Jul 5, 2015 - Literary

Film Deal for The Western Light with Upcoming Canadian Women Producers

Three young creative Canadian women film makers have come together to make a feature film based on the prequel to my international bestseller, The Wives of Bath. The prequel is The Western Light about Mouse Bradford, a precocious girl who is pushed to the brink when she mistakenly places her trust in an institutionalized ex-hockey star and convicted murderer, only to flee her small town and discover that goodness is more mysterious than evil.

The three film producers are Mackenzie Donaldson, an associate producer of Orphan Black, the hit television series about a cabal of cloned women and Hannah Cheeseman, script coordinator and an executive assistant on the Orphan Black series who together form Aberrant Pictures; and Lauren Grant of Clique Films who produced Wet Bum, a feature film with rising TIFF star Julia Sarah Stone. The women from top down in the photos inserted in my blog are Hannah Cheeseman; Mackenzie Donaldson and Laurie Grant.

Hannah will write the screenplay for The Western Light and play the part of Little Louie, Mouse’s aunt. Hannah also wrote the script and acted in “Whatever, Linda”, her newly released web series made with Orphan Black producer Mackenzie Donaldson. “Whatever, Linda” is an Internet Odyssey about an alleged secretary who is the mastermind behind Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Lauren Grant was recently named one of 15 talents to watch by the Hollywood Reporter. I’m currently finishing my new novel, The Dead Celebrities Club.

The novel The Western Light was published by Cormorant Books in 2012 and The Wives of Bath (published in 1993) was made into the 2001 feature film “Lost and Delirious” shown in 32 countries and starring Jessica Pare, Mischa Barton and Piper Parabo.

hannah cheeseman headshotmackenzie donaldson headshotlauren grant headshotKim Witherspoon of Inkwell Management handled the deal in association with Samantha Haywood of Transatlantic Agency.

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Mar 6, 2015 - Literary    1 Comment

As Promised, Stories about Bad Decisions You Don’t Regret

A bad decision you don’t regret comes perilously close to a good decision although there is usually a lot more harrowing side effects than in a simple good decision, like helping the blind person pick up a dropped bag of groceries. And as promised, here are stories from my generous friends about bad decisions they don’t forget:

Good things grow in strange places.

BAD DECISIONS YOU DON’T REGRET

Marrying the Wrong Guy:

Marrying my first husband at 24 was a bad decision because I wanted an interesting life in the arts and he wanted a conservative lifestyle and to hang out with the rich and cynical; yet it gave me my daughter Samantha. Now it’s impossible to imagine life without her. So I don’t regret my bad decision.

Choosing the Wrong Career:

Non-fiction author Bert Archer said choosing to be a writer was a spectacularly bad decision and yet he doesn’t regret it. Makes sense. The writing life is full of thrills and challenges even though the world seems to think that ‘content providers’ should work for nothing or next to nothing these days.

Marrying the Right Guy in the Wrong Career

Anita Dolman: I married another author although everyone said two writers together leads to rivalry and disaster. It’s tough being in a relationship with someone in your field. When that field is as competitive, as grant dependent, as tight for shelf space and spotlight space as writing is, it’s even harder. After lots of trial and error, my husband and I, struck a deal that we will never submit to the same magazine or grant for the same issue or grant cycle. We’ve been together 13 years, and I don’t regret it.

Picking the Wrong High School:

Thereza Dos Santos For me, choosing to leave all my friends behind to go to the more “reputable” high school was a bad decision I don’t regret. Years later I realized that going to high school with my childhood friends would have been more fun and just fine as far as my future was concerned. But going to a new school where I knew very few people probably helped give me the confidence I have now.

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  • Virginia, how wisely said! Children let down their mothers a lot–it’s in the nature of growing up.

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Mar 5, 2015 - Literary    1 Comment

Stories about Bad Decisions You Regret and Bad Decisions You Don’t

Before my talk at Trampoline Hall on Monday, my friends on Facebook generously gave me stories about their bad decisions. The ones I’ve posted here are done with their permission and my thanks. The discussion on Monday night eventually asked the obvious question: what is a good decision? I suggest that a good decision is an act of self assertion that affirms who you are and respects the rights of others to be who they are. Anyway, drum roll–some slightly abbreviated stories about bad decision you regret–as they were told to me. (Tomorrow: stories about bad decisions my friends and myself don’t regret.)

Crossroads2

Image by Mitya Ilyinov

BAD DECISIONS YOU REGRET

Letting Mom Down
Mary Paterson: My mother and I traveled to Toronto by bus from our hometown of Belleville. We spent the day together shopping, eating out, and went to the ballet. When it came time to leave in the early evening, there was only 1 seat left on the bus. I wanted to get back for a party so instead of waiting in Toronto with my mother, I took that 1 seat on the bus and left my mother alone to wait for the next bus which was hours later. My wonderful mother offered to stay back, and told me it was fine for me to go home without her, but she looked extremely sad. I ignored the feeling that I should stay with her instead of leaving for some stupid high school party. Shortly afterwards my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. That selfish act of abandoning my mother to get to some party has stuck with me – I have always regretted it and by the way, said party has disappeared from my memory, which proves how lame it was. Today my mother is no longer alive, and I can describe the exact look of disappointment and sadness on her face as I sat looking at her through the bus window.

Letting Wishful Thinking Get the Best of You
Don Oravec At the age of 34, I decided I had had enough of Toronto and decided to retire and move to Montserrat in the British West Indies. What a great idea to escape the cold and snow and stress of Toronto life! Or so I thought. I bought a lovely oceanfront condo; however, I hadn’t counted on a category five hurricane hitting the island. It took a year of so to recover from the damages and by that time I decided Toronto wasn’t so bad after all and I moved back. A mere four months after selling my West Indian condo the long-dormant volcano erupted on the island.

Renting the Apartment from Hell
Cheryl Runke I took an apartment sight unseen. The former tenant was an animal hoarder. The floors were embedded with animal feces and urine. That was June 2014. I finally get to move out this Friday.

Listening to a Fast Talking Hubby
Natalee Caple My ex believed that he could guess the stock market — could figure out the likely futures of penny stocks. He was an excellent talker and I believed in him even when what he became convinced that investing in a little known stock based on an invention to sort cow sperm by gender would be a huge success. So I took all my money out of GICs and bought the cow sperm stock. It was a bad decision I really regret because the stock plummeted.

Failing to Estimate a Real Estate Risk:
John Oughton My ex and I decided to buy a country house together so our daughter would have a base to support her horse riding. Once she was in university, we intended to sell the house and make a few $$. After viewing many properties, we settled on one on the edge of a village next to a vacant lot. We were going to pay for the smallish mortgage by splitting the costs. A month later, my ex was diagnosed with breast cancer. She survived, but she has never been able to find full-time or well-paying work since. So I’ve been paying all the expenses on the house and its mortgage (which went up because I’d got into debt, and she needed cash due to her illness.) I still need to live in Toronto for work, so I am effectively paying two rents. The vacant lot next to us (which we didn’t bother to check out carefully) is zoned industrial because it was once a petroleum storage facility. No one can build a house there without having the soil all cleaned or replaced. Last year we finally got an offer on our country house, but it fell though because the prospective buyers didn’t want someone else to take over the nearby vacant lot and put up an industrial site, and they didn’t want to spend money fixing the environmental problems. Then, the church across the way doubled in size and developed a bad in-house rock band that rehearses loudly at odd hours…

1 Comment

  • letting mom down.
    I loved this story. It probably aided in giving mom and daughter more closeness later as the lesson was learned before the diagnosis. And don’t feel bad. A moms heart is so filled with the wonderful timse she’s able to share there is little room for the sad ones.

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Mar 4, 2015 - Literary    2 Comments

Trampoline Hall

The Decision Tree

Trampoline Hall is an anti-lecture series that happens the first Monday of every month in Toronto. It’s the brainchild of writer Sheila Heti who thought it would be interesting to hear people talk on subjects that don’t have to do with their jobs, or professions. You speak from 10 to 13 minutes on your subject and then effervescent host Mischa Glauberman opens the lecturer up like a tin of pate. Really, the talk is preamble to the real event—the Q & A, which is lively and honest, like a kind of improvised personal theatre you’ve never seen in your life. On March 2, my subject was The Tree of Bad Decision Making. At the end, I handed out a decision tree template that helps you make a good decision about something you’re trying to figure out, like whether you should get married, take that job, or have a baby. (I’ll include it in my Friday blog.) Here’s the gist of what I said about bad decisions:

1. What I told my York University Students:

When I was teaching Creative Writing, I used to tell my first and second year students there were no bad decisions because in your twenties, life is trial and error.  You have to actually try something out to see if it works for you and if it doesn’t work for you, then you move on and try something else. It doesn’t matter what you chose, a marriage or a job like day trading, the important thing, I told my students, is that they experiment and not judge themselves.

2. What Oprah Says About Bad Decisions

Looking back I think that’s still good advice for your twenties, and recently I heard Oprah Winfrey say more or less the same thing. But she applied the logic of learning from your mistakes to everything you decide in your life. She also said there absolutely were no bad decisions. Because each decision leads you to a certain perspective and from there you can ask: Does this path suit me? Does it lead to my special destiny, the thing that I am meant to do with my life? And if the answer is no, you move on and choose something else.

3. Second Thoughts about No Such Thing as a Bad Decision

Before I decided to give this talk, I believed Oprah’s philosophy was essentially right and I still think there’s a lot of truth to it because it’s a positive counterpoint to the background of our religious teachings that say we are sinners who make a thousand mistakes in the eyes of God. In effect, sin is a kind of bad decision according to Christian theologists. However, now I think that Oprah and I were only right up to a point because there are some very, very, very bad decisions. To sugarcoat the impact of these decisions with a philosophical wisdom is sometimes not helpful. By a bad decision, I mean, decisions that either result in your death, threaten your survival or sense of identity and wellbeing. Essentially, there are three branches of the bad decision-making tree: (1)Bad, bad decisions; (2) bad decisions you regret and (3) bad decisions you don’t regret.

4. The History of War is Full of Bad, Bad Decisions:

Historians are never tired of analyzing Napoléon’s misguided invasion of Russia. It was a bad, bad decision because Napoléon underestimated the forbidding Russian winters, and the Russians’ unorthodox way of waging war. In June 24, 1812, Napoléon and his Grande Armee set off to conquer Russia buoyed up by his early successes. As the summer unfolded and the early fall, the French won a few battles but the Russians retreated and Russian burnt up the land and the villages that the French troops were about to enter. Napoléon couldn’t understand why the Russians would want to harm their own territory or people and he kept following the retreating Russian army, perplexed but determined. Meanwhile, the weather grew colder and colder and colder. Soon there was no food so the French soldiers had to go out at night and forage for game, and quite often they were caught and killed by Cossacks or peasants. By the time they got to Moscow, the French soldiers were starving; the city was in flames and most of the Russians had fled. His army was exhausted and hungry; he had lost 72,000 soldiers, 49 generals and 250,000 of his men were wounded so he ordered a retreat. This was the turning point in the Napoleonic Wars. It was all down hill for Napoleon after that.

5. Over a Hundred Years Later Hitler made the same mistake

You could say Hitler’s invasion of Russia in 1941 was a bad, bad, bad decision. What happened to him is really fascinating considering that his generals had studied why Napoléon had failed and yet, even with this knowledge, Hitler made the same mistakes. Hitler’s army retreated after a costly three year campaign in which he lost 734,000 men, about 23 percent of his over three million German soldiers. He’d been too confident after his success invading Western Europe, and he hadn’t anticipated the poor Russian road system. So when, in early November, the rain and snow came down, the German tanks and vehicles bogged down in the mud and many of the military machines wouldn’t start in the cold—the German soldiers had to light fires under the tanks to get the motors going—plus the lubricating oil in the German machinery didn’t work in such extreme cold temperatures; and the German soldiers didn’t have the right winter clothing because the Germans couldn’t get the equipment to their men on account of the poor roads. Meanwhile, the Russian soldiers were used to harsh winter conditions and they had warm quilted coats, felt boots, fur hats.

6. Some Other Bad Military Decisions

(A) Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg (July 1 to 3, 1863—lost over 6 thousand men) when General Lee sent out Pickett’s men to fight a vastly superior force. (B)The charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War Oct 25, 1854—when three military officers contradicted each other and sent 278 men and 335 horses out to die.

7. Summing up Bad, Bad Decisions

There wasn’t really anything very positive for these soldiers who were unlucky enough to be in campaigns fought by Napoléon or Hitler. Not even Oprah could come up with something that made the loss of thousands of lives and the dreadful experience worthwhile. So beware: Bad Decisions, they could kill you.

8. The Second Branch of the Tree is Bad Decisions You Regret.

In preparation for this talk I asked my Facebook friends to give me examples or stories of some bad decisions that they regret. I got over sixty answers and I have picked out the best of these bad decision stories. They will be reprinted on this blog in two days.

9. The third branch is Bad Decisions You Don’t Regret

These are decisions that didn’t seem wise at the time and may certainly have threatened your well being but ended up having a plus side, like the cliché about the cloud with the silver lining. My boat story is a bad decision I don’t regret. It happened two years ago, on a late August night. There was no moon, the wind was up and my partner Patrick wanted to go home to the island we had rented in Nares Inlet on Georgian Bay. He didn’t care if there was a chop or if he couldn’t see in the pitch darkness. And he knew that the marina guy said our ancient wooden Geysler outboard was so old it might not last the summer; he also knew we had a dim running light. I told him not to go and he said he was going anyway. So I had to make a decision—should I go or should I stay? I knew if I stayed home I would be safe but he might drown. If I went I might be able to stop that from happening because I grew up on the bay. I decided to go, but I knew it was going to be one of the all time harrowing experiences.

The night was even blacker than I anticipated. We couldn’t see a thing. The pines and rock islands all looked alike. Three miles out from the marina, we were lost and the wind was still coming up. We had no sense of direction so we made the wrong turn. A few minutes later, we hit three shoals, one right after the other. Each time the boat made a terrible crunching sound as if it was going to come apart there and then. I began to wave our flashlight and shout for help. Nobody answered. Without warning, we ran into an island and the waves blew our boat against a cliff of rocks. Patrick jumped out to push the boat away from the cliff and got caught between the rocks and the old wooden boat; he felt his strength ebbing. A human being suddenly appeared on the cliff and shouted at Patrick to go to the front of the boat. She was an islander, somebody who had been coming up to the bay since she was three and she knew what to do. She scrambled down the cliff and helped Patrick push the boat so that it wasn’t washing against the cliff; Patrick jumped back in and she pointed us in the right direction. Whew. Twenty minutes later we landed at our friends’ cottage near her island and we spent the night there. Several days later our rescuer told us that we had been coming in from far out in the open. We were much further out than I realized, so the dangers had been even worse than I thought because if you are far out in the open and your boat’s in trouble and hitting shoals, it’s much more difficult to get help. In fact, there’s a good chance you might drown and no one would know what happened to you.

Later, I decided going with Patrick wasn’t a bad decision I don’t regret. It was a good decision because we lived through the experience although our boat was totalled. In other words, how you think about your decision can change over time. On Friday, the handout on how to make good decisions and my friends’ stories about their bad decisions.

Template for The Decision Tree

2 Comments

  • How do we get tickets …..would love to attend in Toronto.nn1

  • How do we get tickets……would love to attend

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