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

Monday, September 12, 2016

"Parenting galvanizes busy moms to reach for their dreams"/ "Nobody knows who he is"

May 23, 2016 "Parenting galvanizes busy moms to reach for their dreams": I cut out this article by Elizabeth Withey in the Edmonton Journal on Nov. 8, 2011:

EDMONTON - I call them the Michelles, but you may call them the M & Ms, or Mighty Mitch Squared.

The Michelles have never met but these two moms have so much in common, I can’t help but sing a little as I write: Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match ... Both women were born in the U.S.A. but call Edmonton home. Both have heaps of children, exceptionally supportive husbands. And both are emerging artists whose determination is yielding impressive results.

Michelle Ferguson is a federal prosecutor with five kids under the age of 11. Four of them play hockey, which means Ferguson spends her weekends doing one of three things — “driving to a rink, sitting at a rink, or driving home from a rink.”

Despite her workload and kidload, Ferguson managed to write a novel and get it published. From Away (Borealis Press, 2011) is in stores now.

“I was lying in bed one night and the whole first chapter started pouring out of my head,” Ferguson, 41, recalls. “I had to run downstairs and write it all down.”

The plot of From Away centres on Marion, a university student from Alberta who moves to rural Nova Scotia to have a quiet, contemplative summer. On her first day in town, she’s mistaken for a lobster thief and shot at. Soon, Marion finds herself entwined in a community of quirky Maritimers, including Crazy Hal, Schooner Button and matriarch Alice Lupin.

Now, no one would have argued with Ferguson if she’d said she was too busy, too tired to dabble in fiction. But to me, this woman is proof that moms — and dads — need not put their artistic ambitions on hold while child-rearing. That one needn’t choose, if the drive (and willingness to survive on five hours sleep) is strong enough.

In fact, becoming parent can actually be the creative spark. Kids require creativity — be it packing lunches, finding fun things to do during a blizzard, coping with behaviour — and that “creativity in one area spills over into other areas,” says C. Diane Ealy, author of The Women’s Book of Creativity.

During a rare quiet moment, Ealy explains, it will dawn on moms like Ferguson: “When I was a kid I liked doing x, y, z. I stopped doing it. I’m going to start doing it.”

Ferguson says parenthood provided the impetus to write. “I can’t tell my kids to follow their dreams if mine are sitting in my computer,” she says.

It’s the same for Michelle Murray, a mom of eight —yes, eight! — children who credits parenthood with getting the ball — er brush, — rolling.

“I don’t know if I would have found this avenue of work if I hadn’t been a parent,” the painter says. “I don’t know if I would have looked here. There’s such beauty here.”

Murray has wanted to be a painter since she was a teen. She thrived in art class in high school, even did some murals for Edmonton schools. For many years, she got tied up with raising a family. But, in 2003, she found her creative voice with oil painting.

“I knew right then, this was the medium for me,” Murray recalls.
Art is in Murray’s blood. One of her ancestors painted a church ceiling in Serra San Bruno, Italy, and her grandfather worked with oils. Now, with five children still at home, she is studying to be a professional.

“I set aside unmoveable painting time during the day,” Murray, 49, says. “I pray lots. The more scheduled you are, the more you get done. It’s surprising. Your time expands.”

The stay-at-home mom focuses on figurative work and still life. This month, she is basking in the sunshine of her first solo show, on at Pro’s Art Gallery in the city’s west end.

Ferguson is basking in the artistic glow, too. Last month, she was toasting her book’s arrival in the Edmonton Public Library. This month, she’s darting around to author appearances in Calgary and Edmonton. No nanny, no housekeeper, no ready-meals or fast food. Also, no idle time.

“Yes, I am crazy,” the author admits. “The writing part was the easy part. The touring and stuff, this is a little more difficult. But it’s a dream. It’s been a dream all my life to be published.”

Family, she says, made her extra-productive during her slivers of solo time. When her husband came home, he took over and she took off to a coffee shop. “When you only have four hours to complete something, you are very focused.”

Giller-nominated novelist Kathy Page says she found the constraints of small children “oddly helpful.” Every novel she’s written since becoming a mom has made an awards list. How? Nary a minute was wasted.

“I developed a habit of being able to think things through while I pushed a sleepy baby around the park, and an ability to work the moment I had half an hour free.”

One might assume that number of children bears an inverse relationship to time spent on creative expression. But “creativity and creative expression are energizing,” Ealy says. “There’s lot of activity going on in the brain. That’s a way that creativity begets more creativity. Pushing that down, saying I’m too tired, giving into the tiredness all the time, can actually result in our getting depressed. What’s happening in the brain when we’re creative is the exact opposite.”

“There is still a way to be true to ourselves,” Ferguson says. “A few hours a week is all it takes. A short block of time — and a good husband — can move mountains.”

Sept. 10, 2016 "Nobody knows who he is": I cut out this article by Giles Blunt into the Globe and Mail on Sept. 10, 2011.  He reviews Lynn Coady's book The Antogonist.  I have emailed Coady before because she was a writer-in-residence and she reviewed like the first 10 pages of my Rain script.  Her comment was that my script was fast-paced:

One could open a review of Lynn Coady's new novel, this week long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, by saying it's about a hockey enforcer. Certainly her protagonist, given the recent deaths of three real-world hockey “hit men,” arrives with a macabre, if accidental, timeliness. But The Antagonist is a full-bodied work of fiction, and to say it's about an enforcer is like saying The Catcher in the Rye is about a prep-school student – true, but absurdly reductive, especially since this is a novel that is all about how it feels to be categorized, dismissed, reduced by the very people who should know you best.

Rank, as the protagonist is known, has the unsettling experience of coming across himself as a character in a novel written by a former university pal he hasn't seen in 20 years. Outraged, Rank sits down at the computer and starts firing off e-mails. “You have taken something that was mine,” he says in his opening salvo, “and made it yours.”

Coady adopts this epistolary form with a knowing wink, making no attempt to write in textese (thank God), and only one brief, funny, reference to emoticons. The salient point about e-mail, for her purposes, is that it's ideally suited to the long-running rant. Epistolary novels often have varying points of view; rants never. Rank is going to tell his own story, and Dude, as one of Coady's characters might say, does he tell it.

In prose that is by turns angry, funny, tender and sad, he tells us what it was like to grow up as a boy who is continually mistaken, owing to his huge size, for a man, and one tough bastard at that. Cast by his father as the bouncer at his struggling ice-cream franchise, he delivers a skull-cracking blow that seriously disables a local miscreant. A term in juvenile corrections follows, and with it an even more tragic event that darkens Rank's life for years to come.

One quickly notices that Rank is a suspiciously well-read jock. For example, there are many references to T.S. Eliot's Prufrock, another character who “knows the eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase.” It turns out Rank eventually becomes a teacher, and sports fans may be disappointed to find very little hockey in these pages. What little there is has a moving payoff, however, when Rank rises to a heroic act of defiance for which he gives himself no credit whatsoever.

There is also a curious placelessness about the book. There are few references to the weather or season, and even fewer to actual towns or cities. There's an offhand mention of Hamilton, but it isn't deployed as a setting. Everything in this book unfolds in the head of its narrator. He's bashing away at the keyboard – sometimes first thing in the morning, sometimes at 3 a.m., haranguing his treacherous old friend or his recently rediscovered girlfriend – and setting the novel inside his hermetically sealed skull seems entirely appropriate. What is vivid to Rank is made vivid to us, and Rank is not thinking about weather.

Most vivid of all are the characters. Rank's father is a nasty bundle of nerves, a master of passive aggression and a dab hand with the vulgar putdown. At various times, Rank collides with a smart, caring social worker, a drug-addled conspiracy theorist and an evangelical Christian who manages to be both motherly and sinister at the same time. Best of all are “da guys.” In Rank's college buddies, Coady captures all the faux expertise, the grudging affection, the boozy solemnity and the logorrhea of one-upping, over-the-top insults to which the college age (okay, and older) male is prone. If you doubt that any female author could do justice to this thoroughly masculine mode of exchange, just check out their stoned – and hilarious – debate on Heraclitus.

Coady's previous books have received much praise and it's easy to see why, given all the gifts of storytelling on display here. The Antagonist is a fine novel about a crucial aspect of growing up: learning to resist the roles that others thrust upon us. Failure to do so can only result in waking up one day to find that, instead of protagonist, we have become the antagonists in our own life stories, continually behaving in ways that fill us with shame. As Rank takes control of the narrative, his outrage dies down, his understanding grows and something approaching inner peace becomes possible.


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