Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sketch of me by Ryerson Student Jamie Ferenczi

let`s hope that my wisdom was as full as my chins...

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Anthology of Creative Non-Fiction, due out August 2011

Slice Me Some Truth: An anthology of Canadian creative non-fiction

by Luanne Armstrong and Zoë Landale
August 2011
350 pages | ISBN: 978-1-894987-60-8

Luanne Armstrong and Zoë Landale have put together a thorough survey of the growing body of Canadian creative non-fiction, covering the areas of memoir, personal essay, cultural journalism, lyric essay and nature or place essays. These works are only a sampling of the diversity of Canadian writing, but together they create the best possible beginning for the exploration of this intriguing genre.

And yes, I have a piece in it!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bernadette in the Doghouse

The second in my series of early readers for Second Story Press is due out OCTOBER 15th 2011! Love the cover! Melanie Allard is a great illustrator!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

spring hopes eternally

Earlier this week I saw my first golden crocuses and dainty snowdrops and ran home to rake up the leaf mulch in an ecstasy of anticipation. Two days later it snowed. Not a dainty, lace-doilies-floating-down-on-a-zephyr kind of snow, but an aspiring blizzard. I replaced the rake with a shovel.

It's important to have the right tools for the job, whatever the job is. But what kind of a job is a blog, I wonder?

I began writing this back when my first novel was coming out, because I was assured by those in the know that I needed "an Internet presence." Then I made myself a web-site, for the same reason. Was the blog thereby rendered redundant? Not really, because the website is a kind of central clearing house of SG-related data, whereas the blog purported to be more immediate: a kind of diary of idiosyncratic ramblings intended to create a personal relationship with potential readers so that they would like me and want to (ahem) buy my books. Because let's be honest, I am a writer.

However, even though maintaining this blog is a kind of writing, it is not the kind I prefer to do, and takes me away from my real work -- even if all that real work consists of is wrestling with commas or doing arcane and ultimately irrelevant research. In addition, I like you, whoever you are, but I don't even know you! And if I don't have enough time to visit my real friends, why should I spend it flirting with strangers in cyber-space?

Because that is how you cultivate readers, according to My Agent -- and everybody else's. Because if you can't find SUSAN GLICKMAN in flashing disco lights when you are aimlessly trolling the net to avoid doing your taxes (which you should be doing, right about now, by the way) then you won't remember my name the next time you have to suggest a book for your book club to read, or buy a present for your mother-in-law's birthday, or borrow something from the library to read whilst working out at the gym. Or so the thinking goes.

I would really like to know if anybody ever DOES beg borrow or buy a book because they read someone's blog and thought the font that person chose was dead sexy. Am I wasting my time here? Can I go back to hunting for errant commas? Or should I try to be wittier, smarter, altogether more appealing and hope that I can seduce someone into giving my books a read?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Nice interview with me on another site!

What is your favourite thing about writing?

My favourite thing about writing fiction is the sensation, when it’s going well, of inhabiting another world and other bodies; of living more than one life. It’s exhilarating and terrifying because you have no idea where you are going or how long it will last. My favourite thing about writing poetry is the sensation, when it’s going well, of making something fine; finer than I’d ever hoped I could. In the best of all possible worlds, both these sensations happen simultaneously and that, right there, is my reason for living.

But there are lots of other things I love about writing that keep me going even when I’m not in the zone. I love sharpening pencils, for example. I love having an excuse to make endless cups of tea. I love going for walks with my dog Toby because we both need a break from sitting, for God’s sake, and then finding that the impasse is resolved after about a half an hour of chasing squirrels and admiring my neighbours’ gardens. I love not needing an excuse to buy more books. I love not having to dress up to go to work. I love having articulate friends. I love writing on napkins in cafés and on in little notebooks on trains. I love doing cryptic crossword puzzles and playing Scrabble and reading Roget’s Thesaurus and calling such activities “research.”

Good thing you didn’t ask me what I don’t like about writing however, because there are just as many things I could list there! For instance, I don’t love that look on people’s faces when they ask you what you do and you say you’re a writer and they want to know if you’re famous because of course any good writer would be famous, right? I don’t like the loneliness, and the endless waiting when you send stuff out, and the lack of money. But you didn’t ask, so I won’t answer.

What do you think readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

I’m really funny. But so far that hasn’t made it into my books. I don’t know why. It may be that my humour is a defense against feeling the kinds of things I let myself feel in my writing. Or it may be that my humour is just too improvisational to merit transcription.

Monday, January 17, 2011

New comic!

Great Essay from Slate magazine about the "one or two spaces after a period" controversy!

Space Invaders
Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period.

By Farhad ManjooPosted Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011, at 6:20 PM ET

Last month, Gawker published a series of messages that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had once written to a 19-year-old girl he'd become infatuated with. Gawker called the e-mails "creepy," "lovesick," and "stalkery"; I'd add overwrought, self-important, and dorky. ("Our intimacy seems like the memory of a strange dream to me," went a typical line.) Still, given all we've heard about Assange's puffed-up personality, the substance of his e-mail was pretty unsurprising. What really surprised me was his typography.

Here's a fellow who's been using computers since at least the mid-1980s, a guy whose globetrotting tech-wizardry has come to symbolize all that's revolutionary about the digital age. Yet when he sits down to type, Julian Assange reverts to an antiquated habit that would not have been out of place in the secretarial pools of the 1950s: He uses two spaces after every period. Which—for the record—is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.

Oh, Assange is by no means alone. Two-spacers are everywhere, their ugly error crossing every social boundary of class, education, and taste. You'd expect, for instance, that anyone savvy enough to read Slate would know the proper rules of typing, but you'd be wrong; every third e-mail I get from readers includes the two-space error. (In editing letters for "Dear Farhad," my occasional tech-advice column, I've removed enough extra spaces to fill my forthcoming volume of melancholy epic poetry, The Emptiness Within.) The public relations profession is similarly ignorant; I've received press releases and correspondence from the biggest companies in the world that are riddled with extra spaces. Some of my best friends are irredeemable two spacers, too, and even my wife has been known to use an unnecessary extra space every now and then (though she points out that she does so only when writing to other two-spacers, just to make them happy).

What galls me about two-spacers isn't just their numbers. It's their certainty that they're right. Over Thanksgiving dinner last year, I asked people what they considered to be the "correct" number of spaces between sentences. The diners included doctors, computer programmers, and other highly accomplished professionals. Everyone—everyone!—said it was proper to use two spaces. Some people admitted to slipping sometimes and using a single space—but when writing something formal, they were always careful to use two. Others explained they mostly used a single space but felt guilty for violating the two-space "rule." Still others said they used two spaces all the time, and they were thrilled to be so proper. When I pointed out that they were doing it wrong—that, in fact, the correct way to end a sentence is with a period followed by a single, proud, beautiful space—the table balked. "Who says two spaces is wrong?" they wanted to know.

Typographers, that's who. The people who study and design the typewritten word decided long ago that we should use one space, not two, between sentences. That convention was not arrived at casually. James Felici, author of the The Complete Manual of Typography, points out that the early history of type is one of inconsistent spacing. Hundreds of years ago some typesetters would end sentences with a double space, others would use a single space, and a few renegades would use three or four spaces. Inconsistency reigned in all facets of written communication; there were few conventions regarding spelling, punctuation, character design, and ways to add emphasis to type. But as typesetting became more widespread, its practitioners began to adopt best practices. Felici writes that typesetters in Europe began to settle on a single space around the early 20th century. America followed soon after.

Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It's one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men's shirt buttons on the right and women's on the left. Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period. (The Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, used widely in the social sciences, allows for two spaces in draft manuscripts but recommends one space in published work.) Most ordinary people would know the one-space rule, too, if it weren't for a quirk of history. In the middle of the last century, a now-outmoded technology—the manual typewriter—invaded the American workplace. To accommodate that machine's shortcomings, everyone began to type wrong. And even though we no longer use typewriters, we all still type like we do. (Also see the persistence of the dreaded Caps Lock key.)

The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks "loose" and uneven; there's a lot of white space between characters and words, so it's more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. Here's the thing, though: Monospaced fonts went out in the 1970s. First electric typewriters and then computers began to offer people ways to create text using proportional fonts. Today nearly every font on your PC is proportional. (Courier is the one major exception.) Because we've all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it.

Type professionals can get amusingly—if justifiably—overworked about spaces. "Forget about tolerating differences of opinion: typographically speaking, typing two spaces before the start of a new sentence is absolutely, unequivocally wrong," Ilene Strizver, who runs a typographic consulting firm The Type Studio, once wrote. "When I see two spaces I shake my head and I go, Aye yay yay," she told me. "I talk about 'type crimes' often, and in terms of what you can do wrong, this one deserves life imprisonment. It's a pure sign of amateur typography." "A space signals a pause," says David Jury, the author of About Face: Reviving The Rules of Typography. "If you get a really big pause—a big hole—in the middle of a line, the reader pauses. And you don't want people to pause all the time. You want the text to flow."

This readability argument is debatable. Typographers can point to no studies or any other evidence proving that single spaces improve readability. When you press them on it, they tend to cite their aesthetic sensibilities. As Jury says, "It's so bloody ugly."

But I actually think aesthetics are the best argument in favor of one space over two. One space is simpler, cleaner, and more visually pleasing (it also requires less work, which isn't nothing). A page of text with two spaces between every sentence looks riddled with holes; a page of text with an ordinary space looks just as it should.

Is this arbitrary? Sure it is. But so are a lot of our conventions for writing. It's arbitrary that we write shop instead of shoppe, or phone instead of fone, or that we use ! to emphasize a sentence rather than %. We adopted these standards because practitioners of publishing—writers, editors, typographers, and others—settled on them after decades of experience. Among their rules was that we should use one space after a period instead of two—so that's how we should do it.

Besides, the argument in favor of two spaces isn't any less arbitrary. Samantha Jacobs, a reading and journalism teacher at Norwood High School in Norwood, Col., told me that she requires her students to use two spaces after a period instead of one, even though she acknowledges that style manuals no longer favor that approach. Why? Because that's what she's used to. "Primarily, I base the spacing on the way I learned," she wrote me in an e-mail glutted with extra spaces.

Several other teachers gave me the same explanation for pushing two spaces on their students. But if you think about, that's a pretty backward approach: The only reason today's teachers learned to use two spaces is because their teachers were in the grip of old-school technology. We would never accept teachers pushing other outmoded ideas on kids because that's what was popular back when they were in school. The same should go for typing. So, kids, if your teachers force you to use two spaces, send them a link to this article. Use this as your subject line: "If you type two spaces after a period, you're doing it wrong."

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