How many times have you heard something like this in response to the premise of a story “Oh that’s been done before.” Or how many times have you been writing about something only to hear someone say there’s a movie on the same subject or a television series or an award winning novel (and illiterate you haven’t read it yet!).
This Sunda, September 22, 4:00, I’ve been paired with Gail Sidonie Sobat in the Brave New World Tent at Saskatoon’s third annual Word on the Street. Our talk has been titled “When the Pen is Bloodier than the Sword” which really makes me want to know what we’re talking about.
Of course I read Gail’s latest novel, Not with a Bang, published by Magpie Books, and from the first page was dazzled and absorbed by the beautiful writing. Okay and perhaps chagrined a bit. My story is told through a trial,a journal and a 16 year-old speaking,first person fairly bare bones. It’s about a girl who “volunteers” at a longterm care facility in order to graduate from high school.
Gail’s character is a 17 year old boy who works in a similar facility to serve out a community service sentence on a drug bust. My character Sunny actually gets in trouble for her volunteer work, she stands trial for manslaughter when an Alzheimer’s patient chokes to death, where Gail’s Jan gets out of trouble with it. He finds a shared interest with an old man, poetry, and through it survives and copes with his fractured life.
And there the similarity, if you even see any, ends. As bare bones as my telling is, Gail’s is rich with poetry in a third person narration: “One slim hand into the tight jean pocket. Fishing. A frequent occupation. Usually for keys. Change. Sometimes himself.”
I like Gail’s book better. Gulp. Maybe because I
want to be that kind of old person when I age. Not the catatonic Mrs. Demers in the wheel chair of my own Paradise Manor. Also because I enjoy Gail’s lyrical style. Maybe just because I like to listen to or read a different voice than my own.
But we’re both on the stage together and our books are both on Saskatoon Public Library’s shelves and hopefully in many other places. Both of our voices are true and honest and capture the vulnerability of our respective characters. Readers can love both stories for our different voices.
Which leads me to a final point, kind of an infomercial: on November 16, I will be presenting at CANSCAIP’s Packaging Your Imagination (Humber College, Lakeshore, Toronto) on Voicing Your Teen Novel. In my hour and a half, I intend to help writers find their own best voice to tell their story whether the premise has been done before or not. Packaging Your Imagination (PYI) is a full day of workshops that has expanded so that you can opt to attend a second day called “Get Published Bootcamp”. If you can’t attend in person, you can sit in virtually. Visit CANSCAIP.org for more details.