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Meredith is a continuity girl. Her job is to make sure that the details in every scene on a film shoot are consistent. She is the error catcher. The needle- n-the-haystack
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The Globe and Mail Online Interview

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Leah McLaren on being a first-time novelist
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Globe Style columnist Leah McLaren was on-line this afternoon taking questions about her weekly column and her first book.
Leah is a regular fixture in the Globe's Saturday Style section where she writes about life in the big city — everything from her relationship with her Filofax I've found love, and its name is Filofax to the socio-economic lessons of shopping for jeans Only fashion could make me bathe with jeans on
Leah's new book, The Continuity Girl, is about an on-set film script supervisor whose own sense of continuity is turned upside down when she wakes up on her 35th birthday, suddenly deafened by the ticking of her biological clock.
Reviewer Joanna Goodman wrote in the Saturday Globe: "With the release of her first novel, The Continuity Girl, Globe and Mail writer Leah McLaren positions herself at the forefront of this literary movement, proving that chicklit can be clever, poignant and insightful." The full review is here Sex and the single sperm bandit
Editor's Note: The same rules will apply to this live discussion as normally apply to the "reader comment" feature. editors will read and approve each comment/question. Not all comments/questions can be answered in the time available. Comments/questions will be checked for content only. Spelling and grammar errors will not be corrected. Comments/questions that include personal attacks, false or unsubstantiated allegations, vulgar language or libelous statements will be rejected. Preference will be given to those who ask questions under their full name, rather than pseudonyms.
Michael Snider, Hello everyone and welcome Leah — it's great to have you on-line today talking about your weekly column and especially your book. Congratulations on that, by the way. So, now, obvious question: They say the first novel is somewhat autobiographical. How much of Leah McLaren's story is told through Meredith Moore?
Leah McLaren: Hardly any of it. Honestly. I'm nothing like Meredith. I don't have anxiety attacks over dirty dishes and I'm not a sperm bandit. I did go to London but not to work as a continuity girl.
Much of what I write in the paper is autobiographical, so it was important to me that my first novel wasn't.
William McEnery from Pender Island, B.C. Canada writes: Leah, it has been a pleasure following your career over the years - God, that makes you sound like a wizzened vetern doesn't it? You have made me laugh and think. Sometimes at the same time. Congrats on the publication of your novel. As your career is in its ascendancy do you envision a different role for yourself in the future, in regards to your writing? Perhaps writing on global/international issues, for example. Doing the Allan Abel switch. I ask only because I, along with countless others, would miss your weekly columns and the occasional features you write. Take care and good luck.
Leah McLaren: William, thanks so much for your kind and flattering words. I wouldn't rule anything out at this point in my career. I'd like to try lots of different kinds of writing — essays, screen, maybe a non-fiction book. But really, who knows?
Liam Roberts from London United Kingdom writes: Hi Leah, congratulations on the first novel. I finished my first draft of a first novel this past fall, which hasn't been looked at or touched since. I'm looking forward to retooling it this spring and summer, and will surely learn a lot about editing as I go. My full time work now is far outside the literary world, though, and without any previous publications except the occasional short story and a ream of community newspaper articles, I wonder if you could suggest how best to get the attention of agents or publishing houses? What were your experiences with getting your novel on the desks of interested people?
Leah McLaren: Hi Liam, Obviously I write for a national newspaper, which helped a lot in getting an agent. I would suggest you get a list of agencies and simply send your book out with a cover letter and then follow up with a call or another letter and hope to get a bite. I know for a fact that my agent's assistants read everything, so don't worry about your book being ignored completely. It might take a while though.
Also, I wouldn't send an unsolicited manuscript to a publisher. Most of them don't accept them. So getting an agent on your side is really the best way to go. Best of luck. Now that I know how hard it is to write a novel I'm in awe of anyone who completely one.
Paul Ljucovic from Uxbridge Canada writes: Hi Leah, Getting picked up by a publisher is fantastically difficult for a previously unpublished writer. Aside from writing a great novel, what helped you sell your story?
Leah McLaren: Paul, see above. A great agent and being a newspaper columnist by trade. Without those two things my book would have been a much harder sell.
Karim Bhaloo from Toronto Canada writes: Hi Leah, Congratulations on your book! How did you choose the topic for your book? Is the book, or parts of it, autobiographical? and finally, are you dating anyone? Cheers!
Leah McLaren: Hi Karim (awesome name), I knew I wanted to write about a Canadian girl who goes to London to seek her fortune, but the biological clock thing came to me when I was travelling with a girlfriend who, having turned 35, (half-jokingly) decided she wanted to become a "sperm bandit."
Her plan was to look up all her ex boyfriends who were single and see if any of them would father her child. She ended up meeting the man of her dreams shortly after our trip and is now happily married with two kids.
No, apart from the obvious parallels the book is not about me.
And yes, I'm dating someone.
Bob Blob from Ottawa Canada writes: I read your Saturday column fairly regularly, perhaps decreasingly as my maleness makes it difficult to relate sometimes, but I get the distinct impression that you are a rather active person. How is it that you managed to find the time to write a novel? And completely unrelated, what would you say distinguishes your work from say, Helen Fielding's work? (Editor's note - Fielding is the author of Bridget Jones's Diary)
Leah McLaren: Hi Bob (is that your real name?), I took a six month leave from the Globe (during which I continued to write my column) in order to write the book. Apart from that, it was weekends, evenings and holidays. I basically didn't have much of a social life for two years.
I think the big difference between Helen Fielding's work and mine is a) a katrillion dollar advance, b) a blockbuster movie, and c) a house in the Hollywood hills. Seriously though, I think Helen Fielding is absolutely hilarious. I loved the Bridget Jones series. Olivia Joules not so much. I'd be happy if I could be half as funny as her.
Rebecca Roberts from Wokingham United Kingdom writes: Hi Leah. I have always thought I would some day write a novel -- because I love to write. I wrote short, children's books and some really bad poetry when I was in high school, but have never attempted to write a novel. I've never had more than just a vague idea or concept in mind for a book, which is why I've never started writing one. Did you have a fully developed idea before you started your book, or before you set out to write one? Or was the idea for the book worked out while you were writing it?
Leah McLaren: Rebecca, yes, I had a fully developed idea. But the truth is, I get ideas for novels every day. Ideas are not the hard part — writing is the hard part. Carrying through is the hard part. So if you have an idea, no matter how fuzzy, I would urge you to sit down and write it out. You'd be surprised how real things become once you start working on them. Good luck.
Greg Valentine from Toronto Canada writes: How do you deal with harsh personal and professional criticism such as the review of Continuity Girl that appeared in a rival paper on Sunday? Do you every confront the reviewers if you feel the criticism is unjustified?
Leah McLaren: Hi Greg, I know the review you're talking about and I didn't read it. I try not to look at that stuff. I have enough negative voices in my head without adding someone else's. At the same time I'm not complaining. When you do a public job there are lots of perks, but there is also a downside, which is public criticism. I just see it as part of the job.
Megan Whittington from Mississauga Canada writes: A flash from the past, Leah! It was great to see your name and picture on the front page this morning. It took me back to the stage at Earl Haig... singing songs from 'Grease'. Wow, how time flies! I now work at the Mississauga Arts Council and I know many of our emerging young writers would be interested in hearing how you made this possible? How much time did you invest and who were your biggest supporters?
Leah McLaren: Hey Megan, I'll never forget the sight of you in those bobby socks. Nice to hear from you. So great to hear you're still in the arts realm.
The novel took me about three years to write from start to finish. My biggest supporters were my family and my colleagues at the Globe, who allowed me time off to write and were on my side every step of the way.
Manon Croteau from Ottawa Canada writes: Hi Leah, I'm a regular Saturday Globe and Mail reader and always flip to the style section to read your column for much-needed comical relief, so thanks for that! I was wondering how on earth you manage to always find humour in everything, even the slightly depressing stuff (I should know, I'm a single, almost-30 gal who relates well to inevitable, but also hilarious relationship disasters)! I was also wondering if you have any plans for a future book and if you are planning on experimenting with various others writing styles. Merci!
Leah McLaren: Hi Manon, I'm coming to Ottawa this weekend -- maybe I'll see you at Winterlude (my favourite!).
As for the humour thing, great question. I try to be funny as much as possible, but sometimes it's hard. After 9/11 for instance, I felt like a goof writing a humour column. In fact the whole Style section felt kind of goofy. But I do believe that in many ways life is a cosmic joke and the only way to cope with the darkness is to find a way to laugh about it. That's what black humour is for.
Secondly yes, I'd love to one day maybe write for screen and do a non fiction book. I'm not sure about what yet. Still waiting for a big idea, which will probably take a while.
Ann Hill from Destin Florida United States Outlying writes: Dear Leah, I enjoy your witty columns in the Globe. 'Continuity Girl' sounds like a great read. Would it be a novel that women over 40 would find interesting Is it being published in the USA?? If not, I will need to return to snow and ice before I can get a copy. I hope it will be a great success.
Leah McLaren: Hi Ann, I hope any woman who's been a loose ends would identify with my book. That's the thing about fiction: it takes you some place else, into someone else's shoes. As for the U.S., no my book isn't published there, but you CAN order it on-line from or through my publisher, Harpercollins Canada.
F M from Toronto Canada writes: I like your stuff (very entertaining and informative for a dad of little girls, especially since I come from an all boy family myself) but I do wonder about what you'll need to transition to as you age and you won't be able to comment on the hipster/dating scene. I have migrated from the latter to domesticity over the last decade, and I can tell you that straddling the two worlds is pretty much impossible. So, are you a nascent Margaret Wente or what??
Leah McLaren: Hi FM, I think it's safe to say that although I admire Margaret Wente, I'm not after her job. As for my career plan, who knows? I've never had a plan in the past and chaos theory hasn't let me down so far. The important thing is just to keep on having ideas and doing the work. I just published a novel, so perhaps that's my "transition."
Nicola Garwood from Oxford, UK Canada writes: I read Leah McLaren's column every week without fail. I love it. Two questions: Where in England can I purchase Continuity Girl? and When are you going to publish your articles in an anthology? I would absolutely love to have the collection. It's many a conversation of mine that consists of 'oh that's just like in Leah McLaren's article about . . . '.
Leah McLaren: Hi Nicola, I'm so glad you like my column – thanks! As for the book, it's not published yet in the UK. You will be the first to know when/if it is.
As for the collected columns, I'm not sure about that. The fact that you would read it makes me want to do it. But hmmm. It's hard to say.
P G from Kingston Canada writes: Leah, I read your column whenever I can. I usually feel a bit embarrassed to be heading straight for the Style section, but I really enjoy your writing style and your commentary. What's probably so great about it is that it's personal - your observations about society and other things. How did you find the switch from writing the column to writing the book? Did you enjoy it? Did you find it difficult?
Leah McLaren: Hi PG, don't feel embarrassed about the Style section – studies show it's the section everyone reads first (okay I made that up, but I'm pretty sure it's true, if my behaviour is any indication, then again I write a column for Style so I would read it first, but whatever).
The book is written in third person, from another person's point of view, so yes, it was very different from the column (which is my own point of view) and sometimes hard to switch. The funny thing was, everyday I would write almost exactly 900 word chunks, which is exactly column length. It was like after years of column writing I had been programmed to do so.
Chris Tolton from Ottawa Canada writes: Hi Leah: What would you say is the biggest difference between writing a column and writing a book?
Leah McLaren: Chris, the difference between a column and a book? About 990,000 words! It's true. With a column you get it off your chest in one go, it's out there and then it's on to the next one. If one doesn't work so well, you just get on to the next one. If one is really good you don't have time to bask, you're on to the next one. With a book the stakes are much higher. You toil for years and present this thing, and who knows what will happen to it.
Mat Small from San Francisco, CA United States writes: Hi Leah, Your writing has sometimes provoked strong reactions, and this is evident in the reception your book is getting. What do you think it is about the subject matter you choose that has (sometimes) polarized your readers, especially those in your demographic cohort? Or do you reject the idea that you are a polarizing figure? For the record, I haven't always liked with your observations about our generational zeitgeist (I'm roughly your age), but I have often found myself reluctantly agreeing with you.
Leah McLaren: Hi Mat, I agree that my writing seems to garner strong reactions. Sometimes I understand it, sometimes I don't. Mostly I try to ignore it and get on with the work. Once you start listening to that kind of silly noise, it tends to take over your life. Obviously I want to connect with readers, but I have no interest in having a public life outside of that.
Eldo Hildebrand from Hanwell Canada writes: Congratulations on your first novel from the fellow who commented years ago on your harsh criticism of roller skating dates and cartoon ties. Mine is a simply question: Do you find an isolated spot like the Grafton farm is a better place for writing than a Toronto apartment?
Leah McLaren: Hi Eldo, the country is much better for writing, mainly because there are fewer distractions. Then again, I do most of my writing for the paper in a cubicle in an open newsroom, so some distractions can't be avoided.
Leah McLaren: Thanks so much for your fantastic questions. I have to go write my column now or my editor is going to start removing limbs. Seriously.
Michael Snider, Thanks everyone, that's all the time we have for today's discussion. Leah, thanks very much for joining us and we hope to see you on-line again.
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