Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

bpanhuyzen's blog

Oh, Suspense!

In some literary circles, "suspense" is a bad word. Some feel that rich language and interesting characters should be enough to engage a reader's attention, and those who need a little pep in their fiction are lowbrow types. While it’s all lovely to enjoy the poetry of the words and observe interesting characters, you are not serving your reader if you don’t offer at lest a nominal amount of suspense.
 
At its simplest, suspense is built when a character wants something, but a forces or circumstances impede his ability to achieve it. Will he or won't he succeed?

If Not DRM, What Then? (Part III)

Just a last few words and thoughts on DRM.

DRM Can Work

One hallmark of the anti-DRM argument is that DRM doesn't and cannot work. Doctorow lays out the reasons in the first part of his talk to the Microsoft Research Group in 2004, the section unambiguously titled, "DRM systems don't work." While it's true they don't currently operate in a way that cannot be defeated, this doesn't mean they can't work. The arguments in this section are compelling, but I would argue that with the right technology combined with robust laws, it can be done.

If Not DRM, What Then? (Part II)

A few people, some of them writers, have written to me, wondering about the fuss surrounding DRM. They very much want their work protected from copying, and didn’t realize a kind of hysteria exists concerning DRM, much of it fuelled by Cory Doctorow, who began a crusade a decade ago when he addressed Microsoft regarding their DRM-strategies. You can read his presentation here.
 
While there are many flaws in Doctorow’s arguments (most notably his attempt to apply historical copyright battles to the present day situation – because in the past copy protection was about inferior copies (e.g., player-piano scrolls vs.

If not DRM, what then? (Part I)

Over the next few days, I’m going to discuss DRM – Digital Rights Management – a way of “locking” a digital product, such as an ebook, to control its distribution. This has become a controversial topic for many reasons, with a general perception that writers are, or should be, dead set against it.
 
Many cultural commentators would have you believe that DRM is loathed by all but ebook distributors and hardware manufacturers like Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble, because it ties the consumer to a platform. While this is somewhat true, it’s of less concern if you choose a platform with client software for all major devices, such as Kindle or Kobo.

Cormac McCarthy: "The ugly fact is books are made out of books"

Before the publication and Oprahfication of The Road, and the Oscar success of No Country For Old Men, Cormac McCarthy was a critically-loved but relatively obscure novelist, unknown outside hardcore literary circles. He was also a recluse, having granted only one public interview, for the New York Times, in 1992. His first novel, The Orchard Keeper, he sent to Random House in 1965 (he says it was the only press he'd heard of), where it was read by editor Albert Erskine, William Faulkner's last editor.

Writing Sex

"And Panhuyzen really gives good sex.” ~National Post, August 1999
 
Sex! Did you hear that, sex! We’re talking about sex today. Oh, what’s that, you don’t want to talk about sex? Well, too bad, we are talking about sex. Sex in the context of fiction that isn’t about sex, but has sex in it, because sex is simply part of the lives of your characters, even if they don’t have sex, in which case not having sex is part of their experience. So we are discussing sex, even if there is no sex.
 
I’m making a big deal about sex because in literary fiction, it shouldn’t be a big deal.

You Are God

Writing is all on the page. Take most other arts: film, music, painting, and what goes into the making of each – the processes, the materials, the effort, are not obvious, are not laid out bare. There’s a mystery, a secret, to their creation that isn’t there for writing. For film it’s lighting, acting, post-processing, music, special effects, editing. For music its technique, instruments, recording methods. For painting it’s canvas and pigments and brushes. Writing is exactly what you see. It is only what’s there.
 
I can take a piece of writing – a short story by Alice Munro, say – and reproduce it exactly, so that the copy is indistinguishable from the original. In fact, it will always be the original.

The Reading Rulebook

I used to go to a lot of public readings of poetry and fiction. Then I had kids, and rarely went, but recently, due to changing circumstances, I've been out to a few more, and what hasn't changed are the fundamental laws of readings. And they are:

Travelling for Research

Travelling for writing research is an exciting way to make your work genuine and also justify a vacation, but the timing of such travel can be difficult to determine: when in the writing process should you go?. I've travelled a few times to check out a location at various points in the progress of a project, and I'd like to share some insights.

To be clear I'm speaking specifically about fiction, and about a work that already exists to a certain degree, either in the writer's mind, or as something that is partially, or even substantially, complete. In other words, I don't mean, "I think I might like to write a novel set in Japan." That trip would be more of a survey than specific research meant to add and verify detail.

Novels vs. Serial Television

Novels are big. It’s something you recognize when you’ve got a draft and you need feedback – what a big favour it is to ask someone, a friend or acquaintance or agent, to spend a dozen or more hours of her life reading something that probably needs work. I am always grateful to those who do it, and ensure they are rewarded not just with an acknowledgement and a finished copy of the book, but dinner, drinks, eternal slavery, etc. Fellow authors are good to approach for this effort, not just because of their insights as writers, but because it offers the opportunity for debt-repayment when they ask me to reciprocate with their own novels.

I never stop appreciating the gift of time and effort a test-reader grants. Thanks to all of you – I still owe you kegs of beer.

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