Monday, November 26, 2012


I was asked by my friend and fellow scribe Richard Scarsbrook to participate in "The Next Big Thing" project. TNBT is a way for wordsmiths to promote upcoming work. Basically, a writer answers ten questions about a new work and then get other writers to do the same. It's sort a online literary chain letter, only way cooler. Or something like that ;) So without further ado, here are my Next Big Thing Q & A's:

What is your working title of your book?

Women’s Hours

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was going through some of my various short stories and realized that many were about women and their various relationships, so I thought I should write more pieces that fit into that general theme and voila... a short story collection!

What genre does your book fall under?
Literary short fiction

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Since it’s a collection of short stories, I would imagine that any film would be made up of four or five vignettes. For one of the 20-something break-up vignettes, I’d choose Lena Dunham to play the female protagonist.

And I'd choose Robert Pattinson to play the jerky boyfriend who deserves to be dumped.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Women's Hours is a short story collection, which explores the various relationships of female protagonists.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Don’t know yet. I need to finish it first!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Well, as I’m still writing it, the answer is complicated. Several of the stories were written as stand-alones over five years ago. I only started to think of them as a collection a few months ago. I’m guessing it will take me about year to write the additional stories. Or maybe less, if a book contract suddenly appears on the horizon.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’m lightyears away from Alice Munro’s stratosphere of talent and skill. However, if I were to put on my marketing and puffery hat, the work could be considered in the vein of a youthful urban-oriented Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’m also working on a young adult novel, which is a long, long, long way from being finished. When I was writing my first novel, Fortune Cookie, I wrote short stories when I wasn’t getting anymore on the book. I thought that working on a short collection at the same time would help me feel less frustrated with my slowish progress on the new YA book.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Most of the stories are very short, so they can be read on transit, on a coffee breaks or in the bathroom. Several of them are funny. Or at least, I think so.

And now check out The Next Big Things of these wonderful writers.


Note: This post was originally written for and posted on the wonderful and now-defunct Shebytches blog in July 2009. Since it's a fave, I thought I'd give it a second life.

Much as I like to claim I’m only 29, I was actually born in the “Swinging Sixties” — that progressive era when it was perfectly acceptable to fire a woman just for being pregnant. My own mother lost her job when she was five months pregnant with me because her position interessante ("interesting or delicate condition") had become visible, and it was no longer proper for her to be "seen". Two months prior, my mother had been due for a raise and was denied it on the grounds that she would soon be resigning on account of "her condition".

Ironically, when my mother was very close to her delivery date, her former employer was in desperate need of her services. Mum had been the only native English speaker in the Montreal office, and the company president was coming from Toronto for some high-powered meetings. My heavily pregnant mother was temporarily re-engaged, so she could transcribe the meeting notes. The proceedings were even filmed for television news. After giving birth to me and then my sister a year later, Mum took advantage of her "delicate conditions" and went back to school to get her BA, MA and PhD.

Earlier in the '60s, my mother had a summer job at an insurance agency. On a Thursday late into that summer, one of her co-workers (a recent immigrant) confided to some of the female staff that she would be away on the Friday because she was nine months pregnant. Her child would be born on the Saturday, and she had planned to be back working on the Monday. When the other women asked the mother-to-be why she had kept her pregnancy a secret, she said she feared losing her job, as she and her husband were dependent on the income. Unfortunately, someone ratted on the woman. She was called into the managers office and fired immediately. My mother can't recall the woman's name, but to this day, Mum is still haunted by the devastated look on her face.

Maternity leave benefits were first included in the Canadian unemployment insurance system in 1971. The program was expanded over the years and now includes parental leave for spouses, as well as for adoptive parents. So the sad stories of the '50s and '60s are supposed be relics of the past. Unfortunately it seems that, in 2009, some employers are using the "Recession Excuse" to flagrantly break the law and not re-hire women returning from their maternity leaves. It just goes to show that contemporary women must make themselves aware of our foremothers' breakthroughs and to guard against any and all attempts to "turn back the clock."
Check out my June 2011 piece on Shaun Smith's Fiction Craft!

Check out my guest post on Lisa Young's blog!

Constraint: The Creative Gift