Dialogue With My Former Editor

I admit that I might have taken it too far with my editor – now former editor – a while back. I mean, he had really given it to me, saying that nothing in my writing worked, not the scene arcs, character development, narrative, not even the dialogue. And that’s when I lost it.

“My dialogue?” I stared out at the apartment buildings, mute in the late morning sun. “You don’t like my dialogue?”


“My dialogue doesn’t work? Is that what you said”

There were tinny sounds in the background of his phone, clicks and adjustments. I was probably on speaker phone so that he could do something else. “Phed, this has nothing to do with my personal opinion of your writing.”

“I thought I was paying you to do that. Isn’t this the point of the call?”

There was a long sigh. Or a gas leak. I pictured him in the basement in an oily shirt. “My job is to look at your book through the readers’ eyes.”

“The readers?”

“The readers.”

“But not you?”

“Like I said, this has nothing to do with my opinion of you as a person.”

“But what about a writer? Aren’t you judging me as a writer?”

The sigh was more of a wheeze now, like he might cry or the furnace could explode. “I am glad if it is working for you. I am. I can’t say anything about how it works in your head.”

“But my dialogue isn’t working in yours?”

“Your characters tend not to listen to one another. There’s a lot of cross talk.”

“Like now?”

“Uh, now? I wouldn’t write this scene. Would you?”

“Andy, listen, I get that you have a job to do, to make my work more accessible and everything, but I’m not looking to write the next Avengers movie. My work is focused on something different that.”

The wheeze was gone, the sigh too. I saw him strangling himself with an oily sleeve. “My comments are solely on the craft of writing.”

“My dialogue is excellent.”


“In fact, nobody writes dialogue better than I do. Nobody. Not Joyce, not Hemingway, not The Avengers people, not anybody.” This is where I admit I might have lost it. “Words are the key, right, Alan? And then they aren’t. We use them, but they don’t mean what we want, what I want, Alan. That’s what I mean by that.”

“Phed, listen, I…” It sounded like he was breaking up with me. I mean, he was.

“Words are constructed, ideally, in an arc, conveying what is desired or implied to manipulate. To which we say, well done. Right, Alan? Well done!”

“My job is to focus on the craft of writing, Phed. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

“The alternative is dire and difficult. It takes too much effort. It demands. Let’s get back to those spandex babes saving the universe from ultimate destruction and send all checks payable to the propagandists. Maintain status quid pro quo.”

“I never said anything about The Avengers, Phed.”

“Are you saying that The Avengers have no craft either?”

The clicks and wheezes were gone. It seemed like he had finally just hung up. “Is there anything else I can help you with, Phed?”

I stared at the buildings, mute as ever. This went on far to long. I thought he would say uncle first, but he didn’t. “Well, good luck to you, Alan.”

“If you want to follow up with anything, Phed, just let me know.”

“You mean about my writing craft? Or did you have something else in mind?”

“I am available for a follow-up call, Phed.”

I waited another interminable moment before hanging up.

Ferry Rights in Loch Aw, Scotland

My ancestors were granted the ferrying rights across Loch Aw, Scotland in 1488. The (much abridged) document reads:

In the name of god amen… in the 7th year of Innocent, the 6th divine providence, Pope, in the presence of me, the notary public, the good and honest man, Moricius McFedran, handed over a certain letter written on a parchment about the ground as it appeared to be…lochaw1…containing word that it to me be clear to all that, given and to the honour and praise of Almighty God of the Blessed Virgin and all the saints for the safety of our soul and of the souls of all our ancestors and to the successors of the Lord of Lochaw, to have set and demitted to our faithful Dominicus McFedran by force of those present to his male heirs begotten or to be begotten the one mark of land of Sonachan near to the port extending to the river which is called Altbane and the river which is called Altynesperry lying in the Lordship of Lochaw, to be held and possessed all and the whole of the mark land along with the duty of ferrying …understanding that Dominicus and his heirs will carry all infirm, lame, poor and pilgrims without price or charge across the Loch.lochaw2The cost per year: 10 shillings of silver, two bolls of grain which are called barley and oats, one pound of cheese and a sheep.

Apollo Film posted

Apollo has just been posted onto vimeo. IMAG1642The 5-minute film follows Dee as she comes home to her New York apartment to find a drunk fire fighter with a knife in his hand and her dog, Apollo, bleeding on the floor. IMAG1649It is begins with an evocative opening shot, followed by a hypnotic sequence in a car. IMAG1659It is a compelling work – acting and technically solid. It’s well worth your time!

Moosonee bog blog

It’s taken me a couple of years and some prodding, but I’ve come to realize that I just might be a blogger. This blog will focus on the development of my current novel, The Bad Side, as it ferments from third to fourth and fifth drafts and also offer some elements of research that go into the background of this work as well as into the back of my head. It is hard to separate the two – the writing and self – as one depends so much on the other. It’s not such a clear thing, but it is deep and real.

My interest in writing began when I was in Grade 4. I went to a progressive school,The Institute of Child Study in Toronto, which allowed for a lot of lateral learning including a two-week school trip in May up to the remote town of Moosonee on the shores of Hudson Bay in Northern Ontario. We visited many things along the way, including an abandoned mine shaft in Cobalt, a paper mill in Iroquois Falls and even stayed in a hotel where there was drunken fight. “There was a bad fight in our hotel. So the cops had to come and sent 2 men away because they were hurting a lady. When the 2 men left, the room was a mess. Bottles were on the floor and the bed was torn apart.” Early on in the trip, I decided to write a daily journal. The teachers were impressed with my initiative and made all the other kids do it as well. While this did not make me the most popular kid on the trip, it made me weirdly content. The journey made more sense to me when I had written it down. “In Cochrane, we went to an agricultural farm. We saw cows first and one cow went to the bathroom on her baby. It looked like a hairdo.” For the last leg of our journey, we took a train (“The Ontario Northland”) through hundreds of miles of bog to Moosonee. “We have been on the train for 4 hours, 45 minutes. I have seen 2 moose, 7 rabbits and the trip isn’t that exiting (sic).” I even added a picture.

You can see why I stuck with the words and not the drawings.

The following summer, I went on a family driving trip from Toronto to Prince Edward Island. I asked my parents to buy me a journal for my musings (although I doubt I used that word), and they decided to get one for my brother and sister too. My sister never got into it, instead just listing what she ate for each meal – usually peanut butter sandwiches – while my brother did as little as he could. I didn’t get their reticence. How crazy could they be? This was fun. This was what made the trip something real. “There was a storm before we had lunch and it was very bad in Charlottetown. It blew over around six trailers, 100 trees, three barns and injured a good many people. Then I looked up to where we were going  and there was a giant cloud as dark as midnight. Well, we went straight into it to get back to our cabins. And then it started to rain so-so-so-so hard that you couldn’t see through the windshield. You could only see about 10 yards it was raining so hard. Some cars had to stop, but we…” The next page has been lost.  I think we made it.

Anyway, my point is that I have always liked the idea of creating a stream of ideas with a sense or coherence, a direction, but not with the end so clearly in sight. I’m hoping this blog will help me make sense to you as well as make it all seem as real as those ‘exiting’ moments going through the bogs to Moosonee.