A letter to my 20’s.
So, you’ve got guts and you’ve got a drive that no one in the world but you can understand. You have found your voice and wrote about what you knew then wrote about what you didn’t know shit about and then wrote some more and then again.
Amazing! Congratulations. You’re on the fast track to take over the literary world and shake things up, smash the walls, to hell with conventions and all hail the great (Canadian) writer.
Now that was cute, it is. The right word is…cute. So let me give you some advice while I can.
Because I’m 35 now and, well, here are three truths you could have learned at an earlier age and save yourself some pain of learning them later and then admitting to yourself in a very public post just how wrong you were back in the days.
You will need an editor.
You’re not that good. You’re not that bad either, but you’re definitely not that good. Sure you can fool yourself into thinking no one has ever written prose the way you handle it, and maybe you did find a voice that was sorta, kinda, maybe unique to you.
You still suck enough to need an editor. Not that you don’t write well, but there’s bullshit up in there, there’s filler and god forbid you EVER make a typo, right?
You will need an editor. Not just any editor, someone whom you respect and will call you on your crap. And you will send them your book thinking, “this is soooooo close to finished,” and when the manuscript will come back, you’re gonna want to quit the life altogether.
“That’s it,” you’ll think. “I’m done with this shit. Never again. Why did I bother in the first place?” You’ll mope around, sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for a few days. Some of these pages weren’t as good as you thought they were.
And then you’ll get back to work, and maybe 90% of editorial comments will make it into your book, making it a much, much better book.
At one point you’ll learn to appreciate this process. You’ll do a lot more editing yourself and when you’re done with it, you’ll happily send it to someone you respect and tell them, “go ahead, massacre me.”
That’s how a book makes it from good to great (Thank BEN!)
You will follow the rules.
I know. I know. You’re still punk in your heart and following the rules is for suckers. But punk only really has three chords and maybe five songs when you really think about it, so what the fuck are you complaining about with rules.
So you will diligently use he said, she said. You will avoid adverbs at all costs and you will structure you writing.
Sure, that free verse poetry is fine and all. It’s cute. You’ll probably never write a Petrarchan Sonnet. But 90000 words don’t come so easy as some spur of the moment snowflake in a beautiful winter storm.
You want that shit to make sense, you better structure it. And guess what, people much smarter than you and much older than you already had figured it out hundreds of years before you walked this earth.
Of course the rebel in you will cringe at this, but let me tell you, and you’ll hate me for this, but the time you’re 35, you’ll be writing a five tome series where each book will be a cog in the Shakespearean five act tragedy structure (boring, right?) and each book is individually organized as a three act structure so that the reader will want to keep reading your shit. (Don’t worry you’ll still get to swear as much as you want.)
You will want a publishing deal.
Finally, you’re gonna want a publishing deal.
I know. You wrote against ANY PUBLISHING DEAL and about how the publishing industry was BULLSHIT and DEAD, so FUCKING DEAD. That was so very punk of you. You wrote that so many years ago in a VERY ANGRY post that managed to land on Huffington post that one time (so un-punk) but thankfully in French, and now every time you google yourself (you’ll do that too) it’s one of the first links up there and you just want to shoot yourself in the face. Or not.
This one’s not ENTIRELY black or white. One thing is for sure: don’t EVER sign a non-compete clause. Those are just bullshit and should belong to the past or a ditch somewhere north of Mont-Laurier.
You see, publishing houses are like people. Some are nice, some are assholes, indies can be both and majors, well, maybe. I don’t fucking know. But you’ve met great indies that offered super fair deals and shitty indies that could go fuck themselves and go bankrupt.
Still, YOU WILL WANT A PUBLISHING DEAL.
A nice one, from a good indie that cares about their writer and you’ve luckily met at least three of them in your short career, so keep hope.
Because you can’t do everything yourself. You really can’t. You’re terrible at selling your own shit. No one single person can properly handle the writing, the editing, the cover, the distribution, getting you to conventions or book fairs and handle publicity on your shit.
You’ll do a lot of that, don’t get me wrong, you’ll do a lot of everything. But you need help, especially you, my twenty-something me.
Besides, you’ll realize soon enough that even assholes aren’t always assholes. Work in this industry long enough, you’ll realize the margins are so thin and the risks are so great, it’s actually hard for anyone to make money in this business.
That’s it. For now at least.
Keep cursing like a sailor, some people actually seem to enjoy that.
Your mid 30’s self.
P.S. You will unknowingly fall asleep ten feet away from Harlan Coben on a mezzanine seat of the Orpheum theatre in New-Orleans during your very first convention because you couldn’t afford a second night in a hotel room. Tell you all about THAT some other time.
So, it’s 2014 and so far. I had sex, a decent bagel, coffee and I played a fairy and sorceress card game with my daughter… I also finished editing notes on a side project, the whole family’s in the living room, writing, drawing, creating (while listening to Bjork).
So far it’s a good representation of what my life has become in the past year. We are FAR from my hochelaga/factory years (man, 2005-2006 was almost ten years ago!) I can honestly say that I love my life very much. I’m madly in love with my spouse, my daughter is 4 and a half which means we’re DEFINITELY done with all the horrible crap that comes with young, young kids (diapers, puke, picking up food from the floor, having to teach her basic human decency, you don’t sleep nearly enough, the family’s always broke, the stress is high. It might sound horrible, but I did not enjoy being a dad THAT much when Kaelie was young but MAN am I having fun now!
We (well, Mary) has an arts studio where she (and I, sometimes) get to actually work (We used to have our “studio” at home in the freaking bedroom, it’s really not a good place to work : the cats destroy everything you do, you lose your shit all the time, the artworks get mixed up with the laundry, you go to sleep in plaster dust and the smell of glue or plastic…) So I’M WAAAY happy about that (plus it sounds really cool when you get to say “Oh! Yeah! I’d have to drop by the studio to get that.” Might be a little bit vain, I like it anyways.
I guess the low point of 2013 was my professional life. It’s stalling on some fronts, but slowly growing on other. I still have my warehouse job but I’m really not that committed to it. I had hoped to become a boss this year, I worked for it, I’d say I’ve proven my worth and I still didn’t get it. (they switched the “nature” of the job I wanted so that it was purely an administrative position now, which is not something I wanted.) So I’m stuck in the basement warehouse for now, but you know what, that’s good because I’ve accepted that I don’t really want to be a boss anyways, what I am, is an artist.
And 2013 has not been bad on that front either. I’ve become close friends with some of the nicest, most interesting people I’ve ever met (I’m talking about you Neda and Sterling). I’ve reunited with an old, lost friend I missed more than I imagined (that’s you, Kenny) and we have written some of the best, aggressive music I have even been involved with.
As far as writing goes, I’ve published my best work so far (A Teenage Suicide) and although sales aren’t there at all, I can safely say it was both emotionally challenging and satisfying to write. I’ve also published a poetry collection that is doing better than expected. I’ve learned how to do covers pretty well this last year and so, the cover for “Northern Gothic” has cost me a grand total of 3$ to produce, so even though I’ve only sold a few copies (ebooks) from it, it’s my first officially profitable book.
I’ve also published my first translation. The Factory Line is now available in French as “La Shop.”
As far as sales go, it’s been a slow year to start with, but I’ve had a stronger December than I expected. I’m learning a lot of things as I publish more and more works. My early works are getting some attention now which landed me twice in bestselling categories (if only for a day) for both Satire and Noir. As it happens, I write stuff that is hard to sell, but I’m satisfied emotionally and intellectually by it, so profits are really a secondary thing to me.
In other artistic news, I’ve started painting a few weeks ago. While my technique still requires some work, I’m getting the hang of it and most of all, I really, really enjoy it.
So that was 2013.
And now, moving on to 2014. I’m setting the bar pretty high for 2014.
1- This Spring I’ll publish my sixth book (fourth novel), “Grand Trunk and Shearer” and while I love A Teenage Suicide, Grand Trunk and Shearer will be my “Mystic River.” I like it that much.
2- I expect to translate A Teenage Suicide in French for this summer. The title will be “L’été d’un suicide” and I have one professor form L’Assomption Cegep (the town where most of the story takes part) who I met at Expozine, he said he wanted a copy of the french translation, saying that if he liked it, he might even teach it to his students. We’ll see where that goes.
3- I want to be at the MAC with my paintings. If not this year, I’m going to apply to the next Biennale de Montréal. I know, it’s probably arrogant to even thing about it, but it’s in the plans.
4 – I’ve found a better gym where I can train away from he douchebags and preppies that plagued the place where I was training. I’m not that social and I certainly don’t like these guys, so I’m happy about that. I also want to get back to martial arts and they teach Tai-Chi there as well so I’m really happy about that (and it fits with my work/family schedule which is UNBELIEVABLE).
5 – And, perhaps the biggest news, is that this year, I’ll begin my transition from novels fo films. I’ve been working on two separate projects, one of which would be plan A and the other one plan B, but the options are there.
I can’t go into details out of respect for the people involved (no confirmations have been set yet) but I’ve talked it over with Mary and we have plans for me to take an unpaid leave sometime in the next year to work on that. I enjoy writing novels, but the truth is that I’ve watched at least one movie every day for as long as I can remember and I want to get to that. So if Yahweh doesn’t hate me too much, I’ve planned out some camera workshops for the next year, see if I can do a few shorts in preparation for my larger projects.
You could say I have a big year in front of me, but man, I’ve had it so good lately, it would be insulting not to aim that high.
I love everyone of you in my life,
So, I’ve finally released my first collection of poetry titled Northern Gothic.
It was a project that I’ve been putting aside for too long and now that A Teenage Suicide (my next full lenght novel) is in the hands of my proof-reader I finally had time to work on some side projects.
So here it is, available as an ebook through Kindle or in print at Lulu.com
Northern Gothic is a collection of poetry in four parts.
I didn’t try to reinvent language. I have little use for new ways to twist your tongue and play with words.This is not that kind of book, these are not those kinds of poems. Most of them do not follow any specific form and it wasn’t even intentional.
Most of them just got out that way and I decided to remain as truthful to the original feeling of the poem as possible. In all things of life, I am a pretty straight forward man. Northern Gothic is a collection of tall tales, slices of life, changes of heart struggles, hopes and contradictions.
It’s about real life, about living in the East end of Montreal, dreaming about the north, working in warehouses and factories, trying to go to back to school or founding a family.
It ain’t always pretty and it ain’t always bad. One thing is for sure, these poems are always honest and that’s one thing we could all use a bit more of these days.
Take care, Ian.