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Pickle Me This

November 23, 2020

More Stars!

November 18, 2020

I’ve Had the Time of My Life

Brooke had never seen an abortion in a movie before, and it was surprising, because Dirty Dancing was over thirty years old. So it should have been a throwback, but it was something very new: the character who wants an abortion. There is no other alternative, it doesn’t even make her sad, and she doesn’t change her mind at the last minute, or have a miscarriage as a convenient trick to avoid being an agent in her own destiny. She isn’t even sorry… [And] it seemed symbolic that no one had to live in shame. You could be a fallen woman, and then get up on a stage and dance. This was a huge revelation for Brooke, who had never even considered the possibility, the number of ways a script could go.” —Waiting for a Star to Fall

I introduced my children to Dirty Dancing this summer, and decided that maybe modern parents overthink things too much.

There had been a brief period after the movie’s 1987 release when I’d been forbidden to see Dirty Dancing, though this was mostly a theoretical forbidding since we didn’t have VCR to watch it on. But in the next couple of years, I somehow managed to see it anyway, most likely at a sleepover. I don’t remember my impression of the movie at all, except that the title itself was pretty suggestive, which is why the movie had been judged as unsuitable for my audience, I supposed. And really, it was the soundtrack that loomed largest in my life, my first introduction to the Ronettes, You Don’t Own Me, and Eric Carmen, plus Patrick Swayze actually singing. (Is there anything that man couldn’t do? I am on the record as declaring his autobiography as excellent.) There was also a second soundtrack to Dirty Dancing, with the “Do You Love Me ?” and the Kellerman’s Anthem, but I never had that one.

And now: the million dollar question. How old were you when you realized that Penny was having an abortion? What Billy was talking about regarding the guy with a rusty knife and folding table? What it meant that Penny was knocked up by Robbie the Creep?

The other million dollar question: Why were all the parents totally okay with their nine year old daughters watching this movie over and over again? And could they have known what a gift this movie was to those girls, once we’d worked out the puzzle of what all these different pieces were about—or were they just too busy sitting around worrying about Michael Dukakis and the end of the Cold War?

A movie where a girl has sex and doesn’t die. Where another girl has an abortion and doesn’t die, and is even going to go on to have children if she wants to. Where the woman who has an abortion is treated by a medical authority with kindness and care. Where a girl who has been bonking Patrick Swayze and everybody knows it has absolutely no compunction about dancing with him at the end of her holiday to a mega-smash hit by Jennifer Warnes and some guy who used to be in the Righteous Brothers?

(Later on, the Righteous Brothers would be a big deal when Patrick Swayze was in Ghost, and it makes me wonder if Swayze ever felt he was haunted by the Righteous Brothers?)

Dirty Dancing is on my mind right now because Clementine Ford celebrated the movie in one of her Instagram Deep Dives this weekend (SO GOOD!) and THAT sent to me to the Dirty Dancing episode of the podcast Why Are Dads?, by Sarah Marshall (who’s also co-host of You’re Wrong About, a podcast that isn’t about Dirty Dancing, but lately has had some TOP NOTCH Princess Diana content…)

And because the movie features prominently in my new novel, Waiting for a Star to Fall, and is a point upon which the entire plot turns. If Brooke hadn’t watched Dirty Dancing that afternoon with her roommate Lauren, her life (and the ending of the book) would have gone in a wholly different direction.

Which is why I showed it to my kids in July. Deciding not to think too much about whether or not it was “appropriate.” They’re seven and eleven and talk about abortion around the dinner table more often than other kids their age, because I’m their mother, so I knew the Penny story-line wouldn’t come out of left-field. We’d rented a cottage for a week with nobody else around and only a DVD player for diversions, so I blew the dust off my Dirty Dancing DVD and packed it along with Mary Poppins and The Incredibles.

I wanted them to see it. This iconic summer film, uncanny scenes about a family of four stuck in a cabin while it rains (“Remind me not to get married at Niagara Falls.” “So, you’re go to Acapulco. It will be fine.”) The Schumachers (Sidney and Sylvia?), and the stolen wallets, and the soundtrack, of course, and the romance, and the class dynamics, and the dancing, and the log, and the lake, and lifts. The lifts!

And yes, to know the murderous legacy of illegal abortion, and one of the many ways that abortion becomes part of a person’s life, and how it doesn’t always have to be the point on which the entire plot turns—except that if not for the abortion, Baby wouldn’t have had to dance with Johnny at the Sheldrake, so yes, it’s irrevocably woven into the script, but it’s not everything, is what I mean. A piece of a larger narrative, always.

I want these to be the things my daughters take for granted, just like I did.

November 13, 2020

More Stars…

October 30, 2020

Cheers

Thank you for a wonderful launch week!

October 28, 2020

True Covid Confessions: I don’t miss literary events. All I ever wanted to do was stay home and READ.

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As a literary enthusiast, a reader and a writer, it feels like blasphemy to declare it, but I don’t miss literary events. Not a bit.

I don’t miss yelling over the roar of a crowd to make awkward small talk, sitting through readings that last far too long, listening to that one guy whose outsized ego means he clearly holds his co-panelists in contempt, or being introduced to a writer for at least the third time (we even shared a panel once) who still claims not to know me.

I don’t miss paying way too much money for a drink I don’t really feel like drinking, or half as much (which is still a lot) for a glass of tepid orange juice.

And the audience Q&As. I don’t miss them at all. The woman who actually has a comment instead of a question, and the other one who wants advice on how to get published, and I’m still traumatized by the event back in 2006 when a man got up to ask Zadie Smith if she supposed she would have had as much success had she not been so physically attractive.

Or even worse, the events that only a handful of people have bothered to show up to, so that I am mortified on behalf of the author, the establishment, and humanity in general, and then I somehow feel contractually obliged to become that woman yammering on in the Q&A, since the alternative is crickets.

And while I do appreciate the opportunity to buy books at literary events, particularly when it enables me to support one of my favourite local independent booksellers, it is often the case that I have purchased the book on sale already, having pre-ordered it or ventured out to buy it on the publication day. So that I’m buying a copy of a book I own already, which is hardly a tragedy (I love deciding on the perfect reader to pass my spare copy on to) but it’s not exactly economically sensible.

I miss the cheese though—such irresistible cubes. The pieces I cut at home never achieve the same symmetry. And I miss seeing friends, and celebrating writers I love. I’m still buzzing from a 2018 conversation with Esi Edugyan and Meg Wolitzer at the Toronto Festival of Authors, scrawling Wolitzer’s brilliant words in my notebook: “The world will whittle your daughter down, but a mother never should, and my mother never did, and that is feminism in action.” I miss the inspiration of watching panels as fabulously curated as those at an event like The Festival of Literary Diversity, which is where I became acquainted with amazing writers like Cherie Dimaline, Carrianne Leung, and Amber Dawn for the very first time.

As a writer, I have gained a particular understanding of just why literary events matter so much, and I’ve been grateful to them creating opportunities for me to connect with readers and to enact the privilege of being an author in public—basically what dreams are made of.

But even my most hotly anticipated literary events, those opportunities to share a room with authors whose books and ideas are integral to my very being—these, I have secretly resented for the way they keep me from my number one pursuit, which is reading. If it was socially acceptable for me to hide in the corner with your novel at your book launch, I would do it, but the lighting never suffices, and enough people think I’m kind of rude already.

I have secretly resented them for the way they keep me from my number one pursuit, which is reading.

And so for me, there has been something of a relief in the cessation of the literary social calendar. Skipping the Zoom launches, and curling up with a book instead, and I’ve been doing so much reading. I’ve been doing my part by buying books too, and then some. The most joyful moments during the dark days of these pandemic times has been finding deliveries on my porch from local bookshops, who’ve worked so hard to keep their businesses going and keep us all in books while in lockdown.

Books and the reading proving to be the most delightful diversion and escape as well, the opposite of twitter doom scrolling. I’ve enjoyed finding online community too in a network of readers, which is rich and rewarding, even if lacking in cheese.


My new novel Waiting for a Star to Fall is out this week and you don’t even have to leave the house to celebrate!


In 2010, I wrote this somewhat related piece, “Enough shameful author appearances for one lifetime”

October 27, 2020

The Wait is Over!

Waiting for a Star to Fall is here! Thank you to everybody who has helped me welcome it into the world.

October 23, 2020

Launch Week!

There are just days to go before WAITING FOR A STAR TO FALL is launched into orbit, and I know that pre-ordered copies are already making their way into the world. Thank you so much for making my pandemic book launch a not-lonely experience and I look forward to sharing celebrations over the next week with you—including chances for you to win!


Sunday: Turning the Page on Cancer

If you need me on Sunday, I’ll be heroically reading FOR EIGHT STRAIGHT HOURS to raise funds and awareness to support people living with metastatic breast cancer. Thank you to everybody who has helped me meet my goal. I am so exciting that the campaign altogether has raised more than $20,000!


Monday: Official Cake Party

Fancy cake is an essential part of the Book Launch experience. I’ve got mine on order and would LOVE if you could have your cake and eat it too in solidarity with me on Monday.

PS I recently learned that Flo-Rida has a song called “Cake,” and while some people have suggested that his cake is a metaphor for salacious deeds instead of about actual cake, I’m taking him at his word.


Tuesday: Read-In and Win

I’m so excited at the thought of my new book arriving into the hands of readers on Publication Day. Share a selfie of you and the book on your blog or social media next week and tag me for a chance to win a $100 Gift Card from Inner Muse. Three runners-up will win a bag of Star To Fall tea blend from Clearview Tea!


Wednesday: Live Instagram with Indigo

Join me at 7pm on Instagram for a live conversation about Waiting For a Star to Fall! Links and info here.


Thursday: The Book Drunkard Festival

I am so excited to be part of this year’s Book Drunkard Festival, ESPECIALLY since they’ve gone virtual, which means everyone can join. And yes, because they have their own beer. At 7pm, I’ll be speaking with the amazing Bianca Marais about Waiting For a Star to Fall.Tickets for the event cost $30, include the purchase of the book, and are on sale now!


Friday: Official Champagne Toast

What a week! I will confess that it may not be authentic champagne with which we’ll be toasting my launch week, but a glass of anything will clink just fine. Please raise your own glass, and I’ll be toasting you in appreciation for your support and encouragement.


PS: Don’t Forget Your Book Plate

Guys, my sharpies ran out!! But I am buying more tonight so please send me an email with your address and I will be happy to send you a personalized book plate!


Star to Fall Tea Blend

And yes indeed, WAITING FOR A STAR TO FALL has its very own tea from Clearview Tea in Creemore, ON, an organic black tea blend featuring vanilla, bergamot and rose petals. On sale now for a limited time.

October 14, 2020

STAR TO FALL Tea Blend

The OFFICIAL tea blend of WAITING FOR A STAR TO FALL is now for sale from Clearview Tea. An organic black tea blend featuring vanilla, bergamot and rose petals, the tea is the perfect complement to my novel—and it’s delicious. Thanks so much to Clearview Tea for this fun partnership.

October 13, 2020

Gleanings


My book comes out in two weeks, but the OFFICIAL TEA BLEND (of course) launched today. Visit my Instagram or Facebook page for a chance to win a bag for you and a friend.

October 5, 2020

Waiting for a Star to Fall: THE SOUNDTRACK

The question of why I insist on making playlists for my novels is definitely one worth asking, especially since all they really do is reveal me as a person whose taste in music is atrocious. But having come to terms with this fact, I can share that music is a really huge part of my process, of my entire life, and certain songs find their way into my fiction as a kind of subtle biography. These connections are rich and meaningful to me, not to mention catchy as all-get-out.


“Waiting for a Star to Fall,” by Boy Meets Girl

There was a really long period where the song “I Know You By Heart” from the soundtrack to the movie Beaches was in my head, and I can’t quite remember why. This was during the winter/spring of 2018, when I was thinking a lot about the plot of my novel even before setting down a word, and I was doing both of these things (having the song in my head and imagining the book) while I was swimming lengths at the pool.

But the weird thing was that “I Know You By Heart” in my head always ended up morphing into “Waiting For a Star To Fall,” famously the theme from hit film Three Men and a Little Lady.

It all made some more sense when I googled and found out they were written by the same songwriting team (Boy Meets Girl!), and then I spent that summer actually writing the book while obsessively listening to “Waiting for a Star to Fall” on Youtube. I was addicted, to this song and also others with saxophone solos, but mainly Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street,” and then eventually Youtube’s algorithm started following “Waiting for a Star to Fall” with “Right Down the Line,” by Gerry Rafferty, which didn’t have a saxophone solo, but found its way into the DNA of the book I was writing.

All of this seems kind of random, I know, but then it gets even weirder. That December, my novel was still untitled (it went through a stage of being called “The Fall” or “This Downfall”) and I went to my friend Marissa’s 40th birthday party, for which she’d created a Spotify playlist, and “Waiting for a Star to Fall” came on, as a poppy ’80s tune might, and then it was directly followed by “Right Down the Line,” by Gerry Rafferty. What the heck?? Two songs not especially connected by era or genre, and one of them definitely didn’t appear on the soundtrack to Three Men and a Little Lady. I was a little drunk and sent a hysterical text message to my husband, who worked from home one day a week and knew my secret—that I basically listened to “Waiting for a Star to Fall” and “Right Down the Line” on a loop all day long.

It was really weird and excellent, and then in early January I realized that “Waiting for a Star to Fall” was actually the book title I’d been searching for, for the reference to a political superstar meeting his downfall, but also because the song is all about unrequited love and somebody who is waiting for impossible things, which my book is all about.


“How Will I Know?” by Whitney Houston

The Boy Meets Girl duo (Shannon Rubicam and George Merrill) wrote so many great songs, among them some of Whitney Houston’s greatest hits. “How Will I Know?” is one my favourite songs to sing at karaoke, and it definitely conjures themes of my novel, about being young and unsure when it comes to love—especially since feelings can’t always be trusted.


“A Case of You,” by Joni Mitchell

I don’t know that I have ever written a less autobiographical work of fiction than Waiting for a Star to Fall (my protagonist doesn’t read!!) but I was able to tune in to all my own early 20s angst and longing to strike the right note with my character. This song meant a lot to me in those days, and the part about the guy who is as “constant as a northern star/ constantly in the darkness” tied in well with my story and the celestial imagery.


“Laid,” by James

When I started going out to bars, this song was a mainstay, and I loved it for its aspirational qualities, though it was far from the realities of my experience most of the time. I definitely conjure those days in my novel’s depiction of the small town bar experience (Lanark’s notorious bar Slappin’ Nellies is probably recognizable as Peterborough’s Trasheteria circa 2000) and the best thing is that the nostalgic obsession of modern times means this ’90s track is not so out of place.


“I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” by Aerosmith

Yes, more ’90s, but my protagonist’s love interest is my age, so it fits. He’s a cheesy dude and his favourite movie is Armageddon, and this song appears on the soundtrack—and it kind of sums up his intense approach to life and all things.


“Right Down the Line,” by Gerry Rafferty

I love this song, but it’s kind of a crime, as are all songs like these, these songs that convince women that their role is to wait and serve in relationships with men, “to put something better inside of [their partners],” and that a bare recognition of this fact should suffice as repayment for the enormous debt this incurs. Do you ever wonder how your life might have been different had you not come of age on these tropes? I also always wondered if Rafferty’s “You’ve been as constant as a northern star, the brightest star that shines” was somehow in conversation with Mitchell’s. (Essential to note: I eventually paid for digital copies of this song and “Waiting for a Star to Fall,” and no longer am I constantly streaming Youtube.)


“Let the River Run,” by Carly Simon

When my protagonist was a little girl, she used to watch her mother’s VHS copy of Working Girl, and then pretend to be a career woman by turning her family’s dining room table into a desk. (Please see Clementine Ford’s Instagram stories for a deep dive into why Working Girl is a very problematic feminist classic, another trope that works its ways into our veins to fuck us over. ) Carly Simon’s song was the best thing about this movie, except for Joan Cusack’s hair, and I still find the lyrics profoundly moving and poignant: (and yes, there is celestial imagery): “We the great and small/ Stand on a star/ And blaze a trail of desire/ Through the dark’ning dawn.”


“The Boys of Summer,” by Don Henley

This has been one of my favourite songs for years and years, and it was long out of date even by the time that I started loving it. This appears in the novel when my protagonist is missing the guy she loves and goes driving by his house even though he’s not home.


“Invincible,” by Pat Benatar

An abortion takes place in my novel (of course it does!) and the woman who experiences it is strong and secure in her experience because she’s cared for by her friends through it all. Like this character, I also watched The Legend of Billie Jean and ate ice cream cake after my abortion in the company of my pals, and this song is from the soundtrack. (I wrote about this here: “Abortion Baskin Robbins“)


“Be My Baby,” by The Ronettes

Brooke has never seen Dirty Dancing before until one afternoon when she watches it with her roommate, Lauren, summoned to their living room by this song with the opening credits. Its brave and radical abortion story-line is still radical even more than 30 years later, which is a travesty, but it provides my book with a pivotal plot point.


“Brilliant Disguise,” by Bruce Springsteen

There is a reference to a brilliant disguise in the novel when Brooke goes out to Slappin’ Nellies with her roommate and gets dressed up in uncharacteristic style—would Derek recognize her? Definitely a fitting song about duplicitousness and how we can be fooled by the people we love.


“Two Princes,” by Spin Doctors

Naturally, the novel’s climax takes place at Slappin’ Nellies, where it’s Retro ’90s Night. Why are we so hungry for nostalgia? But oh, we are, as this playlist attests. I met my husband at a Retro ’90s Night and we danced to this song together, and it was only 2002. Retro becomes retro so quickly.


Bonus Track: “I Know You By Heart,” by Bette Midler

I actually think this song was in my head because the book I wrote before Waiting for a Star to Fall was about female friendship and had a Beaches vibe. I am back at work on the manuscript now and hope one day to share it with the world.


Bonus: “Good As Hell,” by Lizzo

And yes, because my novel set in contemporary times deserves ONE SONG that came out this century. I think this song serves as a nice counterpoint to all those tunes about being constantly in the darkness, and yes, of course there’s a star: “You know you a star, you can touch the sky/ I know that it’s hard but you have to try/ If you need advice, let me simplify/ If he don’t love you anymore/ Just walk your fine ass out the door.”

If I had had this song twenty years ago, my early twenties might have been a lot less stupid.


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Pre-Order my New Novel: Out October 27

Book Cover WAITING FOR A STAR TO FALL

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