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too much information

writers are often advised to write what they know. there’s a good reason for that: if you write about what’s famailiar, even if it’s a detail buried completely out of context, your connection to the material comes through, something that readers can usually spot (even if they’re unaware of it) and relate to. however strange the setting, from whatever far reaches of the imagination your characters are drawn, if it’s done properly, the reader will identify with the real.

while i never had a problem inserting incidental elements of things that happened to me or that happened to other people i know into a story, i had until the last couple of years avoided putting anything beyond an incidental mention because, like most people, i had subconsciously never thought of what happened in my life as being tale-worthy.

i won’t say the pendulum has entirely swung in the other direction, but at this point pretty much everything i write has at least some moments that are based not just on a belief or an idea i can relate to, but on an honest, factual series of events.

not all of these things are directly from my experience, though. a lot of the time, i just like to include things that people tell me, because they’re stories that stick with me and i think that they deserve to be told, or because i will hear something that perfectly illustrates a theme that i have already waiting. rarely, these are things i get from strangers- something overheard on the bus, something i find mentioned on the internet, something i hear third or fouth hand. but a lot of times, the stories i appropriate don’t come from strangers, they come from the people who are closest to me in the world. and that may be a problem.

if someone took things that i told them and put them out there, in the world, out of context for other people to look at and judge, i’d be mortified. i apparently don’t have these qualms about doing the same to other people and, what’s worse, some of the things that end up in what i write, while they’re always in service of the story, are pretty much naked of disguise for those who know anything about the individuals involved. so at what point does appropriation become too much information? at what point am i obliged to ask permission, or, in the case of more sensitive details, find something else that works in the story?

i’ve included some pretty personal details of things that have happened to me in my writing, which is fine, because i can handle the exposure, but what if those events weren’t things that happened when i was by myself? if i’m telling a story about something that happened to me and my mother while we were on vacation, it isn’t only my story to tell, but hers. does that give others the right to censor what we write because it’s uncomfortable for them? or if they make the acquaintance of a writer, does that make them fair game? (i’m picturing my life where all of my friends refuse to speak to me about anything except the weather.)

none of this would bother me if i didn’t think i’d have a problem with someone doing the same to me. as it is, i’m haunted by the idea that i’ll be able to find a publisher for a first novel and at my book launch, someone who trusted me will walk up and punch me in the face. it could happen.


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mental health mondays :: the war at home

what's worse than being sent off to war when you're barely old enough to order a drink in a bar? making it home only to get poisoned by the government that sent you there. 
although it's certainly not a secret, i don't find that the opiate/ opioid crisis happening in america gets nearly the attention it deserves. at least, what attention it gets just seems to repeat "thousands of people are dying, it's terrible", without ever explaining how things got to the state they are now. there's mention of heroin becoming cheaper, of shameful over-prescriptions and dumping of pills in poorly regulated states/ counties, etc. but too much of the media coverage seems content to say that there's a problem and leave it at that.

one of the things that might be hindering debate is that a very big problem likely has a lot of different causes, which means that it's important to break it down into smaller problems to deal with it. and one of those problems conne…


i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:

am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

digging for [audio] treasure

my computer tells me that i need to cut down the amount of music stored on my overstuffed hard drive. my ears tell me that that would deprive me of some wonderful listening experiences. 
halifax, nova scotia was not the easiest place to find out about music with limited appeal. it was a very music-centred city, to be sure, but, being smaller, things like noise, industrial, and experimental music struggled to gain a foothold, even as the alternative rock scene exploded in the early nineties. i was lucky enough to have some friends who were happy to share music that they loved, but i knew that there were lots of things that i was missing out on.

with the dawn of the internet, and various types of music sharing, i found myself able to discover bands that i'd heard about, but never managed to track down, from the days of underground cassette culture. and, to my surprise and elation, many of them do very much live up to what i'd imagined from reading descriptions of them in catalo…