The first of many

Jay Paulin
Jay Paulin

Inspired by friend and fellow writer Matthew LeDrew, whom I first met at Hal-Con 2010, I decided to sign up here and start posting.

The early plan is to post large updates on weekends. From time to time, I’ll post interesting things I stumble across during the week.

The large updates, also taking a page from LeDrew, will focus on my writing process and inspirations.

Hopefully you enjoy these little musings and you find reason to stick around.

edit: I welcome any and all comments, providing they aren’t spam or vulgar. I want to keep this a place where writers and readers of all ages can visit. To help ensure this, I have comments set to be moderated. Hopefully everyone understands my concerns. Thanks!

First (real) post is coming soon!
– Jay

Advertisements

I turned this hobo into a respectable citizen! Ask me how!

Matthew LeDrew - beard
before

After much prodding on the part of Ellen, Janelle, and my mother. The beard is gone again… for now. It always goes around convention season, and is a part of my transformation from “actual writer / starving artist” to “public image of writer / proper businessman.” Thing is, I miss the strange hobo writer. Fool gets things done.

Matthew without beard
after

I’m sure it’ll return before too long. 😉

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

**** March 20 Update ****

The transformation continues…

Matthew without hair
Even later

Women’s Day- Looking Forward

Ellen Curtis
Ellen Curtis

As many people may know today is International Women’s Day, so in celebration of that I had been trying to think of a related post topic. This morning however, I received news that two of my best friends are having a little girl. Fittingly, they found out today.

I know this little girl is going to grow up loved, with an amazing family and support system (and lots of treats, ’cause I am absolutely horrible for spoiling the children in my life ;p ). She is also going to grow up with a struggle though, because let’s face it, for all the steps we have made toward improving equality, sexist discrimination still does exist in Canada today. For all the change people involved with the women’s movement have accomplished, there is still an existing bias in the workforce and in society that places women at a lower average income than men of the same educational background.

Women in today’s job market are still facing gender discrimination. In universities, women make up only a small percent of students enrolled in medicine, engineering or math and sciences. Those women who do pursue these fields are pushed into specializations that are considered feminine, such as nursing, paediatrics or gynaecology (in medicine).  Women who do pursue careers in fields of study considered ‘masculine’ are often pushed out due to harassment, or are treated differently than their male counterparts. You would never hear someone tell a male doctor or engineer that they ruined their career by getting married and starting a family, but it is not uncommon to hear this said to women.

Further, women in the workplace today often suffer a bias due to their perceived roles in the home. Women with children in the workplace are less likely than their male counterparts to be offered projects that could lead to promotions and are less likely to be offered overtime. Whether the perception is true or not, there is an assumption that a woman with a family will devote her time to the unpaid labour in the home rather than the ‘extras’  in her employment.

I’m not claiming to be an expert in inequalities as I write this; my qualifications are as a woman and a student foremost. I do know that as the little girls of today are growing up they are still facing many of the same problems our mothers and grandmothers faced though, and this is a problem. In today’s society, ‘feminist’ is a dirty word. It is associated with man hating hippies, when it in fact is a belief and movement for an equality that is still not present in Canadian society.

Sexist behaviour still exists in all its forms, though it can be more heavily veiled now. Advertisements today don’t contain the same catchphrases of yesteryear, such as “so easy a woman could do it”, but they are sending a message to all young females that they are, by nature of their femininity, not equal to men. We are still taught that our value is in our feminine nature, our sexuality and our beauty. There is a rigorous definition of what is considered beautiful, and let’s face it, it is inevitable. Women are fed this though, told they must measure up, and are taught to punish themselves if they don’t (which they can’t). It sets every woman up for failure. A wrinkle, a pore, or a roll is an ugly thing to advertisers, and we all have them. Brainwashing women into thinking that they are worthless as long as they have these features weakens them, creates self-doubt and loathing. Women in media are not sexy with these features, and so they have no power. Ads show the sexy woman getting what she wants, or getting the man. Men, on the other hand, while becoming more objectified in the media, are rarely so objectified or demeaned as women. A man can be sexy, strong and loud. A sexy woman in advertising is quiet, mysterious and submissive. These are the ideals today’s little girls are growing up with. And if little girls are still seeing this, so are little boys, and the problem becomes that a harmful perception of the girl does not exist just within herself, but within her entire community.

Earlier this week, I learned of a radio contest in Halifax, a city near and dear to me that houses Hal-Con and many of my relatives and friends. The station, Q104, has been running a contest called “The Male is in the Czech”, advertising to contestants a chance to ‘win a mail order bride’. While the actual contest offers men a chance to be flown to Russia for four dates with Russian women from a dating agency, the underlying message was still troubling. Women, to this station, are the prize for a man and are nothing more than an object. More than that however, was the message that this behaviour is ok. Regardless of the actual prize (which is still misogynistic and disgusting all the same), Q104 promotes the mail order bride industry, which has proven time and time again to be notoriously abusive and to promote inequality, as well as human trafficking and a list of other serious offences.

Even more disgusting was my reply from Q104 in which they attempt to justify their decision to run the contest. Completely ignoring the concerns of many of their listeners and ignoring that I challenged them on their decision to end the contest today- International Women’s Day, here was their response.

Hello, Ellen

Thank you for your note, which was passed along to me by Jayme Lynn Butt, our Promotions Coordinator.  I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your comments.

The Q104 contest has created a great deal of discussion, and unfortunately a great deal of misinformation has been generated in the process.

The grand prize in the contest is simply a trip to Prague, Czech Republic, along with four dates arranged through the Flying Hearts International Dating Service.  Flying Hearts is an above-board business with a terrific reputation of helping single women in the Czech Republic meet men from around the world.

Here are some additional points to consider:

–          All of the women signed up with Flying Hearts have the option of rejecting any dates arranged by the company.  They view the profiles of the men, and have the right to refuse any dates that they do not feel are right for them.

–          All of the women registered with Flying Hearts have done so without duress. They have chosen to sign up for a dating service that specializes in introducing them to men from around the world.

–          Should the winner of this contest find a mutual connection with a woman while in Prague, they may choose to pursue their relationship anywhere in the world.  In many cases, men from elsewhere move to the Czech Republic because they have fallen in love with a women they met through Flying Hearts.

I hope this clears up some of the misconceptions surrounding this contest.

As for the concept of “giving away” a mail-order bride, we thought it would be obvious that this statement was a gross exaggeration of the actual mechanics of the contest.  The notion that a human being could be given away as a prize is wildly beyond ludicrous, and it was our assumption that this would be self-evident.  By advertising that we are giving away a mail-order bride, we are inviting people to look deeper at what the contest prize actually is, but we never imagined that anyone would actually enter with the expectation that they would win a human being.  And again, this phrase was intended as a double entendre, as our morning show hosts made it clear from the beginning that if the contest were to lead to matrimony for the winner, our DJ’s will offer to “give away” the bride at the wedding.

I recognize that you may still find the premise of the contest unappealing to your tastes, and very much respect your right to voice your concerns.  I am grateful that you contacted us and afforded us the chance to respond to your valid concerns.

Best regards,

jc

 

J.C. Douglas | Director of Programming | Q104, KOOL-FM | Newcap Radio Halifax
3770 Kempt Road | Suite 200 | Halifax NS | B3K 4X8

Ph: 902.493.2750 | jcdouglas@newcap.ca | www.Q104.ca | www.Kool965fm.ca

This, for anyone interested, is a link to a petition against the contest.

For anyone who says our children aren’t growing up in a world where  women are at a disadvantage, I say look again. This is only one case, with many more in the homes in our communities, and in the workplaces and schools. I can only hope that through activism and education the little girls in my life are going to grow up without this kind of obstacle to overcome. This is clearly not everything that can be said on the subject, and at my longest blog post to date, I could definitely say more, but I’ll leave it here for now. The choice lies with individuals to start a change, but within the collective to enact it.

My Writing Process: Reader-Character Syncing

Alright, so we’re going to discuss something I like to call “Character-Reader Synchronization.” There may be other, easier terms for it. Sometimes I feel like there’s little that hasn’t been named three times over already. But this is my name for it.

Basically this is an extension of the “writing POV” talk we had a while back, and it’s something to think of when you’re writing to keep the drama in your work. What it boils down to is: don’t let your reader know more than your character knows.

Let’s explain: say there’s a character (strong female type. Played by Glenn Close or Jodie Foster). She has to run to the store and leave her two young children with her teenage daughter from a previous marriage while she’s gone. When she returns only ten minutes later, all three are gone. The remainder of the story then is her trying to find them. Sounds dramatically interesting to me. We could go inside the characters mind and hear all her suspicions about who might have done it: her ex-husband? Her father-in-law? The older man that hit on her daughter at the park two months ago? Who knows?

Well, you do. Or you should. But the character doesn’t. You know who else shouldn’t? The reader.

In a story like this it’s obvious why the “camera” or “narrative focus” should stay on your main character. If you showed what happened to the children as it was happening, there’d be no drama to the remaining scenes in which she tries to figure it out. The reader wouldn’t be invested and trying to figure it out with her, you’d already know. Clues the author places wouldn’t be dramatic, they’d make the reader bash their heads at the stupidity of the character and go: “How can you not see the answer?”

There are lots of examples of this type of writing. There’s a Star Trek: Voyager episode called “Macrocosm” that’s particularly famous for it. But mostly in literature the issue comes about in non-science fiction / horror genres. Most action-oriented genre writers have learned these rules by the time they reach a point in their craft that they’re being published (although we still get a lot of submissions with it). No, mostly in published fiction it’s cases where the author feels this rule does not apply to them. The fantasy and romance and general fiction writers.

Wake up: it applies.

Good drama is the one universal need for good fiction. There’s no way around it. And the above example destroys good fiction. The story might still be good, it might be well written with good dialog, and people might very well still enjoy it… But it’s lost the essential element that would have made it dramatically pleasing and amazing.

This is a one of the only rules I’ll press. Only exceptionally avant-guard authors should even attempt to subvert it, and even then… Probably not.

Keep it in mind.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

My Writing Process: Be Prepared

Iphone: never need a pen again!
Iphone: never need a pen again!

Great, now I’m going to have that Lion King song stuck in my head all day.

This is another relatively obvious post, but perhaps so much so that I feel it often gets ignored. I know I did for a long time. Put bluntly it’s the act of always being prepared when inspiration strikes you. To sum up: carry a pen and pencil.

Blog post over? Not quite. There’s a little more to it then that. Basically what you’re “being prepared” for is inspiration. While many writers, especially those trained to produce under deadlines by jobs and school like me, can power through periods of dry creativity, there’s one thing nobody can fake: the divine spark. The idea.

Let’s explain. Once you have your novel outlined, most people can still force out some content even if they’re having a bad day. But nobody can force that initial idea that comes and inspires the novel to begin with. Nobody. I don’t care who you are.

This idea can come at any time, so you have to always be prepared. Muses are fickle things. Sometimes they’ll come while you’re sitting at your desk and ready for them, but other times they’ll come when you’re in line for coffee or getting your eyes checked.

So the old pad and pencil. But that’s not very convenient either, is it? Thankfully we live in a digital age. Send yourself a voicemail. Or an email. Or (my personal favorite) use the Notes app on my iPhone (this will be the only time I describe a helpful app on the iPhone). Do anything to get that idea down. Because while sometimes the idea is preserved seamlessly in your mind (I’ve had the opening scene to a book called Black Womb Returns perfect in my head for over a decade), other times it’ll evaporate within seconds. And there’s nothing more frustrating or painful for a writer than realizing you’ve lost what you’re sure would have been a best-seller because you didn’t have a pen.

But as a point, don’t go into too much detail. You don’t need to stop in the middle of Starbucks and write an eighty page outline. A) that’s time consuming and b) if the story never evolves further than the first idea you’re in trouble.

Take the note above, which I jotted down in iPhone Notes:

“Stuck on an elevator” novel
Man hits on woman,
They get stuck in an elevator together.

You don’t get much simpler than that. And the novel, whenever I get around to writing it, might never be like that. Or I may never write it. It’s so loose an idea that it’s just there to remind me. To spark the fires of inspiration when I’m near my keyboard. Like a string around my finger. It could be anything by the time it’s done. Or started.

So yeah, that’s my ramble on being prepared. If you find an idea, find a way to get it down. Don’t let it evaporate.

Make sure to give your idea the best chance at life you can, because only you can do it. And I’m sure it’ll be great.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

Quitting Coffee: think I’m finally done

Coffe Mug
You are now a tea mug, sir.

Okay, so I think I’m finally done.

As I’ve stated, I’ve been trying to quit coffee for some time. It makes me very irritable. Recently, because of the Holiday K-Cups, I fell off the wagon. And I’ve noticed that I’ve been more irritable with Ellen as a result. This is unacceptable. So I put my foot down.

Today, near the end of my shift, I was thirsty and asked a buddy of mine if he had anything to drink. He only had coffee. I drank half a cup and felt bad. I became aware off all my teeth. They felt like they were vibrating. And my stomach got really upset. I can feel a headache coming on.

I had a similar experience with quitting smoking. My last smoke disgusted me. So I think this is it. I’m done. Start the timer over, no more coffee for me.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew