Tuesday, 14 August 2012

not Sherlock

A session at WWC this past weekend was paneled by a man who knows almost all there is to know about Sherlock Holmes.  The main point considered throughout the 45 minutes of Sherlockian history, popular culture, and influence was: what is it about this brilliant and reclusive detective that has captured the popular imagination for the past 125 years?  His argument: we all want to be Sherlock Holmes.  He is a genius, can tell amazing things from a person's appearance, and explains the most puzzling mysteries using sheer deductive reasoning.  However, said this most knowledgeable man, though we all want to be Holmes, it is elementarily impossible.  Nobody can become Holmes; we're more like Watson, intrigued by this astounding, tortured, and brilliant man.

I was prepared to prove the Sherlock expert and his theory wrong.  I knew it wouldn't happen right away of course: I'd have to practice being observant, pay closer attention to what people said and what colour of mud was on their shoes.  I'd have to pick up the violin and maybe do cocaine - just kidding.  Wouldn't go that far into the character.  Just into his method, basing my theories on facts gathered from around me and the neatly organized filing system on top of my bookcase.

I practiced observing everything in my friend's kitchen as I prepared myself a sandwich: how much butter was left in the butter dish, what colour of placemat was on the table, and where all the knives were kept.  My sandwich needed some green, and I found in the crisper drawer an uncut cucumber.  Must be new, I observed, and perhaps grown organically from its inconsistent shape.  I cut off the end and nibbled it.  Hmm, strong outer skin, rubbery inside.  Maybe it was older than I thought.  Oh well.  I cut a couple of spongy discs, arranging them on top of the ham and mustard already on one of the multi-grain bread slices.  That's when I realized I would never be Sherlock Holmes.  Because the round pieces on my sandwich were not cucumber; I had cut up a zucchini.

Though I was crushed, it was a good sandwich.  And as I sat, consuming my delicious meal, I thought maybe being Watson wasn't so bad after all.

Read Chapter OneThis anthology has some great stories about Sherlock Holmes written by authours from our time:

Sunday, 12 August 2012

When Words Collide: Part the Second

Thought I'd blog while I wait for the Absinthe to wear off.

It's been a happening day here at When Words Collide, though sadly, Jack Whyte was no longer in attendance.  But there were amazing panelists, active discussions, and some pretty fun partying afterwards.  The day began with another Live Action Slush, which my friend Michelle and I both attended, and both had a page of our writing read out anonymously.  Something unexpected and amazing happened which was...an editor from Penguin Canada gave me her card.  Wow.  She asked me to send her a pitch when I had a finished novel.  Wow again.  Pretty much, I was freaking out inside my head.  However, the excitement settled down when I realized what this meant: a lot of time, and a lot of work.  Because, like Kevin Anderson said during his keynote address and buildungsroman session, writing isn't something you can shortcut - it's a serious undertaking that requires dedication.  So,what this means is... no more free time for me.  Sorry friends. Can't hang out today: I have to write a novel.

But I like being around people too much to become a complete hermit!  It's been wonderful being a part of this conference, the energy and the quirky atmosphere set off by all the writers, editors, publishers is intrusive, it gets under your skin and makes you wonder why you've stopped working on projects that are integral to your creative identity.

What else happened today...Michelle and I attended sessions on 100 years of planetary romance, wilderness survival, criminals and Canadian murder mysteries, grammar usage and abusage in our society today, the Aurora Awards (congrats to EDGE Publishing and Robert J. Sawyer's novel Wonder for picking up awards in the best short fiction and best novel category)...

The "party rooms" were on the fifth floor, running from 9pm to late.  We first hung out in the EDGE room, the walls covered in sticky notes next to thought-provoking questions ("What's something on your bucket list?" "What would be your Erotica pen name? - determine by adding your favourite colour to the last thing you ate").   The Steampunk party room, hosted by Calgary's Steampunk collective, held many interesting people dressed in waistcoats and top hats, goggles, corsets, Victorian dresses with leather chokers.  And if you know anything about Steampunk society, you would know that it was one of these people who poured me a shot of Absinthe and slowly poured ice cold water over a spoon holding a sugar cube until the mixture was cloudy.  Tasted a bit reminiscent of licorice.

Only one more day left...

Friday, 10 August 2012

Prose and Cons

It's the second annual When Words Collide sci-fi/ fantasy/ genre whatever fiction convention here in Calgary, and so far people, it's been super engaging, educational, and fun.  I learned today that the word "robotic" was coined in 1920 by a playwright (before that, you'd use "mechanical" or "automaton") and that 80-90 % of science fiction is written in limited third person style narrative.  Sherlock Holmes was a spin off of Poe's famous French detective, who not many people nowadays could name.  We attended a slush panel reading, voiced by Canadian historical novelist, Jack Whyte.  The critiques of the anonymous pages from that session were really insightful as to what publishers are looking for when they read a first submission: first of all, don't start with a weather report.  Involve the reader in some action, strong and vivid language, something original that maybe they haven't seen before.  Hook them in with a character doing something, not just observing.  Some first readers are more patient than others, and if your characters and writing are strong, may stick around and give your piece a chance - at least, for another few paragraphs.