Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Susanna Daniel “What took you so long?”

Oct. 12 Susanna Daniel: I cut out this National Post article “What took you so long?” by Susanna Daniel on Aug. 3, 2010.  It’s about how she struggled to complete her novel for 10 yrs.  I can and I’m sure a lot of writers can relate to the experience.  Here’s the article:

There is surely a word—in German, most likely—that means the state of active non-accomplishment. Not just the failure to reach a specific goal, but ongoing, daily failure with no end in sight. Stunted ambition. Disappointed potential. Frustrated and sad and lonely and hopeless and sick to death of one's self.

Whatever it's called, this is what leads people to abandon their goals—people do it every day. And I understand that decision, because I lived in this state of active non-accomplishment for many years.

I wrote the earliest bit of what would become my first novel, Stiltsville, in January of 2000, when I was in my first year of a graduate writing program. In May of 2009, I sold Stiltsville to HarperCollins—the hardcover is due out next month.

This means that the time from my novel's conception to its appearance on store shelves adds up to a staggering 10 years. An entire decade. Between, I graduated and spent a year on fellowship (during which I wrote a lot but only half of it was any good); then there were the teaching years (during which I wrote very little, hardly any of it good); then there were the Internet company years (during which I barely wrote at all). 

Stiltsville is in good company, which is reassuring. There are oodles of novels that took a decade or longer to write—including some famous examples, like Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Díaz spoke in interviews about his own decade of active non-accomplishment. He said that five years into the process, he decided to give up on the novel and start a graduate degree (in what, he didn't say). He said his life improved: no more torture, no more fights with his fiance. Oh, Junot, I thought when I read this, I understand! Still, something pulled him back, and another five years passed, and then he was finally done.

Then he won the Pulitzer, which isn't going to happen to me. And I think I can speak for pretty much anyone who publishes a novel after 10 years: Whether you win awards doesn't matter one bit. The hardest—and therefore the most rewarding—part was just finishing.

Writing is hard—writers say this all the time, and I think probably only other writers believe it. But it's not nearly as hard, in my experience, as not writing. 

During my should-be-writing years, I thought about my novel all the time. Increasingly, these were not happy or satisfying thoughts. My "novel" (which had started to wear its own air quotes in my head) became something closer to enemy than lover. A person and his creative work exist in a relationship very much like a marriage: When it's good, it's very good, and when it's bad, it's ugly. And when it's been bad for a long, long time, you start to think about divorce.

My friend Bob, a playwright, told me years ago that he finally understood how writers stop writing. "It happens one day at a time," he said to me, clearly in the midst of a revelation. I'd come to the same realization a few years earlier. In the years between conceiving my book and finishing it, there wasn't one month when I didn't have a writing goal—five pages a week, say, or half of a chapter—but most months, I didn't even come close.

The thing is—one-day-at-a-time is the most painful way for active non-accomplishment to happen. It's the psychological equivalent of death by a thousand cuts. A painter I knew told me once that she'd reached a point when she said goodbye to painting, much the same way Junot Díaz considered doing—she said it was the kindest, most generous thing she'd ever done for herself.

I know a lot of writers, both published and not, and so I know that for every book that makes it to stores, several are never published, and several more are never finished. Many of my friends and acquaintances from graduate school published right away, but most still haven't. No doubt some will publish in the coming years. And some have gone into social work or law or medicine and seem to have left fiction writing behind, happily, like an old hairstyle. 

And what about the rest of them? These are the people—many of whom write beautifully—I wonder about. And I wonder about strangers in similar situations, artists of all ilks. I wonder if they wake in the night, their hearts racing, unable to feel anything but the fear and frustration and disappointment of the fact that they haven't finished anything in a month. I wonder if they're anything like me. My guess is that many of them are—and naturally I feel tremendous empathy. Having been there, I know there are no magic words of encouragement, no surefire tough-love tactic. I wish there were.

It could have gone either way for Stiltsville, which is a thought that gives me chills. But then a couple of years ago, three things happened that gave me the push I needed.
One, my close friend Jen referred to my work, not unkindly, as "the great American novel." It's not that I hadn't realized there was a certain epic and hopeless quality to the damn thing, but still it stirred something in me to hear it out loud.

Two, a writer friend ran into a former instructor, and he asked about me. He told my friend it was too bad I wasn't writing because I'd been good. It was probably just something he'd said to make conversation, but it buoyed me in the way unexpected compliments—even sad ones like this—can.

Three, I woke one night in the midst of a minor panic attack. It wasn't unusual for me wake in the night, anxious and scared—and I always knew the source of the panic right away. But it was rare for my heavy-sleeping husband to wake at the same time. And instead of reassuring him and letting him get back to sleep, I told him the naked, humbling truth. I told him that if I didn't finish my novel, I thought my future happiness might be at risk. He wiped his eyes and yawned and said, "OK. Let's figure out how to make this happen."

It didn't happen overnight, but the tide of my life shifted. I dropped a few obligations and started getting up early to write for an hour or two before leaving the house. Of course I was sidetracked again—moving, pregnancy—but not for long. After I wrote the last sentence, I printed the whole mess and got out my red pen, and the relief of having a complete draft was overwhelming. I had more writing energy than I'd had in years. At this point, no matter that the sky was falling in publishing-land, I was certain that I would see my book in print.

In the end, I don't really believe it took me 10 years to finish Stiltsville. There's no exact start date (that first bit I wrote didn't make it into the completed novel, after all), so the math is pretty fuzzy. Here's how it works in my head: It took one year to write the first half, another year and a half to finish the rest, a few weeks to sell it, and 18 months for it to lumber through the publishing process.

But between the first half and the last, I cannot deny that there were four or five years when I failed to complete a single new chapter. One day at a time.

Everyone knows that the line between succeeding and failing can be pretty thin. But the fact that it took me so long haunts me less and less these days, and I find myself looking forward instead of back. After all, as every writer is aware, the ending of a story does most of the heavy lifting. It can make or break the whole thing.

My opinion: This article really delves into her personal life experience.  I can relate to it.  Like the 4th paragraph where she talks about how she writes and only half of it was good.  I write a lot for my script and only some I like and keep and some I recycle.  The parts I recycle are usually because they’re not good, and/ or they have been replaced by something else in the story.

I have mentioned before about “a cabin in the woods”, but the part didn’t fit into the Rain script when I decided the characters don’t go there in the end.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Resident Evil: Afterlife/ I Am Legend/ District 9

Jun. 12: I saw this movie on Jan. 10, 2014 and I’m writing my review for it now.  I used to write movie reviews for the Golden Vanguard.  Their website, Facebook page, and one of the founder’s email isn’t working.  I did find an email that did work, so I sent an email to him.  I haven’t written a review in over a year.  I had to check a word count on my old review to see how long it’s supposed to be.  The last one was about 250 words.

Resident Evil: Afterlife: Well here’s my movie review.   I saw the first Resident Evil in 2005 with my friend Leslie when she came over to my house.  I saw the second one Apocalypse on TV.

Resident Evil: Afterlife movie review

By Tracy Au

For people who aren’t familiar with the Resident Evil franchise, it’s about Alice (Milla Jovovich) who fights zombies and wants to destroy the Umbrella Corporation who is responsible for it.  Alice hunts down the bad guy Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) and there is an epic fight scene and shoot out in the beginning.

It leads to Alice in the Arctic and she finds her friend Claire (Ali Larter).  They fly to LA and land on a prison where there are survivors.  They are NBA player Luther (Boris Kodjoe), a movie producer Bennett (Kim Coates), his intern Kim (Norman Yeung), an aspiring actress Crystal (Kacey Barnfield) among them.  There is prison cell for Chris (Wentworth Miller) and he says he’s a soldier.  The zombies were everywhere so the inmates were released to fight the zombies.  However, he was jumped and is now locked up here.

The others don’t trust him.  He says he knows a way out of the prison and onto Arcadia which is safe ship on the sea.  He will tell them the way out when he’s released.

The situation proves challenging when the plane that Alice and Claire flew in can only take two people at a time, and can only make one trip.  The zombies are coming and the prison can’t keep them safe for much longer so must they escape.

I would describe this movie as mediocre and pointless.  I watched it for the horror and action.  There are scary surprises and action, but it seems like this movie was made to make money first, and tell a story second.

I Am Legend: I saw this movie on Jul. 9, 2013.

I Am Legend movie review

By Tracy Au

This is a movie based on a book by Richard Matheson.  It’s about a man named Robert Neville (Will Smith) who lives with his German Shepherd Sam in a post- apocalyptic New York City.  The city is overrun by zombies or known as the Infected.  It’s very scary because it’s realistic how a disease can wipe out humanity and turn humans into creatures that lose all their senses and become raging monsters.

The majority of the movie is Robert by himself as he scavenges over people’s things and broadcast himself on the radio to find other survivors.  I was skeptical at first if Smith can carry most of the movie himself and not interact with too many people.  Can this movie still be entertaining?  Yes.  There are flashbacks of Robert interacting with his wife Zoe (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) and his daughter Marley (Willow Smith) as they escape the city that has recently experience the outbreak.

Isolation and desperation are everywhere as Robert struggles to find the cure to reverse the effects.  He works tirelessly everyday in his lab by testing on animals and other humans.  He struggles to live a normal life by talking to mannequins.

Fellow survivors do appear, played by Alice Braga and Charlie Tahan.  There is a very scary, dangerous, and suspenseful action sequence at the end.  It was an unpredictable, well- written, solid movie.  I recommend you all watch it.

Jun. 14 Death Race: I saw this movie on Jun. 2, 2013.

In the future, prisoners race to death on TV for entertainment.  It reminded me of the movie Gamer and The Fast and the Furious.  It’s about a man named Jensen (Jason Statham) who is framed for murdering his wife.  He is thrown into prison and is separated from his baby daughter. 

He is forced to race by the prison warden Hennessey (Joan Allen) because he used to race back in the day.  If he wins 5 races, he will be released from prison.  Jensen has a team to help with his car played by Coach (Ian McShane), Lists (Fred Koehler) and his navigator Case (Natalie Martinez).

There is 45 minutes of set up and 1 hour and 15 minutes of the race.  The dialogue isn’t very strong, but then again you don’t watch this movie for the dialogue.  There is a good story as Jensen tries to figure out who killed his wife and why he was framed for the murder.

There is lots of tension in prison as Jensen has to face off inmates like Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson.)  This is an exciting, dark, gritty, and violent action movie.  There are explosions, and intense obstacles that leads to gruesome deaths.  It’s filled with creative and aggressive driving.  If you like action movies, you’ll enjoy this.  

District 9: I saw this movie on May 9, 2014.

I thought this was going to be an action movie with massive shoot outs, explosions, and death.  There was that, but there was actually a very strong story with characters that you can connect with.

This movie looks like a very smart and realistic documentary.  In Johannesburg, South Africa, a big space ship hovers over it in 1982.  The aliens look like prawns and live in a military ghetto called District 9.  Wikus (Sharlto Copley) is a government agent who works at MNU, Multi National United and he is to enforce that all the aliens move to another part of the city.

Wikus goes in there and tells the aliens they will be moving them.  He then gets infected with a black liquid.  He slowly becomes an alien and becomes a science experiment.  He
will be killed and have his organs harvested to be studied.  Wikus fights for his life and escapes to District 9.  He calls his wife Tania (Vanessa Haywood), but the relationship can not be saved.

He becomes an ally to the alien Christopher (Jason Cope) and his young son who are trying to get back home.  There is a cure for Wikus’s condition on the ship.  First, they must get that black liquid that is in MNU’s lab.

There is a lot of suspense, action, and drama, especially in the exciting finale.  This movie actually has heart to it and you feel for the characters.

Jul. 17 The Den: I got this media release email sent to me:

“After receiving a grant for her graduate thesis, Elizabeth Benton (Melanie Papalia) logs onto a video-chat site known as THE DEN, on a mission to explore the habits of its users. During one of her random video-chats, Elizabeth watches in horror as a teenage girl is gruesomely murdered in front of her webcam.  While the police dismiss it as a viral prank, Elizabeth believes what she saw is real and takes it upon herself to find the truth. Her life quickly spirals out of control as she gets pulled deeper into the darkest recesses of the internet. And eventually, Elizabeth finds herself trapped in a twisted game in which she and her loved ones are targeted for the same grisly fate as the first victim.”

Here’s the trailer:

Scream Queen B: I was reading the Edmonton Journal business section.  They have “Capital Ideas” about Edmonton entrepreneurs and their tips on how they run their business:

Scream Queen of the B Scene is written by Lindsey McNeill, actor-writer-director and former radio journalist. Capitalizing on her characteristic wit and unfortunate potty mouth, she gives an honest account of working in a male-dominated industry and how to embrace your inner B to get shit done.

Her feature film "Truckstop Bloodsuckers" is available on BiteTV.”

The Golden Vanguard: It’s been 2 months and one of the editors finally emailed me back from the Golden Vanguard.  He’s ending the website because of life changes and he’s really too busy.  That’s fine.  I still have my blog to post my movie reviews among other topics.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ryan Knighton/ John of God

Aug. 31 Ryan Knighton: I cut out this Globe and Mail article called “Transformations” by Marsha Lederman on Mar. 26, 2013:

Vancouver-based author Ryan Knighton is by no means a religious or spiritual person, but he is in another way uniquely qualified for the very hot screenwriting job he has landed. Knighton, 40, will write the screenplay for Universal Studios’s adaptation of the giant bestseller Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife.

The memoir debuted at the top of the New York Times bestseller list in the fall and retained the No. 1 position for weeks (it’s currently No. 2). In it, Eben Alexander, a Virginia-based neurosurgeon, recounts his 2008 near-death experience. At 54, he contracted a rare strain of bacterial meningitis and fell into a coma. He lay near death for a week. When he woke up, he had an amazing story to tell: He had seen heaven.

Even if the story has its skeptical detractors, the book has been a publishing phenomenon, and seemed a natural for a film adaptation. But the agent representing the book for film rights initially was unable to secure a deal, as Knighton tells it, because the studios — despite keen interest — were having trouble seeing a movie in it.

That agent also happens to be Knighton’s screenwriting agent, so he asked Knighton if he would check out the book, which Knighton had not yet read. Two weeks later, Knighton was on the phone with studios in L.A., offering a thumbnail version of what he thought the movie would feel and sound like. A couple of weeks after that, he was in Los Angeles, with Alexander, pitching the project in studio boardrooms.

If it felt strange sitting next to Alexander, describing the man’s story to Hollywood, Knighton has a very intimate perspective on the matter. On his 18th birthday, he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, which would lead to total blindness. He knows what it’s like to have your world rocked by an unexpected medical bombshell and emerge from it, altered.

“I do recognize something in this book in a very distant way,” says Knighton, sitting in his East Vancouver living room. “This is a guy who went into a coma and came out something else on the other side. And in my own distant experience with late-onset blindness, I went through something that I recognize dramatically…. I remember very deeply that process. And so [Eben] and I have had very interesting conversations about what it’s like to really come out and feel yourself a different person, in his case a radically different person. As I keep joking to him: You’re the only ghost I know.”

With that personal foothold into the story, Knighton devised the bones for an adaptation, focusing not just on those seven days Alexander spent near death in the hospital and his journey to the Core, as the doctor calls it, but also on what happened to the man post-medical-miracle recovery. He had long conversations with Alexander about that, and it became a key element.

“I was more curious about his life after, because he doesn’t really [write in the book] about what happened to him after the coma. Coming back and what it did to his life, his profession and his family and everything. And that sort of gave the second engine in the story that it needed.”

Knighton has written two memoirs of his own (Cockeyed: A Memoir and C’mon Papa: Dispatches from a Dad in the Dark) and written other screenplays, but has yet to have a film produced. So he felt like he was a bit of a long shot. On the other hand, he is extremely thoughtful, articulate and funny – and can with ease captivate a room — not just the classrooms at Capilano University where he teaches English literature and creative writing, but also, it seems, a boardroom of studio executives who spend a lot of time listening to project pitches.

“It’s funny because it’s an incredibly blind person’s medium, because what you’re doing is you’re describing a picture to people who can’t see it. And trying to make them feel what it would be like to see it.”

The final pitch — the one to Universal — is the one that led to the deal. Disruption Entertainment’s Mary Parent (Pacific Rim) and Cale Boyter (Wedding Crashers) will produce.

Knighton has not yet started writing the script, but as he develops his ideas, he plans to spend time in Lynchburg, Va., with Alexander — witnessing him work, meeting his family. He’s also thinking about a lot of different films: Awakenings (“a guy returns to a world he doesn’t recognize”); Contact (“the elements of sci-fi swapped out with a medical thriller for this one”); A Beautiful Mind (“how does a marriage survive when one of the people in that marriage radically changes?”); even, in some ways, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (“that’s dad and his wacky quest”).

“It has a lot of similar DNA to those movies,” says Knighton. “And I think there’s a real medical thriller in this story,” Knighton says. “The infection itself and the fact that they thought it was this very deadly antibiotic-resistant E. coli. For a while there they thought he brought the black plague into the United States. You can’t get stakes much better than that for a movie.”

My opinion: I thought this article was inspirational because it was about film making.  Then it was also kind of religious and reminded me of the book Heaven is for Real which I wrote about here:

John of God: I cut out this Edmonton Journal article “Science can’t explain spiritual experience” by Ron Lajeunesse.  Here are some excerpts: 

Spirituality has been defined as the search for the sacred; finding purpose and meaning in life.

Many of us are more spiritual than we think; that is, we search for something to explain why we are on this Earth (purpose) and to understand if or what God is (the sacred.) In my youth, I was very religious, although I now understand that to be quite different than spiritual. When I was educated in "critical thinking" and the scientific method (medicine and business), much of religious doctrine seemed to make no sense.

It wasn't until 2009 when I discovered the Centres for Spiritual Living (CSL) in Phoenix and Edmonton that any philosophy resonated with me.

In general terms, CSL is a combination of scientific principles, philosophy, psychology and the revelations of many religions, all made relevant for today's world.

We are urged to examine all views and accept all people. We are also urged to be open to new experiences beyond our usual willingness - such as the pilgrimage I made recently to John of God.

First, some background about this controversial man. João Teixeira de Faria was born in 1942 in Abadiânia, a small town southwest of the capital of Brasília.

He has no medical training and he describes himself as a simple farmer. He completed only two years of education and, following self-described apparitions, spent a number of years travelling from village to village doing faith healing. Since 1978, his centre, the Casa de Nom Inacio de Loyola, has been visited by millions of people seeking healing.

Casa is not a church; collections are not taken and there are no charges for service. Costs are apparently covered by the sale of blessed water, crystal beds, books, trinkets and herbs. John of God, we are told, is not paid for his services.

De Faria claims to act as a vehicle for God's healing and that he has absolutely no recollection of anything he does during the procedures.

"I do not cure anybody," he says repeatedly. "God heals, and in his infinite goodness permits the entities to heal and console my brothers. I am merely an instrument in God's divine hands."

Notable people who support him include Shirley Mac Laine, who claims to have been healed by De Faria, Oprah Winfrey, Ram Dass, Wayne Dyer and Dr. Mehmet Oz.

The reported results to date include an almost universal stronger "spiritual consciousness," improved "personal/interpersonal well-being," cancer remission, spinal alignment, pain elimination, cyst disappearance, thought clarity, and so on.

Certainly much of the experience and outcome can be explained by energy-healing and belief. But there is something far beyond that. I can describe it, but I cannot explain it.

My opinion: I’m not religious, but since I wrote about Ryan Knighton, I added this religious article.  As soon as I read “John of God”, I was like: “Wasn’t he on Oprah?”  I then checked my blog, and I wrote about it here in 2010:

John of God: I watched Oprah about "John of God." It's this Brazilian guy who's a miracle healer. There is footage of him cutting an egg sized tumor out of a man, scraping a woman's eye, putting scissors through people's nose to the brain, without anesthesia. O talked to doctors who saw it first hand and the patients who went through surgery without anesthesia. They reported no pain.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Anita Shreve/ Northwest Angle/ digital version

Oct. 12 Anita Shreve: I cut out this Globe and Mail article “You don’t sit waiting for the muse to come” by Kate Taylor on Dec. 4, 2010.  She interviews the author Anita Shreve:

A book editor once had the gall to tell the popular American novelist Anita Shreve that literary fiction is written by men. What women write is women's fiction. Her retort started with Alice Munro and went on from there.

"My books at times have been classified as women's fiction," Shreve said on a recent visit to Toronto to talk about her new novel Rescue. "I find [the category] very offensive - and dismissive. It's meant to be dismissive." Still, Shreve acknowledges that, like many novelists, her audience is almost exclusively female while her publishers always put a woman on the cover and favour pastel colours. "They categorize things so they know what they are trying to sell … I have lobbied very hard for grittier covers."

Truth is that Shreve's work, which ranges from the Oprah's Book Club pick The Pilot's Wife to the Orange Prize nominee The Weight of Water, is unusually positioned somewhere between literature and less lofty fare. It's not a difficult spot for Shreve or her publisher (her sales are in the millions) but awkward for anyone who wants to pigeonhole her books. Her admirably unadorned prose once led a critic to speculate that the mighty E.B. White, co-author of that classic primer The Elements of Style, would approve; her plots, meanwhile, are driven by life-changing tragedies - a fatal plane crash, a climbing accident, a teenager's coma - and remarkable second chances. And she produces a book every 18 months.

On the other hand, Shreve doesn't do happy endings, sometimes tells her story from a male perspective and avoids those damaged women so favoured by Oprah's club.
"It's not all smiles and hugs at the end," she says of Rescue and the hopeful way it leaves its main characters. "I didn't think they were all going to go home and live together. They might make it, they might not."

Rescue's cover does show a young woman, her head turned to look out the rear window of a car. She is wearing a pale green floral print that stands out nicely on a background of soft yellows. But the novel's protagonist is actually a man, Peter Webster, who is raising a teenage daughter on his own after he banished an alcoholic wife when their child was just a toddler. The narration is in the third person, but the reader is only privy to Webster's thoughts as he tries to understand his daughter's rebellion and his wife's drinking, depicted in scenes set 18 years earlier.

Webster is a paramedic - hence the book's title - and the novel gets its structure from highly realistic scenes describing him on the job, defibrillating hearts and slipping bodies onto backboards.

"I was determined to write something about somebody who had a real job, not an artist, a gallery owner, a failed writer - there is so much of that," Shreve says. "And if you want to have someone who has a real job, you have to show them at that job." Shreve researched the profession by reading manuals and interviewing a paramedic who also vetted sections of the book. She originally created the Webster character to write a literary thriller, figuring a paramedic was less of a cliché than a police officer or private detective but would have access to his whole community. Her plan, however, did not work out.

"A) I didn't know how to write a thriller; and B) it was going to be a domestic tragedy, which is what all my books are," says Shreve, who answers questions with the same efficiency that drives her writing.

Where Rescue departs from much of her previous work is in the harshness of its milieu. Shreve's work is often set on the picturesque New England coastline where she lives, with a house in Maine and a condo in Boston. But this book takes the action inland to impoverished rural Vermont. Webster lives in a fictional, downtrodden town called Hartstone, while Sheila, the drunk driver who becomes his wife, is on the run from some nastiness in Chelsea, a small, real and violent city on the outskirts of Boston.

"Nobody gets out of Chelsea unscathed," Shreve says. "She is risky and you can't trust her as far as you can throw her." In short, Sheila is not the kind of woman who turns up in a pastel floral print.

Shreve once wrote a book ( Where or When) seemingly inspired by the unusual story of how she met her current husband (her fourth) - they had only known each other as kids at camp when he saw her photo in the newspaper years later and began a correspondence - but she says any autobiographical content in her books is unconscious and largely limited to the metaphoric. Her characters and their stories are mainly a product of her ever-active imagination.

"A large part of writing is daydreaming. We all do it," says Shreve, who confesses to occasionally missing her exit when driving. "You are rehearsing a conversation you had last night, and you are going to change the dialogue a bit so it comes out right, or you imagine what you are going to say when you get home. The only difference with a writer is a writer loves the challenge of structure and crafting sentences."

Shreve, who will turn 65 next year, thrives on that challenge and has produced her 16 books in the space of a mere 21 years. "It's embarrassing," she says of her prolificacy, noting her publisher places no particular demands on her. When she is writing, she works from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. seven days a week. Her only explanation is that her early years as a journalist - a former high-school teacher, she worked as a magazine writer as she tried to launch her literary career - built her work ethic and showed her the connection between what you can produce to deadline and what you get paid.
"It taught me that writing is work. There is nothing precious about it. You don't sit waiting for the muse to come."

After Christmas, which she and her husband will spend with their combined family of five adult children, Shreve will sit down at her desk and begin work on her 17th novel.

My opinion: What stood out to me was that the main character’s job is a real job like a paramedic and not an art gallery owner or private detective.  Also there is nothing wrong with being a prolific writer.  I write a lot of emails, but I pace myself in sending them.  I only send 3 emails/ weekly blog posts a week.

Northwest Angle: I cut out this Edmonton Examiner book review "Oh, baby, this is good" by Terri Schlichenmeyer on Sept. 7, 2011.   She reviews Northwest Angle by William Kent Krueger.  I can’t find the article on the internet so I’ll have to type up a few excerpts:

“Corocan (Cork) O’Connor rented a houseboat and gathered his in-law and his children on a trip to Minnesota’s Boundry Waters Canoe Area.”

“And then the storm hit.”

“Dazed, Jenny went looking for Cork and stumbled upon a cabin.  Inside it was the body of a woman who had obviously been tortured, and a hidden baby.”

“Staying where they were wasn’t an option, a notion underscored by the sudden, unwelcome presence of a man with a high-powered rifle who seemed to want nothing but the baby.”

“Local officials surmised that the baby was the son of Noah Smalldog, a Ojibwe native, Others say the child belonged to Sonny Chickaway, Smalldog’s friend.”

My opinion: It sounds like an interesting thriller.

Oct. 23  Digital version:

Why I’m putting up these book reviews and author interviews:
1.      I’m clearing clutter.  I don’t need to keep all these news articles.  This will be the digital version on my blog.

2.      I want to show all these good articles to my friends and blog readers because they are really good to read.

3.      I want to be inspired and motivated by reading all these book reviews and author interviews.  These are good books, and I like to read the creative process of the writers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How you can protect 10-year-old rape survivor from "honor" killing

template image template image  
Save 10-year-old rape 
survivor from "honor" 
Get Involved
Act Now

10-year-old Brishna is a rape survivor who is now facing death threats from her family and community following her assault.

Rape survivors - and women who are perceived to have otherwise offended customs - are deemed to have brought deep shame upon their families. In response, they face the threat of "honor" killings to restore the family's name.

The Afghan Penal Code carries reduced sentences for murder on the basis of "honor" as a motivation.

Urge the Afghan authorities to provide full protection for Brishna and those who are working to protect her.
Take Action!

Share This Action
Share on Facebook. Share on Twitter.
Dear Tracy,

10-year-old Brishna was raped last May.

Instead of being comforted by those closest to her following the attack, Brishna's life is now at even greater risk.

The women's rights defender who was assisting Brishna reported being told that Brishna's male relatives want to "kill her and dump her in the river."

In Afghanistan, where Brishna lives, women are still seen to be the embodiments of family honor.

Rape survivors - and women who are perceived to have otherwise offended customs - are deemed to have brought deep shame upon their families. In response, they face the threat of "honor" killings to restore the family's name.

The Afghan Penal Code carries reduced sentences for murder on the basis of "honor" as a motivation.

Demand that Afghan authorities ensure that Brishna - and those who are trying to protect her - receive full protection from the state.

The local mullah, or religious leader, who is accused of raping Brishna has since been arrested and charged with rape of a minor. He was transferred to a prison in Kabul.

Despite the risk to her life and the continued death threats she still faces, local police returned Brishna to her family in July, while her doctor, Dr. Hassina Sarwari, also faces death threats for protecting Brishna.

Stand up for Brishna and other women and girls like her.

Call on authorities to repeal these harmful laws and end discrimination against survivors of sexual violence.

Help ensure the suspected perpetrator is brought to justice with a prompt and fair trial, and that the threats against Brishna and Dr. Sarwari are fully investigated.

Protecting women and girls from sexual violence is every government's obligation - not an option.

In solidarity,

Jasmine Heiss
Amnesty International USA

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Matter of Life and Death or Something/ Richard Ford

Oct. 5 A Matter of Life and Death or Something: I cut out this National Post book review “A quest inspired by a found notebook…or whatever” by Raymond Beauchemin.  He reviews the book A Matter of Life and Death or Something by Ben Stephenson.  Here’s the article: 

While walking in the woods near his home one day, a 10-year-old boy named Arthur finds a notebook, which he reads through to the end. The notebook was written by someone named Phil, a lost soul hopelessly in love with a woman named E, who likes him but doesn’t want to Be With Him. After reading the notebook — which is only 43 pages long, but they do go on — it’s understandable. It’s hard to empathize with the guy.
But Arthur does.

The majority of A Matter of Life and Death or Something, a debut novel by a New Brunswick-born artist and writer, is told from the perspective of Arthur, a homeschooled child whose wide-ranging, though peculiar, vocabulary and interests suggest scattershot teaching. Scattershot parenting, too: Having a 10-year-old boy discover the notebook in the woods serves the purpose of the narrative; in the real world, it would suggest irresponsible parenting — “Come back before dark,” his father, Simon, tells him. (Arthur insists Simon is not his father and makes up occupations and adventures for his “real” parents. By the end, there’s a hint of the truth.)

The book also includes excerpts from the mournful Phil’s notebook. Something “really bad” happens in the diary, which I can’t reveal, though it’s likely the reader will surmise what it is within pages, if not paragraphs, of its discovery. It’s sad that a 10-year-old should have to read about the things that happen on page 43, sadder still that there’s something in him that propels him to try to remedy the irremediable. But try he does. The narrative push of the novel is Arthur’s attempt to find out who Phil is. To do so, he does the rounds of the neighbourhood, tape recorder in hand, asking residents if they know Phil.

For an author’s literary device to work — and how many times have we read about someone finding a diary, a notebook, a ring or a key and then embarking on a quest of some sort? Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close comes to mind — the reader has to be as emotionally engaged by its contents as the character who finds it. Arthur may care about Phil’s notebook and fate, but I didn’t. The ambivalence, I’m afraid, starts with the title; the “something” feels like Stephenson can’t commit to the life and death underpinnings of his novel. He may as well have titled it A Matter of Life and Death or Whatever.

The notebook is but one device in Stephenson’s utility chest. There are references to The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” crowd, of which Foer is a member. There are also nods to J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee, who Stephenson counts among his influences. To Kill a Mockingbird is mentioned by a character named Finch, Arthur’s down-the-street playmate, and a Boo Radley-like hermit who plays a didactic role in the denouement. But these references don’t go anywhere or deepen any understanding of the book. The book includes pencil and ink drawings, too (Stephenson studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design). And trees. I don’t want to forget the trees, who narrate their own chapters. These not very Ent-like creatures speak in poeticisms bordering on the floral, which I suppose is appropriate, but the chapters they narrate — watching Phil, Arthur and the notebook in the woods — feel tacked on, as if Stephenson doesn’t trust the reader will make the leap between chapters. I wanted to cut the trees.

The novel, sadly, feels “written,” a long exercise in multiple voices and alternative storytelling, which is a shame because the storyline is compelling: Arthur is a smart, sensitive boy on the cusp of adolescence, with all its physical, mental and emotional changes, facing a new life situation and full of deep questions about himself and that self’s place in the world. He deserved better.

My opinion: What stood out to me was about the story device about finding a notebook and going on a quest.  Another part that stood out was that the book feels “written.”

Richard Ford: I cut out this essay “Rich Writer, Poor Writer” by Pulitzer Prize- winner Richard Ford in the Globe and Mail on Oct. 22, 2011.  He talks about being published and being a paid writer.  Here’s the whole essay:

Money is an odd and complex subject to a writer. In America, at least, probably few people get into the writing racket because of the money – I'll bet not even John Grisham,  And for the guys I've always hung around with, we got into it because we wanted to write a really good book that people would read and be changed by for the better. If that occurred possibly money would follow along – although how that would happen wasn't very clear, and probably it wouldn't happen no matter what we did. The old adage of Samuel Johnson’s that says anybody who writes for any reason other than money is a nitwit, was a status I had to hope would become true of me, before which time I had to try not minding being a nitwit.

The first book I ever wrote sold to its New York publisher for the sum of $3,500 – which didn't seem like a lot of money, even in 1975. It mattered a great deal more to me that my novel would be published and possibly read than that somebody paid me for it. My wife and I felt like the money was more of a one-time windfall than anything resembling real "earnings". We certainly had no thought that it portended more money would ever come our way. Although, we knew what to do with it. We drove to Mexico and lived off of it as long as we could (which wasn't long), and tried to feel as much as possible like Hemingway and Hadley in Pamplona or wherever they'd been – eating and drinking cheap, having a good time, picking up cheques at the American Express office – while I factored up the fantasy of myself being a "working writer", which wasn't very persuasive. The money felt like what we Americans call "funny money": cash you find in a shoe box inside the closet of a house you rented, and promptly blew on drugs or a vintage Porsche or a new sound system – knowing you'd never get it again so why save it? It was real money, okay. But it wasn't "serious money". That, you got from a job. And writing wasn't really a job. It was more of a lark. It was art for art's sake. Not art for money's sake.

This idyll of my youth still affects me as being sweet and true. And during the 35 years of my writing life it has lain at the origin of how I feel about money, and specifically about money I've made writing novels and short stories and essays. In my estimation, I've made quite a lot of money being a writer. (I don't want to total it up; I might be wrong.) And that's over a writing career that's never been meteoric – although I'm happy with all of it, since I've gotten to do what I've wanted, unimpeded. I'm fairly sure I've made more money from my books than all my publishers – which doesn't seem right, or even explicable.

 I've made enough to keep from having to work at other jobs, or from becoming a college-professor-who-also-writes, or a slave to cruelly pointless magazine assignments. (It should be said that my wife has always had a "real career", and has brought home money fairly regularly – although never a king's ransom. And it should also be said that we didn't have children, those non-essential creatures who make money disappear in a way that can only be described as "viral".)
Professional athletes are sometimes quoted in interviews as saying, "I can't believe someone's paying me to do this. I'd do it for nothing." I've never quite believed that. But I've occasionally felt vaguely that way about writing. It isn't very hard to do, and it can sometimes feel pleasurable. This was a feeling I had when I was younger, of course. At 67, I'm not sure I'd do it now if somebody wasn't paying me (although no one's paying me very much for writing this – which is probably reasonable). But with less time lying out in front of me these days, other activities have begun to seem more attractive.

In truth, I don't know what I'd do differently if I had a lot more money. My house is paid for and so is my car. I don't owe anybody anything. I don't even want a vintage Porsche anymore. As a son of depression-era parents, I don't mind saying that these prosaic facts of life make me uncommonly happy – as happy as writing makes me. My wife, who's a great beauty and a former model, likes nice clothes; but we have money enough for that. I have a really wonderful motorcycle, but it's 23 years old. And my car that's paid for, I bought "used".

Oh, when I read about writers being picked by Oprah or winning an Oscar when they've tried their hand at screenwriting – and I find out that a big truck has backed into their driveway and unloaded millions – I admit I'd like to know what that feels like. (It probably feels like going sky-diving knowing god's promised you're going to land safely.) I'm happy for those writers – my good colleagues. I'm happy if they're happy, and I hope they are, and that all that money doesn't ruin their lives and cause them to get divorced and be miserable. Of course, the thing about writing is that you can't ever count yourself out. And I don't. That big truck may be looking for my address right now – which would be wonderful. I'll leave the light on. I'm sure it wouldn't ruin me.

So, as I said, it's an odd and complicated old business – money. I've always liked the adage that Samuel Johnson apparently didn't say (Louis B Mayer, that old scamp, probably said it): "If anybody ever says it's not the money, it's the money." Which means nobody much tells the truth about money – not the whole truth, anyway. Which is why it's both the source of so much giddy fun and also the root of all evil. We both love and hate it enough to lie about it. What could be more human? More … well … writerly?

Monday, October 20, 2014

You did it - Ángel Colón is free

Ángel Colón has been released from prison thanks to you!

Dear Tracy,

Ángel Colón has been released from prison thanks to you! THANK YOU!  It worked: more than 20,000 messages were sent last week by Amnesty International urging Mexico for the 
immediate and unconditional release of activist Ángel Colón, and on Thursday he was set free!

Since hearing the news I have been thinking a lot about our remarkable and very touching visit last month and how Angel was truly an inspiration to all of us; with his grace, dignity and sense of compassion. To have spent time with a survivor of torture who has been through all the injustice he has endured, deep inside a high security Mexican prison, and still come out feeling uplifted and hopefully was something quite incredible. 
alex_sig.gif Alex Neve, Secretary General,
Amnesty International Canada 

Ángel Colón has been released! 
Ángel Colón, tortured into "confessing" to crimes he did not commit and unjustly imprisoned for 5 years, has been released from jail!

Never doubt that raising our voices for rights and justice can make a difference! 

A delegation from Amnesty International met Ángel in prison during a human rights research mission to Mexico in September 2014. His story was captured on film and shared with Amnesty supporters around the world, leading to thousands to respond and urge Mexican authorities for his release.

Read about the good news and watch a video 

A grateful Hamid-Ghassemi Shall sends a letter to Amnesty supporters one year after his joyous return to Canada
Hamid_airport_300.jpg A year after returning to Canada following 5 1/2 years in an Iranian prison, Hamid writes:

"With the shadow of execution over my head I felt I had been forgotten. I felt hopeless, I felt that I had reached the end of my life and had given up hope to see my family again. Then one day, a kind person brought several photographs to me that completely changed my outlook.

They all featured my wife Antonella. In one of them she was with Amnesty International wishing me Happy Birthday. I didn’t recognize anyone except Antonella. A rush of emotion came across me --  people who didn’t know me were advocating for me.  It was then that I realized that I was not alone."  

Good news! Reyhaneh Jabbari has not been executed and pardon discussions are underway
reyhaneh_300.jpgThank you to everyone who mobilized so quickly to take action for Reyhaneh Jabbari!  The swift campaigning helped Reyhaneh’s case and has reached the ear of the Iranian authorities.
Reyhaneh has been in prison for seven years and was to be executed last.

At just 19, she was charged with murder after stabbing a man she says was trying to rape her. Reyhaneh admits to stabbing the man once, but maintains a third person was involved in his killing. These claims, which could clear Reyhaneh’s name, have never been properly investigated.

Hip hop musician and former child soldier Emmanuel Jal is spreading the human rights message across Canada 
Musician Emmanuel Jal is thrilling packed auditoriums in a cross Canada tour, challenging students to take action and be a part of change in the world.

Jal escaped as a 7 year-old from war in South Sudan along 400 other children, only to be recruited as a child soldier.

Read about his most recent stop on the tour

10+ years in prison for criticizing the government? Free them now!


Take Action

Viet Nam: Release two bloggers unjustly jailed for criticizing the government

Featured in

This petition is featured in the Amnesty International Book Club alongside this month's book selection, Ru by Kim Thúy, which tells the story of one family's journey from war-torn Viet Nam to a new life in Montreal.

Join the Amnesty International Book Club today.

Each month the Amnesty International Book Club features a best-selling book  with a connection to current human rights issues including books by Joseph Boyden, Anne Michaels, Lawrence Hill and others.

It's free to join and each month you'll receive an email introducing the book selection along with a downloadable discussion guide.

Join the Book Club

Sign up by clicking the button above, or by selecting the "Yes sign me up" checkbox when you add your name to this petition.


Take action to help secure the release of two bloggers sentenced to long prison terms in Vietnam after an unfair trial.vietnam_detainees.jpg
Two prominent Vietnamese bloggers, Nguyen Van Hai and Ta Phong Tan, were tried on September 24, 2012 and sentenced to 12 and 10 years’ imprisonment respectively. They were charged with “conducting propaganda” against the state and are considered prisoners of conscience.

Their trial, which only lasted a few hours, did not meet international fair trial standards. Only three witnesses out of nine summoned were present and the lawyers’ speeches were cut short so they were not able to provide a proper defence.

Nguyen Van Hai is reported to have insisted strongly on his innocence and the right to freedom of expression, before being cut off. Friends and supporters of the bloggers, including family members, were harassed, detained and assaulted to prevent them from attending the trial. Extracts of the trial were shown on national television.


Please take action now to help secure the release of Nguyen Van Hai and Ta Phong Tan.

We are targeting our action to the Canadian government, as we believe pressure from countries with a large ex-patriate Vietnamese community may have more influence than directly targeting the Vietnamese authorities. We hope Canada will take note of, and respond to, human rights abuses in Viet Nam.

> Send a message to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. John Baird expressing your concern at the harsh sentences imposed on Nguyen Van Hai and Ta Phong Tan and at prison conditions in Vietnam.

Thank you.
Alex Neve
Secretary General
Amnesty International Canada

Sunday, October 19, 2014

mom- son reunion/ Rob Ford dancing

Sept. 21 Mom-son reunion: I found this on Yahoo “N.L. mom reunited with Alberta son she thought was dead.”  This is a really good and happy article that I want to share with you: 

 A Newfoundland woman has been reunited with the son she put up for adoption, 46 years after she was told he had died.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life," said Marion Coombs, who gave birth to a boy when she was 19 and living in Alberta.

Unable to provide the life for him that she wanted, she agreed to adoption — her pain compounded by the fact that soon after making her decision, hospital staff told her he had not survived.

"I used to think, 'if only I could have held him. If only I could have had a picture of him,' " Coombs told CBC News.

Allan had a happy childhood, but had always felt something was missing.

"[I had been] wondering who I was, and not understanding and feeling like I was lost. I dreamt that someone was going to come and find me, that it was a mistake," he said in an interview.

Now 46 and engaged, Allan, who lives in St. Albert, had been eager to know his roots. His fiancée, Heidi-Ann Wild, encouraged him to do something about it.

"Heidi-Ann put me on to the adoption agency. We filled out some paper work and at that point decided we'll take it as it comes," he said.

Letter arrived out the blue

He found out about Coombs, who had moved to the small community of Heart's Desire, in eastern Newfoundland, a few years ago.

When Allan's letter arrived at her home — it had only been sent to her name, with no address other than the name of the town — Coombs was shocked.

Her grief lingered for almost five decades — until Alberta opened up its adoption records, and she received a letter from Andrew Allan, who had gone searching for his mother.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, somebody is playing such a cruel joke on me.' It was just mind-boggling. This can't be," she said.

Relieved to learn it was no prank, Coombs made contact with Allan. They were reunited in person on the Labour Day weekend, when her son came to her home.

"For the first time in my life, I got to hold my son on my knee," she said. "It was like a burden was lifted off me, and I could not let him go."

Another reunion planned

They speak each Thursday by phone, and plan another reunion later this fall, this time in Alberta.

Coombs said she marvels at the fact that she and her son had lived for years in the same province, and not that far away from each other.

"To think when I was in Alberta, he was maybe 10 kilometres away from me," she said. "We must have crossed paths hundreds of times."

Allan said the reunion was the moment of a lifetime.

"I felt like I was complete again, you know. I finally felt right," he said.

Coombs said she thinks back to her initial sorrow, of not having had the chance to hold her infant son and then being told that he had died.

"Sometimes I get angry [about] what happened," she said.

"But, I got to put all that in the past now and live for the future and live for my sons and grandchildren," she said. "Don't even look back. It's too painful. At least I got him now."

Here is a comment:

Rougue: In Manitoba, my now wife had our first son in 1968. She was 17 years old at the time. We were not living together but had planned on moving together after his birth. While at the hospital, Manitoba Child and Family Services came and took our son away. They told us all kinds of lies. My now wife went into a depression and has never recovered from it till this day. We had 2 more daughters after this but still she missed our son. We finally met our son 10 years ago and started to get to know each other. One day he disappeared and we have not heard from him since. He told me he was going to Europe to further his studies.

Bottom line to this story, my wife turned to alcohol and we are now separated. She still can't get over that her son was taken away from her and she has a deep emptiness inside her that can't be filled. Our family has been devastated by this and we are struggling each day because of the Child and Family Services policy back in 1968. Yes we tried therapy, but only worked for so long till my wife starts getting those flash backs.
CFS has put her in hell and I don't wish that on anyone. How many other women are going through hell because of CFS.

My opinion: It kind of reminds me of this one Maury episode with a maternity test.  This 50 yr old woman gave her son up for adoption.  They found a 30 yr old guy and they did a maternity test on the show and it proves she is the mother.  So that was really good. 

Cee- lo Green: I read this in Metro and found it on the internet:

On Aug. 31 over a series of since-deleted tweets, Green implied that a woman has to remember being raped in order for rape to actually occur. "If someone is passed out they're not even WITH you consciously! so WITH Implies consent," he wrote, referencing the felony charges he faces over furnishing ecstasy to a woman during a 2012 dinner in Los Angeles. To those charges, Green pleaded no contest.

Since then, his television series The Good Life was canceled by TBS, though the network insists it was pulled due to poor ratings.

On Sept. 2, Green attempted to apologize for the tweets: "I truly and deeply apologize for the comments attributed to me on Twitter," he wrote. "Those comments were idiotic, untrue and not what I believe."

My opinion: I thought Cee-lo Green was stupid with those tweets.  However, he did apologize so that’s good.

Joan Rivers: She has passed away and I’m kind of sad.  I’m not really surprised because she’s really old and she was in the hospital earlier.  It wasn’t very sudden.

Sept. 22 Rob Ford dancing: On Aug. 29, 2014, there is Rob Ford dancing at his last council session.  It’s kind of funny to see him dancing.  He has been recently diagnosed with cancer so I hope he gets well soon.  Here are some comments about the dancing:
A yahoo user: Clearly staged, to appeal to the young, the hip, the unemployed and others who unfortunately make up a significant part of the electorate. He needs to fade into the sunset, but I am not confident this will occur. Hell Ontario, well about 20% of eligible voters only voted a Wynne majority, so I am not real confident that Toronto voters will oust this buffoon. Speaking of Wynne, how in hell's name did she get a majority. Ahh right the bozo said yep cutting 100,000 public servants, yep no money for Phase 2 of LRT in Ottawa, and no doubt so many other screw ups. Wake up Ontarians, we owe close to 300 billion and this is money that must be paid. Close to 11 billion on interest alone (our combined tax dollars), and with interest rates at historic lows. Wake up and smell the coffee, and stop sniffing the Koolaid

JohnM: People lighten up, that was a great motivational singer who did what is expected of him, he got everyone in a good positive mood. As a former businessman we used to attend numerous seminars to help us put problems in a positive light, so we could learn from them and move on.

Rob Ford musicals: Here is a Globe and Mail review of two Rob Ford musicals.