Saturday, March 03, 2007

No longer the blog without giraffes

Today the snow stopped falling, the sun came out, and it's almost blinding. A picture postcard day. I took another photo from the guest bedroom (it used to be Holly's bedroom, but she's now going to be sleeping in the new upstairs library when she's here, as soon as it's finished) just to compare with yesterday's photo, to show the sunlight and the even-more-snow of it all...

So I'm taking this short story class this quarter; well, it's almost over actually. Anyway, my teacher's response to the entire class about our final drafts was one of "they could still use a lot of work." She emphasized how Annie Proulx, the writer of the story "Brokeback Mountain," revised the story sixty times before finally being finished with it.

On that note, firstly, what's your revision record (i.e. the most
revisions of any body of work you've done)? And second, what's your
stance on the amount of revision that should be necessary? -Malinda

I think Murder Mysteries went through about twelve revisions of the basic text, which is far and away the most I've ever done, but a lot of that was because I wanted the murder mysteries in question to work and be satisfying, for all the clues to be there for the reader, and I'm not really a natural mystery writer.

Most short stories go through a couple of drafts and a polish -- I'll write a first draft, then (if it wasn't typed) I'll type it up, and then I'll email it to friends and find out what didn't work, or puzzled them. (I miss Mike Ford. He was the sharpest of all of them -- saved me from making a fool of myself half a dozen times.) And then, if I can, I'll put it away for a week or two. Not look at it. Try to forget about it. Then take it out and read it as if I've never seen it before and had nothing to do with its creation. Things that are broken become very obvious suddenly. I'll go in and polish it up, and possibly keep playing with it a little -- it's on the computer: everything's malleable until it's printed. I'll try and read it aloud the next time I do a reading, in order to find out what I can about it, including places where what I wrote was not what I meant, and I'll fix what I find. And then I'll go on to the next thing.

Personally, I think you learn more from finishing things, from seeing them in print, wincing, and then figuring out what you did wrong, than you could ever do from eternally rewriting the same thing. But that's me, and I came from comics where I simply didn't have the liberty of rewriting a story until I was happy with it, because it needed to be out that month, so I needed to get it more or less right first time. Once I disliked a Sandman story on proofreading it so much that I asked if it could be pulled and buried and was told no, it couldn't, which is why the world got to read the Emperor Norton story, "Three Septembers and a January", although I no longer have any idea why I thought it was a bad story, and I'm pleased that Tom Peyer ignored my yelps.

When I was younger and people handed me unfinished things to read, I'd have lots of comments. At least once I realised later that I'd killed a fledgling book for someone by pointing out an abrupt viewpoint shift at a point where the book was barely hatched. These days my comments tend to consist of variants on "That's really interesting. What happens next? Where's the rest of it?"

Hey, Neil. I was just browsing next to a coworker of mine, when he looked over to my station and asked, "More weird stuff about giraffes?" as I had previously found myself at the giraffe haters monthly website ( I said, "No, but there's probably something on giraffes on here." Imagine my surprise when the site search listed no hits for either 'giraffe' or 'giraffes'. I feel this is an error
which must be corrected, if only by posting this request.
Yrs trly, Jeff

Consider it fixed.

Hi Neil,

I read through your FAQ and yes, I am another one of those film students wishing to make a short film from one of your stories, either "Chivalry" or "We Can Get Them for You Wholesale" from the novel "Smoke and Mirrors".

In the FAQ it says that you don't own the rights to anything but "Mr. Punch" and "Stardust". Does this mean that I have to go to the book publisher to ask to make it, and if so, is that Avon Books or Headline Book Publishing? or are they the same thing?

I'm sorry if you are sick of people asking you these questions. And if by great luck and good chance I am allowed to make it do you mind?
Much Love, Jen.

Actually, what it says in the FAQ (which has its own problems, alas, I just realised on looking at it, and really needs a big overhaul) is, in response to questions about adapting Sandman mostly,

No, I don't control any of the rights to any of the stuff I did for DC Comics -- Sandman, Hellblazer, or anything (except Mr Punch and Stardust). DC Comics does.

If you try and get the rights to do a student film, they will say no. This is because all those rights are already tied up, and DC Comics no longer has those rights to grant, not because they are being mean.

I'm not sure how you got from that I don't own any of my short stories or novels. I do, don't worry. I was talking about stuff published by DC Comics -- Sandman, Black Orchid, the short stories. If you want the rights to any of that, you go and talk to DC.

My agents can't grant permission for you to make a film of "Chivalry" because Miramax bought it some years ago (I think it's something Harvey Weinstein took with him when he left). But apart from that, you just contact my agents.

As for student films of We Can Get Them For You Wholesale, you should read
and then read (more importantly, for all Student Films including that one) which explains why we're pretty strict about making sure that the free rights for student films stay just that.


I've not been a huge fan of my German book covers up to now -- you can see some at -- but was thrilled to see the Heyne Anansi Boys cover...

And finally, now playing: Barbara Kooyman's Undercover. I loved Timbuk 3 -- one of the best gigs I ever went to was a tiny Timbuk 3 concert in a basement under a flyover in Westbourne Grove -- and here Barbara K, who was half of the 3 before they broke up, does acoustic covers of ten of their best songs, a decade later, as a benefit for Public Radio. It's marvellous. I learned about it when someone sent me a link to You can hear a track and find out about it at and buy it at

I wish she'd covered "Standard White Jesus", though...

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