Monthly Archives: July 2011

Rock Star’s Girl

L.A. novelist Jennifer Farwell (AKA J.F. Kristin)

Last week, I had a very cool editing contract. I spent my days in coffee shops, and my evenings on my balcony, editing Jennifer Farwell’s (AKA J.F. Kristin’s) latest novel: Rock Star’s Girl

There is nothing I like better than immersing myself in a text and trying to find ways to improve it. Editing Jennifer’s latest work was particularly fun, because the text she sent me to work with was virtually free of typographical errors. This left me free to focus on what I like doing best: eliminating commas, shortening sentences, and looking for ways to improve flow and clarity. For an editor, working with a writer who has put so much effort, energy, and heart into her work is a rare pleasure.

Who is Jennifer Farwell? Farwell currently makes her home in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, where she leads an interesting life writing novels, taking in the vibrant L.A. music scene, and working as the managing editor for the Yahoo! Store Blog.

She has been a writer virtually her whole life. In fact, at the age of 7, she participated in her first Young Author’s conference. When she was 11, she was published, for the first time, in The Chronicle Journal (Thunder Bay, Ontario). At 18, her love of music inspired her to start her own music magazine titled Sound Check.

As a teenager, she also began to experiment with Web design and created her own Web site playfully named the Society for Preventing Parents From Naming Their Children Jennifer, or the SPPNTCJ for short. During it’s four year run, the SPPNTCJ would receive over 2 million visitors and attracted attention and coverage from  Yahoo! Internet Lifemagazine, the Richmond Times-DispatchThunder Bay Television News580 CKPR radio, and California State University (Chico). Not bad for a teenager living in Thunder Bay, Ontario eh?

I met Jennifer in graduate school at Carleton University where we were both enrolled in the English literature M.A. program. Jennifer and I shared a love for Michael Ondaatje novels and an ambivalence for 18th century literature.

She particularly impressed me, then, because not only was she able to hold down a full-time gov’t job while attending graduate school full-time, but also found the energy to hang out with the Mike’s Place (grad pub) crowd of which I was a regular member.

Here’s a little known fact about Jennifer: after a margarita, she is also willing to brave a karaoke microphone to belt out a rendition of Britney Spears’ “Baby, One More Time.” Impressive!

Her novel Rock Star’s Girl will be available in late July. It tells the story of Emily Watts, the owner and sole writer of a “snark-fashion” Web site, called Zeeked, who becomes caught, overnight, in a web of media scandal and instant celebrity. To save the Web site, and the writing career she’s made her life and dream, Emily must go from being a pawn in the Hollywood headline game to becoming a media mastermind.  For a preview click here


A Few Thoughts On Secrets of A Soccer Mom

Last Wednesday, I went to the opening of  Kathleen Clark’s Secrets of A Soccer Mom at Arts Court.  Arts Court is offering this comedy as part of its Summer Fling series. The show is set on a soccer field where three mothers are involved in a match with their children. As the narrative progresses it becomes clear that all three women are dissatisfied with the choices/sacrifices they’ve made to be mothers.  As Lynn (Tania Levy) states “It is a sad fact that we have to say goodbye to the lighthearted girl that used to be.” All three characters are fairly two dimensional and Clark’s script has about as much depth as an 80’s sitcom. The audience seemed to enjoy it and there were plenty of good one liners. Yet, I was disturbed by the play’s message.

A major source of all three women’s distress stems from the behaviour of their husbands. Allison’s (Kate Smith) husband is a disturbing control freak who orders Allison around with little regard for her feelings. He sounds like the type of man that should have a restraining order placed against him. Lynn’s Husband  is shockingly uncommunicative and the only time he ever listened to her was by negotiating 45 minutes of listening in exchange for sex that was painful to her. Disturbingly, Lynn considers this compromise a victory. Finally, Nancy (Maureen Smith) spouse just seems kind of absent. It becomes clear they haven’t been intimate for months. Her relationship sounds hollow and empty, which granted is less disturbing when compared to the abusive spouses of the other two.

All three of these women should get divorced, but Clark seems to be suggesting that they should just continue to make compromises with their spouses and find their identity in the pride their children feel for them. These kids are going to need a whole lot of therapy and I was filled with a bizarre mixture of contempt, horror, and pity for their mothers.

That being said, all three performers are quite strong and the audience seemed to be enjoying the witty one liners. There is a very funny dance sequence at the end of the play, which I really enjoyed.

On a technical level I found the sound design distracting. There are sounds of children playing on a loop through the show. This was unnecessary and rather than immersing the audience merely distracts them.

This one is a light fluffy comedy. I was quite troubled by its message. If you see it, I would be curious to know what your thoughts are. Perhaps, I am not giving enough credit to Clark. Maybe she wants us to be disturbed by the choices these three women make during the play. If this is the case, then I think stronger artistic choices should have been made by director Kate Hurman to bring this issue to the forefront. The play would have been darker, but better for it.

Slaying Demons: Writing Struggles and Procrastination

I can’t remember who said this, I’m sure it was someone famous,

“I don’t enjoy writing. I enjoy having written.”

This is pretty much my experience.  I know writing will be a struggle, but after I’ve finished something (whether a blog post, script, short-story, review) I get a fair amount of satisfaction from having done so. My best work, I even enjoy reading multiple times.

Most of my struggles are not so much about the writing itself but my struggling with putting my mind into the writing zone. I’ve always been a procrastinator. In university I was notorious for getting an extension for every single assignment I was given. This included my final research paper/thesis, which took me an extra term to complete.

Clearly, deadlines are not enough to get me focused and into the zone. The procrastination itself I think stems from  fear. Here are my writing demons: that the writing will be hard,  that I really haven’t a clear idea of what I want to say, that it won’t be any good, and finally that nobody will read it. This makes the anticipation of the blank screen a horrifying experience for me. If I followed my natural inclinations I doubt I would ever write anything.  I would probably just edit, research, and brainstorm new ideas indefinitely.

In contrast, when I do manage to get myself into the zone, the writing comes fairly easily. I can whip off a review in an hour or crank out a blog post in even less time.  Creative writing is less quick, but I can still be reasonably productive. If I could slay my writing demons, I would be immensely more productive as a writer.

Since, I have a lot of writing projects on my plate these days, I figured I would put this out there. Anyone have similar demons? How do you slay them and get into the Zone?

The Conventions of Theatre, the Aesthetic, and Living. (via Movement)

Sterling has started an interesting conversation on how the aesthetic conventions of theatre  create a ritual that opens the audience up to an empathetic experience. An experience that might not be possible in our regular lives. I’ve chimed in with my thoughts in the comment section. I figured rather than recap them here I would just put up a link. I’m curious to see what others will say as well.

In theatre, it seems to me, much of the craft exists to overcome the obstacles created by the conventions of theatre itself. No, we are not in a darkened black box watching a rehearsed performance by one or more actors; we are, we all hope and pretend, somewhere else very different. Even meta-theatrical antics that call attention to the artificiality of theatrical conventions seems to me to be a conceptual variant of clever set design. I know you … Read More

via Movement