The Glass Castle Review

The_Glass_Castle_(film).pngAnd what the movie got wrong.

When I look at the Jackson Pollock painting, Autumn Rythm, I see a frantic chorus of dancing energy. Some fans of his work see a darker tone in the brushstrokes, while others call B.S., seeing his creative effort as gimmicky and without merit. No one viewpoint is right or wrong. It’s all in how you look at it, and what you draw from it.

The same can be said for the film adaptation of The Glass Castle. This bestselling novel by Jeanette Walls served as a popular read for many book clubs, and resonated with many readers who grew up in dysfunctional families. Film adaptations of popular books are often met with mixed reviews. While a book can delve deep into a story, the movie version must choose between what is essential and what elements can be left out without affecting the essence of the story.

In Walls’ memoir, she takes readers on a crazy ride that was her childhood. Along the way, we get to meet and understand her parents—a father who is an alcoholic and a mother suffering from mental illness. They both are fighting their individual demons, leaving the children to raise themselves. It can be safely said that neither should have had children, and together they make a toxic pair.

However, in the film adaptation, the decision was made to make Walls’ mother a secondary character—focusing instead on Jeannette and her rocky relationship with her father, portrayed in the film by Woody Harrelson who superbly expresses the angst of a man fighting his addiction.

What did the film get wrong? By erasing the mother’s struggle with mental illness, Naomi Watts as Jeannette’s mother, Rose Mary, is left portraying a character that lacks the depth and bite found in the novel, leaving a character that transcends into little more than wallpaper. It’s time for mental illness to be a front-burner story, and the film adaptation of the memoir misses on this point.

Like a Jackson Pollock painting, The Glass Castle movie will probably generate applause from some and the shaking of heads from others.

60 Second Movie Review

Heidi McCrary

 

 

The Woman at 72 Derry Lane… A 60-Second Book Review

The woman at 72 Derry LaneFrom Gone Girl to Orphan Train, the telling of stories through dual narrative provides readers with a strong sense of immersion from multiple viewpoints—allowing the author to delve deeper into the lives of the book’s protagonists. Written by Carmel Harrington, The Woman at 72 Derry Lane takes readers on a rollercoaster ride as multiple stories follow a path of destruction, heartache and the search for liberation from past tragedies and the resulting hardships.

Harrington, an author from Ireland, combines sharp writing with dialogue and character development that moves the story along at a rapid page-turning pace…

“I saw people running by the restaurant window. I heard staff screaming at each other. Then the manager of the hotel started shouting ‘Run!’ in all different languages. I recognised French and Italian, at least, as well as English, of course. The stupidest thing, though, I wanted to pay my bill.”

“How very English of you,” Maria remarked.

The Woman at 72 Derry Lane delivers on all counts—with characters that you wish were in your own circle of friends, and a story of love and family that can come from where you least expect.

60-Second Book Review

Heidi McCrary

My Disdain of the Em Dash

typingAs a writer I have an uncomfortable relationship with punctuation, and the fight comes from every direction. At work, my business partner is not amused by my cavalier attitude towards the comma and ellipses. And my editor threatened to divorce me more than once over my insistence on using the common hyphen over the unattractive em dash—a punctuation so unpopular that it doesn’t even warrant its own key on the keyboard. Yet I use it excessively. 

And don’t get me started on the semicolon. When do you use that?! And am I allowed to even use the ?! symbols together? I could go on but instead I’ll leave you with the beautiful ellipses… (Again, which I’m using incorrectly)

Heidi McCrary / Rogue Writer

Speed Dating in the Literary World

Pitching to Literary Agents – Round II

agent 1With one year under my belt, I felt a false superiority over the woman ahead of me in the registration line, juggling her phone and handbag in one hand while trying to unfold the day’s itinerary in the other.

“So, where are you from?” I asked, trying to calm her nerves.

She looked up, apparently surprised that a stranger was talking to her. “Me? I’m from Omaha.”

“Omaha,” I repeated. “Beautiful city. That’s a long drive. You got me beat.” She smiled at me and went back to untangling the wadded up piece of paper. OK, I thought. She’s not here to make friends. I’m good with that.

I looked behind me to see that the line was now half-way down the long hotel corridor. Like last year, the 2017 Writers Workshop of Chicago was once again being held at the Congress Plaza Hotel. And like the year previous, I was here to recharge my creative juices and meet a few literary agents…speed-dating style.

Along with the seminars and workshops, many writers’ conferences also allow writers to pitch their completed manuscripts to attending literary agents for an additional fee per agent. It’s kind of like buying your way into an interview, which sounds a little suspect but I prefer to look at it as an opportunity for them to meet me.

Each purchased pitch is ten-minutes long, and as I peak into the hotel ballroom, I see the literary agents setting up their spaces for the day, each one seated at an intimate round table topped with a linen table cloth. Ready to face a day of… “My novel has a different ending if you turn the book around…”, “The narrator of my book is my cat who…”, and “I would compare my book to “To Kill a Mockingbird, but its better because…” There’s not enough caffeine in any of their cups to get them through this day.

9:30 – My first pitch is actually with an editor of a publishing house rather than a literary agent. “Nice glasses,” I say to her as I take a seat. She smiles, but it vanishes quickly. This woman is all business. Her first question: What’s the name of your novel?

Chasing Crazy,” I reply, which apparently is the wrong answer. After hearing my reasoning for the name, she shakes her head and explains that Chasing Crazy sounds too lighthearted, and more fitting for a romance novel. Damn. I can’t even get the title right?  As she dissects my story description, I write vigorously while trying to move beyond the fact that my novel has a title more befitting of a Nora Roberts book.

“Time’s up!” the room monitor announces. And for the second time, the editor smiles, pleased, I imagine, to be done with one more pretend-writer.

9:40 – Its tough going from one pitch immediately into another. There is no time to gather my thoughts and as I walk to the next table, I wonder if I should say that I haven’t come up with a title yet. Or maybe I can come up with a new name. Straight Jacket & Sun Glasses, or Running with Scissors? No, that’s already a book.

My next meeting is with a literary agent that actually owns and runs her own shop. I had hesitated meeting with her out of intimidation. With her list of clients, she can’t possibly be interested in meeting with a writer holding her first manuscript. But just as you should never judge a book by its cover, I was surprised to find this rock-star agent to be genuine, kind and interested—interested in Chasing Crazy. Not the romance, but the story of a German mother suffering from a cocktail of mental illnesses, and the affect it has on her children. A story of violence, hope and crazy times.

11:30 – I learned something about agent pitches last year, after I purposely requested one for the last time-period of the day, thinking that after hitting it off, we might wander over to the hotel bar for a beverage or two and become best friends. No. I learned that as the day progresses, the agents start to all get a familiar glaze over their eyes that can’t be erased with a gallon of coffee. So with this information in-hand, I head over to my last pitch of the day while the day is still young, confident that the next agent isn’t comatose yet from countless writers starting to blur into one another.

As I chatted with yet another wonderful agent, I was surprised at the friendliness of her tone, the many questions she asked, and her interest in Chasing Crazy. Or should I call it, In the Shadow of Children, or…

Stay tuned…

Heidi McCrary

 

Station Eleven… A 60-Second Book Review

 

Book coverHow would you fare in a post-apocalyptic world? Could you move beyond losing everyone and everything in the blink of an eye?

After a pandemic flu wipes out 99.99% of the population, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel focuses on a handful of people leading up to and after the apocalypse. As their lives intersect at times, we learn who survives, and whether living in the new world is a blessing or curse…or both.

Character-driven and with a heroine that could challenge Katniss of The Hunger Games, Station Eleven gives us a glimpse of the strength that sometimes lays dormant within us. West Michiganders are given an extra treat as a band of survivors travel the shores of Lake Michigan.  A thought-provoking summer read…and read best by candlelight.

60-Second Book Review

By Heidi McCrary