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bacon, beavers, tim hortons and me


some of you (mainly those who know me ex-blog) are aware that i recently finished a draft of a first novel. this was quite unexpected, since it started life initially as something quite different. in fact, some day i'll probably find a way to make the story of the creation of the novel into a work of fiction, thus allowing me to get the maximum impact from every idea that runs through my overtaxed little brain.

the next evolutionary step in my progress as a writer has been to start researching different avenues by which i could get this published. this is tricky (ironically, so is the name of the novel) at the best of times, but i've discovered that i am working from a peculiar handicap. i'm geographically incorrect.

being a canadian, it occurred to me that it would be easier for me to start researching publishers in canada for my magnificent octopus (if you don't get that, you need to watch more blackadder). turns out, this may have been a bit of a mistake on my part.

it turns out that canadian publishers are not interested simply in works by canadian writers. in order to be considered by most publishers in this country, a book must have the appearance of being canadian. that means that it should be set in canada, should feature canadian cultural icons, that it should reference canada in more than just the author's bio. and my novel doesn't do that.

what i wrote is set in san francisco, with a few cutaway scenes in salt lake city. there are a lot of reasons why i chose to do this, all of them important to the structure of the story. most importantly, the contrast between these two places, culturally and geographically, is important to the theme. i chose them specifically for this reason. i could have tried setting it in vancouver and rural alberta, but it doesn't have the same meaning. i've been to both cities (one for work, the other for enjoyment and if you can't figure out which is which, there's something seriously wrong with you) and felt comfortable writing them into the story as it went along.

unfortunately, my choice of setting seems to have disqualified me as a canadian in the publishing world. a setting is apparently more important than an author's actual ethnicity when it comes to the written word. maybe some of these publishers would actually enjoy what i've written, or maybe they wouldn't. i can't even cross that hurdle, because i don't meet the qualifications they set out as proper canadiana, so i wouldn't be up for consideation.

it's a weird feeling, suddenly having your sense of nationalism amputated in this fashion. i've always identified fairly strongly as canadian, but not necessarily with the icons of canada. i'm not a big hockey fan. i think tim horton's coffee tastes like chewing on day-old grounds. in a country with the second largest expanse of f**k all in the world, i am more at home in the city. the thing is, i've always understood my national identity to be a more subtle thing, something that reveals itself when pressed, but does not advertise, sort of like superman (a canadian creation himself). i wasn't aware that this made me sub-standard.

the ironic thing is, i would have a better chance of getting published in canada if i had set the story on the moon, or in some mythical country whose name i cobbled together from ancient sumerian legends, because once you decide to completely abandon the realm of the real world, all bets are off. if you're not specifically stating that your story is set someplace else, you are canadian again. if you're writing about vienna or london or buenos aires or san francisco, you'd better be doing it from the point of view of someone from small-town canada who's aching to go home.

i have another idea for a novel, one that i had actually started working on a long time before, but which has proved a struggle to finish, that's set in montreal. some day, i'll take that book to a canadian publisher and be recognised as properly canadian. until then, i'm checking out publishers in the us and my canadian identity will have to remain a secret...

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dreamspeak

ok, so i've been lax about posting here. i apologise. there are reasons. i don't know if they'ree good reasons, but they include:


i've had a lot of work to do, which is nice because i'm a freelancer and things tend to slow down in the summer, so the more work i get now, the less i have to worry about later [in theory].i started watching the handmaid's tale. i was a little hesitant because i didn't actually like the novel very much; i found it heavy-handed and predictable. the series relies on the novel for about 80% of its first season plot but i nevertheless find it spellbinding. where i felt that the novel beat readers with its politics, the series does a better job of connecting with the humanity in the midst of politics. i'm dithering on starting season two because i am a serial binger and once i know damn well that starting the second season will soon consign me to the horrors of having to wait a week between episodes. i don't know if i can han…

i agree, smedley [or, smokers totally saved our planet in 1983]

so this conversation happened [via text, so i have evidence and possibly so does the canadian government and the nsa].

dom and i were trying to settle our mutual nerves about tomorrow night's conversion screening, remembering that we've made a fine little film that people should see. which is just about exactly what dom had said when i responded thusly:

me :: i agree smedley. [pauses for a moment] did you get that here?

dom :: no?

me :: the aliens who were looking at earth and then decided it wasn't worth bothering with because people smoked even though it was bad for them?
come to think of it, that might mean that smokers prevented an alien invasion in the seventies.

dom :: what ?!?!?

me :: i've had wine and very little food. [pause] but the alien thing was real. [pause.] well, real on tv.

dom :: please eat something.

of course, i was wrong. the ad in question ran in 1983. this is the part where i would triumphantly embed the ad from youtube, except that the governmen…

mental health mondays :: separate and not equal

given the ubiquitousness of racial disparities in the united states, there's no reason why we should be surprised that they exist in mental health care. unlike a lot of other areas, the people in power have acknowledged the problem for decades. but the situation isn't getting any better. 
the united states surgeon general documented the differences between white and non-white mental health care back in 2001 so we can assume that it was already a known problem at that point. two years later, a presidential commission said the same damn thing and groups like the national association for mental health seized on this to develop guidelines on how to bridge the ethnic gap. from the turn of the century through 2007, the number of papers and publications talking about the mental health care gap spiked. the issue was viewed as being on par with obesity when it came to urgent problems.

starting in 2004, researchers undertook a massive project that involved the records of nearly a quart…