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Concordia grad nominated for two Quebec Writers? Federation Awards

by admin November 23, 2010

Concordia grad nominated for two Quebec Writers? Federation Awards

by admin November 23, 2010

Doug Harris has been many things in his life: filmmaker, screenwriter, commercial director, video producer. No matter what he does, Harris has always been a reader. When he attended Concordia in the early 1980s, he and his friends would trade books back and forth. “If we really liked books, we’d read them again, and if we really liked them we’d lend them to friends and it was a community of readers going on,” he explained. That is why Harris was worried when 10 years ago, he suddenly stopped enjoying books.

“I was always the guy who if I opened a book, I would finish the book, and then I wasn’t finishing books,” he said. Harris asked himself, “Why don’t I try to write a book that’s as engaging as possible?” He decided to write a novel, in part to set a challenge for himself.

Ten years later, Harris has published YOU Comma Idiot, “the story of a bunch of anglo Montrealers in their late 20s who don’t do a lot in life and the summer that changes the lives of all of them.” His novel has been nominated for best fiction at the Quebec Writers’ Federation awards this year, as well as best first book along with fellow Montrealer Larissa Andrusyshyn’s book of poetry Mammoth.

Harris had no prior experience in novel-writing. He graduated from Concordia’s communications program in 1983. A year later, he wrote and directed Remembering Mel. He considers himself “lucky” to have had that opportunity at the age of 24.

Harris sees no parallel between YOU Comma Idiot and his experience making Remembering Mel. “What you learn when you do movies is that you’re just a part of the process, you’re a cog in the wheel. You write a wonderful scene, and then it’s at the mercy of actors, it’s at the mercy of weather, it’s at the mercy of budget, it’s at the mercy of all the elements that can just come and fuck up a good scene,” he explained. “Maybe people don’t read as much as they used to but when you write a scene, it’s your scene.”

Harris then began to make commercials and now runs Hot Spots Productions, a Montreal-based video production company. His experience in the advertising world lends YOU Comma Idiot one of its defining features: it’s written in the second person. “I had gotten in the habit through TV commercials of writing notes in the second person,” he explained. “I basically found that voice was much more what I was setting out to do in the first place.”

Harris said that being nominated for a QWF award is “certainly unexpected, but a great surprise.” The award has also been beneficial in boosting the book’s readership “I’m getting a little more attention, a little more chance of people reviewing it or mentioning it,” he shared. “I mean, ultimately, when you write, you hope to be read.”

Harris doesn’t feel any competitive edge towards the other nominees, because they’re all hoping for the same thing. “It’s been fun, you get to meet other people and they’re trying just as much as you to get noticed, so what can you say but best of luck to everybody?”

While Harris would consider writing another novel, he wouldn’t write about something if he wasn’t interested in the subject. “It’s a real big, long thing to do and it takes a lot of your life,” he said. “So I’m only going to do it if I’m into it.”

In the meantime, Harris has being kept busy promoting YOU Comma Idiot. “Suddenly now I’m being asked to do readings and I’m going to this, and I’m going to that.”

Harris’s final sales pitch for his book? “YOU Comma Idiot, the perfect Christmas gift this year. Assuming, of course, that you come from a dysfunctional family.”

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Doug Harris has been many things in his life: filmmaker, screenwriter, commercial director, video producer. No matter what he does, Harris has always been a reader. When he attended Concordia in the early 1980s, he and his friends would trade books back and forth. “If we really liked books, we’d read them again, and if we really liked them we’d lend them to friends and it was a community of readers going on,” he explained. That is why Harris was worried when 10 years ago, he suddenly stopped enjoying books.

“I was always the guy who if I opened a book, I would finish the book, and then I wasn’t finishing books,” he said. Harris asked himself, “Why don’t I try to write a book that’s as engaging as possible?” He decided to write a novel, in part to set a challenge for himself.

Ten years later, Harris has published YOU Comma Idiot, “the story of a bunch of anglo Montrealers in their late 20s who don’t do a lot in life and the summer that changes the lives of all of them.” His novel has been nominated for best fiction at the Quebec Writers’ Federation awards this year, as well as best first book along with fellow Montrealer Larissa Andrusyshyn’s book of poetry Mammoth.

Harris had no prior experience in novel-writing. He graduated from Concordia’s communications program in 1983. A year later, he wrote and directed Remembering Mel. He considers himself “lucky” to have had that opportunity at the age of 24.

Harris sees no parallel between YOU Comma Idiot and his experience making Remembering Mel. “What you learn when you do movies is that you’re just a part of the process, you’re a cog in the wheel. You write a wonderful scene, and then it’s at the mercy of actors, it’s at the mercy of weather, it’s at the mercy of budget, it’s at the mercy of all the elements that can just come and fuck up a good scene,” he explained. “Maybe people don’t read as much as they used to but when you write a scene, it’s your scene.”

Harris then began to make commercials and now runs Hot Spots Productions, a Montreal-based video production company. His experience in the advertising world lends YOU Comma Idiot one of its defining features: it’s written in the second person. “I had gotten in the habit through TV commercials of writing notes in the second person,” he explained. “I basically found that voice was much more what I was setting out to do in the first place.”

Harris said that being nominated for a QWF award is “certainly unexpected, but a great surprise.” The award has also been beneficial in boosting the book’s readership “I’m getting a little more attention, a little more chance of people reviewing it or mentioning it,” he shared. “I mean, ultimately, when you write, you hope to be read.”

Harris doesn’t feel any competitive edge towards the other nominees, because they’re all hoping for the same thing. “It’s been fun, you get to meet other people and they’re trying just as much as you to get noticed, so what can you say but best of luck to everybody?”

While Harris would consider writing another novel, he wouldn’t write about something if he wasn’t interested in the subject. “It’s a real big, long thing to do and it takes a lot of your life,” he said. “So I’m only going to do it if I’m into it.”

In the meantime, Harris has being kept busy promoting YOU Comma Idiot. “Suddenly now I’m being asked to do readings and I’m going to this, and I’m going to that.”

Harris’s final sales pitch for his book? “YOU Comma Idiot, the perfect Christmas gift this year. Assuming, of course, that you come from a dysfunctional family.”

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