 girls ... felt unsafe at school partly due to sexual comments and unwanted looks or touches; 27 per cent of the girls in Grade 11 admitted to being pressured into doing something sexual that they did not want to do; 14 per cent of the females reported being harassed over the Internet."
This isn't just a regional problem or even a national one. Sexual bullying is also a rising problem in schools in the United Kingdom and in the U.S. (acccording to a national survey of high school students called the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System) approximately 11.9% of female students surveyed reported having been forced to have sexual intercourse against their will in their lifetime. Meanwhile a 2000 report by the National Institute of Justice found that "over the course of a college career one in four women will be raped."

Like B.C. Attorney-General Mike de Jong pointed out in relation to the recent attack, laws need to “evolve” to address the way social networking can be used to deepen a victim’s suffering. However, the more difficult change needs to occur on a social level. Most of us, whatever our ages or genders, realize how wrong what happened to this sixteen-year-old girl out in British Columbia was. We know it despite ubiquitous negative cultural messages about women and sex but if those of us who do know aren't extremely pro-active in combatting those negative social messages there will be more and more cases like this, more young girls that don't feel safe at school or safe anywhere because we're not doing a good enough job of teaching boys to respect girls.

This message absolutely needs to be extended into comprehensive sex ed in a meaningful way. Scarleteen has a terrific article entitled How You Guys -- that's right, you GUYS -- Can Prevent Rape which I wish would be pored over and discussed in every high school and junior high sex ed class. Here's a snippet:
When someone wants to, really wants to, have sex with us, we'll know because that person will be taking a very active role, will be saying -- if not yelling! -- "Yes!" or "Please!” or "Do me NOW!" We may know because that person is the one initiating sex, at least as often as we are. (If you’re going to say that younger women just aren’t like that yet, know that isn’t always true. Some are, but those who aren’t likely aren’t because things are either moving too fast, or they really just aren’t ready for or that interested in sex with you yet.) We'll know because it will feel like something we are absolutely doing together, that couldn't happen if the other person wasn't just as engaged as we are (imagine trying to dance with someone else when they’re just standing there or not really paying attention: same goes with sex). We'll know because our partners will absolutely not "just be lying there."

We can easily be sure never to rape someone by making a choice to ONLY have sex with someone else when we are certain we have not only their full consent, but their full interest and attention, and they ours; when they’re clearly as enthusiastic about sex as we are, and we’re just as excited about their enjoyment as we are our own. If we're having sex with a partner and they start to space or zone out, or stop participating physically or verbally, if we stop what we’re doing and say, "Hey, you still into this? It's okay if you're not, we can do something else or just go snuggle," and mean it – rather than saying it to imply they need to get into it, or else -- we can be sure not to rape. If we are interested in sex with someone who seems they will allow us to have sex with them, but who is not taking equal part or deeply desiring and mutually initiating sex with us, we can and should step back and wait for them to take a lead.

The short film I've embedded below, Dormancy, is a brief but powerful one made with the aim of raising awareness of college campus sexual assault:

There's another wonderful blog entry at the Yes Means Yes! blog about boundaries which all parents, teachers and anyone else who mentors young people should read in full:
 A boy and a girl run around on the grass at the park. The boy tackles the girl. The girl laughs. She gets up and runs away. She loves to run. He chases, she turns and they grab each other, tumble and land in a pile, giggling. After a few minutes, he tackles her again and she lands a bit hard. She is bigger and physical, but he more than holds his own in roughhousing. She pauses for a second. Then she laughs again; she’s still having fun.

Dad gets his attention, and says, “If she’s not having fun, you have to stop.”

He is two. He needs to hear this now, and so does she.

I'm so glad that this young woman out in British Columbia has supportive friends and family around her but as a society we need to do worlds better in preventing these horrendous crimes from occurring in the first place. The boys who committed the attack, the ones who have participated after the fact by relishing in the crime on social networking sites and the ones who suggest maybe there was no crime committed at all—these guys weren't born evil or callous but clearly they weren't taught the above lesson often enough or profoundly enough and instead absorbed society's darker messages.

“Sexual, racial, gender violence and other forms of discrimination and violence in a culture cannot be eliminated without changing culture.”—Charlotte Bunch

So I started out the week quite giddy and am still holding on to that buoyant mood thanks to the fact that The Lighter Side of Life and Death made Booklist's 2010 Top 10 Romance Fiction for Youth list!

It's in fantastic company with Fire, Flash Burnout, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Illyria (which I'm reading right now) and more. Have a look at the entire list here:

* Top 10 Romance Fiction for Youth: 2010

The cover art for Booklist's September 15th Spotlight on romance issue is The Lighter Side cover which I'm also thrilled about. Thank you, Booklist!
Having watched two wonderful movies at the Toronto International Film Festival over the weekend, I was already in a giddy mood when I discovered CM Magazine's terrific new review of The Lighter Side of Life and Death yesterday. Yup, it's going to be tough to match last week for thrills!

It's not every week that you receive a four out of four star review from a literary review journal, not every week that you're lucky enough to watch movies along with Robert Redford and Colin Firth and not every week that you get a chance to (technically!) spend part of Colin Firth's birthday with the esteemed actor. Check out the 2:35 mark in the below clip where director Tom Cooper introduces Colin Firth and the audience proceeds to sing Happy Birthday to him.

The King's Speech gala:

The Conspirator gala:

However, I still have one more festival screening to look forward to! Around about the same time I'll be diving back into editing mode for My Beating Teenage Heart so I suppose you'll just have to trust me when I say that if I get quiet shortly it's not because I'm watching too much YouTube or generally slacking off but because I'm working diligently away.

I hope that if you're in the Toronto area you're partaking of some festival goodness too! It's not really fall until the TIFF's finished —just one more reason to love the film festival.


Roy Thomson Hall September 10th, 2010: Tom Cooper, Colin Firth, The King's Speech screenwriter David Seidler and one of the films' producers.

Roy Thomson Hall, September 11th, 2010: Robert Redford, Robin Wright, James McAvoy (who was outstanding in the role of lawyer Frederick Aiken an initially reluctant crusader for justice) Kevin Kline and James Badge Dale await their fellow cast members on stage.

I admit that I've been spending a little too much time on YouTube watching videos lately and if you read my previous post you might be sensing a trend of inaction, inertness and general slothtittude. But I swear there is some research getting done (which the below videos have nothing to do with). It's just that:

1) I'll have to resume work on My Beating Teenage Heart practically any day now.

2) I very recently finished my first adult novel. Fingers crossed that at some point Book X (because, yep, its my tenth) will make its way into the world!

3) The Toronto International Film Festival is about to start and soon there will be shiny new movies to see. One I'm really excited about is Never Let Me Go. Here's the trailer:

These three things mean I'm not mentally prepared to dive into another novel just yet. Besides, I haven't finished the research for the new book!

Anyway, I added the playlist for My Beating Teenage Heart to the website yesterday. One of the songs that figure largely in the book, and which I listened to often during writing breaks from the novel, is The Beatles classic I've Just Seen a Face. I don't think I can ever listen to this song just once in a sitting. It's so damn catchy (and short!) that it's always over before you're ready to let it go. And here I must insert a warning: if you give in and replay I've Just Seen a Face it begins to act like a sort of quicksand. The more times you listen, the harder it is to tear yourself away! Indulge yourself too much and friends and family may have to plan an intervention. 

Knowing this, approach the below quicksand (a variety of versions of I've Just Seen a Face) with extreme caution.
Beatles original

Pearl Jam

Brandi Carlile

Across the Universe (movie)

Holly Cole

Richie Sambora

Paul McCartney, Unplugged, 1991

Yesterday, when I no doubt should've been doing more productive things, I pasted snippets from my various books into the online "I Write Like" statistical analysis tool and three names kept coming up:

* Stephen King
* Cory Doctorow
* Chuck Palahniuk

I've only read one of these authors so can't really comment except to say that I found it interesting that no matter which of my books (unpublished ones included) I lifted the passages from the result was that I write like one of the three above authors. So then I got to thinking, does that mean Stephen King, Cory Doctorow and Chuck Palahniuk write like each other? I've only read one of the three so don't have a clue but as a test I stuck several paragraphs from Salem's Lot into the analyzer and the result was, unsurprisingly I suppose, that Stephen King writes like Stephen King.

But I wasn't convinced that Stephen King would always sound like Stephen King so I followed up by pasting a snippet from King's book Cell into the anaylzer and it spit out the name: George Orwell.

Chuck Palahniuk apparently writes like himself with more consistency as both excerpts from Lullaby and Survivor garnered the same result from the anaylzer: Chuck Palaniuk.

Finally, I put Cory Doctorow to the analyzer test, dropping in outtakes from Little Brother and then Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. The analyzer confirmed Little Brother was written like Cory Doctorow but suggested the second work was written like Robert Louis Stevenson.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that 1) the analyzer might be on to something but clearly doesn't know everything AND 2) this is mostly a tool for wasting time which is something that many writers have already mastered.

And yes, today I've wasted much time indeed. Over two and a half hours was spent at the TIFF site attempting to order film festival tickets from an overloaded ticketing system which continually crashed under the weight of demand...and then crashed again...and then appeared as if it might actually sell me some tickets only know...crash. But in the end I was able to score tickets for a few things I really want to see so shouldn't grumble too much. The Toronto Film Festival is, from a writer's POV, alot like publishing in that it's a major time investment. First, there's the ticket line-up—either in person or battling the busy signal over the phone or repeatedly hitting the reload button as you begin to snore over your computer. Second, there's the endless queue for your seats hours before movie time (if you're lucky enough to have tickets at this point and don't have to join the standby line!).

But if you persevere the majority of of the time you can get into the movies you want to see at the festival. Publishing is much the same. As a writer you might be waiting in line for a good long time but if you don't give up, I think in the long-run your odds are actually rather good. And while you're waiting—and writing, writing, writing—you can indulge in the occasional amusing waste of time, like sticking words from your most recent novel into the "I Write Like" analyzer.
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